A couple of weeks ago, when I was celebrating 10 Years of Flatmattersonline I reached out to you, the readers of FM to ask me a question. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I sure wasn’t expecting the response I got. In light, of such a great response I decided to answer all the questions as they were all so good and insightful in some way. There are way too many questions for one part so I have split up the interview to make it easier for you all to read and digest. Without further a due, let’s get into your questions.
Valance Drakes: Explain your connection with hip hop and flatland?
My connection with hip hop and flatland is a good question Valance. At my parents house, I grew up sat in the front room couch most evenings listening to my dad play jazz, years on I was always attracted to music with jazz samples and the riffs. I grew up competing in the UKBFA from age ten, and riders would ride to RUN DMC, Public Enemy etc etc, and my dad would always say where the sample would come from. “That’s a Miles Davis sample, John Coltrane and so on”, and then we would go home and and he would play those original records, then after a while I started recognising them and understanding the artform a little bit. The World is Yours by Nas when that dropped in 94’ I remember reading in The Source it had Five Mics which at that time was so hard to get. Even on the first listen knowing that I would listen to that track forever more than most others, and it still retains that feeling like the first time I heard it and its still on my daily rotation in 2018. I think my connection to hip hop comes from my family up bringing and in terms of relation to flatland, hip hop is great to ride to and inspire your session.
Rich W asked: Who is the Rodney Mullen of flatland (in your opinion)?
I don’t think we have anyone who is publicly intellectual on the level of Rodney Mullen in flatland, from the talks he does, his originality, and products he’s done over the years. Although as I type this, Martti Kuoppa has posted this really interesting instagram around desire to succeed, and Martti is starting to reach out to riders via online coaching. So with his stature and alls he’s done and the way hes giving back, and digging beneath the surface of issues that are not talked about. Our Rodney Mullen would be Martti if I had to pick one.
Mike O’Connell If you could ride in a car park with 3 riders from throughout the years, who would would choose and why?
I’m quite a loner when it comes to riding flatland, but if I had to pick:
Kevin Jones, the godfather of flatland and one of the only heroes of mine I have never met. I feel like that would complete the puzzle after meeting Bill Neumann at BITR this year. As well as the flat session I think it would also be great to hear all the stories and pick his brains. It would nice to get the K off the list.
Sam Foakes – some of the best sessions I have ever had have been with Sam. Always a good vibe, amazing tricks would get pulled and so much laughter over the silliest thing. But I think back tour trip to Japan in 2008, and five in a row back to back in Yokohama. Mislav from Zion filmed and made a short edit, I’ll embed it in below if I remember.
Pete Brandt – I think much like Sam, whenever I have rode with Pete there’s been like a mutual respect there and I always felt comfortable riding with one of my childhood heroes. Some people say never meet your heroes as it may be a let down, but in my case it certainly wasn’t and Petes energy is contagious it would definitely make for a good session. I hear the drum n’ bass loud and clear. So needless to say, it was an amazing moment for me when Pete started a fundraiser to get me to the 2019 One Love Jam. What an amazing gesture.
Freestyle_tactics on instagram asked: Who do you think are the next top 5 riders to watch out for in 2019 and why?
I am presuming you are talking about contests, there are always sponsors to throw in the mix in order to be factor in the top 5 as you might not be able to get to all the contests so lets pretend its a level playing field. And the ground is good enough for really progressive tricks and lines (that’s a huge factor).
1. Ability wise, I would have to start with the Katagiri brothers. When Ryu Katgiri qualified first in Cologne, it was almost like people were saying “how can this guy qualify first, we don’t know who he is?! Welcome to the future my friends”. Ryu does some of the craziest back wheel links with so many subtle switches and style that I think he will be a top contender for years to come.
2.Ryu’s brother, Yu Katagiri is one of the most natural talents on the BMX bike I have ever seen. Throwing bike flips casually out of one minute combos, he can win any contest in 2019. When you see the look in his eyes I knew right away from the judges table, he’s not phased at all in the contest light, once he can enter Fise it’s game on I believe which is great for the flatland scene.
