Down But Not Out

The Animal full lengths have cemented themselves as pivotal moments in East Coast BMX and in greater the entirety of BMX street. The approach they had at the time was very different from mainstream videos. Ride everything was still the standard and when people rode street a more aggressive style of street was preferable. It was with the Animal videos that a technical aspect of street was put on the forefront and street, the discipline of choice. Something that echoes in today’s riding. 

The Animal videos were released on every two year schedule. The first Animal video came out in 2002, second feature ‘Can I Eat’ in 2004, then the follow up ‘All Day’ was 2006′. ‘Cuts’ the final full length project was released in 2010. Taking four, a departure from the previous intervals. The thing about Animal videos is that they had a structure to them at this point. The same few faces plus who ever most recently joined the ranks. The same cities and same spots. With the Animal videos you saw a progression of the riders and their scenes, a lot of whom only released clips through Animal. Like with Edwin, he was always at the spotlight. In the first Animal video he had a very influential section as a starter, his real premier section into BMX. The next two were also equally memorable that finished the video, a spot reserved traditionally for the best. Edwin was definitely the highlighted pro of Animal but the much hyped Cuts saw a departure to that normality at that point.

Honestly it was quite a surprise to a lot of people to think that Edwin wasn’t last section and it actually went to Butcher. At this point in time, Butcher was a full seasoned veteran. He’s been putting out sections since 1996 and earlier probably. To put that to perspective, Edwin was 12 when Butcher was coming onto the scene. He was a legend all ready when his part in Neighborhood Superhero in 1996. Something your favorite rider’s favorite rider’s favorite rider cites as their source of inspiration. A video and a section that is pivotal in the whole early street movement. Butcher was a street rider before being a street rider was a real thing. 

His showing in the Animal videos since the beginning was strangely kind of poor. Not in the sense his clips were bad because they were always pristine but in the first Animal video his section was a mere 35 seconds long. 35 seconds of absolute gold but not really quite a full section. In ‘Can I Eat’ it was 1:43 which is more reasonable but still a short section in a time where the average section would be around double that. ‘All Day’ he goes back to less than a minute.. Butcher being the seasoned pro he is, with the longevity he’s had in BMX is not someone whose proving his worth through video section at this point. Butcher is in there so we can enjoy a bit of Butcher and what he’s been up to. He’s kind of relegated to that point in a lot of people’s minds. With Cuts he comes back with 2:32 of pure fire and last section. Uncalled for and absolutely amazing. 

Butcher joined Hoffman Bikes in 93/94. Cuts comes out in 2010. That is 17 years of being a professional rider and he puts the best section he’s ever done. I don’t know how old he is at this point but he’s a lot older than the average pro. This guy is the type of guy who remembers Mat Hoffman doing the first double peg on a handrail. It was really a surprise like that. It didn’t make sense at all and the tricks he was doing were progressive and worthy of being last section withstanding his already build legacy, clout and what not. It was deserved through riding alone. That signature Butcher sketchy street style where he does crazy tricks and it may not be pristine or anything like that but it’s done. When no one else is stepping up to the plate to do tricks like he does on the spots he does. Sketch becomes a style itself. The whole section half of it is filmed terrible with dirt on the lens, the cameraman dozing off not even pointing it at the rider at one point and it all adds to that aesthetic in a not purposeful happy mistake type of way.

BMX is a young man’s sport. There is no doubt about that and there is serious lack of support when it comes to the older riders. Which is completely understandable in the economic situation that BMX is clearly in. Dismal. But is there still reason to support these riders and I think there absolutely is. You see whoever’s good right now with no video section and only a Instagram to show is just that. Himself on some profile. When this section dropped. I’m sure a lot of people rewatched everything Butcher did to get to that point, I certainly did. And Butcher having this amazing section is a miracle that honestly I don’t think can be replicated by much pros but still there is real worth to having a rider like him in the ranks. Even Josh Stricker’s last section in the last Primo video ‘Nice Try’ made me revisit him and that section wasn’t even that good(Stricker is still A1 BOSS!). 

In short term value, no there isn’t much to gain from a veteran rider. He’s not gonna put up instagram clips left and right and get the kids hooked but it’s through keeping these almost time capsule riders that kid get a taste of what did happen before. Maybe some kid got stoked on Cuts and saw Neighborhood Superheros online. Then saw Will Taubin or Robbie Morales when he was rider. Then they watch F-It and see early Aitken. It’s things like that, that keep BMX rich and full of real culture. Something that is build up over time and not some passing fad that unfortunately a lot of industry to resort to sell. It’s an industry and people want money, I get it but you really don’t need to replace Butcher with some young gun who no one is gonna care about in three years and I can’t tell the future but that does seem like the model people are going for. Like there are some riders who completely fell off like a year ago and was signed like a few years before that, that I absolutely don’t remember but know they exist. It’s that kind of thing. Butcher is the dopest and should get a Walmart and 7-11 sponsor 4 lyfe. Throw in Red Bull too. Check out his A-Town Trash ‘Still Folded’ section too. I think it’s the clips that didn’t make Cuts but it’s still better than anything on Instagram today or whenever you read this.

Joe ‘Butcher’ Kowalski

Animal Freestyle by Tame One

Animal - Cuts (2010)

Edited by Bob Scerbo

Vans Europe’s Courage Adams smashed out a full part for Animal Bikes full of the absolute goodness we have come to enjoy. I like that Courage refuses to get a freecoaster and can still be super tech, plus he can blast big bar to ice’s and send trucks over rails. He’s got it all!

