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A couple of months a go skateboard photographer Sam Ashley hit us up to say he had a stack of negs from the 2001 NSF Tour we featured in issue 55. 12 years have elapsed and for a time the NSF lads were a driving force in the UK scene. Joe Bailey was kind enough to scan all these in for us and I hit up a few members of the crew to see whats good over a decade later. We’re really psyched on how all of this came out, it’s a real blast from the past.
Let me take you back to 2001. Baggy jeans, fufanu’s, Joe Rich, Taj, questionable dreads on %20 of BMXers globally. In the UK things were strong but a new movement was rearing it’s ugly head and that was the NSF and a few Northern cities that followed in their wake, doing their own DIY projects to bolster the scene. The crew stopped in Leeds and I can safely say it was the worst road trip environment I’ve ever seen. The van was horrendous, it stank of sweat, piss and sick. James Newrick, Chris Souter, Olly Olsen, Mike ‘Jersey’ Taylor, Dan Benson and Bowlhead were in that van and here’s how it worked out for them….
James, in the original NSF TOUR article it states that you had cut off your dreads for £200. Can you expand on this story now? and can you explain to the new generation of BMXers why you had dreads?
The short lived hairstyle I had of that time was heavily inspired by Joe Rich and Dan Price, who was the streetest guy at the time. They were tatty and didn’t grow very long. I looked more like stig of the dump than my previously mentioned heroes. That’s all I can say on that subject
12 years on, did you learn any important life lessons while on the NSF trip?
Yeah I did. Never be afraid to quit your job and always try and keep yourself in the company of the comical, eccentric and criminally insane.
Has the road trip in the back of a stinking van had it’s day?
Maybe, I think road trip standards are higher now. I remember reading something Henry Rollins had written about life on the road. He was complaining how bad Black Flag had it back in the day touring. Waking up in the back of a van in a sleeping bag cold with condensation dripping on your face? Im not saying Rollins is soft but try waking up sardined against another 10 people in the back of a transit van without a sleeping bag, in a nightclub car park, in Livingston and repeat for the next seven days. Or sleeping rough in the streets of Amsterdam for the night to make sure your going to have enough beer money to last you the rest of the trip . It’s those stories, experiences that made those road trips so appealing.
Were there any members of the crew who called shot gun a lot because they couldn’t take the mayhem in the back of the van?
We let Sam Ashley ride up front. He was doing us a favour and to be fair probably didn’t know what he had let himself in for. Other annual NSF trips after that H man always shotgunned the front
Can you remember your bike set up from the trip?
It was one of the first Fit frames with 4 pegs, a back brake and a Zero skull sticker on the head tube
In the original NSF TOUR article, it states that you never went to school Souter? in fact all you did is ride all day, is this the case? and what advice would you give to a BMXer in school right now?
That tends to paint a picture of a person in a certain way, at the time I kinda just went along with it as a joke, knowing myself that I did go to school but it wasn’t about not wanting to be there so much but the problems adapting with social interaction and their way of eduaction that made it quite a nightmare of a world for me.
So I want to at least shed some light about it as not many know and it may help others to get through it and bring some understanding.
So being diagnosed at the age of 13 with Dyslexia and Aspergers Syndrome, for those who are not familiar with Aspergers Syndrome some of the early symptoms are in (social interactions, Difficulty reading social cues, unable to understand sarcasm or jokes, fixation on one activity, appear to lack empathy, be naive and too trusting) those caused me all kinds of problems and confusion over time.
Once I reached senior school it was begining to be more of a struggle it just became too much, the last 3 years the school saw me deteriorate, they where now more than happy to let me have days off/time out wether that was doing extra work experience in the local Cycle World shop in town, or riding my BMX in order to at least give me a chance at doing something I could focus on and enjoy, as nothing else they could offer or do at the time would work for me. Towards the last 5 months of school all went down hill, the school gave up as there was nothing they could do . I miss not doing what everyone else was, the exams ect, but none of it sunk in, it was all too much and I just had to deal with that somehow, so the BMX was my release from it and it got me through a lot.
I found this gave me a greater ability to make friends and by riding like I did I seemed to gain respect and give me more confidance to talk to people as they wanted to know me.
BMXer in school right now? don’t be afraid to ask questions. The best times of my life where on my bike and meeting new people through BMX and thats what helped me through school.
Were you the designated filmer on this trip? and if so what happened with the footage?
I think I was one of them, all the tapes are in a shoe box in a maximum security bank vault ; ) open to any NSF that wants to make something of them.
Well atm I’m saving up for a computer so that I can start uploading footage again and maybe come up with some idea of what to do with it all..?
What was life like in the back of that stinking van?
