Interview: Joey Pepper on Pura Pura

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Interview: Joey Pepper, Rain On Your Wedding Day

Fresh off his seemingly picture perfect, double rainbow-adorned lobster bake wedding on the shores of a lake in Maine—Joey Pepper sits down to discuss his experiences with the Bolivian DIY skatepark build in La Paz a few months back through Levi's, his upcoming second pro model shoe from HUF, and the thousand dollar lamp he named after Jerry Fowler.

Intro and Interview by Mackenzie Eisenhour

Did you get married in Maine this past weekend? Congrats! How was that?
Yeah. The whole day was crazy. It said it was supposed to rain all week. The weather every day said like 100% chance of severe thunderstorms on our wedding day.

It's like the Alanis Morrisette song ("Ironic" ['96]); "It's like rain, on your wedding day."
Yeah. But it ended up being that the sun came out. It was cloudy, and just ultra, ultra humid, like 95 degrees all morning—then an hour before the ceremony the sun came out. It was super hot but just awesome for the ceremony. Then we had a lobster bake, and it started to pour rain right in time for that. Everyone went under the tent. Then as soon as everybody was done eating it almost seemed orchestrated like, "Stop the rain, and cue double rainbow." It was insane.

Your lady must have been so hyped.
Yeah. We had about 95 people and everybody was tripping on how crazy it was. It was like the whole thing was fucking staged (laughs).

Like the Truman Show or something.
Yeah. Exactly. I just felt like somebody was seriously pulling the strings.

Sanctioned by the Gods. That's a good way for it to happen.
It was a good time.

Picture perfect wedding. Photo / Colen

How was your experience at this Levi's Bolivia skate park build?
It was great. I mean I had just come off of a long two-month trip to Australia and New Zealand. So I was only home for about two weeks before Bolivia. So I was already traveling a bunch and then going into Bolivia it was obviously just a whole other realm. Just pretty rugged. It was sort of like flying in there and not having a clue what you were flying into. I think they might have kept it a little secret on purpose as far as what the sleeping conditions were and where the build site was. I think it actually worked a little better that way actually. Because only people that really wanted to be there were there.

No four-star hotels.
Yeah. It was sort of like, "Do you really want to do this? Or are you just going there for fucking vacation and to get pampered?"

Josh Mathews was saying a bunch of people got dysentery.
I think that's a little bit inevitable. Sort of par for the course. Bolivia in general is obviously a little sketchy on the food front if you're not from there. Then you get a hundred skaters using the same bathroom and the same kitchen for three weeks or a month and you pretty much aren't going to have a choice. Half the time there was no fucking toilet paper. People would go straight from the bathroom to the kitchen and start grabbing food, washing dishes with no soap. It was a miracle all of us didn't get sick. I got sick after I got home.

Josh said the same.
I was really really sick the second I landed then for another two weeks. Josh was too. Take home a parasite.

Ollie to quick drop on a Levi's trip. Photo / Mehring.

Wallie pole jammer to quick bank drop on the Levi’s trip. La Paz, Bolivia. Photo / Mehring.

Did the DIY vibe overlap with your own woodworking at all?
Yeah. As far as the whole DIY thing, maybe I'm not as experienced as some of the other guys as far as concrete work goes. I've done a few things here and there but I've never been part of a full process before. But I was able to use a little of my woodworking experience—making templates and cutting pieces and stuff like that. A lot of it is the type of stuff anybody can do. I guess that's the beauty of DIY. You can be told how to do it once, and then anybody can do it. As long as you're willing and able to work hard and aren't scared of getting dirty—not scared of getting cold and getting wet—anybody can do it. It's just hands and bodies.

I asked Josh (Mathews) about the cocoa leaves down there so figured I should get your take.
That stuff, I don't know—the jury's out. Honestly, I don't know how much of that stuff is just placebo effect. But there were days were I was just so exhausted and I was definitely chewing on those things and it was feeling like it was helping me skate, on the days that we had to skate. The crazy thing there—because of the altitude—it seemed like nothing heals (At nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world.) I was chewing cocoa leaves to get over my tiredness but we went skating heavy because there were a lot of rad spots there. The second day I skated all day long and got sore and I just felt like my muscles just could not recover. I felt that sore for the rest of the trip. I cut myself on my hand, the first day too and it never healed either. But as soon as I flew home the next morning I swear to God—my cut was healed and my muscles weren't sore.

Joey mixes cement for the Pura Pura park with the bros. Photo / Levi's

Joey mixes cement for the Pura Pura park with the bros. Photo / Levi’s

You hear that stuff in sports like, "The altitude really gives the home team an advantage…" but it always sounds like bullshit.
Yeah. No. That difference had like a huge huge effect.

