Like human voices or a quality wok, Jim Greco seems to get better with age. Of course, that’s not to say he wasn’t already great when the world outside of Connecticut saw him for the first time in Zero’s 1999 video Misled Youth, but he has somehow managed to outdo himself in every Baker part, online edit, and mag exclusive he’s put out since then.
I sat down with him recently on the penultimate day of Supra’s recent UK tour to talk about Buddhism, getting sober, and the Jim Greco legacy.
VICE: Hey, Jim. Your new skate and clothing brand, Hammer, launches in October. What is the "hammer"?
Jim Greco: Hammer is just based on individuality, the pure moment of creation; it's synonymous with creativity. Basically, it's about overcoming difficult obstacles in your life. A "hammer" could be getting a good report card at school. It could be ollying that gap you always wanted. It could be creating that awesome piece of art. It's many things to many people, and it's not dictated by another person's opinion of what a "hammer" is. It's just based on creating.
You enjoy a good early-morning hammer, right? At least, in terms of skating.
Yeah! A lot of spots I want to skate aren't skate-able at regular hours, so you got to get up early to get them. Plus, there's not a lot of distractions and it just feels good. I don't know—I just like it. Early in the morning, as long as I can get my body going, my mind is a lot quieter. I'm able to focus on the trick.
Do you do yoga?
No, but I do Buddhism. It's great. I've [meditated] almost every day for the last four years.
Since you're in the UK right now, are there any British spots that have stuck out to you?
There are a lot of places here that remind me of where I grew up in Connecticut, like old East Coast spots that I grew up skating as a kid, which I used to really enjoy. They weren't so much cold, wet, and rainy like over here, but more brick and rough. It's kind of nice, really.
What was it like growing up in Connecticut?
Just really fun, great spots to skate. I guess, for me, it doesn't matter where you skate. I love this sport, so it doesn't matter where you grow up—you'll still do it.
Did your parents ever object to you skateboarding?
No, they were always very supportive. They encouraged me to first believe I could become a skater, and they never tried to steer me away; they just let me skate.
You're 36 now. How is your body keeping up with the punishment of a lifetime of skating?
I don't do much except skate every day; I think if you don't skate every day then you get sore quicker. If you do what you like to do, then you will always maintain the fountain of youth.
You see yourself still touring and making videos in your 40s?
Jim's part in Baker's The Deathwish Video
You've definitely transitioned slightly from skater to business person in the last few years, too.
Well, since the age of 11 I knew that I wanted to skate for the rest of my life, and as I grew older I increasingly became involved with certain companies I was sponsored by. I got inspired to become creative and make my own companies. As far as the business aspect goes, it was like being thrown into a pool and learning how to swim on your own. The ideas are actually senior to the running of the company. The idea is what is important, that's what dictates; if you have no ideas, you cannot create a company. Anyone can learn how to run a company; it's that simple. I got a lot of ideas about a lot of things, and I want to create new things.
When skateboarding dominates both business and leisure, it has to get stifling at times, right?
I play music and make art a lot of the time. I don't have a band at the moment, but I make music at my house alone.
Are you planning to release any of it?
It's just for my own fun. I play the acoustic guitar a lot—it's no particular style.
What kind of art are you making?
Street art here and there. A lot of art I make in my house, and a lot of it is going to be on decks I'm making for Hammer. Most of these graphics I'll do on a canvas or piece of paper, then format it to a deck or T-shirt. I think it's time we moved on from terrible graphics that revolve around crude pictures of Satan or pin-ups.
Lucien Clarke and Jim Greco at Frontside Gardens skate park, Hackney
Is your art always made with the intention of eventually using it for graphics or decks?
It all actually starts as little drawings that I color in, or things, words, or ideas going through my head that I'll write down. Sometimes it's perhaps even culture that inspires me and I'll put it all together. I can't put it into words.
Do you ever think about what the Jim Greco legacy will be?
I just want to be me. What ever happens, happens—that's it. It's difficult to say how I might be remembered in, say, 40 years time. My main concern at the moment, though, is just complete a lot of projects I still want to do and see how they turn out.
Are your greatest achievements the tricks you've landed over the past couple of decades, or the business ventures?
Jesus, I think my greatest achievements have been just staying alive, for sure. I was headed down a bad path for a few years, but then I got myself straightened out.
Yeah, you've been clean from drugs and alcohol for almost a decade. As you're one of the older team members, do you see yourself as a paternal figure at all to the younger skaters on Supra?
No, I just sit back and watch. Being sober isn't for everybody. I'm not an advocate for or against. I'm pretty neutral. It just stopped working for me, doing all that stuff. Don't get me wrong—I certainly had a lot of fun doing it.
Lastly, what have you got coming up for the rest of the year?
A lot. I'm working on a Hammer movie that's going to premier on Thrasher. Then the company is going to launch: clothes, decks, and a lot more skating.