Classically trained guitarist to self-proclaimed Jeep guy, Christian Hazel of MotorTrend Group on Episode 93. There’s a lot about Christian you wouldn’t guess by his outward appearance. Rock-n-roller, scientific editor, long-distance commuter, listen in to find out where his story began and where he is now with all the changes MotorTrend had undergone.
3:53 – that’s the kind of spirit Boston has
8:31 – my heart and soul were in this other genre of music
13:47 – I just got up and walked out of that class
20:21 – I’m not hanging my success on the shoulders of someone else
28:17 – the world is my oyster out here
31:03 – in anything you’re trying to do successfully, you can’t fake it
36:17 – I wasn’t a huge Jeep guy, but I took to it like a duck to water
49:35 – I tried to infuse bucket list things into the event
1:14:08 – what a company does or does not spend with us holds no sway in our decision making
We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine.
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[00:00:01.150] - Speaker 1
Welcome to The Big Rich Show. This podcast will focus on conversations with friends and acquaintances within the fourwheel drive industry. Many of the people that I will be interviewing you may know the name. You may know some of the history, but let's get in depth with these people and find out what truly makes them a four wheel drive enthusiast.
[00:00:21.720] - Big Rich Klein
So now is the time to sit back. Grab a cold one and enjoy our conversation.
[00:00:29.430] - Speaker 2
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[00:00:55.990] - Speaker 3
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[00:01:20.230] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of Conversations With Big Rich. We have Christian Hazel. Most of you going to know Christian from the media side of the off road industry, but we'll find out about his early years and what got him into off road just to let everybody know we did already have about a ten minute conversation. Thought I was recording, found out I had a corrupted card or something, and we had to start over. So here we are, starting over. Christian, thank you for coming on board and being patient with our technical difficulties.
[00:01:54.010] - Christian Hazel
Hey, my pleasure, man. It's just like being out in the trail. Stuff breaks down, right?
[00:01:57.960] - Big Rich Klein
Yes. There you go. So let's go ahead and jump in again. And of course, nobody there knows what we've talked about. So we'll just hash back over it now I have better questions, maybe so. Anyway, born and raised, where did that all happen for you?
[00:02:16.090] - Big Rich Klein
I was born in West Virginia. I have just about no recollection of it because I was a baby when we moved to Canada and then from Canada, we moved to Houston, Texas. My dad was an engineer, and so he kind of went wherever the project was. And so we landed in Texas just a little before my baby brother was born. I would have been probably about a year and a half old and lived there right up through kindergarten when my parents separated, and then my dad stayed in Houston, and my mom and I and my brother were there, went to Iowa, went to New England, I've lived in Georgia. I've lived kind of bounced around quite a bit, but up until I was about eleven or twelve, my brother and I would go visit my father in Houston over the summer for a couple of months. And so I've kind of considered myself having two homes. One is primarily Boston New England area, and the other being Texas.
[00:03:15.790] - Big Rich Klein
One of the things I grew up just south of San Francisco. And what I found visiting Boston is Boston reminded me of San Francisco just on a smaller version.
[00:03:29.830] - Christian Hazel
Yeah, that's interesting.
[00:03:32.350] - Big Rich Klein
But so is Seattle. I mean, all three of those towns, and I don't know if it's because of the water or just the basic lifestyle of the cities. I don't know if that's true today, because things are so messed. Things are a lot different now than they were even when I visited Boston five years ago.
[00:03:53.710] - Christian Hazel
The thing I love about Boston is it's either sink or swim. There's a meme that goes around that shows like a map of Boston streets, and they're all tangled and gnarled, and they're all carriage roads that were just paved over with the historic buildings. And then there's one of New York where it's nice lay down on a grid system and the mean goes something like New York, because we want you to know where you are and get where you're going. And then it says Boston, because Fu and that's kind of the spirit of Boston is like it's hard nosed Irish Catholic knuckles up and sink or swim. It's interesting that you equate it with San Francisco because when I've been to San Francisco, it's a little more welcoming, you know, Boston's welcoming. But on Boston's terms.
[00:04:47.350] - Big Rich Klein
It says welcoming to all that's kind of that whole Northeast.
[00:04:52.510] - Christian Hazel
It really is. Yeah. You know, winters will get you early, those long winter by about March, early March. You're just sick of it. And you're seeing all the crap that comes along with anything. So just get me to warm weather where I can kind of defrost my soul, right?
[00:05:12.010] - Big Rich Klein
I think maybe why I equate the two to being so much alike is the water, the history, the old buildings, like you said, the streets all over the place. San Francisco is kind of laid out in a grid. But you have all these mountains in the way or Hills, actually. And I think that's more it. I don't think it's so much attitude is what I would look at. I would look at in the scene. There's art.
[00:05:44.570] - Christian Hazel
There'S definitely a presence and a personality. There's an identity. It's very pervasive in everything that is those cities and New York and Los Angeles. I don't know.
[00:05:59.690] - Big Rich Klein
I think that's just because it's a melting pot of everything, right?
[00:06:04.020] - Christian Hazel
[00:06:04.780] - Big Rich Klein
But anyway, let's get back to growing up. You were in Boston. You kind of call that home for the most part. And what were your interest while you were there?
[00:06:20.510] - Christian Hazel
Just your average little kid riding around on my BMX bike and trying not to break bones. We had talked the first go of this before, the technical difficulties about my early years with guitar. Those were my big interests. Guitar, bikes, anything mechanical. I've been attracted to anything mechanical that I could take apart. My dad would tell a story of. He went to a boat dealership right after one of the first Roger Moore, James Bonds came out where there's a specific speed boat place in Louisiana. And my dad wanted that boat, and the dealership had it. So we went there and the salesman were inking a deal. He left me inside the boat. And apparently there was a screwdriver there. And I took just about everything that I could take off apart inside of that boat. So, yeah, it goes back really early, but mechanical things just probably most of the same stuff your average gear head into, really. But the guitar thing was really kind of how I identified myself. It's something I always was attracted to. I can remember. And then from somewhere, I don't know where a crappy acoustic guitar appeared in the house.
[00:07:43.250] - Christian Hazel
They wouldn't stay in tune. And it had horrendously bad action. But it was my pride and joy. And I think for my 9th and 10th birthday, I got guitar lessons, started down that road and got my first real electric at the age of eleven, after my mom kind of realized I wasn't going to just give it up, started taking real classical filmmaking and classical guitar lessons, formal chord charts and writing and reading notes and all that stuff. And until I was in early teens, probably around 13, when the world of rock and roll kind of took over.
[00:08:26.750] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And you talked about the movie Crossroads?
[00:08:31.070] - Christian Hazel
Yeah, man, that was kind of I was already starting to kind of make that transition from classical because growing up, my mom's idea of rock and roll was the oldest station on Am radio. And so we listened to it in the 76 Monte Carlo on the way to stop and shop. And I thought rock and roll was nothing more than Bebop Lula. So I'd never heard any of this awesome music from the 60s and 70s and 80s. Once I was kind of exposed to that. I'm like, I want some of this. And so I was just kind of getting a taste of that when the movie Crossroads, I saw that for the first time. I don't want to say I identified with it, but here I am, this kind of classically trained guitarist who had an appreciation for the instrument and what I was playing. But my heart and soul was kind of in this other genre of music. And so, yeah, when he's up on stage having a guitar battle with Steve VI as Jack Butler, I was like, yeah, went right down to the basement, cut a piece of pipe, and started playing slide guitar and teaching myself all this crazy stuff.
