Interview: Bob Scerbo

Seeing as Big Bobby $kerbz has just finished his new masterpiece, now seemed like a sensible time to hassle him via e-mail for a cobbled together interview. Read on to find out Bob’s thoughts on big subjects such as America, the internet and dog food.

Photos courtesy of Bob. Interview by Sam.

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Okay – first question… how come you met Bushwick Bill? 

He is around town sometimes. Usually a mess. He was wasted and came in to my job to borrow money from this girl I work with so he could get a cab. Hahah.

Unreal. Where are you living these days? It seems like you’re always dotting around different places.

I live in Austin. I spend long periods of time here but when I can make it happen I do hit the road for long periods of time as well.

You must have seen a fair amount of the United States now. Without getting too political or anything – what are your thoughts on America these days?

I have seen most of the country in my lifetime and my thoughts on America now are very similar to how I felt about my country when I first attempted to travel it and learn about it back in 98. It is a massive union — 48 connected states that have very little to do with each other, other than we pay a tax that we constitutionally don’t have to, to the same centralized, extorting government.

I look at the nation as many different countries with their own identity and culture. That was the original goal of the land and a majority of us Americans are still decent, humble, hardworking and respectable people who have the same values that at one time made America the blueprint for a progressive society.

I just hope people realize none of us real Americans endorse or care about the ass clowns who get chosen to be the voice of our nation. And that is not just in actual politics, I mean that in all aspects from the government to music to riding.

We may have created shitty radio rap music but we are also responsible for creating something as great as Gangstarr. The same goes with our food, art, culture — or for something more relatable to whom ever is reading this — our riders.

You could easily judge us by our lame exports but you should focus on our great contributions. Ratkid, Joe Rich, Garret Byrnes — they are all Americans. It’s not just shameless internet behavior.

Also I consider Alaska and Hawaii America. I didn’t mean to leave them out, they just are not easy to drive my mini van to.

Do you think you’ll ever ‘settle down’?

I’m always half way settled down but I doubt it would ever be fully. I can’t do that, I need the road. If I did it would be a desolate beach town. Possibly near Galveston, the Outer Banks or Atlantic City.

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Are there any places in America you still want to visit? 

Alaska is the only state I have never been to so that is the main place, other than that all the states west of I35. I have not gone that direction in a while, I usually go back to Jersey when I travel.

What’s that van you drive around in? How many miles are on the clock?

2002 Toyota Sienna. A little over 150,000 miles. She is still young.

What are your top three overlooked towns in America?

The whole place is overlooked minus the major cities on the coasts, Texas and Chicago. I really like Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin. I like smaller satellite cities around major cities as well, I usually like those better than the actual city for riding purposes.

The new video has the title ‘Paracosm’. According to Wikipedia, a paracosm is a ‘detailed imaginary world’. Can you elaborate on this a bit?

It is just a word I was drawn to when I came across it, its application to the video can be interpreted in many different ways but I think it’s very fitting to the subject matter of the video. The video covers a lot of years of travelling the back roads of the country and at times it was very surreal.

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The video was made over the last three and a half years. Is it nice not being involved with the riding ‘industry’ and having ‘deadlines’ and stuff? And do you think some things are too rushed?

I was never too involved in the actual industry, I was just heavily involved in a company. But to answer your question it feels great to be away from that, especially right now. What my old job turned in to is just an embarrassment to the culture.

I can’t say things are too rushed, I just feel most things have bad intentions.

What camera was it filmed on? Do you care about things like that?

I filmed the video with a Canon T3i and a super 8 camera I bought at a garage sale in Louisville in 2001. I care that I like what I am using, but in no way do I think a certain camera ‘keeps it real’. Someone who does interesting work can do it with whatever tools you present them.

What’s your favourite clip in the video?

The lady giving me ‘the finger’ when I ride past her, all Harley’s clips and the ender. It was an epic moment in street riding history.

I often think that riding videos have too much riding in. After 40 minutes of tricks – my mind usually blanks out. I’m not really sure what my question here – but do you think it’s important to include other bits in the mix?

I don’t think any of it is important, any format can work when done well, but in my old age I can’t really watch too much riding without losing interest — mostly because I can’t really relate to the content.

I like documentaries, books, records and things like that. I am not the target audience for most BMX content and I am fine with that. I like being an older guy, I did my years in that realm.

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What are your thoughts on riding videos at the minute? 

I don’t have any thoughts on them to be honest, there are so many that I barely get to see any of it. The stuff I make a point to seek out I really like, I think there are lots of great things happening in riding that get overshadowed by the bad if you just rely on the internet as the tool for watching.

If you mean as a whole, as in what do I think of the entire spectrum? I think most of it is pointless garbage, the same way I feel about the entire spectrum of everything I love. That is what makes the good ones good, you need trash to compare it to.

What videos suck?

I don’t like things that try and sell me stuff and I don’t like videos that make people look like they are in a band or are doing ‘work’. Riding is supposed to be pleasure, not always fun, but done for pleasure. That whole ‘trying to make it’ shit sucks and in turn it makes a lot of videos suck as well. I like videos that document riding, not projects that try and produce content to compete with other produced content.

