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Quick Chat: Steve Crandall - Right On.

by jpr • 06/18/2013

I worked at FBM for a little over three years and lived in Binghamton, NY. Rod Serling of Twighlight Zone fame was born and graduated high school in this post industrial, Upstate New York wasteland. The town is not a normal or sane place to call home. One day we showed up to work and the building we were attached to was condemned, you know, the one we had to pass through to get to our loading dock. We had four days to move an entire machine shop and distributor, oh, and find a new location. Maintaining the daily operation even on the most base level was a constant barrage of trials and tribulations. I've worked at several BMX companies in my day, and of course every business has to overcome kooky shit on the regular, but the absurdity of what FBM has endured to stay afloat (adrift?) is mind-bottling. I'm proud to be listed among the crew of wayward dodo heads who have held an oar over the years. I think a lesser group of men would have packed their bags, pumped up their tires and headed to greener pastures long ago.

Steve? Can you hear me?

What the hell's going on around here?


What are you doing?

I'm drunk.


What time is it?

I'm just kidding. It's probably seven or eight o'clock, yeah. I dunno.


How was Lords of Fun?

Oh, it was fucking wild man. We went right into a tropical storm. I just stole a sign that says “Warning these premises are being watched by video surveillance and we'll prosecute.”


I have no idea what you just said.

It was just this big warning sign that said “Warning this property is under surveillance and we will prosecute” and I stole it.


How old are you?

I'm five.


Are you forty yet?

No. Fuck no. I'll never be forty.


So what part of the world are you in right now, are you in Ithaca or Richmond?

I'm in Richmond, Virginia.


Were you just up at FBM? How are things going up there?

Why are you asking me all these questions?


Why not?

Fucking weirdo. Yeah, I was up at FBM like a week and half ago and it was...


Weirdo? What else am I supposed to do? What were you doing up there?

Just meeting with John Lee and Erbles and shooting some video.


Eating? Did you guys eat at the Reveille?

No. We had a meeting, man. We also ate at Wegeman's.


What did you guys have meetings about?

How to be broke and how to be more broke and how to continue to go broke.


Seems like we could fart like ten years ago and people would pay attention and now it's like I gotta drive a black school bus around with muppets on acid to try and get people to even notice us.


That means you're staying in BMX?

Yeah, why wouldn't I?


Because you want to get rich and famous?

I think if I wanted to be rich and famous I would have started skateboarding when I was ten.


How are things at FBM? How'd the meetings go?

Well, it's a down year but things are on the up and up. Our sales are down, sales numbers, they're not depressed or nothing, well, they're kind of bad. Yeah, the numbers are down and it seems from what we can gather it's not just us. It's a BMX recession, so to speak.


When BMX goes into a 'recession', you guys are already shrunk down as small as you can be, what can you do when things are super tight?

Ah, just grip it and rip it.


What does grip it and rip it entail?

Me maxing out my credit cards doing FBM trips and Erbles running parts in the tumbler, working on the Bridgeport and John Lee doing what he can to keep some cash coming in and out of the company.


Overall, when I talk to you guys you seem pretty psyched and you're rolling along and making it happen still.

Yeah, I mean when you started a company based on traveling around and selling t-shirts out of the back of a car, you have your ups and downs, and even when it's down, it's still awesome. So fuck it.


I here some people say American manufacturing is making a comeback, but it's hard to tell in BMX because it's so tiny right now.

I've definitely read some articles about overall U.S. manufacturing being on the up and up, but I think the sales are so fucking low in BMX right now that it's hard to tell. There's an obvious awareness of the quality from the small U.S. hand-built shops that people are paying attention to again which is pretty cool.


You're doing stuff in small numbers and you can't really order super tiny numbers from Taiwan, looks like maybe a few people are doing a couple hundred stems or forks here and there as to where before they would have sourced that stuff in the thousands overseas.

Yeah, you see companies like Animal and new companies like Merritt utilizing small number production U.S. made stuff... well, because it's awesome, but some if it's out of necessity. You know, we couldn't afford to order like 2,000 pairs of forks from anywhere. We make a couple hundred pairs in-house and people are stoked on it and we don't have a million dollars wrapped up in inventory that we hope is gonna sell.