[00:09:48.050] - Christian Hazel
And it kind of snowballed from there. It's like building vehicles. I'm just going to put on plus one size tires. And then before, you know, you're on 40s with one ton axles and so on and so forth, so that was kind of my origin story with music.
[00:10:05.390] - Big Rich Klein
So I have to ask, because this is something that I always get into conversations with people, especially in social media, is who are your top three guitarists?
[00:10:18.290] - Christian Hazel
Oh, man, it changes on a month to month basis right now. One of the cats. I think it really impresses me, kid. I call him a kid because I'm almost 50. But Marcus King, he's just insane. Got a crazy good voice and some really tasteful playing that kind of blends old school Blues, rock and jazz. So it's not boring when I listen to the guitars. When I listen to Marcus King, I am not bored. And there's some other great ones of that. Kirk Fletcher names are escaping now. Joe Blanonoff is great all those guys. But obviously, if you're going back to the big three, you got to say Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, who wouldn't have those three right up there, front and center on their best of list.
[00:11:16.790] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And names that also get thrown in the hat. The Stevie Ravon.
[00:11:22.170] - Christian Hazel
Oh, yeah. I love Stevie, but I wasn't an early adopter of Stevie. So I was more in Paige Hendrix in Clapton camp. And I kind of took to Stevie later in life. So I was in my mid 20s and already formed guitarist when I got into Stevie and David Gilmore, and just the list goes on and on and on. There's so much incredible talent in the world. It's ridiculous. But for me, I will take someone who plays with heart and soul and emotion, like those guys, more than someone who's just maybe extremely technically proficient, like Ingemonstein or something like that. I have an appreciation for Engvey. I can't really do what he does, but I don't think I would ever sit down with set of headphones and really becoming gross in 40 minutes of Ing Bay playing like I might with someone else.
[00:12:20.710] - Big Rich Klein
True. Okay. So let's talk about you're in Boston. You're going to school there. You're playing guitar, and you think that's going to be your life?
[00:12:35.390] - Christian Hazel
Yeah. Like everyone else. You're a teenager and you're into something. And by dammit, we're going to become rock stars. I finished high school and got into Northeastern University for civil engineering. And I remember my first day we had been playing the club scene. I didn't start. I joined a band, actually, just a bunch of friends from my high school got together. It's kind of like the story of the band camp in high school or after in high school. So I was maybe a junior in high school. I want to say, I think I was a junior, and we just started playing and started playing little shows in the town common. And then someone heard us. And, hey, I want you to play my club or my bar. And next thing you know, by the time I was in College, we had a pretty good following and we're playing the College scene. So that's a Western Mass. In the city of Boston and surrounding areas. It's a great area. New England is a great area for that. It's like that line in Spinal Tap when their show in Boston gets canceled and the managers like, I wouldn't worry about it.
[00:13:47.260] - Christian Hazel
It's not a big College town. It's quite the opposite. So it was a good place to kind of gain a lot of real world on stage experience. But I remember that first day on campus my freshman year at Northeastern. I was in, I think, my math class, and I just sat through all these doom and gloom like, you won't be here for this lab. And my schedule is crazy. And I'm sitting there in my math class and out in the quad, there's a band. There was a band tuning up and doing sound check for some kind of first year thing they were having. And I just said to myself, That's a sign. And I got up and walked out of that class and just kind of did the band thing for a couple more years. That's what brought me to California. And eventually I decided, yeah, I got to grow up. And so I went back to College and got my degree. And by now I was in San Diego, California. And, yeah, that's kind of how that happened.
[00:14:54.940] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. This will lead into maybe some personality, insight, lead or rhythm lead. Okay, that makes sense.
[00:15:06.230] - Christian Hazel
Guitarist. As a musician, I was always a little better at adding color to a melody that someone else had come up with. And so in most of my bands, usually in my first two bands, I was with the same guitars, one of my different friends, and he's just got a very emotional outlook with guitar. So he would come up with these great pieces. And I'm like, you know what? Why am I going to try to outdo him? And so when we would sit down to write originals, it was always like, what do you have, PD? I got this I'm like, great. Every now and then we come up with something that I had done. But usually I was just adding color and punctuation to something someone else had done in that. And I prefer lead, because I don't want to say I was hyper, but I played fast and tried to play Sole Flee, too. But I didn't have the patience to sit there and pick the Sam Arpeggio over the course of a four minute song. I would rather do my little fill my little pots of color here and there throughout.
[00:16:29.970] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. And you're still playing today?
[00:16:33.030] - Christian Hazel
Yes. It's still a big part of my life. I don't play out four kids and adult responsibilities, and honestly, the job I have does require a good deal of time. So, yeah, I don't really play out in clubs, although I would love to. But, yeah, I play every day.
[00:16:55.100] - Big Rich Klein
Cool. And do you ever take, like, an acoustical with you on, say, Ultimate Adventure or some trip camping trip or something like that and sit around and buy you off?
[00:17:06.330] - Christian Hazel
No. There was one time where we were out at TDs, out near the Cherodo Foal event, and my buddy Jared Jones, who is the editor of Off Road and all those magazines. Jared and I have worked together for a long time. He had some buddies out there who were in a band, and they had brought acoustics. They're sitting around the campfire and entertaining us all, and they get tired of playing like anyone else want to try. I'm like, give it a go. But other than that, like, Ultimate Adventure, say, for example, it's not about me. And it's not about pardon, my friends. You don't want to be the douchebag at the party with an acoustic guitar. I don't want to make that about me or try to make me be the focus. That event is about the people on the event and the sponsors and about the experience of being out there in Ultimate Adventure. And I'm really cognizant that it's a thing, and I don't want to make it about me or my hobbies or what I do. It would feel forced, like if I'm trying to force a spotlight on me, and that ain't what it's about.
[00:18:17.130] - Big Rich Klein
So do you see Animal House?
[00:18:20.970] - Christian Hazel
Yes. Where he smashes the truth? Exactly. That is exactly it. You know, somewhere there would be someone in that group who would just want to recreate that scene. Exactly. Yeah. I've never tried to be that guy. I'm usually pretty chill. I'm not a big self promoter. I try to go into any situation realizing where my place.
[00:18:49.270] - Big Rich Klein
All right, cool. So let's move on. Then you head to La. You said something about trying to get signed. You headed to La for music?
[00:19:02.720] - Christian Hazel
Well, yeah. You know, back then, in the early 90s, early 90s, there was no Internet. So believe it or not, kids, there was a time when dinosaurs would run carrier pigeon messages back then to get signed. There was very little independent success. So you promoted yourself and you solicited record companies to send agents out to hear you. There were three times, three times, man in my career, we were just on the brink. And the first time we were set up in this club that we had fought tooth and nail to get in. And we had a packed house, and we're all standing up there. And I'm literally standing on stage in front of a packed house. And right there in the front row is a dude, I think from Sony Records, he was like an independent guy. But I think it was Sony that was interested. And the singer didn't show up because he had gotten in a fight with his girlfriend. So he thought it was more important to stay try to patch things up with his girlfriend. So that one isolated and fizzled and then kind of fast forward. And now I'm in San Diego and kind of the same thing happened where the bass player and I don't know what his issue was, really.
