A civilised pow-wow with the man behind Holeshot zine, Schweppes and various other masterpieces of the printed page. Wall-carve photo by Andrew Merino.
Classic start-of-an-interview question for you here… what got you into riding? Where abouts are you from? Who were the main riders there?
I got into riding in the classic way—seeing older kids doing wheelies and 360 pivots. My older cousin would ride wheelies on borrowed Schwinn Predators and I thought he was the coolest.
The biggest turning point for me was when I went camping with my parents for a weekend in the fall, I was probably around 9. I always brought my bike to pedal around the campgrounds and this time I met these kids who all raced BMX.
I was vaguely aware that racing was a thing and even knew that my hometown (Taunton, MA) used to have a BMX track during boom BMX times. We raced around a “track” we made at the campground and that was it—I was hooked. For my next birthday I got a Robinson Rebel (and Nirvana’s Nevermind—a really sick B-Day).
I immediately started racing at an indoor track, Cranberry World BMX in Wareham, MA (they’ve got mad cranberry bogs there).
I kind of quit racing when I was 13 because it was boring going by yourself and clipless pedals started to come into play. BMX really took over beyond neighborhood wheelies and transportation when my friend Mike Ellis built a quarterpipe in his driveway.
Until I was about 17 I rode mostly with people from my hometown area. Shout out to Mike Ellis, Shawn Summers, Kris Viera, Andy Pacheco, Ryan Homer, Dan Bigelow, Brian McDonough, and all the other buds.
You’ve been making zines and putting stuff out for a while now. Why did you start? And can you give us a rundown of everything you’ve done on paper?
I think I started photocopying drawings and when I was in fourth grade. I remember being blown away at the ease of making a copy at Christy’s convenience store (RIP). I was always into art, especially redrawing logos and type (lots of drawings of embarrassing bands like Marilyn Manson—I wasn’t a goth, I just thought the logo was cool.) I can’t remember when, but sometime in middle school I made a zine called Cabinet.
I wrote ‘news’ about BMX in Taunton (there wasn’t much) and recycled photos from BMX Plus! (I had good taste though and distinctly remember using a sick photo of Nyquist at the Dodge skatepark in Columbus, OH).
But to answer your question, I don’t really know why I started. I got hooked on Dig around issue 8 (the Road Fools 1 issue) and just thought it looked cool, as well as having cool, interesting writing about shit I had never heard about (Shellac, UK BMX companies, etc.).
It seemed to make sense to start shooting photos (thanks mom and dad for the camera) and seeing what I could do. In high school I started another BMX zine, Communication? inspired by Dig and my bud Andrew’s zine/web site, Giraffe Bothers (more on that in a bit). I had access to nice Mac computers, a dark room, free film, and a sick digital printer in my graphic arts class. I just spent all my time working on that in high school. Thanks to Gary Walters for being psyched on that even though he was convinced we were faking the photos.
Rundown of everything I’ve done on paper:
Small runs of photobooks and zines during college
Take Nothing But Photographs
Strip Mall City zines with my friend Andrew Burton
Maybe missing a few?
I’ve also worked on Amigos, a press (and sometimes shop) that focuses on zines, artists’ books, and art multiples. We’ve put out 16 items over the past 6 years.
Some pages from Holeshot Issue 1.
It seems there’s been a bit of a resurgence of printed stuff around lately. Have you any theories as to why this may be?
I think it’s fun and the network you create from it is really incredible. A zine or a book is still such a nice way to get your work into a lot of people’s hands. The big art book fairs help too.
I also think people realized that while the internet is this amazing global network it isn’t going to totally replace things like seeing a band or a DJ live or visiting a museum or holding your friend’s zine.
In an e-mail you mentioned something called Giraffe zine. What was that?
Giraffe Brothers. It was a zine and web site by my friend Andrew Burton. I loved it so much. He made fun of local heroes, shot great photos, and posted about interesting things outside of BMX. It really opened my eyes to this world beyond pro BMXers. Not to mention the fact that you could be an adult but still do cool stuff every day.
I met Andrew when he took a photo of me at the best indoor skatepark ever (Skater’s Island). He published it on his web site and then we became friends. It was so simple and casual how we met, but him and his brother Dan totally changed my life. That sounds like hyperbole but it isn’t. I didn’t have an older sibling and Taunton, MA was kind of dead culturally. A lot of my friends stopped riding or were starting full-time jobs and school. I started going to Boston any weekend I could and we would just pedal around riding amazing spots and eating awesome food. I honestly think of those guys as my older brothers. I wrote about them and tabletops a few years ago on this site Clicked BMX but it looks like that site is down.
What other riding zines are you into? And what non-riding ones do you like?
I’m into any BMX zine even if I don’t like it. BMX zines I’m into though would be Scerbo’s Scrappin’, my bud Matt Gaspar’s zines Hang’n Brain and your zines (not just saying that). I try to buy any BMX zines that come out. I’m admittedly not as interested in BMX media as I used to be though. I just think it is cool that people make anything—they are contributing because they think they have an opinion or an idea. That’s a nice thought and is just inspiring.
