Love him or hate him, Daniel “Zammy” Ickler (2012 Trick Innovator of the Year) has been involved in yoyoing for a long time and is well-known for his unique 1A and his promotion of the Moebius style of play. Moebius is when the slipknot loop is opened and manipulated into tricks, and Zammy has been almost single handedly promoting this style for a considerable amount of time now. Despite going through numerous sponsors over the years, Zammy has continued to push his creative concepts and to remain involved in various interesting projects throughout time. I was excited to interview Zammy, and learn more about everything that he does.
You’ve been a relevant figure in yoyoing for a really long time and have accomplished quite a bit including having an extremely original style of 1A and your promotion of the Moebius style of play. How did you start yoyoing?
I started yoyoing when I was 9 or 10 yrs old. I distinctly remember starting BEFORE the 1999 yoyo boom hit. Just imagine a little chubby Zammy trying to land a Trapeze. Priceless. I was learning from a small book I bought from a now extinct book store.
1999 was the big “yoyo boom”, and that was when I was in 6th grade. Every kid had a yoyo, whether it was a Duncan Butterfly or the extremely popular Yomega X-Brain. I started to throw at school during this time but towards the end of the school year the “fad” had died down and I was the last one. I pretty much got yoyos banned inside the school due to accidentally hitting people.
I think it’s that kind of dedication that really pays off though. With that period of time being around 1999, did you get involved with the internet yoyo scene of the time?
Between when I started, till around 2001, yoyoing actually angered me. It would irritate me so much when I couldn’t land something and that anger kept driving me to accomplish the trick. Yoyoing has personally evolved as to what it means for me now over the course of my “career”.
During ’99 into the new millennium, I would go to my sister’s place and would constantly watch the videos on Sector Y. I personally idolized the Spindox with all their clip videos and innovative material. Then, there were the web boards like yoyoing.com. I interacted on there, and I was such a brat though trying to find identity. I’m still a brat just not as young.
I was able to find a yoyo club semi-close to Wisconsin, the Chicago Crew “String Demons” where I met legends like Tommy Gun of Extreme Spin and my good friend Scott Nesham. I wanted to learn so much and have yoyo friends..gosh time flies by quick!
I’ve heard of/watched some of the String Demon’s old videos. Come to think of it, I was once doing some research for no reason on old Spintastic’s yoyos and I think I remember reading a review you did on the Spintastics Great White Shark from way, way back.
The Chicago String Demon’s clip video was the first clip video I wad ever in! This interview is making me so nostalgic!
Yes, I remember reviewing the Great White Shark and I believe it was on yoyovideos.com when it was up. I went through a ton of those throws. Still one of my favorites compared to today’s current modern spinning toys.
I actually own a couple Great White Sharks that I bought just to try, they’re pretty nice! They remind me of a responsive FHZ but a lot lighter and not as grabby at first due to the wide gap.
GWS’s are still so much fun! BEEFCAKE, BABY (Hi Doc Pop)! That was such a big deal back in the day before size C bearings became the standard. Now we got these absolutely huge gaps and crazy bearings. Still, all respect to Konkave bearings.
After learning for a while, at what point did you start coming up with your own stuff?
I think I started to try and do my own material starting in 2003. The year of Johnnie DelValle, grind type tricks and heavy slack use. But even then, I was still trying to learn everyone else’s stuff before I tried to branch off into my own thing.
It wasn’t until roughly 2006-2007 that I decided I truly had enough of learning everyone else’s stuff and to test my creativity.
During those days, I didn’t have a video camera, I didn’t have good internet access and I had zero confidence in my abilities.
That all changed when Alex Berenguel introduced me to Moebius at Madfest 2007..or 2008..can’t remember. But he introduced me to something I never imagined I would get behind and gradually take my world by storm.
I was about to ask how you got into Moebius. So it was through Moebius that you first really got into making tricks up?
Yes, Moebius really had unlocked my trick development and theory because its A) really “out of the box”/original and B) incredibly difficult. It was so new, so fresh, like shooting in the dark when I started. It still feels that way even in this day and age. I love it and always will.
A lot of your 1A kind of reminds me of Moebius style-wise, do you think it helped you develop your own style of 1A?
My 1A style is a direct result of Moebius. People get confused when they see my videos and wonder “Which is he playing?” I apply the same thinking when I play either style, so cross influenced ideas will happen.
