JOE JARVIS: Half Cut, Full Send (Issue 199 Interview)
When I think of Joe Jarvis, I think of hard threes, skinny jeans, dodgy handlebar angles, perfectly stomped tailwhips and quite a bit of drinking. I don’t claim to know Joe very well or even know that much about him, but his riding has left quite an impression on me, as I’m sure it has on all of us, over the past few years. Infinitely technical hang five lines, plus some big powerful senders, quality and quantity – he’s a committed rider. Add to that the little snippets of his personality we’ve had a peek at, and Jarvis becomes quite an intriguing character in UK BMX. Are those little snippets enough? Does a little bit of Jarvis go a long way? Perhaps.
He’s a man with a lot to say, and he’s not afraid to say it. He’s also got a lot to prove, but not in an annoying way. No, it’s more in the way that he clearly has a huge amount of potential and is still on the up with it. He must know that. He might not say it in the following interview, but I’m sure he also recognises there’s a lot still to be achieved, through BMX, with his riding. With his exact style, skill, approach and character. Just by being Joe Jarvis. Dare I call it his career?
Words by Robin Pearson
Photos by Martin Grainger
Originally printed in Ride UK Issue 199
SPONSORS & SCENES
After some six years of skateboarding in Northwich, Joe’s little crew of skaters fell apart, and he turned to BMX. We’ll learn more about how Joe’s riding evolved in the years since, but it’s always good to get a picture of the very early days.
“We couldn’t afford a bike really but eventually my dad managed to get me a Wethepeople. It must have been a good deal because he drove five hours to get it! We just used to ride the prefab metal park every day and we made a grass flyout at the Aldi, we used to session that for about fuckin’ seven hours a day. That was with Josh Kettle, just me and him, day in, day out. He’d be at work, I’d go to college, then go to the skatepark all night.”
Jarvis quickly attracted a bit of attention from brands and distros in the UK, with early parts hookups from Animal, 4Down, DUB. Then things stepped up a notch when he rode at a Substance jam in Glasgow. And then, very quickly, down a notch. Then immediately up two notches!
“I ended up coming first in the jam and then Si Gibb just asked me if I wanted to ride for the shop. That was like, my first legit sponsor. He was with Grant Smith that day, who said he’d put me on BSD through the shop. I went to Substance the next day and built up a full BSD bike… And I fucked it, trying to crankarm this rail in Liverpool. Then Lacey hit me up five days later, and said, ‘Look, I know you’ve got on BSD and that but I want you to ride for Federal.’ Obviously I said yes because that was the dream, you know? So I had to ring Si, sent the bike back. It’s fine, I still see Grant and it’s all cool. That was that, I’ve been on Federal now for five or six years. Obviously Lacey’s been one of my favourite riders as well, throughout, Mark Love, fucking hell, Jared Washington, Ty Morrow… Yeah. I didn’t know anyone on the team, I didn’t know the guys. I’d met Lacey maybe once or twice at events. So when Lacey was on the phone to me, you know, that was a game changer. Federal has always been my favourite brand, so it’s quite an honour to actually ride for them. Soppy bollocks!”
It can take riders several years to find their ‘home’ on a brand, but for Jarvis it was pretty quick, finding that perfect fit. Run by Stu Dawkins at Seventies, you’ll see Joe mention his name a lot in this chat. Aside from Federal, Substance BMX Shop has remained an important link since that jam day.
“Six years on the team. Si’s my brother, my dad, my manager, my accountant, my teacher… He’s the man. He took me under his wing, when shit got hard, though the tough times. He’s always been there, helped me through it all. We organise all the trips together. Riders that come on the team, videos, clothes, stuff in the shop. He keeps me sane, somehow. I think I’m a part of Substance, it’s tattooed on my skin, it’s in my blood.”
Other big brands have dipped in and out of Joe’s riding career already, the likes of Primo, Lotek, OSS and Animal. We enquired.
