The Friday Interview: Derek Adams
“It’s better to burn out than fade away. I learned that from Def Leppard.”
Little Devil kicked ass. The clothing designs were rad. The ads were funny. The guys on the team were some of the coolest, yet baddest, mutha f-ers known to BMX. Criminal Mischief changed street riding. The warehouse ramp was sick as hell. And the message was that of genuine evil and pure fun. 666. I [Heart] Your Mom. Horns. And happy little pentagram stars.
The man behind it all was Derek Adams. He also started Orchid Footwear. I’ve been wondering what he’s been up to for a while. I don’t get out to the PA/NJ area as much as I’d like to and it’s been a few years since I’ve seen or talked with him. Despite seeing photos of dudes riding his backyard ramps and jumps occasionally, and pretty constant Instagram action on @littledevilderek and @littledevilbrand, Derek seemed to disappear from BMX in a sense. Little Devil’s been dead for a while, that’s not news. But hashtags like #bringlittledevilback posted by Derek himself leave you guessing. Orchid? Seems done to me, but like dozens of other BMX brands that never die—they just go on long vacations or into hibernation—maybe it’s just in limbo. Who knows? BMX is not where it should be as far as clothing and shoe companies go, so it sucks to see brands like Little Devil and Orchid nonexistent or fading away.
Last week I was out East for the Dew Tour. I flew back a couple of days early to hang out and try to shoot something with Van Homan. After taking a raincheck at FDR due to a local skater flipping his shit when we were setting up to shoot, we headed over to Derek’s place to chill, ride, and catch up with him. Good times and this 10 Questions interview was the outcome of the visit.
If you’ve been wondering what’s going on with Orchid, what Derek’s been doing, or if you’ve ever wanted to know what happened to Little Devil, and if there’s ever a chance of it coming back, read on. Your questions will be answered—and you might be stoked on what you read… —Keith
1. No one is better than you to explain this, and I feel like a lot of people want to know because they loved the brand so much—what exactly happened to Little Devil? Why did you decide to let the Devil die?
Because it’s better to burn out than fade away. I learned that from Def Leppard. This is going back five years now, and at that time Little Devil was beginning to fade from popularity. It wasn’t the love fest you might be remembering from the early 2000s, it felt like the party was over. It was starting to lose money for the first time, becoming less fun, and I started wondering after 13 years if that’s really what I wanted to be doing in life. I made the decision to focus on Orchid for a while and put Little Devil on the back burner, for better or worse. It’s just what I felt I needed to do at the time.
2. What’s the current status with Orchid? It seems pretty dormant…and really, done. Has it run its course or can we expect something new in the future?
Well, we didn’t meet the minimum production numbers last season, and so the new models never got made. That’s where it stands. We might do a limited run of shoes, because there are still some riders out there that enjoy the feel of them for riding. They were designed to ride in after all, they’re slightly beefier than most shoes on the market today, they last longer, and a lot of guys still prefer that. But we haven’t made any new models in two years and the BMX shoe company dream is kind of dead. In hindsight, selling shoes to bike shops seems almost as dumb of a business plan as selling bikes to shoe shops. People buy shoes at the mall. It took a while to learn that and it’s been an adventure, but let’s face it, the BMX shoe biz is in bad shape.
“The BMX shoe company dream is kind of dead. In hindsight, selling shoes to bike shops seems almost as dumb of a business plan as selling bikes to shoe shops.”
3. Littledevilbrand.com has the 1998 Seek & Destroy promo commercial on it. The top of the page says “Evil Never Dies.” You have a @littledevilbrand Instagram, you’ve done #bringlittledevilback hashtags, and after the 666th follower you posted “Yes! The resurrection can now begin.” What’s the deal—are you going to bring back Little Devil?
I’ve been doing some of that stuff just to see the reaction that it got, and actually it’s been pretty crazy, a lot better than I could have expected. I thought nobody would even remember Little Devil by now, but the reaction to the @littledevilbrand Instagram stuff has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m starting to think that killing Little Devil was the best move I could have made, because it almost seems better loved in death than it was in life, or at least towards the end of its life. It started out as a joke, but so many people have gotten behind the #bringlittledevilback idea that it needs to happen now, the people have spoken. So I guess that’s an official announcement, Little Devil is coming back to take over the world. Hide your children, hide your wife. I’ve been contemplating this move for a year, but now it’s time to pull the trigger. There’s a few LD projects lined up already that I’m excited about—you’ll be seeing some new stuff starting this summer, 2013. That’s probably all I should say now.
“Official announcement: Little Devil is coming back to take over the world. Hide your children, hide your wife.”
4. You’ve got backyard jumps/ramps and a lot of local kids that ride at your place. Explain what you’ve got going on and the scene at your house.
