Zero Club | Sept 2022 | Jason Stephens

1. Name / Instagram Account?
Jason Stephens
IG: @thedeadendcruiser

2. Age?
I'll be 46 in exactly 2 weeks. (October 14th, 2022)

3. Where are you from?
Atlanta, GA. I'm one of the few people who say they from Atlanta who actually is. Most people who claim Atlanta are actually from some suburb 30 or 45 minutes away. I'm kinda an asshole about that. Can't see that changing. We have a really great skate scene here. Everyone is just great skaters. It's intense though. You can't be half stepping around here.

4. What’s your history with skateboarding? What role does it serve in your life today?
I started skating in like 1986? Maybe it was 87. My first board was a Hosoi. Not a hammerhead. Some street model. It had Thunders and OJ's with green rails and risers. I didn't know what any of it was. I picked everything by the graphics and colors. Skating was huge in Atlanta at that point. Every kid in my neighborhood got a skateboard for Christmas. I once read that skateboards were the biggest selling Christmas gift in 1986 or 87. Kinda puts a damper on that whole "skateboarding was underground in the 80s" mentality a lot of guys in their 40s have. It was on fucking laser tag and super golden crisp commercials. In fact, we called tre flips sugarbears in my neighborhood because the first time we saw one was in a super golden crisp commercial. I remember kids who didn't skate wearing vision street wear at the mall. That whole not skaters wearing skate brands has happened since the beginning. Remember those kids in the mid 90s wearing airwalks, jncos and alien workshop hoodies? They probably didn't skate. Today, my life pretty much revolves around skateboarding. Like in every single way. It's how I choose vacation spots, what car I drive, shit, I wouldn't be married to my wife if she wasn't as down with skating as she is.

5. What’s your set-up, including shoes?
Deluxe (Real, Anti-Hero, Krooked, There, Unity) deck. Any brand. Real makes a size I love. 8.06 full se. It has a 14" wb. Then there’s an 8.12” size which also has a 14" wb. 14" wheelbase is what matters. Venture 5.2 hi trucks. Gotta be silver. I prefer the V-Hollows or whatever they call them, but I'll buy whatever the shop has when I need new trucks. Wheels are Spitfire Formula Four 99a 52mm classic shape. Gotta be white. Funny enough, Jim T. sent me a set of them to try out before they hit the market. They were bright green and the graphic was the bighead thing, but in purple. They were only marked as "Spitfire prototype 53/99." I had sent Deluxe an email about how much I loved the F1s and got an email back from Jim thanking me for the email and asking my address. About a week later I got a box in the mail with those wheels a couple shirts and some stickers, plus a little note that said, "We're working on something new. It’s always great to hear from the skaters in the street about how we're doing. Try these out and let me know." Funny enough, I rode the wheels maybe a week and gave them to a kid at Orlando skate park who needed some wheels. I never contacted Jim back. That was around 2011, I guess? I only ride Bones Swiss 6 bearings. Been riding the same set about 4 years now. Only Skateone product I can get behind. And fuck reds. Gotta be real Bones swiss. Jessup grip. Gotta be black, no markings or cuts or anything. I’m really weird about griptape. I set up a new board if my griptape is dirty. Ha. And Bender Hardware. It’s an Atlanta brand owned by my friend Jeremiah Babb. Shoes Nike sb blazer lows, but I only wear the Grant Taylor ones. I don't care what color they are. I replace my shit whenever I feel like it. I'm kinda a princess in some ways.

6. What terrain do you like to skate?
Whatever doesn't hurt my back that day. Mini ramps are fun, but painful. Small bowls. Ledges are my favorite. From about 14 years old till I was in my early 30s I only skated huge gaps and big rails. I wish there was evidence of those days. I never cared much for being on video or in pictures till about 4 years ago when I had an injury so bad I thought I'd never skate again. I'll get back to that one when I get to that question. I also love flip tricks. I was the first in my group of friends to learn tre flips. This was like 1989. By about 93 I guess I could do backside heel and kickflips down 8 stairs. Tre flips down 6 or 7. These days I mostly skate curbs and small ledges. We have a couple diy curb spots in Atlanta. There's also a new diy in Atlanta. Mostly done by Pat McClain. That place is paradise and it's a 4 minute drive from my house. I go there a lot, but stay on the curbs for the most part. I'll tell you something though. Pat knows everyone who skates there and makes it a point to talk to every person there when he's there, even if it’s just “what’s up” and a handshake. He's a really rad dude.

7. What stokes you out in skating?
Everything. Skateboarding is the best. It always has been and it always will be. The best time in skateboarding will always be "now".

