We’re going to give this interview thing a try, it’s not a new format, we’re not breaking the mold but in what has become a podcasted world the simple format of a written Q&A still holds some appeal; maybe you can’t wear headphones at work or the speakers in your puter/phone/watch no longer work, or maybe it’s the whine of vocal fry?
This could go somewhere or maybe it doesn’t and we’re talking about a one-and-done scenario. I’m cool with it, regardless of future success I took this opportunity to leverage some Radavist clout and land an interview with Joe Barnes. But why Joe Barnes? For that matter who’s Joe Barnes? There are a lot of people who ride bikes in the world, and within that subset, there are a lot of people who are good, exceptional even, at cycling. But is that enough? Better yet, should or does that matter? Existential issues aside, we live in a time of hyper-information the amount of input, updates, drops, and posts is diluvian in magnitude, only an exceptional few rises to the surface, bobbing in splendor unique above the sea.
Yes Joe can link turns like a slot car with velcro wheels but he is also the mind behind the Dudes of Hazzard, an ongoing series of humorous, lo-fi, self aware riding edits that seem to have sidestepped the overwrought, overproduced, weight-of-the-world riding videos that have come to be the dominant archetype in cycling media. Thankfully it appears that Joe has been raised on a healthy dose of Monty Python and his videos fold absurdist self-reflection with smatterings of the esoteric into cuts of highland turn slapping and high-speed trail ripping.
Recently it seems that this irreverent approach and style have started to gain momentum and I have little doubt that we will most likely get our fill once the vibe has been packaged and sold, as has been writ on the tablet of hype. But that’s the thing about Joe and those like him, it’s not about hype, or at least that’s not the point. This work has the irreverent heart of honest entertainment which is incompatible with paint by algorithm content creation and strategic planning whiteboard room marketing sessions.
In 2019 Joe is taking the reins and running his own team, joined by a lot of jovial Scots. But even if the money went away I don’t doubt Joe and his crew would still be out on their bikes taking the piss when the piss can be taken.
So we’re going to try something a little different here. We may veer into some well-trod territory but I am hoping we can go full overland and off the beaten path. However, let’s start with the basics.
- Name – Joe Barnes
- Age – 30
- Hometown – Fort William, Scotland
- Sign – Biological Hazzard
- Favorite Meat – I’m veggie but eat fishies. I get through a lot of sardines fresh from the tin.
- Least Favorite Meat – Worms
- Favorite food – Porridge oats and milk
- Favorite drink – Irn Bru
- Favorite Smell – My own bru
- Least favorite Smell – My gf’s bru
- Favorite Color – Blue
- Least Favorite Color – I like all colours
- Favorite Part of Scotland – The west coast Highlands
- Favorite part of the world outside of Scotland – Japan
Ok now that we’ve got the basics down. Lets get specific.
As a founding Dude of the Dude’s of Hazzard let’s talk about that, first off why parody the Dukes of Hazzard? Why not the Fall Dudes? Or the Night Riders? What is it about the Dukes that rev’s your engine?
I started the videos when I was at high school by making a film for our local outdoor film festival. It was me and my school friend Richard, and we had help from Gordie who was part of the crew that built the Grand Theft Auto games. He was great and taught me so much about film making. It was his brain child and was originally Hazard with one ‘z’ but I switched it to two for visual effect. So, nothing to do with the Dukes at all, but the name stuck and we did parody their logo eventually.
Speaking of engine revving. The Dude’s Web Series was one of the first series of edit’s in this current-ish era of MTB that seemed to eschew the expensive, highly produced “professional” video look in favor of a more DIY vibe. I love it. What inspired you to make these?
It wasn’t deliberate at the time but an out-of-cash funds necessity. We decided that it would be fun to document our travels in the van around the races in Europe. I bought a “flip” camera for £50 and got cracking on. It never occurred to me that putting more money into video equipment would make a better film. As long as it was recorded somehow, then that was all that mattered. I upgraded by adding a magnetic stick on wide angle adapter for £5 to get that BMX video style and better tight trees filming. This style of trying really hard and making the best film you can with shite equipment sort of set us apart from the start.
Once these videos picked up steam and interest what compelled you to stick to the method rather than succumb to a temptation to “church it up” i.e. make it fancy? Assuming there was a temptation, was there?
I am a very DIY person and so stepped it up in my own way, this included using a couple of climbing pulleys to add zip line shots, particularly for the opening shot of the Dudeumentary series. I did get a new laptop and that helped a lot with the edits, but I generally kept to a lo-fi set-up. You always want to progress but I think just buying a new camera and putting slo-mo shots in isn’t the first way to go. It’s like buying a lighter bike instead of doing any training, you’re only cheating yourself in the long run.
You’re no stranger to videos and you’ve worked with one of the best, (cough, cough) Alex Rankin. Having this experience what did you learn? *Interviewer’s note – yep my mistake.
