NUCLEAR COWBOYZ PRESS
By Gary Murray
Photos by John Strange
Usually when there is a press junket it is either a film actor a few weeks before the release of the film or with stage actors, just after the first performance. Seldom does one get the chance not only to talk to the live cast before the event, but to also see the sets being erected. For the newest thrill show Nuclear Cowboyz, not only did we get a chance to talk to members of the cast, but also got a behind the scenes at the American Airlines Center to look at the stage being placed.
Nuclear Cowboyz is a stage show like no other. It is a story of two rival bike gangs in a post-apocalyptic future, battling for supremacy. It features riders on two and four wheel bikes doing jumps, flips and flying from a series of ramps. Filled with hard and heavy music, the show also features acrobats and eight dancers. There are fire effects and explosions in what is best described as 'Freestyle Chaos'. It is one of the most different events one will see in 2011.
Showing the press around the arena were motor bike riders Ronnie Faisst and Takayuki Higashino and feature dancer Amber Strauser. The riders have been seen all over the sports channels and Amber is a former Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and graduate of the Dallas High School for the Performing Arts. Before we sat down to talk she had appeared as a featured speaker at the school, encouraging kids to pursue their dreams.
Takayuki is from Japan and has been in the US for the last five years, performing with his bike. Ronnie hails from a small town in New Jersey. He calls being in the show a dream come true. "I have a big following in my home town because it is a small town," said Ronnie, "everyone knows everybody in the town."
Ronnie felt that the Nuclear Cowboyz shows are more entertaining than a traditional motor cross show because of all the different stage elements and without the pauses needed for network broadcasts. "We're telling a story and not just one guy at a time. There are times when all twelve guys are on the course at once, three wides and four wides. It is just a lot of fun for us."
The show is on a 13 week run with 16 cities from Pittsburgh, PA to Rosemont IL. Though they have been working on the show for months, it is still not set in stone. Amber said, "We are still changing things up until the show. A few things are being changed but it is only for the better of the show. Rehearsal days were 10 to 12 hours long in Tampa." She said that the show is different from last year, "With all the new elements it has changed a bit. It makes more sense. What is (different) about this show is that if you are a chick or not a fan of motorcycles, it is still a great show."
All three of the performers were in the show last year, but for 2011 there are changes. According to Amber "They have added an extra trail rider and an extra quad rider. We have incorporated six acrobats." In the last show the dancers would perform between scenes with the bikes. "We live in the ramps and it is more real and life-like and not like a recital."
None of the cast is worried about being around all the machinery. Amber emphasized, "Safety first. We are working with professionals here and they have their eye out for us."
Takayuki said that the most dangerous aspect of the show is the four wide bike jumps and Ronnie added that there is no room to drift side to side. Though they are few and far between, there have been on-set crashes and Takayuki admitted he did crash in 2010.
"Free style is supposed to be fun," said Ronnie, "so kids should just have fun with it. When you are not having fun, it's not fun." Ronnie admits he wants to be on a racing stage until he's forty. Takayuki agreed and said he has fifteen more years. After he is done with the sport, Ronnie wants to teach others how to ride in his style and Takayuki wants to make a big show in Japan.
On asking Takayuki about flying ten stories for the first time, he became wide-eyed and said, "I can't believe it, Oh my God! It is much higher than I though. Then after a few times, you get used to it."
Ronnie said that most guys retire not because they are out of shape but because of injuries. "They either don't want to deal with the pain of the injuries or it is a mental thing where they lose the edge of keeping up with the sport."
To keep in shape the guys weight train, do martial arts, run and bike. "With the tour, I ride maybe once or twice a week," said Ronnie. "But when we are training for X-Games, I ride five days a week and Takayuki rides seven days a week."
Amber called touring with the bikers 'a dream job'. "Its nice to be around 'guys'," she said. "In LA they are so 'metro'. It is nice to be around guys who ride bikes and are tatted."
As we toured the stages that filled every inch of the American Airlines Center, the pyrotechnics experts were planning the multiple charges. According to Ronnie, "It is so hot that we can feel it on the bikes." To make the magic happen, there are wide ramps that tower over 12 feet and shorter ramps for the higher jumps. All over the ground of the AAC are astro-turf style carpets. Ronnie assured us that they grip the tires better than any other surface.
After the Nuclear Cowboyz tour Ronnie Faisst and Takayuki Higashino plan to go on tour in Europe and Amber Strauser will be another out-of-work actress/dancer looking for her next job. Said Amber, "I gotta hustle and find a new job, that's the beauty of being an artist. I love what I do, it's complete gratification."
Complete gratification is what these artists will attempt when the show opens on January 22 at the American Airlines Center.