Another highlight in our series featuring the phenomenal athletes in Chris Benchetler’s Fire on the Mountain, we sat down this week with the one and only Jeremy Jones. And by sat down I mean I was in my truck in the PNW and he was in Truckee, soooo...close enough. Jeremy is not only a legendary freeride snowboarder and founder of Jones Snowboards but also the founder of my favorite climate advocacy group, Protect Our Winters. He’s well aware that the dangers threatening our favorite outdoor spots (and thus recreating in them) are real and coming fast, and he’s all about combating those threats where it all begins, at the ballot box.
More on that later...but we also found out he’s an O.G. Dead fan, going to his first show at the ripe old age of 14. Ok, ya got us beat there. With the help of his brothers, Jeremy got into the Dead early on in life, but of course, it wasn’t too cool in the snowboard scene back then. Flicks like Back in Black and Run to the Hills were, let’s just say not into the hippy scene. Jeremy is pretty pumped that tunes from the Grateful Dead have made it into the collective consciousness of the general population over the past decade, and we are grateful that Jeremy, Chris Benchetler, and the fantastic team behind Fire on the Mountain came together to make this happen. Check out the interview with Jeremy Jones below, and stay tuned for more profiles of the badass athletes and humans in Fire on the Mountain.
Bronson: Yo Jeremy...How's the winter treating ya?
Jeremy: Oh, it's been a great winter. Kind of didn't start till December, but started with a bang and yeah. Been having a ball.
Bronson: Where are you based out of?
Jeremy: Lake Tahoe, Truckee area. And then did the holidays in Wyoming with my brothers who live there. So, a get together with the family, yeah.
Bronson: Yeah, we're finally getting hit. I live up by Mount Baker, so we're finally getting our due these last few weeks too.
Jeremy: I've been following that cycle for sure!
Jeremy riding during the night scene in FOTM. Aaron Blatt Photo.
Bronson: Yeah, we’ve been on a tear, it’s been fun. Well let's start with a little bit of the genesis of Fire on the Mountain with Chris. How did you get involved in it and what was your role from the genesis of the project?
Jeremy: Well, I have writers always talking to me or who always have stuff in the works, but often times nothing comes of it. And Chris was like, "I want to do this Grateful Dead movie shoot in Hemlocks at night, which is a backcountry zone. And I'm like, "Aw man, dude if you get it funded and get it off the ground, I’m in." But I knew the challenges. It's a challenge to make any film, let alone the stuff that he was trying to do. And sure enough, he got it lined up. And then with like the perfect crew. I love Michelle and Danny. I always looked up to Rob and really love Chris and Kimmy. And I still vividly remember coming around the corner and at the back of Mammoth at like nine o'clock at night, with it dumping snow, and he's got this whole mountainside lit up and was just totally blown away.
Bronson: Yeah, it looks pretty freaking unreal on camera for sure. I can't imagine with a background and film and video, I can't imagine the effort it took to get that setup, kind of knowing with talking to Chris, but that's a feat unto itself for sure. Have you done much of the nights? I know you've done your own night riding, but have you ever done much on video in terms of this kind of a task to carry out and with the complicated lighting?
Jeremy: The night stuff is incredible. It's really cool once you're out there but it's a ton of work and you're basically doing it... You run like vampire hours, so it takes its toll on you. It's really hard to do. But once you're out there, you're definitely feeling it.
Bronson: Was it tough to ride in the light suit and that whole rig?
Jeremy: I actually wasn't in a light suit. They had the light suits dialed though. They did an amazing job with that.
One of the best parts of FOTM is the all-star cast of athletes. Aaron Blatt Photo.
Bronson: What’s your past history with the Grateful Dead or what other kinds of music are you into?
Jeremy: So I saw my first Dead show when I was 14, so I have a huge past with Grateful Dead. But it's funny cause it was not cool to listen to the Dead for snowboarding, and so we never talked about it. And then when we started seeing - not through us - through Danny Davis and prior to Chris, but I started seeing little signs of the Dead and I'm like, "These kids are into the Dead. Holy shit. And they're cool kids and snowboarding." I'm like, "This is perfect. I'm fucking cool again." And so I love talking to these kids about the Dead.
My brothers are huge Deadheads and probably did like 90 shows. So I grew up with Dead. You know, I read the Garcia book, which was an incredible book if you haven't read it. But no, we've been sitting around listening to Dead music, talking about the fine details of the music since I can remember.
Bronson: That's freaking amazing. What was that first show when you were 14?
Bronson: Oh, hell yeah.
Jeremy: Yeah. '89 Brent Mydland, right before he died. He was like in his prime.