I have never actually filmed with Rankin, but am his top fan. When I was 13, I got Sprung 5 on VHS for Christmas and watched it every night before bed until Earthed came out, and so on, each year. It taught me in detail about every top riders style on the bike and ingrained in me a style of edit and song choice that Rankin is the best at.
One thing Rankin was able to do was to translate a sense of speed in his work. Lots of MTB videos make it feel like what you’re watching is slow, maybe this is simply the result of the riders not moving fast but my sense is that it comes down to how it is shot. The Hazzard series does a great job capturing speed. Do you have secret?
I agree that how it is filmed is very important. To portray speed, I like to switch the type of shot up and it’s very important to get the camera position right. Taking out dead spots in the trail, for example filming from the straight between turns, helps to create movement on a section that offers less action. Once it comes to the edit, I have also dabbled with making the shot before the best shot a bit blurry to give the stunt more impact. I just love faffing about.
There are a million principles I think you could draw from, but a lot of the time it’s just a feeling that hopefully the shots come out good in the end. Saying that, I also think the trail is essential and having someone charging hard on the bike. So it’s both rider and filmer who need to do a good job.
What are your filming no-nos?
Standing and talking to a camera.
What are your filming yes-es? Are there any specific techniques that you really dig?
I stick to a basic filming theory and then when I am editing I like to switch up the techniques. For me it doesn’t matter what length the film is it always needs a story, these tend to occur naturally in the filming process. Usually something like this – setting the scene, having a nice time, disaster strikes, overcome disaster, happy ending. It seems to be the case in blockbusters and works alright in a 5 minute bike film also. There are always ups and downs in stories so why not show them realistically, kind of like the time Ferg broke his back during the filming for The Big Splash.
Let’s talk about the music in your videos. Wide ranging and wonderful. How do you dig up these tunes?
I love music that’s got a bit of charm. I can happily spend hours searching youtube for the top goods. I came up through the Limewire era of searching and ripping music, was given a good swedge of tunes from my cousin and have done loads of youtube converter rips in my time. It’s great fun trawling all sorts of sounds that conjure some spark or feelings that I can put into a film.
I have to imagine that the tracks in your edits come out of your everyday listening experiences?
Yea, I always have an ear open for video tunes, but I also really like listening to tunes that are not quite cheery enough to put in films. Buck 65 or 90’s rap is pretty constant on the speaker.
Do you actively seek out new music? Or do you just have a great radio station that does all the work for you?
I definitely seek out music and enjoy having it on a hard drive. The Brits will know that Steve Wright in the afternoon on BBC radio 2 is all you need for classics. He, like me, is also a big fan of the Bee Gees, so it’s great to hear them on there as well.
Do you have peers, mentors, icons that have inspired your musical taste?
I stole my sister’s iPod when I was younger to listen to while I was working as a grass cutter on the Highland estate I grew up on. It had loads of Jurassic 5 on it and I played that on loop. The late John Peel was a UK radio presenter who I used to idolize when I was at high school. He was on from 9pm until 10pm each night and I would go to bed with my finger on the record button on my tape stereo and snap up all the classic tunes he played. My biggest regret is losing the tapes I made from his shows. He was a pioneer of new music and had the biggest encyclopedic knowledge of eclectic music I have ever witnessed.
If your riding was a song what song would it be?
Buck 65 – Weirdo Magnet – Track 4
Keeping with the synesthesia please describe your favorite trail via a playlist of music? If you’re up for it put a list of music together that maps the flow of your favorite style of riding.
Soaking in on some fresh air, nice breeze, birds and bees in the trees. Start to get into the flow.
Things get radgy and I get into a wild ride swerving between rocks and trees with a slop infested trail and mud spraying everywhere.
Hard times hit. Body is starting to hurt, red eyes, loose teeth and skid marks. Getting out of shape and swerving down the hill out of control.
Brain regains focus and I can smell the finish incoming. My riding smartens up and there is a nice set of turns to link together leading to a dirty big skid out onto a fire road to finish.
It’s all over and emotions are running deep. Sad the trail is finished.
Changing gears (lol), are you excited for the Enduro Trophy of Nations. At the risk of stoking the nationalism fire, I am totally looking forward to this event. What are your thoughts? Will Scotland be sending a team?
I have kind of timed this badly as I decided to mix up the year and not do the full EWS, and that is required to have the points to be selected on the National Team. I do, however, actually quite like this as I could put in my own team with my mates from home. It’s UCI so I assume it’ll officially be Team GB and not Scotland, so maybe I’ll put in a Scotland team myself.
You focus on Enduro and in the passed raced DH. Are there other cycling disciplines that you interested in? Cyclocross? Bike Packing? Crit Racing? Bike Polo? Etc?
I used to race DH but also loved to dabble in XC. Back in the days it was good to have 2 bikes, instead of just one decent trail bike, like now. I had my beloved DH bike and a Scott Scale XC bike from the bike shop I worked in. It was a single speed machine with full mud spikes, I loved that bike. I did a load of 24 hour races in teams of 4 and a few local xc races. I jumped to trail bike riding when the bikes became more capable.
