by Ben Stoddard
Skateboarding is lucky to have Jeff Grosso. I’m sure he’d say the opposite but it’s true. In an industry devoted to worshipping false idols, it’s necessary to have counterforces like Grosso fighting the good fight from the trenches. Skateboarding would be baseball without the Grossos of the world and this magazine would be called King Skateboarding. When we sent him a list of questions over email he answered right away asking for us to call him. He told us that he didn’t want to filter himself and that there was no honesty in typing answers. We commend you Mr. Grosso and we agree. Ladies and gentlemen, the Jeff Grosso Interview.
So you say there’s no honesty in typing in answers. What do you mean?
Not that there isn’t any honesty in typing, it’s that you can filter yourself. And when there is editing and filtering going on it’s hard to get to the truth sometimes. If someone is going to take the time to interview me the best thing I can do is be genuine and honest even if it’s to my detriment.
I feel like you’re a part of an older regime that way. The majority of the guys I interview won’t get on the phone with me. They’ll only do it over email or Skype.
That’s the new culture. I’m an old man but I get it. "Hey, send me the questions so I can answers the ones I like so I can seem 'liked' and sell more shoes or sign my next Monster contract." It’s just another staged way to do business. It sucks but skateboarding today is all about business. It’s sad and kind of a joke. (laughs)
Well, we’re glad you want to talk. What’s up with the injury/surgery we’ve been hearing about? How long are you out for?
I’m pretty much out for the year but whatever I’m 47 years old and I’ve been skateboarding for 39 of them. My back started going south on me. I was doing a 5050 grind in 1995 in Kelly Belmar’s bowl corner (laughs) and my back went out. At the time, I was using a lot of narcotics so I just masked the pain. My back has been slowly degenerating ever since. I ruptured my back fully this year and needed the surgery. I ruptured it so bad my sciatic nerve was beginning to atrophy and die.
How’s the pain now? Being a recovering addict do you worry about get addicted to back pills or prescribed meds?
No no, I got off all that crap. I was only on them for a short period of time. Being a recovering opiate addict I only took the pills as prescribed and it came to a time for me to kick them. I kicked cold turkey.
Were the pills as easy to kick as the hard stuff?
It’s all the same. It’s all the hard stuff. Vicodin is an opiate. Heroin is an opiate. It’s all the same shit with a different name. If you’ve been on it for more than seven days you’re going to feel the withdrawal. Some people with addictive personalities like me get extreme withdrawals and others don’t feel a fucking thing. Their brains don’t fuck them into oblivion. I reopened that Pandora’s box again and thankfully I’ve got my wife, my mother and a really good group of friends to keep an eye on me so I wouldn’t go sideways. Quite honestly, I’m 47 years old. Being a junkie is a young man’s game. You don’t see a lot of old junkies and I don’t want to be one. It’s not clever, it’s not funny – it’s not even fun anymore. I’ve got other shit going on. I’ve got reasons to live today.
That leads me into one of the questions I wrote down. Would the drug use be a regret you had back in the day and if not, what would be one regret that you wish you could take back?
I have regrets. The regrets I have in life are in regards to the way I treated people. I treated some woman really poorly; I treated my mother poorly and my family. I abused friendships; I burned bridges. I was basically just a selfish asshole for many, many years. I thought the world owed me something and I thought skateboarding owed me something. I was just this juvenile, ill-informed, know-it-all kid. Whatever man, I liked getting high. I’m not going to lie to you, taking a crack hit while getting a blowjob at the same time is pretty fucking cool (laughs). There’s no two ways around that but I’m not advocating anybody to try that shit. That shit is fucking death. You know what I really regret? I don’t regret partying, I don’t regret becoming an addict and shitting my life away, I regret taking my skateboard for granted. I wasted years and years running around doing bullshit when I could’ve been riding.
What was the moment that pulled you out of the bullshit? Was it the 90’s?
I tried getting sober in 1997 and didn’t get there until 2005, if that tells you anything. Life was never easy for me. I like to do things the hard way. It’s one of the reasons I was attracted to skateboarding in the first place. It’s problem solving. I don’t know fuck. What were we talking about?
What pulled you out of all the bullshit? Was it a woman? Was it a specific moment? I take it was a long process from your answer.
