A Conversation With Mike Vockenson

Vocko is a cool guy and I think he is interesting and he has a good haircut so I decided to ask him some questions about BMX and other stuff that he's interested in. I also realised I used the wrong your when I sent him these questions - awkz. 

Tell me about riding around the time of Super Cereal. I remember the video was pretty well received.

The good old days. Everything about that edit makes me psyched on what BMX was like back then, I had absolutely no connection to the scene and it was basically just Duffy and myself out searching for street. It's also kind of strange to think about how things were then, you know, not having any kind of precedent, no TCU presence and no expectations, just doing what we wanted. It was also amazing because I hadn't searched street then so it was all new and fresh, not anymore though, it's all busted out. 

I’m not exactly sure if this is the right word, but you’re somewhat notorious in the BMX scene because of your blog Crispy Stream. I use the word notorious lightly because it’s like a comedic veil that you wear, rather than your own personality. What I admire about CS is that beyond the fake mask of comedic arrogance there is an all-inclusive mentality. You self funded a DVD and then gave kids’ the opportunity to submit footage, which they knew would be shown alongside some of Australia’s best riders. I’m not exactly sure what I’m asking here, but perhaps you could talk a little about your opinion on it and how you deal with people who misinterpret you humour?

Man, that is like the most fitting description of what Crispy is, I couldn't have worded that better myself haha. It's kind of unfortunate, and a little worrying, that more people don't understand it like that. So many people just know me from Crispy and I guess, categorise me through those facades, which would make me look like an arrogant, narcissistic, cynical bastard haha. As far as dealing with that misguided audience, there isn't much that I worry about rectifying, the only people that I care about in terms of their perceptions of me are my close friends and a selected few dudes in the Australian scene that I look up to. Other than that, it makes me laugh to hear about and read people talking shit on me. As you say, it's all driven by humour. A lot of the time, I do a post and the only person I'm directing the post to is Jerry or Mac or someone you know haha. Sometimes I forget that so many more people see it.

Changing the topic entirely, you studied town planning (or something similar, correct me if I’m wrong) as an undergrad with an honours year. What sparked your interest in this field?

Nothing too significant, I just combined my most loved subjects from school, english and geography and went to a university course function with the intent of discovering more about planning. I was kind of sold by the advocate lady, who later turned out to be one of my tutors and mentors throughout my degree. Had no idea about the subject and am still learning so, so much each and every day. Stoked on it.

I can imagine that sustainability is a dominant trend in your field at the moment. How do you situate yourself within the topic/discussion?

Yeah man, definitely. Town planning is essentially driven by 3 facets, the economy, society and the environment, with sustainability being a dominant theme running throughout all 3 of those elements and is something which maintains a large focus within any content we study. I am a strong believer in its underlying intent and directions, its just going to be so hard to reorient society towards this 'way of living'. It's hard to believe that there are people out there, knowledgeable and influential people, who see it as a flawed concept.

What was your honours thesis on and can you give me a brief introduction to your area of interest?

For sure, I always had an interest in community involvement within the planning process, so I decided to compare two different legal systems and the various avenues in which a third party can influence development outcomes, ultimately attempting to improve planning as a discipline. Probably doesn't make much sense or sound interesting in the slightest, but once you get going, it is dope.

That sounds really interesting. I saw on Facebook that you recently got a job – how does it feel to be working full time and what is your occupation?

Yeah, I was doing work experience at a multi-disciplinary consultancy for a few months, just a day week, enjoying the hell out of it, never having any intention of actually working there. Turns out, a senior employee retired and someone else in the firm took his role, leaving a position open that I could potentially fill as a graduate planner. So I spend 50% of my time assisting in the approvals processes for Woolworths petrol stations and the other half working under the direction of the principal town planner. I absolutely love it! Gives you some faith in the education system, and also makes you realise how much you don't learn at university haha. It's kind of weird the lack of practical capacity you fulfil at university, totally un-prepared for the real world, aside from basic, general skills.

Returning to some more BMX oriented questions, its undeniable that you have a real passion for riding. If I remember correctly, you started off racing, so presumably you’ve been in the game for a while now. Is there anything that is bothering you with people’s mentality towards BMX at the moment?

