Photo: Mike Piscitelli
Text: Kohei Onuki
Jason Dill is the owner of the skateboard company Fucking Awesome and is a legendary skater with a style like no other. He has been busy making paintings in these recent years and his creative energy seems inexhaustible. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging around the world we asked what motivates him to keep creating his positive and sharp expressions. We spoke to Jason in Pasadena California via zoom.
―― How have you been spending your time recently? I read from another interview that due to the pandemic you haven’t been able to travel too much outside of Pasadena…
Pasadena is a quiet place which doesn’t feel like a city like Los Angeles, I’ve been here from March because I wanted to be safe. I haven’t locked my self in the house but I've tried to not go outside of Pasadena. I like taking walks and reading, so I’d read books during my walk and while I’m at home, I sit in my chair in the back yard and feed the squirrels and watch the birds flying by… I did that for the past 6 months. Skateboarding is always better with friends so I haven’t really been skating. I only saw Mike Piscitelli (Filmmaker, Photographer, Co-Founder of FA) and Atiba Jefferson (Skateboard Photographer) and like 4 other people while in this pandemic. I got a bike recently so I've been riding that around.
―― What kind of books do you like to read?
I just read “The Given Day” by Dennis Lehane which was great book. I like John Steinbeck and I really like Malcolm Gladwell, I like how he weaves real life events in a way you’d never thought of into his books. I dropped out of high school early, and am not an educated guy, but fortunately my brother got me into reading and movies. I saw a movie called “Confession of a Dog” about corruption of the Japanese police force which was great. I’ve been to Japan about 40 times now, but whenever I would come to Japan I would always go to Tower Records to buy Japanese film DVD's from just looking at the covers there.
―― “Confession of Dog” was a shocking movie for sure. By the way from when you started FA in the early 2000’s how do you think the brand have changed?
It’s been almost 20 years since we’ve started FA, while it had it's ups and downs just like how anything in life has ups and downs, it has become something I could’ve never imagined when I first started. It started as a short story on a piece of paper but now it feels like a big book. FA’s reaction to products and riders have changed over the years and the designs have changed also. We always try to create something different each time whether it’s clothing or graphic or video and have tried to always be better. As far as the apparel I think we’re making the best product as of yet. It’s the result of all the hours spent and steps that’s been taken throughout these years.
―― You seem to be in a great space creatively..
I’m always a mess (laughs). Everything I make sucks, but sometimes there’s a thing or two that looks ok and useable. I also have my small creative team who help me out which is great. I really appreciate everyone who works with us, the skate team, the creative team all the staffs, everyone.
―― I saw the new collection which launched a few days ago and feel FA’s boards and apparel designs are very creative and original, could you walk us through your process of creating and designing a product for FA?
If I want to make some track pants with some faces on it, after I paint the faces and re-size the faces we take time to just look. I think taking time to look at the piece carefully is important for us. Skateboards are the most difficult to design since it’s our most important DNA as a brand. Regardless if it’s apparel, boards, or videos, we want to avoid delivering the same things as before and try to always evolve it.
―― Apart from your designs for FA, you have been painting canvases as well, how did you get into painting?
I’m not really into keeping things… I just recently donated most of my clothes to the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota… Sorry let me circle back, I’m not into keeping things but painting felt important to me so it stuck with me for the past 2 years. I’m sure everybody painted when they were young, I’m just doing that on a larger scale. I’ve never thought of my self as being good at painting I just have the passion to paint more.
―― Sounds like you’re having a lot of fun.
Yea, its fun for sure. I’ve been working on this painting of a baby on the river with two tigers beside eating an elk for about 8 months now. When we’re over with this pandemic I would like to show my paintings in Tokyo, because people in Japan have a better attitude to art. If I show my paintings in New York people will come just to shit on it (laughs).
―― (Laughs) I hope I get to see your exhibition soon. How do you work on your paintings normally?
I usually work on about 4 canvases simultaneously, I keep working on each canvas and when you come to a point where there are nowhere else to work on the canvas it’s done. I just keep working on it until I get tired of it. Skate tricks and apparel has a clear and precise start and finish but for me painting is more free. While some paintings are very skillful and precise I like the fact that paintings like mine can also exist.
―― What kind of paintings are you working on recently?
I haven’t got around to paint big canvases recently since I’ve been thinking a lot about the pandemic and the current state fo the world and also I’ve had a lot to work on with FA but I’ve been working on small pieces. I want to paint more and get into oil painting as well. Before the pandemic I was working on pieces with greek buildings and streets. I like painting landscapes most like trees and skys, when you paint something manmade like a building, you question whether it’s realistic or not but when you paint nature it doesn’t need to be perfect.
―― I saw some cool looking nature on the FA IG feed, where is this?
That’s Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon in the state of Utah. I was staying safe and laying low in Pasadena but it came to a point where I needed to jump into nature and that’s where I went for 2 weeks. We took some cool shots, nature is cool.
―― Yes, it looks really cool, I always get a great feeling when I see visuals on the FA IG feed or FA movies on youtube, the fun and happiness I almost forgot about from this pandemic.
I appreciate you saying that, thank you. I’m happy you felt that way and I always want everybody to feel positive, but I’m also scared of the pandemic so I feel like the crying clown at times (laughs).
―― The new collection you’re about to release this month with adidas has a unique look and design which I was excited to see, could you let us in on the background of the design for the Experiment 1 and Experiment 2 shoes?
I wanted to build a collection based on the adidas products which I remember seeing when I was young, so I started digging the adventure line they had in those days and picked out the base model which we used for Experiment 1.
―― Did you consider skating when you were designing it?
I didn't think about skating when I was designing it but I skate in these and they skate really well. And as opposed to Experiment 1 the Experiment 2 is a more laid back shoe but we gave it neon green and orange coloring, so that the two shoes has a totally different character.
―― There are unique pieces like the Tae Kon Do Gi in this collection, which are your favorite pieces?
I like all of them but if I had to say I like Experiment 1, and I also like the way we were able to use the iconic feathered adidas stripe detailing for shoes on the apparel. I’m not into the modern and refined look so my memories from the 1984 LA olympic ceremonies and adidas apparel which were worn by Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley in the 1980s have been the inspiration of this collection. When I told adidas that I wanted to make a Tae Kon Do Gi they were shocked (laughs) but if Bob Marley were alive today I’m sure he would’ve definitely worn the piece.
―― I want to see Bod Marley in the Gi so bad! (laughs) Before we wrap up could I get a message from you to the skaters and artists in Japan?
Chotto Mattene .. Hmmm.. Ok Guys, Girls, Gays, Lesbians, Transgenders, I want all of us to accept our diversities and wish that you will continue developing and moving our society forward. Maybe you can legalize pot along the way at some point soon as well (laughs). America has a lot of fucked up problems but there have been some improvements in some areas, so don’t think that change is too far in the future and give up. The old fucks with their old ways will soon die anyways (laughs).