In 2007, Birdhouse released The Beginning, the anachronistically titled follow up to 1998’s The End. The video was the first time many of us saw Jon Dickson. Jon was just in his late teens, but he already had an assured style and a variety of tricks (bigspin heelflip boardslide on a handrail, beautiful back Smith in a bowl). It was clear from his section that Dickson had incredible potential; his natural style and power were undeniable.
Shortly after Baker’s sister brand Deathwish was started, Dickson’s former Birdhouse teammate, Figgy, put in a good word for him. The fit was perfect. A few years ago, at the premiere of The Deathwish Video, Dickson was made Pro. The rest of his sponsors followed suit: shades for Happy Hour; a provocative Pro wheel for OJ; and a head-turning apparel collection for Altamont. Overall, not bad for a small town boy from Antioch, Illinois (population: around 14,000).
Lately, Dickson has been on a mission. He’s recently on the wagon (aiming for 100 days, a goal he set in tandem with Figgy, and at press time he will have hit this mark), and the photos and footage from this interview are a clear result of that. “It’s just too much… one day I was just over it,” Dickson says. “I just feel like a little kid again and want to go skate everyday.”
If he isn’t skating everyday, you can find Dickson enjoying some of his other favorite things: “Get some Indian food, watch TV, and bullshit with my chick.” And of course, hanging out with Darlin’, his gorgeous pup with the feline eyes.
“Dogs give you unconditional love and they’re just the best things on the planet Earth,” he says. “It’s just rad to have a responsibility like that, taking care of a ripping rad dog.”
INTRO BY STUART GOMEZ / INTERVIEW BY ATIBA
Where are you from?
I’m from Antioch, Illinois. It’s on the border of Wisconsin. I lived right on the border of Wisconsin.
And what kind of town is that?
It’s a small, little town. Probably only a couple thousand people. My parents have about 60 acres. I just fuckin’ love to post up there. It’s the best!
So it’s a straight farm: cows…
No cows. My dad owns a bait shop. And my mom is a retired principal.
Wait. Your mom is a principal?
Yeah, she was like an assistant principal of lower grades. Everyone was scared of her!
[Laughs] Did you go to the school?
No, I did not.
So you never got to use any juice from your mom being the principal?
Naw, she wouldn’t have cut me any slack. She’s the best, but… My grandma was a teacher, too. My grandma gave my sister her first sentence! She was acting up.
Is your sister older or younger?
Older. And I have an older brother.
How old is “older”?
My brother is 36 and my sister is 30.
Do your brother or sister skate?
Naw, my brother rode bikes.
So he didn’t really get you into skating.
Well, he had a skateboard but he didn’t really skate. But he recorded Welcome To Hell on a VHS tape so that was like the first skate video I saw. I was just, like, hooked!
Did you do any rollerblading or was it just BMXing?
We used to race bikes on dirt tracks.
That’s sick. Is he like you? Where does he live?
He lives in Milwaukee, which is about 40 minutes from where I live in Illinois.
Cool. Do you ever picture yourself moving back there?
Oh, yeah. Totally. I can’t wait!
Yeah, dude. It’d be sick.
When did you move to California?
When I was eighteen.
And you’re 26?
When you moved out here did you think you were gonna be Pro? Was that part of the plan?
No. I was just cruisin’, skating with Figgy, Chris Gregson and shit. All those dudes—like Colin Provost—we were just feeding off each other, skating all the time. Chris was making videos and filming a bunch.
You were riding for Birdhouse?
My buddy I knew over at Blitz Distribution… I got hooked up through him. He’s one of the Midwest reps, so he used to send me flow packages.
Sick! ‘Cause I’m like: “Do people even know that this dude rode for Birdhouse?” You did have a video part in…
The Beginning Of The End? [laughs] No, it was called The Beginning.
How long did you ride for Birdhouse?
Maybe two years or so?
Did you travel with Tony Hawk much?
I never traveled with Tony. Ever.
That’s a bummer. He’s a fun dude to travel with. When you quit, did you call him?
Naw, they fired the TM, so I just kinda stopped going in there. I felt weird going in there and talking to people I don’t know.
[Laughs] You just kinda latered yourself!
I just started getting a board or two off of Figgy in his packages.
