It was 1999, the BS X trials in Lousiville, Kentucky, I was trying to qualify for the X games that year, three riders qualified at each round, I went over for the first two rounds to give myself a better chance, at the contest I am warming up for qualifying and this guy rolls past so fast in a rollback to pops a half cab rolaid, I was in awe, UK kid in the land of the gods! His style is classic, butter smooth, and covers the whole flatland area very quickly. I quickly worked out it was Steve Mulder! Before this, I had really only seen him on Props a few times, ever since this moment, Steve has been one of my favourite riders. He does tricks no one else touches, that in itself gets my respect, but he is so much more than an awesome rider! Ladies and gentlemen, here is the Steve Mulder interview!
Photos: Steve Mulder
Briefly introduce yourself, just for the record….
Steve Mulder, 40 year old flatland freestyler from Indianapolis, Indiana.
So the new video “throwback” dropped late November 2011, tell me a lil bit about the concept behind the video?
I’ve had ideas of doing “themed” edits for some time now and decided to make this one a tribute to the tricks that really got me hyped on freestyle back in the day. When I learned boomerangs and decades those were two tricks that really got me inspired. So I wrote “Old school skills edit” on the top of a page and filled in some ideas and it grew from there. My first trick list was quite a bit harder than what we came out with and I planned to shoot it in 2012. Then Kip Williamson called and said he was coming into town in November and wanted to shoot video, so I reworked it and made it easier so I could have it ready by then. As for the name, Kip came up with the title “Throwback”, which I thought was perfect. I was really happy with the cool “throwback” visuals he put in, radness.
Watching “Throwback” I kind of thought that most of the tricks you did showed that scene in some ways hasn’t come that far, like what is trendy nowadays has been done years ago, the Rolaid stuff, multiple brakeless flails for example are much harder than the walk-around boomerang, and for a while a lot of guys were doing rolaid links, it gave me the impression, like hey guys I did this stuff years ago, it often gets forgotten y’know?
I agree, in many ways the sport hasn’t progressed as much as it could have in certain areas, in some areas it definitely has though. Look at E-Clips with Chase, no one has touched anywhere near that level of skill and progression on brakeless decades. There are a lot of old school type tricks that could go so much farther and in time the may, however nowadays people are taking the front wheel switch handed steam roller position to the limit, ha ha… My intent with this edit was to bring some of the old school tricks that I liked and breathe some new life into them. My hope was people would dig seeing it as much as I enjoyed going through the process.
What were for you the hardest tricks to get on tape?
Probably the whiplash combo, the jump to rollback, keeping enough speed and in control was challenging while filming. That trick was on the list to end with half cab whopper but I couldn’t get my rollback solid enough for some reason. Also I had this cross footed forward rope thing into a backwards wheelie to half cab perverted, I missed the half cab and we never went back to it. We were working with a limited time frame and we got what we could with the weather and minor injuries. Kip was calling me “Diva-Steve” by the end of it, ha ha….
We of course use to compete against each other on the X trials circuit, I was always in awe of your riding, way ahead of your time with the one hit tricks in contests, I was always curious how you felt about getting ripped off at almost every contest I can ever recall?
Thanks E, I appreciate that. At the time I had really hard feelings about it and it was very frustrating. However looking back I did accomplish what I truly wanted, which was to be respected by the core riders as being original and having some of the hardest tricks of the time. Unfortunately I got to a point where I was too up in my head about “making it”, meaning making a career out of riding flatland that would financially support my life. I realized sometime after I stopped competing that “making it” even if possible, wouldn’t have made me happy. My drive with riding is to create and not practice the same stuff over and over again to perform well at contests or shows. I guess if could do it all over I may have never came out for my final runs at the 99’ X-Games after all the judging controversy. Instead just went home and dedicated myself to progression on video or just by myself, which is why I love riding in the first place. But I went back into the contest game and into that same pattern for a few more years of self-imposed frustration, after which I quit riding again for like the sixth time. All that being said, the early contests (80’s and early 90’s) where huge in pushing me to progress and develop my skills to a level where I was able to learn the original tricks I came up with. I wouldn’t rule out me riding in contest again, but if I do it will be solely for the fun of it. I do owe a lot to contests and I think they have an important part in flatland.
