This interview originally featured in the first issue of Red Steps a year or two ago – but seeing as Wozzy says some pretty good stuff in it, I thought it was worth whacking onto the internet for the cheapskates to read.
Interview and photos by Sam.
When did you start riding?
I got attracted to BMX through a friend showing me a Props he had borrowed off a school mate a couple of years older than us. It was the video with the Jay Mirron interview. I got a VHS pirate copy of the same vid, The Last Resort and I think FBM The Bar is Closed, all on one vid.
I had to save my dinner money up, sell a 2.2 cock-down air rifle and just save for ages. The rider who was older was into flatland and influenced a lot of the local kids to buy a flatland style set up. This was around mid ’98. I bought a KHE Cosmic complete. It was okay; the brakes felt good and I was slowly picking up scuffing tricks when one day I did a peg manual and mastered the balance point for over eight or so car park spaces.
That moment felt amazing and it clicked that this hobby was what I wanted to carry on doing.
Who was the Chezzy flatland dude you mentioned? Does he still ride?
He was a tosser but he was older so we kind of went with what he did. The only serious flatlander round our area who solo-sessioned the car parks with head phones listening to The Deftones was a creepy guy called Warren. He was from Alfraton, the next town down from Chez. He looked like the spitting image of the wolf-like dude with ginger hair on the The ‘Burbs who you see sheepishly collect the newspaper and he had a baby blue Standard Shorty frame.
When the Chez BMX posse went to the 1999 Southsea King of Concrete, we drove down in an old Peugeot 205. There were five of us crammed in, including Dawson, the driver’s, new mate Warren, who we hadn’t met before. On the first day he hung round the flatland area whilst we rode round the park not getting to know him any better because of the divide in bike disciplines. We had been at the park all day and we raced back to set the tents up at some quiet coast-side park up.
We rode to the car and waited for Dawson—we thought he was walking back with beers or summit. While we waited for him Warren just lay on the gravel next to the car door and slowly shut his eyes, we all thought he was going to sleep so we started covering him with empty chip trays, empty cans and any litter close by. His freckle face went pale and he looked fragile, we didn’t know where Dawson had got to or know much about Warren. He just moaned he needed his gear in the car but the door was locked.
Dawson turned up after visiting a chip shop. We just said, “Your mates gone funny and won’t get up.” It turned out Warren was diabetic and had an insulin kit he needed pronto before a sugar crash/diabetic accident happened.
Dawson quickly got it out and Warren got himself sorted out. It shit us all up a bit. Thinking back he must have hated us covering him in rubbish.
He was meant to be pretty good at flatland. Think he could do deathtrucks, hitchhikers and the top links for the late 90s. The last I heard about him was he drew a detailed biro illustration of himself doing a flatland move and he gave it a girl he fancied.
Who were the top Chesterfield riders growing up?
There have been a lot of good, interesting people in BMX around Chesterfield. There was a Sky satellite dish fitter called Tony Searston. He was amazing on BMX and board, he could ride dirt, ride vert, 360 anything and had the skill of bailing off a bike and not getting hurt.
He was also heavy into skating vert. The one thing what sticks in my mind was down the local skate spot, the AGD, he did a hand plant up a tree stump. It looked next level skill.
The other ‘top rider’ was Greg Staples. He was first person I saw do a turndown and have style. He worked as an artist for the comic book 2000AD and I think he’s quite big time in that industry now. He wasn’t about on the scene for long.
What are your top three Chezzy spots past or present?
Gray Hill jumps were fun. Dronny track and Piccadilly jumps too. There all long gone. There’s a fabrication firm and every year or so they make some silos and lay them outside so you can ride them as full pipes. They’re fun for around two minutes. Unit One skate park was okay. That’s long gone. Tupton School was a mecca for flat banks but got knocked down too.
The AGD was the town’s hot spot for all skaters and BMXers to meet up and ride. It was a huge post office building with steps, ledges and a covered area. It had a bit of a raw, Zammo vibe to it and sketch Chez people would pass through in the evenings for interesting viewing. That got knocked down too. Pretty much all the decent session stuff has gone but there’s set ups and things I know what individuals would take a liking to.
