"From my love of mountain biking and making things"
Who is Stuart Leel?
A bike rider, beer drinker, pizza connoisseur, graphic design lover and videography hobbyist based in Aberdeen, Scotland.
How did Shredder come about?
Shredder came about from my love of mountain biking and making things. Having a passion for bikes, design, writing and videography meant that Shredder was something that just had to happen!
What’s your background in mountain biking?
I started with the classic bricks and wooden board kicker ramp in the garden when I was 8 years old, not long after that I was introduced to mountain biking through my school buddy Ben. The term ‘mountain biking’ is loose at this stage as although we were in a forest I was riding a BMX.
It wasn’t long after that I upgraded to a rigid Diamond Back Traverse complete with cantilever brakes and 21 gears which I rode at any given chance. When I left school I started working in the local bike shop where after numerous years I moved up the ranks to the managers position.
During my time at the shop I bought a video camera and attended as many races as possible and made edits as a hobby. I’ve been making videos for 10 years now and had the pleasure of filming with some of Scotland’s fastest riders at some of the best races Scotland has to offer.
After a long time at the shop I decided a change was needed so I started studying Visual Communication at the North East Scotland College which has led to my latest print creation; Shredder MTB Zine.
The magazine isn’t the first incarnation of Shredder, is it?
No it’s not, I’ve been using the name Shredder since 2014. It initially started as a joke with my friends, I thought it would be funny to make a parody of the Thrasher skateboard magazine logo using the name Shredder... a parody concept that's a little played out now.
At that time I hadn’t even opened any design software so my friend Craig helped out with that one. I got a bunch of stickers made and handed them out to friends, before long a few people had mentioned it would make for a cool t-shirt design.
When I started working on my next video project with Joe Connell I decided to get a bunch of t-shirts printed and use the video to promote them. Joe was really into the idea and can still be found to this day blasting around the pits of any given race rockin' a Shredder tee!
Why a printed publication? Why now?
Growing up I always had a magazine in hand. Whether it was a school trip or an evening visiting a family member, I’d always carry the latest issue of Dirt with me to read. At the time, reading about bikes was the second best thing to actually riding my bike.
It’s almost hard to imagine a time where you couldn’t just go on your phone and see high quality content at the hit of a button, but there wasn’t that kind of technology when I was a kid so magazines served as my inspiration. I guess it’s a combination of this nostalgia, my love for owning physical copies of media and my enjoyment of making things that made the magazine happen.
It has been over 5 years since Dirt stopped in printed form and I felt like there was a massive gap in the market that needed filling. To my knowledge there hasn’t been a mountain bike magazine/zine previous that looks at more niche areas like creative people who ride bikes, so to include illustrators, trail builders and not just the usual pro riders was another idea of mine to make the zine stand out from the norm.
How many people make up Shredder and what do they do?
Right now Shredder is just myself but there’s no way I could create the zine without the help of all the photography and illustration contributions. Being the editor, videographer, photographer and social media guy is hard work but it’s been a lot of fun so far.
There is also one team rider representing Shredder by the name of Ryan Middleton. In my opinion Ryan is the most stylish rider in Scotland and I'm beyond stoked to have Ryan flying the flag for Shredder this year.
Who do you make Shredder zines for?
As selfish as it sounds, I mostly make them for myself. I’m trying to make something that I’m happy with on a personal level, although when I get a message or e-mail from someone saying they really enjoyed the zine it makes it all worth while for me.
Did you have to juggle work about to get the magazine printed?
For the first issue I was really lucky that I could treat it as a full time job and literally work on it at any given opportunity. For future issues it was a lot harder to squeeze the zine around other commitments like work and video projects but I’ve become used to the unsociable hours that comes with this kind of work. Lots of coffee helps!
How do you come up with ideas for your feature stories and decide what to put in each zine?
The features always start off as a passing thought, a sort of “it would be cool to write about this” which then leads to me making some bearly readable scribbles in my notebook before I spend more time typing it out on my laptop. I’m constantly making notes and ideas can come to mind at the most random of times. I also have a long list of people I want to eventually conduct interviews with and I’m always finding out about new characters from Instagram scrolls and YouTube searches.
What’s the overall vibe behind Shredder?
The zine is very much about good times riding bikes. The main objective is to find out about the different characters that build up our worldwide riding scene and writing about more niche articles that you wouldn’t generally find on the web.
The aesthetic of the zine is a mixture of styles; I tried to make the design suit what I was writing about. For example Innes’ photo article is very clean and minimal so that the main focus is on Innes’ incredible snaps. Ronan’s article is inspired by the work of Neville Brody and David Carson with messy text and grunge effects to suit Ronan’s erratic, loose riding style.
Has it been a massive learning curve or did previous experience set you up well for putting the magazine to print?
I learned so much from doing the first issue it’s unreal! Previous design projects helped with the art direction and general layout of the zine but it’s the first thing I’d ever put to print (out with printing something at home or at the college). This was extremely daunting for me and I held off printing until the last minute to ensure I had everything perfected. Having a friend with over ten years of graphic design experience was a huge help as I was able to ask technical questions to put my mind at rest about document set up... Thanks Craig!
I really enjoy making short hype videos for edits so this came in handy when promoting the zine. I tried to make all the posts a little different; rather than just posting photos of pages from the zine I made slideshows and videos to go alongside the articles.
The above interview questions were taken from a Wide-Open interview Pete Scullion conducted after the release of issue one of Shredder. A few of the questions were taken from a later interview for The Loam Wolf which was carried out by Drew Rohde.
Photos by Adam McGuire, Chris Johnstone and Jonathan Dawson. Videos by Stuart Leel.