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Jenkem Vol. 1: An Interview with Ian Michna

Interview by Daryl Mersom

After hearing about the release of Jenkem Vol.1, their first foray into hard back print, we were keen to find out more. Where do you draw the line between website and print? Is print really a remedy to the content hungry internet? Here is Ian Michna’s take on releasing hard back print in a world where online content proliferates.

Why did you choose to reprint certain pieces? The Marc Johnson interview for example.

Over the years, we’ve done some stuff I’m really proud of (and other things I can’t look at because they are so bad), and when we decided to do the book, I wanted to highlight some pieces that I still felt good about. To take them off of the black hole of the internet and put them on paper… make them a physical reality. Web is also confining sometimes with formatting, and there were some interviews that I wanted to make shine a bit more than they were able to online, so we got some new illustrations and photos for them, and got to lay it in a much more complete way than we were able to do online.

In terms of MJ, we started working on the book over a year ago, and when we decided to include the MJ interview in the book we didn’t know that the adidas switch was going to happen. I wanted to include it because it’s MJ, and I think it’s one of the most honest and in depth interviews we’ve had the opportunity to do so far. Regardless of whether or not the interview is dated or whatever now that MJ went to adidas doesn’t really matter I think, it’s a nice time capsule and what he’s saying as a whole still really holds weight. I’m psyched we put it in there, and maybe one day we’ll put a follow-up MJ interview in a future volume… you never know!

A lot of what you do seems to be in the spirit of Big Brother. How much of an influence has this magazine had on Jenkem?

Probably too much [laughs]. That attitude is what got me into skating, that kind of fun, mischievous, goofy (and often backwards) approach is what made skating special to me. It was never really just about the tricks, it was how these people lived. I’m a huge fan of Rocco, Cliver, Mckee, Earl Parker aka “The Master Journalist”, Carnie, Nieratko, etc… I suggest to anyone that doesn’t know much about that era of skating to pick up a copy of their book, Shit, or at least check out the documentary “The Man Who Souled The World,” which kind of shows how modern day skating came to be and where our roots are. If you are a cheap ass like me, just watch the bootleg version on Youtube. In terms of other stuff that influenced me, I’m also a big Howard Stern fan, which is probably pretty clear from our interviews, as well as Mad Magazine for the satire, Playboy for the interviews and, believe it or not, early Magic The Gathering card artwork (Alpha – Tempest) which got me turned onto trying to do illustrations for the mag from the start.

The book’s title Vol.1 suggests that you intend to release more volumes. And yet the hardcover, glossy and high end production of the book suggests that this is a one off. How do you see this hard copy project developing over the next few years?

Yessir – we do intend to release more volumes. Several months ago after we gave the final book PDF to the printer, I remember thinking, “Fuck that, I’m never going to do a book again, it’s way too much work.” Then as soon as the book arrived at the office a couple months after that, and I got to see all those minty copies, see everything we had been working on for the past year and a half. With a hard cover, and the smell (love the smell!), and texture… I couldn’t get enough. I forgot all about the work. Now I’m hooked, I just want to work on print stuff, I’m all jazzed on it. Digital just isn’t as rewarding. Holding it in person is a dream come true. So moving forward we plan to release more volumes, ideally 1 a year, which will continue to be 50% best of from the website, and 50% book exclusive stuff that you will never see anywhere else. For the next volume, I want to do much more kid stuff, like a centre-fold colouring book, but instead of colouring in Mickey Mouse or something, you are colouring in Fred Gall doing a bump off a hooker’s ass. I want to make it as fun as possible.

“Fun. Mischief. Immaturity. Getting lost. Boners. Uhh… Hot chicks? You know, all the stuff that originally attracted me to skating.”

Where is the line between the website and the book? Is there brand new content in the book that won’t appear online?

Yeah – there’s a bunch of book only stuff – AVE, Sage Elsesser and Zered Bassett interviews, a giant pull-out poster, a Cons Asia tour photo feature, a Colin Sussingham NYC photo piece, and a bunch more goodies that won’t appear anywhere else. We won’t put them online – it always feels so cheap when someone puts stuff in print and then releases it all online afterwards anyway.

What aspects of skate culture do you want to convey with the book?

