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?
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, thesetwo 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.
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.
Bob Scerbo has uploaded his latest masterpiece onto the world wide web. Most people who lurk on this site will probably already have a copy of this sat on their shelf, but for those who don’t… drag yourself out of the Instagram worm-hole for a while, pour yourself a refreshing beverage and press the play button post haste.
Bogus awards like ‘Video of the Year’ are obviously pretty naff and mean next-to-nothing in the real world, but this mixed-media meander around the lesser-spotted corners of the United States was perhaps one of the most enjoyable videos to come out last year… and whilst it’s maybe too early to say, it’ll probably stand up to the test of time more than most.
The humble grind has come a long way since the day man first realised he could slide his trusty freestyle nubs on coping, and despite the best efforts of killjoy architects and town planners, few surfaces remain unpegged. One of today’s foremost practitioners of the grind is Seth Ethier—a chap from New England with a penchant for Butcher grinds and mathematical rail/ledge configurations.
Seeing as we’ve just managed to get a few copies of Seth’s new video, Today I Got Time, here’s an interview with the man himself about obscure grind set-ups, the world of real estate and food.
Photos by Kyle Richards-Connolly, Javaun Crane-Bonnell, Hikaru Funyu and more. Interview by Sam.
At a time when complex algorithms feed us clip-after-clip of zappy kids in zany attire zipping around damp prefab skateparks, it’s important to remember that out there in the real world, people dressed in regular clothing are making full-length videos that you wouldn’t be embarrassed about being caught watching.
The City Wide Awake, a recent release from Louisville’s Phil Bossmeyer, is one such video. Documenting a few years of zig-zagging across the USA, it’s a most relaxing watch—and the perfect visual sorbet to cleanse the palate after a few minutes of shameful Instagram lurking.
Here’s some video parts that mean something to Phil. Wall carve photo by Chris Zidek.
Back in 1960 the much-acclaimed writer John Steinbeck (and his faithful poodle) hit the open road in a customised GMC truck to see for himself the true state of the United States, before jotting down his thoughts to create the classic travelogue, Travels with Charley.
60 years later, road-warrior, dog-owner and esteemed-icepick-grinder Bob Scerbo swapped the GMC truck for a 2002 Toyota (and replaced the poodle with a rat terrier) to create an equally raw document of life in America, Vacilando (Travels with Harley), capturing the people, places and angle-ironed loading-docks that make up the land of the free.
Seeing as the video has finally landed on British shores, here’s an interview with Bob about Vacilando, America and anything else we could think of. Questions by Sam and Clarky, photos by Wozzy, Bob and Clarky.
By now it’s pretty obvious that these articles aren’t exactly ‘monthly’, but luckily everything here stands up to the test of time fairly well. Here’s a few decent bits which have cropped up over the last three months…
Cast Iron Shore is the new video from mild-mannered peg maniac Addy Snowdon. Think plans are afoot for some sort of premiere (hopefully within the next ten years), but until then, here’s a short trailer featuring a particularly potent icepick from Roper and a rare sighting of Daddy Cool himself, Matt Glover.
On the subject of phone videos… this ‘Calles Pesadas’ video from reptile-expert Zac Costa is a real treat, and features everything from dodgy looking snakes to high-speed bike collisions. Those concrete parks in South America look unreal.
Must have missed the first one, but Words of Encouragement Vol. 2 is 15 minutes of Midlands street riding from people like Sam Marsden, Gaz Docker and Mitch Atkin.
If anyone wants a raw slice of 1990s Manchester on four wheels, this Promotional 97 is most definitely worth a watch. Plenty of long town hall lines in the golden age of trousers. If you enjoy this and partake in the Instagram world, you might want to follow Manchestalgia for more old gems.
Sad way to end this, but thoughts go out to friends and family of French street pioneer Thomas Caillard. This video from 1999 is one of the all-time greats. There’s a pretty good interview with Thomas in this issue of The Albion too. RIP.