Over the last few years, anyone that’s been paying attention has noticed Sean’s riding turn the corner a bit. In 2008 we watched Dead Bang Burns take home a NORA cup for Video Part of The Year, and although his riding is just as gnarly now, it seems to have taken on an entirely different angle. The gap to rails and huge straight tooth grinds have given way to appallingly large and unique roof setups, each one appearing to be more dangerous than the last. As a friend and filmer, it’s unsettling seeing him size up stuff this scary on a regular basis. As someone who doesn’t want to go jail, it’s even harder. There’s not much out there that will make a property owner angrier than spotting a weirdo with a bmx bike on their roof; calling the police always seems to be the first instinct. A silver tongue doesn’t hurt in these situations; Sean has become exceptionally good at talking his way out of trouble when it inevitably shows up. BMX needs Sean and his riding; he keeps this shit from getting too boring and predictable. I just hope enough people appreciate what he brings to the table. See you at the bottom, Burns!
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So what type of thing grabs your attention when you’re out looking for spots?
The first thing I look for is hilly area. Cities with elevation usually always have spots for me no matter what. Towns that are flat all the way through are really difficult. But hilly areas make for banks, rails, hubbas etc. They also make for change from low to high roofs, especially thickly settled areas of towns. Realistically I would rather ride concrete slabby spots that look like roofs. Ruben (Alcantara) always seems to find them. Weird big giant art sculpture set-ups. The cool thing is that those set ups do exist within neighborhoods and back alley’s behind businesses. I think after looking for dead man rails my whole life in the past seven years I have definitely been looking up a lot more. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s I was really obsessed with stairs and big stair sets. I loved how skateboarders did so many tricks on stairs yet BMXers had not messed with that yet. Maybe Dennis McCoy had in the late 80s but it never caught on. I am really into doing what no body else is doing. Following the crowd just bores the hell out of me. I like to test the waters and do things that are absurd and maybe that a lot of people are too scared to do. After stair sets got popular with guys like Aaron Ross and such tailwhipping 15 sets, you started to see a lot more BMXers doing jumping tricks down stairs. This drew my attention away from the street and up onto the roof’s. There is an entire world out there of set ups and basically man sized versions of cellar doors that people ride and no one is riding them. It is for surely catching on now with riders like Tom Dugan and such.
How do you cope with the hit or miss aspect of finding a great roof spot? I’m sure it’s a bad ratio of totally un-workable spots to good ones right?
It can be a serious nightmare. The number one bad thing about riding roofs is that you really can’t be a pussy and take forever to do it. You do not have much time to feel it out unless it is an abandoned building. Which doesn’t happen that often. Once you are on a roof and especially with a bicycle. Some one is calling the cops. The run up is probably spongy or bumpy or there are pipes you have to dodge, and you don’t know sometimes if you are going to cave in the next roof you are landing on.
Then when it is time to go, some lady or property owner is screaming at you and you only have one go to get the shit done. Some roof set-ups are easy and you think damn that was cake but other times its the most terrifying thing to put yourself through. I like scaring the shit out of myself though; life would be boring without that.
Have you always looked up to the rooftops when out riding or has it become more of an obsession as more and more of todays riding seems to take place on small flat ledges?
I have always ridden flat ledges. I still do from time to time. I just don’t want to spend my entire day in one place. I like to keep moving. To me half the fun of riding is looking for spots. The feeling you get when you find a rad set up is often just as good as riding it. I would say I spend probably more time out riding and driving around looking for spots than I actually do riding them. I have a spot directory that was inspired by Stew Johnson on my computer and when I show people some times they just laugh. I think because half the set ups are roofs and they are retarded haha.
How often has riding on top of houses and buildings got you into serious trouble?
I’ve actually had worse troubles grinding ledges. I got a $3,000 grind ticket for doing a feeble on a ledge at MIT. As far as roof’s, I have been summons to court for trespassing, disorderly conduct, and malicious destruction of property due to riding a roof. In the end run I showed the judge the ad in a Ride BMX magazine and showed him there was no damage done and that I was only performing a stunt. I was honest and got let off the hook. I have learned how to act around the public. If you are already on a roof with your bike or your bike is present and people ask you what the hell you are doing, just be honest and tell them you are doing a bicycle stunt. I would say a quarter of the time they might be ok with it because they don’t see that everyday then other 75% usually freak out. I find that it you are polite and just leave you will be fine. If you are just checking out spots and they haven’t spotted your bike I will tell them I’m looking for my lost cat.
How do you define street riding?
Street to me is just riding anything that’s not meant to be ridden. Of course riding a rock on a mountain is not necessarily street, its more like urban tranny mountain bike style but it still looks rad because its BMX right? Street is anything you can find on the streets. Street does not have to be strictly concrete in a crowded city. To me it is whatever you make it out to be. You could Icepick the side of a farmhouse and it would still be street.
What’s the funniest or weirdest thing that’s happened while out riding street and looking for spots on top of buildings?
Kert Petersel and I were about to film him doing a stunt on a roof at someone’s house in Austin TX. We had taken a saw outside of a near by garage to trim some of the tree’s to make the roof ride able. A woman came out of her house and asked us if we could trim the dead trees since bugs are eating her garden. She must have assumed we were tree control for the city. She then asked me if I could cut the tree in her front lawn to let some more light into her living room. Right as she was asking me this I was holding a video camera and filming Kert 270 off of the corner of her house to flat and totally eat shit. This caused immediate confusion and she realized she had been had.