[00:20:21.460] - Christian Hazel
We never worked it out. He had a girlfriend and they wanted him to be a little more serious in life and stuff. Anyway, we had a person there and right in the middle of the show, he took his base off, held it above his head, and just landed down on the stage and walked off right in the middle of the fall. It was right around that I'm like, you know what? I'm tired of hanging my success on the shoulders of someone else. I need to go back my own destiny here. So like I said, went back to school, finished College, and just entered the real world, and that's kind of the segue into my office based story where I got a job. English English was the quickest thing. I could get my degree just because I was good at it. Writing was easy and reading. I could interpret and a good listener, et cetera, et cetera. And so it was just the easiest thing for me to get my degree in quickly. And so I went back to College in San Diego. I did three years of schooling in a year and a half. I took every intensive winter course.
[00:21:31.220] - Christian Hazel
I could just get it over with and graduated. And then what do you do with an English degree? Not a whole lot, man, I'll tell you right now I want to get a job at Harcourt Brace Publishing, editing scientific journals. So it was just an entry level job, and I made sure the punctuation was accurate scientific journals. Yeah, I worked on biochemical and biophysical research, communications, nature and a few other journals. I had no idea what they were talking about, but it was my job to make sure that the page numbers were in sync and all that stuff. I was just copy editor there. And so it was very much like office space at that place. It was definitely a springboard. So every other day there was someone leaving for a different career. It was entry level and it was great. And it got me in the door. But I would get an assignment. My assignment was to take care of the incoming workflow for these two journals that they published. And it would take me maybe an hour and a half to do a whole day's work there. I just put my nose down and focused on what I was doing.
[00:22:47.770] - Christian Hazel
And back then, email was a brand new thing. And websites. There was a website here and there, but there wasn't a whole lot going on. It's not like today where there was a YouTube and all these great time wasters. And so I'd get busted playing Solitaire because it was so easy to see my screen across the Cube farm there and so I'm like, what do I do? And so I just start kind of browsing off road forms. There were only a couple at the time, but from across the room, it looked kind of like I was looking at a manuscript or at least something that was not Solitaire or a game. And I got kind of heavy into this forum called Ram Charger Central, because at the time, I was driving a Ram Charger, and Cole Quenell was the editor for I had been a reader of all these magazines forever, and someone had written from that forum had written a letter to the editor complaining about why there aren't more Dodges and Ram Chargers and all that stuff. And Cole had kind of flippantly emailed him back. Well, if you're such an expert, and if you know what we need, why don't you send me a resume?
[00:23:58.860] - Christian Hazel
I need to hire a position, and that dude messaged me. Hey, I'm too old to do this, and I don't want to write, but I know you're into it. So. Yeah, I emailed Cole that day from my desk at Harcourt Brace, and it kind of snowballed from there.
[00:24:16.830] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. So I'm trying to gather all this. You're editing a scientific Journal that had to be boring, though.
[00:24:27.940] - Christian Hazel
Oh, it was dry white toast. It was horrible. Yeah. Like I said, I had no idea what I was reading, and my job was to interact with the actual Editors of the magazine, who were all in Japan, and then the scientists who would submit these papers for publication in these journals.
[00:24:49.610] - Big Rich Klein
[00:24:50.010] - Christian Hazel
And then if it was accepted for publication, then I would start with the production of it, basically formatting it and getting it ready to be laid out with the printer and all that stuff. Okay. And copy editing it. You would have these huge words that were like a full page with long, no idea what they were. After a while, I actually kind of got to know how they were spelled and stuff, but we had this dictionary down a couple of floors down that you would have to visit. There was no online database or anything back then. Actual big dictionary that was about 2ft thick. It was a monster of a book, the biggest book I've ever seen. And you would have to go manually look up these words if you had a doubt that they were spelled correctly. Okay. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. These 20 syllable words, scientific names. And then you go back up to your desk and check that one off. Okay. Done. Good. Push it in. So, yeah, it was completely boring. Completely boring.
[00:25:55.090] - Big Rich Klein
So you go from that and a degree in English, but you're driving a Ram Charger.
[00:26:07.850] - Christian Hazel
Yeah, I guess I'll back up right after high school when I was going to College in Northeastern, I was supposed to have a shared apartment with a friend. A couple of friends, actually. Well, about two weeks before the semester was supposed to start, they decided they were going to drop out because they were a current Northeastern student. So they know we're dropping out. We're not going to go. So there went my housing. And so my vehicle at the time was a 69 old cutlass with a dual quad big block, which I wasn't going to drive into Boston in the winter. I looked and looked and looked and I bought a Volkswagen Bug. This will be a great commuter into Boston.
[00:26:53.620] - Christian Hazel
Well, I drove that for about four or five months, and that thing was so unreliable. I threw it to the curb, and I was sitting at home watching TV one day and, like a local dealership ad came up and they had they headed on a big platform in front of in the sales area there behind the glass. It was a Maroon Canyon red Dodge Ram Charger, and I think it was like 39. 95 or something like that. And so I went down there with my buddy and looked at it. I test drove it. It was 318 with the manual. It was 1985, bare bones, no AC, and I'm like, okay, I'll buy it, started making payments on that. And that got me in the world of four X four. And that was my winter commuter, all my band gear, fitness plus, like, the amps and everything for the rest of the guys. So that was the vehicle that I had right out of, basically that winter out of high school and then fast forward to when I was in my early 20s and I moved to California. That's the vehicle I came out here with once I hit Southern California, it's like New England.
[00:27:59.710] - Christian Hazel
If you want to go offroading, at least in the area. I lived in the suburbs close to Boston. You had to find a construction site or you had to find a utility road that went under high tension power lines and stuff. Or there was virtually no offroading.
[00:28:17.860] - Christian Hazel
So I hit Southern California. It's like, oh, my gosh, the world is my oyster out here. The desert is right here, and we can go down there every weekend. I was out there in the deserts outside of San Diego, poking around and exploring and getting stuck and having fun. So that's kind of how I got into the whole off road thing. Prior to that, I was just strictly a hot Rod guy. Like I said, build quad Olds and muscle cars and all that good stuff. But yeah. So I was in the off road thing. And so when I was sitting there in my boring job, I would frequent those forums. And I had started when I bought the Ram Charger, I started reading like Four Wheel and Offroad and four Wheeler and off road magazine, all those magazines. And I just quickly became addicted because I was already an addict to car craft and hot Rod and everything. So those were my gateway drugs. So I knew I was a voracious reader, four wheel and off road through the David Fry Burger years. And then Cole Quenelle when he took over the magazine from David. When David went back to the car side of things, Cole is the guy who I emailed from Hardcore Brace to get my career kick started.
[00:29:33.790] - Big Rich Klein
And how did you approach that email?
[00:29:39.350] - Christian Hazel
I wish I printed it out and kept it, but I just emailed him because the guy from the forum shared his email address. So I emailed him from my Harcourt Brace address. Hey, my name is Christian. I'm into four by fours. I have an English degree. I'm working at Harcourt Brace. I'm in publishing now. I think I said something along those lines, and it was funny. It was a very short introductory. Hey, I hear you're hiring. What do I need to do? And he emailed me back and almost immediately and said, That's great. Why don't you at some point give me your resume and write a sample feature on your truck and we can take it from there. I'd already done my work for the day, and I had no resume to speak of. So I used my hardcore resume that I got hired hardcore with and just added one or two lines and sent him that. And I quickly wrote a feature on my Ram charger in about 15 minutes. And so about 30 minutes after he sent me that email, I emailed him back exactly what he'd asked for. And then I get a reply, why don't you give me a call?