Also I don’t watch videos where ever clip has multiple cameras cutting back and forth all the time. It gives me anxiety. I also like when moving footage is done on a bike. Carrying a skateboard on your back to film bike riding is possibly the worst thing to ever happen to filming BMX.

You’ve made a few videos over the years. How has the act of filming and editing riding footage changed over the years?

It has changed drastically, but it has come full circle. I started making videos of my friends with a camera in a backpack. That escalated and it became a full time job, that is over and I’m back to riding on my own terms with a camera in a backpack. Somewhere in that time my tastes and approach to creating a project evolved.

This may not be my most productive times as far as quantity of content but I feel like the stuff I’m doing now is the most valuable. I am only working with the riders I want to. My last two major projects involved a Joe Rich part and a Ratkid part. I am happy to only be documenting the riders I find interesting.

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What do you think about the internet? Or maybe to be more precise, what do you think about people on the internet?

That’s a pretty vague question haha. If you mean the idea of what I perceive as “real life” taking a back seat to the Internet becoming real life it is completely terrifying. We are still in the early stages of it but every day it gets a little closer, I just hope I’m gone before I’m living in a clone, hopefully that has not happened yet and I am unaware of it.

Are smartphones dangerous for the intelligence of mankind? 

They are dangerous on all levels. This a wild transitional period we are living in.

Anything else Skapegoat-related in the pipeline?

Just trying to travel and ride more mostly. Hopefully lots of chilling at beaches with Harley. There is a collaborative frame coming out with T1 which seems surreal to me still. I am going to be making a video for Empire once this is fully done which I am excited about, and  there’s a few random documentary type projects in the works as well, one involving Edwin that I am excited about.

Most important is one day helping to get a T1 video done. When the time is right that is gonna happen.

I remember when we were over in Philadelphia you said something about when you first started riding – how you and George D had to put up with a lot of shit cos you rode… getting in fights and stuff. Do you think that’s still the case now for riders? Is riding still a ‘controversial act’?

I have no idea what being a rider now is like or even being a kid is like in general. I have a pretty detached lifestyle. I usually ride places and times no one is around and try to keep my distance from people.

Street riding is an obnoxious act, that in undeniable. I always try to roll in a very small group and go as unnoticed as possible. I don’t argue with security or pedestrians and leave when asked to, then just try and figure out a better way of going and riding that spot.

Was it annoying putting so much into Animal over the years – only to see it completely flip? 

It is annoying because I as well as many others were lied to. I was told I was building a job for the future and things were going well. It was hard starting back at nothing at 34 years old when I had put everything I had in to something. I had to move to Texas and work for $10 an hour because none of the skills I learned translate to anything outside of BMX. I guess it was just hard being back at the bottom again.

Things are finally a little more stable now but it took a lot to get it in order. Live and learn I guess. Never in a million years would I want to be associated with that company now. I feel bad for dudes who got Animal tattoos and shit back in the day, in a few years that shit is gonna be some goofball mall brand.

Onto more pressing subjects… does Creeper have any clips in the new video?

He does not. I haven’t seen him in years.

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What’s Dave McDermott up to these days?

I just stayed with him in Florida. He has the life. Lives by the beach, surfing, fishing and working. I envy that.

You’re a pretty handy photographer. What sort of stuff are you into?

Can’t pin point it but I know what I like when I see it. I guess I like anything that can ignite some kind of feeling in me. I also think the subject is the most important part of a photo while I think most photographers (in BMX) usually judge a photo by the technical aspect? I like photos and videos that are not shot on a set of any kind.

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What do you do for work at the moment?

I work music festivals doing bar operations. I set them up, work the bars for the duration and then tear them down. It may not sound like a lot, but obviously like most things there is much more to it. It’s long hours and more like binge-type work, but it also allows lots of time off.

Between festivals I am a barback at a music venue in Austin and I also bartend private parties and do warehouse work for the company that employs me for festivals. It is a lot of manual labor. It’s a great job and I work with amazing people. I am very lucky.

Have you got any good tips for looking after dogs?

Just give the dog the same love it gives you.

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What food does Harley eat? Do they have Pedigree Chum in America?

She only eats the finest of dog foods and she also gets a good portion of whatever I am eating. We are a team.

You seen any good films lately?

Not in a while to be honest. Over the winter I went to see Patterson by Jim Jarmusch. I really liked it, but I like all his stuff. I don’t have much time to watch things unfortunately.

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What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?

1.99 Pizza Hut buffet in Roswell, NM. 2001.

I sometimes think a lot of interviews with people who ride often forget to talk about the actual riding, so to combat this… what’s your favourite trick? And what was the best riding sesh you’ve ever had?

Wallrides and grinds. I like airing stuff too. I can’t really recall any particular session but places I always loved riding are Whiteboy’s ramp, T1, Asbury, City Hall, Reading, Bushwick circles, Capital Inn Pool and JC Junk Spot to name a few, lots more places as well.

Any times at those places seem great in my memory.

Final questions… have you got any advice for anyone attempting a well-popped 360-degree bunnyhop? And have you got any advice for life in general?

Try not to get old, it’s much easier when you are young, that applies to both questions.

Paracosm, the new Skapegoat video, is available now from Central Library now.

Read an older interview with Bob here.

One thought on “Interview: Bob Scerbo

  1. Pingback: Bob Scerbo Interview - The Come Up BMX

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