An Interview with Tyler Rembold

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Riding is a pretty small-time affair, and whilst some lucky souls seemingly get away with cruising about without a backpack, relying on others to dole out inner tubes and media duties, one of the benefits of the lack of money and industry amongst 20-inch wheels means that people actually need to get stuck in.

Just as Dennis Waterman liked to write the theme-tune, sing the theme-tune, AND star in the television show, a lot of today’s finest riders also take photos, make videos, print t-shirts and generally do whatever else it is that goes into creating a ‘sub-culture’.

Louisville’s Tyler Rembold is a prime example of what I’m rambling on about. Not content with grinding a large percentage of America’s handrails, he’s also made countless full-length videos and regularly puts together zines of his well-composed photographs — all the while working as a fully-qualified pharmacist.

Seeing as we’ve just got our hands on his new zine, now seemed like a relatively appropriate time to collar him for an interview. Read on for valuable insights into Kentucky, handrail design and snacks…

Photos courtesy of Apedog, Chris Zidek, Phil Bossmeyer and Kaleb Romero.

You’re from Louisville aren’t you? Outside of the fact that Will Oldham comes from there, and there’s that big concrete park with the full pipe, I don’t know much about Louisville. What’s it like? What are the local delicacies?

Yeah, I grew up in Louisville. It’s a pretty small, culturally Catholic town with a few big buildings. The music scene is pretty good, if a band doesn’t come through Louisville, they usually come to one of the handful of nearby cities.

Louisville is kind of to Kentucky what Austin is to Texas, and as it grows I think the likeness becomes more apparent. Almost every time I go back it’s a little different, Louisville has been growing and changing pretty rapidly. I don’t think the Ville has any staple dishes or anything, but there are a lot of local restaurants worth checking out. The Post, North End Cafe, and Ramses’ are some of my favorite spots.  

What’s Luscious Lee Wade up to these days?

Ha! I’m not too sure to be honest. I haven’t seen him in years now but as far as I’m aware he still lives in the south end of Louisville. The last I heard he’s still making Shitluck gear and is pretty into motorcycles.

Is Kentucky classed as ‘the south’ of the USA. Is the South that much different to the North in the U.S. these days?

Yeah Kentucky is considered the south, and I definitely think it has its own feel. Louisville is a little less conservative and feels more like the Midwest to me, while the rest of the state is even slower-paced and fits the southern stereotype a little better. Although the internet certainly helps speed communication, it seems like cultural progression and social change still creeps inward from the east and west coasts.

Kentucky isn’t really much of a hub for anything besides bourbon and horse racing to my knowledge, so it seems like it’s a bit behind sometimes in that regard. The United States is just so big, I think anywhere with so much physical distance between regions is bound to have a large variance in ideas and feel.

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Are there many KFCs in Kentucky? 

I don’t have concrete numbers, but there are plenty haha. I’ve heard that Colonel Sanders is actually buried in the cemetery near our local bike shop in the Highlands although I’ve never bothered to investigate.

Very interesting. Moving onto riding stuff… when did you first get into it? Was there something in particular that set you off?

Like most people, I just started jumping off little ramps and dirt jumps that we’d make in the neighborhood. Probably around 5th or 6th grade I got a proper BMX bike and stumbled onto more and more BMX media. I’d ride with kids in the neighborhood or from school until they got into cars, girls, drugs, or whatever else, and just rode by myself after that for a while. Luckily I had a quarter-pipe at home and my dad would take me to the skatepark all the time.

Once I got a car and could venture a little further out a little more often, the older heads in the scene welcomed me in a bit more. Once I started riding with Phil and Jordan Stump on a regular basis I started to feel like I actually was a part of riding, and that we were exploring and traveling and doing all the stuff I always hoped riding would lead to.  

What videos and stuff were you into back then? Who were the top dogs around Kentucky when you were growing up?

Can I Eat?, Voices, Wide Awake Nightmare, Faded Glory, and Forward were some of the first real videos I got ahold of.  I’m really thankful to have grown up in Louisville during the Shitluck/Metal Bikes era because there was always cool shit going on. Jimmy Levan, Ryan Metro, Derek Gabbert were some of the legendary cats that had done a lot of the crazy stuff around town. Beforehand and for quite a while after the skatepark got built, Louisville had a healthy scene full of mad talented people floating in and out.

