An Interview with Gaz Hunt

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This may be a controversial statement, but it might be said that not many people truly enjoy going out and riding. They might enjoy riding spots, or maybe filming a clip – but for many, the actual act of going out for a long day of aimlessly mooching around with only a slim chance of finding something worth riding seems like a painful experience punctuated with various pathetic cries…

“How much further is it?”

“Is this what we’re riding?”

“Should we just go to Nando’s?”

Luckily, Gaz Hunt is not one of these whingers, and seems to thoroughly enjoy scuzzing around the various towns and cities of the North, un-phased by damp pavements and the endless trudge.

Maybe he’s just easily pleased?

With the ink now dry on his magnum opus — a hefty tome of high-action riding shots and David Carson-esque design trimmings by the name of Nowster Issue 5 — here’s an interview with him about photography, classic UK skating and rope-bridge hijinks.

Interview by Sam and Clarky. Photos by Sam.

Sam: Since the last interview I expertly conducted with you, you’ve ditched the linear cable and reattached the stunt nubbins – what caused this?

Gaz: I’m pretty sure the pegs were back on the last time you asked me some questions; your options are limited enough on a dark and damp Tuesday ride after work without making life harder for yourself. Riding without pegs is all well and good for Dan Price and Newrick and their massive pops, but when you’re saddled with a more humble leap you need to dress it up a bit. The brake came off shortly after the pegs went on.

I’m not quite ready for semi-retirement, breakfast clubs and over 30’s nights just yet, I’ve still got a while longer in the gutter yet. Plus barspins wreck with a lever on.

Sam: What else has changed since then? Owt or nowt?

Gaz: Pretty much the same as it was then, trouser waist has increased and now wearing XL t-shirts out of necessity rather than aesthetic but still in the same job and still getting out as often as I did. Not one for change.

Sam: Moving onto more pressing matters – how come it took you so long to make your new zine?

Gaz: I’ve wondered that myself! There are a couple of things that have contributed to it taking so long. Firstly, after the last zine I made I ended up changing cameras about a year later. Whereas before I’d been using a film camera along with a Ricoh GRD point and shoot I decided to get a digital SLR with fisheye, flashes and the works. Looking back on the previous photos there was no real zest, as you might expect from a point and shoot, so I decided to scrap them and start again.

Secondly, I’m easily distracted. I’ll often set out with good intentions of doing zine stuff but having Youtube’s inviting algorithm at your fingertips is enough to derail even the strongest of wills. It’s not too bad when it’s throwing up music suggestions as you can still carry on working but it isn’t long before I’m sifting through Harry Redknapp anecdotes or hour long Gazza documentaries.  At the end of the day though there’s no rush for this type of stuff, a photo of Tommy or Wozzy will still look mint whether you see it three weeks later or three years.

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Clarky: What are the origins of the name The Nowster?

Gaz: It was the name of a closed down pub in Middleton, a town nestled in between the not-so-cosmopolitan boroughs of Rochdale and Oldham. Despite the un-hip settings, I always thought it was a pretty cool name that wouldn’t look out of place as the title of some finger clickin’ early R&B record.

I also like the idea of the NOW as far as riding is concerned, there’s far too many riders looking back with rose-tinted specs on previous eras of BMX. I’d rather focus on the present.

Sam: You’ve spent a long time sorting out the layout and stuff – do you think things like this are overlooked a bit with riding? Is presentation important?

Gaz: The proof is in the pudding I suppose, you’d have to see it to decide whether it was worth me putting in the effort. Generally speaking though BMX has never struck me as something that encourages creativity, there are pockets of good stuff going on but the majority is fairly bland. A lot of it comes down the type of person that picks up a BMX in the first place, you only have to look at Instagram and the current pastimes of people who used to ride to get an idea. Deadlifting, fellrunning and rock-climbing don’t exactly scream creative flair do they?

Also with riding, especially for those younger just starting out, comparing it to skateboarding for example, there is so much more cost involved with having so many parts to buy. The knock on effect being that less money is available for clothes, music, etc and the focus instead is often on parts and repairs. I’ve never known any skaters make their own trucks but I know plenty of cranks who’ve made their own bike parts.

