Aggro Rag Freestyle Mag! Plywood Hoods Zines ’84-’89: The Complete Collection by Mike Daily
Aggro Rag Freestyle Mag! Plywood Hoods Zines 84-89: The Complete Collection contains all 1-12 issues of what in my opinion was and is the holy grail of the ‘zine era. For those of you not familar with ‘zines, they were largely put together with a typewriter, a xerox machine, hand writing, drawings and whatever your imagination could think up–countless hours spent cutting and pasting pre-Apple computers. In a lot of ways I think the ‘zine era had a lot more personality than any magazine or website could ever give you.
Flatmatters would probably not here without Aggro Rag, which inspired me to start my own ‘zine (Totally Intense) during my younger years. It was my childhood dream to get hold of an issue of Aggro Rag. When the book arrived on my 39th birthday last week, I felt like my collection was complete. My overwhelming thought writing this review, is that you really cannot put a price on what this book is worth. But at $24.43 this book is a steal of a deal!
The book is no holds barred, 443 pages of history! A historical archive of one of the most influential crews to ever leave their mark on BMX, the Plywood Hoods, and of course the most influential flatlander of all time, Kevin Jones.
The book opens with some great Foreword/Intro writing by Andy Jenkins and Mark Lewman, both of Freestylin’ magazine fame. Andy recalls the first time he met Mike Daily at an AFA contest in New York in 1986, and Lew writes about their meeting through US mail: “When Freestyle was new. The sport felt like it moved so fast you could feel it shifting under your feet. Paradoxically, the information moved as slowly as the pace of a monthly magazine or an AFA contest; between these events, BMX kids were left to their own devices to fill in the gaps and write their own history… Along with with VHS sister media, Dorkin’ in York, A-rag became a national underground phenomenon and within 3 years it was the, uppercase italics, premier Xeroxed freestyle publication.”
Lewman’s intro is followed by Daily’s three-page new interview with Kevin Jones “about the cover”. Kevin recalls about the cover shot: “It’s a squeakerson, or whatever. Wheelchair walk, sittin’ on the handlebars. I don’t really remember what it would have been called.”, his first triple decade on the CW in the photo, his breakdance influences, riding with Skyway Tuffs and later going on to ride for Skyway, and collecting old bike parts. It is brilliant engaging stuff!
It is great to see the advances through the ‘zine as the issues developed, not only in riding, but design, editorial, content, xerox art, and graphics. A one-page intro leads into each issue.
If you are paying attention, you will notice that the number “43″ appears throughout: in the publication date, the price, and so on, another Plywood Hoods touch to the book that adds personality to the project. You sense as much as the Hoods pioneered modern day flatland, none of this has gone to their heads: They had a blast. BMX was truly about having fun and expressing themselves whether through riding, Dorkin’ videos, ‘zines or any other creative outlet.
Photo credit: Jared Souney.
It would be a massive review if I were to list in detail everything that is contained within the book: countless editorials as you’d expect from 12 issues (Issue 3 contains words that ring true to this day, Society and its perception of us–if you have ever been kicked out of a car park, you will relate) and Issue 9 “Are you a contest zombie?”, brilliant insight into the Hoods way of thinking. Mike Daily writes about the differing attitudes they came across at an AFA Austin Texas contest they covered in the same issue. The Hoods were hanging out at the hotel with a bunch of “well-known freestyle personalities”, and Daily comments: “Instead of checking the [video]tape out, though, the other guys in the room felt the need to cut down mostly every rider for one reason or another.” The Hoods didn’t say anything, Daily writs, and it wasn’t until later that night that they discovered that all three of them had simultaneously thought, “These guys are fake.”
Daily goes to comment about the mocking of Jason Parkes that had ensued. To bring context to this story without including the whole article, the Hoods were big fans of Jason Parkes, and I can totally appreciate why. One of the riders asks, “You LIKE that stuff?” to which Mark Eaton replies “YEAH!” confidently. It is golden, gripping stuff from the archives.
