Discovery, adventure + community
Any rider knows that when you get your first ride the community comes hand in hand. The Mutt community is a wild bunch, filled with folks from all walks of...READ THE STORY
Elliot Taylor should be, in regular human terms, exhausted. He has been on tour since he was 16 years old. Like the rest of the world in 2020, the pandemic forced the tour manager to slow down and to take stock. But tour managers are a particular breed - programmed to work hard, to endure often long and fatiguing 18 hour plus days, and to keep going until the job is done. Sleep is a luxury, time permitting. It’s no surprise then that in the absence of a typically hectic life on the road, and where most people would opt to check out and indulge in some down time, Elliot used his locked-down time to keep busy. Elliot selected to survive the tricky times by focusing on efforts on planning his bands’ schedules for the fairly un-plannable future and balancing a professional responsibility while keeping his sanity by riding his Mutt Mongrel 125 against the grand backdrop of his beloved Sheffield.
Born and raised in Doncaster, he soon attached himself to what he describes as the closest and best city, Sheffield.
Fast forward a couple of years, after living in England’s capital, Elliot returned to Sheffield, a place he very much sees as his permanent home. The city has much to offer, with its rich music history and numerous cultural venues. For someone on the road as frequently as he is, there’s little point in paying sky-high London prices. As he says, the rock scene in Sheffield is thriving, due to bands like While She Sleeps, Bring Me The Horizon and, let’s not forget wilful British rockers The Arctic Monkeys - resolutely proud Sheffield lads. While Elliot has harboured ideals of living elsewhere in vibrant European cities, touring affords a taste of that. So it makes sense for someone consistently on the road to plant some roots in the UK.
“if it is the UK, then it has to be Sheffield.” The industrial neighbourhood in which Elliot resides is pitted with music meccas, recording studios and busy cafés. There’s a real sense of intimacy to be enjoyed from Northern Soul or jazz nights in Sheffield’s local scene. The buzzing social district right on his doorstep coupled with the familiarity and realness the city provides makes for an ideal local hub that helps to keep Elliot’s feet on the ground.
So what better way to spend his days off than astride his Mutt Mongrel, burning up the tarmac of the urban streets, escaping to the contrasting wild splendour of the Peak District which sits within spitting distance of Sheffield’s City centre, this is a place that has it all. As Elliot says, “for me, it’s the biggest thing Sheffield has to offer.” Just a 10-minute ride out of Sheffield delivers you to the rugged and extraordinary beauty of the Southern Pennines. Growing up, Elliot always knew it was there. Still, over the last few years, the area has become a haven and a welcome refuge for escape after long months away supervising a cramped tour bus full of musicians.
The natural locale has become a hugely important place to soul search, to clear thoughts and to forget problems. One arc, in particular, has secured its place in Elliot’s heart. “There’s one spot called, ‘Surprise View’ and you’re literally driving out on a country lane when suddenly you’re faced with one of the most amazing views I’ve seen in the UK. To see that from a bike on my regular route is just priceless.”
Getting a Mutt has been huge for Elliot. His appreciation of motorcycles was sparked from a young age, as the son of a man with a keen affection for superbikes. But Elliot’s own passion for two wheels didn’t develop until much later. When his mum remarried and with Elliot still a teenager, it was his stepfather who opened him up to the possibilities and showed him the way. “My step dad is this super, aggressively loving guy with a heart of gold! He had ridden motocross as a kid and had damaged his knee, so he had a lot of time away from riding.”
Elliot pursued his new-found hobby through seeing friends involved in motocross. “My step dad basically spent his own birthday, which is also Valentines Day, driving from the north of England down to Devon with my mum in the back of the van, just to pick me up a bike. He got back at 10 o’clock at night, opened the door and there was a 125 bike in the back. It blew my mind!”
The seed was firmly planted, and from that moment on, the act of generosity by his step father bonded the pair and secured an intention to learn to ride. Motocross training with his step dad followed, but it soon became clear enduro riding wasn’t where Elliot’s curiosity lay. “We’d go to the tracks and down the middle of them between the enduro and the motocross tracks were the fire roads. After we’d been on the trails, we’d bomb down the fire roads for half an hour, enjoying the simple riding. Something clicked. This was the most fun part for me. I kind of pieced it together and started riding more on the roads and country lanes.
That said, I’ve got a bit of an urge to do some off-road riding. But at the moment for me, being able to enjoy the scenery while cruising through any kind of rural area is so satisfying. Ninety per cent of my travel is for work, and I’m usually always responsible for others, so being able to get on a bike and ride to the Peaks or wherever in the world, it’s the only real time when I’m travelling that my mind isn’t on someone else’s comfort.”
