Interview: Dave Butler

Oregon Coast
Photo: Caleb Ruecker

Interview by Aaron Gates

Dave Butler has seen a lot of BMX in his day. At 35, he has more energy and enthusiasm for riding than kids half his age. Dave grew up as part of a quietly thriving Williams Lake scene that included Travis Fontaine and Chad Baba (a local legend to all who saw him ride back then). These days, he bounces back and forth between the Vancouver and Whistler scenes. He’s still exploring, riding new places and learning new tricks at an age when most people have hung the bike up for good.

DAVE BUTLER MARYJANE / HEVIL EDIT from S.S mixtapes on Vimeo.

“35 Clips at 35” Film/Edit Surrey Steve

Describe Williams Lake. What’s the town like? What do people do for a living there? What was the riding scene like?

Haha Williams Lake, you must realize at first that it’s been voted worst place to live in Canada, it’s been voted highest car theft and petty crime and it’s not uncommon there to get maced in the middle of the day in any public place by little hood rats. Compton North is what I call it. Most people that work there are involved with mining or logging or meth. The riding scene has always been good there though and it still produces some rad kids. One for example is Drew Wood, he lives in Langley now but he’s from the hood, and of course Greg Russell is the scene boss up there and he still kills it.

How connected are the scenes in different cities up north?

The scenes up north are definitely connected, mostly because of Koops Bikes in Prince George. For a long time, after you left Vancouver going north there were no good bmx shops around other than maybe something in Kelowna and Kamloops if you were lucky. For a long time and probably still, Koops supplied the north with a good selection of parts and they always held good jams. There’s always been a strong northern scene, and its not surprising since most of these places have really good parks.

Lumberyard Table
Photo: Caleb Ruecker

What are some of the best parks up there? How do they compare to Vancouver parks?

I like the Prince George park the most other than of course the Williams Lake park, but when I lived in WL I would try to get to Prince George as much as I could. It has a super nice street section and a good bowl with two great hips. There are new parks in Smithers, Cheywynd and Fort Mac, which I haven’t been to that look fun. Vancouver parks are fun but there always people at them, a lot of the times you go up north and you have a good chance of having the whole park to you and your friends. Sometimes sharing is aggravating.

Who else was in your crew growing up?

Growing up in Williams Lake it was Chad and Tyler Baba. Straight up, we rode all the time from ages 4-18. Tyler and I built a 6 foot mini in his parents’ front yard in grade 7 and we rode that throughout high school. The three of us would road trip to the Nelson jams every year in the ’90s and sleep in Tyler’s flamed out dodge station wagon. Then came the next generation of riders that included Jimmy Lucas, Greg Russell, Derek Chappell. We used to make some vids and it was a really good time in Williams Lake, then it just changed over night into the most dangerous place in Canada. I had to peace out.

Dave Butler – Against the Grain from Barbs Lunch Pale on Vimeo.

Greg Russell filmed edited and paid for everything during that vid, including every meal at Subway and McDonalds so we could perform at peak efficiency

What is the tallest thing you’ve ever seen Chad Baba bunnyhop?

When I rode with Chad and Tyler Baba, we would always sesh the elementary school by our house. There’s nothing there but parking spaces and picnic tables. One day after school, I saw Chad bunny hop onto a picnic table and ride off the other side. I’m still in awe of that, like who bunny hops 32″ inches in grade 7?! I’m positive he’s jumped higher in his life, but seeing a little Asian kid who was allergic to milk hop that high was amazing.

Explain the Nelson contests for the kids who are too young to have been to one (or weren’t born yet)?

Nelson contests were the shit. The first year was when I was 14 or 15. Chad’s parents took us. I think I read about the jam in BMX Plus and we asked if we could go. Both of our families really encouraged BMX for us and I’m really thankful for that. From the 2nd year on, we drove ourselves. 16 years old in a flamed out dodge station wagon smoking weed and having the times of our lives. Anyone who ever attended one one of those contests truly breathed BMX and everyone got the same cheers and yells from the crowd no matter who you were or what tricks you did. The year that Osato and Miron entered was the same year Dave won street in Oklahoma. It was mind blowing seeing those guys ride in person. That one contest could keep a guy stoked for 6 months.

What’s it like to be riding at 35?

Riding at 35 is no different for me then when i was 14 or 18 or 25. inside my brain it feels the same. Stretching is important and I have to remember to drink lots of water or I cramp up pretty good. I’m riding at level 3 right now and still smiling. people say when the smile is gone that’s when they’ll stop riding; I’ll stop riding when i cant walk anymore.

