On to the third and final segment on who ATrain and Track 21 are, an indepth interview gleaned from our recorded interview. The Catshack asks all the pointed questions to really get to the heart of this “new media” that is Track21
Tomcat: Once it was said to me. (I have taken it with me ever since) It was basically this and this is coming from Mr. John Amodea, veteran of paintball media for some 20 years, who said to me “Tomcat, if you want to be in this media thing you better have some thick skin.”
A-Train: Yeah, I have never been told that directly from John but I would co-sign off on that. Hell, I’ve never even met John but I know who he is in the industry and media. I think it is entertaining and funny at times. It makes grown-ass men look like sophomores in high school. Crybabies and whiners that yell out -“If you don’t like my idea I am going to yell at you.” But, I would agree with John you have to be very thick skinned. When you put yourself out there a lot of people see you in two dimensions and they take the view of you by looking at a short piece of work, one opinion article, a short video or a slice of media or if someone else says “I don’t like A-Train or Track 21” Are they making their own choice? So I would encourage people to go look at everything you can and make your own decisions. Do not subscribe to what someone else is telling you. If someone else says “Yeah, I don’t like the Tippmann marker.” Have you shot a Tippmann marker!? It may be the marker for you. It might not, but you have to try it.
You have to go and see if there is a media source that represents you. Paintball encompasses so many different things. One thing that was recently put out there by SAS NECRO was, (and he said it in jest), was “If you strap a banana to your marker and the banana inspires you to go play then go and do it!” I am just the guy that says “Would you like me to go and buy you some bananas? Because then you can go and invite 6 friends. Go play more paintball!”. It is one of my favorite things to do. We live in a society where we send each other texts and messages. I would rather go out and meet you to play. I miss that part of my childhood a bit and I am reliving it now. You will always see me with as many of my friends that I can gather up and they are great people and they are people I love to play with and people I love to hang out with and travel with. I think positivity is seriously contagious. And I am not making it up we are just that fun and positive. And if you don’t like positivity, fun and laughter in paintball, then please just ignore us. Because we are having fun and your poopy attitude is not welcomed.[laugh]
Tomcat: I wrote an article way way back in the very beginning about going to your local surplus stores and purchasing used stuff from your military, up to and including unit badges and wearing them around. My article… the gist of it was “You haven’t earned the right to wear the badge so you shouldn’t”
A-Train: That is something I watch closely as there may be a difference between something called “stolen valor” and Halloween dress-up. However, I think that’s between them and God on their judgment day as my patches are Paintball oriented. It’s a heated topic for sure, but I don’t get put in the cross-hairs of that one because I don’t put myself in that position. My family served from the American Civil War, to World War I, II, Vietnam and Desert Storm. And as an American, I firmly believe that the day we stop honoring and supporting our Military, veterans, and their families is the day we need to pack up and quit because we have failed as a country. I watch it closely. If someone was to mock them, or represent themselves as otherwise, I’d consider that treasonous behavior myself.
Tomcat: You know you are just playing and you want to look the part you know? and I think it was Eric Engler who came back on me quick “Well, What about people with war simulations like D-Day” which is where he wanted to make the exception I guess if in that case you are reenacting…
A-Train: Again, I don’t put myself in the cross-hairs of that one. I have family, friends, and loved ones that have served, made the ultimate sacrifice, come home duct-taped together, or emotionally scarred and frankly I think any time I spent on that topic, is just not my thing. I rock my own style. I’d rather spend my time respectfully honoring them by living free and impacting their lives positively. Every day is Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day in my household.
Tomcat: Did you serve in the military?
A-Train: No. Funny story. When I returned from a nice lunch with the Navy recruiter at 17, as I figured it was “my turn” my father pulled me out to play catch and convinced me that I had “authority issues” [laugh] and with my brother already serving overseas and the looming threat of conflict. He did not endorse my enlistment. Something in his eyes told me he probably just didn’t want to worry about both of his boys fighting in someone else’s country. I elected for the educational route.
Tomcat: Interesting. Another thing that you had mentioned a little bit ago. Something about you never got to do it in childhood so you are doing it now so what do you mean by that that you are sort of that we are all just kids at heart.
