Photo: Jeff Harmon
“ I had to circle that basketball court and then sprint full force to get up the grass bank with enough speed. Old Port area of Portland, Maine”
James Meliota has been a rider that I’ve been a fan of since I saw one of his edits a few years ago. He brings a lot of style to the table and with each edit he has produced, he has definitely caught the attention of more people because of his unique outlook on riding. A few weeks ago I hit him up to find out a little bit more about this guy who calls Maine home. I came to realize that he’s got a pretty interesting story based on his look on different things from BMX to nature, college, work, music and life in general. There was no doubt in my mind that I needed to get him some questions to let everyone find out more. So here’s the James Meliota Interview. Check out what he has to say, then leave him some love in the comments…
Name: James Meliota
Location: Portland, Maine
Years riding:Since around 2002
What was it that first got you into BMX? Any early memories come to mind?
I got into BMX from picking up a BMX Plus magazine in my local supermarket. I had been riding everyday before I saw the mag but when I looked at it I realized there was a lot more you could do on a bike than I thought. I was convinced there wasn’t anyone else who rode in Maine whatsoever, but a year or so after, I starting riding “BMX” I headed in town to ride a little park I had always seen off the highway going through Portland. The first time I went down it was very exciting and it was amazing to see other riders with the same interest. The park was just on the edge of downtown and always had this feel of being a sort of safe hideout where you could go at any time and not be bothered by anyone. It was a place nobody really noticed at all as they drove by but it was the birthplace for many riders coming out of the area. Due to the park getting torn down I started venturing into the street a lot more than usaul and it’s been pretty much nothing else except some winter indoor skatepark sessions and now our brand new concrete park we got built in late 2010.
How are things going with Fly? Do you have anything in the works with them for the new year that you can tell us about?
Fly is chill as always which I’m a big fan about. Having the chance to represent Fly is a blessing to me and something I don’t think light of. As for the future it’s just whatever comes and I’m happy with that.
Any other fresh sponsors for the new year?
I don’t have any new sponsors for 2012 so far haha. I’m happy with what I have right now and I feel like I can give a mutual effort towards my sponsors which I think is really important.
Your edit to end the year turned out awesome. How long did you spend filming for that?
Thanks a lot. The footage in the edit is from late 2010 to late 2011. I’d like to again thank all of my friends with being down to film stuff.
You spent a lot of time while filming traveling the upper part of New England. What was motivating you to spend as much time as you could to find all these spots?
Yeah I did. I just get inspired to go to a new city and explore it. There’s a lot of small cities in New England that are really unknown but are rich in character. Sometimes you’ll look all day for a single new spot and then find something amazing and unique and it’s all worth it. I never feel like I’ve seen all there is for spots up here and I don’t really get bored of trying to find them. It’s also crazy when you drive a really extended distance to the middle of nowhere, find a random spot you barely spotted off a road or something, only to find tire marks on it….or if you find something that has never been touched which seems to happen somewhat often.
Do you have any plans of traveling a little further out at all this year? Anywhere you have always wanted to go but have never been to?
Yeah I have a bunch of places I want to go to this year to name a few… Phili, Burlington, Providince, Halifax, Montreal, and Toronto. I have an endless list of places that are farther out than that and I guess on a bigger scale I want to go to Hong Kong, China, Tokyo, Japan (and its different prefectures), other cites in Japan (a lot of their cities are port style which are my favorite), Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sydney, Austrailia, Taiwan, Hawaii, haha, the list goes on.
When can we expect to see some fresh footage of you? Won’t you have some clips in the new 90East video?
I’m going to have a full section in the second 90East video that comes out early 2012. This year really reminded me of my earlier days riding because for some reason a lot of funny tricks I was trying were working out and new stuff was just coming to me. Everyday was absolutely fun and this just reminds me of how special riding is and that not much compares to it. People often try to dumb BMX down and say that there are more timeless/respected/meaningful sports/arts… That’s definitely not true. It just takes a while for things to grow and BMX has come after a lot of sports that have already been established for 100 years ago so we have to work at it hard. I get off topic but it’s all good, haha. But yeah, anyway, I had probably the most fun I’ve ever had on my bike to date filming or not this last year. I’ve seen a few things from the DVD and I was blown away. One of a kind. I’ve already started filming for more 90East, FlyBikes, and Accent video stuff so just keeping it moving.