I’m also trying to build some cement spots and give some areas new life.
Considering you come from a small market town, you’ve got a definite John Cardiel thrash style. Where did you cultivate this style? What videos did you enjoy watching in your formative years?
Maybe the same dress style, but defo not the same skill level. Probably just my style hasn’t changed for a bit, my wardrobes pretty dated but it’s what I wear—same stuff from years ago.
I’d say video-wise I like watching old vids I grew up watching. I still buzz on Castillo’s sections from Primo, Bmx Inferno, Nowhere Fast and his others. I like the old FBM video, The Bar is Closed, the old Seventies vids with the Dan Price sections and Nails in the Coffin. Start to finish that’s mint, it’s just my era.
I do like watching Cardiel but if you’re talking top skaters I enjoy watching Peter Hewitt. I’d probably rather watch him than half the new riding material coming out.
Have you ever been tempted to wear a sexy cyber goth black mesh vest like your fellow Chezzy shred-artist Louis Slater?
Nah, no piss drunk style clobber in my collection. Might get girls though if I borrowed his white ‘80s Madonna-era leather waist high jacket.
Do you own a Chesterfield sofa?
No, slept on a few though.
In Voices 2 you do a gap off what looks to be a scenic dog walker’s path. Can you talk us through this day?
I think it was half an hour of peer pressure talk off Joe Cox and Newrick. It was a shit run up launch over a path. I could’ve done with a Cannondale full-sus for the run up. I went for it, ate shit and as I pushed back up some Dutch drongo kid said to Jim, “His he going to die?”
I did it but for the effort the output wasn’t worth the stress.
Influenced by Gary Byrnes, you’ve travelled the world in search of BMX raditude. Can you run down some shit travelling situations you’ve been in?
Most of the places have been decent in some way. I’ve not had too much bad shit happen except maybe having Manthrax in Vancouver where I was getting dizzy spells and couldn’t do much. Might have been all the nitrates in the beer?
I had a shit time in Barcelona. We’d been out drinking and we got back but one of the riders came back later and let a hooded Rasta ghoul in to the apartment complex on his way through. I had the cold kitchen tile floor as a bed so didn’t sleep well anyway. Some tapping woke me up and in the moonlight that same ghoul shadow man was trying to break in through the window. I got up and shouted and he jumped away into the dark.
It spoiled the trip for me. I was always double checking bags and locks while the others laughed about it and enjoyed their soft mattresses.
Have you got any Matt Wakefield stories you’d like to share?
We were in Poland at a late bar and the cleaner was asleep waiting for the bar to close. She was sat on a chair with her head up snoring. Wakey had bought a hot dog. He walked in next to her, got the whole sausage and dropped it in her mouth. It went straight down like a sword swallower. She choked and coughed a bit but didn’t realise from being asleep what had happened.
Who is the Hungry Caterpillar? When was the last time you saw the Pill Witch?
Hungry Caterpillar is a nickname for an Aussie bird I met in Rotterdam that wore a green dress that hugged her curvy over-size body like the shape of a caterpillar.
Pill Witch is the nickname for a girl who has the same resemblance to the head witch off the film The Witches. She’s got the same posture, long fingers and wig, and dabbles in Playstations and Mitsubishis.
What is a Teddy Bonk? And what are your thoughts on the current Teddy Bonk/Ted Danson Wallride toilet gremlin style that is sweeping the nation?
A Teddy Bonk is just a phrase we used for going up a higher curb fast without hopping and letting the curb bump up the back wheel. Not sure where teddy came from, maybe ‘cos it’s a kid move you do before you can hop. The ‘Ted Danson’ wall rides are fun. Ruben’s still done the best one on the T1 train trip where he transfers from one to the other.
What are your thoughts on Jim Newrick’s vast array of jackets?
It must take a lot of space up in the bag taking five jackets on a trip, but some of the jackets in the collection look bang on.
What is the coolest thing you’ve done on your bike?
Jumping a spine was an achievement for me. Getting my head round jumping over into the same landing was a task. Spine mini should make a come-back, that’s where BMX control’s at.
What is the coolest thing you’ve done off your bike?
