It’s been said before, but you can tell a lot about a person by the way they ride their bike. Chaotic loose cannons rarely file their tax returns before the deadline, whilst calculated, reserved riders aren’t usually the last to leave the pub.
Matt Miller is no exception to this rule. I met him briefly on a voyage to Philadelphia a while back and can say that not only was he a smooth rider, but he was also a real smooth, courteous character, a long way from the grubby-mitted street gremlins usually associated with 20 inch wheeled bicycles.
Anyway, cutting to the chase, here’s an interview with him about Chocolate Truck 2, Philly street spots and staying suave. Crew photos by Matt, shots of Matt by Naval and Ooti Billeaud. Interview by Sam.
Going back a bit, how did you all meet?
The majority of us are from the same town, so we grew up riding and hanging out together. Steve, Joby, Reith and Swift grew up in different counties outside of Philly so we all knew of each other but didn’t start riding together regularly until I moved down to Philly.
Am I right in saying you’re mostly from a place called Levittown? What’s that place like?
Yeah most of us are from Levittown. It’s a big suburb on the northeast side of Philly. I think most people would say it sucks, which is probably true but there was a ridiculous amount of riders in our town so there was always something to do or people to ride with. I cant shit on it too much because I have a lot of good memories and friends from there.
It’s famous for being one of the first modern day suburbs. The guy who built it pioneered an assembly line method to mass produce neighborhoods, so all of our houses look exactly the same, it’s pretty bizarre. You never needed to ask where the bathroom was because all of your friend’s houses had identical layouts.
Very convenient. Are there any famous spots I’d know about up there? Who were the top Levittown guys when you were growing up?
Honestly, there wasn’t much to ride around there so we were always building little dirt jumps, DIY spots or riding manual pads and stuff like that. We only had a few real spots that we would take people too but they’ve all been torn out now. JJ Palmere is from our town and he was definitely a big influence on all of us. Dave Krone is from the next town over and I’m pretty sure he taught me how to double peg stall a quarter pipe.
When did your crew become ‘Chocolate Truck’? And what exactly is a chocolate truck?
I wish I had a good answer for that one. It came from our friend Carl Brown who had a part in the first video. We were just trying to come up with names for the video we were filming at the time and that was one of them. I can’t remember where he came up with it or what it meant. He would just shout it out after he fell or when we were all out drinking and it just stuck. It wasn’t meant to be the crew name or anything like that but I think naturally people started referring to us by the name of the video.
You’ve got a fairly unique style. Who did you buzz off when you were growing up? Have you ever ridden with pegs?
I had pegs when I first started riding. I just wanted to do my own thing instead of doing what all my friends were doing at the time, so I took them off after a year or so and never put them back on. Ruben and Mike Aitken were my favorite riders when I was really young and then as I got older it was dudes like Dave Belcher, Mark Gralla and Chase Dehart. Anyone who had a unique style or approach to riding has probably influenced me in some way.
Going onto the video… in the age of instant info, was there a reason you decided to leave such a big gap between the first Chocolate Truck video and this one?
It definitely wasn’t intentional. I moved to NYC pretty early on so it was difficult to meet up with everyone on a regular basis and film. We have a pretty big crew, so trying to get 10+ people to meet up and ride and film sections can be challenging to say the least. I think when you’ve already invested a lot of time into something it’s hard to put a deadline in place.
Old footage starts to look stale so everyone wants to keep filming to get new shit for their sections. It was always “one more summer of filming” or “one more trip here” and then we can call it. There’s a CT2 ad in one of Scott Marceau’s zines that says coming Fall 2017.
Haha—nice to build the anticipation a bit. I’m quite into the backstories behind things… are there any specific clips from the video that you’d like to explain a bit more? Certain things that the average viewer might miss?
Kev’s last clip in the video is basically at an open drug market. The city lets addicts do whatever they want in that area in an effort to keep all the drugs and users contained to one part of the city. That particular day they were doing a clean needle exchange at the park so there was a couple hundred people actively shooting up or passed out all over the place. If you look in the background you can see a lot of them. It puts things in perspective when you’re surrounded by people who are struggling with every aspect of life and we’re there just trying to film some clips for a bike video.
Job’s first line in the video there’s a huge crew of dudes drinking and smoking on their stoop. As we passed by, I pointed the camera at them and they yelled out “do that shit again boul”. Its pretty comical to me because that’s something you hear pretty much everyday when you’re out riding in Philly.
Same thing with Ry’s first clip. Ry did a hop whip and this dude in a pimp coat comes out of nowhere and just starts speaking into the camera like he’s on live TV and he starts professing his love for his girl Yasmine. Those situations are my favorite because if we had left that spot a minute earlier we would’ve missed that whole interaction. If you’re in the streets enough you’re gonna see some crazy things.
Definitely. How did filming this one differ from the last one?
When we filmed the first one a few of us were living together, so everything was so much easier. I’d get home from work or class and there would be 10 people in our house trying to ride. Now, we all have full time jobs with lives and obligations outside of just riding. Instead of riding and filming everyday we might only get to meet up once every few weeks. There was a period when we didn’t film anything for probably six months. It’s not an ideal way to make a video but in the end I think it all worked out. The video is a time capsule for that whole period of our lives.
Do you think the responsibilities of growing up make you appreciate riding more?
It’s hard to say, I think in some ways it probably does. I appreciate just cruising around more than I ever have, I don’t feel like I need to be progressing or trying something new. It’s definitely cliche, but it’s a good stress reliever for me now and something I do to clear my head. At the same time, I have so many other interests and hobbies that eat up my free time. When I was younger riding was all I wanted to do, but now I want to learn new stuff and try out different things.
Apart from the riding obviously, was there anything you were trying to show with the new video?
I don’t think there was anything that was done intentionally. All of us are motivated by finding new spots, so we wanted to cover as much of Philly as we could and showcase spots from every neighborhood. There are also way more riders featured in the new video. We had a lot of people who came to Philly to visit and we also did more traveling ourselves, so we ended up having four mix sections in the video.
Whilst most cities nowadays look pretty much the same, Philadelphia still has its own unique look when it comes to spots. How come it’s managed to maintain that architecture when everywhere else is just glass buildings and skate-stopped ledges? Are they still building storm doors or are they an old feature?
It’s one of the older, more historic cities in the country so the architecture is still representative of that. The majority of the city was planned and developed well over a hundred years ago so I think it makes it difficult for developers to come in and drop a luxury building in the middle of a neighborhood. Some of the industrial areas are getting rezoned, so you see old factories getting turned into loft buildings and what not. But even when people do renovations I think they still try to honor the classic look.
We still see new storm doors pop up on the regular. The new ones are a bit harder to ride though. They have that big spine piece that runs right down the middle. A lot of the older ones were diamond plate and the doors were flush when they were closed. Those are the best ones.
How does riding in Philly differ from NYC? Is there a different style?
I think they share some stuff in common but the biggest difference is just the layout and where spots are located. I would say 90% of the spots in Philly are on the sidewalks or out-front of peoples businesses/houses. In NYC it’s a bit more diverse. New York has massive parks and playgrounds that always seem to have a bunch of setups to ride. Philly is definitely more condensed too. The spots are closer together and it’s pretty easy to cover a lot of ground. In New York you could pedal for an hour plus in one direction and still be in the same borough.
I imagine after working away on a video for so long, it’s maybe strange to finally finish it. Is it weird not to be thinking about it anymore? Or is it just a huge relief?
It’s a bit of both. Even though I wasn’t physically working on the video the whole time, I was constantly thinking about it. Overtime I started to feel pretty burnt out and the video became a bit of a weight for me. Especially when all your friends have invested their time and energy into it and you don’t want to disappoint them or keep them waiting. It has been awesome to hear all the positive feedback from people. I’m mostly just happy that I can focus my time and energy on other interests and projects now.