“Animal asked me to ride for them in the UK, I said yeah, but I didn’t really know how it worked, I didn’t put it past anyone. I just called Joe Tek, told him I’d said yes to them and had shot a photo for a welcome post, but then Stu clued me up that it doesn’t normally work like that with brands across different distros. They said they’d spoken to Rich Hirsch and they would put me on Primo and Lotek instead. But those brands didn’t really want to do anything with me. With OSS, I just saw some gnarly stuff to do with that brand and I didn’t want to be affiliated so I walked away. So, yeah, haha, that was my sponsor journey.”
When Joe first got on Federal, he was young, pumped, all guns blazing, probably a bit of a handful. One of the first things he did was head out to Chicago for the Monster Street Series along with some of the Federal team, to meet up with Brian Kachinsky, ride hard, do himself justice, make an impression.
“I was eighteen. I was at the age like I want to be in with the big boys, and I was. Bruv, I was riding down the street in Chicago being a little fuckin jock, bare excited like, ‘Fucking hell I’m in Chicago, with Lacey and Bruno, I’m so excited,’ and then everyone turned. I was like, what are yous doing? They shouted move! Then I fucking rode through these road works and just dropped. I thought I was going into hell or something. It was wet cement. I just went into the streets of Chicago. Bruv, I was IN the streets of Chicago. I fell in it, I was literally in it. The dude who was working had to drag me out… My Jordans were stuck. Both fucking Jordans stuck in the cement. I had cement all up me. There’s a photo somewhere of him jet washing my trousers, my bike, my shoes, it was fucking gnarly. First day of the trip.”
I’m pretty sure that counts as making an impression. Jumping ahead, Simple Session 2020 was the most recent major event Joe went to. And it’s about as major as it gets.
“I got told when I was younger to be really aggressive with my bike, because you’re the puppet master, you control it”
“It was gnarly, it was so fucked. Obviously I’ve watched it since I started riding. Even back when I was skateboarding it was on so I always wanted to go. When I pulled up to the 2020 one and it was a sold out crowd… Dude, I was bugging. It was nuts, I flew out on my own and met up with the Federal boys. And the party life gets to you there. Because there’s nothing to do, it’s freezing cold, it’s so fucking cold, I remember I went out to ride street and I got fifty yards out of the hotel. I had a coat on, two jumpers, a fleece, T-shirts, I was like… Fuck this. Fifty yards out. So you just get drunk all day. I saw Stu looking at me like, come on, Jarvis, this is a big one like, you need to screw your head on…! Somehow I made finals. Don’t know how, my run was a right shit show. I was bare nervous, I thought I was going to puke everywhere. If I puked in front of that many people I’d probably quit riding. I did that big three in qualifying. I barred it in practice and my bars slipped, I didn’t even bar it to flat, I landed in the ramp. And then I did about eight peg hard threes in one run, thought, wow this is a bit shit, I’ll three the big drop. I tried to three it and fucked it. In my second run I fucked it again. My run was over but I just picked up my shit and was like, I’m going again, I’m going again! And then I pulled it. Threw my bike like a dickhead, then got really drunk. Somehow ended up 12th so I made finals. I had a quiet one after finals…. No, I caused a riot. Home at 8am. Flew straight to Barca, did one of the biggest things I’ve ever done, went home. Was only there for four days. Couldn’t handle it.”
INSPIRATIONS, TECHNIQUE, STYLE & FILMING
Joe’s quick to mention Alex Hiam and Chance Brejnakowski as influences. Digging a bit deeper, we learn the story of how a rider from Liverpool moved to Northwich, next to the skatepark, who knew Ben Lewis, Scott Ditchburn and all the big players in that heavy scene at the time.
“The first street video I watched was Benny L in The Make ‘Cut the Crap.’ I was like, fucking hell, wow, so I put two pegs on. Then my mate took me to Liverpool but he was like, I’m not taking you riding in Liverpool with two pegs, so I had to put four on. Then I started watching Bruno Hoffmann. I remember watching Bruno videos before I was a BMX rider though, before I could afford a bike, it was Bruno’s Vans video with the red frame… And Perrin’s Vans video where he does that massive 180 bar.”
Clearly, his link to Federal making it the dream sponsor came from early on, watching those Bruno and Anthony Perrin videos. It’s no wonder he dropped everything to say yes when Lacey was on the phone. The influence of those riders can definitely be seen in Joe’s riding, but the prowess of his hang fives comes from elsewhere.