What about the riders? What kind of scene do you got going on with those guys?

With who?


Your riders. Your dudes.

Oh, I forgot we even have any of them.


Who are they? What do they do? What does Kenny Horton do?

Kenny Horton is a taxi driver.


I'm assuming he's got a few good taxi driving stories?

Every day he comes back with a story that's mind blowing. It's like a cross between the 'Bad Lieutenant' and 'Taxi Driver' and every fucked up reality show scenario you could ever imagine. Drug dealers, recovering alcoholics and drug users going in and out of therapy, politicians going into weird motel rooms. Picking people up at the insane asylum and dropping people off there. He's picked up people from murder scenes even. He's got the weirdest, most outrageous real life stories.


Is he phased by any of it?

He gets phased when they give him penalties for not filling up the gas tank when he returns the cab. He got like a $215 fine because the cab was low on oil. He gets mad about that kind of stuff, but he doesn't seem too bothered by the underbelly of society.


Is he living in a camper?

He's working on living in a camper. He's living with Rob Tibbs right now.


How do you work on living in a camper? Don't you just get one and start living in it?

He's trying to renovate it. He got an old one for cheap and put new floors in, trying to figure out the electrical. The wiring is all fucked up in it.


Is Tom Blyth living in a camper?

I think Tom Blyth is living in a fucking camper van, like gypsy cottage on wheels. Some sort of weird British thing that he's got going on.


What else is up with Tom?

He's hanging out at some bar with one of the guys from Def Leppard getting drunk and singing karaoke a bunch.


Is he still a mailman?

I assume he's still a mailman, but I noticed he put something up asking if anyone had any jobs available, might have run its course on that one. So yeah, a mailman and a taxi driver, both two dudes that look like roadies for Iron Maiden and they have fairly legit jobs.


Is this Lords of Fun thing going to be another DVD?

Actually, I don't know what we're doing with it. We had this dude Fraser Byrne, a documentarian from the U.K., on the trip with us and he filmed and we filmed it and we shared all the footage. He pieced together a video called 'Food, Petrol, Beer' about these adventure motorcyclists. We are trying to figure it out as we go, but a lifestyle video from his point of view and then a BMX based video from the FBM point of view. But I don't know how we are going to present it yet.


What do you got planned for the rest of summer?

We have a big FBM summer tour in the bus going to bike shops in the Northeast, film trails and work on some video sections with Kenny, Wormz, Neil and Holladay. Probably do another FBM event at the end of summer at Derek Nelson's spot HCS. We are shooting for Labor Day weekend for that.


What kinds of new products do you have coming out? Anything exciting?

Yeah, we have U.S. made in-house 8.75” and 9” FBM handlebars, Bellwitch's are getting worked on right now, Erbles just pieced together a 650b women's city commuter bike and Kenny's testing a prototype frame called the Orphan, which later this summer if all things fall into place will be manufactured in-house. Then we'll be trying to get people to buy them.


That's the key, getting people to buy your stuff.

Seems like we could fart like ten years ago and people would pay attention and now it's like I gotta drive a black school bus around with muppets on acid to try and get people to even notice us.


Do you think it's that way with almost every company? Seems hard to stand out no matter what you're doing.

Unless you're putting out the Deadline video once a week, it seems like it's hard to get people's attention. I'm not sure I fully understand the changing dynamic of youth culture and the elimination of the attention span. There's lot of people that are into BMX, but I don't know what they're into. There's like the people that we hang out with and they're into all right stuff. There's a whole nother world out there, a new generation of BMXers and it's hard to connect with it seems like.


You just keep doing what you're doing, it's not like you guys were ever that huge.

We're not doing FBM to be cool. We're not doing it to be famous or rich. We're doing it because it's what we do and we are going to continue to do what we do. If it works cool, and if it doesn't, that's cool. If we can last long enough for it to come back around to where we are in style again some day, right on.