Re-Print: The Eddie Roman Influence
Stew Johnson reflects on 3 of his all time favorite videos, and the man behind them...
30 Oct 2014
Words by Stew Johnson Portrait by Andrew White Archive Photography Courtesy of Mat Hoffman Originally published in DIG 94 - The Video Issue - May 2013
I can safely say that no one videographer has been a bigger inspiration to me than Eddie Roman. In more ways than I can count. It's no coincidence that three of his videos have made my top 10 list here. Eddie has always taken a unique approach to video-making and never seemed to have any preconceived notions as to what a BMX video should look like, always finding the perfect balance between progressive riding and a heavy dose of humor. Eddie was just as freethinking with his riding as he was with his video making, always riding outside the norm and taking the path less traveled. He was a pioneer in half cabs and riding fakie off of obstacles, as well as making up all sorts of awkward grinds, including switch footed pedal grinds. There is no way I could do Eddie justice if you haven't seen one of his videos, they just seem to have the “it" factor that most other videos don't have… in my opinion, anyway. So let's take a stroll through three of my all time favorite videos.
2-HIP “RIDE LIKE A MAN” - 1990
Clocking in at a whopping one hour and thirty minutes, this video was released in 1990. Ron Wilkerson had recruited Eddie to make this monster of a video, which featured Ron's groundbreaking 2-Hip contest series, as well as lots of random West Coast riding. The Freestyle tides were changing and Wilkerson was leading the charge in riders taking over the industry by making his own bikes and running his own contests. With the AFA dead and gone, Wilkerson brought his 2-Hip King of Vert and Meet the Street contests to the masses. This video showcases a BMX industry that is just starting to stand on it's own two feet. There are quite a few notable events that are documented in this video, one being Mat Hoffman's first 900 and Joe Johnson pulling his first double tailwhip air (before most people were doing singles) both at the Kitchener, Ontario, Canada 2-Hip King of Vert. Not only were these contests a breeding ground for progression, but they also gave you a glimpse into the future with some of the first notable appearances from a young Jay Miron and Dave Mirra. This video showed you the progress that Freestyle was making, but it did so with a sense of humor. Eddie wasn't afraid to overdub some wacky commentary or incorporate silly skits into his videos, much like 1989's Aggroman. This video may have been chock full of progression, but Eddie always reminded you first and foremost, to keep riding fun.
HEAD FIRST - 1991
Head First centred around Mat Hoffman, and If you rode BMX bikes in 1991, then you knew who Mat Hoffman (or Matt, at the time) was. Mat won every vert contest and was on the cover of every magazine. At that given moment he was, hands down, the undisputed king of freestyle. But, even with that knowledge, I was nowhere close to prepared for what I was about to see when I sat down and watched Head First for my first time. Most of my exposure to Mat was through magazines, which was very limiting for a guy who was known to throw down multiple variations in one air. I had no idea how much of a well rounded rider Mat really was, not only firing off unheard of vert combos at dizzying heights, but slaying the streets of OKC as well. Vert, dirt, street, there wasn't anything Mat couldn't do. Square aluminum handrails with knurled pegs? No problem. Matt wasn't the only rider in the video, it also included guys like Chase Gouin, Psycho, Chad Herrington and Fuzzy Hall, but as great as those guys were, no one could hold a candle to the Condor. This video also played a part in shaping my musical tastes, giving me my first tastes of Jawbreaker and Fugazi, in fact, I still get goosebumps when i see the closing section of Mat destroying the Secret Ninja Ramp and riding to “Blueprint" from Fugazi… and I'm pretty sure that I always will. This video hit harder than Mat's head on the flat bottom of a vert ramp after snapping a pair of Taiwanese forks.
"This video hit harder than Mat’s head on the flat bottom of a vert ramp after snapping a pair of Taiwanese forks."
The late 80's and early 90's were a dire time for the BMX industry, BMX sales had been dwindling for the past few years, the majority of the big paying sponsors from the 80's had either cut back drastically or disappeared altogether. The sport had gone through a cleansing and only the most dedicated riders were left. Some refer to this time period as “the dead years", but BMX was far from dead. Those who remained were pushing the sport harder than ever, and not for the fame or the money, they pushed because BMX was their life and they loved it. Ride On was a celebration of those who had stuck with BMX because it was in their blood, not because it was some cool new trend. The San Diego scene was still thriving and this was obvious with the amount of Vic Murphy and Chad Herrington clips in the video. Vic kept it classic while Chad really pushed his multiple, limbless variations past the point of what most people considered possible… sometimes bordering on the ridiculous, but one thing you couldn't deny was that he was taking dirt jumping in his own direction… even if that direction was straight up a flyout jump.
Video Vault: Mat Hoffman Head First
"At that given moment Mat Hoffman was, hands down, the undisputed king of freestyle..." - More Info
RIDE ON - 1992
Ride On didn't stray far from Eddie's classic video making form, sprinkling comedy skits throughout, but one noticeable thing that wasn't there before were these sort of public service announcements, one in which Eddie shares his personal experience experimenting with drugs, and another where Vic Murphy talks about his relationship with Jesus. To be perfectly honest, the first time I saw these I wasn't really sure if they were entirely serious, being that these guys were two of the biggest goofballs around. Eventually, I realized that they were serious, which didn't really bother me. I actually admired Eddie for including a viewpoint that was probably the exact opposite of 95% of the BMX crowd. It takes guts to do something that you know people are going to give you shit for.
Video Vault: Ride On - Part 1
"It takes guts to do something that you know people are going to give you shit for..." - More Info
"If someone were to ask me what BMX was all about, I would sit them down and make them watch Ride On. To me, it is the very definition of BMX, well, except for the Jesus part."
A good portion of Ride On was filmed at the first B.S. contest series. Mat Hoffman had taken the cue from Ron Wilkerson just a few years earlier and created the Bicycle Stunt series. Dedicated riders travelled from far and wide to participate in the comps and to witness the level of progression getting blown through the roof by the likes of Jay Miron, Rick Moliterno, Dennis McCoy, Bob Kohl, Dave Mirra, Krt Schmidt and the only Lord that makes an actual physical appearance in the video, Lord Voelker. The turnout for these contests may not have been huge, but you could guarantee that every single person in the building was a rider. With rider owned brands like S&M, Hoffman, and Standard quickly gaining steam… the actual riders themselves were taking hold of the BMX reigns and pointing it in the direction they thought it should go… not all polished and choreographed like the AFA days of wearing leathers. I can honestly say that it was one of the most exciting times in BMX, and Ride On captures that feel, perfectly.
Watching this video really made you feel like you were a part of something special, like a secret club of sorts. Riding was something that belonged to all of us, and not the clueless suits of the 80's. If someone were to ask me what BMX was all about, I would sit them down and make them watch Ride On. To me, it is the very definition of BMX, well, except for the Jesus part.
Video Vault: Ride On - Part 2
"To me, this video is the very definition of BMX, well, except for the Jesus part." - More Info
From Upstate to down South.
If only your bike could talk....