The first time I saw Stew Johnson in a video, he was stage diving with a shaved head, in the Vulgar video by Pantera around 1993 or so. Since that time, Stew has helped shape the culture of BMX with amazing documentation of some of our sport's greatest personalities.
Stew's first project was called 1201, a video he made with Mike Tag that captured the east coast and midwest BMX scene through the eyes of the riders in the mid '90s. Since that time, he has worked on dozens of projects, introducing many of the most influential people and places we see today through video along the way; from Scum Clothing's Lights Out to Anthem, not to mention dialing in Megatours, issues of Props, Road Fools and more.
Stew's vision has made BMX even more interesting and entertaining than it already is, and for that, the entire culture of BMX owes Stew a big thanks. Fresh off a nine-week stint in Europe to film for Anthem 2, I got a chance to catch up with Stew to see what's new. Here are a couple quick questions with one of the hardest working BMXers to date.
You just spent nine weeks in Europe filming for Anthem 2. What can you tell us about it?
Sean Burns, Geoff Slattery, Brian Yeagle and I went to Europe to work on Anthem 2. I also worked on various Props projects when I was there, including the F.I.S.E. contest in France and the Worlds in Cologne, Germany. I can tell you that nine weeks in Europe was pretty exhausting. The language barrier can be quite a pain when you're hungry and/or lost. Most of the time we had amazing people taking care of us though. Vincent Perraud is a photographer for the French BMX magazine Soul. Without his help, we wouldn't have been able to do it. He drove us around for a little over three weeks. He searched out spots for us, found us places to sleep, and took amazing pictures of our trip that will be featured in upcoming Dig and Soul issues. We also stayed with Hannu Cools for week. He drove us around Belgium and took us to some of his secret spots. We also spent some time in Berlin hanging out with Maxsomenoise and Tami. A huge thanks to everyone for taking such good care of us. I really appreciate it.
What was your favorite food item of the trip?
The falafel shop in Cologne, Germany was hands-down the best food on the trip. The food in France was terrible.
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Can you tell us what projects you have been working on outside of Anthem 2?
I work on all Props releases: video magazine issues, Megatours, Road Fools, and Year End videos. I've also done some work for Vital and ESPN recently too.
When did the original Anthem video come out, and how long have you been actively filming for this video?
Anthem came out December 28th, 1997. I've been actively filming for Anthem 2 for almost two years now. I still work full time for Props, so filming for Anthem 2 isn't consistent; I'm a professional juggler.
How many (fill in the blanks) while working on this video?
• Miles logged with travel: I don't really keep track of miles, but it's safe to say that with a couple of international trips, I have probably logged at least 25,000 miles for this video.
• Tapes Filled with Footy: Somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-90 tapes.
• Hi Fives for a job well done: I don't think that these guys are too into "high fives." Maybe a dozen or two.
• Guests at your house during the winter: It's a revolving door.
• People asking you when the video will be released: I actually don't get asked this too often. I think people know that we're working on it and it will be done when it's done.
• Frustrated moments: Every time we get kicked out of a spot, a bike breaks, or someone gets hurt, it's a frustrating moment. It's all part of the game.
• Bikes lost: By airlines? Four. By an intoxicated Geoff Slattery? One.
• Luggage lost: Once or twice.
• Crazy people interacting with Burns: All the time. He's a magnet. Most recently, a Dutch writer.
• WTF moments while filming: Just about every time I film Yeagle, Slattery, or Burns. Those dudes never cease to amaze me. I'm really happy with how the video is shaping up. I can't wait for people to see it.
What are your thoughts on DVD's in the age of Web Videos?
My opinion is probably fairly biased since I make my living off of selling DVDs, but I really don't enjoy watching Web videos on a small computer monitor. I enjoy watching videos the same way I did growing up; sitting on a couch in the living room with a bunch of my friends with the music cranked up. If the rider and videographer have put their time in and make something worth watching, then it shouldn't be disposable. It should be something that gets you stoked over and over again. Imagine if Van Homan's part in Criminal Mischief was a Web video? Would it still have the same impact on street riding and live on for future generations of BMXers to be inspired by? Probably not, but that's just my opinion. Web videos are what they are and you can't change that. They have their place in BMX, it's just a shame that you see less and less people making DVDs these days.
Any currents DVDs or Web videos that have gotten you stoked?
As far as recent DVDs go, Banned 3 has some pretty sick riding in it, and Sean Burns' part in Dead Bang was the best part I've seen in ages. Brad Simms and Eli Platt's Micreation parts got me stoked a while back too. It's hard to keep up with everything that's going on out there, but there are lots of dudes killing it these days.
Any thanks or shout outs?
There are honestly way too many to mention (and I'd feel bad if I forgot someone.) All the guys I film with, people who help us out or support us in any way, my roommates, family, and friends. I know I don't say it enough, but I really appreciate everything these people do for me. Thank you so much.
Stew is currently working on a Web site to promote Anthem 2, but for now, you can keep up with Stew's DVD output via Props.