Rob is in short, a very interesting and amazing guy. When Brian Tunney and I were talking about people I should interview his name came up real quick. I honestly had no idea what to expect due to him being such a busy guy. However, he came through with probably one of my favorite interviews I have done with somebody. I hope you enjoy this. I know I did.
Cologne, mid Germany
Sponsors at all?
Started 1983 or 1984, so a few years now.
What was it that first got you into BMX and when did you know that you wanted to have it be your life?
It was back then for many the big thing, i had bonanza bike with high bars and the 20″ in the front… It just wasn’t practical for what was being done and I ended up on a Raleigh Burner…which to be honest also wasn’t really up to it, but it was a start. As for when it changed into more of a life thing…. I guess that happened when I quit what I was doing previously and made the positive decision that I wanted to be more involved. It was from that point on that I let it guide me more than I’d previously done. I’m not sure I’d describe it as being my life… It’s a huge part of me but i’d like to think that I still have the control, I chose/choose to be this involved and have most of my waking minutes have something to do with bmx but life can also be more.
You have a pretty key role over there at We The People, what exactly is that and what is your “typical” day in the office?
Everyone here has a key role, when things are small you rely on the fact that everyone is doing what needs to get done. In the last 6 months the company changed a lot and we’re now getting help from more people and the office got bigger and we joined it onto the shop. That didn’t affect what I do so much but i guess it did affect the general day because I see a lot more faces during it. It’s not so easy to pigeon hole what I do but I guess primarily it comes down to the team side of things. Along side that I do the warranty, the web site, promo stuff, the tours and then anything from sticker requests, product ideas, fixing kids bikes in the shop, anything sponsorship wise through to making sure I’m happy with any video stuff that comes out. Typical days… I guess these days the bulk of my time if I’m in the office, goes into the email, if there is a trip or video part due out then I’m working on that… I Like to make sure that we’re not just banging out the same old stuff, see what the team has going on, sort out some news for the web site… Like to keep that on a minimum once a day update so there is always something new up there even if it’s as random as I am enough people have no idea what I am (shit-)talking about in the news posts. If there’s any of the guys in town then maybe hanging out with them, maybe getting photos.
With work taking a lot of time, and having to constantly talk about BMX. Do you ever find much time to ride, and do you ever just get burned out on it from it being work?
Sure I get burnt out. It’s a weird balance… You know you love what you do but there is still a point where you just get fucked off. Maybe it’s hard to describe to those who are fresh in there and still on the bike 24/7, in fact maybe it’s not even relevant so i won¹t try. But the fact is that it¹ssomething that has meant so much to me for so long, it’s not just there it is part of me. So having a life that is based around it is just like any other, sometimes it’s amazing and sometimes it’s the pits but being part of something that has this much passion and people who believe in the same is nothing short of fantastic. My riding time is limited to the private ramps that myself and 15 locals have and the tours. I wish it was more, but i’m not going to force anything.
When you find the time to ride, where can you usually be found riding and riding with?
Yeah it’s the private set up in Cologne, just myself and the music because that is the time where I come down after the days hectic. The lines are really tight there so with three people it’s already busy; but there are times when i really appreciate some of the other guys being there, in particular Daniel Weber from Freedombmx, Sven Hoffman, Ed Docherty, Jan Heinen, Dude and klaus used to come around sometimes. When it comes to trip time, then I only take guys I know I’m going to enjoy being around…. But with the wethepeople team, that is not difficult… The hard part is limiting it to the few that fit in the van. I really like going away with Will, Ash, James Smith, Luc…any of the French guys in fact, then Max and the Bonn lot are sound and strict… Maybe even too strict for me. Wicke…Ha i love the chance to get away with him, he’s a little type cast into this ramp rider by most but put him in the van and he’ll crack you up and sleep anywhere. Chester is also always into new stuff… That’s the attitude I need when we’re away because i’d rather rough it than hotel my way around LA beach spots…although I’m sure that might also do me some good.
Are you much of one to try super hard to progress still or is it kind of just if it happens it happens?
Ha, I feel at my age that I almost have the right to sit back and let it happen, I still push myself a lot but i’m also not into nailing myself as much as I might have been once. I still find that I can’t let things go though, and I’m always looking for something that others perhaps haven’t seen even it it simply be a new way in or out of something basic. I try to keep the little riding I do on a level where it feels good, entails as little pedalling as possible and more about moving the bike round to keep that momentum… I think through that you see things differently again.