Bronson: Yeah. I just finished the Kreutzmann book and read the Jerry one back in the day, but the Kreutzmann one was pretty fun too if you haven't gotten on that one.
Jeremy: I have not.
Bronson: Yeah, it's super fun. What kind of music was the snowboard scene early in the early days?
Jeremy: Very kind of punk. Yeah, pretty punk and metal, which I enjoy. It's fine. But I was putting music to metal and stuff, er my snowboarding to a lot of metal and things of that nature, but we definitely at no point were like, "Hey, let's cut this segment to the Dead."
Jeremy and Rob find their flow during the night segment of FOTM. Aaron Blatt Photo.
Bronson: For sure. Do you think some of that punk rock snowboarding video was influenced by Taylor Steele's old surf videos?
Jeremy: Well, it's funny cause the Hatchett brothers at Standard Films, Mack Dawg, who's making snowboard films, and Taylor Steele were all buddies. And so yeah, they fed off of each other for sure on that.
Bronson: Yeah. What do you think it is that's kind of resonating these days with the younger crowd and Grateful Dead and outdoor sports?
Jeremy: God, it's tough for me to say because the movie has blown me away. was talking to Chris about this film like, "Dude, this is for Deadheads. Take it deep. Let's not try to make it all of a sudden turn these people into Deadheads." And so that was his program. But showing the film and seeing the reaction of people and how fired up they were, and the first thing I'd ask them like, "Do you know the Dead or do you listen to the Dead?" And they're a bunch of people that obviously know the Dead but weren't fans of the music that were like, "I loved the music." And I think Chris did a great job with the song selection, which we were like, how do you even do that? To pick that is very hard. And then with the visuals, the visuals brought that music to light. That was probably the most exciting part of the screenings, was the non-Dead fans that really loved the film.
Bronson: Yeah, for sure. Are you a crossover sometimes with the Phish crowd at all or are you a strictly Dead guy?
Jeremy: I also saw Phish at a very young age and I've definitely been to some Phish shows. But no, I mean I don't mind the Phish and I saw them recently when they played in South Lake, but it's not making my playlist.
Bronson: Yeah, I hear ya. Well I know it depends probably on the moon phase and everything else, but what's your top two Dead songs? I'll give you two cause one's tough.
Jeremy: Yeah, well definitely Fire I've come to really enjoy. And I was just listening to Goin' Down The Road into I Know You Rider. I've been digging and I got a good down one of that right now.
Bronson: That's a nice one. I do a lot of computer work most of the day and I have been doing bingeing on the live shows on YouTube, the OG live shows. It's been pretty fun. So fun. Like back in the day when they did the Playboy show and it's so bizarre and awesome.
The Squaw Valley segment from Tight Loose, which celebrated TGR's 21st birthday, featured none other than the Grateful Dead's "U.S. Blues".
Jeremy: Yeah. It's incredible to have that out there. And yeah, I don't know if you've seen Jerry's last tune, So Many Roads, but there's a killer - Dude, you got to watch it. And my brother was at that show and at that point, he was missing lyrics and basically was playing like shit by his standards. And they drag him out to do an encore, which is So Many Roads. You see how haggard he is and then he gets into it and then ends up doing this super powerful tune that ends up being his last song. And the rest of the night was basically nothing. So check that out.
Bronson: That just gave me goosebumps. I'll have to watch that.
Jeremy: Yeah. You'll trip.
Bronson: I know you're doing a thousand different things, but what's next on the horizon with you guys and POW, as I look at the sticker on the back of my truck right now.
Jeremy: Nice. Well, I appreciate that. So yeah, it's a huge, huge year for Protect Our Winters and our country and the planet. So we're getting ready, we've been working hard on trying to kick ass on Election Day in 2020. And so figuring out exactly where we need to win, the really tight zones, what we call the purple states and specifically purple states with mountains or a strong outdoor community. So we're building ground movements basically in those regions around resorts and climbing gyms and outdoor stores and colleges. It's really focused on getting that sideline voter or that new voter in these key areas.
And then to do that is really, it comes down to a marketing issue, meaning inspiring people to get out and vote when they traditionally haven't. So doing that where these young voters are and in the language and vibe that they're used to that, you traditionally wouldn't see in a political space.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet Gave POW a shout out on MSNBC after meeting with the group in Washington.
Bronson: Yeah, for sure. I think you guys are doing a great job of kind of connecting a tangible asset people utilize every weekend or during the week if they can and seeing it change year after year. And I think you guys are doing a great job of making people aware of those changes and lowering our impact a little bit. So, well done.
Jeremy: Thank you. Well yeah, so that's where I have some snowboard stuff for sure. But my head is trying to figure out how to be most effective for this election.