Danny MacAskill wows crowds the world over with effortless displays of skill and style. We took our opportunity and caught up with him at a Red Bull event in Edinburgh set up to mark the recent success of his video, Way Back Home.
All set up and looking like a rock star in front of the flash lights, Danny remains as down to earth as ever, almost ill at ease with the media spotlight being shined upon him. But that isn't too say that he doesn't deal with it. He does, but I think it's fair to say that he'd far rather let his riding do the talking!
Glitz and Glamour at the Hawke & Hunter in Edinburgh...
...with red carpet treatment for the star of the show, and projector display of Way Back Home on the windscreen of the campervan (specially cleaned for the event!)...
...which quickly became the source of attention for a traffic warden. It seems that even Danny can't evade that one. But there's a 50% discount if you pay within 14 days. Is this one for the Red Bull expense tab?
With a few minutes before his next booking we sat Danny down to ask a few questions, read on to find out what he has to say: From riding bikes on the Isle of Skye as a kid, to millions of hits on YouTube, that’s quite a journey, what have been the highlights for you?When we made this new film it wasn’t to match or compete with the last one, we just made this one with a really amazing concept for me – it was nice to make something in Edinburgh, but I’m from the Isle of Skye and that’s something that for a while the media didn’t catch on to because I lived in Edinburgh. But I am from the Isle of Skye and it was amazing for me to go all the way back up there so the highlight of the whole trip for me has got to be hanging out on an island called Raasay. I built this freeride-trials-dirt jump line down these concrete blocks and you could pretty much only ride it in the way that I was riding it and that was really cool, to just hang out with my friends, building that. That was probably also one of the low points, building it was amazing fun, we got some good weather and did what we needed to do. Now I’ve built with mud before, but unfortunately the weather was against us this time. Dave Sowerby who filmed helped with the building and is an amazing BMX style trails builder. It was at the same time we got it finished the weather turned bad. We were on this island and needed to fit it in around all the other filming we needed to do and that line probably took up about ten days of our time altogether, mostly just waiting for the weather. It became pretty tough going there with perfect blue skies only for a single black cloud to come over Skye and just know that it was heading straight towards us. We tried covering up the jumps and then tried setting them on fire to dry them out with the blow torches so I could quickly blast into it. But then eventually we got the perfect day to do it and it was a beautiful blue sky day, I snapped my rear axle, I just had so much stress, but just got it done as the sun was going down. For me it was really satisfying getting the shots we did from it and riding it, it felt amazing to ride. I just look at it as a bit of film now, but it being there and riding it at the time, the whole setup was just so cool, it was really fun.
The filming captures the whole atmosphere of the area really well doesn’t it?Yeah, for me they sum up the whole journey on the Way Back Home I think. You obviously started out doing all your riding on Skye, do you think it’s changed the way that you approach street trials over someone who has been immersed in the urban landscape all their life
?Yeah, I’d say that growing up in a city you don’t realise how good you’ve got it. Growing up on the Isle of Skye made me look at things differently, small walls for example, it made me bring more tricks into my trials riding because I had to ride the same wall a lot – you’d get bored of all the ways you could use to get up and onto it. Doing lines off things repeatedly – it’s just been a natural progression for me! Growing up on the Isle of Skye though, it’s a pretty wet place, especially in winter and with long dark nights. So although you’ve not got a lot to ride and it rains all the time I still wanted to go out and ride all the time so it made me a fairly resilient rider – I’d go out in all weather. I mean when I ride street in Edinburgh I’ll go out whatever the weather, if it’s snowy, icy or horrible and wet I’ll still go out and have an amazing time. People are quite quick when it’s not the perfect conditions to say that they won’t go out that day, but I’m always one of those people to go out in the horrible weather.
You really feel like you’re doing something positive when it’s like that don’t you?Yeah, exactly, you feel like you’re beating the day. I mean my favourite time to be out on my mountain bike is when there’s horrible, heavy rain hammering down and you go out to ride muddy, steep trails. That’s definitely when it’s at its best. And with Danny MacAskill inspiring millions, who, or what, inspires Danny MacAskill?Over the years there have been two or three videos in particular. Tricks and stunts with Martin Hawyes & Martyn Ashton, that’s still genius to me, especially the first sequence where they’re in wigs and doing the seventies style chase with the ninjas falling off buildings, that’s so good. And then there was Revolution, Evolve and Contact, a series of films that had Ryan Leech & Jeff Lenosky in them and really, for me, they ride exactly how I ride today. And they were a big inspiration because they did bunnyhop stuff like me, they rode MTB’s and they did what they wanted with them. Another big inspiration has got to be Chris Akrigg. He was mainly magazine based at the time, but even now he’s a massive inspiration because he does what he wants. I really like that, he’s not following everybody like sheep, and he just goes and does what he likes. If he wants to do a fixie video he just gets on and does it, but he does it in his own style and it’s the same when he’s on an MTB, he goes out to make an xc video and destroys it. I’d like to do that kind of stuff, but I’m not sure I have the style for it, I’m not sure I could do such a good job. But that lot are all big inspirations. You ride more than just trials then?Yeah, of course, when I’m not riding my trials bike I’m out riding my MTB which is an Orange Five. It’s a bike that I can do anything and everything on. I can take it on a big, epic xc ride one day and then use it as a mini downhill bike the next, it really is brilliant and I love just being out riding on it. Do you still do things with the Clan stunts team?Yeah, from time to time I still manage it. Back in 2009 I started the Clan up with Iain Withers and did loads of demos, something like seventy shows, but at the end of 2009 I took a bit more control of all the stuff that was coming in. It was then that with the help of Rasoulution & Tarek Rasouli I sorted out some sponsorship so although I have still been doing a bit of work with the Clan, and still plan to do a show here and there, for now I’m more focused on the filming side. I think it’s great what they’re doing, they take the shows to schools all over Scotland and have even done some in England as well. I definitely hope to do some more of that in the future. Touching on the filming there, do you think that the way in which YouTube managed to spread your first video to so many people means that you can now market yourself differently as a rider?Yeah, I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been one of the first in mountain biking or trials to have such exposure from sources like YouTube with a viral video. There’s this platform sitting there that’s free and you can put yourself out to so many people, but it does take some luck to be in the right place at the right time. But of course it’s been an amazing opportunity for me and if I make more videos like the Way Back Home it’s nice to see the viewing figures. I didn’t have any expectations on viewing figures with the new video, but it’s completely exceeded my expectations of what it could do. It’s nice to think that people are enjoying the videos that I’m making; it’s really satisfying to see that.
