Frame of Mind: A Punk Rock Ethos

Confidence is a crucial component to anything you do in life. Unfortunately, I misplaced mine 34 years ago (if you happen to find it, please drop me a pin of its location). A double unfortunate is that my therapist would not appreciate this joke as we are currently working on how I can tone down the self-deprecating jokes that I am ever so comfortable making. So, realistically, I should delete this opening paragraph and start over. However, the chances of me doing that are as likely as Wes Williams ever reading this blog — it ain’t happen this time, folks. But, in all serious, confidence is crucial in this little world of filmmaking. Or, at least lying to yourself and saying, “You’re the fucking man!” Or, girl. We are all inclusive here.

Almost 10 years ago, somebody left a comment on a video of mine (back when I read comments) that said, and I quote, “To use a musical analogy…This video was like a Radiohead song, to some it’s genius. As for me… I’ll take my moto vids in a more Metallic format.” Three things here…

  1. This individual was referring to my video as a Radiohead song and, in doing so, called me a genius (I mean, how can you not, right?). However, this person prefers a more Metallica style of video, which was quite far away from what I did and tend to do with my work.
  2. I do not take this comment as rude, offensive, or mean-spirited. Honestly, even though I do not like Radiohead, I thought it was put rather eloquently and made sense. 
  3. I would link to a Metallica song, but I am pretty sure if I do that Lars Ulrich will destroy all of us at vurbmoto with a 14 trillion dollar lawsuit because we didn’t license the link. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if we have the licensing rights to type the word “Metallica” without Lars going bananas. Shit! I hope Lars doesn’t check our site today.

I am going to do my best to not repeat myself for the umpteenth time, but I am aware of my style of shooting and editing. It’s more so cinematic, dramatic, and on the artistic side of things. In contrast, a lot of what we see in moto is more about slow motion and hand held, placed to rap music or punk rock music. It’s far less about composition, lensing, color, etc. All fine and dandy. To each their own, right? Right.

However, the industry has a way of making creative growth feel unwarranted and undesired. Instead, it tends to want to see that whip video to a punk rock song or a rap song and have the same formula recycled constantly. Now, I am going to confidently make a statement that will make you roll your eyes and go, “WTF?!” Okay. Ready? Are yo sure? K, here it goes: my style of work, especially something like No Runners, is just as punk rock as the old school Crusty Demons of Dirt, Terrafirma, and Moto XXX films in our industry. Now that I have probably offended you, please let me explain…

Steel Roots. No more words needed.

I grew up on punk rock music and films like Crusty, Terriferma, Frezno Smooth, Disturbing the Peace, LBZ’s Chrome’d, and more. There is even an old school BMX video called, SOIL (linked below), from the mid-1990s that was in the same vein as these moto films. Descendents, Adolescents, Agent Orange, and the White Zombies and Metallicas were a constant in my childhood. The punk rock idea is something I really gravitated towards. I wasn’t a team sports kid. I loved the individualized approach to extreme sports, I loved the attitude that it felt good to be considered uncool or an outcast. And, especially in the 1990s, as a kid, motocross was like seeing a ghost, “You do what?! What the fuck is that?” There was a desire of wanting to be an individual and wanting to look different and think differently then others. And, of course, I really appreciated the whole “pink is punk” idea. To this day, I will still wear something pink. I own a bright neon pink pair of Stances socks that were my wedding socks. Actually, I own a massive collection of ugly, bight, neon color socks. There is something about bright ass, ugly socks that is so badass and punk rock to me. Anyways, I digress about punk rock socks.

We all know about the old school moto films, but SOIL (a BMX film of the 1990s shot by Ryan (Barspinner) Brennan, was on the same level, if not better? The unreal soundtrack mixed with OG icons of freestyle BMX makes the nostalgia hit real hard for Art Dog.

When I made that transition from still photography to motion, my initial influences was the Crusty Demons, the Terrafirmas, and BMX films like SOIL, Expendable Youth, and Entines’ FORWARD: punk rock music, handheld, and just capturing whatever the hell happens without much of a thought about composition. I believe the second video I ever did was with one of my best friends from high school Mike “Hucker” Clark who is now a Red Bull BMX athlete. One of our favorite BMX films as kids was SOIL. The soundtrack, I will argue, maybe even better than Crusty Demons and Terifirrma combined (bold statement, I know). There is a song in the film called “Vitamins” by Supernova. Mike wanted to use that song for our video. We opened the film with a very slow and ambient style song (an unknowing foreshadow to how my style would evolve) and then into this fast, aggressive, punk rock song. It ended up getting picked up by TransWorld BMX (RIP) and was the second highest viewed user submitted video of the year for 2009 (I would link to this video but it seems to have been pulled from the YouTubezzz). From there, I kept going with that general style, being heavily influenced by the old school punk rock ways of moto and BMX films of the ‘90s. Eventually, though, I realized I could approach my craft with more of an artistic and cinematic approach. I believe this was around 2011 or 2012 when I made what was a dramatic shift in my style of shooting and editing. It was more slow paced, ambient, and dramatic from start to finish. Creatively, I was at a point where I needed and wanted to be doing something visually different. The idea of the same recycled music edit to throwback songs was getting stale and I wanted to make people feel something. Or, at the very least make me feeling something.