[00:31:03.390] - Christian Hazel
That's why I guess I impressed him. And so I went into the office and I gave him a call. And we just had a good hour long conversation on the phone in which we just talked trucks and old hot Rod stories because he had been an editor technical editor at Hot Rod magazine back in the day. And I was referencing these stories that he had written a hot Rod and the stuff he'd done for off road. And we just hit it off. We were both car guys. We're both magazine guys. I think you could tell us true enthusiasts at heart, and that's true. In anything you're trying to do successfully, you can't fake it. But I guess we'll talk about that later. He's like, Why don't you come up for an interview next week? And so I did. I drove from my home in Rancho Bernardo, San Diego, up to Beverly Hills on the Wilshire Boulevard, right on the corner of Wilshire. And like on the Miracle Mile, the old Wilshire office. Right. And we had another great hour long conversation, and he sent me down to HR for the final kind of go through.
[00:32:14.140] - Christian Hazel
And boom, I was hired. I was the new feature editor for Four Wheel and Off Road. So it happened just that quick, about a week, about a week to get hired there. So, yeah, it was a dream come true. I was pinching myself.
[00:32:27.150] - Big Rich Klein
So that's what about 97. 98?
[00:32:31.630] - Christian Hazel
No, not 97. It's like 98 or 999, I think. But the hitch was back then. There was no telecommuting. So my house was in Rancho Bernardo, 126 miles door to door from the office in a Ram charger. In a ramp charger. Yeah. And so that's what I did. Every single day. I drove 126 miles to the office and 126 miles home did that for about two years before my wife and I bought a house up in Santa Clarita, which was a little closer to the office. But we moved there. She really didn't like it. So we moved back down to San Diego. So that was just my Mo. I would get up at 430 in the morning, leave the house. I get up at four, leave the house at 430. I get into the office maybe around 630 or seven, and then I'd leave her home around 630. So I was a zombie during those years, man, I would like literally walk into walls from sleep deprivation. I lived on coffee and caffeine, but I was doing the job I loved, and that's what it took to do it. So that's the price I paid.
[00:33:41.330] - Big Rich Klein
Let's talk the latter there at what was Peterson then, correct?
[00:33:50.590] - Christian Hazel
Yeah. I got hired under Peterson Publishing.
[00:33:54.330] - Big Rich Klein
[00:33:54.780] - Christian Hazel
So I still have my ID from that first day, Peterson Publishing with a goofy haircut. My wife had getting a $5 coupon to Great clips or something like that made me get a haircut the night before my first day at work, and I looked like Jim Carrey from Dumb and Dumber. It was horribly bad. So I kept that ID just to have that it was a riot. But, yeah, Peterson Publishing back in the day. And then, obviously, since then, this company has gone through so many different owners and changes and names. It's busy.
[00:34:31.410] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. I think, like myself, I've always called it Peterson's, and now you can kind of go Motor Trend, because that seems to be you can't call it Peterson Publishing anymore, because right.
[00:34:46.350] - Christian Hazel
Technically, we're Motor Train Group now, right.
[00:34:49.160] - Big Rich Klein
But you weren't always at the same title, correct?
[00:34:56.040] - Christian Hazel
No. I was at Four Wheel and Off Road for about three years, I think so. It was hired as feature editor. And then the staff at that time when I got hired was Cole Quinnel, the editor. John Kappa and Craig Peroni were both Editors. John with the tech editor. Craig was a feature editor like me. And then Rick Payway was the editor of JP magazine. So what happened back then was Cole Quinnell got promoted to editorial director, leaving a vacancy at the editor helm of Four Wheel Enough Road. Rick moved and became the editor of Four Wheel Enough Road. John Cappa went and became the editor of JP, and Craig Peroni had a couple of months prior to that moved and gone to fourwheeler for a slight pay increase. So at that time, when Rick took over the magazine, it was Rick Payway and myself and the two of us were just doing that huge book back then. For one, off Road was the largest it had ever been. The package size I can't remember off the top of my head, but it was a big, fat book with a lot of pages to fill. But I was gung Ho and ready to go and it's like, hey, boss, what can I do?
[00:36:17.040] - Christian Hazel
No kids, tons of energy. And I'm in my 20s and like, yeah, let's do this. So we basically put the whole thing out by ourself. Eventually we hired on some more staff and stuff. So I rode four wheel and off road for a couple of years. I did the first ultimate adventure right after I got hired in 99. And then we didn't do one in 2000. And then I did one and two. And then I think shortly after that, I went to JP magazine as the tech editor of JP, with John Cap as my boss. And I stayed at JP, I think until about 2012 or so. They had offered me four Wheeler a couple of times. And I was just when I went to JP, I wasn't a huge Jeep guy. I was a little I consider myself more of a full size guy, but I just took to it like a duck to water. Love Jeeps. And JP was very unique, not only in the fact that you get to focus only on one manufacturer and then, you know, really do a deep dive into all the cool stuff they were doing. It was that coupled with at that time, you know, TJ Wranglers were the hottest thing going and everyone in the world made everything for them.
[00:37:42.100] - Christian Hazel
And, oh, by the way, you can use these TJ parts on an XJ or there's so much interchangeability and stuff you could do. And we had budgets back then and freedoms. And it was just Rad. It was a Rad time. So I really enjoyed JP. Plus, the JP audience was just second and none. Jeep enthusiasts are very much like to me, hardly enthusiasts, right? It's not just something you're into. It's a lifestyle. It was just great to be immersed in that. But I think I can't remember exactly 2014 or so. Maybe it was 2014. I went to four Wheeler, became editor of four Wheeler, and that lasted a couple of years. And then finally I came home to four wheel and off road where sadly, I was the guy that rode the ship to the bottom once killed the magazines.
[00:38:41.730] - Big Rich Klein
We'll jump into that in a little bit.
[00:38:45.090] - Christian Hazel
Pull that Panda off.
[00:38:47.730] - Big Rich Klein
So you were working with Cap. How long was capital in charge? Jp gosh.
[00:38:55.710] - Christian Hazel
It might have been until 2012. Maybe I took over his editor at 2012. So maybe I was take editor for ten years there. I can't remember. But it was the sweetest gig I ever had because you have none of the managerial responsibilities of an editor being a magazine editor back then, at least you had to be involved in the sales and the budget numbers and all that stuff. And when you were just a tech editor like me or like I was, it's just, hey, come up with cool, attention grabbing story ideas and go do them. I'm getting paid to play. Let's go do this. I think maybe 2012 is when I took over JP as editor. If I had to guess I'm bad with dates like that, I don't really bookmark a lot of that in my brain.
[00:39:45.090] - Big Rich Klein
So one of the things that I remember from those years JP, was that there was a spoof magazine that was put out. I think at least one issue.
[00:40:02.050] - Christian Hazel
Are you talking to both articles?