It’s like a daycare center back there sometimes, there are so many kids that ride around here now. We built a vert wall on my garage in 2010, and soon after a couple of locals knocked on my door and asked if they could ride it. Since the local park doesn’t allow bikes and nobody rides trails anymore, I said go ahead. Up until then there were only big jumps out back, nothing for beginners, so I started building some smaller jumps to play around on. That grew into a section that’s a cross between a pump track and a dirt skatepark, it’s really fun. Now there are 15 people in the yard shredding every day. It’s grown into a whole scene with a bunch of rad locals—we have everyone from 10-year-old girls to 40-year-old dudes coming out and having fun. It’s pretty awesome actually.
5. Kids know tricks, but not always the history behind them. What’s the story of the Derek Duster?
You mean the trick I invented that I can’t actually do? It started out as an icepick grind gone wrong. I was icepicking a flat rail and started to fall forward. To keep from slamming I leaned way back, but instead of crashing my bottom bracket caught the rail and I grinded it to the end. I figured out what happened and told Van Homan, who started pulling them on purpose. He said I get to name it since I invented it, and I named it after myself as a joke. But then he started doing them on real rails and it became a real trick with a really dumb name. Had I known I would have named it something cooler, but I think it’s pretty funny now every time I see it in print. I also love the fact that Big Daddy started doing them backwards and calls it the Daddy Duster.
6. You recently posted a photo of a prototype Profile left side drive hub from years ago. For those who didn’t see it, what’s the story behind it?
It was one of the first LHD hubs ever made. When I first saw the Profile cassette hub around 1999 I told them about this idea I had for a left side drive hub. Their cassette hub was perfect for it because it was the first hub I ever saw that didn’t use a traditional freewheel, and could be easily reversed. Anyone that grew up riding 44-tooth sprockets who grinds on the right side remembers how often your chain and sprocket would break. Profile was into the idea so they made me and the other Little Devil “lefty” riders some hubs to test and the rest is history. I’m still running one, even though I don’t run pegs anymore.
7. Did you ever think Seek & Destroy (1998) and Criminal Mischief (2001) would have the impact they did on BMX and achieve the status they have as monumental BMX videos?
[Laughs] No, but I’m happy that people enjoyed them so much. I guess I realized we had a unique scene in the Northeast at the time, and that’s why I started documenting it. I wasn’t seeing the kind of riding that was happening around here in other videos. We were just a bunch of amateurs when we made those videos, but I guess we struck a chord with the BMX audience. I’m a fan of BMX who was in the right place at the right time, and I’m glad it all worked out the way it did.
“I’m starting to think that killing Little Devil was the best move I could have made, because it almost seems better loved in death than it was in life.”
8. What do you currently pay attention to in BMX and what do you just not give a shit about?
I pay attention to it all, as much as I can, but I find that I don’t relate to a lot of BMX these days. I don’t care about tricks anymore and I only ride trails and concrete parks. I’m set in my ways. I just do what’s fun for me and forget about the rest.
“One night on a rowdy drive home from the bar, everyone went apeshit and started ripping the van to pieces.”
9. Random question, shotgun approach: between LD, Orchid, the videos, all the team dudes over the years, living with guys like Van Homan and Kris Bennett, what are some little known facts, and/or interesting or funny stories/behind the scenes stuff that most people don’t know?
God that’s so random, I don’t even know where to begin. There is one story that pops into my head though, because it involves most of the team guys. We did a trip to Vancouver in 2002 and rented a van for a week. Knowing how rowdy everyone can get, I was smart enough to get full insurance on the van. But I made the fatal mistake of telling everyone that I had full insurance. So one night on a rowdy drive home from the bar, everyone went apeshit and started ripping the van to pieces. Marvin pulled out all the air conditioner vents, Van kicked off the side mirror, Stricker puked on the floor, Bennett pulled the license plate off, and then to top it off, everybody jumped and danced on the roof until it completely caved in. I was terrified to return it, even with the full insurance, it was that much of a disaster. I started to tell the rental guy a made-up story about how it was vandalized in a bad part of the city, then he stopped me and said that he didn’t care. He literally said, “You could have brought back a steering wheel and it would be okay. You got full insurance. Have a nice day.”
“I find that I don’t relate to a lot of BMX these days. I don’t care about tricks anymore and I only ride trails and concrete parks. I’m set in my ways.”
10. Over the course of doing Little Devil, Orchid, the videos, different warehouses, etc., your life has seen a lot of change over the years. How’s life now and what are you doing different versus 10 years ago?
These days I’m pretty settled into my little domestic life with my girlfriend Heather and my dog Lola, life is good in that way. I live pretty simple and cheap, and found that I don’t need as much to be happy as I thought I did 10 years ago. That’s the positive. On the flipside though, I need to start getting more creative again, because I feel like I was more motivated to try new things 10 years ago. I was less inhibited. That’s why I’m looking forward to doing some Little Devil stuff again. LD started as an excuse to try new things and be creative. Now I will have that excuse all over again, so it’s exciting.
Thanks for the interview Keith, and thanks to everyone who has been patient with me over the last year while I figured this shit out. And an extra special thanks to all the Little Devil fans out there who helped motivate me to make this happen. You guys rule.
Must-see and classic Little Devil shit from over the years, straight out of Derek’s scrapbooks…
Some legendary LD shirt designs from years ago (and a Square One Aitken keeper too)…