What is “level 3”?

Level three is a reference to Brian Foster’s Dig interview, he says he turned 40 so he’s at level 4. im 35 so im being a little gracious saying level 3, maybe more like halfway through level 3.

Pdx Xup Stall
Photo: Caleb Ruecker

What has been your favorite era of bmx through all of these years?

My favorite era out of my whole time riding is probably right now, or more accurately this year. Right now it’s winter but the friends I made this year and the reconnections with old friends and scenes has been amazing. I’ve always loved roadtripping and this year I was able to get out of the house alot riding and it was rad. I went to the ‘holy land’ (Austin Texas) and got to watch Shad Johnson ride the vert quarter, it had the same feeling as it did watching him ride 20 years ago in Nelson cranking airs with a huge smile.

It seems like you ride with a pretty diverse group of people and you’re always riding different stuff (trails, street, park etc.), true?

There are a ton of bmxers in the Lower Mainland and everyone kills it. There’s so many styles and parks and spots that there’s always someone riding something. With my work I have a really unusual schedule so I’m usually last minute plan making if I have a spare day to come ride outside of Whistler. I usually text a bunch of people and see if people are riding. I never make a plan to hit a specific place, I just want to ride with my friends. That’s why I like the Killemall and Ten Pack jams, it brings people together and we all get to hang out. The Richmond End of Summer Jam was the most fun I had all year.

In Oregon, Caleb proclaimed that you had hit the “reset button”, and you pretty much killed it all trip. What is that term referencing?

The reset button totally got hit this summer. I moved to Whistler in may and started “digging” (I admit right now I’m not qualified without supervision) and helping out at the trails. At the time, Czech Phil was living in Whistler and he showed me how to breathe and relax and ride the jumps. Realizing everything we do in life is much easier when you breathe just made riding clearer for me haha. A lot of my time this summer was spent at the rev trails. Bbqs and fires and beavers and floods a good flow of people coming through made it really fun.

Wall lookback

What brings you down to Portland so much?

Ahhhh Portland, at first I went to Oregon to camp and see the incredible coastline and surf and shit. My next trip down, I went to lady luck tattoo in Portland and started getting awesome pieces from an artist named Isaac Bushkin. The dude straight kills it and he’s super chill and so on point. Actually everyone from that shop is. I met a bunch of cool people there and always stop in to hang out and get tattoos and eat all of their candy. Now I can’t stop going there, the scene is rad, tons of good street spots and of course Burnside and Shad are there. But mostly I go for the food trucks, street spots and reruns of Seinfeld and old Animal vids at Caleb’s.

Fill in the blank: “The sea was angry that day my friend, like an _________________”

Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

What’s the best spot from ./Blueprint?

The best spot in Blueprint is the bank to rail in Lou Rajisch’s part. It’s around the 39 minute mark. I had a very similar set up in Williams Lake. I always thought of his part when I rode it. That video was a staple part of my diet in my 20s, that and the Baco vids.

Thank Yous?

First of all, I’d like to thank the original Hevil 8. Sam Lowe, Chris Smith, Surrey Steve, Rob Parsons, Dave Meyers, Greg Nicholson, Braedan and Andy Roode. Those guys lit a fire under me when I lived up north. I can’t believe how rad it is that I have their numbers in my phone to see if they wanna ride when I’m in Van now. They still all kill it and I’m stoked to have a Hevil sticker on my bike. BK crew from the Okanagan. I’ve watched most of them grow up from little shits at the Kelowna jams to big shits on the streets in Van killing it regularly. All good people. Killemall Distribution and Canadian Concrete. Blaise works hard to keep the kids stoked and it shows by the amount of really good new kids in Van riding every year. Andy McGrath is a boss, glad he’s my friend and my computer tech. 450 Salisbury house and Jason Teet. Can’t believe I live there, so rad to ride with those guys. Everyone kills it and I’m stoked more than ever. Thanks to my family and everyone in Williams Lake.

Thanks to the Garter Gang at and all the sweet people behind the scenes at MaryJaneApparell at I met them last summer and really got stoked on how they follow out their visions. Life isn’t just about bmx. There’s lots to be inspired by in the world and I’m stoked on these kids. Pain’s temporary, glory is forever and chicks dig guys with big scars.

180 thread
Photo: Tim O’Kane