If a yoyoer were to create a list of tricks that included Skin the Gerbil and The Matrix, they may be listing all of the tricks that they learned early in their yoyoing career. Potentially unbeknownst to them, however, they would actually be making a list of tricks invented by the infamous Doctor Popular. Doctor Popular is without a doubt one of the most creative yoyoers ever, with an extremely extensive catalog of awesome things that he’s done both within and outside of yoyoing. The creator of Moebius, Doc has proved his creativity in yoyoing many times over in the 10+ years that he’s been involved in the community. Doc agreed to do an interview, and I was extremely excited to learn more about this interesting yoyoing legend!
Doc, in being around the scene for well over a decade you’ve done more interesting things in yoyo than I can summarize in just one paragraph. How did you start playing with yoyos?
Thanks! I flew up to Seattle on my 21st birthday and was visiting the Space Needle. I picked up a yo-yo from the gift shop and played with it during the whole trip. When I flew back to Tennessee I happened to bump into a guy who was opening up Nashville’s first yo-yo store that same day. He hired me and I got plenty of (paid) practice time early on. It’s funny to think what would have happened if I had picked up a snow dome as a souvenir instead.
Even during the “boom” of the late 90’s you were innovating other things in yoyoing amidst the heavy popularity of competitive 2A freestyles of the time. What was yoyoing like at that time?
Yo-yoing was kind of awesome during the boom. I started yo-yoing right after ball bearings were a standard feature, so after learning the hardest tricks in the Split The Atom book, I figured everybody was just supposed to make up their own tricks from there. Making tricks back then was especially easy. I’d do a trick where the yo-yo accidentally came off the string and I all I had to do was figure out how to do it again on purpose. Everything seemed like a new trick.
How did you originally become known in the community?
When I first went to the National Yo-Yo Contest I believe I was still unheard of, but I could be wrong about that. I didn’t have my own computer and hadn’t yet started making online videos. Luckily the SuperYo guys were filming their Kicking Tricks video and spent a lot of time following me around, maybe because of my bright blue hair. When that video came out, I was heavily featured, along with Chris Neff, Steve Brown, David Capurro, and others. That’s probably how a lot of the community first saw my stuff. A blue haired nerd that calls himself Doctor Popular tends to stick out.
For sure, even some of your tricks in that video like Skin the Gerbil and The Matrix stood out, and it’s pretty cool that now they’re both common tricks for players just starting out to learn. What came next for you in yoyoing?
I made some awesome friends at Nationals that year, like my pal David Capurro. What a blast. Eventually I moved to Minneapolis and started posting my yo-yo videos online. Mostly just one trick at a time. The next big milestone for me was working with Glasseye on the Experiment #4 video. My friend Josh helped me shoot a bunch of footage in the Mall Of America and around MPLS, which we sent to Glasseye to work his magic on. He created a custom soundtrack and put together a video I still love watching. It was fun and largely inspired by skate videos, which often times would focus on personality as much as they did on tricks.
I was about to mention Experiment #4, that’s actually one of my favorite videos although it was done many years before I started yoyoing. I totally know what you mean about skate videos, certain videos from the late 90’s/early 2000’s are my favorites.
Another unique style that you invented was referred to as “Paperclip”, right? I hope I’m not totally wrong but I think I’ve seen videos of it on Sector Y. What was the inspiration behind that, and how did it work?
That’s all so true. Ky Zizan has really been bringing that ideology back to the forefront with his Double Dragon style, which uses one yoyo with two strings. Moebius is one other style that you invented which has maintained a somewhat underground following in the yoyo community for many years with yoyoers like Zammy staying dedicated to it. If you had to pick, what’s your favorite Moebius trick?
I have a few Moebius tricks I really dig, but one of my favorite moves is actually Zammy’s. It’s a beautiful little repeater called Un-Ending that was in his Infinitum video. So good!
You’ve been involved in so many great things over the years, both in and out of yoyo. If you had to pick, what’s your favorite thing you’ve done in yoyoing?
There was a bunch of small things that I had a hand in (beefcake mods, tutorial vids, yo-yo cases), but I personally am most proud the Moebius thing. It never really caught on, and probably never will, but I still love the style and play Moebius about as much as I play Single A or Freehand. If I only had one dent in yo-yoing, I’d love it to be Moebius.
I totally agree with you there. Another thing that comes to mind for me that you were involved in is the YoYoJam Bolt collaboration, what’s the story behind that?
I loved working with the YYJ folks on doing my own yo-yo. Just having a yo-yo that I could be proud of and sell for so cheap was a huge win for me. It also gave me a chance to do things the way I wanted to. They kept making a lot of requests, but ultimately allowed me to do the colors/shapes/styles I wanted.
Aside from yoyoing, you’ve literally been involved in SO many different, awesome projects throughout the years. Most recently, I know you released an album of your music that can actually be played on a Gameboy Advance. Can you share anything about that?
Making music has been my longest hobby, it’s even what got me up to Seattle that time I bought my first yo-yo. I just released a new album called Destroy All Presets that was made using a Nanoloop music cart on a Game Boy Advance. My album before that was made using iOS apps on my iPhone. I like making “micro music”, or basically music on tiny devices, because it’s portable. It’s really similar to yo-yoing actually. Whenever I’m in line somewhere or waiting for a bus, I just pull out my Game Boy and work on a track. I love the sounds of these things, but really it’s all about the portability and ease of getting in and out of. I’m really proud of this new album by the way, it’s nerdy and catchy and just plain neat.
That’s really awesome, I’ve never heard of anything like that but I’ll definitely have to check it out. I think it’s great that you were able to fund it via Kickstarter too. Another project you have is your photography zine, American Analog. I’m a huge fan of zines, and have been messing around with making my own for a while. How did you get the idea for that? I think it’s a really well put together project.
Thanks! I guess the common thread between most of my hobbies is portability. I get bored easily and have a mind that frequently wanders. So it’s great to have a hobby that you can carry with you anywhere. I got started in photography just with shooting on an iPhone. I still like that, but I’ve since jumped into the world of film photography. My favorite cameras are pocket sized and I always have one with me. It’s really fun to just wander through a city and capture little moments. After my first year of shooting film, I thought it would be great to put it all together in a little zine called American Analog (named after one of my favorite bands). So far I’ve put out two issues and I’m working on my third. Along with the traditional street photography stuff, I still like to mess around with glitch art and digital experimentation. In a few weeks, I’ll be doing a show in SF that is a mash up of film photography and glitch art.
That sounds great, I think it’s good for you to do what you want while also having your name attached to so many great things in the process. Aside from American Analog #3, what else can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’m planning on doing a lot more projects this year, including a few more crowdfunding projects. Possibly even something yo-yo related. If folks want to follow that, they can sign up for the mailing list on http://canwekick.it/ (which should be live and fully ready soon). I have a yo-yo project in mind that could be really fun… but I’m keeping quiet about that for now.
That so great. It’s awesome that you’re always coming out with something new. Lastly, what’s any advice you could share for any aspiring yoyoer/creative person out there?
Be consistent. Don’t sit around waiting for a spark to hit you, instead create a regular habit of being productive. For me, it’s each weekday morning… I grab a cup of coffee and sit and make things for two hours. What sort of stuff isn’t important, it’s about the ritual an teaching yourself to be creative on demand. Once you build up a routine like this, staying productive is so much easier.
I totally agree. Thanks Doc!