Fun. Mischief. Immaturity. Getting lost. Boners. Uhh… Hot chicks? You know, all the stuff that originally attracted me to skating.

Has working on Jenkem (both online and the book) changed the way you perceive the skate industry?

Of course… it’s kinda weird to say, but it’s my “job” now. When you aren’t doing it for anything except for yourself, it’s the best thing in the world. The ultimate escape. Now that I make a living off of doing Jenkem, and have other people it helps support, the line between fun outlet and weird work pressures to keep it going starts to get a little muddled. I’m still having fun with it though.

If Jenkem could change one thing about today’s state of skateboarding, what would it be?

Off the top of my head – probably that there was more of a “middle class” for pro skaters. It seems like it’s feast or famine out there, and I see so many skaters busting their asses… super talented guys doing everything right, and they just don’t make enough to live. Even the seemingly “successful” guys are making minimum wage type money. But then there’s the big league skaters making 10 times that. It’s not that the big league guys don’t deserve it, but it’s just a bummer to see one pro on Instagram showing off his 3rd sports car, and then you know a local pro who just dropped 3 good ass parts this year that’s still struggling to get by. I don’t know if it’s anyone’s fault or if there’s anyone to blame for this, it’s just that there’s too many talented pro skateboarders and not enough skate companies to help support them all in the way they need and deserve to be supported.

“If kids want daily vids, they can go on Hellaclips and watch a million montages, but I’m not going to be the one doing that.”

How do you think that we, as skateboarders, should approach the content hungry internet? The issue of Instagram over mag publication is tackled in your recent Wilshire Ollie piece. And a lot of debate has gone on over the rate at which good skateboarding footage is forgotten. Is print a remedy for fast paced online consumption?

These days, everything feels like you have to do more and more, keep pushing out stuff hourly, on all channels, repost, re-blog, promote, spam… “The kids want new content every minute!” I guess there’s some truth in that, but I personally think it’s bullshit. If the kids want daily vids, they can go on YouTube or Hellaclips and watch a million montages, but I’m not going to be the one doing that.

If you want to have a remedy for fast paced online consumption, more people need to work on making their stuff memorable. Don’t just throw it online and think people are going to remember it next week. Make it an experience. Take it offline. Make something tangible, a zine, pins, do a touring photo show that supports whatever it is you’re doing. Bring your work to life.

With everyone pumping out so much online content these days though, I am disappointed that we still haven’t seen an edit of Gino grocery shopping yet. I don’t know how you’d top that.

How important is it to balance rather thoughtful pieces on the transgender skateboarding community alongside cartoons mocking skate park stereotypes?

I don’t know how important it is, maybe not at all? I just find that I get bored if we do too much serious stuff, and then it feels kind of wack when we start to do too much goofy stuff. It’s like, every time we do something serious I get over it and want to publish something silly to balance it out. We mix it up basically to accommodate my ADD.

“there’s the premium Snifftape line that smells like Nyjah Huston or Dylan Rieder’s nipples.”

What was the most fun to do article in the book?

I didn’t personally do that many of the articles in the book, just a couple of the interviews. I think some of my favourite pieces were done by our former contributing writer and editor, Morley, who came up with these really weird fake ads that are at the back of the book. He did some HUF rip-off socks where, instead of the all over weed print, we have crack, heroin and pill prints. He also came up with Snifftape – scratch and sniff smelly griptape with all sorts of scents like Boiled Shrimp and Ocean Breeze. Then there’s the premium Snifftape line that smells like Nyjah Huston or Dylan Rieder’s nipples. Not sure how he comes up with this shit.

The book contains interviews, essays, photographic pieces, cartoons, and illustrations. Were there any contributions that you were particularly excited about?

This dude Jon Horner’s contributions really helped make the book special in my mind. Based on a couple of our little ZIGRAM23 (aka Shane O’Neill) robot skits and videos we’ve done over the years, he drafted up a whole comic, 10 pages beginning to end, with a whole origin and downfall story of Zigram. He also drafted up a little Where’s Waldo style double page spread of the Jenkem universe featuring basically everyone we’ve done features on or with over the last 5+ years. It is fucking incredible. Thank you Jon!

Thanks to Ian for giving us an insight into Jenkem Vol.1.

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