Fun, one of the best times. Any roadtrip with a bunch of good dedicated riders that like to get loose is a dream trip. It cancels the smell right out!
Olly Olsen made the cover of the NSF tour issue, was this important at a time when the north wasn’t getting as much coverage as the south of England?
yeah , Olly go’s so far back, his energy he put into it was very important and certainly made a change for the better. I remember how good it felt when we all saw the cover for the first time, unbeleavable really how it all happened.
Was this your first ever road trip? and did you think it’d be like Road Fools, but actually it was more like Pub Lads?
Yeah first, and what an eye opener it was, all you beginers or anyone who has not got together and had a road trip yet GET IT SORTED! Include people, the more the better. Have fun. I kinda felt it was like Road Fools, just with the Pub at the start for sure, I don’t think you could have put as much crazy people into one van.
You “actively attempt” to achieve the look of a nu-metal band member, is this still the case?
These facts were written by bilingual cocktail mega waiter and Euro Dance legend Ross Payne. While on this NSF trip I wore an inside out Limp biZkit beenie that I had found on the floor of a metal club a week previous. I wore it inside out because thats how Masta Killa wore his hats and I was, am, and forever will be a massive Wu Tang fan, it also hid the fact that it was a sportz metal hat.
I presume that this comment in the mag was some sort of dig by Ross at the hat. If you look really closely you can see the offending woollen head garment sticking out of my back pocket on the cover shot from the issue. I can’t say that I was ever a fan of NU metal but I certainly hung around those types of bars to get with girls.
I always dress in black because I am pretty metal, but also because it’s what makes me feel most like me. As a result my life has been an endless torrent of sweaty goth style abuse from all those who know me and also from many random onlookers in the street, I suppose it’s bang on, so I’ll just take it on the chin because I’m tuff like that.
You’re heading an anti fufanu group in an attempt to rid BMX of the wretched trick? (it appears you’ve achieved this goal)
Yeah, the fufanu died out didn’t it. It’s probably down to the fact that no one rides brakes now (I took mine off in 98(but they have been back on a few times)). I felt like every time you went to a contest it was the same stale box jump flip and backrail Fufanu run from everyone, there was so much more to do with the course. I felt gutted that in order to win you had to do the mandatories, just like with ice skating or something else in leotards.
I became dead set against fufanus, even though I liked doing them, crazy, but thats how it goes.
I did a fufanu the other night on a friends bike at the wasteland in Newcastle and it still feels awesome. I suppose it wasn’t specifically the trick I despised it was more the stifling of creativity that went with it, just like today with the smith up nose manny bar, or 3 whips to bar or whatever is cool and makes you win in contests, don’t ask me I don’t know or care.
Do you think the days of a 15 man and van road trip are now over? is a mini bus really the same vibe?
The van thing was just how you did it then, crushed in the back of a long wheel base sat on slabs of beer and barrels of stolen red diesel with the bikes all piled up at the back and everyone sleeping like sardines, if you ever did sleep, happy days.
BMX is all mini buses and proper seats now, air travel and hotel rooms, laptops and philly blunts, V.I.P bars and underwear sponsorships, courvoisier swills and champagne enemas.
BMX wallows in its own filth no longer, it feels way less punk rock, less edgy and less energetic, the kids have gone soft.
I don’t think that many people did the ridiculously cramped 17 bikes and boys in a van, maybe the bicycle union guys, and then NSF, Attila/Revolt, Logan and DFTU, it was mostly the crews I was down with. Whenever we bumped into anyone else at contests or spots they were always like ‘fucking hell, how do you manage to live for 2 weeks cramped up like that’. I loved it, I’ve always been able to sleep anywhere. Travelling around europe like that is probably the thing I miss most about the fact that all my friends are growing up, getting married and turning into proper squares. Living in the back of a van also taught me how to get along with almost anybody.
Can you remember what you were doing for a living back then?
I was working with the mentally ill in a care facility. My mam got me the job. It was heart breaking but sort of awesome at the same time. In a way I miss it, it certainly made me more confident and out going. I think I was always destined to be a bike mechanic though.
The NSF were leading the way in the early 00’s when it came to UK street, are you proud of what you guys were doing back then?
Yeah, I’m proud of what we did, If we managed a little footnote in the history of BMX that would be sick. I think it was obvious that the big stairs and handrails, riding fakie, doing barspins, street riding centred media was going to be the forefront of BMX to come. Our generation just copied skateboarding.
I think NSF had a good attitude towards what was real and true about riding but we were only the sum of our influences from BMX, Ells Bells and the Gonz, FBM, SandM and Dave Parrick Videos, but also from a wider source, ZINE CULTURE, underground cinema, anarchist thought, rave culture, the 50s beat scene, Punk rock, heavy metal, real hip hop and all live and exciting music ever. It was a rich and diverse wind that filled the sails of the good ship NSF and I hope this wind somehow permeated the future generations of the BMX world.
