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'A While Between Drinks': A Discussion with Jack Gruber

Jack Gruber, 27 years old, Canberra bred, Melbourne based, bike rider, photographer. 

Now that I've described the depths of Jack Grubers personality and life in a long and detailed form, you will have the necessary context to meaningfully comprehend the following discussion. 

Nah, but for real, Jack is a BMX associate and someone who was on an absolute tear from 2014-2019. I love lapping up as much Australian BMX as I can, so I was psyched to see the kid putting in work and helping to grow the Canberra and Aus scene. More recently, there hasn't been much of an output (video wise) so when I noticed his latest United part up on DIGBMX, I was most interested to see what he has been up to. 

The following is a discussion that Jack and I had, touching on the making of the video, the move to Melbourne, his current pursuits and maturing in BMX. 


Psyched to see your recent United part, taking to the streets of your new residence in Melbourne. I noticed that it was largely you and your filmer getting this thing done, no crews in tow. Tell us about your connection with BMX in 2024 and what your relationship is like with the scene in Melbourne?

Thanks mate! Yeah largely me and Anthony Bowler were out and about in the making of this. Moving to a new city in a weird time of lockdowns probably didn’t help with my involvement in the broader scene here, although all the dudes are great and lovely for sure.

The familiarity and connection between Anthony and myself work really well so I guess we just went on missions ourselves. I felt this project was quite a personal thing, something that I wanted to own and work on with Anthony and that sort of ran through the entire thing. Big ups to Anthony for really bringing a vision to life as well as a real feeling into a BMX video.

The description of the video talks to this being a drawn out project as a result of moving away from Canberra and experiencing the dreadfulness of COVID lockdowns in Melbourne as well as a series of injuries along the way. Can you flesh out your perspective from this time? I'm wondering if it has been the type of encounter which is initially negative but through the benefit of time, has become a net positive?

Yeah spot on. I think the whole COVID thing affected my motivation in a few ways. I was in a good place in Canberra where I valued riding with the close homies and getting coffee or a beer, more of a hangout. I guess being some-what removed from that in COVID may have pulled me out of BMX slightly at that time. The injuries were niggling and set backs to my confidence around riding mentality dragged the project out longer. But looking back and seeing the video encapsulate a particular time in my life life is super positive! We pushed away the temptation of just ‘throwing out’ the project, I though, no-one really knows too much of what we are doing so I guess we can sleep on it haha.

"...I do miss being able to watch the NRL at any given moment.. .its AFL country down here and boy they’re touchy about the screens haha"

Your last video parts were from the Backbone video of 2016/2017 and the 'Hard Yakka' project from 2018. Aside from moving and COVID, what has kept you out of the limelight and how would you describe the dynamic you maintain with BMX in the present day?

Thats a hard one, I feel like after ‘Hard Yakka’ and a couple clips in mixtapes along the way I’ve stayed pretty low key on the social media hustle of it all. I’ve definitely been asked by a lot of riders if I even still ride haha.

Filming longer duration parts and producing more of a story, something with more feeling or direction - like we did for this one - always fulfilled my BMX endeavours. Maybe like a musician plugging away at an album for 3 years rather than a person who makes songs to be released online once a week. I don’t believe either are right or wrong, but I think I prefer the long term creation. I'm not breaking the internet with this riding stuff so I feel I’m not letting anyone down by not showing clips everyday on the 'gram haha. I still love riding and creating a good story with the bike, but maybe that hunger of going out and sending it every session has faded a bit? Or maybe it's just not as necessary in my present BMX outlook.

The video is all street and comprised of spots people might associate with your style of riding. However, it's worth noting that there were a bunch of clips in there that would have required you to get your big boy pants on, a couple rail hops, the up ledge/ramp nose to drop and a couple others - how do you find the concept of taking risks and pushing yourself in the name of a BMX video in 2024? 

To be honest, in the last couple years I’ve found it pretty tough to overcome those ‘bigger’ clips. It is by far more of a mental battle for me. Being 18, living at home and having little concept of the ‘real life’ allows you to send the shit out of clips without thinking twice. Probably in that Back Bone Video era for me. Fast forward a few years to working for yourself, cost of living blah blah blah - I really questioned the benefit of doing a 10ft nose bonk to flat… Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to speak on behalf of others, as dudes are going hard all the time and have the same life battles as everyone else. But personally that balance of risk vs reward was and is challenging for me. I think that’s why having this video project gave me the motivation to keep getting clips, if someone asked me to film some of this stuff for the 'gram I’d probably refuse, instantly haha!

