Jenkem is a skateboard website for skateboarders who don't take skateboarding too seriously. Where a lot of skate media concerns itself with contests and who did the best trick on what thing and which guy is riding for which company, Jenkem ponders skateboarding's deeper questions. Questions like, Is Too Much Skate Content Bad for You?, What Does a Real Art Critic Think of Skate Art?, and What Determines Your Skate Stance? For the past seven years, it's built a dedicated following, even serving at times as a matchmaker for its readers.
But the internet can only do so much, and if you like to hold stuff, or be able to consume content in a bunker without WiFi, its shortcomings are painfully evident. That's why on May 7, Jenkem will release its second book, Jenkem Vol. 2. Unlike its first foray into the world of analog content, which featured repurposed blogs, this book is 300 pages of original articles and shenanigans never before seen on the web. Inside you'll find everything from explorations of the Sony VX 1000's impact on skateboarding, to a spotlight on the queer skate crew Unity, to Dustin Dollin's thoughts on being the last of the Piss Drunxs, to intimate snapshots of skaters' bedrooms.
Ian Michna, Jenkem's founder and editor-in-chief, was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the book via email.
VICE: This is the second IRL book Jenkem has made in under two years. Are you guys pivoting to print?
Ian Michna: Just with the intangibility of the web, I've had the urge to do more and more real life stuff over the last two to three years. No pivots, just adding more and expanding beyond the website and socials. When I envisioned Jenkem as a 19-year-old, it was never like, "I wanna have a website with 10 million uniques a month!" That sounds miserable and almost pointless. It was more: I wanna make skate videos, zines, records, throw parties, make books, collaborate with my favorite artists, etc. The website is the hub, the gathering place for like-minded friends and readers. It's the nucleus of the entire project but now that we have the platform, let's see what can we really do with it. Where we go from here and what we do with the community is completely up in the air (and the exciting part).
What were you trying to accomplish with this book? How has Jenkem changed since Vol 1?
The expectations have gotten higher especially after the last book. It's funny being referred to as a big skate outlet now, since we continually feel like the underdog, being independent, 100 percent self-funded, and on the East Coast outside of the skate bubble among other things. But we've grown a lot—our network of contributors is way more established and streamlined. Day-to-day we have twice as many hands on deck trying to make things happen. We're official, but also still just a couple of guys picking our noses in the back of an office in a co-working space.
The first book featured a lot of stuff that had previously been published on your website, but this one is 300-ish pages of all original content. Why did you decide to do it the hard way this time around? And will this stuff ever live on the internet?
With any Jenkem project, we usually end up doing it the hardest way possible. That's mostly due to our naivety, which ironically has become one of our biggest assets.
For instance, when I started Jenkem, I didn't have a photographer or access to the pros I was interviewing to shoot photos of them, since they lived in California and I had a $0 budget. So to fill out the interview with not just text I found an illustrator to draw caricatures and do original art for each Jenkem interview instead. It was way more work and took a long time, but that ended up being our signature aesthetic and made us stand out among other content and mags because everyone else just used photography. That initial obstacle became a strength rather than a weakness.
Anyway, we always wanna top what we did before. For Vol. 2, we decided to do all new unseen content, get artsy with the layout, and design each feature to reflect its voice. We also asked our friends and some well-known skaters we've come to know to contribute to the book. It’s basically a giant vanity project, especially in 2018 as all print continues to die, but a fun one nonetheless.
I really wanted to bring in the amazing pro skaters we’ve befriended in the course of running the site and we were lucky to get some really great people. Brian Anderson, Pontus Alv, and Al Davis all contributed pieces as well as skate media legends like Dave Carnie, Chris Nieratko, and Jonathan Mehring, among many others, who all helped make the book really special.
What's the most glamorous part of owning your own skate media empire?
Mostly nothing. Free beers, not knowing if a person is looking at you funny because they recognize you from a video or because you just have food on your face.