|Growing up on the Isle of Skye made me look at things differently ... I'm always one of those people to go out in the horrible weather. - Danny MacAskill| No doubt an inspiration for lots of younger riders to get into riding, have you got any words of advice for how they should approach their new found love of bikes?I don’t know if my advice is necessarily the best advice for anything, the trials scene that I grew up in was pretty small, I’m not a very competitive person and I never really competed as there weren’t a lot of competitions on Skye! I’ve always just ridden for fun, you know, purely because it’s something enjoyable, it’s better than sitting watching the TV – that’s pretty much why I ride, it’s better than TV! So kids should just keep it fun. Lots of kids are desperate for sponsorship and try to learn loads of specific tricks that they think are guaranteed to get them into the eyes of sponsors. But I think it’s much better that you just focus on your own riding and do anything you want on the bike and if you enjoy it enough and get to a high enough level that things like sponsorship will come along. It isn’t something that you should be striving for as a rider though.
|...it's been an amazing opportunity for me... - Danny MacAskill| And of course you show your own riding off so well in videos. We saw in the Way Back Home that you’re using nature a lot, but that you’re also putting some things in there to increase the impact of it...Yeah, I’m all about the nature (laughs)! ...do you want to do more of that in future videos, a contrast to the street show?In the way back home it was a challenge, I wanted to show Scotland off for how I see it having grown up on Skye. I wanted to show off the mountains and it was a really amazing challenge to find these bits of concrete that were out in the middle of nowhere, in the wilderness. Raasay was the most elaborate setup that we did. I hadn’t done a lot with dirt before although Dave Sowerby had. It was good, a really different thing, but you could probably have made a whole edit out of that one line there. It’s only in the film for maybe twenty seconds, but the amount of time and effort that went into it was crazy. I’d definitely love to do more with nature in the future, not including animals or anything like that (laughs)...maybe a few sheep though...as part of the riding of course (more laughs)! It’d be good to do something other than street, to show off that other side to my riding. It took a lot of time, waiting around for the right days, but the shots we got on Raasay sum up the whole project and it was cool to have those moments.
|I've always just ridden for fun, you know, purely because it's something enjoyable, it's better than sitting watching the TV... - Danny MacAskill| And what about that shot of the driftwood on the beach? That has to be one of the most emotive shots of the whole film with the fiery sunset as the backdrop.Yeah, when I think back to all the things we did on the trip which take up such a tiny portion of the video but we put so much effort and time into filming. I found that log on a beach down in Gullen near Edinburgh and had to hire a van because I didn’t have the camper at the time. We took it back to a lock up in Edinburgh and then once I eventually had the camper sorted we strapped it to the top and carted it round the country until we got to Arisaig beach. The plan was to get it with the sunset on the beach, but the setup that went into it, that was massive, just for one little clip. But it was good, it’s always these little things that take a long time and the people watching don’t necessarily realise the amount of effort that went into them. But it feels really good to look back on them. So does the local bobby back in Dunvegan still drag you back home by your ear or has that all changed?The local bobby back in Dunvegan now is all for my riding, he thinks that it’s a good influence. So many kids back there ride now; it’s hopefully a good influence that I’m having. He sees that it’s better they’re riding bikes than out drinking on the streets. The old policeman was funny though, getting put to the children’s panel for riding my bike, getting my bike confiscated for the summer holidays. It’s funny to think of now, but at the time I wasn’t amused! Has the list of places you want to film in reduced any after this trip or has it just exposed a lot of new locations?I’ve not really looked past the Way Back Home project, I had a massive list of ideas for that, some of which worked out (which you see in the video), but there are so many places in the video that we went to and spent days trying things which we just couldn’t get to work out, or the sun would go down on us. But in the future I haven’t got anything set in stone. Once we’ve sat down and have a really solid idea then that’s when my mind will start ticking over again, we’ll start working out where we can shoot. For now though I’m thinking about the tricks that I can learn which I can take anywhere, get something new under my belt I think.Unfortunately, as is always the case with these events, there is only so much time available and so many questions to be asked, but we'll of course be keeping up with Danny over the year so this definitely won't be the last you'll be hearing of him on Pinkbike. Keep your eyes peeled for more coverage when his next plan breaks cover!www.redbull.com/waybackhome