As I said yesterday in Part 1, here is Part 2 of our Subrosa/ Aggro Rag Frame release. Today you get to hear from Mike Daily of Aggro Rag Freestyle Magazine. He answered some questions I had for him, and talks a bit about how to get the new Aggro Rag book which is a collection of the first 12 issues of his zine. Great info on some of the early stages of BMX. Enjoy.
Ryan Sher: Can you give us a brief history of Aggro Rag?
Mike Daily: I bought any newsstand publication covering BMX in the late ’70s/early ’80s that I could find: Bicycle Motocross Action (which became BMX Action), BMX Plus!, Super BMX, and Bicycles and Dirt. I read the magazines so many times, I memorized them. Had I applied such diligence to my middle school studies, my father wouldn’t have had to confiscate my Supergoose and later my GT to force me to “buckle down.” English class I had always aced. Math? Social Studies? I’d rather be circling the next “Stick ‘Em Up” prism decals to put on my Haro number plate.
Mail order became somewhat of an obsession: catalogs, brochures, stickers and patches. Months before I ever actually raced, I owned a BMXA jersey, Max pants and a Pro-Tec helmet with a Jofa mouthguard and Oakley goggles that I’d wear on top of the visor like the Pros did. (All the gear I got was blue and yellow: GT colors.) The next natural progression for me was to write fan letters to the top Pro racers in care of their sponsors, and request their autographs. I’d send full-page color photos carefully torn out from the mags and enclose self-addressed stamped envelopes, and factory stars like Greg Hill, Stu Thomsen, Harry Leary, Billy Griggs, Bubba Hayes and Deric Garcia responded. I even had one from “Chicken George” Seevers. I’d walk home from school instead of take the bus because I could get to the mailbox faster on foot. When I was 13, I was pen pals with JMC Racing’s Lisa Grossman for a while. Lisa resided in Oregon, not far from where I live now. I was living in Red Lion, PA, at the time. I must say: That’s incredible. We met at an old school BMX gathering here in the Pacific Northwest in ’09.
Bob Osborn’s and Len Weed’s gonzo-style of BMX journalism in Bicycle Motocross Action most influenced me to want to write and publish my own magazine someday. Their stories were so much fun to read. Didn’t matter if they were writing a bike test or a race report, Oz and Len Weed made their articles a mind-bending experience. I also felt inspired by cartoonists Bob Haro (who drew “The Grab-On Kid” one-page ads for Grab-On grips) and Damian Fulton (creator of Radical Rick). My first zine BMX Rag (1984) was very BMXA-esque in tone and featured a six-page comic about two East Coast characters who raced BMX and rode freestyle. I changed the name of the zine from BMX Rag to Aggro Rag! for the second issue, later that year. I kept making it over the next five years. As freestyle evolved, so did the Rag.
RS: What made you decide to start publishing Aggro Rag again after an almost 25-year hiatus?
MD: Mark Eaton, or “Lungmustard” as I called him. Lungmustard told me that I needed to publish a book collecting all the Aggro Rag zines I’d made from the mid- to late-’80s. When he first mentioned the idea in ’09 at the Dew Tour event here in Portland, I laughed. I thought he was joking. Then I saw that he was serious. It got me thinking: “Should I do it?” While he was working full time filming/editing content for TV networks like NBC, making commercials, and creating music and BMX freestyle videos for various clients, Eaton chipped away after-hours to anthologize all ten of the Dorkin’ videos that he’d made from 1988-2000. It took him several years to complete Dorkin’ in York: The Complete DVD Collection: The Birth of Independent BMX Videos, but he did it. (The three-disc box set is currently sold out, and out of print.)
In 2010, I decided to build up an ’85 CW California Freestyle ride similar to the one I rode in ’87. I’ve never not had a 20” bike. I wanted to ride again on a bike that was “trick,” though. I missed pulling stuff off that I knew I could still do. And I missed just cruising around; pedaling. It’s funny how growing up, none of us ever considered that what we did day and night was a form of exercise. Shad Johnson at Goods BMX sold me a pair of white CW California Freestyle bars that he had, and he took great care to dial in my CW right. The only thing that seemed to puzzle him was the Odyssey Gyro. Just kidding. He figured it out.