What do you think of the whole Levi's approach? Seems a little different from most companies.
I hear different opinions from all kinds of people but as far as I'm concerned, I think they're doing a good thing. They only really want to put their efforts into situations that will actually make a difference, so that's good. And beyond that, I think the fact that they don't have an official team allows them to work with a lot of different people who wouldn't be able to be a part of those situations otherwise. I think it allows certain people to work as independent contractors on a project-by-project basis. And then the gear is obviously good too so that never hurts.

How much time do you spend in your woodworking studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn? Are you able to make a living off that?
It's sort of half fun, half work I guess. I pull off enough work to cover my rent and then the rest of it is just a space to fuck off and get creative. I haven't really over committed myself enough to make it full-time work. I try and cover my rent and do a couple of things but other than that it's sort of playtime. I'm actually going to be moving out of there pretty soon. It's getting turned into condos just like everything else (laughs.)

Hurricane in New Zealand. Photo / Chami

Hurricane in New Zealand. Photo / Chami

Is it just you solo or like a shared space?
It's a communal shop like most of the shops you'll find in any city. Rent's so expensive and all the machinery is way too expensive—so any normal woodworker is not going to be able to afford to dive into that type of commitment alone. So it's communal. All of the big equipment is used by everyone and then individual people rent out small spaces. So I have like a 16"by 16" space in the back corner of the shop. All the hand tools and smaller stuff I own myself.

I saw that there were some $1000 lamps that were sold out on your site.
Yeah. Honestly though—I've had a little bit more interest lately, semi through the Levi's thing—actually a fine woodworking magazine is going to be putting some of my lamps in their gallery in the magazine, which is kind of cool. But the lamps were kind of a thing that I got started on and like everything else, I usually get really excited about things and then as soon it becomes something that I need to sell or market and turn into a business thing I lose interest. I'm still making them, but it's part of a bigger thing that I'll have to work on in the future.

Unspoiled noseblunt slide in the woods. Photo / Chami.

Noseblunt slide in the woods. Photo / Chami.

Is it kind of like skating, like it's fun but then the second somebody tells you to do it or you have to force yourself, it's not fun anymore?
Yeah. All of a sudden you don't give a shit. Maybe that's just my skater mentality. I don't want anything to be ruined. I don't want anything to be spoiled.

I also saw that one of them was named the Fowler. Ode to Jerry?
I named it the Fowler because he bought it actually.

(Laughs.) That's rad.
Yeah. That one is The Fowler because I had an art show in Boston for the lamps and he came and bought one.

What's Jerry up to these days?
He's chilling. He came to the wedding and I saw him there. He's got two daughters. Twin daughters a couple of years old. Identical twins. He's still skating. He's a fireman. He's doing good.

The Fowler Lamp. Sold out but check Joey's store for more handcrafted gems.

The Fowler Lamp. Sold out but check Joey’s store for more handcrafted gems at joeypepper.com.

Expedition seems to have a pretty stacked team right now, are you guys building towards a video or anything?
I think everyone is filming and working towards something, but there's no official video project yet or anything.

How hard do you picture Zered going for this Transworld part?
I can't wait to see it man. Honestly, he's one of my favorite skaters. I can't wait. His approach is pretty good too. A lot of people do this but he really only skates what he wants to skate. Everything that you see out of him is shit that he really wanted to do. And he can just skate everything.

How has your HUF show been doing? That's been out for a year or two right? Is there another one in the works?
Yeah. The first one has been out for about two years now on shelves. There's actually a second one that will be coming out next year. It's already designed and I'm already wearing it. I just got samples back.

Any major changes?
We pulled over a lot of the same lines—kind of tightened the whole thing up and smoothed it down a little bit. And then it's going to be a mid-top.

Last one I had, since you handled the wedding—Is there a Joey JR on the horizon?
No man. I got a dog. I'm satisfied (laughs). No, who knows though. We'll see. I just planned a wedding. I'm not trying to do any other major planning yet. We'll see.

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Wallie grinder back in NYC. Photo / Kowalski.

Follow Joey on Instagram: @joeypepp
Shop at Joey’s store: joeypepper.com
Follow Levi’s Skateboarding on Instagram: @levisskateboarding
Stay up on the La Paz scene on Instagram and follow: @sk8lapaz
Follow HUF on Instagram: @hufworldwide
Follow Expedition on Instagram: @expeditionone
Follow Mackenzie on Instagram: @deadhippie