Daily goes on to talk about these kids that live just for the contests, and do their thing without a care in the world. He wraps the article up with: “What I am trying to say is, don’t expect every freestyler in the free world to have the same values you have. Not everyone rides simply to show superiority over others. By the same token, not everyone rides solely for personal pleasure either. Just don’t look down upon a fellow biker for what he stands for, or what he does in a contest, or how he freestyles. The bottom line is…just ride. There shouldn’t be anything else.”
Somewhere through my younger years putting together Totally Intense ‘zine, I coined the phrase “Ride first, read later” and I never knew where I got it from. As it turns out, I got it from Mike and Aggro Rag. And this attitude–to just ride your bike–shines through in every story in the book, time after time.
I’ve gone into detail about this editorial, and I thought it worthwhile as it shows the Hoods way of thinking. They were totally open to riding their bikes in all forms, whether at the lot, a ditch, a backyard ramp, whatever. There is something really pure about what they did, and probably still are doing today, just not all together, as they moved to different parts of the country. The legacy lives on.
Of course there is much more content besides: cartoons, and AFA/2-Hip contest reports. Throughout, the rivalry between Kevin Jones and Rick Moliterno comes up in AFA repos and even the Dizz Hicks interview in Issue 9, which I found interesting. It was something as a kid growing up reading Freestylin’ I never got a sense of, and later on in the three-part intro to Daily’s 16-page grand finale to the book, “Kevin Jones: The Man. The Interview.”
The Hoods document numerous how-to’s, skateboarding, a visit to the home of Freestylin’, (Torrance, CA), and skatepark sessions. In Issue 6, Mike Daily recalls: “The biggest perk [of being a 'zine guy back in the mid- 80's] for me was being asked to contribute to Freestylin’. That was the shit. As cool as it was to make your own ‘zine, getting something printed in Freestylin’ was infinitely cooler. Andy [Jenkins] requested permission to reprint an editorial I’d published in Aggro Rag. It was called ‘A Puppet No More’ and ran in an ‘Off the Deep End’ with a photo of my favourite rider, Ceppie Maes. I think it won a design award.”
At 443 pages, over time I pick up the book and I find something new that I had previously missed. One of my favourite things about this book is the amount of Interviews with groundbreaking and influential people/characters in BMX and flatland. It struck me that a lot like the Hoods riding, Mike Daily and the Hoods were interested in other riders that brought something fresh to the table. The list is extensive: Dale Mitzel, Jamie McKulik, Kenneth Evans, Mario Salas, Dave Pak, Gary Pollak (the inventor of Pinky Squeaks and Perverted Boomerangs), John Swarr, Craig Grasso (his infamous naked ramp run at the Enchanted Ramp in SD appears on the cover of Issue 11), John Huddleston, Ceppie Maes, Dizz Hicks, Jason Parkes, Aaron Dull (who did the caboose on the other coast of the US at the same time as Kevin), and Pete Augustin. Chris Day in Daily’s intro to Issue 11 gets asked how he felt about all the random “fidge sequences” in Dorkin’ 2. The list goes on: Jym Dellavalle, Dave Mirra (four-page new interview in Issue 12), Chris Moeller, Perry Mervar before he turned Pro, Marty Stoyer and…
Of course, the highlight for many: “Kevin Jones: The Man. The interview.” is so engaging. The most influential flatland rider of all time has largely remained mysterious, which only adds to the intrigue. Throughout the 443 pages of the book, when you read the Plywood Hoods’ attitude towards fame and contests, it becomes a clearer: You get the impression that Jones and the Hoods went and had fun every day, whether it was a ten-hour day riding at Mount Rose, or blasting a tabletop at the local skatepark. It was all about fun and the regular “fidge” moment.