This kind of a similar question, but I have always been curious on your opinion about, regarding aesthetics in riding, what I mean is your tricks are one hit tricks for the most part rather than a one minute combo? This kind of goes back to the X trials, I wonder if the judges didn’t know what to score?
I was always motivated to ride unlike anyone else and pushed myself to do so. I distinctly remember when front wheel and long link tricks became popular I intentionally started developing back wheel and one hit type stuff. To make myself feel good I just say I was so original they didn’t even know how to score my runs, ha ha. Maybe that was a small part of it or maybe the fact I was an old school rider and didn’t ride much like the current “norm” and they thought I was out of loop?
When I think about your riding, the phrase “less is more” springs to mind, with that being said, how do you know when a combo is finished? Is there a point where a combo is over done aesthetically?
I ride based on what I want to see, and for me I like bigger tricks or short creative flow stuff with a bigger trick mixed in. I mean if you’re at a contest watching a run and someone drops into a hitchhiker does a 360 kick flip and lands it perfect do you really want to see them go into a long front wheel clone link that you’ve seen a hundred times? That kills the moment for me and makes it less exciting.
Just for the record, how long have you been riding?
I’m pretty sure I started around 1983- 84. I started out racing bmx and doing some freestyle on my race bike. I saw Perry Mervar riding flat at a race and was blown away, I was in 100% after that.
Thats great! You grew up on the AFA contest circuit right? Do you think that formed a basis of what we see in your riding now, I’m talking about the macaronis, rolaids, multiple flails, all “classic” tricks that you have brought back from that era?
Yes I did and those were some great times, riding was so exciting then. Today you get videos uploaded everyday of people’s new stuff, back then you had to wait for their contest runs, it really brought the energy level way up. And yes those times are definitely a huge part of the rider I am today, my trick selection and the way I come up with new stuff.
Who were some of your favorite riders from that time period?
I have always been a huge fan of Dennis McCoy when he was really riding flatland, I totally modeled his riding style coming up and if you look at how I ride today, you can still see I ride very similar to him style wise. Kevin Jones really took it to the next level for me with his originality.
I kinda expected you to mention Gerry Smith to be honest, but you cant argue with those two riders!
Gerry Smith was definitely right up with those guys, as was Aaron Dull. However Dennis and Kevin were the main two I idolized at the time.
Who did you grow up riding with anyway?
I started riding freestyle with my friend Mike and met Perry Mervar and Jim Crafton shortly after. That’s when I got really into it. I rode with those two and Bill Nitschke for a couple years or so and then came in the AFA days. The obsession became full tilt around that time and Perry, Bill and I rode every day, all day for years.
Any good Perry Mervar stories?
I don’t think most people know that Perry began has a quarter pipe rider and was super good for the time period, in fact he was right up there with many of the pros at the time. When I met him he had already blow out his knee from doing a 3 foot out fakie air, which at the time was huge. I’ve seen him do 9 foot airs on a little 6 foot vert quarter back in the day. He could do 540s, no footed can cans, look-backs and most all the limb off variations. He quit riding vert because we all rode flatland and kick turn and he didn’t have anyone to ride vert with seriously. So he came into flat pretty fearless, which explains the Perry Doom jump and my favourite the split leg rolaid.
The 360 bike flips are over ten years old now, and untouched! There’s not many tricks you can say that about. And you have them dialled, I don’t think I ever saw you miss any! Tell me about this trick, the process of learning it you went through, & then getting it dialled?
That was the only trick I’ve ever learned that I didn’t really think would be possible going into it. I guess it had to be 1998 or so since I pulled it in the 99 X-games. I had already learned the 360 bike flip while holding the head tube and just had the thought of throwing it instead. I don’t really recall how long I worked on it or what took place before I pulled one, maybe because the time I pulled it was pretty monumental for me? As for getting it dialled, once I had learned to pull it, it was 99% mental.
What video parts have you done? And which are you most proud of?
I’d have to say the Throwback edit, it really is the only real edit I’ve ever personally planned and done. Everything else has just been me riding for a session and some person is there or asked to meet up to film for their own reasons. Even the Fight with Flight promo, I was asked to do it and agreed. I’d hadn’t rode in three months when I shot that, I rode the day before and totally sucked, luckily I was able to let go of my doubt and get some stuff done. Also I really like what Chad Johnston did with the X-Games footage in that one iNtrikat video too, that was super cool.