“But BMX isn’t skateboarding,” is often reeled out – but when I started out the way that UK skateboarding was presented through Sidewalk and the likes of Blueprint was a lot more relatable than the racing/motocross aspect that came with riding. Seeing someone skating in a normal grey jumper and blue jeans round the back of B&Q seemed a lot more accessible, not to mention cooler, than someone in a race jersey blasting a tabletop across a Californian backdrop.

In our small pocket of riding though it’s never been better, whether it’s Clarky’s vids, Jim’s vids, Red Steps, Addy’s vids, Skapegoat, 90 East or anything else that people are peddlin’, the aesthetics are constantly being refined. It isn’t about making it look like skateboarding, it’s about making it look good.

I’d like to put it out there that I don’t think of myself as in any way artistic, in fact I’ve no idea about any of it – I’ve just given my opinion on what I’ve seen elsewhere. Do as I say not what I do.

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Sam: There’s quite a lot of references to old record covers in your layouts and stuff in your new zine – mostly from the jazz and soul realm. What sort of stuff are you into when it comes to smooth sounds?

Gaz: Most stuff I listen to I’d describe as the African American voice from 1955 to 1990 haha. Loads of Motown, northern soul type stuff, early R&B stuff like New Breed/ACE record releases, Bobby Womack, Clarence Reid, that sort of vibe.

Never really hit it off with rap/hip hop though.  I go through phases of listening to other stuff – German/Dutch techno recently – but I always come crawling back to what I know best. The jazz references like Reid Miles’ Blue Note covers are purely for the aesthetic with a bit of a nod to the old Stereo ads, the music itself I can take it or leave it. Maybe I’m missing something but I like something with a beat and preferably a start and end.

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Clarky: The new zine you made has some mint photos and you’ve made every page look like an advert. Have you got any favourite photos or ads that influenced it? 

Gaz: There are two Blueprint ads that stand out, one is Colin Kennedy with what I think is a 180 to fakie crook on a ledge and the other is Mark Baines with a f/s noseslide with a yellow t-shirt and yellow Koston 2’s. Not only are they mint photos but they make good use of graphics and wordplay which adds to the buzz.

Notable photo mentions go to Pete Hellicar’s ollie through a smashed advertising sign, Dan Rees’ crooked in Manchester with a SUMO sticker as a belt and Mark Baines’ nollie over a postbox. There are loads from that era though, the old Stereo and Alien Workshop ads, Metropolitan, Zoo York… there are too many to mention.

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Clarky: I know you’re a big fan of British skateboarding from a certain era and you skated before you rode. What drew you to it in the first place and what do you like about it so much? 

Gaz: I’m not sure really, I’ve always preferred things that celebrate the ordinary. In my case that was cracked pavements, bad weather and un-skateable rails, plus growing up in the dark days of Manchester City it was also natural to root for the underdog.

Sidewalk and the British skate scene did an amazing job of celebrating what was going on over here rather than just rinsing American skate stuff and I guess I just really bought into that. Compare that to RIDE UK at the time which was filled with berks in chest protectors riding vert at Southsea — it was completely un-relatable.

Clarky: Do you ever think of rider/skater comparisons? E.G. I thought Brian Castillo rode a bit like how Ricky Oyola skated, maybe it was the Metallica song choices and the light wash jeans. I always thought you had a Colin Kennedy (the Scottish one) flavour going on. Have you any of your own ideas on this complete nonsense?

Gaz: I’ll take the Colin Kinetic comparison cheers, not sure I’ve quite achieved his level of nonchalence but it’s something to aim for. I always thought Jambul was a two-wheeled Chewy Cannon, the baggy sportswear would make Tom Penny the obvious comparison but I think Jambul has the nifty quick reflexes of Chewy as opposed to the Penny daydream steeze.

Another comparison off the top of my head is Wozzy with his all hail the Chezzy Cardiel approach to riding. Not sure skaters are thinking what BMXer do I ride like though, maybe we just think about it too much?

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Sam: I presume they’d all like to ride like me. Since I’ve known you you’ve always lugged a camera or two around. How did you get into taking photos?