As I already commented, there is a wonderful purity to what the Hoods achieved that might never be matched in this day and age of the Internet–riders of all levels who send in footage daily. I feel thankful that the Hoods took the time to document what they got up on their bikes in video form as well as in ‘zine format, and collated it together in this wonderful book. I have often wondered what flatland would have been like now without Kevin Jones and the Plywood Hoods.
The Book fittingly ends with the part I am sure, anyone who is interested in flatland will want to read. The Kevin Jones interview opens with a three-part intro which gives you eight pages of insight into Kevin’s background as a breakdancer and his early days on Skyway. Mike Daily writes about Kevin getting picked up by Skyway, and dropping a whole new realm of tricks at the AFA Masters in Austin, Texas, on May 2, 1987. Kevin dropped the trolley, the crank-a-roni, the elephant glide, and after his run had ended unfortunately, the locomotive. Lew at Freestylin’ reported: “Kevin Jones got the crowd louder during his run than anyone else the whole weekend, including the pros.”
Everyone, it seems–aside from Kevin–couldn’t believe that he got second place to Rick Moliterno. Kevin comments: ” I would have been satisfied if I’d have made the top ten, and then I got second. I didn’t know why there was all the controversy about it…[Rick] beating me. I was just glad to get second, plus I got sponsored. That’s all I wanted to do anyways was get sponsored. I never early cared about getting first.”
The intro goes back to Kevin’s younger years to document his first competition at the AFA Masters in Long Island, New York, in September 1986. Kevin was already making personal modifications to his CW, such as the homemade locking lever, and bringing new tricks to the table. He dropped a handstand-type boomerang which immediately earned him a lot of respect (Rick Moliterno even commented: “The man don’t joke about boomerangs.” Kevin managed to tie with CW’s Greg Kove “with a completely blown run,” Daily reports.
Mike Daily goes onto the write about Kevin’s contest achievements, and also the Hoods’ first hearing about Tim Treacy doing a scuffing trick call the backyard. Once Kevin had worked out what the technique involved, he went about developing his first scuffing move, the locomotive, whilst holding the beam in his parents’ garage. He planned to drop it as his last trick in Austin, Texas. Around this time, both Kevin and Aaron were inventing the same tricks on the east and west coasts of the country: the trolley or the puppet, the caboose or the stick bitch.
I could go on and on, as I am mesmerised by the text. It’s fascinating stuff. Daily discusses the post-Skyway era with Kevin’s time on GT, his contract with GT being terminated (this is a bit I will leave for you to find out about!), AM riders being inspired by Kevin, and so on. I don’t want to reel off the whole book.
The new Kevin Jones interview–with quotes by various friends and fans–addresses the origin of scuffing, the best basketball sneakers of the 80′s/90′s, trick names, what Kevin feels about modern day flat, why he waited so long to turn pro, what bike frames he designed, family life, having kids, his dream job and why he stopped making up new tricks. There is a great part where they talk about the Hang 5, and the impact it’s had on street riding in the modern day.
It’s a fitting end to a beautiful piece of flatland and BMX history that I will hold dear to myself forever.
This book is a must-have if you are into flatland and BMX riding–whether you’re old school, new school, mid school. Whatever label you care to put on it, going to school will get you an education, help you learn about the sport, and learn about these influential riders that have shaped what we do and love today. And now after 20 or so years wondering, I now know what the art of “fidging” is.
The book is $24.43, an absolute steal!!! Go preorder this right now direct from Mike Daily on http://aggrorag.com Mike is offering signed copies + t-shirts and hoodies package deals until 11:59pm PST on Wednesday, March 13th, and is expecting to ship all preorders worldwide from Oregon before the book’s official release date of April 3, 2013 (4.3.13). It will be something you will look back on for years to come.
Thank you Mike Daily, and thank you to Kevin Jones and the Plywood Hoods for making flatland and BMX what is today!
Well worth checking out this special episode of FlatWebTV that dropped last week!