This is may sound like a random question, but have you ever been interviewed before? I don’t recall one…
I had a couple nice interviews in a French magazine called Soul back in the day and a magazine called Bmx Rider, no love from the States, ha ha…
Ah, thats right forgot about the BMX rider interview. Just wondering have you ever done multiples of that bike flip?
No, I had played with going backside caboose undertaker to wheelie out (Chad Degroot Baco style) but didn’t end up liking how it was feeling. I’ve played with a few ideas since but haven’t sat down on them.
Do you get support (sponsorship) off anyone these days?
These days I get flow from Revenge Industries for Revenge tires, MasterBlasterPlanet.com for bike parts and Kenny Powers DVDs and HDJ for T-shirts.
What about back in the day? What’s your sponsorship history?
I started with N-Orbit skate shop in the AFA days. After the X-Games in 99’ I was officially sponsored with some pay, incentives and travel by Puma shoes. Around that time I got flow from S&M, XS (for parts), then Odyssey a bit. I’ve gotten flow through the years from Evolution bikes (Troy McMurrary), Infinity bikes, was sponsored by Bulldog bikes for a while, got some flow on a Sick Child frame and finally my S&M LTF which I’m sure is what I’ll ride off into the sunset on.
Tell me about N Orbit? What is that?
N-Orbit was originally a skateboard shop then moved locations and added a skatepark. Perry Mervar, Bill Nitschke and myself did shows for them with the skate team around Indy. And of course we wore the N-Orbit flag back in the AFA days at the contests. It was an awesome place to hang out, ride and have good times with everyone. They had a King Of Vert contest there in the early 90’s and I’m pretty sure it was the first place Mat Hoffman ever did a vert ramp back flip at a contest.
Ah thats cool, that makes sense now, remember seeing a Trend video that Kevin Jones was on, Perry Mervar too, at that King of Vert contest, always wondered…I would imagine with the way you ride, big long rolling combos, you must need a lot of room to ride?
When I ride outside I prefer big areas, I like to roll. I’ve been tightening up my style a bit over the last few years a bit so I can enjoy myself in smaller areas.
I bet..What kind of music are you into?
Music has always gone hand in hand with riding for me, always been big into rap. These days I run Pandora radio stations in my head phones, Jedi Mind Tricks and Black Sabbath have been my riding stations of choice lately.
So almost everyone should know you are from Indianapolis, how’s the scene there? Who do you ride with?
There are some really good OG’s around here, Roman Schiavarelli, Andy Cooper, Chris Armstrong all ride daily as far as I know. I rarely ride with anyone since my riding time is so limited I prefer just to ride by myself and get down to business. Plus I don’t like working on new stuff around people, when I ride with others it’s more social. I think last year I had about 5 sessions with others. I don’t think I rode with the Coop last year but we hung out a couple times and I rode with Nitschke a few.
There seems to be real resurgence of old school videos right now, recently Gerry Smith Kansas AFA 88 uploaded plus countless others, I wondered what you felt about these videos appearing from your riding roots?
It’s great, many of them I was there so it brings up lots of cool memories. I could tell AFA era stories all day long.
Well with that being said, what would be your finest memory from the AFA days, either with yourself as a rider, or as a flatland fan?
There are so many, it’s hard to say. One of my favourite memories had to be at my first AFA contest in NJ when I got to watch McCoy ride and met him for the first time. We were in a mad house of a practice jam circle and I was watching him ride in total “dweeb” awe. He did a 3 or 4 no-touch hang-glider and rode back to the line-up, Right after I rode out and did 6 no-touch hang-gliders and pulled them. He came right over and congratulated me and we spoke about hang-gliders for a few minutes. It was really cool since I idolized him at the time and couldn’t believe I was riding the same area with him. Looking back on that story I always think how it must have looked, like I was trying to show him up. But for me it was my chance to get noticed by my favourite rider and luckily he was super cool and stoked for me. Later that day I took my first qualifying run after some guy I never heard of named Ross Smith, I was blown away, felt light years behind and totally gelled my run.
How has the scene changed in Indy from when you were growing up?