For non-riding zines, I like Jocko Weyland’s Elk, my friend Daniella’s redrawn copies of magazines like US Weekly and Sports Illustrated and this guy Kevin in Chicago has a cool publishing project called Nonporous. I like a lot of the stuff he puts out.
Quite a few new zines just seem to be printed out tumblr pages… just photo after photo with nothing to read or no extra sauce added. Do you think people should put a bit more effort in?
Bahaha. It depends, that zine Elk I mentioned before was kind of like Tumblr before Tumblr, just a bunch of cool shit aggregated from different people and sources. It’s a nice collection. And I love photo zines or at least have fallen back in love with making and looking at them. There could definitely be some extra sauce added though—there’s so many cool options for printing, binding, format and paper selection.
I liked that Schweppes thing you did recently. There’s a standout bit hoiked from ol’ Spike Jonze in there. Do you reckon Spike ever wishes he could cast off the shackles of fame and bust out a boned-out backside-boneless on a dusty flatbank again?
Thanks. It was fun to put together a BMX zine again. I would imagine anyone who could make a backside boneless look as cool as Spike did in that photo you are talking about would wish they could be transported back to that time. Tough call about casting off the shackles of fame though, dude probably lives a pretty cool life even I don’t really care for his stuff now.
Maybe Sofia Coppola’s portrayal of him in Lost in Translation would be more reason to swear off fame?
The aforementioned Spike Jonze photo. Photographer unknown.
Bit of a dweeb question this one, but I’m interested… how do you go about putting together your zines? Is it mostly laid out on a computer or is there some real life collage in there too? Where do you start? And do you fear the blank page?
I basically use only a computer now. I used to do a lot of scanned text and I still think that can work but I’m just really interested in learning how to manipulate computer programs similar to how I manipulated other old, slower technologies—like photocopiers. I feel like a tech bro saying this but the possibilities really are endless on a computer.
I wasn’t formally trained as a designer so I just try and use search engines to find tutorials on things I’m trying to do. There’s not much real-life collage in Schweppes or anything I’ve made in a while.
When I start I usually just do the tedious part of going through tons of photographs and collecting source images. Like for Schweppes I scanned a lot of images from a Greek sculpture book—there’s no real reason other than I liked the images. I also lifted some scans of some other modern/minimal art I like from Noguchi, Anthony Caro, and Mies Van Der Rohe.
Then I started clicking around in the program and experimenting. I spent a lot of time with some subtle layering—I don’t think I’d actually like making a painting but I like the idea of layering like a painter on the computer. And, no, I don’t fear the blank page, it’s fun.
Why do you think there is such strong correlation between people who make zines, and people who do footplants and wear vans shoes?
BAHAHAHAHA, unreal question. Not sure about the correlation. I was into punk and hardcore and Vans were a fashion staple in that scene that worked well for BMX. Maybe that’s it? Or just being a little too steeped in nostalgia? The footplant thing is a tough one. Maybe cuz people who make zines are kind of into punk or hardcore and in turn kind of into older BMX and skate photos and see cool footplant photos?
Desktop surf shot by Coleman Lopes.
What are your thoughts on all the people whinging about ‘the state of BMX’?
I think it is annoying. I’m guilty, but the best part about BMX is that no one needs a history lesson and there’s no rules—kids can do whatever they want. There’s some straight up offensive stuff going down but it’s fine, kids are doing what they want just like kids did what they wanted in the 00’s. It’s easy to look at the past with rose-tinted glasses but people hated on so much shit in the early-to-mid 00’s that is ‘cool’ now… e.g. Ratboy.
I do know that I hate ‘kids these days’ rants and comments on these Instagram accounts from the mid school like ‘so and so rode like a man’, or ‘knew what he was doing’. That stuff is just so annoying. People don’t have to like every aspect of BMX and no one is going to come after your prized tabletop.
I sometimes think a lot of interviews with people who ride often forget to talk about the actual riding, so to combat this… what’s your favourite trick? And what was the best riding sesh you’ve ever had?
My favorite tricks are wallrides and tabletops—I know, real surprise. I have been having so much fun finding new lines at concrete parks. Also, I’ve been into pedal grinds again lately—they feel so good. I don’t really do that many actual tricks but if a jump feels right I would actually take limbs off and do my only cool jumping trick- a one-footed tire grab.
The best session is really tough. I’ve had some of the best sessions riding Wilson skatepark here in Chicago. I’m embarrassed to say, but at 30 I’ve spent full eight hour days there in the summer. It’s right next to the lake so you can go jump in and come back and ride. It’s great.
