This interview was first published in the third issue of Red Steps. The intro is a bit outdated now as Tim is now fully submerged in high-brow London living – but the rest remains true. Photos and interview by Sam…
Fresh-faced science fan Tim Evans has lived in the Greater Manchester region for around a year now.
Unlike a lot of flaky characters who dip in once or twice and then disappear in favour of Xbox Live and club drugs, Tim has slotted nicely into our regimented riding schedule and doesn’t seem to mind being dragged out for miles into the wilderness to look at minor bumps in the pavement.
As he packs up his humble possessions and prepares to head down to the slick, non-stick surfaces of London, I hassled him for his thoughts on riding and life and that sort of thing…
You’re from Peterlee. What’s it like there? Tell us a bit about your hometown.
Peterlee, the place to be. It’s half an hour in the car from Newcastle, 20 minutes from Sunderland and 20 minutes from Durham. It’s one of these 1960s ‘new towns’.
You know what spoilt Peterlee for us? Moving away and realising how shit it is. I remember when I went to Leeds, some people were talking about rugby and I couldn’t believe people knew about sports other than football. Football is the only thing up in Peterlee.
I think it’s maybe getting better there now that people have got the internet and can realise that life goes on outside of there, but pre-internet, there was nothing there. It’s shit, but if anyone else calls it shit, I won’t be happy.
You’ve got the right to slate it. How did you end up getting into riding?
There was a pretty big scene for scally kids doing wheelies on mountain bikes, so I was like, “I need to get one of them.” I hounded my dad all year for a mountain bike and I got one for Christmas — a Saracen X-Ray 3 — and I’d just do mad wheelies all day. I did I have a BMX too, but that was shoved in the back of the garage.
In Peterlee there’s something called the Dene — these woods where people take their dogs for walks. And hidden away in these woods there was this set of trails. Although we didn’t call them trails cos we didn’t know what trails were back then.
What did you call them then?
We called them ‘the cop shop’, because they were round the back of a police station. They were dead skinny jumps, but they were pretty good. All of the sweaties used to go down there and drink.
Who were the sweaties?
I suppose you’d call them moshers. They’d go down there, get drunk and knock the jumps down — just standard yob behaviour.
Anyway, I got down there on my new bike, and I thought, “I don’t want to fall off this bike and scratch it, so I’ll go home and get my BMX and practice on that.” So I got my BMX, and I was riding down to the jumps, hopping up and down the curbs, and I remember thinking that it felt class.
One of my mates had a BMX too, but his was brakeless. I thought he was mad. There was one jump with a river going through it — we egged him on to do it for about 45 minutes, but he did it eventually. I was absolutely mind-blown.
Did you know of anything outside of the cop shop jumps?
Nah, I didn’t know what BMX was. I didn’t know it existed. Around the same time I got caught stealing whilst I was on my paper round.
What were you stealing?
A magazine for my mate. It was some horror magazine called Fangoria because he was mad into films. My mam and dad were fuming and I got grounded for a solid month. I wasn’t allowed on the Playstation and I couldn’t ride, but this was when the internet was starting to come around, so I’d just google ‘BMX’.
All you’d get was contest footage and someone called Craig Mast who had this mad full face helmet. Now it’d be totally unrelatable, but at the time I thought it was amazing.
Were there other riders in Peterlee?
Yeah, there was this other lad in my year who I didn’t really know, but then all of a sudden I was hanging out with him all the time. I had BMX friends and then normal friends. Me and him used to ride all the time, but when I got grounded, he went off and met loads of other people who rode. Then I met all them and we’d go out on tours of all the skateparks.
Do any of them still ride now?
Nah – no one does anything. They just sit in the McDonalds car park getting stoned — living the Peterlee life. One of the lads was pretty switched on, doing an apprenticeship, but he sacked it off just to get stoned all the time. Last time I saw him he looked like a skeleton. He just said to me, “I’m a man of Peterlee now.”
Did you get much grief at school for riding? What else were you into back then?
I didn’t really tell anyone. It’s still my guilty pleasure. I used to play football for the county, so that got us in with all the jock types, but I didn’t really talk much. Sometimes I wonder how I had friends.
I didn’t really drink until I was about 17. All my mates who I hung about with in school were going down the Mini Dene and getting drunk when they were 13 or 14.
Down the what?
The Mini Dene. There’s the Big Dene where people go for walks, and then the Mini Dene where people go and get stoned and stuff. I’d hang out with them, but I’d take my bike with me and do some 180s on the way home.
I remember being outside McDonald’s and this girl handed me her can whilst she went in. And I just thought, “This isn’t me.”
There’s the fork in the road. They used to call it ‘the three Ps’ – pints, petrol and pussy. People get to about 17 and sack riding or skating off. But as we can see here, you stuck with riding.
I did get a car, but that was just my ticket to go and ride more places. That’s when I started going to Sunderland and riding with Rax.
Changing the subject a bit – you’re a pretty clever guy. What’s that course you’re doing at the moment?
What’s the full title?
New Synthetic Methods. It’s finding new ways of making stuff. It’s bullshit really.
How did you get into science?
My sister was good at all the art and English stuff, but I was very black and white. I’m not cool and creative, I properly love maths.
That shows in your riding.
No, more honed and calculated. You did something recently where you were helping at music festivals checking people’s drugs for dodgy stuff. Imagine I’m heading to the main tent to watch Basement Jaxx and I’ve got a few cheeky pills with me, how are you going to check them?
