Interview: Steven Hamilton

This interview was first published in a zine called Red Steps. It was conducted via trans-Atlantic e-mail back in October, 2015. Some things might have changed since then, but whilst I’m not sure if Steven still delivers cleaning products for a living, I’m pretty certain he’s still a snappy dresser who understands the key elements of freestyle.

Photos by Brenden Sullivan, Michael Rausch, Steven Hamilton, Debbie Hamilton, Scott Marceau and Ted Van Orman.

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What’s a normal day like for Steven Hamilton?

Monday through Friday I wake up around 6, drink coffee, look at my phone and then get my girlfriend up around 6:30. She cooks me breakfast and packs my lunch. I leave for work by 7:40 and have a nice drive up to work listening to music. I check my route and have my van loaded by 10, then drive around delivering janitorial and car detailing products.

During this time there is absolutely NO looking at spots or thinking about riding. At 5 I’m off work and I’ll have something in mind I want to ride. Hopefully have someone to meet up with.

I read somewhere that you now work delivering burritos, how have you adapted to working life?

Yeah that was my first job I got when I had to get a job after riding. It was actually pretty good. I kind of knew it would be good having a schedule and everything, but I put it off doing it forever to enjoy not having a job for as long as I could, because I knew it’s something not a lot of people get to do. That job was cool — I rode this Japanese bike I found with a basket around delivering Currito burritos on campus.

For the most part it wasn’t a bad job and it was nice actually having some money and somewhat of a schedule, although that job was just part-time but I’m working full-time now at my new job.

Do you like burritos? Did they give you free ones sometimes?

Oh yeah those burritos were real good. It was Currito — the curious burrito — they had burritos from all over the world. Mediterranean burritos… Asian burritos… Indian burritos… it was super good. I got them for half off but then I would make them real huge and only pay for half of a small, so it would be like $3 and that is a big enough meal to get you through the day.

And we made smoothies so when someone ordered a smoothie — like say they ordered a small Berry Blitz — I could make a large and then just drink the difference myself.

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What other food do you like to eat?

Other food I like to eat is of course pizza and Philly cheese-steaks. I also like yogurt a lot. I normally have two yogurts a day, one with oats and banana and honey after I load my van at work, then a key lime one when I get home from work. I’ll have a banana at work a few times a week too.

For dinner I’ll have left over spaghetti or I make some tacos… or possibly a frozen pizza… or I get an Italian sub from somewhere.

Going back to the beginning… when did you realise that you were better than most people at bike riding?

I actually knew (or thought, I guess) I had some special power from the very beginning. It started when my dad was asking my brother if could make a U-turn in the little paved alley we had behind our house when we lived on base at Camp Lejune in North Carolina.

My brother couldn’t do it then my dad was like, “Let’s see if Steven can do it,” and I did it no problem. I realize now I was probably about two feet tall so my turning radius was much smaller than my brother’s. But in my head, that made me feel special, and I thought, “Hey, I’m good at riding bikes.”

But when I really got it in my head that I had a talent was the summer after my fifth grade year in elementary school. This is when everyone was getting GTs and Dynos, and in this new housing development, they were getting racing Haros with the bent top tube. These were rich kids but a lot of their dads were into motocross and cars and stuff. Anyways they were a year or two older and they were organizing races in the undeveloped house lots.

It might have been that whatever gearing I had on my Interceptor was real good for me, but I could get the holeshot in front of all of them every time and they would just be like, “Damn you are really good dude.”

Where was the hot place to ride in Ohio when you were growing up?

Great question — growing up, from elementary school through to the beginning of high school, it was this spot called AMA. Westerville, where I grew up, was a virtual BMX paradise but AMA was this old dirt bowl back in the woods.

I went there in third or fourth grade for the first time and it transformed from a dirt bowl/jumping spot to a full blown race-style trails spot by the time I was in tenth grade. Then we started going to Chenga World and going to other towns to ride street at OSU campus and stuff.

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Who are your top three Ohio riders? What made them good?

This guy Jimmy Kleoudis — he’s been there from the beginning and he was always a big digger back at AMA. He is the best at flow and style with no bullshit. Him and Mike Rausch are my age (well Jimmy is one year older), but the fact that I have been riding with them since the beginning and they still rip so hard and keep a spot and everything is really motivating and inspiring — and the skillz they have on a bike are unreal.

