Brian Blyther & Mike Dominguez were at the top of the BMX world in 1988. Big sponsors and even bigger airs! Spike Jonze sat sat down with these two to get the dirt in the Novermber 1988 issue of Freestylin’.
What have you guys been doing lately?
Brian: I’ve been shooting for the Haro video the last four or five days, and before that I missed a contest-I went to a prom…
Grasso wanted to know why you chose to miss the street contest and go to the prom?
Brian: Fuck no, I didn’t know that contest was that weekend and I promised this one girl that I could go. I thought I was going to be able to make it, but I didn’t.
All right, whats up with you and teeth brushing?
Brian: Why’d you bring that up? On tour they give me crap all the time cause my toothbrush gets thrashed in a couple of weeks. They think I brush my teeth to hard or to much.
Mike: And what have I been doing lately? You don’t even ask.
What have you been doing lately?
Mike: I’ve been riding about ten minutes everyday, trying to do one different variation everyday.
A new one?
Mike: No, an old one. Yesterday i did a can can, today i did a no hander, That’s about it.
Why don’t you guys wear any underwear?
Brian: I just don’t have any on today cause I haven’t done laundry in a while. I’m pretty lazy.
Mike: I never wear underwear.
Brian: I’ll wear em if I have some clean, But if not I can go without.
Blyther // Photo: Spike
Do you guys remember the first time you met?
Brian: I remember the first time I saw him, but the first time I saw him and the first time I met him were different. I had just started riding and I saw him at Knotts Berry farm doing shows with Eddie Fiola.
Mike: Oh, I remember that.
Brian: I came with Dave Breed but I didn’t meet you then.
Mike: I talked to Dave though, and you got your Tuff Wheels from Eddie.
Brian: Yeah, graphites. I was stoked, I saw you guys doing fakies and stuff. I was fully tripping out. That was the first time I wanted to get into it.
What year was that?
Mike: About 83′.
What about the first time you met?
Brian: Where was the first time we met-Pipeline? When you were with Everett Rosecrans and Bob Haro. Remember you were doing 540 Fly outs out of the back of the bowls and a one hander one footer. I was trippin’. We got each others phone numbers and me and Paul Nolan went out to meet Mike at Skate City and then we went to his house and rode his half pipe. He had a little half-pipe then. That one was rad.”
Photo: Blyther and Spike
“How old were you then?”
Mike: I was in eighth grade.
Brian: Back when we started riding together, I’d go down to his house every weekend all the time. I entered my first contest, Del Mar, and he won and I got second. And ever since then everything’s been right on.
“And was that in the pro class?”
Brian: No, there was no pro class then. It was a younger expert class. Eddie was in an older class.
Mike: Brian wasn’t even going to enter expert but we got him to. That was when Oz was in the way and you just jumped in.
Brian: Oh yeah, that was psycho. I rolled out real fast and I was right on the lip, I didn’t even know he was there. I Couldn’t stop in time so I just totally bunny hopped and I
made it into the half-pipe. It was cool
What was your first contest Mike?
Mike: I don’t know, Skate City, I guess.
How long ago was that?
Mike: I don’t even know. I think I was only 14.
Like what kind of stuff – the main things.
Mike: You know what I think’s changed? When I was riding then, high fakie airs were a big thing. Then for a long time I just never did them and all of a sudden they got popular again so that everyone does ’em.
Brian: And now we get paid a lot.
When did you first realize you were going to be able to make a career out of it?
Mike: I still don’t believe it.
Brian: I never expected it, all of a sudden things just started falling into place. But I never expected to be real good and I never expected to be in magazines or anything. It just happened. I was just all stoked when it happened. I remember saying, ‘That’s my goal in life, try to ride and get a sponsor and everything’ and I just kept riding until it happened.
What was your first bike?
Brian: First freestyle bike? A P.K. Ripper.
Mike: Yeah, you did curb endos.
Brian: When I raced I had a P.K. Ripper, and when I met Dave Breed, he gave me a Skyway, and that was pretty much my first freestyle bike.
How about you, what was your first bike?
Mike: My first was a Schwinn Sting – it was pretty bad; I raced too.
When you were just starting out in skateparks who were your idols?
Brian: Buff and R.L. for sure. I remember we used to play Buff and R.L. everyday.
Mike: I think Eddie was mine, I thought he was pretty bad.
