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When BMX & Art collide: KC Badger

The man of art, bikes, and fun times is in that constant pursuit of his next passion project. With decades of BMX and first-hand creative experience, you won’t want to miss this interview with the BMX legend, KC Badger. From his introduction to BMX, his time as an intern under Odyssey’s Jim Bauer, to his current fly fishing passion, read how two wheels set his life into motion.

We want to know KC’s background in the sport. When did he start riding and racing BMX?

I started riding when I got a BMX bike. When I turned three-four years old, just like every other kid did. When I was seven, I watched the movie RAD (I rented it from Blockbuster), and I convinced my dad that I needed to start racing somehow. Luckily we lived in a suburb of Phoenix, so Chandler was right there. A couple of weeks later, I had turned eight by then, so I was 8 Novice when I raced Chandler BMX for the first time.

Funny enough, I remember my first race, it was three people, and I got third, but I raced Nick Scott, who's now the track operator here in Bend. Now I see Nick quite a bit here in Oregon from being kids in Arizona.

I didn’t race a ton when I was young, but I raced a lot when I was 12 to 14. I wasn’t necessarily a good racer, either. Once I turned Expert, I think I only made one main. I really only liked jumping anyways, so I would just go to the track and jumps stuff. Back then, Black Mountain was my home track, so even later on in my life, we would go ride practice nights or something.

I quit racing when I was around 15 or 16 when I got a car, and then all I wanted to do was go ride the trails with everybody. I basically fell out of racing but would still go to the practice nights just because, back then, the track was more of a hang-out and a meeting spot than a place to go get serious about racing. We’d still show up to the track on practice nights or practice before the races. We’d d*** around and jump on the track, you know, just being 16-year-old dirt jumpers at the race track, which was for better or for worse.

From the track to the trails, how did that progress into a career in BMX?

From there, I always had some trails in the desert when I lived in Phoenix. One of my best friends from that scene was Ryan Sher. He moved to Boston, met Dave Young, got on Kink, and shortly thereafter, he put me on Kink, and so that kinda started my “career” in the freestyle world. It really just expanded from there, filming video parts and traveling, shooting photos, and that progressed into traveling more and getting interviews in magazines and it all culminated with getting signature bars and a signature frame. I did that for a long time, and I guess I’m still technically sponsored by Kink. I’m lucky cause I actually just got a new bike to put together, I still get parts from Kink and Odyssey. With Ryan Sher co-owning and becoming the brand manager at Subrosa, when I started racing again later in life and over the last couple of years, he sent me a Speedwolf, which has been awesome to ride.

When did the Badger Bars and Lost Dutchman frame first release?

Signature bars were first, so maybe 2007/2008? Somewhere in the mid/late 2000s. I had those for a couple of years before they asked to do a frame. I also had a couple of Odyssey seats that were technically mine. I had a seafoam/orange, a Mexican blanket, and a snakeskin one as well. The frame tho, I think the first edition of the lost dutchman was in 2010…I think. I don't know man it's a blur at this point, it seems like so long ago but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like that long ago if that makes any sense.

From starting the journey in Phoenix and now living and working in Portland, what brought KC Badger up North?

Again, it was Ryan Sher, he was my catalyst for Portland. 2003 he moved up here from San Diego and when he got up he was just like “dude, you got to get up here. It’s sunny every day, and there are insane concrete parks” So basically, the next week, I was driving up to move there for the summer. I did that for 6 or 7 summers, I would drive up after my last day of school or college, and I would come up until honestly the week after school started cause I figured I could blow my first week of classes, and it didn’t really matter. Once I graduated college, I had an internship with Odyssey for a few months over the summer; that was the year “Electronical” was made. I moved to Seattle for eight months, moved back to Arizona, but it was a couple of years between doing the BMX summer camp and living with eight other bike riders with $80 rent. A couple years of real-life managing a restaurant back in Arizona for a while and then I had an opportunity with a friend who owned a production company. That company was the production company behind RedBull’s Dream Line BMX contest. I worked for them on a job-by-job basis on the Dream Line stuff and some other projects, but they were basically like, “We’re up in portland. You should just move up here and work full-time for us.” That was it, I told them I’ll see them in two weeks, and it’s been seven years now.

Looking at KC’s Instagram, the creative side of his life has a strong foothold in his riding and his art. Was that combination naturally brought together or a focused “I want to create”?