I look up to Nate Wessel a lot too because I know he still rides hard and I think he has a super original street style that kind of blended snow, skate and motocross.

Have you got any exciting stories about Can I Eat era Steven Hamilton?

That whole time was such a blast because that was when I first started drinking too. So a lot of that stuff I filmed I was just hungover for the first time and not knowing what was going on. Something that comes to mind for some reason is going to one of those Harry Buffalo party things and throwing up red stuff all over this girl’s apartment, then waking up the next day there and feeling really bad about it.

We were supposed to leave for Binghamton at ten for a La Revolution or something and these guys were waiting for me and I’m like, “Man, I gotta clean up all this mess I threw up.” So I’m spraying it with Clorox bleach and everything then I run home and jump in the car and we drive out there and that’s when I filmed that pole jam to 180 off the square green pole jam.

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When you were busting manoeuvres for Can I Eat, did you think little geeks like me would be asking you about it over ten years later?

I knew that the stars were coming together real well for that video part but I don’t think I was able to comprehend any more than three or four years into the future at that point.

Whose cruiser are you riding on that clip on All Day?

That was my Federal cruiser Ian Morris sent me when I rode for Federal when he was still with them.

Here’s something I’ve often wondered… what do professional bike riders do all day?

When I was a professional rider, I drank a lot of coffee, skated a lot, rode a lot, drank a lot of beer — I mean A LOT OF BEER — and bought  CDs and stuff like that. That was about it.

Where abouts was that weird sci-fi roof spot you rode a bit back then?

That was a great spot. Well, it still is but I’ll probably never go back up there. That’s the roof of the basketball arena at Ohio Wesleyan University. We used to go up there pretty regularly and session it actually for a while. I’d love to go up there again I actually used to want to try to barrel roll or backflip it.

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Another standout clip is that set of stairs you fly down in that Orchid video. What was going on with that one?

That is this ‘rule of threes’ thing I had at the time. If I thought of something, then one other good thing made it sound like a good idea — and then if one more good thing made it sound right then that was a sign to do it.

I had been thinking about jumping a huge double-set. I had done a few and they had always gone well every time I tried one — I was high due for another. Then I saw that one. That was the perfect size, and that combined with the fact I had been thinking about trying one, well that was only two.

Then when I saw the roll-in, coming down the hill with the grass gaps so I didn’t have to pedal, well that was three. That was a sign, it was meant to be.

That makes sense. Why didn’t Federal sell those posters you made with all the swastikas on them? One of my mates ended up nabbing a few when he was down at the warehouse… he said they were just shoved in a drawer.

That is funny — I always wondered what happened to those. I was just trying to be an artist and convey what I was feeling at the time so I was just drawing myself as a demon with swastikas and stuff, not sure why — that is just what was in my mind — wild times in my life.

What do you think of England? Have you ever been to Manchester?

No, I’ve never been to Manchester that I know of. In my mind it is a town north-west of London but I could be very wrong very easily. I’ve pretty much only been to an airport in London, Hastings a few times, Romford skate-park, the spot with the brick quarters up near there, Brighton for a quick day and another town I can’t remember for a Backyard Jam.

It’s an experience over there that is for sure, but yeah I like it. It takes some getting used to but I know there is some real legendary spots and parks there I love to ride.

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Taj or Joe?

Taj is like, my all-time favourite rider. Joe is so great too. Joe still rides so that gives him extra points though. Not that I can hold Taj not riding against him — there is nothing he can do, but maybe he just went too hard.

I think Taj is the most bike control badass with downside whips and everything — it is BMX to me as good as it has got.

Which riders suck?

That is a tough question — I guess the only thing that comes to mind is kind of hard to explain but, say someone who sees riding as something to be. Like, “Hey, I don’t know what I want to do with my life, I’m good at riding, I’ll make myself a BMXer and be sponsored.”

It’s like, I don’t know — someone like me can’t do it now because you want to do it just because you can and you don’t even have your own style or do your own tricks. You just all do the same tricks and don’t do anything interesting and only do it so you can put “Pro BMXer” on your IG account because you think it makes you something, when you are nothing but someone making it so real riders can’t be sponsored because you need to somewhere “cool’ to fit in.

