Interview and photos by Jeff Zielinski
Justin Simpson is not afraid to have a good time. He’s also not afraid of firing out some rails that most riders wouldn’t even bother looking at. Aside from pretty much being fearless, would you believe that Justin is certified to teach high school English? Fun, fearless, and intellectual, it’s safe to say that Justin is a pretty interesting dude.
You went to college to become an English teacher, so what have you been up to since you graduated?
Not teaching [laughs]. Once I graduated I just wanted to ride. It’s been like three years now and I’m just enjoying it.
Why did you choose English? And what grade would you teach?
I guess I chose it because I was good at it. I probably should have done social studies because I love the history channel [laughs]. I didn’t do that though because everyone does social studies and there weren’t as many jobs. And my degree is for high school—I thought it would be easier, but I think I forgot how much of a pain in the ass I was in high school.
When do you think you’ll actually try to start teaching?
I always joke that it wouldn’t make sense to start a career when the world is gonna end this year, so if that doesn’t happen, probably when I feel like I can’t ride anymore.
You were already making waves in BMX when you were still in high school. Looking back, are you still happy with making the decision to go to college instead of diving right into the professional BMX lifestyle after high school?
I kind of wish I would have started traveling more out of high school, but going to college was an opportunity I had so I did it. I don’t think I would have gone back to school later, so I think it was sort of a now or never kind of thing.
You’ve done some student teaching. Did you ever have kids in your class who rode?
No, surprisingly, but they all Googled me and found out I rode. I’d have to yell at kids for watching videos of me when they were supposed to be working on research papers.
Although I personally think it’s an awesome twist, have you ever thought about how a teacher who breaks the law while riding his bike would be perceived—by fellow teachers, students, parents, etc?
I tried to keep that on the DL. The less they know the better.
Tell me more about the band you’re in…
Well, it started out with them contacting me about doing a Halloween show as AC/DC. They had heard I did a pretty good Bon Scott. After that they needed a new singer for their band, The Hot Rails, so I started practicing with them. It’s pretty fun. We’ve got probably eight songs so far and we’re trying to play a show in a couple months. Once we get some good demos I’ll send them over for the site [laughs].
That sounds great, thanks. So have you been to any good shows lately?
Not lately, but I’m headed down to catch part of SXSW next month for the first time so hopefully I will get to see someone good.
How have you been dealing with the winter in Cleveland? Crowded skateparks, bundling up to ride street, playing video games, etc.?
It hasn’t been too bad this year—not that much snow. Basically all the above, though—just keeping myself busy and doing the band thing also gives me something to do.
Have you thought about relocating somewhere with milder winters?
I’ve always wanted to move to Austin. I still do, but just haven’t pulled the trigger yet.
Speaking about getting away for the winter, what’s up with you blowing fireballs inside of crowded bars during a recent trip in California?
I figured it was a weird enough place that they wouldn’t mind. With people banging pipes on the ground and the strange music some pyrotechnics just seemed right. Unfortunately for me the bouncers didn’t agree and I think I’m banned for life. All I know it wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last.
It seems like once the sun goes down, a different, much more wild side of Justin comes out.
I don’t know? I just try to make the most fun out of situations. Sometimes I get a little carried away, but fuck it, that’s just how I’ve always been.
Do you think that once you start teaching you’ll ease up on the raging? Or just save it for the weekends?
Yeah, showing up to class with the smell of whiskey, cigarettes, and a hangover would not go over well.
Shout outs to the homeys…
First off I have to say thanks to my girlfriend Branda for being awesome and putting up with my madness, my friends for making life fun whether it’s riding, partying, or whatever. And all my sponsors for giving me the opportunity to travel the world. Thanks!