Greg Dickson Interview

Photos courtesy of Luke Mouradian.

DA: You grew up in Antioch Illinois, where the hell is that?

Antioch is a small town about an hour north of Chicago and an hour south of Milwaukee. It’s filled with rednecks, bro-dudes and drunks. As much as I hated it as a kid and as much as I love Milwaukee, I do miss some of the freedoms of living in the country. Being a destructive bastard of a child and living on 65 acres made for some interesting stories.

DA: With that in mind, how did you get so damn good on your bike and how did your brother become a well respected, pro skater?

Fuck, I don’t know how to answer that. I’m mediocre at best. When I got my first bike, I immediately knew it was something special. A lot of the older guys in my town rode BMX, so having to keep up with them became par for the course. They were mainly racer guys though. When I met one of my best friends (Matt Welter) is when I got into riding parks. As for my brother, he’s one of those gifted assholes who can crush anything he wants to do. Watch him skate and he’s a savage, but I’ve seen him rip through box jumps, spines, and quarter pipes on a BMX bike and make it look smooth. Any physical activity, not only can he do it, but his natural ability makes it look damn good. Zero effort. I’ve never understood it.

DA: And how had that relationship between the two of you developed? It seems like he’s the loose canon and you’re the older brother that chose the path of selective abstaining. Ha!

“It might be the truth, but to quote Minor Threat “Never wanna use a crutch!” I’ll stay angry and full of conviction.”

Our relationship is a good one. He’s 8 years younger than I am, so when we were younger, we didn’t have a whole lot in common. Since he’s been with his wife (Lori) he’s gained a ton of common sense and grown up a lot. We can sit down to have intellectual conversations now… I like it! As for him being wild, it’s kind of funny, I’m more of the loose cannon. Jon is really mellow and calm. I’m the more brash and abrasive one. Where he will sit back and deal with people, I’ll outright tell someone to fuck off. Granted I’ve always been the one to steer away from drugs and alcohol and he did those things, the running joke is “You might not be as angry if you smoked weed!” It might be the truth, but to quote Minor Threat “Never wanna use a crutch!” I’ll stay angry and full of conviction.

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“When I got into high school I met a couple kids who were into punk and hardcore and they were straight edge. Once they found out that we had that in common, it all came together.”

DA: With that in mind, How did you discover SXE? Was it through music or BMX?

Now that I think about it, it was introduced to me at a young age through music. The woman who used to watch my sister, brother, and I had a son who was really into horror movies, metal music, and punk. He showed me Minor Threat but I was too young to really get it. I knew really early on that drinking and drugs weren’t for me so I just rolled with it. When I got into high school I met a couple kids who were into punk and hardcore and they were straight edge. Once they found out that we had that in common, it all came together. If you’ve ever heard the band The Killer from Chicago, the singer Luke Gray is one of those kids, and even though he’s not edge any more, I’m still thankful that he introduced me to this. Til the casket drops!!!

“Kids coming to school hammered, eating acid in class, doing coke off of school tables… I saw it all and while nobody pushed it on me, I knew it wasn’t anything I had any interest in.”

DA: How did you “know early on?” Was there a catalyst somewhere?

It’s not like my mom and dad drank a lot or anything. With my dad owning and operating a bait and tackle store, I was introduced to a wide spectrum of drunks and other people I just didn’t want to be like. As I got older, I always rode with older guys. They were into partying and I was ok with being along for the ride. Mid teen years can be wild, but when you come from a really small town, people tend to push it to extremes. Kids coming to school hammered, eating acid in class, doing coke off of school tables… I saw it all and while nobody pushed it on me, I knew it wasn’t anything I had any interest in. On top of all of that, I know I have an addictive personality. If I did those things and liked it, I could easily pile out. Being that I’m entering my late 30’s and haven’t done anything, my son, work, and riding my bike are more important to me than partying.

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DA: I think addictive personality is key here. I think most of humans suffer from that in some capacity. You got to become conscious of it and stave it off as best as possible. But then again, some people can function just fine with it…what are your vices? Let’s get personal here, Ha!

My vices??? Pretty heavy question there! I’d have to say my main vices would be procrastination, bikes, and sour patch kids. I can be a pretty lazy person, so I need to keep focused or things go all to hell. With having inherently brutal winters here in Milwaukee, seasonal laziness can set in quite easily. Bikes are a given. It’s my first love. I still have my very first frame in my house (it’s a Redline Proline II with the really tall headtube). Riding bikes gets me hyped, whether it be the BMX or the road bike, cruising is fucking awesome! Now to the best vice, Sour Patch motherfucking Kids. Undisputedly one of the best candies ever made… except the new blue raspberry ones, those ones suck shit. Hahahaha.

“BMX has been such a huge part of my life that I wanted a way to still keep it around, so photography was my way to do it.”