So yes, it definitely has. I always label my videos so people know directly what style I’m playing. But then again, Moebius is “classified” under 1A and yet still it’s own style…let’s not open that can of worms.
Back in 2007, you started your “Yoyo Drive”, in which you donate a bunch of yoyos to charity around Christmas time. What inspired that?
The Yoyo Drive idea was something I came up with as a way to make a small difference to spread the love and joy of yoyoing while giving gifts to children in lesser-income homes for Christmas. I wanted to do something charitable at the time, something unselfish. During the Christmas holidays, my family has always struggled when it came to money so I know how tough it is.
When I introduced the idea to the community, there was a backlash. People didn’t think I should do it because “I was not a good representative”. It stung a bit, because I was hoping others would follow and do something similar. I went through with it anyway, contacted Yoyo Jam, and they sold me around 50 ProJams. I donated 25 to the local Social services and 25 to a different donation organization.
In January of 2008 I received a letter stating that all of yoyos donated were given to children. All 50. I’m glad children were given a present for Christmas!
I personally think that’s an awesome idea, hopefully it continues to be successful in the future.
Since 2007 I’ve been able to do some form of a Yoyo Drive, and I am still continuing to do it. The past three years, I have had help from YoYoFactory with the YoYo Drive! Thanks y’all.
Also, back around 2007 you released your “signature” yoyo through Yoyo Jam, The Black Death. I know that is was a modded Yoyo Jam ProJam, but how did that project come about?
It was in 2008 that the “Black Death” was released. This was another Yoyo Drive idea where I was to make a signature mod yoyo, a la Doctor Popular’s “The End”, but the money received from selling would be used to buy more yoyos to donate.
I bought around 40 white ProJams with custom sidecap art. The halves were dyed black by, I believe, a man named “Clifford” (I think). The caps were red-blood splatter painted by “YoyoRobin”. Ricerocket did the custom schmoove rings, grind resurfacing and cleaned the bearings, My grandma made the black velvet bags and G-strings made the custom string.
About half of them sold in 2008 which was disappointing. The money from those sales was used to buy Duncan yoyos that I donated. I gradually sold the rest in 2009, but unfortunately that money was used for a major dental surgery I needed. Overall, l that project was basically a flop but I do not regret it.
That project inspired Ricerocket to make his bootleg “Boltlegs”, and Chris Allen’s versions.
That’s still pretty cool, I’ve never thrown one but from the looks of it, it looked like a pretty cool throw.
They were modded Projams so they had the “plastic vibe”. I had issues getting those sidecaps in, it was quite difficult. The people that got em, loved em!
Moving forward in history, after being briefly sponsored by One Drop, and dropping (no pun intended) some great clip videos with them you released “Zype”, your signature string through Toxic Strings. What did you have in mind as far as how you wanted that string to be?
I was sponsored by One Drop between 2011 to 2013 which to me means that I had a good run with them. I wouldn’t call it brief, but that’s just me. I owe so much to them and I really regret leaving them but life was pure insanity for me at that time. I didn’t know which way was up.
2013 yielded some interesting results like the April fools YoYoFactory Soul Doubt and the Toxic Zype string!
The story for that was at U.S. Nats 2012, Evan of Toxic approached me on the idea of making a “Moebius specific string”. I had loved Mack Finley’s prototype signature string so I based it off that right away. Over the course of 6 – 8 months I went through many revisions of the string. Unfortunately, I told Evan he basically developed a string good for Moebius, which is the Metz string, so I convinced him to develop a string that would be useful for my 1a style AND Moebius style.
Evan and I went through 7 different versions of Zype until we decided on a final version. We experimented with two different poly strings put together to create the feeling of “Zype”. Zype is “Zammy” + “Hype” put together. I am a sarcastic person, always making crude jokes about swag, hype..those kinds of things. I think the name fits well, honestly..
The string needed to be long for my tech-arm combos, be able to hold slack well, smooth so I can comfortably open the slipknot, and have the slipknot loop open well for “no-handed” tricks.
It was awesome string, and from what I remember it was pretty well recieved too!
It definitely was! When the string was handed out at PNWR 2013 people were raving about it, and Andre and Johnnie DelValle were really excited to sell it! I’m glad it was a hit, hoping more will be available soon.
So, moving onto your tricks and clip videos, what’s your process like in creating a trick?
It’s not anything special, not really different from any of the other top players out there! I made a dedicated video specifically stating how to develop tricks and combos to help those out there and shows how I go about doing it.
