Needing absolutely no introduction, we caught up with all-round nice guy and trials riding legend in the wake of the release of his new film, Danny MacAskill & Claudio Caluori: Home of Trails
, that you can watch here
, where he's partnered up with Claudio Calouri to ride some gorgeous locations in the Graubunden region in Eastern Switzerland. Danny's new video portrays a light-hearted, good-times ride that viewers should be able to imagine themselves doing with their mates, minus the mad trials skills obviously! Read on to find out what he had to say about his new film, pushing himself what the future holds...
What have you been up to recently? We've not heard much from you in a few months.
I broke my kneecap in November so I’m recovering from that at the moment. The recovery process meant I had to have my leg straight for six weeks, which sucked! The kneecap is fine now, but I’m still building up my strength. It’s taken up quite a bit of my time in the first few months of 2018, but now in April things kick off and I’m really desperate to ride! I should be ready for the first Drop and Roll Tour. But, even if my knee isn’t 100% I’ll still be able to do a few bits and pieces, but just not at full throttle yet!
That sucks. I hope you're up to full speed soon! So, what was the idea behind your latest film?
We were approached by Graubünden in Switzerland to make the video. I’ve ridden in Switzerland before and we were asked by the region to make a video and create something that people would recognise. I didn’t know much about it all, but I have heard of and been to some of the areas in the Graubünden region before like Davos, St. Moritz and Lenzerheide. I knew the areas separately.
The idea behind the film was that they approached me and Stu Thompson [of Cut Media] asking if we fancied making a video up there. We jumped at the chance and it’s such an insane part of the world. It’s your archetypal image of what you’d expect Switzerland to be like. There are massive mountains, lush green fields and trails everywhere. It’s exactly like that, you couldn't even make it up! There certainly wasn’t a shortage of mountain biking. But the thing that was going to be tricky was that I wanted to try and come up with something that was different from the previous edits and I thought it needed to be a bit of fun.
Switzerland’s main man on the downhill scene, Claudio Calouri, came to mind when I was thinking of someone to collaborate with and we asked if he fancied doing a video with us. We really wanted to portray how much fun going out riding with a mate is. We wanted to do a Claudio headcam run taking in the whole of the Graubünden region. It was masses of fun working together, whether I was following him or he was following me – there was a constant commentary on and off the camera from Claudio. It was an amazing couple of weeks we spent out there.
Did you guys know each other before you made the film?
We knew each other a little bit. I’ve obviously known about Claudio from his racing days [Claudio used to race DH for the MS Intense team] and then from his commentary and his work with Red Bull TV. I think our personalities work well together and neither of us take ourselves too seriously! We wanted to keep the whole thing fun – it was great.
How many days did you, Claudio and the team spending making the film?
After Eurobike in 2016, Stu and I went and scouted the region and made a plan of where we were going to shoot. Then, the following summer in 2017 we shot the film. We filmed over about 10 days all together but there were a couple of days when we were trying to film up high but the weather didn’t quite work out so that meant we got a few days off. Generally, we were quite lucky but we’re used to juggling things about and when you work in the Alps you don’t really know what you’re going to get. We were lucky with how it turned out with all the sunshine – the place is just stunning. Each resort in the Graubunden region has loads of different styles of riding in each place. If you just went to one spot it would take a week to cover all the trails in one area, so we had a lot to work with!
Watching Claudio go down the hill was awesome – he can make it look good with his stylish riding. Although I’m not necessarily known for my steeze or my berm smashing, so we tried to find some features that were on or off the trails to play to my skills. I was looking for features that would kind of help me out! We scouted locations with my style of riding in mind, but then thought it would be way better and way more fun if we did it together. Half the stuff I scouted was trials riding so Claudio had to follow me or find different ways to ride the same sections or adapt to the mad ideas I had.
How important is it for you to have a balance of trials and normal riding in the film?
I’m interested in features or things that people don’t necessarily notice right away or don’t see that much and I like to find riding that plays to my strengths. I’m lucky with my slightly more niche skillset I have coming from the trials background. It seems that people enjoy watching trials riding.
Back in the day, trials and mountain biking used to be joined at the hip when Hans Rey was smashing it on his Zaskar in the 90’s. He was riding a bike that did everything – he’d do trials on it and also ride that same bike at downhill tracks or whatever. I’m lucky as a trials rider, I can jump on the mountain bike and ride and make it work.