Photo: Jeff Harmon
“On the other side of the building is the Greyhound bus station where I first stepped foot in Maine after the bus ride from Boston, Mass. and 3 day train trip across the entire United States with my family from Southern California. My uncle worked at FMF at the time and they hooked up all 17 of us with giant motocross bags for the trip. They had huge bright FMF logos. Those were good times. Haha”
It seems like Maine is a pretty well kept secret in BMX. How is the scene up there these days? What do you think makes that area unique from other places around the world?
Just from riding all these years and meeting people who don’t live in Maine, you realize that seriously barely anyone knows of the place, haha. It’s good and bad. Good because you don’t have a burnt out feeling as much here because there isn’t a giant scene here and there isn’t a ton of BMX resources I guess you would say. If you want to have fun you have to be creative and sometimes work for it. Sometimes if you want to ride you just have to buck up and let the frigid cold air in the winter hit you in the face. You know that the riders love what they do though becuase it shows obviously if they are willing to ride in those kind of conditions. It can also be bad a bad thing as well because you are starting from scratch. Building the scene up and keeping it up doing things like videos and photos can get fustrating because you can spend a long time (and money) putting work into making something 100% quality, and then put it out only for a minimal amount of feedback and a small audience. I find it a little bit fustrating sometimes that the BMX industry seems to focus on the same riders consistently over and over again meanwhile there are tons of amazingly talanted riders out there that have amazing content which are completely underated. It’s just how it goes and some things need dedication, determination and persistence to grow so this is what I try to incorporate into doing my part to help see the scene grow. The main purpose of the media and mags is to try and promote the core of riders and inpire riders. Some riders have a less fortunate chance for exposure and it seems like even if they get there stuff out there it’s over ridden by all the coverage of the guys who are all over everything. It’s seems like if you can’t make ten web videos a year your not cut out to be a respected rider. This is one of the reasons why I choose not to put out more than one (maybe two) sections a year. I believe that once something hits a certain pace theres this feeling that you can’t absorb it all quick enough. Also I feel like there is far less mystique with BMX now because of the rate of videos people put out. It’s all due to people just trying to keep up the pace of BMX that continues to move faster and faster. I’m going to kick it back in this little time zone and enjoy what I love about BMX at my own pace.
Just talking to you before this interview, it sounds like you really appreciate nature. Do you feel like BMX has allowed you to get a full effect on that? Was that part of the reason you didn’t get your license till you were 23?
I didn’t get my license until I was 23 I think for the most part cause man…I think I was just satisfied with the simplicity of riding a bike to where I wanted to go. You take your bike out and put it on the road and nobody can tell you what to do. Doesn’t cost anything and you stay in great shape. Also it’s another one of those “pace” things. You can actually feel the texture of what your moving over right in your arms and feet and you actually have enough time to look up at the trees and take in the view of the river as you ride over the bridge. I mean sometimes I will be riding down a road and I’ll know where every crack or bump is and for some reason thats enjoyable to feel all those little details as your moving along. You start to realize theres actually really unique little rhythms you can discover and even just flowing over stuff like that is enjoyable on the way in town. When I first started riding I would just stay in the road but the way I ride down the street has developed overtime hitting up all the little pockets a street might have to offer. I feel like when you start driving you develop this sense like you have to have so many extra things just to travel down a road and it’s not something I even enjoy that much still. The bike is one of the best inventions ever made hands down.
I’d imagine Maine isn’t the most forgiving place to live in the winter. Where have you been spending your time riding these days? Could you find yourself living somewhere warmer someday?
