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Mountain Biking

Danny MacAskill Interview

His meteoric rise made him the most famous mountain biker in the world. But as he tells Mpora, Danny MacAskill is still learning to enjoy his rock star status...

Filmed in Edinburgh over a period of six months by his flatmate, BMX filmer Dave Sowerby (who Danny has worked with subsequently on several projects, including Epecuén) it’s no exaggeration to say that the video redefined the realms of what was possible on a trials bike.

The riding was incredible, the soundtrack (the Band of Horses song The Funeral) suited it perfectly and Sowerby’s filming and editing were excellent.

But what made the whole thing even more incredible was that Danny was still working in his local bike shop in Edinburgh at the time, and was almost a complete unknown.

“Imagine if Jimi Hendrix had put out Are You Experienced? while still working at his local guitar shop and you’ll have some idea of what it was like.”

Imagine if Jimi Hendrix had put out Are You Experienced? while still working at his local guitar shop and you’ll have some idea of what it was like. It’s a comparison Danny appreciates given his own love of music, but he’s far too modest to let it slide.

“Naw,” he says, laughing. “I mean Dave and I were happy with the way it turned out. But the only thing I was bothered about at the time was that the trials world liked it. It didn’t even cross my mind what people outside that would think!”

MacAskill tackles one of Epecuen’s more dramatic buildings.

So he honestly had no idea that what they’d created was ground-breaking? “No, not at all. It was a strange one. We had a little premiere over at the flat, with a few close friends around.”

“It had been quite a big thing for us and we were excited. So we watched it twice and then we were like “oh, it’s done now”. And we switched back over to Family Guy. It was a bit of an anti-climax.”

“We watched that first video and then we switched back over to Family Guy. It was a bit of an anti-climax. Then I was woken up the next day by the BBC News…”

“Then I was woken up the next day by the BBC News asking about the video. And you know, from then on things changed a bit.” Danny chuckles again. It must be the understatement of the century.

The video went viral, earning millions of Youtube views in its first few weeks online and changing his life in the process.

Soon Red Bull came knocking, offering a full-time contract and with it the chance to leave the bike shop and focus solely on riding.

Fame, fortune and music

In the years since, MacAskill’s life has been not unlike that of a rock star. With the support of his major sponsor, he’s put out a succession of videos on Youtube, each of which has focused on a different concept, theme or location – kind of like albums.

In the periods between he promotes them with media appearances and (injuries permitting) tours the world doing live shows, performing tricks in front of adoring crowds.

Danny watching a lightning storm in Epecuen. Tell me that doesn’t look like a band’s album photo?

Given the similarities, it seems somehow appropriate that Danny sees music as central to what he does. “Music is a huge part of my motivation to go riding,” he says, something that comes back to his habit of riding alone. “I go out with my headphones on and I ride for two or three hours every night.”

“When I listen to a good new tune, even if I’m hitting a spot I’ve ridden hundreds of times, it’s almost like hitting it for the first time again. Sometimes something will click and you’ll see the spot in a completely different light or you’ll see something totally different.”

“When I listen to a good new tune, even if I’m hitting a spot I’ve ridden hundreds of times, it’s almost like hitting it for the first time again.”

And if it’s important for his personal riding, music is even more important for his public videos. He explains: “Since the Inspired video [his 2009 debut] came out, I really think about things quite differently.”

“Rather than thinking just about new things to do with my bike I’m thinking: ‘What’s going to make a good edit?’ and music is a massive part of that. Like the way the Band of Horses went with that video, they worked completely perfectly with each other.”

A tail-whip reflected perfectly in the lake at Epecuen.

Of course it’s not just the music, or even the tricks, that make Danny’s videos so popular. It’s the concepts too. And that’s something he spends a lot of time considering as well.

“I’m always thinking, ‘what’s going to be an amazing place to make a film?’” he says, “I like to have complete creative control over my projects and I’m very into the film side of things.” It’s his creative eye that lead him to Epecuén.

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