The Stranger lineup has gone through an evolution over the last few months. Beginning with Dylan Stark moving on, followed by the recent additions of Andy Garcia, Steve Churchill, and Shawn McIntosh. Andy was welcomed onto the squad at the tail-end of 2018 after he put in work for the recent Primo full-length Midnight Creatures. More recently, Stranger picked up the one and only Stevie Churchill—who now goes by Steve. And finally, Shawn McIntosh, an OG Stranger team rider rejoined the ranks after a nine year departure. Stranger’s street focused squad wasted little time and put out their first sampling with the new crew in their most recent video, Candy. We caught up with Stranger’s Rich Hirsch, Steve and Shawn to discuss all things Stranger and beyond…
The man with his finger always on the pulse, Rich Hirsch is the mind behind Stranger and he steers the ship at Primo, as well. According to Rich, with the recent additions of Andy Garcia, Shawn McIntosh, and Steve Chruchill, the current vibe and sentiment of the Stranger team is “what he’s always wanted to do.”
Let’s start off with the team change ups, Stranger has had a few riders come and go as of late… Rich: Yes, so we decided not to resign Dylan Stark at the beginning of this year. He’s just kind of focused on his own thing and we’re focused on a little bit different thing. I guess the best way to put it is just that we don’t do sponsorship the traditional way where it’s like, put a sticker on your bike and promote and sell products for us.
Yes, so we decided not to resign Dylan Stark at the beginning of this year. He’s just kind of focused on his own thing and we’re focused on a little bit different thing. I guess the best way to put it is just that we don’t do sponsorship the traditional way where it’s like, put a sticker on your bike and promote and sell products for us.
The idea is to have it more representative of people that we’re out riding with regularly and working on videos and different projects together. Dylan wasn’t the exact right fit for that and so we parted ways. John Hicks was never a team rider. John was actually a homie since he was a filmer—one of the best filmers ever in BMX. His focus on YouTube kind of took over all of his time and he isn’t involved in BMX as a filmer anymore, so we’re not too involved with him at the moment. I imagine if he still rides, he’ll probably still ride our stuff, but yes his YouTube kind of blew up so he went a different direction.
So I guess then based on that, the team has been changing a fair amount lately. Essentially, we don’t do a normal team list, I’m not really into that because it puts teams in a weird way where it’s unattainable, it’s not authentic. It’s kind if like, “Here’s so and so, they might not ride anymore and they might not be in any of our videos, but they’re a pro rider because we put them on a list…” I’m trying to avoid that kind of a thing.
Our 1998 video came out at the end the last year. One of the newer people who was around the most for that was Andy Garcia, so that led to him becoming more and more involved as what we were doing. Steve lives in Long Beach, he’s actually Andy’s roommate and he eventually was parting ways with Federal, so it kind of only made sense for Steve to get more involved. And then Shawn Mac too, he actually helped me start Stranger originally. The timing seemed right for him to come back on and get involved with the new program.
Yeah, Shawn was one of the first Stranger team riders, right? Rich: Yes, basically me and Shawn and Caleb [Quanbeck] started it together. It was kind of just a bedroom brand for the first chunk of time when I was running it out my apartment until I basically run myself so into debt that I couldn’t run it any further. Right around that same time Shawn got an offer to ride for Fit. With all of the guys, it’s the kind of deal where, Stranger isn’t the same thing as some of this bigger brands. It’s kind of always been like, “Hey, go get the money—if it’s there—and then come back when it dries up.” So Shawn did his thing with Fit and once he wasn’t too involved with them anymore he came back, so here we are getting started again.
Shawn was just down here recently for a long weekend and some of that footage was in the Candy video that just came out. That was the first session with the new squad… Rich: It was dope. We only really got a ride just a couple days with Shawn, but it was awesome. We got everybody together and rode street for a few days—just got back to our roots.
