Mike sits in the parking lot of a bar in Butler, PA, unwinding on a Friday evening after another 40 hour week of driving forklifts. He’s on the phone with me, which I’m sure is less enthralling than anything that is happening in the bar at the moment. Even still, he gladly recounts tales of The Viewing, kicking it with DD, and skirmishes with the law, all filtered through the lens of his Western Pennsylvania charm: polite and grounded.
He is also one of our winners in the 2021 World of Echo Film Festival.
World of Echo: How long have you been at your current job?
Mike LeGrand: Since 2012, with a brief hiatus when I lived with Darryn in California around 2016. We were traveling with Tyler Bereman and doing the East Coast is Toast series.
I was very fond of that series. I can distinctly remember someone almost decapitating themselves on an I-Beam at an indoor training facility.
That was Darryn at Switchback MX, which is 15 minutes from my house here in Butler. If he didn’t duck, he definitely would’ve tagged the rafters and took a little nap.
Do you guys ride year round out there?
I’ll hit Switchback after work on occasion, totally. Just to shake the cobwebs off every now and again. We have a spot called Hillsville that we actually filmed at in the Pennsylvania Poison video, and we can pretty much ride there year round. It’s just a huge sand pit.
Now, the Durham’s hail from PA as well. How did you two link up?
I met Shane Durham in 2006, and we quickly became best buds, which eventually led me to Darryn. Once I got into cameras and making my own stuff, I realized I had access to this dude who is just insane on a dirt bike, and from then on it was a no-brainer when it came to who I wanted to shoot with. They lived 5 minutes down the road from me.
Darryn and I, we’re on the same wavelength when it comes to that stuff, and that’s a special thing.
You have certainly never compromised your vision when it comes to your footage, which I have a lot of respect for.
If you like it, cool! If not, it’s whatever.
How did your project for the festival come about?
I actually found out about the festival from Patrick Evans, who I met for the first time at Day in the Dirt Down South this past year. He sent it to me and gave me a couple jabs saying that he was going to enter his own video and that it was going to beat mine. I thought it was a cool idea, though. I believe a little competition is healthy sometimes when it comes to video.
I had also been talking to Darryn around the same time, because October in Pennsylvania is like the perfect time to ride out here, and I wanted to make a cool Halloween edit with him. I coaxed Patrick into coming out and staying at our houses to come ride with us and everything fell into place from there.
We just wanted to come together and put out a cool video, but once the contest aspect came into play it was on! We put a lot of work into it. I was filming and editing, Pat Farris was out filming with us as well, helping us shovel and rake. He even made the cover for YouTube as well. At the end, we all took turns editing the video in my basement. Patrick would hop on my computer and edit until he got tired, then I’d hop in and make some changes, then Darryn would get on and put his spin on it. We just cranked it out.
I like that you had Patrick and Darryn in the editing room with their hands on it. Kind of rare in the moto world to have riders on the keyboard.
I’ll admit, it was hard at times to have those guys jump in on the editing timeline, because I would put a lot of work into a section only to have them completely change it, but in the end I think our back and forth made the video that much better.
The timeline is sacred man! That’s your baby. It’s hard to let go.
You mentioned Pat Farris earlier, what was it like working with him again on a full-fledged Viewing project? I know you guys linked up together late last year and shot Lost World for Pat’s golf company, Euforeia, but now you truly got back to your roots with this piece.
Oh yeah, it was awesome. With Pat, we go way back. We founded The Viewing together, and he’s the dude that designed logo for it as well. I remember to this day him and I sitting up in his house all night working on that thing. He’s really good at that shit when it comes to art and graphics.
We lost touch for a few years, but once Lost World came around last Fall it’s been like old times and it’s so cool to have him around because that’s just one more person to bounce ideas off of. Someone who can lend a hand when we want to go make something. We’re all buddies, and it’s a great feeling to go out together and know in your heart that you’re going to make something cool.
In your own words, can you describe Steel City’s significance to the Pennsylvania moto community? Why was it so important to have that location in the video?
I mean, I went to Steel City every year from 1994 until they locked the gates in 2012, so just from a personal perspective Steel City was huge for me. It was a race everyone in the area looked forward to, because for a long time it was the last round of the outdoor series and the racing was always great.
With that in mind, I picked up Darryn and Patrick from the airport, and on our way home we drove past the road that leads to Steel City. I mentioned that we should go take look at it just to see what was back there. So we pulled up into the property and it was just cornfields, but you could still make out the flow of the hills, the valley where the dragon’s back was, where the tabletop section used to be. The only thing that actually remained though was the announcer’s tower.
Before we even thought of shooting there, I had wanted the intro of the video to be cornfields anyway, because we have a lot of those here in Pennsylvania. To be able to shoot it where this amazing track once was would just be the icing on the cake.