8. How often do you chat with Dressen these days? How’d that whole friendship come about?
I originally met him at the skatepark of Tampa probably 10 years ago. We ended up sitting and talking for hours. Our lives have been pretty similar in a lot of ways. He's a really cool dude. Likes to listen to others stories as much as he likes to tell his. Later that night he followed me on IG. I'd see him at Tampa every year and we'd hang out every time. We both love Japanese food, so we started eating together sometimes. We'd talk on Instagram sometimes. Usually just how you been, what’s happening, you coming to Tampa this year shit. He's been sober for awhile. Like 10 or 12 years I believe. In August of 2017 I quit drinking. I messaged him that I had just quit drinking the day before and he said good. He gave me his number and said call whenever, I know this shit’s hard. After that we talked all the time for a few years. We were actually texting with each other when the news of Grosso's death came through. He was bummed. Like super bummed. They were really good friends. Now it's kinda back to every once and awhile. Kinda a side note, but related to this question. My first 3 favorite skaters were Dressen, Danforth and Hensley. As an adult I've become friends with all three of them. I'm closest with Bill of those 3, but Chuck Dinkins is actually one of my best friends in the world. And he was the first pro skater I ever met. At Stone Edge skatepark in Daytona Beach back in 1989. That's another cool thing about skating and punk as well. How many basketball players that never went pro are friends with Spud Webb? Skateboarding is the best.

9. What could be better in skateboarding?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with skateboarding. Some of the people who call themselves "skaters" need to get a clue. I won't get into any of that though.

10. What inspires you, in skateboarding, and life?
Still being able to do it. You remember back in high school you'd wait for summer vacation so you could just spend the whole time skating and traveling to other cities to skate with your friends, but you needed a job that paid enough, but also gave you enough time off to live that summer like that? I been on summer break since 1995.

11. What bands/music do you like?
Oh God, everything? Punk, ska, new wave, dark wave, crust, reggae, rap. I guess my favorite bands are operation ivy, 7 seconds, the clash, the cramps, blondie, the cure, leftover crack, the beastie boys and souls of mischief. I love a lot of new stuff too though. I listen to a lot of run the jewels and shit too. Philly Swain is legit. Pup is pretty good. Fake names is good. I saw a band called the Muslims recently. They're probably the punkest thing out right now. A lot of my Atlanta friend’s bands. Check out west end motel. Tom Cheshire, the singer is an old friend of mine. Love that dude.

12. What makes you laugh?
Everything. I'm literally laughing all the time.

13. Favorite books/movies/tabloids?
I use to be the sad old alcoholic cliche. Bukowski, Burrows, Thomas, Carroll. Now I only read music and skate books. I don't care who the skater is. I'd read Ryan Sheckler's book if there was one. I've been a subscriber to Thrasher since about 87. I still have every single issue since Jan 2000, and probably about a third of them from mid 80s to December 1999. I also subscribed to slap the whole time that one existed. Never fucked with Transworld. Bought one issue because Hensley was on the cover.

14. Major injuries?
Oddly enough none until I was 41 years old, other than a couple concussions. Like, I had friends who would make fun of me because I never fell, and when I did, nothing hurt and I jumped right back up. (For reference, I’m talking about falling like 20 feet from some crazy gap, or falling down 25 stairs from the top of the handrail, not just falling on flat. I still usually jump right back up from that). However, over the last 4 or 5 years I've hurt myself several times and thought, "This is it, I don't know what to do with my life anymore." The first one was skating a bowl in Orlando. I had a decent frontside ollie at that time. I was coming down from one and for some reason stepped my front foot off the board onto the bowl surface, just above the transition. My foot stayed put, but I rolled down the transition. I thought it broke. The next morning when I woke up my left foot was swelled up to double size and was black and purple. I went to the emergency room thinking it was broke. Turned out it was a really bad sprain, but not my ankle, actually in my foot. The doctor actually told me it was worse than a break, because he could set broken bones, but the sprain wouldn't heal right. It was over 6 months before I could skate again. That was actually when I started filming shit. Before that I never cared about footage. Then, about a month later I sprained my right (back) ankle running out of another bowl up in the Atlanta suburbs. That time it was a back Smith that just decided to stop for no reason. That kept me off for another 6 or 8 weeks. That was also when I developed plantar fascitis in my back foot, which was a game changer. I had to find shoes that worked. I hate that Nike and Adidas make the best skate shoes, but it's all good. I kinda laugh at the "fashion victim" mentality a lot of dudes our age have. The whole Vans are punk, Nike are for jocks thing is silly, but I didn't go to school with those kind of jocks. My high school was an inner city school. Outkast and Goodie MNob both went to my school. The "jocks" sold drugs and drove impalas. Anyway, I did pretty good not getting hurt for a couple years, then a year ago I blew out my back. I'd had back problems for at least 15 years before that. Probably from the big shit I was skating. I have 2 herniated discs in my lower back, which has caused really bad sciatica. There are days I can't get out of bed. Others I can ollie 6 stairs like it's nothing. A few months ago I busted my knee on a curb and knocked my kneecap lose. So now there's that too. Let's just say I'm grateful to be able to still do kickflips and shit.