Getting back to your roots… I’m assuming that’s what you meant when you mentioned earlier about Stranger’s direction being out riding while working on videos and different projects together…Rich: Yeah, I think we are in a good spot, I mean honestly this is what the goal has always been but I was in Taiwan for a little while. Obviously we lost Miles [Rogoish]—he went back to Tulsa and kinda moved on from all the BMX stuff. But this has been the goal. This is what I like to do. Unfortunately, every once in a while our team gets into the position where maybe the people don’t get along as much or some people aren’t as into it anymore. But yeah, we’ve rebalanced and I feel like we have a good crew of people that are about it now.
Steve Churchill already had one foot in the door at Tip Plus, riding for Primo and Federal, do you want to talk about his transition to Stranger?Rich: For the Steve situation I think it was always kind of a natural thing that was coming—that I knew was coming and I think the Federal guys knew it was probably coming too. I know a few companies hit him up and gave him offers to ride for them after he was no longer riding for Federal, but to my understanding he wasn’t interested in any of them so here we are, just one big happy family.
You guys have been really proactive with creating media lately, with the 1998 Project, Midnight Creatures, and Candy videos and the Process magazines. What’s been the motivation to put out all this media from the Stranger/Primo camp lately?Rich: This has really been what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s just that multiple times I didn’t have the right group of people I needed to make it happen. I either didn’t have a filmer I saw eye to eye with, you know, different things of that nature. Pair that together with the fact that my back was so messed up for a little while that I couldn’t make it out with everybody and it left me really leaning on other people way too much to kind of put together this vision that I had—in a way that only I really understood.
Now that we’re all out together it kind of, it’s just natural, it just works. The goal really as for the sponsorships for existing at these companies is just to try to put our vision of BMX in the world. In our eyes make it cooler than it is right now. Obviously that’s subjective but that’s the idea, right? Just put our stamp on it and make it like we wished it was.
Speaking along those lines, the current look and feel of the videos you guys are putting out, SD footage, single camera angles, super vignetted fisheye… Stranger videos are the antithesis of the super cinematic, smooth camera rig style that is becoming the industry standard today…Rich: Yes, that’s for sure. I thought that BMX videos kind of died with the whole HD thing. Kind of just killed it—that’s my take on it. The footage got boring. It all got somewhat inauthentic where people were doing bangers with cameras on rolling tripods and steady cams and all that it… it didn’t feel like BMX to me. To me, those videos feel like they’re made for people who don’t ride to watch them. It feels to me like the entire industry—if I had to summarize it—shifted to doing its primary objectives—videos, photos, all this type of stuff—for people that don’t ride. And that this is the biggest thing hurting BMX because the BMX that’s cool to people that don’t ride isn’t the same as the BMX that’s cool to people that do.
And now that you’re actually moving forward with that vision you’ve had for a long time, where do you see it going from here or what else you have working on?Rich: We’re trying to do the three Process magazines a year. The second one just came out now and that’s something that hopefully we can keep going. And I don’t really know on the DVD versus digital download and all that—it doesn’t really make a big difference how the video gets out. We did our last one on a DVD, though, and it seems like it’s going okay, so maybe more DVDs? I don’t think will be doing iTunes, that’s for sure. That’s really the thing, we just go out riding and filming and whatever we make of it will just represent however it unfolds.
We’re trying to do the three Process magazines a year. The second one just came out now and that’s something that hopefully we can keep going. And I don’t really know on the DVD versus digital download and all that—it doesn’t really make a big difference how the video gets out. We did our last one on a DVD, though, and it seems like it’s going okay, so maybe more DVDs? I don’t think will be doing iTunes, that’s for sure. That’s really the thing, we just go out riding and filming and whatever we make of it will just represent however it unfolds.
Have you gotten much feedback from the Process magazines?Rich: I don’t talk to a ton of people about it who aren’t people I don’t already know, so obviously I don’t hear the genuine experience from it, but it seems cool. At the end of the day really, what I felt like was missing from BMX—not to rag on it—but the people that I think are cool [in BMX] aren’t into it [BMX]. The riders I think are cool, they like skateboarding more or they like something else more. I guess if I could do anything, it would be trying to make BMX cool for the riders that I think are cool. Hopefully we’re making small steps towards that, and at very least, making a BMX that our own riders can be stoked on instead of having to go out and promote cheap products all the time.