Before the EWS started, the closest thing to racing trail bikes was the mass start Avalanche Cups in the Alps. This was the focus for a couple of years, whilst still doing some World Cup DH races. It was great sneaking off to race mass start enduros, it is some thrill racing against people head to head down hill, gets the blood pumping. Since the EWS started I’ve been fairly single minded on racing with that as my only real focus. Now that I have started my own team I want to open up options for varying two wheel activities again. Keep it to MTB for me though.
You’re back on Orange for 2019. Are they on board for more Dude’s episodes?
Orange are really keen on the films. I laid out a plan and they nodded and agreed and said that sounds good. The funny thing is my plan is basically just saying trust me it’ll be well good. I have made a flexible race calendar to allow for some more filming but essentially am just going to be winging it for year one and seeing what comes.
Speaking of which what do The Dudes have in store for 2019?
I want to put together a series like I did in 2014 with the Business as Usual series. I really liked the surreal sketch show style that year and would love to delve deeper into something like that. *Interviewers note — F*@K Yes
Overall, from this side of the pond, it appears that cycling in the UK has over the past decade seen an explosion in popularity. Is this an accurate observation? If so why? If not, why not?
I totally agree. When I was 14 there were about 5 local kids riding DH bikes and now there’s a local kids club with 80 kids out every Saturday on mini trail bikes. This is the same all over the country. It has overtaken rugby in schools in the Scottish Borders and things are going from strength to strength. I feel there is maybe still a gap from about 14 years old to adults, but with the amount of young kids riding now, when this filters through the sport will really be there. It’s becoming like skiing; with better accessibility equipment now people of all abilities are loving it.
In 2003 Scotland implemented the Freedom to Roam. Can you describe what that is in your own words?
That’s funny, I never knew it only happened in 2003, I feel like it’s always been a part of the culture. Basically you can go anywhere in the country under your own steam, so long as you are responsible – take out your rubbish, don’t camp anywhere too long etc. In general there aren’t any trespass laws for people and, crucially, bikes. There are specific areas you can’t go like some farm land, golf courses, play parks.
Fort William, where I am from, is the home of Motorbike trials and all the old firm grew up on them so although there might be more MTB than moto these days, the culture of two wheel sport and land use is highly encouraged.
How has access from Freedom to Roam shaped your experience as a cyclist and an outdoor enthusiast? I’d imagine it has been positive but I can also imagine pigs flying. Do you notice access and or lack of access when you travel to other places?
It can only be a positive thing. I build a lot of trails and try to keep them hidden so the Right to Roam is kind of irrelevant, but when riding on ancient hiking paths built by stalkers further north it makes for some great rides and friendly nods from the locals.
I only really travel to bikey places to visit and ride so I’ve had a good view of access around the world with bikes. I think for many people not in bikey places though, with stricter access laws, it could be a hard task to have decent trails.
Another question. In the states we have privatized healthcare. In Scotland you have the NHS. As a mountain biker, a sport that courts danger, how has having access to healthcare affected your riding? Asked another way have you ever considered the riding you’re going to do based on your ability to pay for an accident?
Haha, nope. I have grown up with the NHS so if you ruin yourself they try and fix you if they can, which is brilliant. Maybe not to a professional sportsman level when recovery time is important, but you won’t be left shy. I am a dingbat though and I haven’t sent off for my Euro health card that is free for Brits and allows you health care free over Europe. There is something about paperwork that make me just wing it and hope for the best. Since going to the US for some races you have to legally have insurance to enter and that really ruins the fun of it.
Are we going to see a new motorhome revealed in 2019? Can you give us any insight?
I love the current Landship III so will keep that for a good few more years. It’s a luxury wagon with a decent garage, the biggest windscreen I have ever seen and seats that swivel all the time when your driving. Some thrill.
Speaking of motorhoming. We like a good mobile living unit. What are your top 5 motorhome travel tips?
Use road signs and maps. The co pilot is in charge of making sandwiches. Always stop for a swim in any body of water. Take too many bikes with you. Take your time getting to places.
While on the road do you consume media? Podcasts? Books? TV shows? Something else? Tell me about it, what are some of your favorites?
I usually just have my own tunes on as the radio stations in mainland Europe are tragically bad. I got into listening to bike people podcasts last summer and really enjoy them. I think as I get older and wiser and need less instant gratification of banging tunes I can get into podcasts and maybe learn something.
Does Mountain Biking have A style? In terms of culture, dress, vibe? What are your thoughts here? Is this a basic question? Does it matter?
I think when I was in DH, it was a bit too fashion based and judgmental. You had to be cool to be cool and it didn’t really suit me as more of an outsider who didn’t give a fook. I think though, that through enduro and the growth of trail riding as a bigger part of the sport this has mellowed beautifully. For me, MTB is now incredibly friendly and welcoming. As it goes more mainstream I think it will keep its inclusive nature and underground feel. Fashion-wise, dresses don’t work on bikes too well but I hope the riders in cotton t-shirts and the business folk in technical gear continue to keep their own styles and everyone hacks about in their own way.