DA: And your photography…did that stem from going to shows and shooting or though bmx initially?

 

Shooting photos stemmed originally from my mom. She had an old Nikon film camera that I always tried to play with as a kid. Fast forward quite a few years, I was dating a girl who was really into photography and it sparked my interest again. She would go to shows and to the skatepark with us and shoot. Josh Hayes also got the ball rolling as well when he’d come to town to visit his mom. I didn’t get “serious” into photography until I broke my leg / ankle and had a couple surgeries on it. The way it was supposed to pan out was that I was indefinitely done riding. BMX has been such a huge part of my life that I wanted a way to still keep it around, so photography was my way to do it. Once I got a camera I also shot photos at shows, but BMX and skateboarding was always the most interesting to me.

DA: And it waxes and wanes, of course. Now that you’re riding a ton again, it’s been put to the side? And when it comes to shooting BMX, who gets you stoked the most?

Not so much put to the side as it is a redundancy of shooting indoors. Right now it’s like spring time in February and I’m stoked to ride and shoot outside. Indoor parks get to look boring after you’ve shot them a few times. It’s always fun to have different locations and scenery in the background. Some of my favorite BMX guys I’ve shot with… That’s a laundry list. A lot of the local dudes… Brandon Hoerres, Jeff K, Grant C, Jeff Dowhen, Casey Smith, Jonathon Hoagland, Jeremy Kaht, Tony Cardona (when he lived with me), and so many others. As for anywhere else, When I lived in Austin, I had the oppertunity to shoot with people like Chase Hawk, Tom Dugan, and Joe Rich. There’s so many people I’ve been lucky enough to shoot with, anyone who is down for some friendly shit talking, laughing, has good style, and is just a solid ripper gets me hyped.

DA: And speaking of bmx and photography, you’re tight with Josh Hayes (who will also be featured on the DA)…how did you guy’s connect?

I’ve known Josh from when he was a pretty young kid. Being that he’s originally from Chula Vista CA., it is quite unlikely that our paths would cross. His mom lives just outside of Rockford IL, and he used to come ride the P.I.T. skatepark all the time. He had that brash, sarcastic, funny attitude that comes from being raised by a pool skating dad. We clicked right off the bat. We liked the same music, the same riders, and our riding style was VERY similar. It just worked. Not only did we become really good friends, but a lot of people have mistaken us for brothers, and sometimes twins. Now since he’s kicking ass on the road bike, he’s lost a shit ton of weight and we aren’t doppelgängers anymore, but I still love that dude.

“I know people who would kill to see that lineup in a small, shitty, decrepit, filthy bowling alley and I’m hyped that I got to experience it.”

DA: Ha! You dudes are similar in so many ways…I think folks will see that simply in the language you guys’ use in these interviews.

DA: Here’s a segue, as we know you’ve seen some rad shit: Best Band Live? Favorite Show?

Both would be my favorite hardcore band, American Nightmare. Wes is an absolute madman on stage and it’s not the typical “hardcore tough guy” shit. Josh Holden (AN’s bassist) said it best “He wasn’t a guy on stage talking about punk. He was putting himself out there… He was BEING punk.” I think that says a lot! As for the favorite show… It was a pretty solid lineup. The opening band sucked… It was Thrice (horrible), The Hope Conspiracy, American Nightmare, and Converge at the fireside bowl in Chicago. I know people who would kill to see that lineup in a small, shitty, decrepit, filthy bowling alley and I’m hyped that I got to experience it.

DA: Yeah, speaking of which, the Fire Side Bowl. One of the best DIY hardcore venues in the US. Nothing better than a circle pit next to a suburban chicago family having a bowling night. How was it growing up near that historic place?

It was insane! That place should have been fucking condemned and we probably all have cancer from the asbestos, but there were some legendary shows that happened there. Matt Welter and I used to go there so much that the bouncer ended up dubbing us as “the fireside kids”. If we weren’t at The P.I.T. skatepark or SCRAP, we were at the Fireside. There were times that we wouldn’t even look at the lineup for the night, we would just roll the dice and hope a decent band was playing. Growing up close to Chicago was pretty damn good for being a punk / hardcore kid and a bmx kid in that time. The P.I.T., SCRAP, The Fireside, The Metro, there were always positive options. It makes me wonder that if I was one of the newer kids into this scene, how would it be? It’s rad that they are into it, but fuck, everything was so much more exciting and DIY back then… in punk and BMX.

 

DA: What was your relationship with Jeff Harrington growing up. I know he gave you a pass because you were straight edge? What’s the story?