Brian: I thought he was pretty bad too, but when I first started riding it was Buff and R.L.
How do you play Buff and R.L.?
Brian: I used to always be Mike Buff and my friend Rob used to always be R.L. We’d jump and try to touch your butt on the tire and stuff, always doing front wheel hops and stuff. Just ride together and do everything. That was cool.
Was there ever a point when you guys didn’t get along?
Brian: No, I don’t think so.
Competitions and all that didn’t come between you?
Brian: We’ve always been totally different than everybody. Everybody tries to hide their tricks like Eddie and stuff. All his new tricks he’d pull out in contests. Me and Mike would just get air every day and do the same stuff as usual so it didn’t really matter, just whoever rode better that day. We didn’t care back then. We would show each other anything new and teach each other.
Mike, why do you think you’ve been successful at what you’ve done?
Mike: I don’t know, I don’t think about stuff like that. I just go for it. I just wanted to be the best I guess or be rad at least.
You know how everyone says you’re a natural … do you believe you’re good on a bike?
Do you feel bike riding came naturally to you?
Mike: Ever since I could remember I’ve been on my bike 24 hours a day. I’ve always been on a bike. I’d ride my bike to school, ride it home, I just always rode my bike. First, I was into jumping, doing curb endos. I remember in 5th grade jumping off curbs and stuff. Back then I didn’t even know about it and I just jumped and stuff.
Do you ever get scared about things?
Mike: About getting hurt if I bailout or something? Not really. If I think about it, then it’ll bother me. Whatever happens, happens. I just worry about it when it happens, the last couple days I’ve been hurting my foot again. It’s not feeling the best right now and I want it to get all the way better, but I guess you’ve got to ride all the time.
What kind of things scare you? Just in general?
Brian: Police. Police scare me. They scare me big time. Tickets scare me, getting a ticket really scares me.
What’s up with the police around here (Mike’s neighborhood). What’s the scoop on that?
Brian: There was a problem for a while.
Mike: Yeah, there was a big problem, they thought we were full on drug addicts, or dealers, or something.
Brian: Because Mike had the Porsche, there were all these people out front all the time, we had the ramp, I was over here a lot and there were all these nice cars and I guess it did look like a drug house.
Mike: Plus we had parties all the time.
Brian: When Mike first moved in, he had parties almost every weekend.
How long did you live here?
Brian: I’d lived here for about a month when the cops raided the house because they thought we were drug dealers – but there wasn’t anything to find so it’s been cool ever since then.
And that’s when they took your pets?
Mike: Yeah, that’s when they took my ferret and Brian’s alligator.
Brian: And I got arrested that night.
Mike: And I ran and hid. I jumped out the bathroom window right when they were going into my room and I hid under one of our old fences that was laying against the wall. I just layed under there for a couple of hours until they were all gone.
Brian: I had a chance to run but I had nothing to hide so I stayed. I saw them coming with a bunch of Fish and Game trucks, about 2 or 3 and a couple of cop cars. They were looking for Mike’s ferret and my alligator.
Mike: And anything they could find. They raided the whole house, under mattreses, and everything . They pulled up everything.
And they arrested you for having an alligator and a ferret?
Brian: No actually some kids who were helping build Mike’s ramp were behind a store once and stole a bunch of Pepsi from a Pepsi truck, like a bunch of 2 liter bottles and a bunch of cans and the police saw all the Pepsi’s in the cupboards and said, ‘These are the Pepsi’s from Alpha Beta.’ Me and Rick were the only ones here. Mike had already left, so we got arrested for it -possession of stolen property. I went to jail and my mom bailed me out and then they dropped the charges because my fingerprints weren’t on the bottles and they couldn’t do anything . Except for the alligator, I still have to go to court on that- I’ve gone five times already. It keeps getting mixed up and I keep fighting it.
What’s so big about a little alligator?
Brian: They’re illegal here I guess. I got it in Florida and they’re not illegal there.
What about ferrets? Why do they hate ferrets so much?
Mike: For my ferret, I got a 75 dollar fine and a year probation which means if I get in trouble for anything I can go to jail or something like that.
Brian: Today I was supposed to go to court with my lawyer and get a little plea bargain with this thing and it just said if I pay a 250 dollar fine than it won’t go on my record and they’ll just drop it. I could understand if it was something big like guns or drugs or something …
How often do you ride Brian?
