It’s been said before, but you can tell a lot about a person by the way they ride their bike. Chaotic loose cannons rarely file their tax returns before the deadline, whilst calculated, reserved riders aren’t usually the last to leave the pub.
Matt Miller is no exception to this rule. I met him briefly on a voyage to Philadelphia a while back and can say that not only was he a smooth rider, but he was also a real smooth, courteous character, a long way from the grubby-mitted street gremlins usually associated with 20 inch wheeled bicycles.
Anyway, cutting to the chase, here’s an interview with him about Chocolate Truck 2, Philly street spots and staying suave. Crew photos by Matt, shots of Matt by Naval and Ooti Billeaud. Interview by Sam.
Going back a bit, how did you all meet?
The majority of us are from the same town, so we grew up riding and hanging out together. Steve, Joby, Reith and Swift grew up in different counties outside of Philly so we all knew of each other but didn’t start riding together regularly until I moved down to Philly.
Am I right in saying you’re mostly from a place called Levittown? What’s that place like?
Yeah most of us are from Levittown. It’s a big suburb on the northeast side of Philly. I think most people would say it sucks, which is probably true but there was a ridiculous amount of riders in our town so there was always something to do or people to ride with. I cant shit on it too much because I have a lot of good memories and friends from there.
It’s famous for being one of the first modern day suburbs. The guy who built it pioneered an assembly line method to mass produce neighborhoods, so all of our houses look exactly the same, it’s pretty bizarre. You never needed to ask where the bathroom was because all of your friend’s houses had identical layouts.
Very convenient. Are there any famous spots I’d know about up there? Who were the top Levittown guys when you were growing up?
Honestly, there wasn’t much to ride around there so we were always building little dirt jumps, DIY spots or riding manual pads and stuff like that. We only had a few real spots that we would take people too but they’ve all been torn out now. JJ Palmere is from our town and he was definitely a big influence on all of us. Dave Krone is from the next town over and I’m pretty sure he taught me how to double peg stall a quarter pipe.
When did your crew become ‘Chocolate Truck’? And what exactly is a chocolate truck?
I wish I had a good answer for that one. It came from our friend Carl Brown who had a part in the first video. We were just trying to come up with names for the video we were filming at the time and that was one of them. I can’t remember where he came up with it or what it meant. He would just shout it out after he fell or when we were all out drinking and it just stuck. It wasn’t meant to be the crew name or anything like that but I think naturally people started referring to us by the name of the video.
You’ve got a fairly unique style. Who did you buzz off when you were growing up? Have you ever ridden with pegs?
I had pegs when I first started riding. I just wanted to do my own thing instead of doing what all my friends were doing at the time, so I took them off after a year or so and never put them back on. Ruben and Mike Aitken were my favorite riders when I was really young and then as I got older it was dudes like Dave Belcher, Mark Gralla and Chase Dehart. Anyone who had a unique style or approach to riding has probably influenced me in some way.
Going onto the video… in the age of instant info, was there a reason you decided to leave such a big gap between the first Chocolate Truck video and this one?
It definitely wasn’t intentional. I moved to NYC pretty early on so it was difficult to meet up with everyone on a regular basis and film. We have a pretty big crew, so trying to get 10+ people to meet up and ride and film sections can be challenging to say the least. I think when you’ve already invested a lot of time into something it’s hard to put a deadline in place.
Old footage starts to look stale so everyone wants to keep filming to get new shit for their sections. It was always “one more summer of filming” or “one more trip here” and then we can call it. There’s a CT2 ad in one of Scott Marceau’s zines that says coming Fall 2017.
Haha—nice to build the anticipation a bit. I’m quite into the backstories behind things… are there any specific clips from the video that you’d like to explain a bit more? Certain things that the average viewer might miss?
Kev’s last clip in the video is basically at an open drug market. The city lets addicts do whatever they want in that area in an effort to keep all the drugs and users contained to one part of the city. That particular day they were doing a clean needle exchange at the park so there was a couple hundred people actively shooting up or passed out all over the place. If you look in the background you can see a lot of them. It puts things in perspective when you’re surrounded by people who are struggling with every aspect of life and we’re there just trying to film some clips for a bike video.
Job’s first line in the video there’s a huge crew of dudes drinking and smoking on their stoop. As we passed by, I pointed the camera at them and they yelled out “do that shit again boul”. Its pretty comical to me because that’s something you hear pretty much everyday when you’re out riding in Philly.
Same thing with Ry’s first clip. Ry did a hop whip and this dude in a pimp coat comes out of nowhere and just starts speaking into the camera like he’s on live TV and he starts professing his love for his girl Yasmine. Those situations are my favorite because if we had left that spot a minute earlier we would’ve missed that whole interaction. If you’re in the streets enough you’re gonna see some crazy things.
Definitely. How did filming this one differ from the last one?
When we filmed the first one a few of us were living together, so everything was so much easier. I’d get home from work or class and there would be 10 people in our house trying to ride. Now, we all have full time jobs with lives and obligations outside of just riding. Instead of riding and filming everyday we might only get to meet up once every few weeks. There was a period when we didn’t film anything for probably six months. It’s not an ideal way to make a video but in the end I think it all worked out. The video is a time capsule for that whole period of our lives.
Do you think the responsibilities of growing up make you appreciate riding more?