I think the closest I can come to having a ‘best’ session ever would probably be a full-day spent riding with Luis Pinzon. He’s a doctor and when we both lived in LA he was doing his residency so he had crazy hours. If he had a full weekend day off he would send you a text the night before telling you to be at his house by 8am and the day was planned—a SoCal skatepark tour fuelled by Coors Light tall cans, the Hypnotize Minds music catalog, and burritos. Then he’d make you drive his FJ Cruiser home while he sipped a Heineken from a gas station soda cup.
I just went to Austin for the first time this winter and even though I was not in a good mental state I had some great sessions, largely due to my friend Matt Gaspar’s humor.
Table snap by Paulo Cabral.
You live in Chicago. Have you ever bumped into bald-headed crooner Billy Corgan or the child-like scamp Brian Kachinsky?
I’ve never bumped into Corgan, although I think he has a tea room or something in the North suburbs. I see Kachinsky a decent amount. He’s one of the nicest guys and does a lot of awesome stuff for BMX in Chicago. He’s a class act and not afraid to bring a shit-load of hot dogs and a case of Old Style to a skatepark BBQ for everyone’s enjoyment.
Considering Chicago is a pretty big city, I don’t really know much about it. Can you tell us a bit about it?
It can be depressing in the winter but luckily I have interests other than BMX. The main spots for me are the cement parks: Wilson and 31st St., and the trails, the Garden. I like cruising around the streets from time to time and also riding Grant Park which is the new plaza. I’ve only ridden it once but it was at night with a load of good friends and a lot of beers flowing.
There’s loads of other good stuff to ride if you feel like driving an hour or so- places like Willow St. trails (big shout out to Quaggy) and 4Seasons in Milwaukee has one of the best indoor bowls I’ve ever ridden. There’s a solid crew here and the bike shop Let’s Roast just re-opened so you can always head over there to meet up with people. It’s a good scene.
Outside of riding I guess it’s like every other major city- easy to see art and music events. During the summer it’s sick cuz you can just go for a quick bike ride to swim. I’ve never lived in any cities like that before. It’s cool how pumped people get on summer here- it’s really good, the vibes around town are just amazing. People seriously get amnesia in regards to how bad the winters are.
The art stuff going on is cool and I enjoy checking out that stuff especially when the weather is off. Chicago has a sick music scene and I don’t take advantage of it as much as I could. Every sort of underground show is happening- hardcore/punk, dance music, rap—anyone can find a really sick niche.
What are your thoughts on riders who don’t have outside interests? I often feel this is quite dangerous and might be the reason so many riding videos are really rubbish.
Part of me loves that when you are like 16 or 17 you can be so one-track minded and obsessed with one thing, I know I was like that with BMX. I was just talking to a friend about this the other day, actually. I think that obsessive, BMX rat attitude is awesome and sometimes I’m envious of friends in their mid-20s that still feel that way.
But part of me wishes I would have chilled a bit when I was in high school—I wish I had run track or played more basketball—I mean it all works out but what I’ve realized now is that the key to longevity with anything is making sure you don’t burn yourself out. I’ve done that—by the time I was 18/19 I was ready to put more energy towards college and art and I became super absorbed into that for a while and then burnt out on it.
But right now I think I’m finding that perfect balance of activities outside of BMX and to answer your question—yes, I think it is dangerous. Outside interests help you not see the world in such a bubble and help you recognize that while BMX is this amazing thing (sorry, not trying to get too circa ’03 Dig emotional), it’s kind of stupid and useless too. And you’re right, it breeds an echo chamber where videos, clothes and the lifestyle look exactly alike.
With that said, there’s times when people just blatantly rip-off outside influences and think it is new because the audience is BMX. Or they rip-off outside influences and feel like they are pioneering something—like introducing BMXers to ‘beautiful Swiss design’ and it just seems self-righteous and condescending.
Am I right in saying that you also do a radio show? I always thought that would be a laugh. Have you got any tips for making it in the wireless world? And do you do phone-ins?
You are correct, although it is internet only. I’m a librarian at an art school here in the city and they have an internet only radio station. It is super fun and the internet only thing was helpful in getting over any broadcast fears.
I don’t really have any tips other than if you have any interest, seek out a local radio station or just do a podcast with your friends. After a good show you get an awesome feeling—it definitely pumps endorphins into your system—kind of like a good BMX session. I haven’t experimented with phone-ins but I have the capability to do it. I want to.
I think it’s funny that although loads of new technology has come along, people still listen to the radio all day. Why is the radio so good? And what songs get the best reaction?
I don’t know why people love the radio so much. I like it a decent amount. I usually listen to news in the morning and in the afternoon, depending on what I’m doing. As far as music on the radio I usually save that for my car. I think the fact you don’t have to pick something or make a decision- someone is doing it for you certainly helps make radio interesting. The best reaction was the southern hip-hop show I did. Lots of interactions via the chat and social media. As Paul Wall would say, “I got the internet going nuts.”
Okay, I think that’s all I’ve got. Have you got any wise words to finish this with?
One time I read an interview with Shaun Butler and he said if you’re stressed about something, just think about two weeks away—everything will probably pass by then.
Get Nick’s latest zine here.