Fresh off the release of his latest mountain bike trials video project, Epecuén, Glasgow-based Danny MacAskill booked a getaway flight to the US to check out the X Games in Austin, host a screening of Epecuén at Red Bull’s North American headquarters and, unbeknownst to him at the time, meet up with a few Playmates for a tour of the grounds surrounding the Playboy Mansion. Not your average trip to be sure, but Danny is not your average tourist.
With over 100 million YouTube views amassed by his videos to date, MacAskill is known the world over for his unique and creative approach to riding a bike. Epecuén features his latest exploits in the Argentinian town of the same name, which had been submerged for 25 years under flood waters until recently.
After the video’s release came the media tour -- including a Stateside leg -- so it was only natural to include a tour of the Playboy Mansion to, uh, scout the location for a future project. Only natural. While it may not be the ideal venue for Danny’s next street edit, let’s just say he was pleased with what he found (see what happened in the video above).
Check in with Danny in the Q&A below for some insight into Epecuén, his visit to the States, and his thoughts about his next project.
How did you find Epecuén?
Danny MacAskill: I found Epecuén about two years ago online, on one of those blogs about abandoned cities. As soon as I saw the pictures I thought, “I need to go,” so it was just about trying to find the right time. Compared to the previous project I did -- Imaginate, which was a bit of a beast -- I wanted to go to Epecuén and just be there for two and a half weeks and get what we get. It worked out really well; it was such a fun trip.
What did you think when you got there?
It had this kind of eerie, desolate feel, but quite enchanting as well. I couldn’t believe that the place existed, and that no one had really been there. When we turned up on site, we were a bit in awe of the scale of the destruction; it really was a whole town that had been taken out.
[Watch Danny's Epecuén video below]
Were you concerned about the actual ridability of the place?
It was covered in this salt and silt everywhere, all the streets were thick with the stuff. All the rooftops were extremely fragile; we had to be so careful. I climbed on pretty much every building in the first three days to make sure we found the best stuff, and it was like being on thin ice. I knew that was going to affect my riding as well; I knew I wasn’t going there to make the next crazy street edit, it was more about capturing that place with some good riding along the way.
How was it to go from an intense, broad project like Imaginate to Epecuén?
For once, compared with previous projects, I was actually quite relaxed going into the filming of Epecuén. I had actually been on my bike for pretty much a full year, compared to Imaginate, when I had only gotten on my bike [after recovering from injury] a few weeks before filming. I was quite relaxed.
People know your riding from your edits, but what do you do off the bike?
Hang out with friends, really. I live in a flat with seven friends, so it’s a bit of a riot. I ride my trials motorbike a lot when I’m at home, as well as my mountain bike -- I just go riding, that’s pretty much all I do.
I ride by myself all the time; riding’s not really a social thing for me to be honest. It’s definitely my own space; I just listen to music and ride about, just as I have for the last 17 years or so.
You went to X Games in Austin this year; had you been to X Games before?
I’d been to X Games last year in Munich, but this was my first time in the US. It was really good, but a little bit too hot. And they were telling me it wasn’t even that hot yet -- I was like, “you’ve got to be joking. How do you even live in this place?” I mainly checked out BMX, because I had friends who were riding there.
I watched the BMX Street finals, which was pretty awesome; it’s amazing how consistently they can fire that stuff out. They’re doing bangers that would be an ender in a street edit, and they’re just firing them out in a run during competition.
What did you think of the wall mural that was organized there?
That was a real surprise. I wasn’t too sure what I was getting myself into; I wasn’t told exactly what I was going to be doing, then I turned the corner and saw this really cool mural.
Do any of your fans ever send you drawings like that?
Sometimes. I get some amazing stuff; I looked like E.T. in one of them. It’s cool that people put time and effort into that stuff.
Your videos have collected a phenomenal number of views, so do you ever get recognized when you’re traveling?
I always get surprised when people recognize me. It’s mad when you’re just walking down the street in Austin with no bike and you have to stop and sign stuff. When I make these videos, I’m done with them when they go on the Internet. The viewing figures don’t really mean anything to me as such, they’re just numbers. I’m pleased that people like them, but I just don’t think of [the videos] like that.
It’s amazing how far and wide YouTube goes; I’m always blown away by the variety of people -- you get young kids, families, all the way to 70-year-olds who are inspired to get back on a bike. It’s really cool.
You’ve ridden some exotic places around the world; how did the Playboy Mansion stack up?
Riding the Mansion was pretty different. I didn’t know what to think when I first heard about it. Well, immediately I thought, “I really hope there’s good riding there,” because it’s horrible when you go to a location to do something like that and you’re not able to do anything legit. It turned out there were some decent bits to ride, but it was quite hard with all those girls distracting you, quite hard work doing all this riding (laughs). It was a surreal experience, definitely something I can look back on in 20 years’ time and laugh about.
Had you ever done anything like that before?
I can’t say that I have; it’s not something I embrace all that well -- I’m a little too shy for that kind of stuff. It was pretty fun, though.
What are you looking for in your next project?
That’s a good question. Actually, I’m not too sure what to do for the next one. I kind of feel like I’ve done the journeys around certain locations… Over the winter I’d really like to film a street edit for myself. I’ve got a few ideas, and I’d like to mix things up a bit.
Do you feel any pressure, after your previous projects, to scale things up?
The thing about a street edit is, I know I really want to step it up a lot. I really wanted to do a concept like Imaginate, an indoor project, so when I had the opportunity… In some ways it’s been injuries that have kind of forced me to work on the projects that I have. I’ve been wanting to do a big street edit, and I had planned to film in Vancouver for Anthill in 2011, but unfortunately in the first half-hour of filming I tore the meniscus in my knee and that was out the window.
I really want to come back to the street stuff, but I want to make a very progressive edit, in terms of the riding. I don’t want to go overboard with production, I just want a legit street edit. That first one set a bar fairly high for myself. I know I can surpass it by a long way but this has been the first time in a while that I’ve been back on my bike for a significant amount of time, so I’m just starting to feel strong enough to push for something new.
For more on the song used in the video -- "9.2.5" by Ghosthouse -- check out the band's artist page at Red Bull Sound Select.