Maine is rough in the winter but it also brings on a totally different mood of living. You sort of feel like your submerging into this isolated and cold world. You have to wear layers and hide yourself away from the cold and when you go out to ride you feel a different vibe from the warm days. I always find myself listening to tracks with deeper bass and more minimal, laid back sound to them cause it seems to fit right to everything else. Stuff like J Dilla and that similiar sound. I seem to mess around with slower and more creative stuff the most in the winter. Having my family history and growing up originally from a warm place like Southern Califoria, sometimes it has been hard to adapt to Maine and yeah there’s definitely times when I’m out of place and feel like living somewhere warm for entire year. It’s funny because I seem to love the warmth a lot more than most of my friends even when it’s 95 out in the summer. I know Maine is a special place but I also know that there are plenty of other places on the map that are great too and I want to experience them as well.
It sounds like you have been changing up your setup quite a bit this past year. What made you want to change it up so much? Why didn’t you try to run front brakes?
I just was thinking of certain tricks you could do and then I would change my set up in order to them. I have fun with changing my bike up and I never think that my setup style is ever set in stone. Front brakes might happen soon.
You have recently been focusing some of your time on a new project called Accent. What’s that all about? When can people start seeing stuff popping up?
Accent is something I’m starting as a project to bring out positive and creative ideas. It’s about freedom and expression through art, clothing, photography, video, community etc. The cause is about being free and not being attached to the preconcieved negative things the world has to offer. Nothing but fresh air and instinctive positive expression. I want to Accent to be something lesser known riders and artist can be a part of. Filming for videos and new photography is already underway. It’s something I’m overjoyed about doing. I’m hoping to officially “launch” the beginnings of Accent in the spring.
Obviously, you are one of those people that don’t really follow the trends and kind of do things more based on how you are feeling. How do you feel about the way BMX is these days from the trends to competitions and everything?
I think contest for bmx are a great thing but I also believe that it is the absolute tip of the iceberg that is represented to people. There are so many different highly developed styles that some riders have that are not understood the way they should be. The thing that I love about BMX is the artistry aspect of it and its seems like soemtimes that it’s the most overlooked. In the Nora Cup we only have a few different awards and to me that seems like thats not enough. Some riders have molded there styles naturally into there own unique approach at riding. What if we had awards for fastest rider, most pop, laziest style, most aggressive, best grinds, most creative grinds, best pegless rider, most simple, cleanist edit, scariest edit, best feel, funniest etc. It’s something I’m surprised that hasn’t happened yet and seems pretty obvious. That being said I still enjoy watching contests and I think that the guys who ride in them have an amazing ability to produce their tricks on the spot and under pressure.
“This is the narrow gauge railroad that runs along the Eastern Promenade of Portland and this is what It looked like around Christmas time just few weeks ago. This is shot by Rocco DiDonato”
If you could give advice to a kid just getting into BMX, what would you tell them?
Don’t ever listen to anyone trying to tell you what bmx is and that your wasting your time. If you’ve gotten to the point of discovering BMX and you feel like its awesome, just go with it becuase your right about that. This is even if everyone you know doesn’t like it or has something negative to say about it. Not everyone understands it and you will waste your time trying to explain youself. If you keep moving forward with it you’ll discover others that will carry that same understanding. You can make BMX whatever you want it to be and theres no correct approach at how you ride. It can be easy to quit just from what other people have to say about how you ride or even that you should’nt ride. Think for yourself and make BMX and the way you approach it exactly how you want no matter what everyone else thinks. Always be creative and that will help with ruts in progression if you feel like your not having fun. Also appreciate what other riders have to offer.
Do you feel like you would be where you are today if it wasn’t for BMX?
If BMX didn’t exist I’d just skate more or do something similiar to it or be further into music and art. I don’t think I would have ever somehow passed it up though. It made sense from the first second I saw any of it.
What do you think you would be doing if you never got involved with BMX? What are you usually up to when you aren’t riding?
