Speed Wheels Stories: A Conversation with Jeremy Fish
Coinciding with are recent feature in our Fall 2021 quarterly on the Art of the Speed Wheels and the current exhibition, The Art of the Santa Cruz Speed Wheel on view at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History through January 2, 2022, we will spend the next few months dipping into the Santa Cruz skate archives and speak with the designers, artists, skaters and team managers who were influenced and shaped by the era and designs. Today, we speak with the legendary artist Jeremy Fish, on his connections with the Speed Wheel era.
Lee Charron: What do you remember the most about Speed Wheels in the 80’s?
Jeremy Fish: For me it was the gross ads like all the mustard gas and the vomit and stuff like that, when you’re a kid, that's so cool. Magazines at that point were full of neon shorts and guys skating vert and then there’s this incredibly drawn wheel logo and ad; that was always sick to me. The team riders sure, but the ads man. More so than the illustrations and that isn’t because I’m not a huge fan of all things early NHS because that had a massive influence on how I draw today, but I would say for Speed Wheels specifically, it was the grossness of the ads and whoever laid those ads out and shot those photos.
Is there one ad in particular that scarred you as a youth?
I just think it was the ones that had the real shit in the background of the photo. It also didn’t hurt that the team was incredible. From my standpoint as a kid, this was a combination of Santa Cruz had the best art at that time, the logo was killer but then Hosoi rode for you guys like at the peak of his go way up in the air and do a Christ or a rocket air peak- you can’t even see the ramp in the background it’s just a man in the sky. And I don’t remember where that contest was but there was like a ten-foot measurement thing, and he was flying over the top of that on a vert ramp. I think it was a combination that it was all great graphics, the ads were very eighties and funny and fun and engaging for a kid. But I think the team also plays a huge roll. I was a gigantic Hosoi fan when I was a kid and I think I was alone in that circle amongst my friends. I just always thought he was the man, and that combination of logo, graphics, advertising, team. That’s like an marketers dream right; it has it all.
Can you talk about the time you got your first Slimeballs wheels, I think it’s an epic story.
My dad lived in Pittsburgh, and he took me to this shop called Shady Skates which also had a skatepark and I think it was my first real complete board ever; you know the first one I’d bought everything all at once- it was Slimeballs, Indy’s and I got a Claus Grabke, it was a full-blown NHS complete. Yeah, I wanted fucking Slimeballs, but they didn’t have four of the same hardness, like I got two fucking green ones and two pink ones because it was the only full set; they were the right size, but they were two different hardness, but that says a lot about me as a kid - I was more interested in having the brand than these two greens and two pink wheels that were different durometers. I think I even alternated them, so I had one of each up front and one of each in the back. I’m not sure I even cared that the durometers were different. It wasn’t like I was power sliding through intersections and going eighty down a hill, I was squeaking little shitty power slides in my neighborhood pushing around the block. But you know it’s not to say I didn’t look like the coolest guy in upstate New York when I returned from Pittsburgh with this brand spanking new white Claus Grabke complete.
Did you ride any other Speed Wheels later on as you progressed as a skater?
Tons and tons and tons, yeah. I rode several sets of OJ Team Riders, as a matter of fact. The first ones were just the original Slimeballs that just said Slimeballs in that dope font lettering, but I had a bunch of sets of OJ Team Riders. I skated for a shop that was in my hometown. We were in the middle of upstate New York in the eighties, so distribution wasn’t that rad and it’s not like they got everything, but I had a pair of the Hosoi Rocket wheels, we had the OJ Freestyle ones. I had several pairs of the OJ Team Riders and my original Slimeballs. Those were the ones that stand out. Slimeballs are the ones I remember specifically spending my dishwasher money on, you know, that junior high dishwasher money.
What about the Speed Freaks video?
Speed Freaks had the real cool veiny cover art which I always liked- got the Screaming Hand on it real big.
There is one part in Speed Freaks where there’s that guy in sunglasses with the Slimeballs shirt that burps Slimeballs, that is my favorite part. He was some local dude, and the raw footage of this guy trying to burp the word Slimeballs is insane and keeps doing that thing where you pull all that air in you and he almost barfs a few times trying to do it, it’s insane.
My takeaway on it is everything from Santa Cruz at that time- I was more into Santa Cruz than all the other brands. A. because of the artwork and B. because everything lasted a long time. Like all that product was super well made, and when you’re a kid spending cheesy dishwasher money you want the stuff to look cool but most importantly you want it to last a long time and everything I got from Santa Cruz lasted me forever. And I was in love with Jim Phillips art. That had a lot to do with my fascination with it at that age and why I took such a huge page from the way it was all drawn.
The Art of the Santa Cruz Speed Wheel will be on view at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History through January 2, 2022. Throughout the fall, go to Juxtapoz.com for exclusive stories from the skaters, artists and brand managers on the history of Speed Wheels.