3, Sietse van Berkel, Sietse really surprised us all with his winning entry for this years Master of Creativity taking the win in a stacked class with one of the best tricks of the year. If he can match that level of creativity with consistency. The world is yours.
4.Mates Tucek – I’ve rode now with Mates for a week straight two years in a row and the guy has an unbelievable trick bag and is now starting to add a really high level of originality to his riding. And all his under foot walk around the bike xft halfpacker is unparalleled. The new generation are knocking on the door hard, do they want to knock the door down or just be a silent admirer from afar that’s the real question here.
5.Austin Luberda – have you watched his new Autumn flow edit?. The amount of style and flow this guy has is perfect for the contest scene and he’s now throwing high level creative bangers in the mix. I would love to see what a rider like Austin can on the international scene with a little support from sponsors.
Toby Isbister asked on instagram:
In the click, scroll age how does the flatland community engage and inspire the next generation of young flatland riders?
That’s a good question and I can only really talk about myself and the website, what I have been doing is holding flatland coaching lessons for the last two years, we as a culture can reach out a lot more. I recently started a Youtube how to bmx flatland that reaches out to the riders that aren’t local here and can’t make the lessons. We can do so much more, engage with riders on their level and just have fun riding with people. Build your community, 1 rider becomes 2, and so on.
Chris Russell Top 5 comps/jams you’ve been a part of?
Worlds 1994 – despite all the backlash I got from winning the Pro flatland world title, it’s something not many people can say. I was World No 1 at one point in time, it was a proud moment for me and something at the time I was quite shy about, as all my heroes were there competing from Jesse Puente, Albert Retey, Phil Dolan, Paul Osicka, Day Smith. I was so young I didn’t really know how to react and take it.
The Carhartt flatland jam in 2001 at the Jugendpark was one of the best contests I have ever been to, the riding level and riding attendance was insane.
King of Concrete 1995 and 97. The King of Concrete contest on home turf, was always a lot of pressure from locals expecting me to win all the time. I really enjoyed myself and relaxed enough to have two my best runs ever in 95 and 97 so this events always give me a great memory. The whole build up the week before, riders arriving daily. I never had a feeling like it at any other event, perhaps because I was involved it meant something more.
Red Bull Circle of Balance Kyoto, Japan. Being invited to talk about flatland on the livestream to everyone back home was a huge honour and I really enjoyed that experience, interacting with the audience at home on twitter. I realised when I got home I called out a few peoples lines before they got to the end, whoops. It was an experience I won’t forget.
Brian Tunney asked: Best 5 flat specific products (past and present)?
I’ll pick the products that had a big impact on me.
The original 93/94 Hoffman Big Daddy, the first frame I really found my riding style on and progressed so much during that time period. I am not a nostalgic guy, but regret hugely getting rid of that frame.
Graveyard OG Bars: had them for years and rode so hard on those bars, never broke. Richard Z was a genius and they just scream flatland to me. RIP Richard.
S&M Intrikat frame – my new S&M Intrikat frame is as near to my signature “E” frame jungle rider frame that never came out. I am a firm believer in simple things, if you like the look of your bike you just want to ride more and more.
Ares A Class tyre – some people whinge about them but the Ares tyre has been so good for me and really opened up a new direction in riding for me. It’s fast, grips well indoors. Perfect for me.
Nankai free coaster: The nankai hub with the profile outer shell was a godsend for flatlanders for around ten years that I can recall. For a man that doesn’t like bike maintenance at all, that hub was a dream for me.
10 of the greatest riders to have ever graced flat with their presence?
The simplest way and even that is hard is to have a past list and present list. And I still feel I left people out.
Jean Wiliam Prevost
And I am missing so many deserving riders, impossible to do that list…
Old School vs Mid School vs New School….Where’s your “Golden Era”?
I have equally enjoyed all eras of the sport/artform Chris to be honest and I call it “I went to school”.What I mean by that is of each of the genres you mentioned I am over ten years deep learning tricks and styles and still to this day I pull from each of those genres to create new ideas and styles.