Gaz: We were never really an artistic family or anything like that, no piano lessons or painting going on but my Dad had done a night course in photography when I was younger and he was patient enough to try and explain how it all worked. It was almost as soon as I’d started riding/skating that I felt like we should be filming it or taking photos of it. Not because we were any good but it’s always good to see yourself and your mates having a buzz.

My mum and dad bought me a VHS-C camcorder whilst on holiday one year in Lanzarote – some excellent footage from that holiday of mum cooking tea and me pointing the camera at our Jono until he got annoyed – and from then on I carried a video camera around with me whenever we’ve been out.

It wasn’t until about 2008 that I started taking photos more than filming. After we’d finished Attention Stalybridge, Clarky carried on filming everyone, Sean, despite taking amazing photos, wasn’t out as regularly as the rest of us and Will had moved to Bristol. Being the weirdo I am, I began to panic that there wouldn’t be anyone taking photos of what was going on and so ditched the video camera in favour of a snapper.

Sam: Do you think it’s strange that some riders aren’t arsed about taking photos of other riders?

Gaz: Yes and no. When it’s something you’ve always done, similar to how some people will always bring a bag out and others don’t, it can seem strange that people aren’t bothered about recording it. My mum isn’t setting up flashes when she meets a friend for coffee so it is perfectly feasible that someone doesn’t do it when out riding. Yet riding isn’t an ordinary act and deserves to be captured and presented well, even if nothing comes of it the person taking the photo will have the memento and likewise the rider.

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Sam: I think with most photography stuff you’re usually trying to make things look better than they are. What are your thoughts on low-end iPhone and damp looking 35mm snaps that make things look worse?

Gaz: The format itself doesn’t concern me too much it’s how they get used and presented that make it look rubbish. Instagram is all well and good but it’s too focused on the singular image, with a page layout you can make use of other images, photos and text rather than the instant splurge.

The mid-school movement is a strange one as they hark back to their glory days when it comes to bikes, parts, clothes and tricks but why do the influences end there? Maybe the reason it looks as good as it did is because someone took the time to learn about photography or filming as opposed to just standing there with their phone out.

Sam: What are your thoughts on mad technology with riding photography? I know you’ve recently harnessed the powers of remote flashes – but can someone go too far? 

Gaz: I think it comes down to what you’re trying to capture in a photo and where your influences are coming from. Just like in riding itself, progression is normally only viewed as being able to do more, it doesn’t seem as though much consideration is given to whether using a drone or or some other new fad will actually make the riding look any better. It doesn’t.

When you say ‘mad technology’ I’m really just thinking of someone who uses more than a basic SLR camera and the odd flash, which isn’t too common in our small circle. A lot of that stuff tends to be used in photos/videos aimed at making riding look appealing to people who don’t ride – your Britain’s Got Talent montage of lowest common denominator riding that’s great for the C.V. type stuff.

Call me a dinosaur but the style of photography that I aspire to had been set in stone by about 1999 by the likes of Wig Worland, Oliver Barton, Ed Doherty, etc. I’m not interested in some wacky conceptual piece with mirrors or some breathy Scottish reservoir riding that looks like a Volvo advert, all that is required is a solid style, decent clothes and a bit of zest.

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Sam: A photo is usually only around 1/250th of a second (or thereabouts). What goes on each side of that mere snippet of time? What doesn’t the camera show on an average autumn day in the north of England?

Gaz: An average day would be either a Tuesday or Thursday evening riding town after work and meet up at the Town Hall with the ever presents Sam, Clarky, me and occasionally Leo or up until his move to the Big Smoke, Tim. Sit off there for a bit, think of where to ride, it’ll probably look like it’s about to rain, find somewhere to ride and then it will rain, take refuge outside Sainsbury’s with a chocolate bar and a bottle of Heineken.

This I imagine would be fairly underwhelming for visitors to Manchester looking to get there fix of raditude but I wouldn’t change it for the world apart from the rain. Loitering in the cold with your mates is very underrated.

Sam: Why do you think you stuck with riding when a lot of people didn’t?

Gaz: I can see why people don’t. I hold myself personally responsible for Matt Coram no longer riding. It’s supposed to be fun, but when you’re being hounded by me to come out, then when you do, you’re being made to ride miles in the cold to something we “might be able to ride” or forced into trying something you don’t want to, it’s no surprise they don’t bother anymore.