15. Outside of skating, any other passions/interests?
Jordans. I wear those when I'm not skating. I have several pairs. Only the 1's though. I also collect art done by skaters, I collect skateboards. I collect almost anything that has to do with skateboarding. You should see my house. But music. Music is just as important to me as skateboarding. I worked in the music industry for a while. I saw this whole country several times from the seat of a tour van or bus and seen some great bands from the merch table. That all seems like a lifetime ago, but I made some great lifelong friends doing that. Was a car guy at one point, but that shit got frustrating. Have you ever tried to keep a 51 Chevy running as a daily driver on a bartender’s schedule while having a huge drug and drinking problem? I sold my last old car in 2010, right before I moved from Virginia Beach to Orlando. It was a 66 Plymouth fury lowrider. Now I drive a Hyundai veloster that I've had about a year. I love this car. I also have a large collection of fitted new Era Atlanta braves hats.

16. Skating as a kid vs. skating as an adult over 40…talk about the differences and similarities.
Everything is different, everything is the same. You remember walking out the house with just your board and a backpack with no plans, just to skate? I still get that feeling. Obviously my ability isn't what it used to be, but it's still the best feeling. I have "100% skateboarder" tattooed on my chest.

17. Favorite skate videos?
Sick Boys, Useless Wooden Toys, Video Days, Jamie Thomas’ part in that invisible video is my favorite part of all time. Some of it was filmed in Atlanta when he lived here around ‘93 or ‘94 and I was there. I love almost every skate video, unless it's Bones Brigade. Obviously there are exceptions for a few riders, but for the most part I couldn't watch those. Animal Chin is the dumbest video ever made. Maybe I didn't get it, maybe I still don't. I don't care. That's part of why skating is so great. There is literally something for everyone. Guy Mariano part in Video Days was a game changer. I was 14 when that video came out, but everyone I skated with was 17 or older. They were all really good. I couldn't wait to get older and be good at skating too. Guy showed me I didn't have to wait. I spent the next few weeks watching his part every morning and going out and learning every single trick in that video part. Within a few months I was better than most the older dudes I skated with. I became an asshole. Had to find better people to skate with. I was a pretty shitty kid after that. But I got free skate shit and everyone knew who I was. That's definitely one thing I'd do different if I could. I would have been cool to my friends from the neighborhood and pushed them to get better too instead of just jumping on the train every day to go skate with better skaters.

18. Favorite skaters?
I really like the guys I skate with. My neighbor Doug Singleton lives 3 blocks from me. I been skating with him since I was 12 (we live in the neighborhood we grew up in). He has a pretty rad concrete mini ramp thing in his back yard. We plan on building more back there. It's cool because he owns his house, and we live in the hood, so neighbors don't care much and there's no hoa or whatever they have in subdivisions. He's one my favorite skaters. My friend Jason Guthrie is probably the best skater out of Atlanta ever. He was doing switch tres and shit like that before it was even called switch. He's good at vert, bowls and street. Most people don't know who he is, but you all know his protégé. He's the guy who taught Grant Taylor how to skate. He actually still lives with Grant’s dad Thomas. Thomas owns Stratosphere. That’s the local shop in Atlanta. It opened in 1986. I grew up in that shop. His roommate is one of my best friends. I've known Jason since about ‘91. We skate together at least once a week. Jeremiah Babb is an early 2000s pro who lives in Atlanta too. We skate together a lot. If you live in metro Atlanta and your local park has a diy curb that showed up one day done right, he probably made it. He built one of the curb spots I skate a lot, and I skate with him there every few weeks. Then my old friend John Porter. I met him around 1993. We skate together a lot too because we both go to old fourth ward skatepark around 8 am every Sunday morning. Then there's the whole dekurb crew. Scott, Thomas, Johnny, Peter, Kevin Green (who I’ve also known for years) and a few other guys. We skate together a lot too. I just met all them in the last couple years since I moved back to Atlanta, other than Kevin, who introduced me to those guys.

19. Favorite skate graphics? Worst skate graphics?
Favorite skate graphic is the hanging klansman. Period. I was 14 when Real started and that was Jim's first board (on Real). I still remember the feeling I got the first time I saw it. I got chills and thought, yes, this is the best image my eyes have ever seen. The only 2 other things that gave me that tingling this is what’s real to you, this is your truth was Operation Ivy the first time I heard them and Jason Pickens skateboard the night I stood on it in the parking lot after church when I was 10. It was going to be my first tattoo. I ended up getting it finally 25 years later. I'm also a huge fan of the Salba witch doctor. Or voodoo. I've seen it called both. I remember when it came out. It's probably where my obsession with pin up girls came from. Least favorite? Easy. Anything by VCJ over at Powell.

20. Who should we interview for the next episode of the Zero Club?
You or Dan.

21. Last words?
Have I mentioned how much I love Atlanta and our elitist skate scene here? I really do. I'm super proud to be a part of this and have been since I was 13 or 14 years old. Getting accepted in the Atlanta scene isn't easy. I'm also a huge fan of Deluxe and Jim and everything they do for skating. Skateboarding is in good hands. Nobody is making you watch Street League or X Games or the Olympics or the Vans park series. If you in Atlanta hit me up. Fuck racism.