The front flip at the end of the film is pretty bonkers...
That was more like slopestyle trick... or I don’t even know what it was! Maybe it was street riding? But as soon as I saw that ramp I just knew immediately that I was going to have to do it at some point. When we were scouting I was just like “yeah”.
The landing looked harsh, too!
It wasn’t exactly nice! It’s amazing how my bike takes it so well! My little 5010 is some machine! I’m actually riding that same bike now with the same wheels, tyres, everything! I basically just smash it around on the streets, I ride trails and trials on it all the time and it just keeps taking it! It seems to be indestructible. I was testing the new Santa Cruz wheels and I’m kind of their maximum impact tester to see whether I could actually break them – and it's pretty obvious why they gave me that job!
But yes, it wasn’t the most pleasant thing to do on my mountain bike. I don’t know if I’d have preferred to do it on a trails bike. I wouldn’t have had to go as big – on a mountain bike, it’s really slow to get the rotation on that kind of trick. And the saddle hits you in the ass and slows your rotation down! A trials bike would have been heavy going as well, but you can control the take off a little better with the back brake and rear wheel.
It was really cool having Claudio follow me in on that one, too. We only had a set amount of time to do it because sometimes I end up just taking a few too many run-ups or hours to do a trick when I’m on my own. I had the pressure of Claudio following me with the GoPro, so I thought I’d better just pretend that I do this sort of stuff all the time and sent it! I even landed it the first time! The tyre burped a little when I hit the ground bit, but it wasn’t that bad and I didn’t need to top the air back up!
The huck at the mountain hut is a pretty big trick, too, right?
Yeah, that was the first day of filming and it was the Monday after the Lenzerheide World Cup so I’d been led astray by the Syndicate crew celebrating Greg’s win. On the Monday we were up there shooting and normally you’d leave those tricks, those bangers of the film, to shoot at the end. You do it for health reasons really, you want to try and make it through the film. You basically start off with the small stuff and then halfway through you start to take on some of the bigger things you’ve planned. Then at the end when you’re going for the bangers, if the worst happens and you couldn’t ride anymore, then you've pretty much got a film ready to go and the time that you’ve had there wasn't wasted.
This was the first big move in the first day of filming. I’d never tried tyre tapping my mountain bike off anything before that, either! The drop was around 12 feet which was pretty big, even by my standards. And the run up was pretty sketchy too. I actually had quite a few crashes where I had to jump off the balcony to the lander with my bike just rag dolling behind me.
I was kinda stressing about it and every so often I’d just stop and take a look around the valley to remind myself that this is what I was doing! You know, hanging out with Claudio and the Cut Media crew in this amazing place. I eventually landed it which took me quite a long time. Then, after my mucking about and time wasting, Claudio jumped up there and had a really short run up on this table. I hit it straight first and even with my trials skills and timing techniques and all that stuff I only just made it to the landing in the tester run.
Anyway, Claudio goes up there and has to clip-in whilst he’s doing a track stand on this rickety table. He’s in completely the wrong gear and just sends it anyway! But he cases the landing so hard! I was at the bottom of the hill waiting for him and I couldn’t believe it, there was no hesitation at all! He just sent it! It was pretty funny.
Did you egg each other on?
With the frontflip, I was certainly trying to take things in my stride a little more than normal. Maybe more than I would if I was riding by myself. I’ve filmed so much with Stu and the guys over the years that I don’t really feel the pressure to try to look cool in front of them! With Claudio, I just had to go on with it! Riding bikes together was really good fun, whether he was chasing me down right on my back wheel or vice versa when I was trying to keep up with him down the trails. We had a brilliant few days.
What was your favourite bit of making the film?
There were a lot of stand out moments from the whole trip. I think the best one for me was on the night before the last day of filming. We stayed at the top gondola station of St. Moritz and got up at sunrise at 4:30 AM so that we could get the intro shots standing by the ibex. It was such an amazing feeling to be hanging out at the top of the mountain early in the morning.
Starting at the top you can see loads of these insane flow trails. We tried to do some full runs of them – they’re like 10 minutes long! My god, a flow trail that is that long is seriously hard work! Berm after roller all the way down, it was such an amazing feeling! I was trying my hardest to ride flat out down the trails but Claudio has the Swiss lungs so I was struggling to keep up. It was really really good fun and he was shouting at me to go faster the whole way down!