It’s hard to say, I think in some ways it probably does. I appreciate just cruising around more than I ever have, I don’t feel like I need to be progressing or trying something new. It’s definitely cliche, but it’s a good stress reliever for me now and something I do to clear my head. At the same time, I have so many other interests and hobbies that eat up my free time. When I was younger riding was all I wanted to do, but now I want to learn new stuff and try out different things.
Apart from the riding obviously, was there anything you were trying to show with the new video?
I don’t think there was anything that was done intentionally. All of us are motivated by finding new spots, so we wanted to cover as much of Philly as we could and showcase spots from every neighborhood. There are also way more riders featured in the new video. We had a lot of people who came to Philly to visit and we also did more traveling ourselves, so we ended up having four mix sections in the video.
Whilst most cities nowadays look pretty much the same, Philadelphia still has its own unique look when it comes to spots. How come it’s managed to maintain that architecture when everywhere else is just glass buildings and skate-stopped ledges? Are they still building storm doors or are they an old feature?
It’s one of the older, more historic cities in the country so the architecture is still representative of that. The majority of the city was planned and developed well over a hundred years ago so I think it makes it difficult for developers to come in and drop a luxury building in the middle of a neighborhood. Some of the industrial areas are getting rezoned, so you see old factories getting turned into loft buildings and what not. But even when people do renovations I think they still try to honor the classic look.
We still see new storm doors pop up on the regular. The new ones are a bit harder to ride though. They have that big spine piece that runs right down the middle. A lot of the older ones were diamond plate and the doors were flush when they were closed. Those are the best ones.
How does riding in Philly differ from NYC? Is there a different style?
I think they share some stuff in common but the biggest difference is just the layout and where spots are located. I would say 90% of the spots in Philly are on the sidewalks or out-front of peoples businesses/houses. In NYC it’s a bit more diverse. New York has massive parks and playgrounds that always seem to have a bunch of setups to ride. Philly is definitely more condensed too. The spots are closer together and it’s pretty easy to cover a lot of ground. In New York you could pedal for an hour plus in one direction and still be in the same borough.
I imagine after working away on a video for so long, it’s maybe strange to finally finish it. Is it weird not to be thinking about it anymore? Or is it just a huge relief?
It’s a bit of both. Even though I wasn’t physically working on the video the whole time, I was constantly thinking about it. Overtime I started to feel pretty burnt out and the video became a bit of a weight for me. Especially when all your friends have invested their time and energy into it and you don’t want to disappoint them or keep them waiting. It has been awesome to hear all the positive feedback from people. I’m mostly just happy that I can focus my time and energy on other interests and projects now.
I’m not really sure how to word this without sounding a little strange, but what’s the secret to being a sharp gentleman? I remember when I came to Philadelphia with Clarky and Gunn a while back you lot were all fresh cats riding easily and generally looking slick, whilst I was there with bad teeth, a mess of a bike and unwashed clothes. Where am I going wrong?
Haha, I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit. The main key is to surround yourself with friends who will ridicule you if you do or wear anything whack. They’ll sort you out pretty quick.
Another thing I remember from that trip was that you lot would ride in a huge crew. Is it the same now? What would you say are the ingredients for a Grade A sesh?
The headcount tends to be smaller now that we’re all busier but I still prefer riding with a big crew whenever possible. Whenever I look back at the most memorable days from filming this video, they always end up being the days when 10+ people were out riding. Things can move a bit slower and it’s hard to cover as much ground but the energy is unmatched. Ingredients for a good sesh are some street beers, new spots, the usual crew, some out of town visitors and good food.
Does riding with so many other people help or hinder things when you’re out in the street? I imagine the big crew makes things a bit easier when you’re in sketchy areas… but then again maybe it attracts more attention?
I would say it definitely helps in some of those situations. Philly has some pretty rough neighborhoods but we haven’t had too many sketchy interactions. You definitely have to know how to handle yourself. If you look and act like a target, you will end up being one. Honestly, the reception we get in bad neighborhoods is way better than what we get in an affluent neighborhood. Most people are excited about what we’re doing and just want to hang out and watch.
Round this off as I’ve pestered you a bit… what’s the secret behind half cabs? Is there a certain knack for them?
At the time when I started messing around with them I really didn’t see many people doing them over high stuff. I kind of just ran with it and tried to push it as much as I could. I’d say just the right speed and being confident that you’ll clear whatever you’re trying to go over. All the pop comes from the carve right before you pull up so you have to get comfortable with that too. Learning to bail out of them is pretty key since you’re probably not going to clear it on the first go.
I’ll take that advice onboard. One last question… with Chocolate Truck 2 finally finished, when can we expect part 3?
I don’t know if it will be called Chocolate Truck 3 but we are definitely going to keep filming and making videos. We all want to focus on shorter projects moving forward. Film for six months to a year and then put out whatever we have sort of thing. Long term projects can be draining so I want to focus on projects that will keep everyone interested and motivated.
Chocolate Truck 2 is available here.
OTHER INTERVIEWS: Joe Cox / Addy Snowdon / Clarky / Gaz Hunt / James Newrick / Wozzy / Steven Hamilton / John Dye / Tyler Rembold / Bob Scerbo / Lino Gonzalez / Jake Frost / Seth Ethier / Chris Reyes / Dan Price / Daniel Niles / Amos Burke / Tim Evans / Jeff Z / Rob Dolecki / Lord Leopold / Loz Taylor / Cookie
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