In a way, things have gone full circle for Shawn. Almost ten years ago, Shawn blew up on the scene with Stranger, then got snatched up with a sweet deal by Fit. Over time that deal soured and Shawn came back to where it all started for him. Sponsors news aside, the real story with Shawn is how he’s matured and progressed in real life—by starting a family and a successful business, while still riding—only now he’s riding for the fun and not the funds.
You were one of the first dudes to ride for Stranger back when it started, right?Shawn: Yes, I dropped the first web edit initially showing Stranger to the world. That was the beginning of 2010, I think.
And then you got picked up by Fit shortly after…Shawn: We were just starting Stranger and there was no money there and I seemed to be one of the top guys in sport at the time and Fit wanted to pick me up and pay me to ride for them. I told Rich and he told me to take it, and I always said that I would come back when the money was gone. Eventually Fit discontinued all of my signature parts, and my complete bike, so I said, “fuck it” and went back to Stranger.
I would have loved to stay on Stranger and build Stranger with them, but it wasn’t survivable for me at the time, but now I don’t rely on BMX for anything. I ride just for fun now. I’m just here to have fun and do what I want to do—and not do what I’m told to do—or having to worry about selling units and all that stuff. I just want to do what’s cool for myself, not what’s cool for the sales.
You came down to LA for a long weekend recently to ride and film with the crew. How does it feel to be a part of Stranger again, with the current crop of dudes? Shawn: I couldn’t be happier. Everything is sick over here. It’s just about riding your bike and having fun. I think LA went good, I haven’t been riding every day like a top paid pro rider, but I make my money by other means now. And riding in general is a lot more fun when I don’t have to do it. I don’t have a bunch of weight on my shoulders anymore. It’s not like I should’ve in the first place, but I did, I put that weight on my shoulders because I had all these expectations to uphold—either to myself or the company that I rode for.
For as long we’ve been friends, since like 2010, I’ve always known you to be the one and done, bangers for breakfast guy. How does it feel to ride without feeling any pressure or obligation to always have to send it? Shawn: I feel like when I was a top guy or whatever, there was some weird unwritten level of riding I was expected to uphold to, and I’m just not about that life anymore. I still love riding my bike, but as I got older, the tricks got crazier, the setups got bigger and there’s only so far you can go with that stuff. Granted, I still might find something that’s amazing and I still may do it. But I’m just saying that it’s very stressful to try to keep doing more and more and more than what you’ve already done. Now I just want to have fun and get weird and get strange.
How does it feel ton be back on Stranger and riding with one of your closest friends? Shawn: Rich is my homie. He’s been my homie before I was even anything. I’m excited for the future for sure. I feel like Rich keeps me in the loop with whatever’s going on. He asks for my input and that’s a really big thing with me, it’s a part of respect and loyalty towards me as a rider. It’s about what we think is cool, it’s not about what we think other people think is cool. We’re going to do what we like and if you like it, fuck yeah! If you don’t, fuck off. We’re not trying to please people here we’re just trying to ride our bikes and have fun and make shit that we like. We already sent a new seat in to get a sample [for Primo] and I’m working on bars for Stranger.
Since you’ve stepped back from the spotlight, you’ve clearly stepped up in life. Do you want to talk about what’s been going in your life, in general? Shawn: Moeller was pretty much letting me know two years ago or so that he wasn’t going to pay me anymore because he had to open room for the younger guys coming through. And that’s respectable. So I had to invest my money into something and I didn’t want to work an hourly wage with nobody, so I bought a bunch of equipment and I started taking care of people’s property maintenance. Just through word of mouth in my hometown I started doing real good the first year. I’m on my second year now and it’s doing great. I have two employees. I kind of just call the shots and keep the homeowners happy.
Do you want to talk about family life? Shawn: Family life is really good. I’m 31, I’ll be 32 in June. It’s getting real with the real life stuff. I’m not a kid traveling out of my backpack all over the world anymore. I kind of had to start settling down and accumulating things and building a life for myself and my family. We just bought a house. Bought my wife a brand new Four Runner. I got a five year old named Lynx, he races dirt bikes and rides BMX—he loves it all. I’ve been doing the whole traveling and taking him riding all up and down the West Coast. He’s been racing, he’s been doing real good. I got a baby on the way, he’s due in June. He’s actually due on my birthday, June 17th—we’ll see if it comes out on my birthday, but that’d be pretty crazy. We got a name picked out for him, his name is Trip—Trip Ray McIntosh.