Brian: Lately I’ve been riding every day filming the Harovideo, we’ve been shooting from six in the morning until midnight every day and that went Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Then I came home and did 2 shows in Ontario, and yesterday, I went down to San Diego to shoot another video for Life’s A Beach. Today I had to come up here and do a photo session.
What about when you don’t have to ride?
Brian: When I don’t have to ride, I ride pretty much all day. If I’m not riding the half-pipe then I’m at the Pipeline riding at night. But, If I’m not riding the pipe and I’m not riding the ramp, I’ll street ride. I go riding every night, wall rides and stuff . . . thrashing.’
Tell me 5 things you guys do during the week.
Brian: Normal week? When we’re not doing anything, no photo sessions or anything? Oh that’s rare, there’s not too many weeks when we’re not doing anything.
What kind of stuff WOULD you do?
Brian: Go out to Haro and do an ad for Life’s a Beach or Airwalk or Odyssey or somewhere like Mushroom. You know, I pretty much have a couple of things to do during the week.
What about you Mike?
Mike: Either I’m riding the ramp or taking my bike out in the street and mess around out in front of the house. You know there’s always people coming over to the house. The neighbors and I just kick back and goof around. I pick up the house every once in a while, wash the car, go out with the girlfriend, go to parties, just ride all the time, I go to court. At least every week I have to go to court for something lame, either a ticket, or different stuff. It’s not the same stuff every day, there’s always something to do. I never sit around and do nothing. Paying bills, you have to go to the bill places- gas, electric. We don’t have a phone right now ’cause we didn’t pay the bill. If you want to make a call you have to go down to the supermarket.
When you moved away from home, did you think it was going to be a lot easier than it turned out to be?
Mike: Ah no, it’s easy, anything I want, I can do. I’ve been on my own for a while.
Do you consider yourself pretty grownup in terms of responsibility?
Mike: Yeah I guess so, I consider myself pretty responsible. (LAUGHTER FROM ALL 3 FELLOWS – QUITE SARCASTIC, I MIGHT NOTE.)
Yeah, yeah okay. What do you think Brian?
Brian: We’re probably both grown-up and I hope we’re as responsible as we should be.
Brian, how long are you gonna be gone on tour this year?
Brian: Forever … not really. Probably about 10 months, June 4th I leave and I come back from the Haro tour the 25th of
August and I’m supposed to start this other tour with a few skaters and Ron Wilkerson about the 18th of August (Impact Tour).
What’s that going to be like?
Brian: That’s gonna be rad. It’s a 32 foot wide steel half-pipe, totally killer and it’s gonna be like a real rock show. They’re all gonna be in stadiums.
‘Do you think you’re gonna stay with Haro for a while?
Brian: This is my 4th year on Haro and I’ve never had anything to complain about. They’re like total best friends, you know? I can just hang out with Bill and Bob and everybody at Haro. Go out to the desert and go motorcycle riding. We’re all best friends. They’re not selfish.
Blyther // Photo: Spike
Are you gonna stay with Diamond Back for a while?
Mike: Yeah, I think so. This year they’re treating me really well, I mean they’ve always treated me well. There were problems with last year’s tour and I didn’t want to compete. But that’s worked out great, so far (see sidebar).
Do you do all your business negotiations?
Mike: Yeah, I do it all pretty much. You just kind of learn from your mistakes.
Did you do all of your own negotiations also?
Brian: Yeah, me and my dad. Especially with Haro. They’re not out to cheat me or nothing, they treat me right. I didn’t go back and forth between sponsors and say, “They’re gonna give me this-can you guys
beat it’. I just work it out with Haro ’cause I’m not worried about changing sponsors.
Do you guys like money?
Brian: Naw, I hate money. It sucks. (Laughter) You have to have money. The more you got the more you spend, so … you get addicted to it pretty much.
Mike: Yeah, you do.
What’s the best part of having money right now? . . .
Brian: The best part of having money right now is earning it by doing something you like to do. Something you’d be doing anyways. If I wasn’t gettilg paid, I’d still be riding, ’cause you can still have a good time. I’m not burned out and I don’t get bummed on riding. I totally have a good time every time I ride.
Mike: Just get to go out and do whatever you want. Go on tour …
Brian: Yeah, go on tour for six months, my car will be sitting there parked, getting no miles on it. I can save up money, come home, and have a good time. That’s what it’s all about.
