Girl Skateboards art director Andy Jenkins talks about Tom Waits, BMX, and the Los Angeles Angels
If you have touched a skateboard at some point in the last 20 years, chances are Andy Jenkins has had an impact on you're experience. Skaters in their 30s probably know Jenkins as the creator of the beloved Wrench Pilot comics or as a member of the band Milk, whose track "Knife Song" served as the soundtrack to Jason Lee’s iconic part in Blind’s Video Days. Younger skateboarders will know Jenkins from his work as art director at Girl Skateboards. Part of Girl's legendary Art Dump, Jenkins is responsible for many of the cleanest, boldest graphics that have ever appeared on the bottom of a skateboard.
Green Label caught up with Jenkins recently to chat briefly about skateboarding, BMX, parenting, and Tom Waits.
I know you cut your teeth in the BMX magazine world, but what came first for you: BMX or skateboarding?
Skateboarding came first. But not skating as we know it today, for sure. My family lived in Florida in 1970 and everyone had "skateboards" there. I had a California Free-Former — plastic deck with ACS trucks. I still have those trucks. But I don't know if that counts as skateboarding. Once we moved to Wyoming in 1973, I was all about two wheels. Motocross and BMX. Not much in terms of skating there back then. There was a vert ramp owned by a friend of mine, Paul Howard, but I never skated it. Too intimidated, I think. Speaking of Paul, he was responsible for introducing me to Devo in '78 or so. Once I saw them perform on Saturday Night Live, the seed was planted in me. There was no turning back. Have you seen their cover of The Rolling Stones’ "(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction" from that episode? Brilliant.
Speaking of music, you mentioned in an interview a couple years ago that you listen to a lot of Tom Waits. Do you have particular albums you find yourself going back to more often? Do you listen to music while you work?
It's his insightfulness that gets me. He's got a great sense of humor. Think "Chocolate Jesus" or "What's He Doing In There?" He’s simply a brilliant writer. If he wrote books I'd read them all. But I'm also enthralled with his vocal quality and general instrumentation. I've seen him play half a dozen times and I'm always just standing there with a huge grin on my face. And I'm not one to smile much. I met him once, you know, at a wedding up in Napa. He played "Picture In A Frame" for the bride's entrance. I was in the wedding and standing no more than 15 feet from him while he performed. One of the best moments of my life. Later at the party I said hello, and we watched our kids play together from the porch of this amazing Southern-styled home. I felt like I was in one of his songs. Very surreal. Amazing dude.
I do listen to music while I work, though—almost always. Unless my Angels are playing during baseball season, then I'm tuned into the game. I love listening to the games almost more than watching them. It's a story. A performance. Theater.
You’re a family man now, right? How has your creative process changed over the years?
It changed quite bit once we had our first (and only) kid. It did stop for a while. But being a dad is pretty inspiring in other ways—my child turned into my project, if that makes any sense. Before we were parents, I'd work into the night and think nothing of it. Once I became a parent, if I was sleep deprived I'd pass out right after my son did, sometimes while I was reading to him. Becoming a parent is like running from a tornado—it's scary, but somehow thrilling as well. And once you find shelter, it's calming and you feel lucky. But your old life is up there getting rearranged by the swirling vortex.
Has time, age, and responsibility changed your skateboarding? Where did you typically skate ten years ago?
When I was skating back in the '80s and early '90s, I would skate every day and sometimes at night. We had a grip of places we'd hit up — double sided curbs, regular curbs, banks, ledges and my favorite, ditches and pools when they were available. I skated Upland for a few weeks before it was dozed, but other than that it was all found spots. No parks, very few ramps other than little quarter pipes or launchers. We'd travel — couch tour — on occasion and meet the folks we'd been trading ‘zines with. That was always my favorite part of skating, the travel, getting to skate new places.
How does that compare to today?
With the advent of tiny wheels and giant pants, my interest waned a bit. Then after I had my son, I started again to keep up with him. These days I don't generally skate except maybe a few lines here at the Girl facility. I leave the hardcore stuff to Emmet, he's 16 now and skates every day. I used to shoot photos and video of him and his friends, but I think that time has passed for the time being. He's probably a little embarrassed by his old man following him around. He's super independent these days. And so, there's another change. More time for my work again.
You can check out more of Jenkins’ work—including some pieces for sale—at bendpress.com