I met the guys from Props at SCRAP skatepark sometime in the early 90’s, and developed a friendship with them, as we, the FBM crew, travelled congruently, to places like Rampage in Davenport Iowa, or the Nationals in South Park, or contests like Mat Hoffman’s BS series, in places like Kansas City or Daytona Beach Florida. All of us armed with meager budgets, over packed hatchbacks, and a sense to explore and document what we were doing. Some 17 or 18 years later, I still stay in touch with Marco, Chris, and Stew Johnson, who was originally part of our traveling band of gypsies, is now the man behind the lens at Props.
I don’t know off hand how many Props trips, between Mega Tour, Road Fools, and FBM parties I have been on, but we are about to embark on another Mega Tour, with the guys, and I am still Stoked. BMX is an awesome party, and having friends like the Props guys, has made it amazing. The opportunities, events, and good times the guys have given us are unreal, and they have done so much more for BMX over all. Thanks guys…
– Steve Crandall
LETS START AT THE BEGINNING. HOW DID PROPS VIDEO MAGAZINE COME ABOUT? WHAT SPAWNED THE IDEA?
In the early 90’s, a bunch of us from Wisconsin had been going down to Iowa for the Rampage Skatepark comps on a pretty regular basis. We had put out a couple Baco videos by then and were pretty much filming all the time. This crew consisted of Chad DeGroot, Mark Hilson, Dave Freimuth, myself, and a couple others. I had actually went down to Iowa for a month or so, filming for the Standard Bykes video “Style Cats”, and was hanging out with Krt Schmidt a bunch kicking around the idea for a print magazine which I wanted to call “Props”. That never happened though, and I eventually made it back up to WI.
Not soon after we were down at Rampage on Dec 31st, 1992 for an overnight lock-in at the skatepark, and I got to talking to this dude Marco Massei who was there at the park. He was one of the Chicago riders, and had made a video called “A Few Good Men on Bikes”. It seemed perhaps a bit crazy at the time, but we were young, broke, and had nothing to lose…so we decided to start a BMX video magazine and adapted the name Props, which I had wanted to use for the print mag. We formed a legit company called Props Visual, Ltd. and things started getting crazy from there forward.
IN ADDITION TO MAGAZINES, I BELIEVE PROPS PLAYED A CRUCIAL ROLE IN GIVING EVERYONE A VIEW INTO WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN BMX BEFORE THE INTERNET REALLY TOOK OVER. WERE YOU GUYS AWARE THAT YOU WERE PIONEERING SOMETHING, OR WAS IT JUST GOOD FUN?
No one else was doing anything like in the sport at the time, so I guess we probably felt we were filling a void of some kind. Working with video at the time was a pain though, so it wasn’t as common as it is nowadays. This was before the ease of editing in Final Cut, so to make a video back then required a major commitment of time and effort. The thought of doing that on a regular basis was just crazy. I remember there was one time we filmed a contest, maybe in Issue 2… then at the next comp a few weeks later, we had copies of the new Issue with the last comp in it. People were literally stunned we pulled that off ha! We were having a lot of fun though so we just kept with it. Looking back at it now, the pioneering aspect is more obvious than it was back then.
NOWADAYS, YOU GUYS HAVE AWESOME PEOPLE HELPING OUT WITH PROPS CONTENT, BUT HOW DID THINGS COME TOGETHER IN THE EARLY DAYS?
We were living on Ramen noodles, traveling a ton, and trying to sell the Issues to make enough money to keep going. Marco would go one place to film and I would go to another. Sometimes we would both go to a contest to get better angles and more footage. Then after a few weeks we would get together, go through all the tapes and edit it into a new Issue. At that time we were doing 6 Issues a year! So it was just a whirlwind time where it was just the two of us doing everything. We convinced Standard to distribute it through their channels so that helped sell more copies which started to solidify it as a viable product.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU GUYS REALIZE THAT YOU HAD SOMETHING REAL ON YOUR HANDS, THAT WOULD WOULD CONTINUE AT 100%?
Probably when I moved down to Chicago, I believe in 1995 or 96. By then we had started selling to shops and distributors directly and needed a proper office. We rented a couple places in Chicago throughout a few year’s time. One was this rad old building with rickety planked floors, you had to climb up a metal spiral staircase to get up to the 2nd floor. It was around that point we realized we wouldn’t be punching a time clock for anyone else anytime soon…. we had something real with a future.
WHEN PROPS STARTED, IT COVERED RACING, WHICH IN ALL FAIRNESS WAS PROBABLY REAL BIG AT THE TIME. WHEN DID YOU GUYS DECIDE TO LEAVE THAT BEHIND, AND HOW MUCH SHIT DID YOU GET FROM PEOPLE?
I had never raced, ever. I don’t think Marco had either, so neither of us had any real roots in that part of the sport. I rode flatland, he rode ramps. A lot of our friends did race though, like Craig Reynolds and other dudes we were hanging out with in Chicago at the time. They bugged us to start covering racing because I guess they felt we were neglecting that part of the sport. After we agreed, I will say it was actually a lot fun going to the races… at first. Then it started getting stale because nothing really changed. We debated cutting out racing for probably a year, then finally did. Aside from a small amount of people, there were hardly any complaints. We continued to go to some of the bigger races though and film the jumping comps which were still really good.
IT’S FUNNY, AT FIRST I REMEMBER BEING REAL PSYCHED ON THE RACING, AND THEN IT TURNED INTO THE SECTION THAT WE WOULD SKIP OVER AS OUR CREW TURNED MORE INTO TRAIL RIDERS. DID YOU GUYS BASE WHAT YOU WOULD FEATURE OFF FEEDBACK, YOUR PERSONAL GROWING TASTES, OR BOTH?
Pretty much our preference first, then feedback. But yeah, after awhile people started asking why we were putting races in the Issues. So it seemed like a real waste of our time when people would grab the remote and FF when a racing section came on. Racing’s definitely rad no doubt about it, and the skill level and bike control of the top pros is really quite amazing. But it doesn’t make for an exciting watch most of time, unless there’s some wild crash or fight or something.