There are no bad tricks to learn, everything in my mind helps you progress in some way. Don’t learn something, somewhere along the lines it will limit you and bite you on the ass. Welcome to flatland and BMX in general, great question and I hope that makes sense.
Malte Orth asked:
When you will do the tricktionary we were talking about a few times?
It has began Malte, a new chapter of Flatmattersonline was born recently. Look under the Flatmattersonline how-tos on the right hand side of the site and slowly, but surely that will become a triktionary of flatland. It was time.
Neil Waddington asked: What was the most influential VHS tape to flatland? And why?
I would have to say the most influential VHS tape of all time is Dorkin’ 3 without any question. Kevin Jones bowling us over with the Hitchhiker and the backpacker for the first time, seeing the death b for the first time. You have to imagine seeing a video now with all new tricks without a clue what’s coming, that very rarely happens. I think Mark Eaton deserves the most credit for the rider being their and say hey I am going to document this and put his spin on it, I was talking to Brett Downs earlier today about Eaton. You just can’t mess with anything he’s done, legendary status right there. One of the biggest gifts to flatland ever, Dorkin’ 3 and they did that as a posse, whereas now it’s so much about the individual. The Plywood Hoods have massively helped steer the direction of modern day flatland, I often wondered where it would be without the K, Eaton, and so on.
Lincoln Blacksley asked: Phil Dolan or James White?…..and why
You guys hahaha, we were the big three riders for over 20 years in the UK contests so I think both had very different qualities, so I’ll say I’ll pick Phil for the contests as the man could pull it together when it really counted under a lot of pressure, he really had that game face mentality down. And James I would pick for the video parts and his longevity in the sport, both all time greats in my eyes and wouldn’t want to leave one out. Proud to say we were the big three competing for over 20 years, thinking back that is absolutely mind blowing. I know thats not the answer you wanted Lincoln.
Whiteski asked: Which meant more to you being world champion or KOC?
I think at the time James I didn’t know how to react to be World Champion, looking back I was a little embarrassed about it, I beat a lot of my heroes and it was definitely a moment for me. Now I appreciate it way more looking back, but at the time definitely winning KOC meant a lot more to me, and gave me some respite from the Southsea locals. But now the World title for sure.
Valance Drakes asked: What was more intense your win over Dave Mirra or your clash with Day Smith?
Both are pretty equal for many different reasons but I’ll chose the Mirra story. in 95 when I beat Dave Mirra RIP in the overall at King of Concrete which is what you are referring to. I was riding all disciplines (flatland, bowls, vert, street, mini) and had one of the best flatland runs of my life, if I remember I will embed it in with this run but also I was riding everything. I was competing in bowls, mini, and vert hahahah and always remember Dave said, what you doing up here E? And we were on the Haro team together you see,” I am dropping in and getting enough points to beat you Dave” hahah. Some things you will never forget like dropping in after Gerry Galley in pro vert and not getting above coping. Slightly embarrassing.
Shane Neville asked: What’s the best road trip you have been on?
Great question Shane, certainly one of my most memorable trips was my two month trip out to the Louisville and Richmond, Virginia X Trials 1999 where I stayed out there in North Carolina to save the plane ticket money back and forth. I was able to stay out that long thanks to Keith King who let me stay at his house during the events. And the trip couldn’t have started out any better, I qualified first in Louisville and finished in third place in the finals behind Trevor Meyer and Jason Brown RIP which meant I had a spot in the X Games that year in SF. In between the contests, Keith, Anthony Brogden, Scott Sharp, Sean Kacur, Bryan Huffman and Rob Compton would regularly ride each weekend whether a trip down to Myrtle Beach, Greenville (hanging out with Dave Mirra RIP, Mike Laird, Josh Harrington, or to Bryan’s town. We had so much fun, and I made finals in Richmond too so that trip will always remain large in my biggest memories for sure, it matt a lot at the time. Big thanks to Keith, Anthony, Scott, Sean and Bryan for showing me such a good time. NC became my second home for a while.
Part 2 continues next week: