Josh Hayes Interview

Cover photo: Matt Lingo 

DA: Your dad is an iconic punker from the SD scene. I’m sure that had something to do with you with discovering alternative music and the idea of SXE?

I don’t know if I would call my pops an “ iconic punker”, but he did grow up skateboarding in the golden years of skateboarding. Luckily for him his best friend at the time had a brother and this fine gentleman had the occupation of working the door at the Ritz and other major clubs in LA during the rising punk era. He then would come home and share the records with his brother (my dad’s best friend) and my dad. So, when I grew up my dad always had some sort of “alternative genre” music playing, but it was not all punk. We also listed to a lot of rock and roll and soul music which was an influence from my grandpa. My grandpa loved James Brown and as a kid, I vividly remember him dancing just like James Brown all over our pool room while entertaining guests who came over to the house after the bar closed so they could continue their pool games.

“with this my dad noticed that I was interested more and he started slipping more and more digestible punkish music into what we listened to in the car”

Actually whats funny is, as a kid I related more with my mom who listened to fairly normal radio music. Although, that all changed when I was about 12 as I started to transition away from BMX racing and into riding trails and freestyle. I think from watching BMX videos I started to realise that I liked the music I was hearing there more than what I had in my tape/CD collection. Of course, with this my dad noticed that I was interested more and he started slipping more and more digestible punkish music into what we listened to in the car on the way to the skatepark or trails. Of course though growing up in San Diego at every session there was a lot of Metallica, Slayer, and Iron Maiden which of course rules as well.

In middle school I had already been 100% immersed in BMX for about 4-5 years and that’s when my peers started experimenting with drinking and drugs, if they could get their hands on them. I, on the other hand, was more focused on my trails and riding with my BMX friends I couldn’t give a shit about anything my classmates were doing. I don’t remember how I got the Minor Threat discography record — though I am 99% sure my dad gave it to me — but after hearing it I never looked back. In the beginning I didn’t hold straight edge as a super big thing as I didn’t know anyone else who was Straight Edge. Saying that I was Straight Edge was really just a response to people who asked me if I wanted to smoke a joint or have some beer. I just wanted people to stop bugging me about shit that I didn’t care about at all, because apparently saying “no” wasn’t enough. Although, as I grew up and moved on to high school I was then exposed to my areas hardcore kids and found that there was a whole movement behind It. Then really from that point on I knew it was something for me for the foreseeable future.

DA: Interesting. Never thought of the term SXE being used as a moniker in conversation to stave off having to justify yourself. Ha! How does this effect you, now, in the cycling scene ?

Thats interesting to me that you haven’t come across some one doing that. People quickly stop asking you dumb questions if the first response is with a term they don’t know, now this can backfire though. Most people don’t want you to think they are stupid and not know what you are talking about, although others will then inquire more about what Straight edge is. Those conversations used to be quite a big drain to be honest, ha, ha ha…. now for the past 15 years I have perfected my answer so that it is as clear and concise as possible. Whats kind of funny is that I don’t like talking about being straight edge or vegan with people. I feel like people don’t need to know what I am about because most of the time I could give a fuck what they are about. Does that make me a bad person?

Honestly being Straight Edge and vegan does not effect me in the cycling scene but that’s also because I don’t let it. When people want to have a beer after a ride and I am with them, I choose a beverage of choice. Of course people sometimes think it’s acceptable to try and make a joke about me not drinking which is the only time I can be problematic, not because they are hurting my feelings but more so because I at times am quite aggressive with my response to comments like that. I am really not a big fan of people trying to put others down so yeah, I mean really at the end of the day I don’t give a fuck what someone thinks about my life choices. If they get it great, if not that’s cool too because it’s not their life. Just like I don’t give a shit if you drink a bunch or do drugs as long as it doesn’t affect my life.

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Photo: Matt Lingo

DA: Agreed. “Out of step with the world” can mean a lot of things…the choice here is to abstain. It’s interesting how offended people get by that…to a segue on another note: What was the catalyst for your transition from Bmx to road?

From BMX to the big wheels, oh how that long that story is. Honestly, when I was younger I was a bit of a dick head towards people who rode bikes other than BMX. This might stem from the ridiculous MTB riders at the time who would come to my trails and fuck things up and leave before fixing things. You guys are still shit heads. Ok so now thats over, when I was 15 I blew my knee for the first time and though at that point I already jacked myself up quite well before, this was a whole different level . This was when the first seeds were planted in my mind that I might need to think about other things than just BMX.

Actually me blowing my knee pushed me head first in the hardcore scene in San Diego, as I could no longer ride with my riding friends, I started hanging out with my music friends more.

Fast forward 3 years and I am heading off to college in Santa Barbara. My first apartment at school was some 20 miles from campus and as I did not have a lot of money, I was looking for ways to save on gas. I tried riding my bmx and it sucked ahaha. At that time a hand full of my friends had gotten track bikes to ride around SD and when I was home one weekend a friend said to me “ I bet you cant ride that ” … he was mistaken. I realised that a track bike was just like a big bmx bike but I could go way faster, also if anything broke I would know how to fix it because it was just a bmx bike. I then sold some stuff and bought my first track bike. At this time I was not super linked to anyone in the Santa Barbara area for BMX other than my friend Jake and my soon-to-be-roommate, Shelby Gibbs. We would still shred and have fun but it just wasn’t the same and having to focus on school didn’t make things any easier.

I slowly started getting involved in the fixed gear scene in Santa Barbara and through out California and it was much more accessible for me and my studies. Not to mention it actually made me healthier. If you have been doing bmx for any decent amount of time you know that if you want to get good at it you have to “pay to play”, as my dad would say. The currency at hand is your body and health. At this point in my life I was 19-21 and had 5 major concussions, 2 knee surgeries, laundry list of “minor” injuries, and I just wanted to be healthy, so I started riding bmx less and less. My Track bike soon became not enough and that’s when I took the plunge and bought my first real road bike.

After moving back to San Diego from Santa Barbara I was determined to secure my place in BMX as a photographer and proceeded to shoot as many photos for as many of my friends who are pro as possible, trying to gain freelance work with magazines and literally whatever I could do. Now this next part might come off a bit dramatic but it was my reality, and any of my friends who read this know I am not pissed at you but at the time I was quite bummed on a lot of you… As I started trying to work with and for friends who worked for or ran some major companies I started to get really discouraged as I was putting everything into getting them the best stuff I could produce, but that level of professionalism was very rarely returned. So, at this point I started having a hard time providing for myself which is also not such a great feeling. Then in the mix of all these things the state of the BMX scene in San Diego started to get a bit wild and it seemed as if all everyone cared about was getting fucked up and being the “cool guys” around town.

Now me trying to be overly productive to pay my bills and failing, paired with friends blowing me off or wasting my money and time as I drove them around to shoot photos just brought me to a point where BMX was not associated with connecting with like minded people and having fun anymore. It was a bummer.

 

It got to the point where I just started to not like being around people I had known since I was 12 years old, this like I said brought me down mentally but also physically so I just decided to focus on other things for a while. But, not a day has gone by where I had not thought about BMX and how I knew I would find my way back to the 20in.

DA: Yeah, it’s the whole taboo idea of mixing work with pleasure. It’s a hard cocktail to handle (is that a bad analogy to use for a sxe related web site? Ha!). Now that you’ve had a sabbatical, you’re getting a bmx rig back together. What are your expectations now?

I love your analogy dude, run that shit. Honestly mixing my love/obsession for bikes with my professional career has been a pretty steep learning curve. You have to learn to not impose your own personal feelings onto what you are working on because what works for you doesn’t work for everyone. I think it has made me a better person though and allowed me to be more open to different views on the same subject. This was one hundred percent learned though once BMX took a back seat in my life.

I love that you call it a sabbatical ahaha. One thing I know is that when two wheels are your life, that never goes away. I just substituted BMX with Track bikes or Road bikes. As I type my Dad is actually packing up the new BMX and getting on its way to me. The only expectations I have is to have fun. What I am curious about though is how different riding is going to be now that I have lost so much weight and actually am in the best physical shape I have ever been in. Another hopeful side effect is me finding some awesome shit in my area to ride and convincing some friends to come out and get radical.

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Photo: Mark Hayes 

DA: And that bike is going to Vienna, Austria? Tell us about that move?

Europe: The land of socialism! Moving here has been one of the best things I have ever done with my life. My girlfriend at the time had family in Upper Austria so she asked if I wanted to go for a 2.5 month summer journey around Europe. I said “FUCK YEAH LETS BOOGIE!” and we came over and toured around and loved the shit out of it. At the end of the trip she asked if I would be down to move over here so she could be around her little sisters and brother as they grew up and I said I was into it. We moved to Linz which is the second or third largest city in Austria for 2 years then made the transition to Vienna so we could have more opportunities for things that we were into. Now she is my wife and is studying. I helped open and now manage a high end cycling store.

Life is pretty cool right now.

“At the end of the day sharing the greatness of two wheels with others is all I really want to do. This is also the same with the road scene here in Vienna.”

DA: An incredible chain of events, really. Austria is an incredible country…How does that scene differ? How is it analogous to BMX? And with the road scene, do you feel that with what you put in, you get a little bit more in return (comparative to what you felt working with the BMX industry)?

Austria is fundamentally different from what I have experienced in the states. For one Austria is a small country so with that alone the scene is exponentially smaller. One thing I do see though is that there is not a lot of “hands on work” from people in the road scene. I don’t know if its and American mentality to get in and get hands on, but here it seems like people expect organisations to just take care of everything. I am apart of a newer generation in the road scene here trying to help put in work to grow things and establish a base support for new riders trying to find their way into the sport. Hopefully we will be able to make a lasting difference.

As for the BMX scene here I have only briefly been exposed to that so I have no idea what the state of that is. One thing I do know though is there is not one BMX store in the all of Austria to the best of my knowledge. Honestly I don’t care though, I just want to be able to do early morning sessions at my local parks with no one around to fuck with me.

Honestly BMX when I was younger was never about getting things back. I never dug at trails or built skate parks to get things from people. I was just wanted to have fun and be able to share good times with friends. At the end of the day sharing the greatness of two wheels with others is all I really want to do. This is also the same with the road scene here in Vienna.

DA: Within the road scene, do you come across any sxe folks? If so, curious if maybe being health conscious plays any role in the potentiality of that?

Honestly the amount of cross over I have found form hardcore/punk to cycling is minimal. I have of course come across some people but its not a normal thing. Alcohol is ripe in cycling culture because of alcohol companies sponsoring teams, events, and many other facets of the sport. What is common though is that a lot of athletes go “sober” for their racing season to help avoid problems in their developments as cyclists. Though, if someone wins a race the majority of the team and them celebrate after the race with a drink of some sort.

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Photo: Mark Hayes

“Just like BMX. You made friends all over and then stay connected with each other so that you can share information, places to stay, and all around good times.”

DA: And back to your roots: Tell us about growing up in the San Diego BMX and, synonymously, hardcore scene?

Growing up in San Diego ruled for BMX. On any given day I would be riding with people like Gary Young, Mike Parenti, Mike Grosse, Chris Myers, Ryan Sher, Sam Townsley, Eric Soto, and not to mention the guest appearances of Volker or Vic Murphy which was always super rad. I was always the youngest dude in the group though, that is until Tyler McCarly aka Tammy started getting radical, he’s 2 years younger than me. Being around all these dudes was quite wild and seeing that level of BMX almost everyday was mind blowing to say the least.