I spend hours each day listening and searching for new, old, popular and underground music. With this in mind, I was instantly drawn to the Willie Nelson track, and will now be exploring his discography around that era haha. You a big music guy? How did you land on the music for this video and was there much thought behind the selection?

Definitely a lover of music, although I couldn’t play an instrument to save my life haha. I think in the last few years digging for records and gaining knowledge by talking to the old ducks at the record shops has opened up a huge interest for me. In addition to that, shooting all sorts of gigs (festivals, front bar shows or DIY punk shows) helps with learning and seeing new things.

The songs for the video definitely had thought and consideration behind them. Originally we tried working with some Leonard Cohen songs (one of the greats) but couldn’t quite build the epic-ness which came with the songs. I remember playing a Rowland S. Howard record and his cover of ‘White Wedding’ instantly jumped out to me when the lyrics “its a nice day to… STARRRTTT AGAAAAINNN” blurted out. It felt very fitting for starting this new life and chapter down in Victoria. 

We never planned for the Willie Nelson song to be in the video, however with a good chunk of b-roll and longer line clips we were thinking of putting to the side, we had the idea of an ‘intro’ style song. The lyrics and dreaminess of the song “Gee aint it funny - how time slips away” was so ironic and perfect that it had to be the theme of the video. We actually recorded that track with a portable recorder next to my record player as I couldn’t find the version I liked online. The scratch sound is actually pulling the needle off mid track when I thought it was about 40-50 seconds.

Hyped to see some milk love in the video. The boys are doing great so far this year, which we love to see from the crew of battlers down in the nations capital. Any predictions for this season and do you miss much from Canberra?

Up the 'Ders! Haha If I didn’t have enough grey hairs now, watching the Raiders will do the trick. 

I do miss Canberra a bunch though. Lots of love for home! From family to mates and even my BMX experiences with the fellas and Back Bone crew. Always great times with great people. Living in the big city has many benefits though. Seeing gigs every other night and endless spots for art, coffee and beer is pretty unreal. The scope of the creative world is pretty surreal down her, but I do miss being able to watch the NRL at any given moment. It's AFL country down here and boy they’re touchy about the screens haha.

I know you've shot for Monster Children before, and seem to be apart of the 'creative' scene (for lack of a better term). Can you talk to this element of your life and why you do what you do? 

So I guess photography is my primary work and also another outlet of my creative life. Shooting a whole range of things for work or pleasure is pretty cool and boy there are some talented people to bounce off down here. I recently put together a solo Photography Exhibition of live music photographs accompanied with a small run photo-book. It was an awesome launch night and the turn out was great to see. Especially being relatively new to the Melbourne scene.

I starting out shooting BMX stuff with people like Troy Harradine at about 15 or 16, I was beginning to get my head around the creative vision and how to take ‘interesting’ photos. Looking up to B-Dog and Nick Gascoine as a young pup taught me some good lessons. Not only technical information but more open discussions about what ‘good’ photos can be and why. Shooting live music would be my favourite outlet in the creative world and it draws a lot of parallels to the BMX mentality and creative side of things, like what angle am I gonna shoot Jack O’Reilly doing a gap to feeble or how am I gonna shoot this singer jump off a two story amp stack.

Top photo is Electric Chair (USA) photographed at The Gem Bar in Collingwood and bottom is a JG solo exhibition night at Thin Slizzy. Photos by Jack Gruber

What have you absorbed lately that caught your attention? Could be a song, movie, photo, website, passerby. I've found a couple awesome post-punk albums from the depths of the underground, really hyped. 

Mate, you’ll have to send me those albums haha!

Well I've been pretty deep in the world of Nick Cave lately. Just saw him do a solo piano set at a theatre down here, bloody unreal.

What's next for ya? Where does the future take you?

Ahhh who knows haha loving life down here currently and will probably stay put for a little bit. Always working to ultimately spend that money on travel or something fun haha. So maybe another trip in the pipeline. Currently workshopping another photo book from a pretty special punk gig so that’ll take a bit of time. Been riding Fitzy bowl a bit, might do a few flairs, who knows haha.

Thanks for your time and the chat!