I’m not really sure how to word this without sounding a little strange, but what’s the secret to being a sharp gentleman? I remember when I came to Philadelphia with Clarky and Gunn a while back you lot were all fresh cats riding easily and generally looking slick, whilst I was there with bad teeth, a mess of a bike and unwashed clothes. Where am I going wrong?
Haha, I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit. The main key is to surround yourself with friends who will ridicule you if you do or wear anything whack. They’ll sort you out pretty quick.
Another thing I remember from that trip was that you lot would ride in a huge crew. Is it the same now? What would you say are the ingredients for a Grade A sesh?
The headcount tends to be smaller now that we’re all busier but I still prefer riding with a big crew whenever possible. Whenever I look back at the most memorable days from filming this video, they always end up being the days when 10+ people were out riding. Things can move a bit slower and it’s hard to cover as much ground but the energy is unmatched. Ingredients for a good sesh are some street beers, new spots, the usual crew, some out of town visitors and good food.
Does riding with so many other people help or hinder things when you’re out in the street? I imagine the big crew makes things a bit easier when you’re in sketchy areas… but then again maybe it attracts more attention?
I would say it definitely helps in some of those situations. Philly has some pretty rough neighborhoods but we haven’t had too many sketchy interactions. You definitely have to know how to handle yourself. If you look and act like a target, you will end up being one. Honestly, the reception we get in bad neighborhoods is way better than what we get in an affluent neighborhood. Most people are excited about what we’re doing and just want to hang out and watch.
Round this off as I’ve pestered you a bit… what’s the secret behind half cabs? Is there a certain knack for them?
At the time when I started messing around with them I really didn’t see many people doing them over high stuff. I kind of just ran with it and tried to push it as much as I could. I’d say just the right speed and being confident that you’ll clear whatever you’re trying to go over. All the pop comes from the carve right before you pull up so you have to get comfortable with that too. Learning to bail out of them is pretty key since you’re probably not going to clear it on the first go.
I’ll take that advice onboard. One last question… with Chocolate Truck 2 finally finished, when can we expect part 3?
I don’t know if it will be called Chocolate Truck 3 but we are definitely going to keep filming and making videos. We all want to focus on shorter projects moving forward. Film for six months to a year and then put out whatever we have sort of thing. Long term projects can be draining so I want to focus on projects that will keep everyone interested and motivated.
OTHER INTERVIEWS: Joe Cox / Addy Snowdon / Clarky / Gaz Hunt / James Newrick / Wozzy / Steven Hamilton / John Dye / Tyler Rembold / Bob Scerbo / Lino Gonzalez / Jake Frost / Seth Ethier / Chris Reyes / Dan Price / Daniel Niles / Amos Burke / Tim Evans / Jeff Z / Rob Dolecki / Lord Leopold / Loz Taylor / Cookie
Whilst visual documents of bicycle motions are by no means important in the grand scheme of the galaxy, it’s funny how much of an effect even the smallest decisions that someone made whilst piecing together footage of their friend’s riding can have on people half the world away.
Joe Cox’s videos, Voices and Tomorrow We Work, are prime examples of this phenomenon. At a time when even the supposedly simple task of capturing footage onto your mum’s Hewlett Packard desktop computer required the patience of a saint, he made well-crafted, thought-out videos that tricked a generation of riders into thinking there were spots in Sheffield. He must have helped shift a few Modest Mouse CDs too.
And beyond all this, Joe wasn’t just some ‘filmer guy’, lagging behind the crew with a load of tripods on his back—he was a highly-honed master of the bicycle, riding with a level of finesse that’s hard to muster on the rain-soaked, glass-smashed streets of the north.
First off, what are you up to these days? Do you ever get out riding at all?
I’m working a lot these days. I build fitted furniture—things like wardrobes, alcove TV units, floating shelves and desks. I love being able to be creative every day and I’m always excited about the next project coming up. Between that and hanging out with my wife and two daughters is where I spend most of my time.
I try and get out on the road bike when I can too. I can’t ever see myself not riding a bike in some shape or form, it’s too ingrained in me. A bike and what it represents is just too beautiful. Road cycling has a lot of similarities to BMX, for me anyway, a mix of being able to push yourself to your limits and just the simple pleasure of getting out and exploring under your own steam.
I don’t really get out too much on the BMX anymore, I’d like to but it’s just time. I usually only have a couple hours spare at any one time, so by the time I got out and got to a spot I’d like to ride I’d probably have to start thinking about heading home!
Do you still look at riding stuff much? Do you ever see rails and stuff that you’d want to do?
100 percent. I think everyone whos been into BMX or skating will never not be able to see a spot and go, ‘It would be cool to do something on there,’ or whatever. I’ve seen loads of good stuff in the small villages in the Peak District. I’ve been to Tenerife and Majorca and a few places in Spain on holiday the past few years and I saw so much stuff I’d love to ride. In terms of watching new riding, I still check Dig a few times a week. I don’t watch everything, but if it’s someone I know is mint I’m excited to watch what they’re getting up to. I still know what’s good and what’s shit and I know who the real boys are.
Going back a bit…how did you get into riding? Am I right in saying that you and Dan are from Durham. Were there many people riding around there when you were growing up?
Me, Dan and my big brother Tom were all into mountain biking around the early to mid 90s. We lived in a village about five miles from Durham, so it was pretty rural really—lots of trails and stuff. We raced a bit of cross-country around the North East and Yorkshire, and there was a decent area five minutes away with a load of bomb-holes and natural jumps and stuff.
I somehow heard a rumour that in the next village along some other mountain bikers had made a tabletop in a field, so I rode over there and somehow found it, and there was a load of riders jumping this big tabletop. It was Tom Minns, Stodge and a load of others who I ended up becoming best mates with for all my teenage years. I was pretty shy—I still am really—so I just rode over to Belmont every night after school, and hung around with them not saying a word until dark then I rode home.
The critical moment happened one summers day when a local ex-pro racer called Brian Graham came to the jump. I think he had a Hoffman Flash and he jumped the tabletop in such a cool way, we all watched in absolute awe. Almost over night, we all ditched our mountain bikes and one by one got a BMX. I started on some shit Toys-R-Us bike, then my first proper bike was a second hand S&M Dirt Bike in green. I loved that thing. Tech 77 brake lever with the push in bit to hold the brake on—which I still don’t know the reason for. Pitchforks, Profile three piece cranks and a whippet chainring. Powerlite 4 piece bars. Peregrine hubs, Alex rims. Shield seat. And thats how it started.
We moved down into the next field and started building some proper trails. There was a good scene in Durham around that time, a lot of riders. And that was even before any of us met anyone from other areas of the North East.
Once Ape skatepark opened that created a hub for the North East and almost everyone who rode went there every Sunday during the winter. Newcastle, Sunderland, South Shields, Teeside. There was probably hundreds of riders around that time. That’s where I met Newrick and all the OG NSF lot, and it was seeing them ride that made me want to ride street. Newrick was (and still is) literally my hero. I remember one of them bringing an early master tape for NSF 1 to the park, and we watched it in Turbo’s office and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It just looked so raw and cool. I probably took my brake off that same night.
What was it like riding street in the 90’s? Did you get much grief?
We never got too much grief to be honest, I mean we got chased every now and again, but the main thing was we were just looked at as freaks back then. It wasn’t in the mainstream culture like it is now, so most people were just like, “What the fuck are are you even doing?”
Starting to ride street back then in a place like Durham though was like opening a treasure chest. No generation of riders before us, so the entire city was brand new, untouched. It was no Barca, but there was some good stuff to ride.
I was in Durham on holiday recently and it did look pretty decent for spots considering I thought it was some ye olde historic town. What videos and riders were you into growing up?
The first video we saw was Props 16, the one with the Gonz interview. Minns somehow acquired that. The first video I bought was FBM Live Fast Die. Soil, Thunder, Anthem, On the Down Low, Props Best of Dirt 97, Generation, Nails in the Coffin and Livid were the favourites. Every rider in those videos were heroes to us.