“Bengo. I went to Barca when I was seventeen. We were at MACBA, everyone was just playing around on the floor there, and I got to witness Bengo doing some of that outrageous shit, and I was just like, YES. I still watch his videos now. When people ask me how to do them, I don’t really know what to say, but Bengo taught me and I say I learnt from the best. I could do them a bit before that but he taught me how to do all the whiplash and backlash stuff. And nose manuals, how to stay in them a bit better. Be like Bengo!”
Maybe that’s why Jarvis’s bars are so far forward. Or were. I always thought it was a bit of an ugly aesthetic for BMX, but I could never argue with the riding he could do with them like that.
“They’re not any more! They’re a bit more normal now. I played around with all the Federal frames, I had the Lacey, then Perrin, now the Bruno. I used to get 20.5” toptubes, too short, I’m 6’4” you know? I had loads of spacers on my headset, ten inch rise bars, I thought it was alright, it felt good, but my bars had to be forward. It felt comfortable. Now I ride a 21” frame with a slightly longer back end. I think it was Mad Jon who told me I needed to try a bigger frame. Seventies just sent me a longer one because they were out of shorter ones and I quickly got used to it.”
You know how I said Joe’s got a lot to say? He said a bit more about his bike set up.
“I’ve never run brakes. Couldn’t afford them. One of them Odyssey levers was like forty quid. My first bike was second hand, no brakes. Won’t ever take my pegs off. I’ve never run a coaster. Fuck freecoasters. They’ve changed the game, no doubt, the stuff people are doing is completely outrageous, I can’t even fakie properly, can’t do it, can’t go backwards. So I don’t understand how they’re doing it, the control. I’ve tried it twice and hurt myself both times, it’s not worth it. You know when you go down the street and you can hear your cassette? That’s the feeling. Bit of me.”
Arguably the highest profile project Joe’s been involved with has been Federal’s 2019 full length video, FTS, by Rich Forne. To me, his section landed like a big punctuation mark in Joe’s career, a truly solid effort to showcase the standard of riding he’s able to deliver. Achieved even through a bad injury.
“Obviously going on trips with Lacey, Perrin and Bruno, it’s every kid’s dream, you know? To be able to go on a trip with guys like that, it’s quite a privilege. It can be scary. I used to feel like I had to send it a little bit more. I’d only met Rich two or three times prior, but we got on like a house on fire. To film with him is a fuckin’ honour. He’s the best. “Filming my section got cut real short, because I snapped my foot in London, so I was out for that. But it came out sick. When they told me they were doing a DVD and wanted me to have a section I was kinda like, shook. I came to Hastings, Lacey said he’d said something to Stu about filming a DVD, and that’s all I heard. Then before I know it, I was on the first trip, to Madrid. Me, James, Ryan, Lacey, Bruno. Did all the trips, made the DVD, it came out unbelievable. For a DVD you want to make sure your shit’s sterling. You’re going in, really, you’re flicking the switch. You have more time, you know, if you do something you’ve got time to make it better. You’re not rushed, they sent us on trips for two weeks, so it was never forced. Filming on a longer project helps. Less stress.”
“I’ve lived with enough money to do what I want and I’ve lived without it, so I can do with or without. Either way, I’m gonna go”
FTS was a major project. Joe is also good at keeping the momentum up with other video pieces, such as yearly Substance team edits, occasional solo edits and plenty of Instagram content (mostly mind melting hang five combos.) There’s more coming, too.
“We filmed a few bits in Barca for my Federal video. It’s gonna be my pro video. And for my frame…”
Boom. That’s right, there’s a Joe Jarvis signature frame in the works. No specific details yet, but Joe’s clearly pleased about it.
“It’s a bit weird innit! Obviously it’s the dream. Like, it is, innit? To be part of such a brand, family, it’s sick. When it does come out it’ll be… Wow. I haven’t even got it yet, it’s crazy. Hopefully everyone will get to see that sooner or later. I’m very grateful.”
At Backyard Jam 2019, several people remarked on Joe’s technique in the high hop contest. It’s rather different to every other rider. Everyone else was nibbling about, sneaking up to it and just squeezing over it. Jarvis came charging across the park and cleared it by a mile.