Maybe not the most glamorous, but the best part is the fact that we can just dream up anything, act on any silly impulse and somehow justify it for the sake of #content. Since Jenkem is so open ended, as long as you can convince me or the crew that your idea will be good content at the end of the day, it's greenlit. Want to try to buy weird stuff on the Dark Web? Do a bunch of shots with Fred Gall? Destroy a pair of $750 Yeezys? Travel to a convention for adults dressed as ponies? Tie 40 ounces to your hands and ollie a big street gap? Yeah, those are all serious business expenses.
Last time we spoke, we touched briefly on skateboarding's less-than-stellar track record with LGBTQ issues. Since then, things seem to have gotten better. One of the most legendary skaters in the world came out. And, as explored in the book, a queer skate collective called Unity is getting much deserved respect and attention. What do you think is pushing the needle here?
I think it's a combo of forces happening all at once but the main driver is the shift in recent years of LGBTQ issues and conversations becoming more mainstream in general, especially through the media. I think as that continues moving forward, some of the skate and shoe companies that may have been hesitant to publicly market or celebrate their riders’ sexual orientation or preferences (and maybe even discouraged them from talking about it in the past) now feel like it's more of an asset and want to promote these skaters even more.
We've also had skaters break ground. Brian Anderson, being the role model that he is and coming out had a huge impact on skating and our culture, and Hillary Thompson sharing her story as a transgender skateboarder was amazing to see. Since then, there has been a snowball effect of acceptance and openness that has helped skaters and companies within skating to join in and not hold back who they really are or who they want to be.
The all-guy circle jerk, cliquey high school version of skateboarding that has made up skateboard culture until recently is on the decline. Skateboarding is already more diverse, weirder, broader, and more inclusive than it's ever been and we'll continue to see that develop more in the coming years.
In the book's interview with Aaron "Jaws" Homoki, Nic Dobija-Nootens asks him if he's ever done jenkem. He has not, but have you, or do you know anyone who has?
We made some in the old Jenkem house about ten years ago in an Olde English 40 ounce bottle. One of my roommates at the time, Bryan, was a guy who could pretty much shit on command but he couldn't get the turds in the narrow 40 ounce bottle neck. So he shit on an old pizza box and chopped up the poo with a plastic spoon. After jamming the turds down the narrow bottleneck we sealed it up and left it marinating on the front lawn for about two months after peeing in it too. I'd like to say after two months we all huffed the gas and got high and traveled through time, but really what happened was Bryan opened it up and the smell was so putrid that when he got his mouth close to the bottle he immediately started to dry heave and threw up. It was like a sewer punched him in the face.
Besides that, the only person I know who's actually tried it (and documented it) was Brandon Novak when he was still on drugs. I think Bam Margera filmed it and the footage is in an archive somewhere.
There are a lot of really great, introspective articles in the book with aging skaters. Skating has always been about progression and moving forward, but do you think now, with the people responsible for making skating what it is today approaching midlife or beyond, that we should make more time to reflect on the past?
The skaters of the 90s and early 00s are really interesting to me because they truly created something that wasn't there before—a thriving industry where people could actually make a living off of riding a toy through the streets and documenting it. These are all legit pioneers who are still with us and so accessible and young. I think skateboarding already does a pretty good job of respecting our history and cherishing these characters, so I don't know if we need to make any more special time to keep reflecting on the past, but these are the characters that captivate me the most.
What else is planned for Jenkem?
Finding more things to do bigger and better and that make even less financial sense. Those seem to be the most fun. Last year we made a record. This year we made another book. Maybe next year we'll invent skate hieroglyphics and try to sell it to you carved on a giant stone. OK, not really, but you get the idea. The next actual thing we're working on is a Jenkem block party this summer. Skating, music, tequila nutcrackers, vodka squirt guns, friends, and neighbors. You're invited! Feel free to bring your ex-BF, stoner roommate, or favorite parent.
Buy Jenkem Vol. 2 here.
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