I suppose most people associate you with Sheffield. When did you move there? What was it like when you first started riding around the streets of steel city?
I moved there in the summer of 2002 I think. Rob Hate invited me down to stay with him for a couple of weeks via MSN Messenger, so I went for two weeks, and literally didn’t come back. I had a place at Sunderland Uni starting in September, so I told them I wasn’t going to come, I went home to get some more stuff, told my Dad, and then I moved into the Hate House. Those days were great. No worries, no bullshit, just riding. Always plenty of people about, and coming from Durham the spots were amazing.
When did you first start filming? What made you want to get a video camera and start documenting what you and your mates were doing?
Almost as soon as I started riding I wanted a camera. Just filming me and Dan on the road outside our house. The day I got a clip on a fisheye from Jessops was the day it started. We’d just look through it for hours on end, amazed at how wide it made the angle, how much closer we could get. And everyone from our generation will know the feeling of seeing three chip footage for the first time. Look at the colours, look how crisp it is. The Canon XM1 with the fisheye was the most beautiful piece of kit.
I loved riding, and I loved filming. They weren’t separate things to me. We rode and filmed whatever we were doing. It was all the same.
I know Voices is, at a basic level, a video of mates riding, but it was a lot more polished than a lot of scene videos from that time. I suppose it was a lot more polished than a lot of ‘company’ videos too. Was that high standard something you were particularly aiming for?
I don’t think I was specifically aiming for a high standard or whatever, it was more just that I can’t do anything half-arsed. Or I should say I don’t want to do anything half-arsed. What’s the point in that? If I’m doing something I have to do it as best as I possibly can. I loved everything about what we were doing, all my mates were killing it, and I just wanted to show that.
I suppose we were indirectly reacting to the fact that a lot of shoddy videos were coming out, and you could see that the effort hadn’t been put in. A lot of videos we thought were shit, and they were still charging £20. We put all of our effort into Voices, just because we really wanted to—there was no money to be made or anything to advertise. I wasn’t looking for accolades or anything, I just wanted to make something I thought was good.
Watching it now, there’s a definite ‘British’ feel to it. Was that an intentional thing?
Subconsciously I suppose it was, but it was never outwardly a goal or anything. There was a handful of amazing British vids, but really the good stuff was American. The way we did it here was different, we weren’t superstars, no one was in England—you couldn’t be. We just thought we could make something good, in our own way. That’s kind of the British way—no fanfare or anything—just get on with it.
Fisheye, a few long lens clips, some rolling lines and a bit of super 8… a classic configuration now, but maybe not back in 2006. What sort of stuff were you influenced by during the making of Voices? What other videos were you watching?
I watched everything. But I think I had my own style and aesthetic I was going for. I loved what Jeff Z did with Animal 1. Straight into the riding, no candid footage, no crazy editing—just the riding. That’s all you need when it’s that good.
Thats my one gripe with the current trend of riding videos now. Far too many non-riding clips. Rich Forne did it well, but everyone has completely ripped his style. Black and white close ups of people smoking, dogs barking, someone’s calloused hands, the locals walking by. It doesn’t elevate your BMX video to high art, it’s cliche now and it’s boring.
I liked the ethos of the FBM videos, the videos represented the team perfectly. I liked Ells Bells stuff because it wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen before, it was completely insane, yet I feel it was the perfect way to showcase their scene. I liked what Joe Simon did with the HD footage and super clean filming. It was totally different, and that’s what I like above all I think—originality.
Have you got any particular standout memories from that time? What was going on around the clips?
My memories from those days are pretty hazy! The fondest memory I’ve got from the whole period is getting back in after a good days’ riding, everyone would be getting food and starting drinking. I’d go straight to the computer and get the footage captured, whack it on the timeline and everyone would come in and watch it. Someone who wasn’t riding that day would come over later and we’d show them the footage. I’d have had an idea for a song, so I put that onto the timeline to see what everyone thought. Everyone was so into it, we’d spend all day focused on it, for no reason other than because we loved it. There was no money involved, no career to move up. It was a great period of my life.
How important was the music selection? The stuff on Voices was a bit more interesting than the usual whiny Props-rock that was popular at the time.
It was important, but only to the extent that I really like music. I had a bank of so many good songs in my head, and then it was just a case of trying to fit each song to each rider. I mean, Marv wasn’t going to have a sad slow song, and Josh wasn’t going to have hip hop. There’s still songs from back then that I’d love to put in an edit, but just never found a perfect section for them.
How were you living during the making of Voices? What was day-to-day life in the Hate House like?
All we did was ride, a few people went to uni, maybe a few less had actual jobs. But most of us just rode and were on the dole. No worries, just riding and going out on the night. Tesco’s Value food, a bottle of cheap cider before Corp. I once witnessed Rob Hate down a bottle of Tudor Rose in one go, and he went from completely sober to literally passed out drunk in ten minutes. That was interesting to watch.
Was it hard to edit a video whilst living there? From what I gather it was a far cry from a slick media hub.
Nah it wasn’t hard at all—the opposite I would say actually. Because it was all we were doing, it wasn’t like I had other commitments and I’d have to try and get an hour in here or there to get it done. If I wasn’t riding and filming I’d be editing. And I’ve never really slept very well so I’d be up until 3am most nights just playing around with the edit.
What were your thoughts on how people flocked to Sheffield after Voices came out? Is there any truth in the story of you lot hiding in the Hate House and not answering the door when some American filmers came knocking?
The main problem with it was that there aren’t really any spots in Sheffield. There’s plenty of things to do, but we’d had some Americans whinging before when we rode for miles and the spot was the black bars—some one foot high flat rails. Lino loved them though, so it was worth it. And I’m pretty sure he got someone to take a photo of him standing next to Ponds Forge rail. That’s true street knowledge.
So yeah, we may or may not have done that, but it was more that none of us could be bothered with the pressure of taking people to shit spots and having to judge their reaction for whether to stay or move on.
Haha that makes sense. How did making Tomorrow We Work differ to Voices? Were people specifically going out to do a lot of those tricks?
The actual process wasn’t really different at all, but yeah almost everything filmed in Sheff we specifically went to do it. Like I said, Sheffield doesn’t have many traditional ‘spots’ so we’d just have to go roaming around, and for instance Josh would see a mental gap, note it down and then we’d go and film it when he’d got the bottle up for it. Or looking at a well ridden spot and trying to come up with something that hadn’t yet been done there.
I might be overthinking stuff a bit here, but TWW definitely has its own look to it, with all the red brick, the terraced houses and the slightly vignetted lens. Was there a certain look or feel you were aiming for?
Yeah I had definitely had a certain look and feel I was going for with TWW. With Voices, I just made it as I went along really, but with TWW I think I had the whole feel to it in my mind even before I’d decided to make another video. I wanted the footage itself to be film-like—warm and dreamy—but the general feel to be almost cold and detached. It’s hard to put into words, but the final outcome is almost exactly what I had in my head before I’d filmed a single clip.
Not too sure what my question is here, but it seems a lot of people think they can just buy a VX and it’ll mean their footage will automatically look good. What other stuff should people consider with cameras and things? Why does your footage still look good whilst loads of stuff shot on the same camera doesn’t?
Yeah I used to be very opinionated on this topic! It’s the same as any other thing, and it really annoys me. Wannabes who come in and buy the right gear thinking that’s all there is to it. I don’t know if my stuff was good or not but I put everything into trying to make it as good as it can be. Always looking at what the best angle is,
literally studying how skate filmers used their fisheyes. I could have written a thesis on the theory of filming. I taught myself After Effects and post-produced every single clip in TWW so it had the same feel running through it.
It was the same with Animal 1—I bet Jeff Z filmed 95 percent of that video, and you can tell, the final product was so consistent, it wasn’t a random bunch of clips, it was a single piece of work.