Thanks man! I guess you could say I have been 'in the game' as a consequence of starting racing so early. I have essentially been riding since I was 5 years old, quitting when I was 19. Although, I didn't start riding skateparks and street until I was closer to 15. I am so glad I was around to witness BMX through that era, even if only just catching the tail end. Man, have things changed. I was only mentioning this to someone just recently, the amount of kids who you have never heard of absolutely killing it is crazy. Every week a new dude releases a web edit full of ridiculous super mega shit and it just kinda goes un-noticed. Imagine what would have happened 10, even 5 years ago if someone made an edit of that calibre. Makes you realise how high the level of riding is now.

As far as things that bother me, not too much that is worth mentioning. Just the standard responses I guess, the bad/hungry attitudes and egos. Sucks to see that.

You’ve ridden for Tempered for a while now. How did that materialize and what has kept you backing Matt for so long?

I have, and it's crazy how fast its gone. It's been 4 and half years now, as far as I can remember it was the start of 2009 when it was 'official'. It's been amazing to be able to ride for a brand like Tempered. Even with a lack of support from a lot of people who you wouldn't expect that kind of reaction from, shit is still rolling along.

 To me man, Tempered is BMX as fuck, it's run by a dude that grew up riding and still does and ain't at all about the cash. Matty puts so much effort into it for very little return, hopefully one day things will reverse and he can start getting some benefits out of it. To me, it seems weird that more people in Australia don't embrace Tempered. I guess, unfortunately, it comes down to your social media/online presence, which makes it hard for Tempered to compete. I love riding for Tempered and supporting something awesome, fuck all that other noise.

Sticking on the topic of Tempered, you wrote a pretty heart felt ‘press release’ (if you could call it that) about the future of the brand. It was refreshing to see someone who cared so much about their sponsor. I’m not about to get into the debate of sponsorship give and take, but it was cool to see your belief in the brand come before your own personal gain. Why was it important to put that out to the public?

Again, thanks for the feedback, it's nice to know that people are reading it. It's a double edged sword in one way, with me writing that piece, it essentially admits truth in the position that Tempered is in, as well as breathing some knowledge into the easily misled minds out there killing the vibe. It arose as a result of a number of people asking me what was happening with Tempered and if it was still around. Which is retarded. It's like as soon as the brand doesn't have weekly fucking half assed web edits 'dropping' and all the dudes on the team kicking it up on the instagram shamelessly self promoting the product and themselves, the brand is dead. I guess most of the dudes on Tempered, the few anyway, don't give a fuck about shoving the products down peoples throats and re-upping our web edits. It's a fake ass way to get consumer attention and not really how we want to do things.

Anyway, the point of the article was to make it known that Tempered is still kicking on, and always will be as long as the belief is there. It's just going to be a little slow for a while whilst things continue to build behind the scenes. Let me assure you there are plenty of plans for the rest of this year, Drains Jam next weekend (the 17th), Tempered trip later in the year, re-stocking of products, new T's and hopefully some web content. All we ask is that you don't lose faith, see through the bullshit.

I know this is a bit of a faux par, but to finish off, do you have any ambition to pursue the pro BMX thing?

It's never been a practical concept for me. I guess I could self fund a trip to America every year and try get things running that way, but realistically, nothing substantial would ever eventuate out of that. It would just harm all the studies I have done over the last 4 years and put a hold on capitalising on my degree. That is the reason why I spend 35 k on university anyway, to give me something to live off for the rest of my life. The BMX 'pro life' is never going to fund anything. Although, having said that, I would fucking love to be able to take some holidays from work and head to America and Europe and Asia, wherever, to film and meet people, ride new spots and travel the world. I can't even flair man, there is no way in hell that I could ever pursue the 'pro life' haha.

I’d say that’s a pretty modest response! Companies respect a much wider sort of riding these days – look at Nigel. Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Vocko, much appreciated.

Further Reading:

Mike Vockenson - Down Under from Shadow Conspiracy on Vimeo.

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