“Pretty much, if you just fuckin’ pedal at anything really fast and pull up, you’re probably going to do it. So if you need to bunny hop up something, go fast. Worst thing you’re gonna do is case it. So just huck it. Even at rails or jumping sets, just go fast and pull up. Same with threes. Just go fast and clear it loads. You’re probably going to do it. I got told when I was younger to be really aggressive with my bike, because you’re the puppet master, you control it, you know? So be aggressive with it and you’ll probably do it.”
CLOTHES, MUSIC, BOXING & DRINKING
“Everyone says they remembered me as the kid with tight jeans and massive shoes. People used to give me shit for it. Skinny jeans and Jordans, that was it. It was a vibe. They hated it, they still do. I don’t want to dress like everyone else, look like everyone else, talk like everyone else. I don’t care about ’em. Everyone in England, probably in America too, went through the skinny jeans phase. The Jordans are in the bottom drawer. I bought them about seven years ago but I can’t throw them away, they’re a piece of me.”
If that was a phase, Joe’s deep into another one now: the opposite of skinny jeans. Is it just to prove someone wrong?
“I was at Backyard Jam, wearing baggy pants in the hotel room, got a bit drunk and went out, I forgot I was wearing them. Austin Augie walked up to me and said, ‘You love a pair of skinny jeans don’t you?’ I thought, what do you mean? These are massive! Then they gradually started getting bigger and bigger, now these are 40 inch waist, 38 inch leg. They’re huge. Why such a big waist? Because the leg fits better. I just go on Depop and buy big Dickies for £20.”
On the topic of clothing, we have to talk about Joe’s brand, Who Cares? Championed by Tom Russell and Guy Scroggie, it’s a simple setup that makes sense for now.
“I had this weird idea, you know the game Guess Who, where you flip the faces down? You hear all fake promises, all this and that, and who cares? I spoke to my mate Jack Millington, I told him about the idea and the name, and he drew something for me. The picture was fucked, it was a Guess Who board that said Who Cares instead, with peoples’ faces all nuked out. That’s where we got the idea for the balaclava and the Instagram T-shirt and all that. Jack put a lot of time in, we drew up some stuff, then we just made fifty T-shirts and people bought them. So we did another fifty and it just went from there, really. We don’t really do anything, just make T-shirts and get drunk. I don’t know what I’m gonna do in two hours so I can’t really tell you the plan for the brand, you know? There was no intention of making it into something big, no master plan, I didn’t want to even call it a brand, it was just an idea that Jack and I were both into. It just kinda worked. Jack’s well fuckin’ smart, he does the Substance videos and that, anything he works on is like 10/10.”
One thing I forgot to mention in the intro is Joe’s obsession with Lil Peep. Obsession is the correct word, he’s even got a Lil Peep tattoo.
“Well, I’ve got a nine hour Lil Peep playlist that I listen to at least twice a week, so that’s fuckin’ eighteen hours a week. I pretty much just listen to Lil Peep. Facts. That’s all I listen to. And everyone always gives me shit about it because they’re not into it but I love it. It’s sick. But it depends, if I’m going out filming and I’m gonna jump off a roof or do something a bit big or I’m scared then I’ll listen to Chief Keef, that gets me pretty fuckin’ pumped too. Love Sosa. I used to listen to XXXTentacion. Other than that, not a lot. “ used to be a big goth, used to listen to really heavy metal… I got into my little pop punk era, Enter Shikari, Bullet For My Valentine… OK so my music taste is all over the place but it’s mostly Lil Peep. And oh yeah I fuck with Devilman. fuckin’ hell. Me and Okane are Devilman’s top biggest fans ever. I’m about Devilman. I’m on his live show every Friday night at eight o clock.”
Jarvis has a lot to talk about, with a kind of nonchalant confidence that rises to a crescendo on subjects like music. Maybe it’s because I’m not from the area, but I find his delivery and fairly broad North West accent very entertaining. Joe moves on to other subjects.