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Where did the nickname ‘Kid’ come from?

I was the youngest in the crew at the time, Phil made that one up and it stuck.

It all makes sense. Why did you start taking photos? Is it something you’ve always done?

I got my first DSLR when I was 16 or 17 just as a way to document the stuff my friends and I were doing. My love for riding was (still is) probably borderline obsessive, and shooting photos was just another way to immerse myself in it. At that time having a camera was still a bit of a special thing, and I think it would motivate us to ride and explore more often.

Coercing people into going strange places for the sake of riding is always a little easier if you can provide a little souvenir that might outlast the buzz of the experience itself.

What makes a good photo? Are there certain things you find yourself always photographing – and other bits you’d avoid?

I think my favorite photos are the ones that really capture what the moment was about. Some of my favorite photos are probably shit from a technical perspective. Obviously things that are properly lit/composed/timed can be a little easier on the eyes, but I don’t think those things alone are enough to provide much emotional arousal or attachment.

I usually just shoot whatever is going on around me, mostly riding stuff. I’ve been shooting a lot of shows lately too; that’s been different and fun.  

You’ve just made a new zine, and you did one last year too. It seems like more and more people are making their own stuff. Why do you reckon that is? 

I think the death of the big corporate riding magazines is probably a big motivator for people to make their own stuff. I also think the internet and social media can push people to create tangible media as well. I think magazines (and videos) probably used to be more functional; they were the fastest way to get the latest information.

Today, zines and full-length videos are anything but that. I think since social media now carries the bulk of the ‘news’ responsibility, tangible media has more room to be lo-fi, personal, and relatable.

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You make videos too. Is it hard to do both? Especially when you’re riding too? Do you sometimes there was three of you – one to ride, one to film, and then one to snap the photo?

I think I’m the happiest and best version of myself if I’m a bit overwhelmed honestly, so I like working on multiple projects at once. The instant gratification of shooting a photo helps balance out spending year or two filming a video project.

Although I wish my camera bag were weightless, carrying it around is worth it. I’m such a nerd for nostalgia and my memory isn’t great–I’d have a rough time trying to stop documenting everything after doing it for so long. I’m sure one of me in the squad is plenty for everyone else, but yeah the desire be in all three places at once is hilariously spot-on haha.

What are your thoughts on people who go out riding without a backpack? Is it bad etiquette?

In certain scenarios I could see how you could debate that it is, but nah I’ve never thought of it like that. I almost always ride with a camera bag so I want to live vicariously through the rest of the squad’s unhindered peg chinks and curb cut tucks.

Where do you live these days?

I moved to Denver right after I finished school in 2017 just to switch things up a bit. The scene here is more underground than a lot of bigger cities, but it’s really healthy. There are mad spots and a ton of people to ride with.

Sounds good. How come you’re always travelling around? And how come Americans don’t mind driving huge distances?

There’s just so much stuff to see, and I can justify going most places if riding is involved. I really like acquiring pictures or experiences in my head to attach to names on a map too. I think it makes it a little easier to understand people, and sometimes puts things into perspective more. I’ve also noticed that every time I go somewhere, I learn about 10 other places I also need to go.

You and Phil came over here to England a few years back. What did you think of it over here?

That trip was awesome. That was only my second time out of the country, so I was as wide-eyed and excited as ever. Phil is the best person to travel with, and Dave’s hospitality was the best. Going to Sheffield and seeing all those spots from Voices and Tomorrow We Work was a real treat. Manchester was really sick too. There’s something really comforting and exciting about being so far away from home and finding people that are just hanging out and riding and doing the same shit you are.

I’d love to go back, I just have a hard time revisiting places when I know how much stuff is out there that I still haven’t seen. I’d still like to spend some time in London since that place seems like it’s own thing and the spots look incredible.

A few years back you made a video where you did 100 handrails in one morning. What was going on there? Was that in a college campus or something?

Haha that started out as a joke between Rob DiQuattro and I.  If I did a hundred mile road bike ride with him, he’d do the handrail century with me. I made this big map of the “route” of handrails that stretched from North Boulder to South Denver. The idea was feasible, but barely. One Saturday we didn’t have other plans, so Rob and I and our other partner Ben Linschoten decided to get it done.