[00:40:04.350] - Big Rich Klein
Was it the articles? I remember there was one where it showed it was a big discussion on Pirate back then, and I know that Kappa and JP took a lot of heat for it.
[00:40:21.610] - Christian Hazel
Yeah. So John and I were young and remember the culture at the time, one of the hottest shows on TV was Jackass, right?
[00:40:31.580] - Big Rich Klein
[00:40:33.670] - Christian Hazel
On some level, we were kind of the automotive equivalent of that. But you know what? You have to be having fun. You can either have fun with us or not. But we were having fun. And so it was John's idea. I think this is what you're talking about. And I can't remember the year, maybe six or so, maybe five. It's like, hey, I want to do an April Fools article, and I said, Say no more. I'm on it. And I went home, and I think if this is what you're thinking of, I had a Dana 20 T case I was rebuilding. So I had the case on my bench. And so I just jacked up the back of my Cherokee with a Ford nine inch, and it had a Spider track wheel spacer on it. Nice blue anodized Spidertracks. And I just kind of precariously hung the case off the back hub. And I think I threw a gear in there or something. And I wrote a dummy story about this company and Burke, enough also, Africa that was manufacturing Bolt on portal boxes, which back then was like Sci-Fi. Everyone lost their mind and some people laugh.
[00:41:49.540] - Christian Hazel
Some people really upset they couldn't find the company. But, hey, guess what finally came to market exactly. Both on Port of us. So, yeah, that might be what you're talking about. And so we kind of ran with that for a couple of years. And I think one year I wrote a dummy editorial about John burning out and going to start a cat farm or something. I can't remember that's kind of a shame that a lot of those old print stories didn't make it over to many of the web migrations that we've undergone as a company. Unless you have those old printback issues, perhaps a lot of your listeners might not have any idea what the hell we're talking about. You can't just go do a web search on them, right?
[00:42:36.300] - Big Rich Klein
The one that stood out in my mind was like driving. It was a photoshoot. I think that was like driving through a campsite, maybe through somebody's camp grab site.
[00:42:55.590] - Christian Hazel
[00:42:59.010] - Big Rich Klein
[00:43:00.150] - Christian Hazel
Yeah. As goofy as we were, that was kind of a safety thing. I don't remember who did that. I don't remember. But I remember being of the opinion that this is not something funny, and I wasn't on board with that. But I don't remember exactly who did it, but I do remember what you're talking about. Yeah, that was not us.
[00:43:22.380] - Big Rich Klein
[00:43:23.650] - Christian Hazel
Yeah. It was like smashing through a table or something like that.
[00:43:26.570] - Big Rich Klein
[00:43:27.210] - Christian Hazel
[00:43:27.720] - Big Rich Klein
I just remember everybody's head on pirate because we were dealing with those of us that lived in El Dorado County. The Placerville area were the Rubicon was going through so much crap.
[00:43:44.470] - Christian Hazel
Yeah. All the closures out there. Yeah. I've always been of the opinion that those who want to shut down our access to our public land and limit our trail action and all that stuff. They've got enough ammunition without us giving us more giving them more. So don't feed the bees. Yeah. Not us.
[00:44:06.240] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. So then from. Well, that was a long STD at JP then.
[00:44:14.890] - Christian Hazel
Yeah. I loved it. I was in no hurry to lead JP. Like I said, they had offered me four Wheeler a couple of times, and I was just happy at JP. I think earlier I said something about I'm very aware of my place when I'm in the middle of an event or project or just an entity like, hey, where do I fit in this? And I thought I was a good fit at JP. I wasn't really that keen on going to four Wheeler where I don't feel like I was going to fit, because what I did when I became editor, four Wheeler is, I started turning that book into JP and four Wheeler off road. And historically, four Wheeler has been a little different. It's always been kind of its own thing, right? Especially after we had all kind of become one of the same family. And so you had these slight differentiations where coral and off road was like the hands on technical gritty dirt under the fingernails book. And four Wheeler was more like high end cutting edge later model prettier stuff. And then JP could do whatever the hell they wanted. So as long as it was cheap.
[00:45:32.200] - Christian Hazel
So putting me at four Wheeler, it's kind of like the redneck showing up to the ball and the tucks. Who's the guy with the mullet in the past? Blue ribbon over there.
[00:45:45.320] - Big Rich Klein
Where's that PBR?
[00:45:47.110] - Christian Hazel
Yeah, that was me. A four Wheeler, too, to a degree. I did enjoy it. There are elements of that magazine that I really enjoyed, but, yeah, I am a better fit at Four Wheel and off road, or JP.
[00:46:00.370] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. Makes sense. How many years did you get a chance to go on to Ultimate Adventure?
[00:46:10.270] - Christian Hazel
Well, so I was on the first three events, and then after Ricketto, we rock. So we did the first one called Quinnell. Rick wasn't even on the first one. And then, like I said, Rick became in the editor of Four Wheel and Off Road, and we didn't do one in 2000 because it was just something we had done. The first one, there was no plan to continue it, but we did that first one. And our publisher, Jim Ryan, was like, hey, you know, this thing's got legs for sponsored advertisements and a sponsored event. Let's do this kind of because Cole had come up with Ultimate Adventure. He's also the one who came up with Hot Rod Power Tour. And by then, Hot Rod Power Tour is making good money as a sponsored event.
[00:47:01.500] - Christian Hazel
So, hey, let's do a hot Rod Power Tour type thing with Ultimate Adventure. And so in 2001, we kind of launched that with sponsorship, and we had Skyjacker on board and all these other companies Goodrich and all these other companies. And that's kind of how that became a thing with longevity, because without this sponsorship, I don't think it would have survived to this day. But yeah. So Rick did the first two with me when I went to JP, I wasn't on staff, and so I just wasn't invited. And so I basically only did those first three. And then I did not do another Ultimate Adventure until I became editor of the book in 2016. And so I did the first three. And I did from 2016 to present day. Okay.
[00:48:00.190] - Big Rich Klein
How do you feel that event from the first three to the last five or six changes?
[00:48:06.880] - Christian Hazel
Yeah. It's unique because I don't have good visibility into how things ran on the ground and stuff. I honestly haven't even watched most of the videos of the years. I was not a part of it. But the first one was truly more like just a wheeling trip with a bunch of buddies. It was Steve Susaki from Power Tank and Greg Miller from Clooney, and then Tom Boyd, who was just a reader. And so we had a mix of everybody, Trent McGee, who at the time was the marketing manager for Stupid Lift Suspension. So we just met in Apache Junction, Arizona. And then the next day we did a trail. And then the next day we drove. And then the next day we did a trail. We stayed in hotels every night, no campaign. And so it's evolved a little from just a true trip where you have joined a bunch of trail systems between a day's drive and staying in hotels to what it is now. And so a lot of that credit goes to Rick Payway, who kind of infused the element of camping and got it out of that mold. And when I took it over in 2016, I wanted to make it a truly ultimate adventure.
[00:49:35.430] - Christian Hazel
And so I tried to infuse really bucket list things into the event. So when I took it over in 2016, I only had six weeks to plan the 2016 event. Yeah, that was rough, but we'll do this trail in Trona, and we'll drive through Death Valley in the summer, and then we'll camp here by June Lake in this year. And then we'll go through Yosemite and we'll do the two days on the Rubicon, and then we'll do two days on four days. I think today UA has morphed into a little more bucket list crazy, or you go see bucket list things that everyone aspires to see with kind of extreme overlanding and extreme willing all thrown into one. So it's kind of the everything package in terms of the offroad experiential event, right? If that makes any sense, I don't know.