Wheelie a bobcat?
Any thoughts on your good pal Tyrone Williams?
I was impressed with his use of a bottle top as an ash tray for his chill stick—hardly any waste ash.
It seems that when a lot of riders reach 30 they sack off BMX in favour of road cycling or pootling around the Yorkshire Dales on rusty motorcycles like the policeman from Heartbeat. Why do you reckon this is?
Don’t know, is it just age progression? Work/family commitments? Body can’t handle it? Is it the new buzz—taking phone pictures of a bike carb, new import craft ale IPA and good-find vinyl and putting these pics on social media, being stoked off ‘the likes’ in favour of pulling a trick?
You used to work at a coal mine until it closed down last year. How come it closed down? Are there any coal mines left in England now?
My last pit Hatfield shut due to no demand for the coal. There’s tons of reserves in the UK and even though the coal might only travel a few miles from the mine to the power station, it’s cheaper for power stations to import from places abroad like China, Columbia or Ukraine instead.
The buyer will go to the cheapest supplier, and UK mining couldn’t match the price of a ton of coal from abroad. It’s the end of an era I’m glad I got to be part of. There are no deep mines left. Big K (Killingly Colliery) was the last to shut at the end of 2015. There’ll be opencast sites and coal reclaim tips still in operation though.
Have you ever thought about making a mining-themed BMX company?
No, but it would be cool. Some phrases and names sound good and old logos would make a good source for frame stickers. Pit-vests and net shorts would be good and maybe kids chewing tobacco and sniffing snuff could be an alternative to the green veg health sludge jam jar drinks.
Continuing from the last question, what would you call your signature frame?
The Dosco Roadheader. It’s a machine used underground in the headings—would make a good bank robbing tool.
Nowadays you seem to work all over the place. Where’ve you been working at lately?
I’m mainly sent out to cement plants and quarries in the Peak District, repairing and maintaining parts of the job, from pre-heater tower blasters to digger mud-flaps. It’s interesting to work on these sites but it’s not like the coal industry.
On an unrelated subject, you once met Ruben. How was he? Did he vibe off your style?
We shared the same deck on a spine mini. We didn’t speak, I snuck a couple pics of him though. I’m sure I saw him in Malaga too. A guy pulled up on a moped next to us all looking at a mad, never-to-pull, rail. I caught him lifting his helmet visor up and watching us all from a distance, his eyes were the same as Ruben’s. A couple of minutes passed while he was parked up. I could tell he was smiling, thinking, “Hahaha, they don’t know I’m Ruben under the helmet but I’m watching these English fools struggle to find decent street spots.”
Only I seemed to notice him. I knew it was him—he kind of looked at me with a glaze of Spanish mystery, sat on a clapped-out moped—he nodded to me and drove off.
Who’s the best rider you’ve seen in real life?
Seen loads of amazing riders from friends to ropey estate kids in Chesterfield but the one man who was choice and I couldn’t stop watching was Jerry Galley at South Sea KOC 1999. Glad I got to see him— just fuelled my interest in riding double.
What ingredients make a good session?
A large rucksack equipped bike-tool mule who takes picture or films with strong back for carrying all the mule’s own tools for the rest of the gang, plus an extra media kit, all the spare tubes, double barrel foot pump, Allen keys, 17mm and 15mm spanner, the top boy’s large San Miguel cerveza glass bottle, Airfix model, spare pegs and their Professor Green street level veteran kagoule for just in case it rains in the hose pipe ban dry season… and not forgetting to squeeze their pack lunch in to add to the pack lunch tuna mayo sandwich they didn’t eat day before.
You know quite a lot about wild animals and various rare birds. What good creatures should I keep an eye out for?
Not many people know this past time of mine. Bird spotting could be the next chapter if my back never gets better. As for spotting wildlife, maybe for an easy start look for a hawfinch, a lapwing snipe or a nut hatch, and if you want to see quality nature style, spot a goshawk or a peregrine falcon.
I think that’s all I’ve got. Have you got any words of wisdom to pass on?
Not really, I’m not the advice master. Don’t expect to learn turndowns in a day and if a girl looks good in her work clothes she’ll look even better out them.