Borrowing a few back issues from Brett Downs’ and Mark Lewman’s collections, I managed to track down all 12 issues of Aggro Rag Freestyle Mag! Mack Smith Jr., owner of the local video games arcade Space Adventure World in York, PA, had helped me publish several of the zines on his Xerox machine. He printed issues using blue, green, yellow and pink paper, sometimes with blue or brown toner ink. Seeing all the issues again–holding them in a thick-ass stack, and flipping through the pages–is what convinced me that I had to publish them as a collected zines book. Little did I realize that the project would take me over two years to complete.
All the new interviews that I did with innovative riders from “the fluorescent era of freestyle” weren’t going to fit into Aggro Rag Freestyle Mag! Plywood Hoods Zines ’84-’89: The Complete Collection, I realized after conducting/transcribing them, so that’s ultimately what made me decide to start publishing Aggro Rag again after an almost 25-year hiatus. In August 2012–at 43–I put together and published “The Hip-Hop Issue” Number 13. That’s 43 years old, brethren. I hope you enjoyed the read!
RS: Tell us about Plywood Hoods and who are the original members?
MD: Plywood Hoods Trick Team was no different than the group of riders anyone reading this had enjoyed riding with, or hopefully rides with right now. Most crews seem to have the videographer (Mark Eaton), the always-willing driver/car guy (Dale Mitzel), the guy who knows the specs of every 20” bike ever made and munches hard every time he rides (Brett Downs), the geek (Mike Daily), the recovering klepto-maniac (Jamie McKulik) and the great guy who doesn’t have to try to be great, he just is (Kevin Jones). Brian Peters, Brett and I started the Plywood Hoods in 1984. Brian and Brett were the rockers; I liked New Wave and Goth; and Mark, Dale, Jamie and Kev brought the hip-hop as blue collar breakdancers from The Cardboard Lords (’84-’85).
RS: Being a zine maker turned magazine editor turned novelist, what advice can you give aspiring zine makers on starting their own zine?
MD: Glue sticks dry out if you don’t put the caps back on.
RS: Do you currently have any projects in the works?
MD: Getting the Aggro Rag book done allows me to move forward so I can focus on finishing my new novel, Moon Babes of Bicycle City, for Portland’s Lazy Fascist Press. Special thanks to Bizarro novelist Cameron Pierce for his initial help with layout. I needed the book’s permission to move on, it felt like. I’m about ready to perform a pre-spring deep clean of my apartment and set up my writer’s workshop. One goal is to stock cupboards and fridge with enough food to make grocery shopping unnecessary for my daughter and me for a while. My Costco membership card expires in May and I haven’t used it enough to renew, anyway. It remains to be seen if I manage to produce Aggro Rag 13.5, a pocket-size issue of the zine featuring Hawaiian rider Adam Jung’s photos from the recent One Love flatland jam; Shinglehead’s historic Club Homeboy-stickered Redline RL-20II survivor; Chad Johnston’s 18-photo centerpiece essay on street art (“Rolling Through”); a short story by Brian Tunney with illustrations by Leif Valin; and an interview I did with hip-hop music-producer, video- and filmmaker and former skatepunk Fafu about the phenomenon of Mr. Yuk stickers in York, PA, in the mid-’80s. Each issue will include an authentic Mr. Yuk sticker. (I ordered a grip of ’em from eBay.) If I can get Issue 13.5 done before I “unplug” from 2-Hip Society and social media in general, every person who ordered a zine, t-shirt and/or sweatshirt from me in 2012 will be receiving a free copy, with my sincere thanks.
2011 was Hell, 2012 was Lesser Hell, 2013 is Onward, Wherever It’s At.
Space is only a five-hour ride if you could ride straight up. Straight up.
Thank you, Ryan Sher, for the excellent opportunity to collaborate with you, Ron Bonner and Chip Riggs on the 2013 Subrosa DTT Aggro Rag Limited Edition frames!!