Really the BMX scene was so much smaller then and all the core people knew each other and we would all session together as much as possible. Now looking at BMX in San Diego there are so many small sub pockets to the city and though everyone knows everyone it’s not like it was before. San Diego has traded the older guard of the people hanging and shredding at the Hanford house for the younger guys riding Markit ramps and the Mission Valley Skatepark for Claremont Skatepark. I can’t say that one is better than the other but boy the Hanford days were wild and looking back on them and the shenanigans we always got into really left a lasting impression on me.

 

The hardcore scene was a bit different though compared to the BMX scene. I never had any overlap with those two worlds really. As I started going to shows I found myself connecting with people and helping keep things going as I just wanted to help and do my part. I wish I could have seen more bands that came to San Diego but I was still at the state where BMX was more important than anything else ahaha. Not to mention I had no car when I first got into hardcore and asking my dad to take me to shows and picking me up at 1am was not so cool. He was rad and did it a couple times though but then told me I needed to stop being ridiculous and make friends with people from our area who had cars and carpool.

After I got my first car at 16 there was rarely a show I missed in the greater San Diego area, not to mention taking trips to LA or SF to see bands. It was great, just like BMX. You made friends all over and then stay connected with each other so that you can share information, places to stay, and all around good times. San Diego at that time I think was at some what of a peak, we had a lot of bands from all over the county and bigger bands like Over My Dead Body playing all the time with all the bands from indecision records. The scene was quite healthy with the Straight Edge and the majority of my friends and acquaintances were also Straight Edge but just like with all things changes happen and now a good amount of people I used to know have moved on.

The music scene has changed but to the best of my knowledge due to some younger friends, they have helped breathe some new life into San Diego hardcore. What’s cool is they are also skateboarders and I used to go over to their house and ride the ramp their dad built for them. What’s funny is their dad and my dad were friends from skateboarding and I actually got one of my 3 magazine photos on their ramp doing a corner air. Even more wild is I used to give the three brothers cd’s all the time with everything I had and then after some time I never really saw them again. Magically though when I was back in the states I went on a mini 4 day tour with my friends band Meth Breath (San Diego Straight Edge band) and this dude in the front seat keeps staring at me, then I realise it was one of the skateboarder kids who now was grown up and was coming on tour as well.

Small world ahahah.

“Ryan Sher lived in the closet and Shaun Fidei lived in the garage. What was rad was that if you were in the inner circle you could show up anytime and ride the ramp in the backyard”

DA: It really is. Growing up in Florida in the early 90’s, there were two places to be: The NE or San Diego. I think half of my record collection is from San Diego. Seriously.
Back to that mention of the “Hanford House.” I just read an article on “Nostalgia Bias,” which is the idea of things from your past Always having more significance. Point of the story, I think all of us have a Hanford House where we grew up…What was so epic about it? What about it made such a lasting impression.

Ahaha growing up in San Diego you never really know how it impacts other places. I remember sending you some records some years back.

Yes, and they are still coveted. The Forced Down 7” blew my mind (See Hoffman’s Head First video for more of FD goodness)

The thing about the Handford house was that was the next generation of the Dirtbros house. San Diego always had a core BMX scene with back yard ramps but as the older generation some what moved on to take care of their lives the up and coming pro’s just followed in their footsteps. I don’t remember the exact date when Ryan Fudger and Gary Young got the lease for the Hanford house but not soon after did the ramp pop up. Ryan Sher lived in the closet and Shaun Fidei lived in the garage. What was rad was that if you were in the inner circle you could show up anytime and ride the ramp in the backyard. I spent a good amount of time there and my Dad and I donated/built a couple add on ramps to make the yard even more fun.