First it does start with influence. Many yoyoers will see an element/concept that someone else does and mutates it to their own desirable outcome. This happens in everything. The thing is though, I generally DO NOT get influenced. Many of my ideas come from out of nowhere and or while sitting down doing critical thinking. I write down every idea I come up with, sometimes in bits and pieces. Some ideas are left to the side and I come back to expand on them. This happened specifically in 2012 where I did A LOT of videos..because so many ideas were left to the side in order to be re-explored. Experimentation/mutating, critical thinking, re-checking over and finalization are the usual steps I take.
What’s your process like in making a clip video?
It’s the same thing with my videos. The first thing about my videos is what kind of feeling I want to give for it, then I decide if my tricks are worth putting in there. Themes and feelings are always present in my videos even if people can’t see it. I go through multiple songs to pick which fits right for the combos, the angles of the tricks, which spots I should highlight in the video with slowmo (usually for slack type tricks), which order the tricks should go in…there is quite a bit going on for my videos. It doesn’t take me long as I always pre-plan on paper what I want.
All of that totally makes sense, it’s easy to see how all of that pre-planning pays off. Your style may be unorthodox, but it’s pretty well developed and really fun to watch.
Pre-planning is always important as a stepping stone. I can always track back ideas on paper, or even take previously completed ideas to develop something new, like sequel tricks. All in all, that’s just me.
If you had to pick, what would be your favorite 1A trick that you’ve invented?
For 1A, there is my neck based rolling green triangle I call “The Ballista”. It’s a real flashy type of trick that is kind of dangerous due to fear of hitting the face. I always get a good reaction when I do it.
Favorite Moebius trick?
For Moebius, I pick my signature trick “Moebicide” which is kinda hard to explain. I get into a specific hold and do a “slack pinwheel” with my left hand and immediately let go, causing the slipknot loop to be in the air along with the yoyo. The yoyo stays inside the loop while it flies. No hands are holding the loop, it’s all in the air. I then catch the loop with my right hand, and the yoyo captures inside the slipknot loop.
I’d say both the Ballista and Moebicide are trademark tricks of mine that if someone saw they’d be reminded of me.
I know both of those tricks and I would totally agree!
So, what would your advice be for an aspiring yoyoer? Particularly, an aspiring yoyoer trying that is trying to develop their own style?
Well, for new yoyoers that are developing their own style, they need to realize one major thing: everyone is different. Even if one person does one trick and the other person does the same trick..it will be different. Some people go fast, some go slow, some have different posture and stance..things like that. The reason I say that is because there will be fellow throwers that will say “Oh he throws just like so and so” or “Well he copied so and so tricks”. People need to stop worrying about that and just play yoyo.
Secondly, another tip for yoyoers is to try and grasp as many concepts/elements as possible. This will help you to expand your creativity. Having a greater understanding of the connection between the spinning object and the string will help the yoyoer overall. If you are able to grasp these ideas, this can yield greater results in developing new concepts, maybe even something revolutionary.
I believe the other thing worth mentioning is not to force yourself to be creative unless you’re ready. For example, my yoyo style is very raw and aggressive. It doesn’t always work for everyone. Sometimes if you just ease back and yoyo without thinking, you may yield even better results. Everyone is different, so everyone will evolve their style at different paces.
Be sure to also understand what your favorite elements are. Its good to be a solid overall yoyoer but it’s sometimes better if you are a specialist at something. Janos seems to be heavily always using slacks with rejection-like concepts.
It’s all up to the yoyoer to decide their path.
Very true, that’s all such good advice.
Lastly, what can we expect to see from you in the future?
The future is something I don’t know, yoyo-wise. I’m a wild-card type person so at first I could go full force at something and then the next…stop.
Right now, I intend to get back into the Moebius 101 project sponsored by Yoyoexpert. More people need to learn it. I’ve taken a very long break from the style. It’s time to take it above the next level and show what I am capable of.
I intend on exploring other styles of yoyo, I’ll still be making clip videos/trickcircles..I’ll still be doing my thing vs. what everyone else is doing, and I plan on doing a GoPro-style tutorial series on beginner, intermediate and master level tricks like what Yoyoexpert has done.
Don’t expect me to ever be sponsored again or another signature yoyo. I seriously doubt any company will give me another chance, but that’s okay. I can’t “pump out” videos like I used to since my creativity has slowed down. But it’s still there.
Awesome, I wish you luck in whatever you decide to do. Thanks Zammy!