I got in contact with Mad Mike Jones, who actually lives in that area and has a relationship with the farmers who now own that land, and they gave us the green light to go ride out there and get some clips. That was huge for us.
I’m trying to get a sense of where you guys were when you made this video. Where are all of the spots in coordination to each other?
Outside of Steel City, we shot in three locations: Hillsville, which is the sand pit, Darryn’s dad’s track, and some coal slag pits near the first spot. All of those spots are within 40 minutes of each other, most of which we’ve been riding our entire lives. We just reshape them as the years go on and add new features when old ones break down. The slag pits are kind of new, though. My girlfriend actually tipped us off on that spot, and we scoped it out and found some potential after a few shovel sessions.
You guys have been at this quite awhile, early adopters of YouTube that stuck to your guns while the site has changed dramatically. Could you expand on where that mentality stems from? I know the way you guys go about things is not the most conventional in current times.
I don’t know! I guess I’m just old school when it comes to that stuff. I’m not a fan of the vlog format. I grew up on full-length movies with killer soundtracks. After my dad came back from the local dealership with Crusty 1 and Terrafirma 1, that was it. Things haven’t been the same since. If I put a song on and I like it, I’m instantly trying to piece together a video in my head. That’s actually the biggest part for me, the music. If it don’t got a good song, it’s not gonna bang, you know?
That’s where we are at with The Viewing, we just want to put something together that is worth watching more than once. In film school they told me that you want to make the viewer lost in your video, and make them interested enough to watch twice.
Wait a minute, you went to film school?
Yeah… I went to the Art Institute for a year-and-a-half. I didn’t learn anything. Dropped out. [laughs] If you got a steady hand and a vision, you don’t need all that extra shit. If you don’t know something, just google it.
I think it speaks volumes to The Viewing’s legacy that you can go years at a time between videos, and whenever you come through again there’s endless love.
That’s something Darryn and I talk about from time to time. I’m at work five days a week, year-round, and Darryn is in and out of PA constantly, so we don’t get to link up as often as we used to. When the opportunity arises, we try to make it count and put something together that is worthy of everyone’s time. It’s reassuring to know that when we pick it back up, the people that dig our shit are always right there. It’s cool to see.
Darryn seems like a pretty fun character. Could you give us your best DD story from over the years?
Oh man… I’m not even sure that I should! [laughs] There’s so many, I wouldn’t even know where to start.
Ok, here’s one: Have you seen The Smoking Section?
Darryn, Tyler, and I spent a week in Pittsburgh shooting that, and we went out drinking one night and Darryn pissed off a bouncer so bad that they hauled him off to jail! He got stuck in there for three days because they kept dicking him around. Darryn’s a super chill dude, but he had it out for this guy and they threw the book at him. Tyler and I kept visiting the jail and calling but they just wouldn’t release him. [laughs]
Did that happen before or after the shoot?
This was during the shoot, in the middle of the week. He got out eventually and we made it happen.
I always thought it was cool story that Darryn got on Pro Circuit after the infamous photo of him waving to Tyla Rattray at-speed.
When he rode for Eleven-10 Mods, I was actually the one driving the box truck for the team, both indoors and out. I went cross-country with those guys and spent a lot of time with Darryn. He had been killing it that season, but wasn’t really getting any offers from bigger teams and he was starting to get discouraged. I think at one point, he was going to ink a deal with some satellite Yamaha team to ride a 450, and I told him to just sit on it for a bit. He was doing so well on the Eleven-10 bike that I thought he should hold out just a little while longer in case something more worthwhile came along.
Around this time we were playing a lot of MX vs. ATV Reflex, and Darryn always picked Honda’s in that game because that’s what he rode. Not long after our conversation about sticking it out for a ride, I go over to his house to play and he’s riding a Kawasaki in the game. I just looked at him and he started nodding with this big smile on his face. He said, “I got the PC ride. I’m a big Kawi fan!” I was so stoked for him. It’s unfortunate that he battled some injuries after getting that ride, but even still, to say my buddy rode for PC is enough.
He had that win in New Orleans in 2012! To win a SX main is no joke.
I think he stuffed Roczen to win that one, too! Or maybe it was in the heat race. Either way, he put it in on Roczen and then threw a big Nac-Nac in his face. Roczen was all pissed about it. [laughs]
Do you think you guys will continue to put stuff out in the future, even if it’s intermittent?
Oh yeah, as long as he’s got a bike and I’ve got a camera we’ll be rolling. Whenever the weather is right and we’ve got a good song in mind, we’ll be out there. I love making videos with that dude.
Thanks to Mike LeGrand for the interview, as well as Pat Farris, Darryn Durham, and Patrick Evans for their contributions in the winning entry.