 

What really draws me to the house and the memories I have of it is because to me it was just raw BMX. At any given time some one would be sessioning, or a group would be inside watching videos getting hyped to go ride. Then there were the parties. I don’t say this lightly but I have no clue how we all didn’t go to jail due to the silly shit that happened at those parties. I remember one party was around the time they hosted the PIG contest at Claremont for ESPN or some shit and then of course after everyone came to Handford for a party. Now mind you I was 15 I think illegally driving to go to this party where I met Jay Miron, Dave Osato, and a slew of other legends, how do you handle that? Then at that time Kyle Hart had a “white metal” band and one of the members of the band made his own metal weapons. My friend Scuba Steve got a little too drunk and thought it would be a good idea to grab a 4ft long sword and start swinging it around at people watching Kyle’s band play and I had to help tackle him before he hit someone and/or get beat up by the Miron who was not impressed with what he was doing ahahaha.

What is better than a scene like that? Of course the good times had to eventually flatten out. People moved out, new people moved in. Riding the ramp was not as much fun anymore and then we all more or less stopped going. The memories though will still stick with us for ever. Maybe everyone does have a place like the Hanford house, or at least I hope everyone had a place like that.

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Photo: Matt Lingo

“Really It is a reminder to keep living the life I love and not to regret a minute of it because its all I have.”

DA: Damn, great quote to end on…devoid of everyone not necessarily having their own “Hanford House” to experience, our bikes (regardless of what type) serve as a temple. For that, I know we’re all grateful. Thanks for the time and energy put into this, Josh…from a man with plenty of dialed, DIY philosophical insight, can we get some last words on “Life, Love, Regret”? Not sure if you’re familiar with the seminal SD SXE band, Unbroken, but I had to throw that album title “Life, Love, Regret” in there for those in the know…Ha! You don’t have to comment on the album, its more of a general question about that philosophy.

Just so all the people reading this know I am currently listening to this album to hopefully bring out everything that it is, was and will be for me. Like I stated I was pretty lucky growing up in San Diego as it has a rich punk/hardcore history with bands like Amenity, Battalion of Saints, Rocket from the crypt, Drive Like Jehu, and of course Unbroken. Random side story, when I was 7 or 8 the first Warped tour was in San Diego. Of course my Dad got us tickets and got me the 7 year old past security to go check everything out. His friends were riding the vert ramp and it was rad watching everyone shred in the parking lot of the sports arena, but then my dad said we needed to go watch this band. That band turned out to be Rocket From the Crypt. Its wild to think about how later on in life that band become a regular in my stream of music.

So back to Unbroken, they were and still are one of my favourite bands ever. The first time I heard Unbroken I wanted to know where I could see them and of course I soon found out they were no longer a band but my friend had a tape of their reunion show after Eric passed. If you haven’t seen that footage I highly recommend it.

I honestly cant watch that with out the hair raising on my neck. It makes me want to go nuts, even though i have been on “mosh retirement” for some time now ahaha. Thats really the best way that I can put my feelings towards that band and the music they supplied us with, it gets under my skin and hits hard. Wild enough Rob Moran has become a friend and is one of the most down to earth, nicest guys I have ever met. It does make me feel a little like a dork though having Life.Love. Regret tattooed on my arm though when I am around him ahahah.

So I have gone slightly off on a tangent about Rocket and Unbroken as a band but did not touch at all on the over all feeling/philosophy of what “Life. Love. Regret” means to me. Really its as simple as its one of my favourite bands and favourite albums where the music and lyrics resonate with me, and left a lasting impression. Although it is more complex when I think about those three words in perspective to my life. My family raised me to live my life with passion no matter what that passion was focused on,  and to love every minute of it or you would regret that you never gave it your all. Some people might interpret it for a negative mindset, you live, you love, and you regret the pain accompanied with opening yourself that much to some one else. Really It is a reminder to keep living the life I love and not to regret a minute of it because its all I have.

I hope that comes off slightly coherent ahaha. As a closer I would like to express my deepest gratitude towards Matt and Cooper for thinking what I had to say was interesting enough for their awesome site. I hope to see you guys sooner than later and we can share a nice ice tea or coffee and talk about our travels some more.
Keep the fire burning .

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