That’s hilarious! You never really quit, basically.
Yeah. It’s a pretty lame way of doing it but I’m not really good at doing any of that stuff so I just took that route, I guess.
Kickflip Overcrook, The Skateboard Mag 152
I know you, so it doesn’t surprise me. I mean, quitting is never easy but I guess you probably gave them the opportunity to hit you up. You’ve been on Deathwish since the beginning?
No, I think it was around for like a year, maybe two years.
Did you ever think you were gonna be Pro?
Not really. I don’t know. I just figured that if I kept skating and stuff, then maybe. It wasn’t really something that I thought for sure was gonna happen.
Right, because I think you have a very unique way about your career, too. It’s not like you’re trying to be a “contest” dude or a “social media” dude. You just skate, right?
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
[Laughs] Yeah! You just answered it right there, that’s fuckin’ perfect. Because skating is obviously so fuckin’ different in what it takes to be a Pro. It’s crazy how companies want you to Instagram their product. It’s kinda like, “Aren’t you guys supposed to push us?” What is it about skating that you like?
I don’t know, man. It’s all pretty fun! Just being able to roll around with your boys and get hyped to skate something. You don’t even have to be skating anything. You could just be rolling, you know?
That’s your favorite part of skating—just being with the dudes and stuff? What about traveling, leaving your home? Do you really like traveling?
Yeah, it’s pretty rad. I mean, I haven’t really been traveling too much in the past couple of years. Like, there was a point in time where I was kinda like, I would get anxiety and shit when I had to leave. It was kinda like I just wanted to be a homebody.
Yeah, I remember that. You’re still not drinking, right?
Yeah, it’s been a little over 80 days or so. No beer, no weed.
Do you feel like it’s doing good for you?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I’ve probably been skating more in the past couple of months than I have for a long time.
Yeah, this interview and the footage you have is a clear result of you not drinking. And you want to take it to 100 days, right?
Yeah… me and Figgy started a bet for 100 days and he’s been on it, too.
Do you feel like you realize with skating you have this window and it’s good to take advantage of that?
Yeah, I mean I wasn’t really thinking about any of that when I was partying. But I just feel like a little kid again and want to go skate everyday, as opposed to just skating once a week or something.
That’s awesome. Let’s talk about home life, because you are kind of a homebody, right?
Yeah, you could say that.
So, you’re not like out at bars and doing this or that. You just chill with the lady and the dog, right?
Oh, yeah, that’s all I need!
What’s the ideal night for you?
Probably just go get some fuckin’ Indian food and then hang out with the pup and watch TV and bullshit with my chick.
Is Darlin’ your first dog?
Yeah, you could call her mine. But I’ve had dogs my whole life.
Did it teach you a sense of responsibility?
Yeah, for sure. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a fuckin’ dog! They give you unconditional love and they’re just the best things on the planet Earth. It’s just rad to have a responsibility like that, to take care of a ripping rad dog!
That’s awesome. Great fuckin’ answer, man! Top five skaters?
Tony Hawk, Erik Ellington, Erick Winkowski, Frankie Hill, Figgy.
Frankie Hill? [laughs] Tell me this: You do a lot of flip tricks. You’re like obviously a big, burly dude but you do a lot of flip tricks. Were you into Shorty’s or anything like that?
I was into these ON videos. I got this one, it was like the Pat Duffy interview, where he does the double-kinked rail. Pat Duffy—that dude is the shit. That fool’s tight! He’s so tight.
What about your tech skating? Was there a person like that who might surprise someone?
I can’t really think of any right now. I just remember Dustin Dollin doing kickflips and I was like, “I wanna kickflip like that guy!”
He’s got a mean kickflip. Tell me about the overalls: Is that function over fashion?
I just wanted to have fuckin’ overalls. Whatever. Fuckin’ shit clicked. Now everyone wears them. I don’t know. I remember Salman Agah had a photo skating the Wallenberg stairs, doing a backside five-0 in overalls.
Growing up, were overalls something that people wore on the regs? Did you wear those growing up?
I think I had some pinstripe ones.
Full Jon Dickson interview plus 36 full-bleed pages of the other stars in Emerica's MADE: Chapter Two, available now in The Skateboard Mag 152.