We caught up with the legendary rider/filmer/producer Chris Rye, and asked him a few questions about the new Baco Documentary…
Who was involved with Baco, who are the main players, who was on the peripheral?
Around 1988 Chad DeGroot and I started building these weird little ramps and calling them Bad Ass Coping Obstacles…or Baco I, II and III with each new ramp. Just silliness really. In 1990 we met met Mark Hilson and Mark Fluette, who were from the Appleton, WI area about 30 minutes south from us up in Green Bay.
The four of us sort of formed the core of Baco then, and put out our first video “BacoVision” not long after. A couple years later we started hanging out with Dave Freimuth a lot and he became more less the 5th core member. I think we were drawn to his luscious golden locks. There were a lot of other friends we considered “Baco members”, dudes like Kuhrt Emmerich, Jeremy Verhulst, Krt Schmidt, Jimmer Rienstra, Kerry Gatt, Dylan Worsley, and later guys like Jason Enns, Dave Osato, Andrew Faris, Ruben Alcantara, Brian Kachinsky and other dudes we would to put in the videos.
When did you guys get started, what was the catalyst for starting to make videos?
At that time video cameras were not something the average person owned or has access to, but Chad’s parents had a VHS cam that you’d film with up on your shoulder. We took that thing around with us and would film all kinds of weird stuff and of course our riding and skating too. By the time we had met Hilson, he had a VHS camera of his own, which him and Fluette had used to make their first video “Thrashin Menasha”. Then we all sort of began pooling footage and the Baco name from our ramps got used for this new video featuring all of us called BacoVision. The next video was called Baco 2 and it just went from there.
How many Videos have you guys made to date?
There have been 10 Baco videos spanning about 15 years, and now with the new “Push It To 11” documentary that makes it 11 total.
Did you guys have some early influences?
Definitely. Mark Eaton and the Plywood Hoods probably stand out the most, as they were primarily flatlanders like us but also dabbled in ramps and street too. Ells Bells made it ok to be weird and keep people guessing. Eddie Roman made you want to have the newest cams and editing equipment so your videos would be of good quality. We were always stressing over video quality back then, just the fact that VHS was not that great to begin with, but then you had to make multiple dubs to add music and make copies for people to actually see the vids. So we were always aware of each generation number and the loss each time and would be careful to make the least amount possible when we were editing.
What was the climate in BMX like when BACO was in it’s prime?
Excitement. Wonder. Discovery. Progression. Fun, and then more fun. There was always something new happening, a new contest, a new trick being invented and pulled for the first time. New bikes being made stronger and better with rider-owned companies taking over. There was no internet, so in addition to magazines, videos were the life blood of what was going on. We never considered it a sport or an industry back then, we just did what we wanted and that was it. We edited our videos with a random Baco style, which set them apart from sectioned videos and gave us more of an opportunity to add in antics and funny shit as well. Even though we were primarily flatlanders, we always had new street and ramp clips in the mix from either us or other people, which gave the vids a broader appeal to more than just flatlanders, or even BMXers for that matter.
Can you tell us a little bit of the Transition/ offshoot evolution from Baco to the wildly influential Props Video Magazine?
In between Baco 5 and 6 around the year 1993 we had met some of the Chicago dudes, one of which was Marco Massei who had made a video called “A Few Good Men”. He was a fan of the Baco videos, and one New Years Eve all of us went down to Iowa for an overnight lock-in at Rampage. I think it was then when Marco and I got to talking about starting a video magazine, which at that time didn’t exist in BMX. Since my background is print and graphic design, and not necessarily video or editing, I had previously been talking to Krt Schmidt about starting a print magazine that I wanted to name Props. When the vid mag idea came along, I ditched the print mag idea and we used the name for what became Props Video Magazine. Not sure many people know that.
You guys just put out a blu-ray Baco box set with all the past videos and a new documentary “Push It To 11: the Bits of Baco”. What was involved in the project?
Damn, a lot of stuff. The box set portion alone was a huge project, more from an archival and technical aspect in that all the best quality 1st generation masters had to be tracked down, fixed up a bit and then encoded for Blu-ray. All the videos previous to Baco 7 were done with analog deck to deck editing, so each video had 2 masters essentially. One we called a “mic mix” master, which is all the 1st gen edit sections with background sound and our random little audio samples we’d insert, then the main master which was a dub of the mic mix and the one with all the music mixed in.
For the box set, all the 1st gen mic mix masters were captured into the computer to serve as the visual portion, then the main masters were captured to serve as the audio portion. Then the 2 were synced up and rendered out for new 1st gen masters of each video, which is the absolute best quality available compared to all the 3rd gen VHS copies of all the original videos that are out there in the wild. On the box set they all look really really good, better than anyone’s seen before. Then of course all the bonus sections had to be assembled and put together. Blu-ray itself is a highly technical thing to work with, so building the menus and authoring everything is a process I had luckily already learned having done the Road Fools box set project last year.