Also, the manual to truck in this video is unreal.

Video by Cristian Traila


Animal just announced the addition of Matt Miller to their team by dropping this amazing edit full of pegless street trickery.




Nigel is a pretty controversial figure in BMX. I’m sure for a lot of the younger generation it’s hard to imagine Nigel in an AM:PM edit, something so raw and cutty and VX. Something that doesn’t make use of slow mo and a sun silhouetting the back of his head in some far away land with helicopter intros and all that glamor he’s associated with these days. There was a period when Nigel was just a very good regular pro.

I’d say he was always pretty ambitious. Not one of those pros who are content with just the lifestyle of being the average BMX professional. His decisions in his career have always had the mark of someone who was trying to achieve greater. Sponsors like G-Shock, LRG, Nike, Nigel has courted these type of mainstream brands barring his brief amateur stint with Wethepeople and his obvious parts sponsor of hometown Animal Bikes. His career choice can be highlighted in being part of the newly formed Mirraco bikes. At this time I’d say Nigel was one of the most progressive riders in BMX as a whole. His barspin tech game was pretty unparalleled. Sure he’s a flat ledge rider like a lot of East Coast riders but check the ice to bar to smith in the edit above. That’s something that’s not happening now. None the less back then. I’d say he’s the type of guy who had a professional outlook on this whole BMX thing. He could’ve easily gone pro for a more core brand like Wethepeople probably but Mirraco was definitely a risk of some sort. To understand the different one would have to understand Mirraco place in BMX. It was started after the most famous BMX rider ever Dave Mirra left his long standing sponsor, the iconic Haro and he was formulating a brand to be mass produced. It was all cookie cutter but that’s way it was supposed to be. Something that can compete with brands like GT and Mongoose. You know where all the real money is. Nigel would just act as the street ambassador to the brand. I don’t think it was ever a real serious decision or maybe it didn’t just pan out the way it should’ve. I’ve never seen any of the Chocolate frames ever in major mailorders. Maybe Danscomp but Danscomp has everything. It could’ve been just a show of street cred, something to tie the whole brand with the rest of the industry which is more core based. I don’t know, but Mirraco didn’t pan out and years later closed down. Nigel hasn’t had a frame sponsor since then. He tried something with the cult brand Brooklyn Machine Works but no news of any serious development has happened in the 5+ years ago it was announced. Nigel has always risked more for more but as nature law is, he ended up on the losing end so far.

His choice in his whole career has always showed wanting more. Feel me…, Pop a Wheelie Fresh, Go!, Pyradice, all these opportunities in branding that Nigel created that all didn’t really work out. I think a big reason for these opportunities not is that Nigel kind of isolated himself from the rest of the BMX industry. Even though he’s definitely more mainstream recognized athlete than most of BMX ever will be, it’s gonna be hard to create something successful using just his name alone. I’d say most of his fans are bike riders still and most bike riders will exist in a sphere outside of Nigel’s influence. Without the support from the very core industry that sort of ignore him, Nigel’s own growth is kind of hindered. Regardless of the resources available to him through his mainstream outlets. Nigel is a BMX rider and that’s not a very serious position in that our real life media based world. He still did acheive a lot more than what most bike riders ever will. That may not be important to a lot pros but BMX in it’s entirety relies on these type of figures to legitimize what we do.

There is the whole argument that BMX doesn’t need that type of real world recognition. That it would be entirely self-sufficient. I think what BMX really needs is a balance of the two. Without people like Dave Mirra, BMX would not be half as big as it is now. With half the market, BMX would not have the Taiwanese factories taking BMX brands seriously. Without Taiwanese markets, parts would be expensive. Without cheaper parts a lot more people wouldn’t be into riding. Is that a good thing or bad thing? That’s entirely subjective but I do think all this would be harder. Let’s not forget a lot of our favorite pros rode these piece of crap Walmart brands in the beginning. The whole self sufficient side is absolutely needed in BMX for obvious reasons such as making it true to itself but the whole other aspect that a lot of more serious riders tend to scoff as wack and what not. Well that serves it’s own function for BMX’s own good. With the good comes the bad, on both ends. I just think that BMX being entirely self sufficient is kind of novel idea like communism. Olympics 2020. I don’t know. I don’t honestly care. The thing about BMX is that it exists in such a large spectrum that unlike more mainstream sports you can choose to care about what you care about. The rest you can ignore. With something like football where it’s about points and winning. You can’t choose to like the Cincinnati Bengals without considering the rest of the teams cause they’re directly correlated with one another. The success of the Bengals relies on the loss of others. With BMX it’s not like that. If you don’t like Nigel than you don’t have to pay attention and it will never effect your idea of BMX ever.

This video represents a period where Nigel probably thinks of as simpler times. Where someone underground like Joey Piazza and someone mainstream Nigel are working on the same project. It’s interesting. Sure Nigel may not have been the best rider ever and got all that we perceived he got but he’s not a bad candidate to get it. Definitely not a bad rider. That ice bar to smith. Woo. That’s something.

Nigel Sylvester

They Know by DJ Hotday

am:pm bmx - NO MORE OVALTINE B! (2008)

Edited by Joey Piazza