Aaron Carson might be the metamodern renaissance man; poet, restauranteur, hot rod enthusiast, writer, publisher, musician, dad, husband and rad dude. He does many things and does them well with both a disarming sincerity and cheeky irony. bFM listeners will remember him from the drive show and station manager, a ship he helmed for four rollicking years. Nowadays you’re more likely to find him hidden behind a pall of hot rod tyre-smoke, behind the counter at Little Sister café in Henderson or carving up a lumpy 70s bowl on his jump bike. He also publishes one of my favourite magazines, OnePercent, a window on the world of hot rods, rat rods, motorbikes and music. So, Aaron Carson, who are you? “That’s hard to say … it’s complicated. A seven-sided dice with a few of the dots rubbed off?”
And how old do you feel?
If I’m on a bike, time tends to dissolve and I feel exactly the same as at any other moment since I started riding – lucky. I think people use age as an excuse a lot. I’m 43 this year.
What do you do for a crust?
I manage a video production company and my wife and I own a café called Little Sister. I also edit/publish a magazine called OnePercent.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Literally, I would say to let the dogs out for a piss. Ideally though, I love doing the shit I’m into – creating things, achieving things, experiencing things. Lots of things get me stoked – bikes, hot rods, music, interesting people. Just the idea of “what if” and the fact you can have an idea and make it a reality if you really want to. There’s no excuse for being bored.
What’s your ideal day off?
A ride that I come back from having done something new or having progressed in some way, a drive in the sun in my hot rod and dinner with my family.
Tell me about your bike history. What got you into riding bicycles and why do you keep pedalling?
I got my first BMX when I was 10 and I literally rode every single day for the next decade. I raced for a couple of years, but freestyle was where it was at for me, which really just meant riding everything – flatland, street, ramps, whatever. I got sponsored by Life’s A Beach and Airwalk and I just lived and breathed BMX.
There were very few people who were really into it in the mid eighties – literally a handful. I didn’t know one other person at high school who was into BMX and it certainly wasn’t considered cool. I rode a lot with skaters and would ride from Howick to the city and back on weekends to session Aotea Square. I would catch the bus into Penny Farthings on Friday nights just to drool over and dream about the Quadangles and PK Rippers and the parts in the cabinets. The magazines were the only connection to what was going on in California.
When I was 20, playing music and cars kind of took over and I got completely out of riding for several years. I relapsed in my late 20s and have been a bike addict again ever since. I got very into mountain bikes starting with singlespeed steel hardtails, then full suspension and that whole journey of “more travel and back” that you inevitably go on. Then it was singlespeed road bikes. Now it’s a bit of a mix of everything. I keep pedalling because it just feels so damn good to be rolling down the road. The fact I can just be riding home from work and be completely stoked is awesome. It’s the freedom and the feeling, there’s nothing like it. I also just love the bicycle as a machine from a design and aesthetic perspective – and also customising them. There are a lot of parallels with hot rods.
Where do you usually ride?
I usually ride by myself or with my son who is totally into bikes too. I take it where I can get it – I ride to and from work, I go on street missions and to schools and the local bowl, out to the forest when I can. Just bunny hopping curbs and carving lines makes me super happy too.
What’s the ride of the year for you so far?
My son and I were heading to New Lynn Bowl and we rode past this gap off a wall and over a driveway I’ve been looking at for a few years thinking “I must try that one day”. I turned round and thought “fuck it” and just went for it, cleared it and was super stoked. Had a smile on my face for days.
What do you get up to when you’re not riding?
I’m in a car club called the Scroungers and we put on an event called The Hot Rod Blowout, I work on the magazine, mess around with my car, bring up my three kids, work on the house, try to find time to play music, help run the café and drive my wife nuts with the stuff I get obsessed with!
How would you describe your riding style?
I love the feeling of being smooth, carving lines and listening to music when I ride. I am pretty careful these days, which is bad for progression but good for staying in one piece. I just aspire to be smooth and flowing. When I gave up riding I was frustrated at not progressing as much as I wanted to in relation to others. It’s a much more personal thing now.
Tell me about OnePercent Magazine. What’s it all about and how did it get started?
I do the mag with Andrew who I met 30 years ago when I bought a stolen Mongoose Proclass frame. It turned out to be his and we’ve been friends ever since. The mag is about things we like – hot rods, motorcycles and rock n roll.
I first heard of you when you worked at bFM. Tell me about those days. Are you still involved in broadcasting?
I worked at bFM for eight years and managed it for four. I did a drive show for most of that time also. I feel very fortunate to have worked there and met so many talented people – I made a lot of great friends and also got to interview a shitload of great bands – the MC5, White Stripes, You Am I, John Peel – the list is long. It’s a good feeling to be racing to work because you’re excited about what you’re going to do that day. I believed in it 100 per cent.
I remember seeing you a couple of times when you were in The Larry Normans. Are you still playing bass? Where are the Larry Normans at?
I’ve been lucky to have been in a bunch of cool bands – Freakpower, Deadflowers, Thorazine Shuffle, The Larry Normans etc. I did it for a long time and I love playing rock n roll – I’m not so keen on the dramas that can go along with it all. One of my goals this year is to start playing more music. And ride more!