[00:50:37.180] - Big Rich Klein
Absolutely it does to me. And I'm sure it will to others as well. So what about Top Truck Challenge?
[00:50:46.530] - Christian Hazel
Top Truck Challenge? Yeah. That was four wheelers event. And that went back to the early days of I can't remember exactly when it was in the 1990s when TTC started, and again, it was a four wheelers paid sponsored events. And so when I took over his editor for that magazine in I want to say 2014, basically, TTC had a great crew of people who really cared and loved that event, and it was in such good hands. So Robin Stover led the maintenance and stuff there in terms of building the courses at the Hollister Hills State area. There it was held in a California state owned property, and so Robin would oversee the bulldozers and the excavators building the courses for us. And then there was a great crew of judges and on the ground personnel who would run ropes and rigging and all that stuff. I don't want to say it was on autopilot, but they knew their stuff, man. And so my job when I came in as editor was just not getting away of it. So I just ran the show and just that's kind of my methodology with everything I've done is you hire good people and then you just let them do their thing.
[00:52:14.320] - Christian Hazel
You provide guidance that asks for needed, but don't micromanage. If you're micromanaging people, you have the wrong people.
[00:52:22.770] - Christian Hazel
So TTC was on autopilot. The unfortunate thing with TTC is after about the third year in looking at numbers and metrics. Again, I said, Part of your job as an editor is maintaining a profit margin and a viewership readership margin. So when looking at the metrics, you look at the numbers and it's like, oh, boy, hey, we're doing great. We're doing great. But to sell through on these issues with Toptrack Challenge on the cover or the Web performance with these or the YouTube, we had reached the point with Top Truck Challenge, where not only were they falling flat, but they were actually taking a dip in the audience. So it was actually as much as I hated to admit it, keeping that magazine going for what brought in monetarily. Like, I think we just about pencils out even. It was like a zero net undertaking, which would be fine from a media standpoint if you were making up for that in terms of viewership or audience. But we were dipping an audience. So at that time, and I'm not saying that will be the case forever, but at that time it was just not a wise endeavor to keep it going because the audience just wasn't responding to it.
[00:53:40.170] - Christian Hazel
Will TTC make a reappearance at some point in time? Probably. But I'm not the guy in charge of that book anymore. It's Ken Brute Picker now, right. So that's his decision to make. But again, that's one of those things you hate to do. You hate to have to do. But it's just you have to disconnect emotion and personal preference from the business decision sometimes, right. When you're at that level.
[00:54:09.310] - Big Rich Klein
Well, we've noticed we have a small magazine for Low and Shelley and I can do anything in the magazine you want, because ultimately it doesn't go anywhere Besides us. We don't have lawyers and we don't have. I am the publisher. She is the editor in chief and the accountant and the lawyer and all that. But if things don't make sense, they don't make sense. A lot of our rock crawlers are going, hey, how come you don't have more rock crawling in there? Well, we put a rock crawler on the cover, even if it's somebody that's widely popular, like Jesse Haines and the issue, we get less new subscriptions than if we have a nicely built rig of something else.
[00:55:05.350] - Christian Hazel
Yeah, you know, it's a pyramid. And so those rock crawlers and stuff there at the top of the pyramid. But you're shooting for that middle of that base. The base is your standard new four X four, the base of the pyramid. That's everyone that's everyone who bought a four X four. And now, ideally, I think for the magazine you're shooting for somewhere in the middle ground for that aftermarket consumer, who is interested in spending some money with your advertisers. But who also needs that stuff to be relatable? It's like NASCAR got unrelatable. Unlike it was in the 60s. A Superbird Superbird would win, and you could go to the dealership and buy not the exact thing, but at least something relatable somewhat similar.
[00:56:02.530] - Christian Hazel
Nowadays, look at what a NASCAR vehicle is. There's nothing similar to anything that you can obtain. So unless you are at the top of the pyramid, where you're going to go get your own buggy with these Spider nine axles and a super lightweight Ecotech engine, and all this stuff. It's not really something that triggers a lot of people into making a purchase decision.
[00:56:29.930] - Christian Hazel
I'm not saying there's not a spot for it. Yeah. Because Rock Rowland is my jam, man. It's what I love to do. And I have such an appreciation for those guys who are out there doing it, especially like the Ultrafloor and that stuff where you're melding two different worlds. You're going fast and you're rock crawling. You're doing the technical and the reactive stuff. But, yeah, a lot of your everyday consumer just doesn't relate to that. You've just got to create a balance. You know?
[00:57:02.930] - Big Rich Klein
I agree. So do you see, with music and technology, vinyl, eight tracks, cassette, CD to satellite, all digital.
[00:57:20.090] - Christian Hazel
If you believe you're Musk jammed directly into your brain with the chip.
[00:57:23.840] - Big Rich Klein
[00:57:24.340] - Christian Hazel
[00:57:25.610] - Big Rich Klein
The magazine industry has seen an evolution as well, where there was a lot of magazines about, like you said, you had one, that was the high end. You had a cover that was kind of encompassed more of the pavement into the dirt. And then you have JP that's all about Jeep and get dives into it. And now there's two small publications, smaller publications. I mean, Crawl has been around a lot longer. Ours and all the rest pretty much have gone away.
[00:58:17.970] - Christian Hazel
Yeah. Well, you look at the new stands, too, in your supermarket or wherever. There's just much less shelving space. So I think that's indicative.
[00:58:28.120] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And we don't even market that way. I mean, our magazine sells. We don't put them on the shelf. We do it through events kind of like the dirt sports model was to begin with.
[00:58:37.080] - Christian Hazel
[00:58:39.030] - Big Rich Klein
Do you see a resurgence on the horizon or at least do you see print becoming? I don't want to say it's not viable because it is if it's done differently than what it became. Do you see it making a resurgence at all?
[00:59:00.390] - Christian Hazel
The optimist in me wants to say yes. I do think that most people nowadays. Well, you look at your consumer. Okay. You've got the older guys, like myself and others, maybe some younger dudes in Delfts who have grown up with a print magazine in their hand. And that's what they love. There's a certain legitimacy and a certain level of credibility and everything else that comes with a brick and mortar publication, something tangible that you can hold in your hand versus something that's going to get wiped off the face of the Earth in a server crash or an EMP or something that anyone can create in their basement and spew out anything they want to say. For survivability sake, there's a certain level of credibility and professionalism. You have to have to have that print thing in your hand.
[01:00:01.630] - Christian Hazel
That's not to say every print publication only speaks the truth, but everyone makes mistakes. So in terms of that, it delivers something that the digital side of things can't. But you just look at where things are heading nowadays, and people not only don't really want to read a print publication that you hold in your hands, but they just don't want to read something more than three words. It's kind of like a dumbing down cycle where we went from newspapers. We went to periodicals to we went to short letters to we went to emails, and then we went to Facebook, posts or posts. Now we're on Instagram, then we're on Snapchat. It's like the attention span is getting ever increasingly smaller and smaller and smaller. And so a print magazine that's something that requires a lot of attention and imagination, because you can't just say that's cool. I'm going to enlarge that photo or I'm going to click this link to learn more about that. There's other things that the print can't do. I want to say it'll be around forever because I'm an old print dinosaur, and I love magazine. I got a big case in my garage with almost all the ones that I've published.
