Birthed in ’92, Stereo Skateboards was one of the few entities that carried skateboarding through some of its darkest days. It helped to make the pants a little slimmer, the wheels a little bigger, and the skateboarding a little, well, cruise-ier. Stereo oozed with a combination of Chris Pastras’ jazz cool and Jason Lee’s unearthly charisma. Both great skaters in their own right, they quickly amassed a talented team-forming the only roster to come even close to rivaling the then-dominant World Industries empire. But like a star quarterback’s high school run, Stereo’s glory days only lasted a short four years. Jason hung up the board and ran off to Hollywood in ’96, Chris stayed behind. But without his creative equal to help fuel the company, Stereo ran on half-empty until it completely ran out of gas in ’00. Within the last year, Jason began skating again. Immediately, two questions emerged: Would he and Chris bring Stereo back? And can he still do 360 flips?
How did this all come about?
Jason Lee: I was at a birthday party and I saw Steve Berra. And I said, “Hey, Steve maybe we should skate some time?” I got the idea as if I had just woken up from a coma and realized that I once skateboarded. So he set me up with a board, and a couple of days later we were skating his park. We skated with Spike Jonze and Chris started coming up from hell, which is down there in San Diego. We talked about bringing Stereo back, and we started calling around and we hooked up with Giant [Distribution]. Now we’re getting the art ready, and there you go.
Chris Pastras: I had brought it up to him before, right around the time he was starting to skate…
J.L.: But I wasn’t getting it.
C.P.: I was trying to tell him, “You should skate man. You’re such a part of skating.”
J.L.: I thought I would have to train though and do switch dog shits.
C.P.: I was just telling him to skate for fun, saying, “You can do rock-n-rolls for the rest of your life if you want.”
Was restarting Stereo something that you wanted to do for a while?
C.P.: Yeah, I wanted to restart Stereo but I was hoping that Jason would be involved. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be right.
What do you think Stereo meant to people in the early ’90s?
J.L.: To the people who got it, they loved it. But to the people who didn’t get it, I think it was kind of frustrating to me. People were like, “A Visual Sound is a great video but it’s kind of weird.” I didn’t get “weird.” I just thought that’s how we do things. But Chris tells me stories about skaters who are our age now, but back then they didn’t get it, and who have made comments that now they see how revolutionary the video was.
C.P.: I think [in '94] skating was at a point where it wasn’t that fun; and with Stereo we tried to show that you could take your board in San Francisco and just go out skating. You don’t have to skate a 30-stair handrail or switch double flip a 10-stair. To be a skateboarder you can just skate around and have fun and enjoy it. We took it a little bit lighter than most companies took it.
Do you think skating is in the same state now as it was back then?
C.P.: I think it is a little bit over-serious. I think the massive shit is great. It’s much better than it was in the early ’90s.
J.L.: Yeah, with the pants that looked like giant quilts and the wheels that are just a little bit bigger than the bearings themselves.
C.P.: People should definitely follow through with that type of skating. I don’t, in any way, want to be the bitter old guy saying, “You shouldn’t be doing that stuff!” I just think there should also be a side of skating that’s more enjoyable, with people having fun on a skateboard.
How similar is the new Stereo going to be to the old Stereo?
J.L.: Exactly the same. But with a little bit more futurerama, where before it was all retro. Now it’s gonna be what we like to call, “Retro-futurerama.” That just happens to be our aesthetic. Underneath it all it’s showing that you can be creative within skateboarding. The whole point is to put your shit into skateboarding. A lot of people don’t think that’s possible, or you can’t go too far outside the boundaries without feeling insecure about leaving what’s normal. Stereo represents that, and it represents skateboarding as something that’s fun, too.
C.P.: There’s like two formulas in skateboarding. You got the, like, hip-hop formula and then you got the punk, metal-head formula. We’re trying not to follow any set pattern.