Just to clarify without being a brown noser, Jeff is one of my top 5 favorite riders of all time. The dude ripped back then and still rips now. Growing up in IL and riding The P.I.T skatepark and S.C.R.A.P. at that time, there were a lot of pros locally and visiting. Jeff being one of the locals was always awesome to see. Not only was his riding intense, but he did the craziest shit on the most janky bikes. Standard 6 piece strip bars with gussets welded into the bends of them to keep them from detonating… Only a bad motherfucker would do that! I think I did get a pass for being straight edge. He completely hated my best friend Matt so when we would show up at S.C.R.A.P., Jeff would tell me “You’re ok, but your friend fucking sucks!”. In retrospect, it’s fucking hilarious. The story goes that Matt was at the park one New Year’s Eve, and was pretty hammered. It was an after hours session and he persistently tried to get Jeff to drink a beer. Probably not the best idea on Matt’s part.

“Fuck Instagram and Facebook likes. Fuck how many views your edit got. Just ride, put a smile on your face, and have fun…”

DA: It’s funny how much of a softy Jeff is in reality…but you can’t push his buttons. He can be a lunatic, in a good way. So yea, SCRAP. You also had one of the most historic mid 90’s skateparks fairly near you. The best times? The worst times?

It’s kind of funny… Honestly, I was more of a P.I.T. local than anything. We would go to SCRAP just to mix it up a bit or to ride the vert ramp (which I miss riding a fucking lot). The vibe at the P.I.T. was way more relaxed and fun, Plus Garret Rapp managed the place and would stay there with us until 4am (sorry for those late ones… no I’m not!). If there was a sense of competing with someone else, it was to push each other, not dick measure and see who the best is. When guys like Mark Murphy, Jaimy Spritzer, Eric Carl, Buddah, and Jeff Harrington started winding down or moving away, the attitude of the new kids was quite off putting. Around the time of Team JV, it was fucking horrible. The vibe was so shitty, but we still showed up and tried to have fun. I’ve heard that people have gotten bummed on me talking shit at the skatepark, which I think sucks because that means that they are too uptight to get my humor. My whole deal is and always has been that we ride kid’s bikes… When we are at the skatepark, trails, or a street spot, we revert to our sixteen year old selves. I’m not saying that it’s a total joke, but back then just as it is now, don’t take it so fucking serious. It’s supposed to be fun! The old guy talking shit to you might seem like a total prick, but the underlying lesson might be something important. That’s how the old guys were for me and it was piviotal to my riding. Fuck Instagram and Facebook likes. Fuck how many views your edit got. Just ride, put a smile on your face, and have fun… but learn tables and x-ups first, little bastards!

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DA: And now Milwaukee. Another epitomic BMX scene just an hour north of where you grew up. Why the move here?

Why Milwaukee? Honestly, I moved here for a girl. I was dating a girl who lived in Milwaukee and I was splitting my time between living in IL and staying up there with her. Once she got pregnant with our son, I made the full time move to Milwaukee. Her and I have since then split up but I stuck around here to be close to my kid. The fact that there’s always something to ride here year round is a serious bonus, but Asher (my maniac spawn) is my reason for staying. He fucking rules!

“A lot of adults need booze to act as a social lubricant. I enjoy being different than the majority. It gives me a different angle to look at things from.”

DA: And now that you’ve graduated into somewhat of adulthood (and I mean that only because both BMX and punk seemed to just extend our childhoods as long as possible, Ha!): An adolescent son, bills, the 40 hour life, how has the idea of sxe transcended into who Greg Dickson is now?

Even with the responsibilities, straight edge hasn’t really changed for me. It’s a serious part of who I am. Because of this choice, it’s brought me to where I am today. I’ve never been the militant type or the type to push my beliefs on to others, so the idea remains the same. Granted being over 30 and never having drank, smoked, or done any drugs, my peers usually see it as weird. When it comes to dating, you usually get the “Are you in recovery or something?” question on or before the first date. To me, I find it comical. A lot of adults need booze to act as a social lubricant. I enjoy being different than the majority. It gives me a different angle to look at things from.

 

DA: Thanks for the time and energy put into this, Greg…we ended Josh’s interview with the same last question, but thought it might be rad to ask you as well: can we get some last words on “Life, Love, Regret”? (The Unbroken album, the actually idea, or both)

I’ll go with both. Unbroken is rad, and life is love and regret. As much as it sounds like some bullshit you’d find on a piece of reclaimed stained wood on Etsy, you fill your life with the things you love, and learn from the things you regret. I just want to say thanks to Matt Coplon for this interview and all the help over the years, Mom and Poppa Dicks, Asher, Chelsea, Jon, Lori, Garret Rapp, Matt Welter, everyone at Four Seasons Skatepark, Josh Hayes, Tony Cardona, Quaggy, the Vercoe locals, the Milwaukee locals, and anyone who took the time to read anything I’ve had to say. I might owe some people a bit of time.

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