[01:01:26.390] - Christian Hazel
I don't know how many thousands of stories I've published, definitely over several thousand. So I want to say they'll be around forever. However, I don't know that that's to be the case. I think a lot of people are doing it now where you've got the print if you want it. But you can also have the digital version of it, emailed to you or PDF, or, however. And then within those print ones, you've got QR codes. We started doing that where you can scan and maybe watch the video associated with that story from scanning the QR code. So I think doing things like that to keep it fresh and relevant and engaging. Smart people always come up with a good way to keep those things in circulation.
[01:02:23.210] - Big Rich Klein
That's what we're trying to do. Our love is the print, but we're trying. I mean, it's available, like on Magster, where somebody can subscribe to the whole magazine that way. But we don't online the magazine on our own website. We're bringing back past articles, but only as an article, not as like the complete issue. I don't know if we'll ever go that way, but adding the video, especially for the tech stuff, that's something that we've been that we've been in the process of working on and talking about and trying to get that all started. It's a lot harder when you have a really small staff, right?
[01:03:12.200] - Christian Hazel
Tell me about it.
[01:03:12.920] - Big Rich Klein
I got a tech writer publisher and an editor, and then we have a bunch of freelance writers that are always trying to come up with things to add to it. So it's really difficult sometimes for those freelancers to shoot video and shoot the stills and still get the story.
[01:03:37.130] - Christian Hazel
Yeah, that's the case. But when you've got those good people, like I was saying earlier, when you get those good people who can do it and deliver something of quality that people care about and want to read about and do it in a way that's entertaining, I think really at the end of the day, it comes down to, well, certainly the platform on which you're delivering it counts and matters. But you need to really be the entity that separates all the weeds in the shower. So there's so much misinformation out there. There's so much boring stuff, there's so much clickbait, there's so many bad videos and just opposers who just want to be in an industry, not only offroad, I don't know, to stroke their ego when you find a real enthusiast, either Web channel or a print publication or an online source, whatever it is, if it's being driven by a real enthusiast, I think no matter what the media that's going to be, what carries it to success.
[01:04:51.920] - Big Rich Klein
[01:04:53.650] - Christian Hazel
[01:04:54.390] - Big Rich Klein
Passion. So what is in the future at Motor Trend and especially for Christian?
[01:05:02.770] - Christian Hazel
Well, I've got to a point where I'm no longer running a print title for the first time that happened in December 2019 was when they just kind of pulled the plug on all but three of our print titles. So, yeah, Ken Brewbaker runs four Wheeler. I don't ever print publication. I run Ultimate Venture, which is honestly the joy of my professional career right now. I love that event so much. All the people who make it happen, it's really something special. So, yeah, I'm just going to just keep paddling forward. We'll see. I think hopefully Covet has thrown a little bit of a hitch and our giddy up with our ability to kind of travel completely unencumbered. Certainly, for that first year Covet hit, we were as a major Corporation, kind of erring on the overly cautious side of things, right? Discovery and Motor Trend Group wanted to keep all of its employees safe as possible. And, you know, things have loosened up a little bit. And so, you know, we're just kind of gradually reemerging into this world, you know, safety protocols and what not. And then we kind of have to bend to how things are going publicly in terms of stipulations and all that stuff.
[01:06:43.790] - Christian Hazel
So me, personally, I just throw a mask on and go do whatever. But you're part of a larger entity. So you got to kind of mind the piece of music, of what you're allowed to do and that sort of thing. But the events are still going. So that's great.
[01:07:00.190] - Big Rich Klein
Right. So through the magazine, the magazine industry, over the years, you've got to go to a lot of different locations. What was your favorite? Kind of like the same question about the guitarist.
[01:07:16.230] - Christian Hazel
[01:07:16.800] - Big Rich Klein
What were some of your favorite locations to wheel locations to wheel?
[01:07:21.970] - Christian Hazel
You know, I think about it was about five weeks in Australia, and during that whole time, I only spent three nights in a hotel. That was a pretty epic trip that was back in 2000 for the Australian Outback Challenge. And so there were some pretty incredible locations out there. We'd be on a sheep station just on private property. And so these little no name places, but just like, oh, my gosh, this is so beautiful. And it's back before digital photography. And so I had a whole password of Fuji Velvet 50. I was shooting, and I came back with all these awesome shots. You know, we went back roads to Airs, Rock and all. It was a crazy trip. Just a crazy trip. So that was up there. I love Moab. It sounds not stupid, but it sounds boring to just say, Moab, but, man, unless you've gone, it's just one of the greatest places on the face of the Earth to go offroading. I just love it out there. Let's see. Ford Ice was really cool. That trails Rad in terms of technical offroading and just beauty of the scenery and stuff. I can go on and on.
[01:08:41.760] - Christian Hazel
I've just been so fortunate to be able to do this as a career for over 22, 23 years, however long it's been. This isn't a hobby that I go do on the weekends. This has been a full fledged career for me. So, yeah, just really lucky. Lucky. But I would say pretty much one spot. Yeah, Australia probably that trip to Australia.
[01:09:13.210] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, we got to do, like, 18 days. And we rented a Rover 110 with a rooftop tent. And we went to a bunch of national parks, started in Sydney, tried to get all the way up to Brisbane, but we ran out of time and then came back down. We went inland through Wellington and then up and around and came back down along the coast and camped. I think we spent two nights not including the day we flew in, because after being on the plane for so long, we said, okay, let's just get a hotel to begin with and had the Rover delivered there. And it was funny because they bring up this Rover and the guy and I go, okay, what about it's? Got a winch. Where's the winch controller? And he goes, Well, we don't typically like people. And I said, okay, here's the thing. And I told him what I do for a living. And the guy goes.
[01:10:09.010] - Christian Hazel
Okay, no, but I'm special.
[01:10:11.790] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I didn't quite do it that way, but I told him I said, hey, I'm an event promoter. I plan on taking this off road and don't know what your country has to offer. So I may get stuck by myself. So Where's the controller? And so he showed me where they hid the controller. And that was pretty cool. Never needed it.
[01:10:36.720] - Christian Hazel
Just jump a couple of wires on the solenoid tack. You're fine.
[01:10:39.760] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, well, there was that.
[01:10:43.350] - Christian Hazel
Yeah, those guys, they were a hoot man. The locals that we were hanging out with, man. So I'm riding in the front vehicle and you get to these paddock fences, you have to open. Everyone drives through, and then you close them. We had about maybe 15 vehicles with us, and the guy's like, hey, get out and open the gate. Okay? I get out and I hold the gate. He's like, farther. So I take a step back. Farther. I take another step back. By now, the gates, the gates. I'm almost as far back as I can get without using the fence. And then he shrugs and he drives through, and I close the gate and I hop in. He's like, you didn't see it. I said, what he's like? You almost stepped on a King Brown. Now that's one of the most venomous snakes in the world had bit me. Good chance. I probably would have died before a helicopter even got in the air. And we were hell and gone from any kind of civilization. And he was laughing his ass off. How is that funny? That's just kind of mentality. That's the humor. Those were the dudes I was hanging out with after a while.