What was your least favourite bit of the video to make?
My least favourite bit was when I had to go back up the hill because Stu missed a pull focus… Nah, that’s a joke. Haha. The hardest bit when you’re making a film is that you have to do the same thing over and over again. Even though it's cool getting to session sections and bits of trail, the rider inside of you just wants to break free and top to bottom everything! It’s nice to session things and doing this as a job is amazing… sometimes I’m in disbelief that I actually get to do this as a job! But I would have loved to just enjoy full runs top to bottom rather than just sessioning it. A holiday out to Graubünden is needed soon!
It was also really hard trying to decide which trails to ride. There are so many trails at each resort in Graubünden – there was so much ride. It was so hard to cover it all! There was quite a bit of travelling involved when we were filming and we had to cherry pick the best bits, which was really hard to do!
How does watching the final product make you feel?
Sometimes it’s hard to watch the final cut. It's easy to get too involved and end up wishing we'd got this or that – I'm always too critical. Saying that, I’m really pleased with the way it’s turned out, especially considering how much of a challenge it was to join everything together. The brief was so big and we had so much riding and loads of locations to include. I’m really stoked on it, it’s just a good fun film!
I hope it catches the feeling of being out riding with your mates and riding insane landscapes. I’m really pleased with it and Stu and Andre and all the boys have done an amazing job – they’re almost professionals! Well, they’re much better than me! They just fix all of my dodgy riding in post-production! Haha.
Are you going to consider producing any sequels to your films? Will there be an Imaginate 2?
It’s a difficult one. It’s one of the reasons it was good to have Claudio there. I really don’t like repeating my ideas, even though I use the same moves and skills in the videos. I really don’t want to make the same video again, the same film. I’ve got a lot of respect for the guys who keep putting out similar videos, just going bigger and further each time. You see it in DH, freeride, skate or BMX films.
I like to do something that doesn’t compare to the last one – it’s much easier that way! Trying to up your game each time is really tough. It’s much easier to come up with a new concept that’s something a bit different or novel compared to what other people are doing. There are maybe ideas that I’d like to revisit or locations that I want to go back to because I have unfinished business, but that's it for the moment. I’ve got so many random ideas written down in my book that I need to get through at some point. For some of them, I’d like to go to back to some of the same places I've been to before.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get inspiration from lots of things. It’s kinda weird, social media is now all fragmented. I sometimes don’t like how small and fragmented videos and stories have become. I’m doing the same as everyone else, though, doing little IG clips. I watch a lot of skateboarding, BMX and mountain bike films as well. I just daydream about what I could next. Music is a big inspiration too. Whenever I’m listening to music I’m always thinking about what kind of video would suit that song.
I’m lucky to be able to go and make these ideas! It's amazing to bring my ideas to life.
What sort of rider do you consider yourself to be?
I’ve always considered myself as a 'mountain biker'. I grew up in time when trials wasn’t as disconnected from mountain bikes as it’s become, certainly from a competition side. I've always considered myself a mountain biker and like being a part of the whole scene with the people, places and mountain bikes in general.
But I’m certainly not the fastest guy – I’m not a racer! I’m not really cut out to be a racer. I’m just lucky I get to roll around on two wheels for a living. And I go riding loads in my spare time. If I’m back in Glasgow or at home I’ll be out with Stu riding mountain bikes or riding trials around town, but the videos have allowed me to expand. Especially The Ridge on the Iles of Skye with Stu and Scott Marshall. That video was a big surprise for us. We just made it up as we went along, pretty much all off our own backs. We had a bit of budget from some brands, but that was it.
That really set me up and made me appreciate the way Hans is doing it or how Chris Akrigg rides – you’ve got to adapt. It’s just another string to the bow, being able to do things on the mountain bike and making films like Graubünden is a good example of that.
Signing for Santa Cruz two years ago was insane for me because I always considered them to be the coolest brand in mountain biking and to be riding for that team alongside all of my heroes is really cool! So yeah, I’ve got a lot more plans for the mountain bike in the future and the same with the trials bike. I’m not going to end up just doing stuff solely on the MTB, I’m going be riding my new Santa Cruz trials bike for the foreseeable future too.
Hopefully, everyone will like my new video, too!
@SantaCruz @CutMedia @DannyMacAskill @rasoulution @graubuendenBIKE