If my memory serves me right, the first attempt at this style was a shoot with Ryan Dungey at the KTM test track. When it went live, Brotocross got ahold of it and ran it on his site. Assuming he was going to destroy the video, he actually had nothing but polite things to say. He was impressed with the different direction and style. So, thanks to Brotocross, it cemented my thoughts that the direction I was moving my work into was refreshing and needed (I also can no longer find this video on the YouTubezzz. WTF?!). From then on, I slowly evolved into the cinematographer and filmmaker I am today with a very distinct (some say too serious) style.

Now, what the fuck does any of this have to do with me saying No Runners was/is just as punk rock as Crusty? To me, it’s simple: it’s the idea of it all. When we think of punk rock, we have an image of the look, feel, and sound of that scene. To me, at it’s bedrock, the punk rock ethos isn’t about listening that genre of music, wearing all black, and using Elmer’s Glue to do your multi-colored mohawk. My interpretation of punk rock is simply having the balls step out the your comfort zones and, instead, become an individual who wants to do, say, and be their own person. It’s wanting to say, “Fuck this viscous cycle. I need to go create this thing that nobody else will ever create.” It’s being exactly who you want to be without apology. 

Who is shocked that Art Dog is referencing a Tom DeLonge moment? Not us. Seriously, though, this is a great excerpt from a documentary about Tom where he talks about what the definition (to him) of punk rock is with much more brevity than ol’ Art Dog.

My foundation, my roots are in the punk rock genre. Especially within our sport of motocross. I wore out the VHS tapes from all the Crusty Demons films, all the Terrafirmas, and films like Full Power Trip, Disturbing the Peace, No Fear’s Chapter ONE, etc. But, I also realized I can find inspiration in the world of art: photography, paintings, movies, other types of music besides punk rock, books, poetry, history, etc. In my eyes, a film like No Runners is the most punk rock thing I could ever do. It’s scary to have a vision like that in your head and you know that it’s so far out in left field that the industry and/or fans of the sport will see it and absolutely hate everything it stands for. Sure, some will love and appreciate it, but mostly it’ll be criticized. I willingly put myself in these situations to create a piece of art that I know doesn’t appeal to the masses. But, on the inside, it’s a way for me to communicate my voice and to be heard. It’s a way for me to stay true to myself and be an individual. It’s easy to go to the track on a Tuesday and shoot a banger music edit of a handful of guys and cut it to some punk rock, rap, or whatever your poison is. However, that’s what everybody is doing. And, that’s what everybody is being praised for on social media. This job is easy when people like you because you are doing the same thing they are doing and, in doing so, you aren’t rocking the boat or elevating the game so everybody else has to become better.

“All you need is one guy or girl to stand up and say, “‘fuck this!’ And everyone goes “‘voice of a generation. Thank you! I’ve been thinking that. I never had the guts to stand up and say it.'” -Henry Rollins. A similar approach that Art Dog takes to his more abstract projects.

Wes has always called me a lone wolf, and I have always walked to the beat of my own drum. I’ve always felt a bit more comfortable being that outsider who is creating something a little bit different. I like the idea of just slightly offending somebody because of my perceptions of reality and how I create my art, or just slightly offending somebody because of my pink socks, or wearing one pink sock and one purple sock (this works especially well in rural areas of America). Since I was in school, I had that mentality. And, for me, No Runners and my overall style and body of works embodies that. Art should be genuine. When you are not creating art in a genuine and sincere fashion that is true to yourself, you become like like everyone else. And, that’s not punk rock and that’s not art. It’s fear and complacency. It’s 2021 and we live in a hyper sensitive world where some people want things to be as non-triggering as possible at all times. But, for me, art should be dangerous and, at times, art should be a bit offensive. Currently, I am in pre-pro for another No Runners style film with a certain someone that will surely “offend” or cause great eye rolls amongst most. It’s a film that will live right here on, which I will argue is the only platform in our industry with the balls to encourage a progressive and artistic approach to filmmaking in the dirt scooter world. It’ll be just as far out in left field as No Runners. It’s not to do it just for the sake of being that guy. It’s because if I don’t do it, it feels like I will explode. It feels like I am leaving a world of creatively behind and ignoring who I am as an individual. And, if you ask me, that ain’t punk rock at all. 

In closing, typically, I like to end with a powerful quote from David Goggins. However… I’ll let At The Drive-In close it up for us today. Auf Wiedersehen…

At The Drive-In was more of a post-hardcore situation, but still one hell of a band. This live performance was just something not of this world. I wished we had more bands with this type of energy in 2021.

One Comment

  1. Very well written. Also, very enthused with the correlation of musical influence and artistic direction. Keep up the great work dude.

Mad Skills Motocross 3 Release Date Announced and the Trailer is Amazing

Ryder DiFrancesco Suffers Broken Femur