Tom: What made you want to start building bikes?
Johnny: I grew up tinkering around in my Dad's barn. So once I started riding I started making little things that I could like drop outs or chain tensioners with my dad's arc welder, they were shitty, but worked. I asked my dad to weld a frame for me and he looked at me like I was fucking crazy, cuz he's not gonna stick weld a frame. But I knew that's what I wanted to do. I was like, 14. So once I came of age, I went to a vocational school instead of high school, which stopped my academics, but went on to learn how to weld. First got a job at a muffler shop HMF in Brooklyn, Ohio, a small suburb of Cleveland. We were doing FKR frames out of there with "Toledo Joe" Joe Purcell, and Josh Shriver, another Cleveland area local.
Ben: How old were you when you were at the muffler shop?
Johnny: I started when I was 17. Right after I graduated high school. Actually, like the last little bit of vocational school, I knew I had the job. Joe set it up. So as soon as I told my teacher that I have a TIG welding job, he just took me off of all the shop jobs at the school and threw me right into the TIG booth. Just had me start practicing TIG welding for like the last, shit, almost six months of schooling, just so I could get caught up and be able to actually do some work when I got out.
Ben: What was the vocational school where you went like? I never went to one. Were you just basically welding?, or did they make you do technical math and some things like that?
Johnny: There was actually academic courses, but they were pretty much bullshit. So, half the day was shop class. And the second half of the day was academics. When I first got there, as a junior, we were adding and subtracting three digits. So I thought, well, I don't have to do any more math. So I brought a TV in there with a VHS player and just put Criminal Mischief on every day.
Ben: Did you ever kind of stray off the path of BMX, or was that just kind of just always on your mind? A lot of guys change course when 16 comes around, you get a car, or like your driver's license, and that's like the tipping point of, are you gonna stick with BMX or not?
Johnny: When I got a car, it was like, cool, I can travel further. I can actually go to Cleveland now as opposed to the 10 mile pedal to Chenga or the small town that I lived in. We're gonna go all over the fucking place. Yeah it's never strayed from my mind. My objectives, I guess you could say.
Ben: So you were still wanting to stick with BMX through and through?
Johnny: Yeah, absolutely.
Tom: What started the frame building at the muffler shop?
Johnny: Um, that was Joe Purcell. He had started a bike company at the muffler shop, just the place he found in the local area that would make the frames. The first one was based off the Fit Series One. So I built that when I first got there, and it was not my frame, haha, it fucking sucked to me. When it came time for me to make another one I started, you know, modifying the fixture and made a shorter back end, a steeper headtube angle and started making it more towards my liking. Made a couple of those before that series ended. It was initially called Capricorn bikes from what Joe started, and then when he kind of got out of it, he started riding bigger bikes, I believe, like more DJs. And then we kind of changed the name to FKR and started doing our own shit. Josh Shriver, and I.
Tom: What got you to New York?
Johnny: Kerry Sayer. He was an old Mutiny rider that had worked at Chenga and I knew him through there quite well. Then he got a job at FBM as a salesman. Once Brock left, he started contacting me to kind of get me out there to you know, try to get me into the shop. It took me nine months to decide to do so because that's a big move. But I finally got myself annoyed with working at the muffler shop long enough that I chose to come out. We had taken quite a few trips out that way to visit Kerry, hang out and ride something new. And then decided to move out. My first day was right after the Fourth of July, in '04.