The association biking has with freedom is felt by all riders, regardless of what it is you’re riding. Elliot certainly feels that sense when he’s out on the road. “I think it’s also given me peace to be solo. Being away on tour you live with the people you’re working with. You’re on a tour bus with 20 people for months on end, you get home, and suddenly you’re on your own! I have spent so much of my life in big groups of people and very little time on my own. Riding gives me that peace and clarity that it’s OK just to be. Biking only makes me think and feel biking! There’s nothing else to think about but what you can see and the handling of the bike, but when I’m home and reflecting on it, there’s an appreciation of not feeling.”
Like many enthusiasts would, Elliot has jumped at opportunities to ride in exotic locations around the world. A trip to Bali and an insane cruise around Bangkok’s crazy roads to visit temples are just two trips he recounts with a wide grin. South America and Mexico are dream destinations for riding and are on the cards. “Even with a helmet on, you seem to be able to embrace those landscapes and enjoy it a bit clearer than usual.”
At home, Elliot rides a 2016 Mutt Mongrel 125, one of the first of its kind. Bought second hand, it was the bike Elliot was drawn to, with aspirations of riding throughout the summer. Having checked out local listings and via friends in Birmingham plus connections with other riders like Liam from the band Cancer Bats (who rode a Mutt from our HQ, through Europe, across the African desert and back again), Elliot discovered Mutt Motorcycles. He knew instantly that this was where he wanted to focus his search. A lucky and convenient lead introduced Elliot to a guy located merely streets away.
After a heart-pumping test ride, the purchase was made, and Elliot was hooked. He describes it as the best 125 he has ever ridden. And pleasingly, aesthetically it looked the part.
Owing to some prior owner wear and tear and knowing he had time on his hands, Elliot got in touch with Mutt to help him with the restoration project, bringing the bike back to its original building place for the work. Taking parts from the Fat Sabbath and a mixture of the understated, cross-breed features from the Hilts design (chunkier tyres and bars) the updates were added. As were new lights, chain, rear shocks, grips, a Fat Sabbath seat, throttle and controls, brake lines, a new exhaust, headlamp and indicators.
To finish, the machine was given a blacked-out look by spraying the frame. As every tour manager and band member knows, black is the only colour. Elliot describes his Mongrel as being an already incredible bike, but with the new mods and while riding around Birmingham, his mind was blown at the amazing job executed by the mechanics. The end result was the exact style and sound he was after. Looking ahead, the Razorback is a tempting next step for Elliot. Maybe a 250 from the range. Elliot considers the approaching months. “Perhaps next year. Depends on touring!”
This has been an uncertain and peculiar few years for the entire planet. As Elliot reflects on them, the beginning of 2020 in particular, he notes, “it’s strange to have been grounded. There have been some absolute highs and some crazy lows. It’s the most time I had ever had at home. I’m usually out of the country 10 months of the year. I’ve always wanted to get a dog, and so I did during lockdown. I would never be able to train a dog while on tour, so that’s been a massive high.”
If you ever wanted to know about the nonstop life of a tour manager, Elliot is an intriguing character to dig down with. “I’ve been working with Frank Carter (of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes) for the best part of 5 years, but even before that when Frank was with Pure Love. When Frank started Rattlesnakes, he gave me a call and I went to work with him. I took a bit of time off about 2 years ago to travel, and came back to touring, looking after the hospitality side of things - mostly heavy logistical stuff as well as the more personal assistant side of things, essentially making sure everyone is as comfortable as they can be on the road. The hospitality side of it, working one-on-one with people - doing those little things that can make someone’s day more positive. That’s the side I really enjoy. Going back to work with those guys, I get to organise all the fun stuff. I went on my first tour at 15 years old. Which is crazy young to be out on the road. I went from my job working in Tesco to helping out on the road for 2 months with the band ‘While She Sleeps’ one weekend... and never went back. I’m still in the van 12 years later!”
Recent personal and professional highlights for Elliot include working with with high energy experimental American punk band, Fever 333,(“a health and safety nightmare!”) The band are visceral performers who use their stage presence in a different way, something Elliot was thrilled to see again with crowd engagement and person to person participation that only happens when fans and musicians are boxed in together by walls, locked into the intensity and power dealt out ritually by the band members on stage. As he says, “the whole theatrical experience makes for such a good show.” The musical antithesis to Fever 333 is pop/folk artist Dodie, who has been selling out venues and headlining stages in the USA, despite only touring for a few years. And then there’s life at home in Sheffield, enjoying the days with his dog Oslo and riding his Mutt Mongrel on the streets he loves and knows so well. “The last few years have definitely given me a sense of appreciation, but I’m really excited to be working and living again.”