Newrick’s recent stuff too—it’s the whole thing as one, if that makes sense. Hit the North Part 2 nearly brought me to tears, so make of that what you will.
Maybe a bit of a vague question, but why is it that people love videos so much? People still talk about Voices now—why do you think these 30-60 minute videos stick in peoples’ heads so much years later?
They literally shaped us when we were growing up. That list of videos I said we had growing up, I still know them all off by heart. If a song comes on the radio from a classic section you get that feeling. I still get sad when ‘King of Pain’ comes on the radio because I know it’s when everyone gets injured at the end of Road Fools 2. If a Props end-credits song comes on I’m happy. I put Can I Eat on and I’m fully psyched up to go and try a nose wheelie on a curb. I felt the same after coming back from the
Strangeways premier and I haven’t rode in a year. A good video is what everyone loves about riding condensed into half an hour.
Well said. Wrapping this up now—I know you made a few edits after TWW, but was there ever plans to make a third video?
In short, no. I could only do it when I was fully engrossed in it 100 percent. Both the vid’s I made took over my whole life while I was making them.
OTHER INTERVIEWS: Addy Snowdon / Clarky / Gaz Hunt / James Newrick / Wozzy / Steven Hamilton / John Dye / Tyler Rembold / Bob Scerbo / Lino Gonzalez / Jake Frost / Seth Ethier / Chris Reyes / Dan Price / Daniel Niles / Amos Burke / Tim Evans / Jeff Z / Rob Dolecki / Lord Leopold / Loz Taylor / Cookie
Back by unpopular demand, here’s some odds and ends from around the digital world that you may or may not enjoy.
Addy Snowdon’s rust-coated masterpiece Cast Iron Shore, is now up on the net. There’s obvious bias here but this sharply-edited slab of north west street riding is by far one of the best videos to grace the DVD format in the past few years and if for some strange reason you didn’t decide to fork out for a copy last year… then you’re in luck.
Strangeways Volume 5 is getting the red carpet treatment at 7PM Friday the 10th of June at the Thirsty Scholar just down from Manchester Oxford Rd station. Check the trailer here.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic, El Punto de Sabor is the new one from AM:PM, featuring a mix of golden age playground spots, massive handlebars, Ratkid Japan clips, high school choir cover-versions, Mike Hoder’s seat-post, complicated rail configurations at at least one pair of gloves.
There’s also some good stuff to read on the new AM:PM site, including this article about New York pools, and this one about that little concrete wedge that Bob Scerbo hops into in his Cuts part. Good to see people devoting a few words to riding for once—especially away from the Instagram cess-pit.
This article about the link between the Spike Jonze/Andy Jenkins/Mark Lewman Wizard Publications master cluster and skateboarding written by ‘the other Antony Pappalardo’ is worth a read for all the historians out there. Nice for riding to get a slight bit of acknowledgement from the glory-sapping skating world for once. From Nick Phillip to Wig Worland it’s sometime’s forgotten that a healthy portion of the people who shaped the look of skating were actually riders.
No bike mentions in this (legendary day-glo rave clobber dungeon Cyberdog gets a nod though…), but this interview with art-man Oliver Payne on the Slam City site has some good bits in it—especially his take on ‘shop culture’.
More words—this time an interview over on the Least Most site with 70s photographer Mel Stoutenberger on the early days of what became known as BMX. Sometimes hard to relate to sun-soaked Californian imagery, but Mel’s snaps of back-yard style-cats getting loose on old Schwinns are pretty universal.
Over 20 years after it was made, Standard’s 1998 video Domination still stands up majestically to the often damning test of time. The riding is fast, the clothing is dope and the spots look like the sort of everyday features you’d actually find in your town.
In this fairly long winded article, a decent chunk of the cast and crew discuss the making of this most bodacious video…
Thanks to Tedd Nelson for his amazing photos—and for all his help with sorting these interviews.Continue reading
Seeing as the weather has been dire lately here’s a brief round-up of internet-based juicage to remind the mind that dry pavements do exist somewhere.
First off, Big Jimmie Nezza’s 2010 gem Grey Haven is now online courtesy of the visual archivists at BMXMDB. Hard to believe that it’s taken 11 years for someone to get this onto the net, but apparently so. Anyway, it’s a true industrial symphony that deserves countless repeat viewings.
In more ‘videos that were once only on disk and are now viewable via the internet’ news—you may now watch Tyler Rembold’s Call Somebody and Bob Randel’s SF video Percept from 2017 without digging out that Hitachi DVD player.
Meanwhile, in 2021, Conor Bedford (who’s smithing that sheet of metal in the above photo) rode quite fast over a variety of British surfaces and Tim Evans had the foresight to film it.
Paralell is a tasteful bit of ‘Brits abroad’ action courtesy of Infamous and the glorious streets of Barcelona.
Here’s some more mathematically perfect street riding courtesy of the main-man Lord Leopold. And whilst we’re on the continent, here’s Bartek Tołkacz’s section from his Quid Pro Quo video. People like to moan about the state of modern bike riding, but one of the good things about the current age is how you can now easily access videos from far-flung locations that aren’t just sight-seeing tourist edits devised to sell grips. Getting a window into scenes in places like Croatia, Poland or Japan is pretty cool.
Andrew Schubert talked to Jeff Z about the recent TAIF video and riding in Vancouver. Anyone who hasn’t seen the video yet can do themselves a favour and download it here.
And finally… could probably do without having guns pulled on you whilst trying to ride, but Burnside does look pretty good.
Making a riding video takes patience. Making a riding video, sending it to the duplicators, then storing the resulting DVDs in a box under your bed for over a year without anyone else laying eyes on it takes a lot of patience.
Luckily, Addy Snowdon isn’t one to rush things—and whilst last-year’s lockdown malarkey could have easily sent him in search of his Youtube password to hastily upload the fruits of his labour to the information superhighway, he chose to wait things out until he could show it the old fashioned way—in a packed room, with good company and a selection of cold beverages bought from the local Tesco.
With Cast Iron Shore finally available for all to see, here’s an interview with Addy about the making of this fine video. Questions by Sam, photos by Clarky and Sam.
You finished Cast Iron Shore around the start of lockdown, but it’s only just seen the light of day. What made you want to hold out and release it now?
The reason for waiting was so we could have a premiere for the video, and the lockdown rules put a stop to the possibility of that happening for over a year. Apart from being a good reason for people to get together, one of the reasons for being keen to put on a premiere was due to the amount of time I spent making the video.
It took four years to gather the footage and I also put a lot of time into the editing. I think I was working on the editing and DVD production for a period of about a year and a half, spending a significant number of hours on it each week over that time. So, to just release the video would’ve been a let-down to everyone involved and a wasted opportunity. Once the lockdown restrictions ended, Lost Art skate shop let us show the video in there, so thanks to them for that.
What with all the wait, were there ever times you wanted to go back into the ol’ sequence and move things around?
I’d finished everything and had it duplicated onto DVDs by May 2020. So at that point, it wasn’t really possible to make changes without wasting money getting them duplicated again. I’m quite glad I could draw a line under it at that point, I think I would’ve messed about with it otherwise and either not improved it much, or just used up ideas which I could use in the future. Instead I spent the time gathering footage and doing some small bits of editing for the next video. That one’s a long way off though; I find the prospect of starting to properly edit another video a bit worrying actually, because I know how much time I’ll need to dedicate to it and I don’t want to make a video that’s worse than something I’ve made before.
What’s the relevance of the name? There’s a cast iron church over in Liverpool, isn’t there?
There is a church with that nickname yeah, it’s mostly made of bricks really but has some decorative parts made of iron. I walk our dog, Grace, through that area occasionally. Cast Iron Shore is another old nickname for part of the waterfront on the Mersey Estuary, it got called that because of iron from ships ending up on the sand there.