We pulled up to the very first rail at UC Boulder campus, all almost ate shit on it, and then got kicked out. After that, the scope of 3 people grinding 100 rails each and filming it all really set in, and I was the only one still interested. Lucky Ben and Rob were still down to follow me around for a few hours. With just me doing it and them filming the whole time, it ended up only taking about 3 hours. We actually got it all done on that campus, too, which was way easier than if we’d had to drive from spot to spot.

What’s the technique for not being terrified of rails? I think it’d take me all morning to get the courage to do one rail.

Oh, I’ve been terrified of rails my whole life haha. That said, grinding rails is something I’ve always wanted to be able to do; so I just try to grind them a lot so that the fear stays manageable. The beauty (and the horror) of it seems to be that most are pretty reasonable if you just stay calm and commit.

That makes sense – I think the lack of rail regularity is my issue. As someone who has done a few handrails in his time, have you noticed specific patterns or types of handrail occurring? Is there a ‘brand of handrail’? Who makes these things?

Ooh I could ramble on about this one for a while. Yeah there are definitely specific shapes and categories of rails, I nerd out on that stuff. It’s pretty common for whole campuses or even neighborhoods to use a common theme, maybe just with pitch or length variations. It’s cool to find the unique shapes that don’t fall into the common categories though.

Chris Zidek and I went on a trip around Illinois a few months ago and he showed me some sick ones. Joliet had this one that was a standard square, but it was welded into the uprights with the vertex up, so it was like a diamond.

Peru had a cool one too, it’s almost a shotgun rail but the pipes sit just barely far enough apart so that modern tires don’t get stuck in there on feebles. The sick thing about that one is that there’s a replica (but just a little longer) in Indiana that we rode a long time ago. It’s gotta be the same people that made both of those.

I’ve never researched who actually makes handrails, but I bet there’s an industrial catalogue that architects or urban designers use that has all the stock ones in there; it would be so sick to look through that resource if it exists. Learning the proper names of the common kinds and using them in practice would be really funny too.

I bet the people behind these banisters don’t even know how sick some of their creations really are either. Moving on, what ingredients make a good session? And do you have an all time ‘greatest sesh’?

If you have a bunch of partners, some treats, and a new spot or area of town to explore, it’s hard to have a bad time. I could never pick just one session, but a ton stick out. One really good one that I remember was in Lexington, KY. I think I was with Phil, Jim Bossmeyer, Stump, KDD and Rob. They were riding this rail to ledge setup with a gross run-up. Stump fell off the ledge into these bushes one time that were as tall as he was, and Phil wrangled the whole setup and threw the bars out even though he couldn’t really barspin before that moment.

I think riding alone so much when I was younger makes me really appreciate the social aspects of riding now. I’m definitely trying to see how much I can get away with on a bike, but I think just being out there, exploring, and kicking it is really what’s good.

What are your ‘go-to’ snacks whilst you’re out riding?

I’m always trying out different backpack food regimens, and I’m guilty of pulling strange things out of my bag trying to stay fed. Lately I’ve been running overnight oatmeal a bunch (good looks Derek), but I’m a treat fiend at heart. I can’t turn down ice cream or most other forms of processed sugar.

Oh yeah, you’ve got to be able to enjoy life. What do you do for work?

I work part-time in a retail pharmacy. Basically I just check prescriptions from doctors and make sure they’re reasonably safe and effective before getting the medications ready for patients. The school was hell, but my job now is dialled.

What’s a normal day like working as a pharmacist? Do you have any good stories from there?

Its pretty fast-paced most days, and there are enough oddities sprinkled throughout to keep the time passing. One time this huge lady in a T-shirt and underwear came in and perused shampoo labels for about and hour and a half. After she got bored with that she walked away, and I heard later on that she climbed onto a counter in the front of the store and started twerking until she got kicked out haha.

Sounds like a lovely lass. Have you got any wise words to end this with?

Just thanks! I appreciate my parents, family, and all my friends so much. If I got crushed by a bus today I couldn’t really complain.

Tyler’s new zine, Cheers, is available from Central Library now.

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