Blu-ray was of course the medium we chose to deliver all the content on, as it holds 10x what a DVD holds, has a more modern menu standard and allows HD material to remain in its native format instead of having to down-res to SD for a DVD. The 11 hours of content all fit on one Blu-ray disc clean and simple. I believe Mutiny put out a Blu-ray video some years ago, but to my knowledge no one else is doing them today in BMX which sort of poses a bit of a challenge with what people might expect. But with all the PS3s, PS4s and Xbox Ones out there, players are a lot more common than people might think.
Then the documentary…it took a full year to finish on its own and ended up being 80 minutes long, which is just the sweet spot length for docs. It was sort of a independent project to the older videos but at the end everything got merged into the full box set. There was something like 20 hours of interviews we shot and 200 hours of b-roll from all the Baco tapes going back to 1988. It was pretty insane really, I never even had time to look through all the b-roll, but did get through a good portion of it. From a filmmaker’s perspective though, all that b-roll was an absolute godsend as it was the ultimate archive to tell the story. The doc also features hundreds of photos, which all of us contributed to tracking down, with everything getting scanned in high res mostly from original negatives or slides. Again, just a pure joy having all that imagery available to help piece together the story.
Baco is a really fun story full of amazing bike riding and music, interesting characters and personalities, funny antics and weird pranks. Original, unique stuff you just can’t duplicate. The right set of people coming together at the right time doing cool shit. It’s also a great and fun history lesson for newer school riders who have no idea any of that even happened back in the 90s and early 2000s. That general overall vibe seems to have been sort of lost in today’s instant-gratification BMX world so hopefully people will see and understand what I mean when they check out the movie.
Any good stories from filming the Documentary? Was the response from the people you interviewed pretty positive?
Damn, where to start. In total we interviewed more than 40 people, which is quite a large group for a documentary. One of the co-producers, Rick Wagner, and I, took a trip out to Cali last summer and shot a bunch of interviews there, then we got a rental car and drove to Texas Toast and shot a bunch more off the cuff interviews there in Austin. Toast was a lifesaver because there were a lot of riders and industry people already assembled in one place, which saved us a lot of time and expenses traveling to get people on camera. We also shot a lot of interviews around the Midwest. It was a real joy visiting with so many old friends, some of which we hadn’t seen in awhile. Everyone was more than happy to talk about Baco, their memories of it and how the videos influenced them and others when they were growing up.
One funny story was when we showed up at S&M to interview Sean McKinney, who works there. We walked in and right inside the lobby was a sketchy little plywood bowl and the office “furniture” was made of particle board and cardboard boxes. Moeller was standing there and said hi to us, and I’m not sure he had any idea who we were. Then we heard someone attempting to play the Imperial Death March theme from Star Wars on some kind of horn, who turned out to be McKinney blowing into a long plastic horn-like thing. Once in the office, there was this skinny little corridor that lets you get out into the warehouse. McKinney was standing in there blowing the horn and blocking the office girl from getting past him and out back. She was obviously annoyed she couldn’t get by and rolled her eyes looking over at us, sort of implying, “Jesus christ, I have to put up with this shit everyday.” Lol.
McKinney is of course a character, so he took us out back in the warehouse to set up the interview shot slapping high 5s with the machine shop workers on the way back. Then he got to talking to Wagner and found out he used to work at Standard back in the day, and started throwing his arms around and said, “This aint no Standard Country!” referring to the once, long-running Midwest-Cali feud between Standard and S&M. Wagner thought McKinney was going to punch him for a second, but then tensions eased up once we started talking about Baco. Then McKinney started making fun off all the pseudo-homo stuff from the Baco videos and told us to shave our “super 70s power muffs”. That was probably the most entertaining of all the interviews in terms of environment. There are a lot of golden outtakes of McKinney and others that never got used in the documentary but may go into a blooper reel for the web soon.
Just everyone who we interviewed, put us up for the night, shot interviews for us, borrowed us equipment or helped us out in general. The documentary and box set took a long time to put together, and the feedback on everything has all been super positive so that makes it all worth it. Thanks everyone!
– The Baco box set is available at http://bacodesigns.com/product/baco-collectors-edition-blu-ray-box-set/
– The Baco documentary “Push It To 11: the Bits of Baco” is available on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/push-it-to-11-the-bits-of-baco/id900370326 and other networks like Amazon, Google Play, Xbox and Hulu
– Baco on Instagram @bacodesigns