Do you have any regrets about anything?
Mike: No, I’ve probably done a few stupid things-I don’t even know what … I’ve wasted my money a lot. Toys, a lot of toys I don’t regret it, I just learned. You grow up, it just costs.
Brian: If I was to start riding all over aga.in, I wouldn’t change anything.
Blyther // Photo: Windy
What’s the closest you’ve ever come to dying?
Brian: The closest I ever came to dying was at the Del Mar contest. That was our first contest. And I was doing good. I brought a bunch of my friends, and we were going from the skatepark to the hotel. It was a really long ride, and we figured we could go across the train tracks . . . go over a wire, cut across the bridge-a real long bridge, over water. We didn’t even think about it. We just hopped up there and started walking across. And then I looked at everybody and said, ‘Dang, what’d happen if a train came or something.’ And everybody just goes, ‘yeah, outrageous man, hurry up.’ As soon as I said it, I looked back and we saw a light going up and down … so we all totally freaked . . . we started jammin’.lt was one of those Amtrac trains and was goin’ like a million miles an hour. We were halfway across when we first saw it and me, Xavier, and Vince just started running forward and Paul ran to go back. And the lastthing I remember was looking back and seeing Paul diving off the edge, like right in front of the train , into the rocks and dirt. I was so scared, just totally praying-trippin’. I threw my bike over the edge, and totally leaned up against the side of the bridge, hugging it. I was on the right side and I didn’t know what happened to Xavier and Vince– just scattered. I didn’t know if they’d jumped or not. Everyone was yellin’ “Jump! Jump!”
But nobody did. I’m sitting there, the train’s just flyin’ by us, all the pebbles are hitting me in the leg, it was honking ‘AAAAEEEEEE, AAAAAEEEEEE!’ I was under a foot away from this speeding train. My heart just dropped. We thought we were all dead.
Mike: (giggling) . . .
Brian: O.K. What’s the closest you’ve ever come to dying?
Mike: It was about a month, naaaaw, two months ago. And, we were going to the river in my friend Steve’s car with five people in it-three people in the back, two people in the front. I was in the passenger seat in the front. And we’re cruisin’ about .. . a hundred? Maybe about a hundred and ten, jammin’ down the road, and I guess the driver looked down and we went to the right side of the road-and this is in the desert noone’s around or nuthin’ …
Mike: Yup, daytime, and he looked down and I guess he went over in the sand on the right side of the road and he got scared and panicked and turned it to the left in order to get back on the road real quick. We just kinda got outta control and slid across the road sideways at about a hundred and ten, hit the otherside of the road and there was a dirt hill kinda, like a little four foot tall mound of dirt all the way across. We hit it
going sideways, and rolled a bunch of times. Everyone flew out of the car except for me . . .
How’d they fly out?
Mike: The three people in the back flew out the back hatch, I don’t know. The driver I guess went out his window. And I stayed in. I was awake but I just remember hitting the roof, upside down and stuff, it rolled a few times. And then I crawled out of the car, one of the girls was awake, and she was just getting up, and everybody else was passed out in the sand and in the bushes and stuff … one girl got messed up pretty bad-broken jaw and stuff. We all went to the hospital and that was about it. Everyone ended up being alright.
What were you thinking when you were rolling?
Mike: Just like … no way!
Brian: Death, that’s the worst. We’ve all had close calls, really. A split second and we could be dead. It happens in cars and stuff. There’s been a lot of times that a coupla more feet and you’re …
List your injuries.
Mike: Broken ankle and a broken foot … did I break my wrist?
Brian: You cracked your skull . . .
How’d that happen?
Mike: I dunno. Just out riding, ate it. When I was little, about twelve. Slammed on my head, fractured it. Sprained ankles and stuff like that-I’ve sprained everything pretty much.
Dominguez // Photo: Spike
Mike: I broke my wrist, real bad. Broke my collarbone, broke my heel …
Brian: That’s about it .. . pulled muscles and stuff.
Are you guys reclusive?
Mike: What does that mean?
That’s what Andy asked … like are you shy, avoid crowds …
Brian: You can’t be if you wanna be on the Haro team.
Mike: I guess, I dunno. I’m not the most out-going person.