Nice, that has a good ring to it. With all these real life things happening, how do work BMX into the equation still? Shawn: I’ve been slacking, been in dad mode. I own my own business now, it’s a little tricky to ride a whole lot, but I’m going to try my best to stay on my bike as much as I can to stay sharp. I go to the Grant’s Pass Park and ride with my five year old. Hobie Doan will come to town and we’ll go hit some rails and do whatever, try to get some Instagram clips. I have a few spots lined up, actually, I’ve been getting some spots cleaned up and ready to shoot. I mixed up some Quickcrete the other day and poured a little bump jump for a wallride over this thing into a bank. We’ll see if it ever goes down, but I made the spot.
I’m totally down to ride to my fullest potential of whatever it is these days. I have health insurance. I have a family that loves me. I don’t feel like I’m putting so much stress on myself to not get hurt. I can technically get hurt and I’ll be okay. Everything will be paid, all the bills will be paid and stuff like that. These last few years I transitioned from only worrying about making money from BMX to now I have my little cash cow and it’s making money again and I did my hard work, my essential first hard work. Now I can kind of sit back and just let it do its thing, you know? So now I can go on trips, I can do all this stuff, but even though I could go on trips before, but Fit just chose not to include me on trips. That’s what’s cool about Stranger, they’re including me on trips, so who knows what’s going to happen? I can be right back in full force of what I was doing four years ago if the time’s right.
Steve getting on Stranger basically brought him closer to home—closer to his Primo teammates and all the people he rides and chills with on a regular basis. Do you miss Stevie, us too. Safe to say we’ll be seeing a lot more of him now.
When I first learned that you were on Stranger I wasn’t surprised—it seemed like a perfect fit to me… Steve: Yeah, it just made sense like, why wouldn’t I? It’s super easy being in the same building with two of your sponsors. And I really love everyone on the team. I was always hanging out with the team before I was even on Stranger—and a team is supposed to be like that, always chillin’ together. And… I live with Andy and he’s on Stranger. So it all played together.
Even when you were still on Federal, you were riding with a lot of the Stranger crew while filming for Midnight Creatures as well… Steve: While I was filming for Midnight Creatures, we were out filming I just got a bunch of clips for it, and then that same night I got a call that I was off Federal. I think Rich and Stu already kind of had a thing sorted out, it was an easy transition. There’s no hurt feelings or anything.
You’ve been living in Long Beach for a little while now and there’s no shortage of people to ride with—including a few of your teammates. How has the change of surroundings affected you? Steve: It’s definitely very convenient for everyone to be so close and it just makes it all so much easier and less stressful. It’s just more fun, we’re not really trying to like go at it like it’s some job or something, we’re just going out and riding with the homies.
You’ve been dealing with a broken hand since you first got on the team, how’s that coming along? Steve: My knuckle was broken and I couldn’t really squeeze my bars at all. My knuckle is still pretty swollen, but I can kind of grip again. Maybe I’ll wait a little longer till I do a drop—like a good drop,—but yes, otherwise just doing smaller more tech ledge/rail stuff shouldn’t be a problem.
When I spoke to you at the Midnight Creatures premiere you were really stoked on that project and you seemed motivated to keep it going. Do you think that Stranger is that chance? To keep it going? Steve: Absolutely, you know what it was is, Federal was an English company. I never got to really see any of those homies on the team or anything and it was a lot more difficult to be able to go actually do shit because we would have to go on a trip or something because otherwise we wouldn’t ever see each other. So yeah, you’ll definitely see a lot more of me now. I’m just excited about it because like I said, it’s the homies, there’s no stress going out riding. It’s not like I have to break myself off every day because I only get to film every once in a while. It’s just so much better being able to just go out and have a cruise and maybe not even film heavily that day—just having that vibe, you know?
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