I’m extremely into music. I ride with my headphones in a lot and sometimes that annoys people I do it so much, haha. Music is just something that makes complete sense to me. My favorite way to listen to music is to move to it so riding is obviously a great way to do this. Its probably my favorite thing to do period… ride and listen to music, haha. Right now I’m gradually getting into the whole beat production thing. I play a little trumpet and I’m thinking about getting a good mic and recording some of my own samples for the beats I’ll be making. Some of the best music for me is the kind that is stripped down to its essence and focuses on the unique arrangement of notes instead of just mashing a bunch of layers together to create a really techy sounding song. Some of the most flowed and beautiful music are simple phrases of music that are put together right. One genre I love is jazz-hip hop but I also listen to a lot of others. A few artist I like are Nujabes, Uyama Hiroto, Jack Johnson, J Dilla, Zero 7, The Radio Dept., The Album Leaf etc. Anyway my goal is to release an album of tracks sometime within a year or so. I might just put some stuff on youtube or something until then.
So you work construction. How long have you been doing that? Do you have a certain type of construction that you work? What are some of the perks to working where you work? What are some of the downfalls? Could you see yourself doing other things some day?
Yeah, I do general contruction and I also do masonry and landscaping. Can’t wait to do something else, haha. There is an upside though because everynow and then I get to work at a lake front or ocean front and I get to really absorb what that has to offer. While I’m working there sometimes it can help me get into a creative mindset and I will just use all that time to try and think of new ideas whatever it may be. It’s a rougher trade than most think and seriously test your strength because if you don’t keep up a strong attitude it will drain you of all your energy and you can sucked into getting depressed or even make you not want to do anything after work. I’m sure a few of the people reading this work contruction and I trully respect anyone who does and still rides. It seems like an awkward choice of work for me but right now its the only way I can make enough money to keep going and help out my family.
Did you ever go to college at all? How do you feel about school in general?
I haven’t been to college yet after high school. I have an exact path of life that I live that is unique to me only and the schools don’t offer any James Meliota college courses so I feel like I have to lead it myself. I don’t like the feel of forced learning and I especially don’t feel like learning things that I’m not interested in. I feel like an experiment at a school. Forcing myself into memorizing or learning things I don’t care about seriously makes my brain want to pop. I feel like schools have so many things that have already been done and I’m not a fan of that. I don’t want to spend years of my time doing something hundreds of students have already done. I guess I have a hard time following other peoples direction because I am 100% aware of my own direction and when I have to do something I don’t want to I feel like its a waste of time. Sometimes people think I’m rebellious for thinking that way but thats not the case. I do pay a price for not going to school but at the same time I have a tremendous freedom of life knowing that everything I’m doing is uninfluenced by a director. To me thats enlightening and uplifting. My thoughts and ideas and choice of learning is entirely up to and produced by me. Others may see it different.
What are three things you need more of in your life?
I need more traveling, music equipment and time.
What about three things you need less of?
I need less commotion, hard physical work and rushing.
Who or what are some of the biggest influences on your life?
My biggest influences in life are the people who are true to themselves and follow through with the goals that they’ve been working at for long portions of their life. People who take what they’re passionate about and make into something and progress it.
What’s something about yourself that might surprise people? Are you really good at anything outside of BMX?
I guess it would be art and music. I just havent done as much with these two things as I have with bmx. I think it just do to the fact that you can get into the mindset for BMX a lot easier than music or art. It takes alot of focus to sit down and make qaulity of out art or music.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
In 5 years I’m going to follow through with everyone of my goals and continue with my own direction.
What’s the last song you heard, movie you watched and website you visited?
Zero 7 “Morning Song”, the new Skavenger video, Canon.com
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
Follow your heart and make your own path.
Do you have any shout outs or thanks?
Thanks to anyone who has helped me out in any way. I give a lot of thanks to 90East and Fly Bikes for helping me out with parts and clothes. Not only that but showing respect to what I do and picking me up. Thanks to Kurt for the opportunity that I really appreaciate, haha.
Anything else you want to say?