After high school in 89’ during the later part of the AFA days, we had fun but we were psycho serious about practicing. Every day was a contest of some sort in the parking lot and 8 hours per day became the standard. I can tell you Perry is one of the most driven and competitive people I’ve ever known. I’m pretty competitive but my natural state is more the type who goes with the flow and let’s things evolve instead of using force. Perry was always pushing, always challenging and always wanting to practice something over and over. I’d stay the night at his house, wake up around 10am and he was in the street in front of his house riding since 7am. In fact around 1992 (I think?) I got so burnt out on riding that I told myself I was done and told everyone I quit, the release of pressure was unbelievable. The scene now is pretty much guys who like to ride bikes and have fun doing it, ha ha…
How serious you talking there, I know recently its well documented, certain contest pros do there combos 5 in a row,are we talking a similar kind of thing?
I never did the 5 times in a row thing, not sure if Bill or Perry did. I would pull my stuff 10x per day then practice my entire run 5x all the way through. Then the rest of the day was learning new stuff, it seemed like there was so much new stuff coming out back in those days. It was really just the time put in to develop skills, we where super dialled. I remember Perry and I got into this first trick of the day thing and how long we could keep the streak going. We did a double decade as our first trick every day. I think he had the record, pulled as first trick of the day for about a week and half.
How often do you ride these days?
It kind of varies, after the Throwback edit I took some weeks off. I’ve been back on the daily for bit. I just ride for fun or when I’m inspired. Sometimes I just ride and call it a cardio workout, normally if I’m not feeling it for whatever reason I won’t do it. I’ve been able to overcome the obsession thankfully.
What’s a typical day like for you Steve? Do you work? Your a parent right?
I keep busy running my business which does credit card processing for businesses throughout the United States. I super enjoy spending time with my two daughters and my wife, we are like a little four person crew and have a blast together.
Does your riding slow down in the winter, or do you have an indoor spot in Indianapolis?
I ride just as much in the winter, I have a deep 2 car garage so I can walk out and ride whenever. I break up my stuff in pieces in the garage then put it all together when I get outside, it works great for me.
Do you think flatlanders like structure, and perhaps thats why those AFA contest were rammed with riders, whereas nowadays it seems less organised and in turn less riders?
I think to a point, I’m personally not a big fan of how contests are run these days for the most part. The super small areas, the DJ style mixed music, the crazy announcer run around style and the battle style format. Maybe I’m old school but larger sized areas would be better suited for “freestyle” riding. Getting to pick your music is rad because it lets the
rider dictate the vibe of the run, music selection was always huge, I remember what song was played in so many of the pro runs back in the day.
I hear you on that! I’m always curious what different techniques riders use to get consistent at contests, back when you were competing, I barely ever saw you miss a trick, what methods or routine did you have to get so consistent?
I was often dialled in practice ,but had trouble in my runs, I normally made contests too much of big deal and created so much pressure for myself. Coming up I did the 10x per day thing plus just practicing my run all the way through. The best I ever rode was the 99’ X-Games and I really switched it up for that comp. It always frustrated me on the 10x per day thing when I would get “stuck” on a trick I had dialled. Like I go through and pull 6 of the same trick in 10 tries then for whatever reason I’d have to spend 30 tries to pull number 7. I realized after having this happen I was creating negative mental habits around the particular trick. In the example I had a trick totally dialled and I now I “think” I have problems on it even though I had it dialled for months. So I did the “if I pull a trick the 1st time” I was done with it, if not I’d do it at least 3 times in the session, but not with back to back attempts. If I miss the first time pull attempt I’d go to something else and come back for a 1st time pull later in the session. It was amazing how much more dialled I became, I literally created the habit of pulling my tricks the first time. Now this will only work after you pretty much have the trick already dialled from mass practice. I pulled 3 no steps run in a row in by far the biggest and highest pressure contest I ever rode in using that. My last 2 X-games runs of the comp fell apart, because I basically gave up, didn’t’ care and was mentally finished after all the controversy. What’s weird is I rode 3 comps after the X-Games and just went back to the 10x thing, wtf?
It’s been amazing to catch up with you Steve, I could sit here all day and talk about the AFA days, maybe a few pints sometime, to close this interview, do you have shootouts to give?
This has been really cool, thanks Effraim! Shout outs for the Throwback video specifically would be Kip Williamson for flying to Indiana to film then putting it all together and the support, Bill Nitschke for shooting the last trick, Burd for working with me to try and pick up some footage, Todd Carter for his part with the graphics, Sean McKinney for the tires and always my wife Mary and my daughters Ileana and Madeline. JA.
Thank you Steve! Peep Steve’s amazing “Throwback edit one more time!