You have had the chance to travel because of We The People, where are some of your favorite places you have been?
I make a point of not doing what others might and the trips have reflected that, so they also went places that most avoided or just weren’t interested in. The downside usually is that we also can’t do the places justice because we’re also tied for time and money. Over the last couple of years we were the first outside teams to visit Italy, Poland and Ireland but N.Spain remains one of my favourites. I think the team would agree on that and the last England tour with the Ride2Glory trip as the best times. With the guys here…. Moscow was the best, but even just simple days in the office can be sometimes as good as spending time going off somewhere. Where are some places you would like to go at some point?Croatia, Chester said about going to Tel Aviv and I still haven¹t been to Japan or Malaysia… They’re on my growing list.
If it weren’t for We The People or even BMX, where do you think you would be today?
I have no idea, I actually used to teach Database development at Leeds University and designed financial software systems in some screwed up programming language called Uniface. But I have done so many jobs over the years that I could have been anywhere. I got out of that because i wasn’t happy and wanted to do more with bmx…. I’m happy I’ve managed that. Infact more so, i¹m happy that there are people like Klaus Dyba and Harry Schmid who stilll believe in how good bmx really can be; it’s not a sales sheet or numbers… Those are things that just keep a company going, it’s about just how damn good bmx can be for itself, within itself. Those are the reasons both myself and others can be proud to be into bmx. Without it…I’d be…no idea, it is my life so I can’t think back to what might have been.
Out of all the BMXers you have ever seen, who do you think has impressed you the most and why?
Holy shit, you know how to ask questions…. If we think riders, then Garrett Burns and from the guys i know personally…. Will Jackson, Luc Legrand and Ashley Charles. Obviously I’ve got my reasons for those choices but i think it won’t bring anyone anything if I start to describe why, sometimes stuff like that gets boring and cliche. I got my personal opinion,and where I’ve had the chance they’re already on the team, but bmx is also a breeding ground for people with not only riding but visual talent… Those are the guys who bring the images and convey the feeling to everyone else. Those are the people that bmx perhaps under rates the most.
Is there anything exciting going on over at We The People these days like trips, videos, new team members, new products, art shows, anything at all you can tell us about?
Things move here every single day, so I guess I got things I can tell you about. Start easy… Product, two new signature frames…. Chester Blacksmith (Sleepless), and Ashley Charles (A2B)… Due out Sept. It would be unfair to say which, but one of those frames is my new favourite in the entire range, ever. Then we’re also building up to the real launch of éclat… The final product list is as good as done and the team will be announced in the next days. Right now I am also kinda looking with Brian for someone else who might represent wethepeople in the US. The video…. Ha best I don’t say anything there at the moment. On the videorama section I know that Will Jackson’s section is next and just organizing those together has been good. The Ride2glory video edit is due out on the next RideUK cover dvd and a lot of work went into that one the last weeks because instead of working only with bmx editors i decided i wanted to do something more and asked the help of a guy who has had some recent fame as a short film maker.It meant three times the work, but i think it’s worth the effort to push things. We’re just getting settled now in the new office and shop, that feels good and if people want to check out the shop then despite the German language : www.peoplesstore.de – because we’re inherently connected we often show the prototypes there and the entire shop is based on the concept of bmx being better. The place is like no other and partly because of that attracts a lot of Colab attention. The owner of Vans was here, Nike recently did the street jam with us. The shop and Janosch also helped get the local concrete park open to bikes again and a lot of people just come here to get inspiration for there own shops. Got another Colab planned with the 24″cruiser for the US after having done both the Carhartt bikes and the Y3 classic over here.
Speaking of art, do you plan on doing the Seat Beat thing again or anything else along those lines?
Ah that is still running, the idea was that we sent it out on it’s own tour. Right now the seats are in Lyon in France. But a few of the stragglers are still arriving so new seats are still coming in… Two additional seats joined at Lyon and there is now another from artist when in New Jersey (through Mike Brennan and Vinnie Sammon). The exhibition now goes to London, and after that will begin the state side of things…. The guys in Ohio wanted to host it and sorting something out with Durb Morrison there was the plan. After that I’d like to see a New York version happen…. If anyone has suggestions I’m open to them.
If you could change anything about BMX what would it be and why?
Outside of BMX, and work, what are some things you are into?
At the moment nothing. But when i used to have a life i was into taking photos, films and just being outside.
What are some bands you are into? Do you have any you would suggest people to check out?