[01:11:49.150] - Christian Hazel
They got to like me and stop trying to kill me. The venomous animals. It's quite the trick.
[01:11:56.210] - Big Rich Klein
Hawaii keeps having you move, right?
[01:11:58.780] - Christian Hazel
[01:11:59.460] - Big Rich Klein
Didn't say, hey, by the way, you're standing. Yeah.
[01:12:02.930] - Christian Hazel
Keep walking backwards toward that snake.
[01:12:04.670] - Big Rich Klein
That's too funny. So any bucket list Australia to me only going there for, like, 18 days was not near long enough. I want to go back six months.
[01:12:24.050] - Christian Hazel
Yeah. I've seen photos of some of the guys from AEV going wheeling through Iceland, so they had a really great video at SEMA in their booth. One year I had a trip to Iceland. I was flying from San Diego to Reykjavik, and I got as far as Seattle to catch my connecting flight. And my flight to Iceland got canceled. And so I missed my operating trip in Iceland. So that was a major bummer. So yeah, one of these days, Iceland is on my bucket list. Definitely. Maybe even in winter. See the Northern lights and stuff. I grew up reading four Wheeler and four Wheeler off road. And so I remember the Gary and Monica Westcott Turtle expedition where they went through Siberia in the winter. I don't think I'd want to do it in the winter, but, you know, Fred Williams went over to Russia to go wheel with, like, a reader who just invited him. And that just looked like epic, fun, huge muddy roads, these gnarly six by crazy trucks. And that would be cool to do one of these days. And I don't think you can do it. I don't know that they'll ever get it back to the original route, but I would love to go ride along in the Paris car rally like the old course.
[01:13:46.490] - Christian Hazel
That would be pretty epic.
[01:13:48.750] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. Absolutely. So one more question about a major article every year and that's the vehicle of the year, four wheel drive of the year or Truck of the year. That kind of thing.
[01:14:01.750] - Christian Hazel
[01:14:04.230] - Big Rich Klein
Everybody always used to think that was political driven.
[01:14:08.030] - Christian Hazel
No, I swear to you, whatever sacred, we do not allow any way in our decision making. We all have judging books. We are all very dedicated, and it's funny people back in the day would be like Jeep One because for many years, Jeep Wrangler. Well, this year cheap Wrangler one. But for example, they would say Jeep One. There was a period of time, maybe a decade where Jeep didn't spend a dime with us, at least on JP. What a company does or does not spend with us holds no sway in our decision making whatsoever. Great case in point is Land Rover last year when the Defender did quite poorly, just that particular vehicle we had did not perform well off road. And despite the fact that it was new and cutting edge and they're possibly going to be spending some money with us in the advertising campaign or whatever reason. No, at the end of the day, all you have is your word and your credibility. Like I said, I've been doing this for 22 or 23 years. Sponsors and advertisers come and go print titles, come and go. The only thing you have at the end of the day is your word and your credibility and your honesty.
[01:15:28.270] - Christian Hazel
And so I don't think anyone who's still with us at this company or any major media organization I would hope, would jeopardize that by kind of falsifying their judging book or naming one vehicle a winner over a better, more qualified candidate. So, yeah, that's my vehement opposition to those who would say that it's a political thing or companies pay to get their vehicle named of the year winter. It's just not the case. We really are doing our best in a huge variety of Arca, from drag strip to empirical to off road performance to name that vehicle, which is best for that particular year. Good, given the pool of candidates. So for us, not every vehicle is eligible. So you have to have a major drive train or performance change. That's just something new. So if they come out with a new sticker package, you can't enter it's got to be something that's going to change it from a previous model here.
[01:16:45.350] - Christian Hazel
So we always can't test this and that. And then we invite other manufacturers who sometimes don't choose to participate. So say, for example, why didn't you have the XYZ new vehicle? Well, we shot them in buy and they declined. So for whatever reason, either they're afraid they're going to lose or they don't have any vehicles in their press fleet for us to utilize. Or they just don't want to take a chance on having something damaged that they only have a few copies of.
[01:17:16.790] - Big Rich Klein
[01:17:17.860] - Christian Hazel
So yeah, that's long winded answer too. Which should have been a short answer question.
[01:17:24.390] - Big Rich Klein
No, not really. I think that's really good. I think that people out there need to know what goes into that. And why the five or six vehicles that are chosen to run for that title are there and not 15 or 20. So then the last thing, how would you recommend somebody nowadays?
[01:17:54.090] - Christian Hazel
Getting into the offroad industry via media nowadays is quite a different thing from when I got in. Right. So like the music industry, you were reliant upon giant corporations with huge footprints. Nowadays, anyone can go upload their songs to any number of web sites and the same thing with the offroad industry. Anyone can go start their own video channel or their own website. So I would say the way for someone to get into it nowadays is just have a true passion and do your best work and try to try to be as honest in your reviews. Try to be as open minded as you can and accepting to different views and don't go into something with a prejudged bias. Hey, this form says that this is the best part and I'm going to get it. And this part is not really working out for me, but I'm going to write it's really the best part anyway, because I don't want to look like be afraid to speak your mind, be different, have a different opinion and just share your love and your joy and your experience with what you do, no matter what that is. It doesn't really, you know, don't try to follow someone else's mold.
[01:19:26.190] - Christian Hazel
Go do your own thing, man. Just be genuine and be honest and be real and have fun at the end of the day. We all do this because it's fun. That's why we're all in this hobby. And so remember that very good.
[01:19:42.840] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. Well, I think that wraps up everything that I wanted to talk about. Is there anything that we didn't touch on that you can think of that you would like to talk about or discuss.
[01:19:56.950] - Christian Hazel
Oh, man, I don't know. Just if I met you on the trail and you're afraid to come say Hi, just say Hi. We're just normal, focal. And you can always if you have a question about anything. One thing I do miss from back in the day is the correspondence with people via email, which no one sends an email nowadays. So if you want to message me, hit me on Hbombindustries, on Instagram or my personal email. I'll give my public one. My public email is Christianaisel at Motor trend. Com. If you have a tech question or just a cool trail ride or something, reach out one of those two places and let us know.
[01:20:43.190] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. Well, Christian, thank you very much for coming and coming on and spending some time with us and talking about your history and your passion for off road. And I want to say again, thank you so much.
[01:20:58.570] - Christian Hazel
My pleasure, man. It's good talking to you. Yeah.
[01:21:01.320] - Big Rich Klein
And just to let you know that I'll be sharing this, of course, on our website and through social media and stuff, and I'll tag you and hopefully you'll share it as well.
[01:21:12.430] - Christian Hazel
Right on, man.
[01:21:13.340] - Big Rich Klein
We'll do okay. Thank you very much.
[01:21:16.160] - Christian Hazel
[01:21:16.720] - Big Rich Klein
All right. Bye.
[01:21:18.310] - Speaker 3
If you enjoy these podcasts, please give us a rating. Share some feedback with us via Facebook or Instagram and share our link among your friends who might be likeminded, well, that brings this episode to an end.
[01:21:30.830] - Big Rich Klein
Hope you enjoyed it.
[01:21:31.830] - Speaker 3
We'll catch you next week with conversations with Big Rich.
[01:21:34.940] - Big Rich Klein
Thank you very much.