Well as far as the drugs go, I started waking up in hospitals. When you fuck with heroin you have a tendency to overdose, especially if you use it with cocaine. I started waking up in hospitals and starting getting in trouble with the law. The state of California and its infinite wisdom got ahold of me and basically said it’s prison or rehab. Of course I chose rehab but I fucked that up over and over again. It eventually started to work out and I put one day in front of the other and I haven’t drank or used since. For me, all I can do is abstain because I get myself into trouble.
Do you have any advice for people who are lost in that spiral right now?
If you think you have a problem there is help. No matter how lame you think it is or how you think it doesn’t apply to you can go seek out help. Go to your family, go to your friends, just get help. Your friends and family know you best, they will help you. Have a little balls, admit you don’t have all the answers and seek the help needed. Whatever, lets talk about skateboarding. Drugs are lame.
Agreed. I have one more drug question I need answered. I’m looking for some truth behind the tales of 80’s pros taking acid before the finals of halfpipe contests. I been hearing the tales my whole life.
From my understanding of what you’re talking about I believe it was actually mushrooms. It was Reese Simpson and Jeff Phillips at Holiday Havoc. Reese won the amateur contest that day and Jeff won the pro. He beat Tony (Hawk) without doing a 540. I don’t think he fell once that day. You’d have to ask Reese about that though. He’s the only one who knows the real truth to the story. Phillips and Reese took hallucinogens at Holiday Havoc yes, but if you timed it right it could give you intense focus. I hear some of the street kids these days use Adderall to skate rails. Fucking pharmaceutical speed that’s highly addictive to skate rails. I could see that. Dudes popping shit and going into Street League. It’s the same with hallucinogens, if you hit it right man you can do no wrong. I took acid at the Stone Mountain Georgia contest and they put a camera in my face and all I could say was “there’s too many stickers on the deck man”. I was peaking and frying balls. I couldn’t tell where the coping was because of all the colorful stickers. I remember thinking don’t land on the colorful blobs and you’ll be alright. I skated good that day. I think I got top 10 or top 8. Back then you were never going to break top five because you had the Bones Brigade, Gator, Hosoi etc. Who knows how many of those stories that haven’t been documented? The skaters that partied back then weren’t in the majority but shenanigans happened and it’s rad folklore. Beat him on mushrooms without a five!
How does it feel to have tricks in two of the biggest films of the year, Destination Unknown from Antihero and Propeller from Vans?
It feels fucking badass. Lets put it this way, when I decided to leave Black Label and I put effort in getting onto Antihero I thought there was no way they’d put me on. I still pinch myself to this day. I’m in a fucking van with Frank, Tony, Julien, Pete and fucking Andy… Andrew Allen, T-Mo dude. Fucking T-Mo rules dude. It’s super cool that anybody thinks that what I have to offer on a skateboard is worth looking at. If Greg Hunt is going to ask me to film tricks for a video I’m going try to kill myself. I tried to do the best I could do. I’m super fortunate to be in those movies and on those teams. To occupy the space that I occupy in my little corner of skateboarding I’m amazed, I’m humbled and super grateful. And I’m seriously protective of it. I love my version skateboarding and I’ll fight for it. That’s why I do Love Letters.
The Love Letters have kind of painted you as a historian of skateboarding’s past and present. Do you have any predictions for the future?
Well when the show first started it was supposed to be this history channel of skateboarding thing but you know what? The history of skateboarding is so fucking muddy and grey. There is no black and white. It hurts so many people’s feelings and starts too many problems so now the show has morphed into a weird scroll through my demented Swiss cheese brain. My goal for the show is for dudes to tune in, watch some old shit, have a laugh and get hyped to go skate with their friends. If you tuned in and saw Mark Gonzales bluntslide on a curb or frontside invert on Max Schaaf’s ramp hopefully you picked up the phone and called a friend to go skate. That’s my hope for the show. We’re not trying to be the Smithsonian of skateboarding. We’re not trying to be fact; this is my version of skateboarding. Everybody knows Lance Mountain is God, Mark Gonzales is Yoda, Tony Hawk is Michael Jordan and you worship at the alter of Blender, people.
Wow, we should end it on that. Thanks Jeff.
(laughs) Right on.