People come to a bit of an age crisis with riding, firstly around 17/18 when they get a car and all of a sudden start driving around the local village rather than riding, and then around 27/28 – uni is done, you’ve a full time job and a missus to keep happy and now being seen by workmates out riding is a bit embarrassing. Time to find a grown up hobby.

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Sam: What are your thoughts on the current trend for riders to get into big American motorbikes and craft beer in little cans that tastes like ear-wax?

Gaz: Ridiculous! Former EMO boiz now all of a sudden ultra-masculine sons of anarchy goons. Give up riding because you get laughed at but instead start zipping around with a big beard and a leather waistcoat? Much cooler, mate.

Clarky: Bit of a controversial one, but why do you dislike the video Nowhere Fast?

Gaz: It just looked too hot haha. I was fully in the grip of UK skate realism at the time (still am) and this vid was there with smooth white ledges, orange desert dust and people watering their trails. Imagine having to water trails! I really liked the Castillo and Mike Ardelean sections but it says nothing to me about my life.

Sam: Bit of a change of subject, but you watch quite a lot of television. Which is your favourite family on Gogglebox? And who are the worst?

Gaz: The brother and sister from Blackpool and the two lasses from Leeds who are always scoffing are the funniest. The loud, obnoxious Greek family from Brighton are by far the worst.  Can’t stand them, even find myself thinking about how annoying they are when I’m not watching it.

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Sam: Yeah that lad with the long hair is a proper gimp. This question is stolen from an interview in Tom Pimlott’s new zine, but the answers he got were pretty funny so I’m nabbing it for this. Have you got any good stories from your family holidays you’d like to share?

Gaz: Good question! Not sure it’s funny, it could’ve been harrowing had it not turned out fine but it’s a story. The Hunts (me, Jono, Mum and Dad) were in either Majorca or Mallorca for our annual two week summer holiday, I reckon it was about 1996 as I can remember my Dad telling me whilst sat by the pool that BMX was just another of my fads and I’d soon get bored with it (who’s laughing now, Dad! Ha). I must’ve been 11 and Jono was 8 and, not content with diving into the pool from the edge, we’d spent the first week mithering my mum and dad if we can jump from this rope bridge that took people across to an island feature of the pool.

No, was the answer to that but spotting a weakness when Dad had headed into the old town to watch the football we started to mither mum. Eventually she gave in if we’d give her a bit of peace and off we trotted, smug as you like, to the rope bridge. The technique was to jump from the bridge walkway and kick your legs up high enough, over the rope fence and into the water. No problems on the first few jumps but this was when, as usual, I got a bit bored and decided to ramp up the risk a notch and swung the rope higher as Jono jumped over.

The next few minutes after were complete chaos, Jono’s ankle got tangled in the rope and was left dangling from the bridge with his head in the water as I was frantically trying to pull him up. Screams went up as dads, mums and lifeguards piled into the pool, some fully clothed, to free him from the bridge. There was even a plastic sun lounger floating around the pool which must’ve been knocked in during the panic, all whilst I was stood on top of the bridge hoping Jono wouldn’t realise it was me who caused it. He was freed and he did know it was me; the dreaded wait until my Dad returned back to the apartment felt like a lifetime and isn’t something I’d like to relive. Neither is the good hiding I got.

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Sam: Haha amazing. You’ve had a few ‘food-phases’ over the years, and seem to get heavily into a certain type of chocolate bar for a few months before moving onto something different. What does your diet consist of at the moment?

Gaz: The diet is as terrible as it always is, I’m in the throes of a sugar addiction which only seems to get worse. Managed to kick the Chocolate Orange a day habit but it wasn’t long before I’d moved onto big Galaxy bars. A lot of it is down to boredom and routine, if only I could get into a routine of eating carrot sticks or summat.

Sam: I think we’ve rattled on for long enough here now. Any final thoughts or wise words to end this with?

It’s better to wear extra layers that you can take off later if you’re too warm than it is to be too cold and have none to put on. A pearl of wisdom from my dad that I’ve always followed.

Get The Nowster Issue 5 here.

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