Names for anything are difficult. I wanted something which was associated with the area the video was being made and I didn’t want the name to be some kind of statement or joke. I chose the name because I think it represents aspects of Liverpool’s industrial and shipping history. I must have come up with about fifty potential names, and this was the only one I didn’t think sounded stupid a week or so after the idea. I think I’ll use the name again for the next video and call it ‘episode 2’ or something.
In Manchester it feels like a lot of the old industrial stuff is slowly being erased to make way for swanky offices and apartments. Is it the same in Liverpool?
A lot of the really old buildings have remained, but they’re being bought up and converted into apartments and things. It’s better than them being knocked down altogether, but the areas will never feel the same afterwards. From what I’ve seen so far, they’ll end up being occupied by young professionals who tear around in expensive and obnoxious vehicles, thinking they’re important. The sorts of people who never would’ve gone for a look around those industrial areas before the renovations and then have a problem with you riding in a place you’ve been going to for years, because of the money they’re paying.
Do you think the shift to more modern surfaces affects riding much? Angle iron ledges are a dying breed.
New materials and preventative layouts affect things but there will always be something you can do; riders are more imaginative than the designers and planners think they are. Also, the rate of change is slower in the suburbs, so as far as our generation is concerned, I think we’ll have enough to keep us going until we’re not capable any more. I think new ways of riding will develop alongside the changes though, they’ll never be able to stop riding altogether.
Riding aside, was there anything in particular you were trying to show, or document, with the new video?
Part of the reason I make videos is so that they can be watched at some point in the future, mainly by the people who are in them, or whoever they might want to show. If I had relatives who’d been able to make videos of what they did in the 60’s, 70’s or earlier, and if you could see the buildings, the clothes, the cars and everything else as it was then, that’d definitely be something I’d want to see. I put a lot of non-riding footage in this video, to try to document the appearance of a period in time for future reference. I’m sure that the number of videos being made now will make it less likely for a video like this to be found, but hopefully someone with enough curiosity will watch it at some point.
There’s a lot of VHS stuff in there. Obviously different formats always look cool, but was there a more philosophical reason for the analogue footage? It certainly fits well with the older architecture.
The use of VHS footage started when I was capturing some clips I had from around 2000 to 2003, which were filmed on a VHS-C camera that I’d held on to from that time (I used the same camera for the more recently filmed VHS footage in the video too). Some ideas for the video started from that point.
I like the idea that the ageing of a video can be accelerated with the use of and old format. Things are starting to change a bit now, but some of the areas I got footage of hadn’t changed in decades. So the VHS footage looks like it could have been filmed at any time in the last 40 or so years. As I was saying before, I want to preserve this period for some time in the future and if the footage already looks old now, I think that’ll add to the experience if it’s watched a few years down the line.
One other thing is, and plenty of people have done this sort of thing before, but I tried to give the appearance of the video being on a tape, which again links to the use of VHS. You’d always end up with all kinds of unrelated things on VHS tapes; different bits you’d recorded off the TV. So that’s where the old adverts and things come in. The fast forward and tracking bits were to add to that effect. I don’t want to give too much away about the methods, but I used some quite manual techniques to get those effects to look authentic, rather than using something already built into the editing software.
I quite like the little stories that often come with clips. Sometimes even a little 2 second snippet can be the product of a bizarre chain of events. Do any clips standout in this video—and if so, would you care to enlighten our readers?
In the old footage part there’s a couple of clips of me and a lad called Ben at the hospital wallride. After we’d been there we went down to ride around what’s now Liverpool One shopping centre. I was about 15, small for my age, and Ben was even younger. We found ourselves surrounded by about six lads who were about 19 and looked massive and dangerous to us.
They were asking us to ‘do some skills’ and for a go of our bikes. I refused because they obviously weren’t going to give it back; I knew that from past experience. Then one tried peeling my fingers off the bars but, from riding, my grip was stronger than he expected. So instead, one stood on my front pegs and another on the back and then they made me ride down this steep grass bank like that. That might seem like a funny slapstick scenario but it wasn’t at the time, not knowing what they would do next. You could expect this type of intimidation and humiliation each time you went anywhere as a BMX kid. At least I didn’t get punched in the head on that occasion, but it killed the session a bit so we just got the train home after that.
It seems we’re past the point of people going on about whether people will continue to make long-form videos or not, and there’s been loads of good ones out lately. What current videos do you enjoy watching from the comfort of your home?
There are the newer releases of the videos I think I mentioned last time we did an interview (Skapegoat, 90 East, Strangeways, Hit The North etc.), which all get watched regularly. As well as that, I liked the Moto Bunka Crossover DVD and the Act Like You Know stuff is good. I rely on your web scour articles quite a bit to save me having to sift through the dross, so thanks for that. I think there’s more good stuff coming out now than ever before, but due to the total quantity of new videos etc., only a small proportion of the overall media output is good. Being honest, I will only watch most new videos once unless it’s something which really stands out. That’s not because I don’t like them, it’s just because I don’t have time to watch them all again. I wish I did have the time. I still refer back to Can I Eat and watch it from start to finish on a fairly regular basis, that video really changed things.
Change of subject, but solo riding was more prevalent early last year due to all that lockdown malarkey, which made me think of this taxing question… If, for example, absolutely no one is out, the sun is shining and you’ve got the ticket to ride, what are you going to do? And where are you going to go? And what’s your limit—does Addy Snowdon do rails on his own?
If the conditions are good and there’s no one else riding, I’ll get out on my own, regardless of whether there’s a lockdown. I find riding around on my own without a destination quite enjoyable, particularly in deserted industrial areas. I’ll keep the danger and difficulty levels low though, or just scope out a spot to see if anything could be done on it. Once I’m convinced it’s decent and there’s nothing in the way or anything, I’ll go back with someone else for a session.
I can only recall doing a handrail on my own on one occasion, and that was a few years back. It was quite a bit below bar height so that aspect felt safe, although it was in a place where I reckon no one would have passed through for a few hours, which could’ve been problematic if I’d fallen. These days I wouldn’t mess with handrails solo.
On a similar tip, what are the ingredients for a ‘great sesh’. What’s the perfect day? And do you have any examples of ‘great seshes’ from recent history?
One of the main ingredients that contribute to a ‘great sesh’ is making sure before you begin that there’s nothing else you know you need to do for that entire day. This takes preparation in advance but will clear the mind and the focus will then only be on the session. Be sure to eat enough beforehand and throughout the day.
Then there’s the session participants, of which there should be no more than seven. You don’t want anyone who complains about spots and there should be no one who uses a phone for anything other than arranging the meet up.
The next ingredient is out of everyone’s control; the weather. 15 to 18 degrees Celsius, no wind or rain and not too sunny; that would be my preference. Too hot and I’ll be incapable of riding for longer than two hours, too sunny and I’ll get a head ache.
Lastly, some spots to ride are an essential factor. About three or four spots which all participants are able to ride will usually be enough for one day. Our recent trips to Copenhagen have been some of the best times. Care free days, a positive crew, a climate my body can cope with, good spots and a seemingly accepting culture when it comes to different uses of public spaces.
Onto more serious subjects, I’ve talked to you quite a bit about technology stuff and various sci-fi concepts. Do you think it’s dangerous that a lot of ‘riding culture’ is seemingly hosted on a handful of websites? Should people care more to preserve things?
Preservation of videos is important to me for the reasons I mentioned before. During the lockdown I made sure I had all of my files backed up in a number of ways, so they can all be retrieved if needed, and I’d urge others to do the same. I personally won’t be putting my trust solely in those websites as a place for safe storage of my videos; I can’t even get my videos to upload to the main video hosting website because of the music copyright rules anyway. I’m aware of some videos which have now gone forever because people who run a website decided there was a reason to take them down, and they weren’t backed up.