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As well as being good on a bike, you’re also pretty handy on a skateboard. Which skaters do you like? Have you ever done a handrail on a board?

Thanks, I get a lot of joy out of skating and the better I get the more fun it gets. I like a lot of skaters especially ones who can ride like bikers and just cruise and not mess up and can catch air — it’s awesome. I have not done a rail yet, but I could boardslide a four or five stair if I really wanted too, I just can’t really ollie very high. But that would be boring.

There is a rail I have been looking at skating for about ten years, it is just barely out of my comfort zone, so if my ollie gets a little higher in the next five years it could happen and it will be great. It is an amazing rail but I also might try to bean plant to boardslide it.

It is high enough to rack real bad on and it curves to the left and is about 30 feet long. It is a real thin piece of vertical steel so it would be a horrible rack. The thing is they added two stairs to the top of the original stairs but left the rail where it was so that is why it is so low to get on.

What happened to DisguiseDisguise?

My old blog? It got shut down for some reason. The same thing happened to my Youtube channel. I’m not real good about getting a hold of Youtube or Blogspot to see why or get it back so I don’t know.

What is the best bike move you’ve ever done?

I’ll just say just alley-oop in general. Any stuff I do alley-oop just feels the best — it is my favorite feeling in the world, how you just float backwards and come in and land so smooth.

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Who do you ride with these days?

I’ve got a revolving list of people I can get to ride with depending on how much effort I put into it.  Right now I’ve got like Mike and Jimmy, Mike is down to ride street and Jimmy for skatepark or trails. This kid Chris is down to ride street — I know him from high-school.

Chris V is down to skate and Rob St. might come along — they skate but I can ride or skate with them. Then there’s Kaleb who’s knee is hurt right now but he rips and is down to session with Luna or Matt and those guys, or I could just hit up Luna for a chill sesh.

A lot of times especially on weekends me and my wonderful girlfriend Tish will just cruise around in the car and I’ll hit spots or even drive to another town and look for stuff. Just don’t ask her to film me unless I’ve been a really good boy. Haha, she is chill though she just doesn’t like when I take a million tries — I can’t blame her. I get kind of nervous riding in front of her though but sometimes I can concentrate real good — but I can session harder when I’m riding with the bros.

If everyone watches riding videos of Steven Hamilton riding, what riding videos does Steven Hamilton himself watch?

Haha, I go through phases where I watch lots of videos, mostly in the winter and spring. I’ll pretty much just watch lots of old Props and old vids, then maybe watch Skapegoats, Animal vids and FBM vids or something like that. I’ve got a pretty good selection of old VHS’s and mixtapes and stuff.

You’re quite a snappy dresser. What’s your favourite outfit you’ve worn in a video… and why?

Thanks, I appreciate that. My favorite outfit? That’s easy, it’s gotta be the Where’s Waldo/Brutus the Buckeye scarlet and grey striped polo I had. That thing was goofy looking but I wore that with the Playboy jeans I had in Can I Eat and with these Volcom jeans I had when I won Ghetto Street.

Then I wore it with — shit, I’m not sure what jeans I had on — but I wore that shirt in Road Fools 12 when I did a huge 180 over a gap, a newsstand and a sidewalk gap and I 3’d the street in it so that shirt is the shirt I’ve done the most legendary things in by far.

Runner up is a navy long sleeve with colored stripes I had in RF 12 too — that has to be the coolest shirt I’ve ever had.

Have you ever done a backflip?

Not other than into a foam pit. I would actually never do one unless it was over a hip and a little cork-screwed, then that could be cool.

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What is freestyle? How does one freestyle?

Freestyle? That’s like just doing your own thing. It is your life you can do it however you want. If you are adding your own original style to it, you got it — Freestyle. Thinking outside the lines, pushing the boundaries, being the avant-garde, riding the front line, being in the moment, adapting to the present.

Last question… have you got any tips for young freestylers thinking about freestyling for the first time?

Young freestylers learning to freestyle for the first time? First you are going to want to gel your hair, and spike it up. Then you’re going to want to eat a bunch of blue candy so your mouth turns all blue. Then you are going to start break-dancing and drink a coke. By that time you are doing it — that is freestyle.

 

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