Brian: I don’t jump in the middle of a crowd or just walk up to a person I don’t know and start talking.
What advice has anyone given you that’s been useful?
Brian: Dave Breed used to tell me to go for it. He probably helped me the most as a rider. I guess I was totally shy when I first started riding-all I cared about was riding. So, he taught me to not be afraid of people, just go for it. That’s just what helped me the most.
How about you, Mike?
Mike: I dunno … no advice really. My dad got me going a lot. He wanted me to race, but I got into riding skateparks by myself. He helped me out and bought me a lot of parts and stuff for my bike.
Brian: My parents were really behind me-I used to get my bike stolen, break things all the time. Like, This is the last bike you’re-gettin’, you better make it last.’ But it always ended up I’d get another one.
Let’s see … what are you going to be when you grow up?
Brian: I ain’t never gonna grow up.
Mike: I don’t think I’m ever gonna change. I don’t see it.
Brian: We’re getting older and older and we’re still doing the same thing-just having fun, been doing the same thing for the last seven years but it keeps getting better, so I don’t see any big changes.
What stuff have you invented?
Mike: I don’t know. I was the first to do one-hander one-footers. No one was doing lookbacks when I did it. Maybe little gay ones, but I think I was the first one to get them clicked. Me and Brian started doing alley-oops over canyons and stuff, that was the first time we rode together. I used to do one-handed one-footed fakies, I did a lot of stuff no one ever picked up. Tail-whip flyout. Stuff like a can-can, sprocket rock and roll , a 900, one-handed one-footed 540, I don’t know.
What gets you motivated to learn something like a 900?
Mike: Contests. You get pumped, people are yelling and you just gotta do something rad, you just go for it. Just think about staying on.
How about something like a can-can?
Mike: I did it on a kick turn first. But really, before that, I was jumping at Skate City. I could only take off my right foot, but the other guys were taking off their left foot. I
go ‘Watch, I’ll take off my left foot’. So I took off my foot and put it over the frame, and with my hand also, just goofin’ around. Then a long time later, I started doing it at Del Mar.
Brian: Then you invented the no-footed can-can , that was psycho.
Mike: Yeah, I don’t even know why I started doing that. That was scary. I stopped doing them for a while when everyone else
started doing them. But, you just got to do it like everything else.
Brian, what did you invent?
Brian: Tailspin, I guess. Those back hopdrop deals. Sprocket grinds. 360 manuals. Me and Ron were the first ones to do airs over 540’s. 360 flyout over Dave Nourie.
Blyther // Photo: Spike
Who do you respect?
Brian: All the pros, everyone has something they can do. Wilkerson’s a psycho, Josh has a lot of rad stuff. I respect Voelker a lot too. Him and Mike are my favorite people to ride with, and Ron, ’cause
I trip out on watching Ron.
Mike: Whoever goes for it.
Brian: I respect Grasso a lot.
Mike:He’s pretty nuts, he goes for it.
Who do you love?
Brian: I love my Mommy and Daddy. I love Jackson (his alligator), but now I don’t know where he’s at. I love a lot of people, my girlfriend, everyone.
Mike: I love my Mom, my Dad, my Grandma, my family, my girlfriend, mydog, Boo Boo.
Got any questions for each other?
Brian: How many times have you pulled off a 900?
Mike: A couple. At my Dad’s house. One killer one when Rich (Sigur) was there and one when I was riding alone.
What keeps you riding?
Brian: Fun, everything, I totally have fun. I make so many friends. I ride with the same
people I go to parties with. It’s part of living now.
Mike: It’s not like something you gotta try to keep doing. It’s just part of your life.
Brian: You wake up and you’re thinking about riding. It’s not just ’cause of money. Getting paid for doing something you love doing is killer, but money is not the reason I ride.
About a month after this conversation Mike and Diamond Back parted ways. Here is a quote from each.
“They cut me cause I was running Haro pants and a Hutch goose neck. I asked them about the pants and they said if I took off the big Haro logo, it would be cool. So I did. And I’ve been running an ACS neck since the beginning of the year. I ran a couple Diamondback necks but they bend after one air. I guess they had to make cut backs and I was it. They just had to think up a bunch of excuses. I thought the were pretty chump” -Mike Dominguez, Ex-Diamondback.
“Anything we could say now would lessen the chances of him getting another sponsor” -Harry Leary, Diamondback