I can see why some people see DVDs as archaic now, and I’m not tied to this format specifically, but if you want something to last for a long time I think it’s wise to use a method of distribution which is out of the control of anything or anyone who is external to riding culture, in addition to uploading things to the internet. Changes in copyright laws or a company deciding it doesn’t want to run a website or app any more aren’t going to affect the hard copies in your home, or the files you’ve saved locally.
Like Manchester, Liverpool has really embraced the wheelie lately—and there are a lot of gangs of noodle-haired Fido-Dido types in full walking garb busting out all manner of rear wheel mountain bike moves. What are your thoughts on the wheelie scene? And do you think if you were in your early teens in 2021, you’d be doing that instead of riding a BMX?
I think the wheelie scene is alright. I wonder how good some of those people would be at BMX riding if they got into it, probably really good. Locally there’s still a bit of a stigma around BMX though. This is something which could’ve been sorted out by now if more BMXers took some care over the way riding is presented, but anyway, that’s why mountain bikes are favoured.
If I was younger and looking for something to do now, I think I’d soon realise that the whole wheelie thing is a bit limited and be looking for something with some more options. I’ve always liked anything where you move by rolling, so I would’ve got involved with something, and hopefully I would have seen a decent representation of BMX so I could see it was something good to get into. You can’t really beat BMX in terms of the ability to cover ground as well as having plenty to do when you get to a spot.
It’s also worth mentioning that I used to have a hoody with Fido Dido on the back, I was young though.
You may be excused. I like how the Merseyside region still seems to have its own specific style, and isn’t just ripping off American stuff like most other places. Does that extend to riding at all? Is there a ‘scouse style’? And as someone who’s travelled a fair bit, are there any specific traits you’ve noticed that don’t exist anywhere else?
The characteristics of the local style are largely based on what the riders don’t do. There are no needless tweaks or movements happening, riders only do what needs to be done to pull the move, and however that looks is their style.
Most people from the Merseyside region have grown up being subject to some quite harsh criticism if they did anything out of the ordinary. This could be seen as limiting, but in riding I think it makes you think before deciding what moves you will and won’t do, so the trick selection is usually well thought out.
As for specific local traits, I’d say there are elements of aggression and spontaneity to the style of a lot of the riders. It’s hard to represent this on video, but there are riders who have the ability to bombard an entire area from the moment they arrive, doing whatever comes into their head on a moment to moment basis. I don’t think I’ve seen this done in quite the same way anywhere else.
You’re quite a mild-mannered, punctual character but I’ve witnessed you do some fairly terrifying, albeit calculated, moves on your bike. Where do you think this comes from? Is it almost a case of letting out the madness so you can go on living a regular life? Is it important for people to have an outlet?
I think those traits actually have a lot to do with why I’m still doing those moves; people with a more chaotic existence don’t often get around to doing much, especially as they get older and need to do other things. I don’t know where the drive to do those things originally comes from, but I know it’s always been there, years before I got hooked on BMX. Originally, perhaps I just wanted to surprise people by doing something they weren’t expecting. I think the compulsion to occasionally do things which appear to be dangerous might have faded quite a bit by now if I wasn’t still riding, but I never stopped so I’ve still got that connection to my youth.
I think having an outlet is important, it definitely helps me to stay positive and content. One decent day of riding at the weekend with a few moves landed can put me in a good mood all week, so in that way, riding does help with getting on with regular life.
I’m not sure if I’m remembering this right, but did you tell me once you’re related to Gary Barlow? Have you ever met him? And have you ever tried writing songs to see if you also possess his knack for a catchy melody?
I believe that he is a descendant of my five times great grandfather, but I’ve never met him or any of the other members of Take That. I did hear recently that Robbie Williams is a keen BMX fan though, so perhaps Gary is too and one day we’ll meet and shred the streets of Frodsham. I don’t think I inherited the song writing gene unfortunately, I think it’d be more likely that Gary would do handrail than it would be for me to release a hit single.
I think I’ve run out of questions now. Have you got any wise words to add?
Spend less time looking at things which are the product of small amounts of effort. Thanks to everyone who contributed in any way to the video.
This is an interview with Joey Piazza about riding in New York, teaching kids at school, complex grind configurations, having the last section in his own video, that guy who had that horrific crash riding down an escalator, flatland, Union Square, goofy-footed grinding, not being indoors, the Caribbean and the new AM:PM video. It originally appeared in Red Steps Issue 5, but seeing as his new DVD is finally done, now seemed like a good time to upload it into the binary world. Photos by Seth, Wozzy and Russ Bengston.
Starting from the start, when did you get into riding?
Probably in 99. I started skateboarding first, with my friends in my building, and then ended up getting into riding. It was just easier, you could go further. I remember I saw DMC riding a vert ramp, and I thought it looked crazy—he was doing flips and everything. So I started going to Union Square and that’s when I met everybody. When I first started, I was actually trying to ride flatland.
Flatland was big back then.
Yeah, there were a lot of flatlanders in New York. In Union Square there’s really nothing there except a set of stairs and some flat ground, so a lot of the flatlanders would have contests there, or be practicing there. People would be riding street too, setting up garbage cans, but it was more of a meet-up point. But yeah, I was real hyped on flatland, but I wasn’t very good at it.
It’s too hard. There’s a tough learning curve.
Yeah—I lost interest on that real quick. So then I started riding street with everybody, going out and being a part of the session. I couldn’t really hit any of the spots—they were hitting rails and stuff, and I’d just started riding.
Who was that with?
I was riding with that kid Rah Rah, and then all the dudes like Wormz, Tyrone and Edwin. I wasn’t going out filming with them, but I’d be there, tailing along. I rode with pretty much the same people I ride with now…
What were you looking for back then?
It’s was just rails. Rails and ledges—that was it. Once I did my first rail, it was go time. It was just about throwing yourself down anything. The first rail I did, it wasn’t the Banks rail, but there used to be another one there—if you watch the first Animal video, Edwin does a 180 over it, and Vic does an X-up icepick down it.
And then there was a rail in Midtown called the Starbucks rail. It was pretty much everyone’s first rail. It was mad low, the only thing was you had to take a 90 degree turn to hit it. And once I hit those two, it was a wrap—it was anything, the rail could be a bike-length long, but you’d just throw yourself on it. I think that must have been in 2000—it was definitely before September 11th, because we were still riding downtown and getting into a bunch of shenanigans.
It’s maybe a bit of a cliched New York question, but did that change riding the city as much as people made out it did?
Yeah, it really fucked everything up. Because skating and bike-riding were getting so popular, there was already security, and spots you couldn’t go near, but September 11th definitely ruined everything. You couldn’t even ride downtown at all—and there were a lot of good spots in that area. Slowly but surely they’d open up parts of it again, but with the whole surveillance deal, and security, it just got crazy.
Did that send people out to find other spots? You couldn’t rely on just riding downtown anymore.
Yeah definitely. A lot of the people who rode New York weren’t really from the city, they were from different boroughs, but they’d come from the city to ride. So once everything got closed off, they were like, “Well, I’m just going to ride in my neighbourhood.” So I’d go out there to ride. From there, we started riding around, finding more shit.
When did AM:PM come about? You were pretty early on putting videos up on the internet.
That was 2005. There was something in the city called 20inchNYC, which was a message board where you could post videos. The dude that did it, Mark—me and him went to the same high school. He took an IT class, and he learned how to do coding and everything, and started that website. So when I got a camera, that had just phased out, but if you had a weird server you could post a video on the internet, and people could embed it on a webpage. It was definitely hit and miss. So I got my camera and just started filming everyone at Union.
Bob would come out filming for the Animal videos and whatnot, they were already working on All Day at that point. There were three filmers in the city—Tyrone would film everybody, the homie Ricardo and then Jerry—Launchpad. They were the only three filmers in the city who were doing anything, but no one was doing anything independent—it was just, “Film me for Animal.” So I started making videos, and obviously we were cool with Animal, and people were a part of it, but I thought, “Let’s do something a little different.”
