5(ish) questions with Danny MacAskill

Danny MacAskill talks about going pro, creativity, his obsessions, and retirement (if it exists).
Danny MacAskill poses for a portrait London 2016
Danny MacAskill © Olaf Pignataro/Red Bull Content Pool
By Danny MacAskill and Michael MacLennan

Danny MacAskill’s story is a tale for anyone who dares to do exactly what they love.

From his Inspired Bicycles in 2009 to Wee Day Out in 2016, MacAskill has strived to follow his heart and be creative.  

Virtually overnight (well, in about seven months) MacAskill went from being just your average bike shop guy to an international superstar and influencer.

That said, ever wonder what his creative process is like? What about the single most important moment of his life? Do know what he is obsessed with?

Well, wonder no more. We sat down with Danny to find out just what’s going on that head of his. In his own words – from us to you, in 5(ish) questions.

Danny MacAskill, nose bonk front flip
Danny MacAskill, nose bonk front flip © Fred Murray/Red Bull Content Pool

Danny, what was the single most important moment of your life?
Watching Chainspotting at my friend’s house on the Isle of Skye in 1998. That was the first time I’d seen Martyn Ashton, Martin Hawyes and Hans Rey ride in that movie.

I was already fanatical about riding my bike and riding everywhere to school and all the weekends, but that was the first time I realised what I was doing on my bike was something, you know. I was doing trials. And from that point there, that was when I really started reading mountain bike magazines, started getting really in the kit, getting a decent bike and it's led me to where I am today.

Then, Inspired Bicycles went online on April 19, 2009 and that was a big moment for me in my life. I wasn’t really too sure where things would go after that day but I knew I had been working up to that point, bike level wise.

Danny MacAskill Hans Rey Livigno
Danny MacAskill and Hans Rey in Livigno

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Some of the best advice I think I ever received was from Hans Rey and Steve Peat back in 2010.

It was shortly after I signed with Red Bull and a few other partners and I'd gone from doing small shows and working in a bike shop, to suddenly going in the street and people recognising me. When this was all happening, Steve Peat said to me: 'give people time'.

Even when he was in the paddock at the World Cup, he would still give his fans time to chat, give signatures and get photos on his way to the lift to go up and win a World Cup or, do what he's expected to do.

And that’s the only piece of advice I think is very important, because I don’t want people going home bad-mouthing me. Because I don’t have any of these competition pressures, it's easy to give people time and it’ll hopefully inspire them to ride a bit more.

Danny MacAskill poses for a portrait on the Harry Potter train in Scotland, United Kingdom on August 16, 2016.
Danny on the 'Harry Potter train' © Fred Murray/Red Bull Content Pool

How would you describe your creative process?
I tend to think of a concept that’s theme based whether that’s location or more a concept – like in a studio or with a little bit more sort of theatrical stuff in it, to kind of give it a storyline. Whether that’s going from A to B, or thinking back to when I was a kid and imagining that you could be a toy jumper.

The cool thing about coming up with a really strong concept like Wee Day Out is that I wanted to make a slightly kind of slapstick, fun, sort of ride in Scottish countryside. And that kind of gave me a lot of scope to take my riding to places that you couldn’t get away with if you're making a street video for instance. Or riding obstacles that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

So once I've got the concept, I sit down and come up with the different tricks and obstacles that I can use like a hay bale potentially rolling down a hill or a deep puddle. We had a train at the start, so I could gap maybe onto the rail track, or gates. I tried to basically just write out a big list and maybe draw some ideas for the tricks.

Music also plays a big part in that. You really have to find the right track that’s going to fit with the idea I usually have in my head.

Trials rider Danny Macaskill relaxes during filming of his video Cascadia
Danny Macaskill on the ‘set’ of Cascadia © GoPro

Has there ever been a time that you thought 'this isn’t worth it'?
I’d say the filming process is probably some of most stressful times I've ever had in my life, it brings on a lot of emotions that are kind of hard to deal with.

Some days you don’t actually really enjoy riding your bike. You might be trying a certain trick in a certain location for days over months and it's still not working out. And the frustration builds up and you go into some very dark places with that. But then you go for a normal ride, one for yourself back in Glasgow with your headphones in and it's all good again.

There's never been a point though where I think, 'I'm never going to be back on my bike doing what I love to do.'

What would you be doing if you weren’t a biking athlete?
If I’d never picked up a bike in my life? I think if I hadn’t ever picked up a bike in my life I would probably have found something else to put my energy into. But I would have probably got into a trade, whether that was a plumber or a joiner in Skye. And just put my time into that.

Photo of Danny Macaskill doing a tail whip off an abandoned building for his film Way Back Home.
Danny MacAskill drops in for some questions © Andy McCandlish

What are you utterly obsessed with?
I'm utterly obsessed with Spotify. Music plays a huge part in inspiring me to come up with ideas for videos. And also for the last 15 years, since I started borrowing my mums Walkman cassette player back in Dunvegan, its inspired me to go out in the pouring rain on my bike when I didn’t really want to.

But if I had good music in my ears it really has played a huge part in what I'm doing today. So Spotify is my favourite piece of technology I think.

When was the last time you were moved emotionally and why?
Some of the hardest news I've ever had to take was hearing that my friend Martyn Ashton, who is a huge inspiration in my life, had had a bad accident and ended up being paralysed from the waist down. That was definitely some of the hardest news. And that year I had actually three friends that were affected by paralysis in different biking accidents, so yeah, that’s probably the closest thing I can think of.

Danny MacAskill performing a flip during the filming of Imaginate
Air Vent flip to full loop © Fred Murray

What would ideal retirement be?
I’ll retire when I'm like 40… (that’s a joke). I don’t know about my ideal retirement – I just can’t even think that far ahead. But I think the ideal retirement would probably be to have a few bases around the world, all of which having amazing access to mountain biking, road biking, potentially one place that’s got some good surf in front of it. And then somewhere in the southern hemisphere that I can avoid winter and just be doing that all year round. Just still cycling, just still doing what I love and making the most of it really.

Watch Danny MacAskill in Kings of Content – a documentary about the internet's most creative people – on Red Bull TV.

Check out the ultimate Danny MacAskill Spotify playlist here:

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