Joey Pepper interview from the Sidewalk Skateboard Buyers Guide 2013.

Ryan Gray Ryan Gray

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How do you feel about the reception of the Pepper Pro?
So, far so good: It feels pretty great seeing young rippers and older dudes skating in a shoe with my name on it.

Did any classic skate shoes or sneakers have an influence on the design?
Yeah, well maybe not directly, but I’m sure subconsciously all of my favourite shoes from over the years had an influence. I just wanted to keep it simple.

How involved where you with the design of the shoe? Did you go through drawing up sketches and testing materials – taking the hands on approach?
Very involved. I sketched up a few basic outlines as best I could, and the designers at HUF had some samples stitched up based on those drawings. From those, I picked my favourite, tweaked a few things here and there and then picked out materials and colours. A few months later I saw the first samples.
Were there a few samples throughout development or did it mainly stay true to your vision from the outset?
No. The basic design of the shoe was done and hasn’t changed since the first samples.

You have always had a heavy hip-hop influence in your skating and apparel choices. Does this manifest when creating products with HUF and Expedition One? Outside of skateboarding what else do you find that influences you?
I never really saw myself as a hip hop guy. I have heard that before though. Maybe it comes from the ‘Ryde or Die’ Aesthetics days and my association with Wu-Welsh and KT “the God” Taylor. My clothes used to be a little baggier but that was just the look back then. I’ve actually always been more of a classic rock person. This definitely plays in my influence to the brands I work with. I prefer things a little more organic and on the blue-collar level try to push that look whenever possible.

You’re also into woodwork I believe, have you always had a big interest in design?
I’ve always had an interest but never any formal training or education. Over the past few years I’ve had a little more time to flex my creative muscles. I’ve been having a lot of fun learning new things and seeing where they lead. It feels great to create something from nothing. Very gratifying.

Why did you choose to create a vulcanised model, have you always had a preference for vulc shoes?
I’ve actually always liked cup soles better and know they are better for your feet but in recent years there really haven’t been many good ones to chose from, and like many skaters, that’s just what I’ve gotten used to. Originally I wanted to do my shoe on a cup, but we would have had to create a whole new sole from scratch and that adds about another year and a lot of money to the process. In the end it just made sense to do a nice vulc and get it out there. Hopefully a cup sole will be next.

What’s it like working with HUF to create a product? With it being a smaller brand do you get more creative freedom?
It’s great. Keith has been through the whole process from skater, to designer, to owner. He is up on what’s going on in the skate world as well as the business world. Any questions or concerns a rider might have, he’s been there and knows how to deal with it to keep everyone happy. I got so much respect for that dude. He’s probably the hardest working human I’ve met. He understands the needs of a skater, but at the same time won’t pull any punches. He’s a straight shooter, not a bullshitter.

You and Peter Ramondetta have ridden for HUF for a few years now. With recent additions to the team, the brand is gaining more and more much deserved attention; how is it seeing that development since days when the brand was more low-key? Also, do you have anything planned for the future, any thoughts on another shoe?
It’s grown a lot since I got on for sure. Adding those guys will only help us reach more people. I think the key to why HUF is such a rad company is keeping it “skate”. Hopefully I’ll do a cupsole in the near future.
Keep it fun.
Keep it creative.
Keep it skate.

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