Your videos weren’t like the usual stuff around at that time.
I was just trying to capture the real vibe of what we were doing. I felt like videos at that time were real black and white—“We’re going to go out and do this, or we’re not going to film.” But what about all the funny stuff that happens in between the sessions—all the stuff that happens on the way to the spot? I’d have my camera out before we even got to the spot because people were jumping over garbage cans, or doing funny things on the way there.
So then it became, “Why not combine that with the stuff we’re going to do at the spot?” Just trying to combine everything we were doing into one thing, so it gave it a bit more flavour rather than looking like an actual video.
Not driving the team van to the rail.
Exactly. For me, the best part of riding is just being able to ride—not having to be so day and night about it. Everything was real spontaneous. I don’t know if that cars going to turn, so you’ve got to be ready, and I’m going to be there to document it.
In that first AM:PM in particular there’s loads of that kind of thing.
Yeah, we were kind of letting the day decide what we were going to do. We might be riding around and see a flatbed truck that had perfect metal on it, it’d be, “Let’s session this real quick.” If you’re driving around on your point A to point B riding style, you’re going to miss all that stuff.
Are people too strict about things? Like you say, a lot of riding videos feel so black and white.
Yeah, people have their ideas of what they want it to be. They have rules and standards—I have standards too of how I want my riding to look, and what I want to try and ride, but yeah—it just becomes too serious, in a way. I just like being in the middle of that—not taking it seriously, and kind of taking it seriously.
I don’t really care about sponsors, or what the hot trick everybody’s trying is. We’re just doing what we want to do, when we want to do it. I think just being a part of a company, stuff gets so regimented—“We have to do this today, and then this tomorrow. We’ve got to go to this spot.” But I don’t really care.
It’s not work.
If it causes any anxiety, or stresses you out, you’re not doing the right thing. There are things I want to do, that I think about a lot, but I’m not killing myself over it. I’ll get around to it when I get around to it.
There’s no rush. You stopped doing the online videos just as everyone else started with that—what was the reason behind the shift?
There was a whole situation behind that. That website TheComeUp was around, and I was making all those videos, and one hand kind of washes the other. Videos would go on there, and I would get views, but then I’m like, “I’m not making any money off this, but somebody else is.” I didn’t really like the vibe of that site, so I thought that was a good reason to start making an actual video, instead of just giving stuff away. I don’t mind giving stuff away for free, but it was the fact that someone was benefiting from my videos more than me.
It did seem strange how one guy was just hoovering it all up—someone slaves away making a video all the winter, then it just gets swallowed by some website.
In a way it kind of got popular because of it, but it was a weird situation. I’d rather not go that route. I spoke to him about it—I said, “I really don’t want you to post them.” But whatever. You can’t control what happens on the internet, just as you can’t control what happens in the streets.
How many of that first video did you make?
I got all the DVDs burned, then we made all the covers, and wrote on them all. Me and Chris Johnson and Ralph and Tyrone. It was terrible. It was like 1100 copies. Then by the third one, I bought a DVD burner and it was really simple.
Like Bob’s super-burner?
He’s the one who told me to get it actually.
On the subject of Bob, why is your favourite video Skapegoat 7?
It’s kind of an inside joke between me and him, because he said that video was a look inside his mind. He was doing all sorts of weird shit at the time. It wasn’t even really a riding video. I’m driving a boat in it.It’s all-out stupidity.
He’s wasn’t far off making the ‘riding video without the riding’ with that one. Going back to the first AM:PM video, what’s going on with that guy riding down the escalator?
We were out riding one day, and he was like, “I’ll ride down the escalator if you want to film it?” I said, “Word of advice, it’s going up, so you better go fast.” He was like, “No, no I’m good. Tell my mum I love her.” And he got killed. He didn’t go fast enough, and he flipped. We were in hysterics. Once we realised he was okay, we were dying. Straight comedy.
It gets talked about more than 99% of riding clips. Maybe a strange question, but does being goofy-footed help with some of the more advanced grind configurations? You’re ‘double-goof’ aren’t you? Like Ralph? Does that help with 60/40s?
It helps, and it also fucks everything up. So on certain set-ups, your pedal kind of knocks you onto it, but then I forced myself to do them opposite too, where your front foot locks on and keeps you balanced. And then when you’re doing something where the back peg’s higher than the front peg, for me I like it better because I can kind of lean in a little better.
What about names for things, do these grinds, beyond the 60/40 have names?
I just called them whatever Butcher and those guys called them. Like the magic carpet grind or the levitator. The one that I’m doing in the Dig magazine, it’s like a crooked grind, on a roller-coaster rail, where they’re too far apart for you to get the peg in—I never saw anyone do that, so I called that a farside crooked grind. I don’t know. Who knows? It might already have a name already?
Going against video conventions, you had the last part in AM:PM3, what was going on there?
That’s not my fault. So, we were filming, and I was going to give Ratkid or Frank the last section. But Ratkid was like, “I don’t want the last section, you can have it.” Then I asked Frank and he was like, “The reason why I’m riding is because I’m getting hyped off you, so you should have the last section.” So I was like, “Damn, this is not going to be a good look.”
It was a good part.
I should have got somebody else to edit the video so it wouldn’t be so jaded. For this video, Tyrone’s having the last part. He’s too futuristic man. Between him and Lino, their riding has aged like fine wine. They just keep getting better.
I know Tyrone’s not even old, but maybe 20 or 30 years ago people thought 25 was old when it came to riding.
Yeah, I always make this joke that when I was 16 at Union, there were dudes that were maybe 27, and they’d be riding, just doing 180s. I was like, “Damn, is that what it’s going to be like when we turn 27?” But here I am at 35 still trying to do the same shit.
But then there are those people who are old before their time. Almost wanting to be ‘the old guy’ when they’re younger than me—buying a T1 and doing manuals around a skatepark. They sort of admit defeat.
I would love to be one of those guys. That’s all of our problems, we can’t admit defeat. Back in the day you’d just bounce back, but now if I get broke, I need four or five days of chilling, and it still hurts. All the new kids are like, “How come you’re not really riding?” But I can’t ride every day.
You need to get on the yoga scene like Dolecki. Get the diet down.
That stuff works man, I’m just too irresponsible and undisciplined to do any of it. If I stretch, I’m going to pull a muscle. But that is the key to longevity. Drinking water, stretching, eating decent, it really goes the whole nine. Dolecki’s been killing it, and he’s about to be 50. That heavy ass camera bag he’s carried his whole life has kept him in shape.
Do you sometimes wish you could go out without the bag?
I wish man. It wasn’t too bad being in my 20s, and having the camera all the time, but now, carrying a bag is like, ‘ugh’. I’m trying to get all the younger dudes motivated, get their footage. I’m not trying to pressure anyone though. At the end of the day, we’re trying to walk away healthy, safe and free.
Is it sort of an obligation to film this stuff? Some of the people on your videos don’t strike me as the kind of people who’d usually seek out the camera. Like Frank Macchio, for example.
You’re right. I was going out to Queens after work everyday—jumping on the train and taking it to the last stop. He lives far—he lives on the border of the city. I’d take the train out there, then have to ride five miles to be where he lives, and we’d just ride for hours. He’d get me hyped, so I’d be trying new stuff, and then he’d be trying new stuff—it was real motivating. He was doing all this weird stuff I’d never seen before.
Who’s the other guy from Queens who does similar stuff? The one who does the crank-flip to x-up ride to handrail?
Gino Schettini. He’s a firefighter, and he’s really into working out. He has his own gym. Frank actually got him to start riding again, that’s why he’s in AM:PM2. He was training to be a firefighter at the time. Those dudes don’t lose it though. If I don’t ride for a few days, I feel so whack, but those guys are so good.
Do you think that thing of people having regional styles still exists?
Everyone’s starting to ride the same way because of the internet. There’s a lot of kids from New York that ride like they’re from Cali. It’s funny.