“He hit me so hard in the back, I folded over like a laptop and got whiplash”
“Boxing has been a thing for about two years now. I just learnt how to train. I really enjoyed watching it, I’d stay up til 4am to watch it, I just think it’s sick. There’s a local boxer round the corner called Raoul, he’s a bit younger than me, he kills it. To see someone in my hometown do it so well was an inspiration. And it’s just different, you know? I can’t just ride a BMX all day every day, I have to do something else as well. Boxing goals? I’d like to compete, it’d be pretty fun wouldn’t it? But not if you get battered, obviously. Dan Paley does it as well, he’s an absolute fucking tank. When we were at Backyard Jam and I was like, ‘Go on then Paley, let’s have a little spar,’ thinking he that he wasn’t going to hit me but then he hit me so hard in the back, I folded over like a laptop and got whiplash. If I can get up to Paley’s weight, we’ll do a charity boxing event at the next Backyard!”
Reading this interview, it may have become clear that Joe’s a pretty enthusiastic drinker, so it only makes sense that he would have his own bar in the garden.
“A couple of years back, me, my dad and Josh Kettle, we had nowhere to watch the footy and hang out, so we just got a load of wood and made a bar. We’ve got some mental man cave at the back of the house now. It’s a bit cool, I quite like it. Fireball send us a lot of free drink as well, so we hang out in there a lot… and… get drunk. It’s like a Wetherspoons but it doesn’t smell as bad. There’s been some messy nights in there, like. Ben Gordon threw a dart into the back of my head once. I’ve seen a lot of people fall over in there. Jordan Okane fell harder than anything I’ve ever seen in that bar. I thought he’d died. I ran round panicking. He just tried to lean on the bar and missed his elbow.”
WORK / LIFE BALANCE
Alright. We’ve covered BMX, music, boxing and bar nights. How does Joe Jarvis spend the rest of his time. Work? Family? Golf?
“Yeah, I usually go to the driving range with Josh a couple of days a week. Josh hasn’t ridden for a while, but he plays golf a lot. That’s why I play. When he started I was taking the piss out of him. He got the belt, the white trousers, the little shoes and all that stuff, I was like, ‘Dude you look like a fucking idiot.’ Then I went round and played golf with him and it was well sick, I bought my own clubs, now I play twice a week. And I hang out with the fam, my sisters, my mum, see the dog when it’s home, don’t really do much in Northwich. I ride six or seven days a week. Every day pretty much. Even if I just go out and get a coffee, something to eat, I know my town, it feels like I’m doing an X-Games run every time I ride through it. There’s the market stairs, the little cobbled bank, I ride it on the way, do a trick. Now and again, I work at a little printers. I make boxes, fold up paper. I’ve not got a career in anything, just jobs. I’ve worked in at least twenty different bars and pubs… I’ve done a bit, like.”
It’s a means to an end, clearly. Jarvis knows how to enjoy himself without working too hard. Let’s have a look at the picture he might be painting for himself, say, five years down the line. Where will he be?
“Fuck, I’ll be thirty. Hopefully still have a full head of hair, that’d be nice. Probably won’t get a job. You’ll probably see me in Maccies, behind the counter, wearing one of them hats. Then I’ll get fired for giving you free burgers. That’s what happened in Wetherspoons, but with beer. I don’t know, still riding, if I’m not dead. I want to move, I want to live… Somewhere. Malaga. Dude. Fly out and live there. Work in a little shitty bar, ride the skatepark all day. I’m all about it. Ten hour shift, light work. I don’t really care if I have a job or not. As long as I’ve got some sort of thing. I’m so lucky, Federal and Seventies pay for my train tickets, they help me get around. That’s a big part of the budget. Si always helps with places to stay, he cooks, sorts us out, gives me clothes. I’ve lived with enough money to do what I want and I’ve lived without it, so I can do with or without. Either way, I’m gonna go. When I was filming FTS, I had six jobs in the two years of filming. When Stu Dawkins rings up and says you’re going to Barca for two weeks, or Valencia, or Budapest, we’ll pay for you, then that’s the dream. You think I’m gonna go and stand in a pub for twelve hours a day selling smelly old men pints, when I can go sit in the sun, ride my bike and drink little spanish beers? My plan? Win the lottery, marry a cougar, I don’t know.”
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