Umm both. I had always drawn and created art as a kid up through high school, and I ended up attending college for art. But I went to college, and I was traveling and riding bikes at the same time and didn’t really have a career path in mind, s*** I still don’t. I kind of just lived my life with a do the things that you are passionate about, and hopefully, you’ll make it work in the long run. So that was my path with art; I went to Art School and dived further into that world. I didn't really know what the end outcome would be as far as a career path. Even with the agency I work for now, my role is on the creative side. Creating storyboards for clients, so they know what the production side will look like from an image standpoint with how we’re going to film it and the angles and all that fun stuff. I do that, and I do more fun art stuff within that, like making gifs for clients. The stuff that you see on my social is stuff that I personally love to create. I’m a brand ambassador, which I guess is a 2020 word for sponsored person in the fly fishing industry. My love for fly fishing kinda started again when I stopped riding my bike as much/seriously. I kind of fell into the same world but on the fly fishing side, traveling, shooting photos, and working with fly fishing brands. I’ve always created art around the things that I’ve been semi-obsessed with. It just depends on the timeframe of my life, but right now, that’s more so fly fishing than anything, so that's kind of where my personal art gravitates toward, and that’s the stuff I put out there.

With an art degree and signature parts in the BMX world, the question has to be asked, did the Badger bars and lost dutchman get that Badger flair in the creative process?

The signature stuff I did with Kink, the Lost Dutchman and the Badger Bars, I did all the graphics for Kink at the time that was happening was down at that point (as we now know, BMX goes up and down through the years). We had a lot of hands-on all the way down to the magazine Ad direction. We would go shoot the photos with a friend who was a photographer, and I had another friend who was picking up freelance work as a graphic designer, so he would put the ads together. Everything kind of worked in that small world back then, and it still does to a certain aspect. With Odyssey, I worked under Jim Bauer, whos the art director, and that was during the filming of the Electronical video. All of the titles in that video with everyone's last name were these big handmade light boards, similar to the old 70s Light Bright things. We brought those physical light boards out and had them at the shoot instead of having some digital intro or digital title. That summer was heavy with that video, and Jim has always been really into making real tangible things wherever he can. Even down to he made illustrations and animations that are made for Odyssey commercials. He hand-painted a billboard for a RIDE Magazine cover with Gary Young. Anything he can do physically, that’s real art, he always gravitated towards that, and I kind of was just an extension of that; he’d have an idea, and we would create it. That summer for the catalog, it was very art oriented, I spent a couple of weeks making a doll house for the catalog, and that was the team rider page.

Inside the doll house, I had mad little figurines of all the riders. Jimmy Levan was upstairs in the bathroom, or like Jim Cielinski was downstairs in the kitchen cooking, and all the products were in these diorama boxes that I had made. There was a lot in there that catered to each product, and it came with a lot of real sculptural type work. Rather than just taking a photo of the part and putting it on the page, there was a lot of thought that went into each part. And that was my role there, which looking back, was amazing. Just being able to create cool and fun things for my job every day was pretty sweet. I don’t think I appreciated it as much at the time as I do now.

From his time as a rider and creator, was there one specific moment that changed KC Badger’s life trajectory?

I think the underlying factor is the motivation for doing everything that is fun and I’m passionate about. That started from a really young age because of BMX racing, and I still laugh to this day that 90% of my friend group is because of riding a bike, which all started from BMX racing. Going to the track and that sense of community, now that I can look back at that retrospectively, created that path in my life. I wanted to be around a community that was like-minded, creating stuff or being on a life path that is passion-driven instead of monetary-driven. I think it’s pretty safe to say with anyone in the BMX world, it’s passion-driven and not monetary-driven. And that kind of carried through every facet of my life, and it still does. Everything that I do is because I want a sense of community within the things that I do, and I want to surround myself with like-minded people. I think the BMX world is very special in that aspect of how welcoming everything can be and how that carries forward in life.

It’s such a cliche story to say I watched RAD, and that’s how I got into BMX racing, but I’m super thankful for that, man. I always loved riding a bike, but if it weren’t for racing, I don’t think my life would have been as fulfilling as it has been, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to travel the world like I have and made the friendships that I have. It’s crazy to think it all started from a weekend at Chandler BMX.

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