What about Johnsson, does he still ride?
Yeah, he’s still around. He rides motorcycles, and he’s got his Volvo he drives around in. But he’s another one—he won’t ride for two months, then he’ll come out and do the craziest thing. It’ll be one try, and it won’t even be on his bike, he’ll borrow somebody’s bike, then we’ll go and get food. I hang out with him all the time, we just don’t ride.
He’s out of his mind. He used to ride dirt bikes, and then he got into racing on BMX bikes. The first time I met him he came out on a Dyno with no brakes. The bike was a piece of shit. He jumped a 12 stair rail hop, and broke the bike. He’s got some crazy clips in the new video.
What’s going on with the new video then? How long has it been?
I started filming it in 2013, so yeah, it’s been a long time. I was going to put it out a while ago, but then a few people got hurt, and then other people jumped on. It’s a revolving door of cast members coming in and out. But it’s definitely going to be released soon. I have so much footage, it’s completely outrageous.
Does stuff outdate itself after a while? Not with other riders or anything, but maybe where you’ll do the same trick on a better spot or something?
There is some of that, but not as much as you’d think, mainly because 60% of the stuff we rode doesn’t exist anymore. Once it comes out, people will be like, “Oh I want to go there, I think I can do this.” Well, you can’t—it’s not there.
But yeah, going through the footage, some of the stuff people did a few years ago I still haven’t seen anybody do. Oba’s done some things that you’re not going to see—there’s one spot where the obstacle decides what you’re going to do on it, and he did the perfect trick on it. And now people will try and find that thing.
Last summer was crazy. There were things I’ve been trying to hit for ten years that I finally got to ride. One of the tricks in the video, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top. It’s like an eight or nine stair down-rail, into a storm door. That’s like what you’d always want to find—the perfect rail. What am I going to do now? I feel like that’s the grand finale for me. I’m not going to be able to find anything that makes any more sense than that.
Your white whale. How would you define this ‘street riding’ business? People are hung up on definitions a bit, but what is it to you?
I’m probably the wrong person to ask, as I kind of have a jaded view of it all, but to me, everything is street riding. It never really ends. You could be going shopping with your girlfriend, and you’re driving, and you see something—that’s street riding. Or you’re out with your homies, and you don’t even have your bike—that’s street riding. The same way businesses will go for a business lunch, and charge it to the company card, but they’re just drinking beers—it’s the same thing with bike riding.
Some riders seem to almost have a ‘riding mode’—you know, ‘put on the Etnies’—and then the rest of the time they’re doing some completely unrelated thing. In my head it should all fit.
Of course. I watched Goodfellas last night, and I must have seen that ten times, and to me, that’s like watching a BMX video. I’m thinking about the neighbourhoods they filmed it, maybe it’s got good stuff to ride in, or crazy graffiti… it’s all the same. If you watch Infamy or State Your Name, the graffiti videos, they’re on the same blocks. To me, it’s all one big street riding event. There’ll be days when I go out and ride, and my bike doesn’t even come off the ground—but that’s still street riding. It’s all one big mess, and it all works for the masterplan.
Can you shut it off?
It’s over—we’re screwed. It’s basically an addiction.
What do you think has kept you with it?
I don’t know. Some of my friends have kids, some of my friends ended up in jail, some of my friends are dead, everybody has a route they take, but with some routes, the responsibilities that come with it are a little more difficult to handle. I just have my job, and I’ve got a girlfriend, so it’s pretty easy for me to go out and do stuff.
I have friends who haven’t ridden in years, but they’ll still send me a text message, “I was just driving, I was on vacation with my girl, I saw this.” And will send me a picture of some crazy spot. And this dude hasn’t ridden in years. He doesn’t even own a bike and he’s still sending me a photo of a spot. It just doesn’t end.
You take a look at certain people… Nate Wessel, he builds skateparks. He loves riding so much, he builds ramps. Even Newrick—he sells mid-century furniture because he’s obsessed with architecture. It all fits. Style, fashion, the way shapes are… it’s something that goes a little bit deeper than just riding a bike. People love riding pools—there’s something about transition, and there’s something about the middle of America where it’s all old factories with metal ledges… it fits everybody’s psyche a little bit.
Does it come into your work at all? What do you do?
A little bit. I teach at a high school—special ed. I teach kids how to cook and home economics stuff. Survival skills. But the mentality I have with them—I advocate going on a lot of field trips, and being out in reality. This is what the world is—we need to go out and try new things. So it kind of fits with how I look at street riding. I’d rather not be in the same park—I’d rather be riding around and trying new things, going into different neighbourhoods and experiencing different cultures.
For the new video we went to Japan a few times, and then we went to the Caribbean. No one goes to the Caribbean for bike riding—they just go on vacation because it’s warm and there are beaches, but I went down there one time, and I told everyone, “There’s an industrialised city in Trinidad. Let’s go.” We went on a trip, and everybody was blown away. It was like a miniature Manchester or a miniature New York City. It changed my whole concept of where people should travel to ride.
And it’s the same as the school thing. There’s no reason we should be in a classroom everyday, we should be out in the world applying all the stuff that we’ve learned.
Do you think people are more closed off from that kind of thing now? Do kids go outside much?
It goes back and forth. Kids love video games, there are a lot of things that keep kids in the house. Outside can get kind of crazy if you’re young, but there’s also a lot of interesting stuff to get involved in. I’m not against skateparks, but to me, it’s kind of like sitting inside. You’re in a controlled environment, everything’s made for you, which is cool—but I’d rather be somewhere where anything could happen. I want to see people—see the world go by.
I like getting kicked out of spots, and cars being parked in the way, as it makes you think about it more—you have to have social skills. You gotta flex your whole mind-set, everything you ever learned, in order to make riding work sometimes. First you’ve got to find the spot, then you’ve got to make sure you’re not going to get in trouble for hitting it. I like the games you’ve got to play when it comes to all that stuff.
Yeah, making the chaos work. I think I’m out of questions now. Any wise words to add?
Nothing wise is coming from me.
A certain Chesterfield table-topper was recently heard commenting that’s it’s been a while since we did one of these articles… so here it is. Decent stuff on the net has been very thin on the ground lately, but there has been a few slabs of gold hidden amongst the digital dust and debris.
For starters, these two videos from Jake Frost are more definitely worth a watch—featuring clips from the 90East contingent, as well as plenty of larking about, tomfoolery and shenanigans. I wouldn’t want to be an old TV in New England…
Talking about Instagram and its effect on riding is a tired subject by now, but the ability to serve up a full video straight in front of people’s eyes as they ride the bus back from work is a startling development.
Whilst we’re on the subject of everyone’s favourite time-sapping app, Bob Scerbo has been uploading loads of amazing old footage into the matrix—painstakingly piecing together disparate clips of people like Gonz (the bike one™) and elusive street pioneer Wilbur Barrick, as well as sections from FBM’s The Bar is Closed.
Here’s the Ralph Sinisi/Mike Tag part from an old Ride video.
Meanwhile in Japan, this guy is grinding some very large ledges.
And finally, here’s a few minutes of prime Yorkshire cruising courtesy of Messrs Fathead and Jambul. Nice to see Jim C’s cruiser getting taken for a spin.
Much more on the way soon. Red Steps 5 is done. Addy’s new video might hopefully be seen this year. Still no word on Sandy’s video though…
The third part of Jim Newrick’s Hit the North saga is here. Just over 12 minutes of North East street riding from Cookie, Count, Clarky, Wozzy, Jim, Jambul and more, put together with a level of attention to detail seldom-seen in the often formulaic world of bike videos. The riding is fast, the music is hypnotic, and no ridable surface is left unscathed—from the world’s smallest pole jam to some colossal concrete sea-walls. Describing a riding video as ‘a masterpiece’ might sound a bit gratuitous, but the term is certainly warranted here. The Street Shark has returned.