Q&A: CHRIS MOELLER / BEHIND THE SHIELD

In case you haven’t heard, S&M just put out a serious coffee table book entitled Behind The Shield. It covers all the key moments from their 30+ year history and its chock full of classic stories, rad photos, product info, old ads and plenty more. I bought a copy myself and I think its great. You can grab your own copy HERE.

I caught up with Chris Moeller to ask some questions about the project, so click below to read up.

Chris… how are you, and what were you doing before answering these questions? 

I’m doing well! Arnold and I just took a break from work to go riding and now we’re back at the shop wrapping up the day.

First off, congrats on this book. I’ve been working my way through it and its jam packed with great material, almost overwhelmingly so. Roughly how long did it take to complete this project?

I think it took about 3 solid years to make it. We started discussing it as a 25 year book, then got started at about year 29 and finished at year 32.

Going backwards a little bit, I recall you first tried to make a book happen prior to your 30 year anniversary festivities a few years back, which seemed very ambitious to me at the time. At what point did you realize that wasn’t gonna happen in time back then?

We realized it wasn’t going to happen a few months before the party which turned out ok because the party section of the book is pretty cool.

Now that the book is here, who were some of the instrumental players behind the scenes on a day to day basis?

Melissa (Moeller’s better half) made the book. She did a lot of the writing, all of the editing, and worked with three different layout people to get the look we wanted. Jeff Z helped pick photos and Bill Bryant ended up doing the final design work for print. But really this whole project was handled by Melissa from start to finish.

Did you guys work on the book consistently the last few years, or was it casual? I’m sure that producing a book on top of countless day-to-day duties could be a bit much. 

We’ve been really busy with the business in general, raising our two girls, and building a vacation rental home in Colorado, but Melissa worked on the book as much as she could. The biggest delays were in layout. If we had a full time designer on staff Melissa could have gotten it done much faster. In the end Bill Bryant basically saved our asses. If he wouldn’t have agreed to help, Melissa would have learned how to lay it out herself, which wasn’t far off.

I can imagine that things start to snowball as you start digging in. What was the hardest part about working on this book?

Getting someone to lay it out and make it look the way we envisioned it.

Did you have difficulty sourcing certain old archival material to go along with stories? If so, which time period or subject?

Not really. We paid RIDE for all the old photos they had, and all my old friends were really responsive and helpful. We’re really lucky we got the RIDE stuff before they closed down, because if we waited any longer we wouldn’t have had the bulk of the book.

At the recent launch party, you mentioned there were a few sections/ideas that didn’t make the cut into the book, such as “inhumane resources” which would have featured past employees. What else didn’t make the cut?

The employee section would have been cool, and I wanted to do a race specific section as well. Both those sections would have been entertaining but there just wasn’t time.

This leads me into the print ads, namely the “parodies” section in the book. It was fun to see those again. Which was your favorite spoof ad and why?

I think the Rick Thorne Free Agent ads were my favorite. I still giggle when I see those.

Its no secret that S&M had fun at other peoples expense over the years. Is there a certain situation that you actually felt bad about or ultimately transpired really bad?

I never felt bad about any of them because they were just meant to make people laugh. We once made an ad that was like an obituary to Neal Wood who was tragically killed riding a new prototype aluminum frame. He didn’t think it was funny. And we once ran a fake interview with Greg Walsh in a catalog that didn’t go over too well either.

I’m sure there are stories for days, and the book is full of them. Is there a story that didn’t make it into the book that you would care to share here?

There were a lot of good spoofs in the pAroDies sections but one that didn’t make it was a parody of an Odyssey ad from the mid-late 90’s that featured a new Odyssey stem that was a direct copy of the REDNECK. We called out the guy who was running the Odyssey program by name in the actual ad and he lost his damn mind when that came out.

Any idea what became of the the old S&M VW bus?

We seized the motor in Ohio and I sold it to a dude I rode with in Dayton for $600. He didn’t pay me at the time but promised to send me a check later. For the next few years I tried to track him down anytime I was near Dayton but I never found him. About 10 years after I “sold” it to him an envelope showed up at S&M with a check for $ 600 and a note that read “sorry it took so long”. And the check actually went thru!

Where will people be able to get a hold of the book?

You can get it on the S&M website. In Australia, NZ and the UK you can only get it from an authorized S&M Dealer or mail order that ships internationally.

Thanks Chris. I wouldn’t have reached out to you unless I thought the book was really something special. Great job to you and the crew involved. Anything you’d like to add before we wrap this up?

Just a giant thank-you to Melissa! If it weren’t for her this book would never have gotten made.

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