It’s pretty basic. You scrape a bit off, and then you put it into this machine that shines light through it. From that you get this graph that you can use to recognise certain peaks by comparing it to other graphs.
Did you find any weird stuff in anything?
I was a bit gutted really; everything we tested was what it said it was. There was only one baggy that was different, it was just a bag of caffeine. People say about dealers putting rat poison in drugs, but it’s not true.
They had this welfare tent next door, and I poked my head in on my lunch. It was like a war-zone — I felt like Florence Nightingale. I don’t understand how people get themselves in those states. I can’t switch my sensible brain off.
I reckon that’s probably a good thing.
I’m a very average guy. I’m middle of the road. I wish I had something to talk about, but I’m content with averageness.
That sounds alright to me. Have you ever gone against character to do anything wild?
I once bought a vintage 80s adidas t-shirt, which was washed-out red with green and black zig zags across the front – like some sort of ski design. I wore it twice.
I was wearing it in Middlesbrough on this red hot day, with a jumper over the top, and I didn’t want to take my jumper off in case anyone saw me in this t-shirt. I was boiling hot all day. No one would have even cared, but I couldn’t do it.
The most interesting thing that ever happened to us was getting sectioned. It was like a holiday home where all your meals are cooked.
How long were you sectioned for?
It was for a month both times. The first time it happened I was appealing against it. It felt like I was in one of those films where the wrong guy is in hospital.
Like in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?
That’s exactly how I’d describe it. Obviously in hindsight, I had lost the plot. It was just stress, and not sleeping. I was living off one hour’s sleep a night, but telling myself I felt fantastic. I’d get really high highs and really low lows, but the highs were amazing.
What’s the high running off though?
It just creeps in. It was like going down a street with traffic lights that are all going green, so you’d drive faster and faster. It was work who realised it. I was talking to this guy in the toilets, and I thought he was Derren Brown, and he’d come to hypnotise me. They called me into the office and said that I should probably go home. And then it just got worse and worse.
What was it like when you were in the hospital?
It’s just mad. I thought it was all a big practical joke, so I was just acting up, dancing on the tables. They’d be telling me to take my medication, but I was saying, “I’m not taking that, look at us, I’m fantastic.” So they sent in these big, hospital bouncers, and they stabbed this needle in my arse. The next thing I know I’m waking up in bed.
Did you think it was some sort of set up like The Truman Show or something?
Yeah, I thought it was a stag do that someone had organised for me. Later I got sent to this secure unit in Middlesbrough, where I met a childhood hero – MC TNT AKA DJ Nitro.
In the Northeast, there’s rave music, but it’s not like music from anywhere else. It’s sort of like happy hardcore. He had his decks in his room, and one night he brought them out and we had a sesh. We couldn’t drink or anything, so we ordered about five pizzas whilst he was playing this mad music. Eventually they let me out, but on the condition that I had to take these pills.
What were they like?
They were really strong. I felt like a zombie. I was trying to go out on my bike, but I couldn’t do it. I spent a year getting weaned off them, and then eventually I stopped taking them. But then I lost the plot again.
Was it the same set up again?
Yeah, I’d not slept for three days.
How would you stay up for that long?
I’d just stay up. It felt like I was on MDMA or something. But then when I’d have these downers, it was horrible. I thought the government was chasing me, I thought my phone was hacked.
What sort of stuff do you have in the hospital? Do you have a TV or anything?
Yeah, there’s a TV, but sometimes they don’t have it on because some people think it’s talking to them. At one point I thought it was sending me these encrypted messages.
In your room it’s a pretty sweet set up – it’s like halls of residence. All your meals are cooked for you and your mates are there.
After a while it it gets to a point where they’ll let you out for an hour a day, and then a bit later on you can go out all day by yourself.
Have you kept in touch with anyone from there?
Yeah, there was this one lad who lived in Middlesborough. He was a bit of a hippy. I stayed in contact with him, and went to visit him once. His house was like a crack den. Everything in his kitchen was leaking, and he was sat there rolling a joint. It was pretty eye opening. You just see with some people that they’re lost.
Definitely. Looking around, there must be a lot of people out there with undiagnosed stuff.
I got diagnosed with bi-polar, but I don’t know where I stand with it all. I don’t want to be one of those people who just goes on about it all the time.
I think it’s good you’re pretty open about stuff. Before this turns into some sort of Albion-style affair, what are your thoughts on riding now?
If you know where to look, it’s really good. I’m getting to the point now where I don’t have to watch a video to know it’s going to be shit. I can just read the caption and I’ll know whether it’ll be good or not. I just like watching people I know.
What sort of stuff aren’t you into in videos?
Shit music. I don’t know what it’s called, but I’m not into that shit rap that’s on every video.
But you’re good at ledge riding.
I don’t like this really tech stuff. I get that it’s progressive, but I can’t be arsed to watch it. But that’ll probably die out and then everyone will start doing big gaps again or something. It just seems like everyone is doing the same thing. Although when I first started riding, everyone was doing the same thing then too. Back then it was all slow-motion intros and time-lapse stuff.
As someone who’s a bit younger, what are your thoughts on this mid-school golden-era stuff that people go on about?
I don’t get it. I don’t know what they’re talking about. The bikes look heavy. I get that they’re trying to relive their childhood, but the bikes look shit.
Maybe in ten years you’ll be hoarding Fit Eddie Cleveland frames from 2008 or something. A humbling thought. Have you got any wise words of wisdom to end this with?
I dunno — just be nice.