Klaus has played with these guys for years now – Quest for Rescue. Kabudasha were a UK ska band that no one has heard off and i like a whole range of stuff depending on what i’m doing.
Seen any good movies at all?
Hell Drivers (1957), Lucía y el sexo (2001), Get Carter (1971), Quadrophenia(1979), Loved Up (1995), Soylent Green (1973), Cool Hand Luke (1967), TheSting (1973), Snatch (2000), Bloody Sunday (2002), The Great Escape (1963), Papillon (1973)… I could go on for days, but i’m more into older films or films that pick on something from a particular decade.
If you were to win the lottery, what would you do with the cash?
Depends… Did i win the 10$ prize or the big one? Actually the chances are slim because i don’t take part in that. Although i still got some old school British premium bolds kicking, so my numbers might come up yet. If i won the big one i’d set up a way so that all riders had access to medical insurance that they could afford, like a means tested insurance that was open to all. IF riders earned big, they paid more or their sponsors covered it. That way money from outside would be going back in to the sport as a whole. If somepeople had really wanted to ‘give something back’ to bmx… They would have started there. There would still be sharks in there even if bmxer’s financed it, i mean we’re talking here about the insurance and medical industries… But at least we’d be supporting ourselves and have a say in it. I have difficulty believing that to really help someone in medical need we have to sell t-shirts in the yr 2008. The principal of this support network in bmx is amazing, it is what keeps bmx different… But we should work on helping everyone out there who rides a bike. IF there was anything left over i’d find a way to thank/support those few companies out there who did it on their own rather than taking money from others abroad. Or maybe somekind of travel support network for riders wanting to travel but without the contacts…Rent a cheap place in every interesting city in the world and offer them out to anyone who riders for week periods over the internet…You could see when it was booked, choose when to go etc… Then you know you got a decent place for free without hassling the locals and the locals would know where they could find anyone new in town, shit they could even look after the place or one of them live there. After that i wouldn’t mind buying a wood hut someplace with a garden and chickens for myself.
What is something about yourself that nobody really knows about or wouldn’t believe?
Once a year i deliver milk in the UK. I used to own 2000 shares in Tescos.
What is the craziest, scariest, funniest, or best thing you have ever seen or have happen to you?
I can’t really answer this one, but whatever it was ….it probably happened on tour.
What are some things you would like to accomplish in the next 5 years?
To become self sufficient, live in a wood hut with solar powered internet and a garden somewhere where i can’t hear when someone wins the televised football game. Or just to become as Calm as Ed Docherty when it all goes down. I would also like to have the entire team hook-up some place… Has never yet happened cause it’s so wide spread. I want to go an eat at Yossy’s favourite place in Tokyo.
If you could change anything about the world what would you change and why?
I’d ensure that the US had someone in charge who cared more about the people without money and health care rather than filling both his and his dad’s mates pockets. That would be a good starting point. I won’t bore you with the rest of the list. OR i’d go back in time and blow open the kennedy assassination… I think he was the least corrupt of a bad bunch and had he lived that would have affected the entire world positively. Ah to be honest i’d change a whole bunch of shit, the worlds a fucking mess.
What is one quote, or advice that has influenced your life?
When Nelson Mandela got out of prison after 27yrs he said some pretty good things. They weren’t entirely his words, but after being locked up as a political prisoner for so long and still to come out with that mentality was pretty amazing. This convicted so called terrorist got the nobel peace prize and became president. Pity most of those currently in power have not been convicted.
What kind of advice do you have for kids looking to get into the industry and BMX in general?
An opportunity to be involved is a good thing, but it’s like being in a plane and putting your own mask on first. In order to bring something to the scene, you might be best first sorting your own life decisions out. The bmx scene needs talented people, the passion you can still bring in later. Think about what you’d like to do, ask those involved and find a pro-active way in. Triple tailwhips might be good on Monday, but by Friday someone might just have done four…. Make sure that you’re ready to put in, before you start taking out. But do it.
Do you have any shout outs or thanks?
Anyone who tried to make public that there really are viable alternatives to fossil fuel. Anyone who gives a shit about what happens in the world. Anyone who does something for other reasons besides money and greed. The guys on the team for putting their necks on the line and their support through the years and anyone who helped me directly whether it was a place to kip, a lift to wherever, an idea or just positive thinking on any given day.
Anything else you would like to say?
No I’m done, thanks. Appreciate it.
wethepeople : Cooper Brownlee : Videorama from wethepeoplebikeco on Vimeo.