With NSF I also worry sometimes that we helped usher in that ‘BMX is like a team sport now’ mentality, that plays on my mind just a little. I used to look at NSF like it was greater than the sum of its parts, like together we were invincible, we form like Voltron and Nezza happened to be the head.
And all that was great for the strength of our crew, but I don’t know, lots of big teams of like minded and largely identical riders today? Maybe BMX suffers in its creativity a little because of this.
How did it feel to score a Ride UK front cover? and do you still have it?
I still have the issue you mention yes, I have a fair collection of Ride Magazines. It felt awesome to get cover of Ride, I looked up to the magazine since I was 13 in school and then one day POW, you’re on the cover, it’s amazing. I probably looked at the cover for 3 hours straight the night it came out. Just straight up staring at it. I love BMX. I love riding down the street and hopping over shit. I hope BMX can be part of my life forever. It’s given me so much.
Mike ‘Jersey’ Taylor
Jersey, you were 17 at the time of the NSF Tour back in 2001. You’ve come quite far in the BMX world aint ya?
Probably not that far after being retarded to sponsors, but I put that down to being young and retarded.
How did you get on the NSF trip?
I knew some of the Sheffield locals, Ross, Erny, Benson and they happened to be at Rampworx at the start of the trip. They asked me to come along and I said to my parents I’m going on a trip with pretty much a bunch of strangers for a week, can you give me some cash and they were fine with it thanks Mum n Dad.
Did your “Jersey” nickname come from this trip, or was it before?
Yeah this trip, I was always going on about “don’t quit your day job” VHS and I guess I was riding pretty similar street and someone said we will call you New Jersey then it got shortened to just Jersey.
How did you get on in the back of that stinking van, and do you think you could take the pace 12 years later?
Probably not, a 17 year olds body is limber at that age I’d be a broken man now haha. I guess just being with people that were a laugh to be round helped a lot, Wakey is crazy.
Were you the youngest on the trip? and did you consume as much alcohol as the rest of the crew?
I can’t remember getting drunk on the trip, I just wanted to ride but maybe I got drunk and can’t remember.
Can you remember what bike you were riding on the trip?
It was a red mutiny sinister, G-sport hubs front n rear, 48 spoke.
Dan, who is Tracy Osborne?
That’s my step mum. I sent a story into an early T1 zine from her email and I didn’t sign it at the end. They just presumed that she’d written and sent it. I think that was my first piece of published writing and it was signed from my stepmum.
Is it true you once went 4 hours with your head out of a car window for a pint?
Yep, Rotherham to Norwich. For a pint of Guinness. I had terrible earache for days after.
On the trip you had the same bars as when you started riding 8 years previous. If you had the same bars now, they’d be at least 20 years old? Do you still ride them? what bars are/were they?
Unfortunately not. They’re hanging up in my mums garage. They were slams cut down to the bend… or maybe T1 medium bars. Either way they were small and very fashionable.
You continue to travel the world with BMX and The Albion, but can anything come close to spending a week in the back of that van?
No. Not even close. We all turned feral from the minute the van left Sheffield.
Where’s Ross Payne?
He’s over in Berlin and has been for a good few years now. I see him occasionally. Still same old Ross, still follows BMX enough to know what’s good.
Who was the most disgusting member of the crew? please give details.
Rob rolling his own shit onto Bowlheads veggie breakfast was a special moment.
Bowlhead, it states in the original NSF Tour article that you used to walk around with a backpack of up to 60 chocolate bars inside? was this the case? and do you still have the same addiction to chocolate as you did in 2001?
I eat no chocolate now because it was true. My teeth are so bad that I pretty much have to avoid anything with sugar in or I feel the pain.
How did you end up on the NSF trip?
The only thing I remember about the organisation of that trip was being asked by Ross to get the week off work, then I remember sitting at the skatepark on departure day without a driver, then Geth materialised out of nowhere, to be fair though most of that era is a blur to me though, that testimony wouldn’t stand up in court.
Do you still have that green and blue christmas jumper?
Nope, unfortunately, it was the warmest thing I’ve ever worn, definitely function over fashion. No idea where it came from though, or went to.
You were 19 at the time, what were you doing then? and what are you doing now?
I was at university and working at Pizza Express making the tips that would a year later pretty much keep Rob and Joe alive and drunk. Now, all these years later I sold my soul to advertising and I’m a copywriter.
If there’s one lesson you learnt from that trip, what was it?
Don’t go for breakfast with Rob and always be on Geth’s side in a fight.