A-Train: Sure. If we all stopped for one moment and looked around at a paintball field. I did this this, try it. I looked around and saw the love, brotherhood, compassion, a mix of people that gathered. When I stopped paintball was full of kids that may not be picked first on the soccer team. Adults that may have been bullied as kids. Awkward, body shapes, big guys, tall guys, short guys even Canadians. [laugh] There is this wonderful mixing pot of everybody They can find their place in paintball. So why not embrace that and welcome them. It may be guys that were in the military and had to get out. Guys that wanted to go to the military but couldn’t get in. Or kids looking for a place to go to and get accepted and to be a part of something whether it is a paintball group, a paintball team or something, they find it in paintball. But all of us have some inner kid in us that gets to go PLAY!
Tomcat: Doesn’t matter young or old, man or woman anybody and everybody can play it
A-Train: Even Canadians [laugh] In Europe they paintball a little different and in Canada they do it a little different you find so many things that are unique. Due to paint prices, Mag fed and Pump play in Canada is so huge it surprised me!
Tomcat: I published an article on paintball in China (one of the Catshack writers had the experience there) and my lord is that ever different
A-Train: I cannot wait to have those experiences
Tomcat: Your out and you play paintball and you play as long as you got paintballs, if you get hit you can simply return to your start point and when it is all over they count the number of hits on you to determine who wins.
A-Train: Wow. Well that might be a cultural thing I would have to experience that to have my own opinion but that sounds really cool.
Tomcat: The one common denominator and I can say that having been all over the world and the USA, is that it is always the same. You wander into a community where everybody is welcoming and its social event as much as an athletic one and that is what in one part drives me.
A-Train: It’s an interesting social dynamic for sure.
Tomcat: Favorite place to play?
A-Train: Oh no. Tomcat, I get to go the what I call the “MEGAPLEXES” of paintball. Yes, they are cool. They are expensive and I see that from a business end of things, what it could cost to operate one of these places. I also, get to see some of the hidden “gems” as you often say that you may drive by or often get overlooked.
Tomcat: Like Area 51 in Mancelona? (Michigan)
A-Train: Exactly. You see creativity. Fields working and exploring new ideas with what they have. Maybe a place that you drive past on your way to the “MEGAPLEX” because their promotion budget is bigger. Who knows? But, you may be missing an experience by not exploring a bit. And their perspective may open you up to new ideas. And sometimes these ideas have not been “tainted” by the masses…I dig it.
Tomcat: The other thing about it for me. Is after I’ve been there. I can often get like “Meh. Been there. Done that.”
A-Train: Yep. Take me to someplace new.
Tomcat: Do you ever capture footage of your “after adventures”?
A-Train: Oh, I have Terra-bytes of it. Lots of it is for my memory bank, and my close friends.
To edit all of that and make it watchable would take months and probably be an entire web series lasting for months.
Tomcat: In Florida, I captured a lot of that and tied it into the paintball video.
A-Train: I have no desire to play with spiders, alligators, and poisonous snakes. I would scream like a girl. [laugh]
Tomcat: A lot of it was zoom.
A-Train: Fooled me.
Tomcat: When did people start to recognize you at fields?
A-Train: They always have in some form or another. But as “A-Train from Behind the Bunker” or “Track 21”, I’d have to think back a bit. How did you first handle it? Being noticed?
Tomcat: It took me back a bit. Better question to you is … when did you notice the Catshack? [laugh]
A-Train: Living Legends 5 I think. I thought that you were going to be significantly taller before I met you in person. [laugh]
Tomcat: That’s it! Now how did the Stars and Stripes brand come about?
A-Train: It came as a “lark” at first. Some kids we played with once came with us to take over a fortified hill and when I ran up to lead the charge, I had a good run because my friends laid a gross display of cover fire and basically shocked everyone and shot a great number of them out and they started telling stories. I’m sure their stories were more colorful then my telling, but they nicknamed me “Cpt. America”. Which led to Chris Hazard and I trying to find a way to protect a lot of new players and kids from a collection of “meatheads” that would be attending an event a few weeks later. So he and I made some very narcissistic jerseys. It worked to our advantage. Most of the big guns we had pointed at us during the event. And as much as we could we made ourselves very loud and colorful targets. It’s now come to fruition and many people associate the brand with myself.
Tomcat: Now, I heard that someone tried to take your brand or something like that not too long ago.
A-Train: Oh boy. First thing, I have my own brand and have my own ideas. If you were to look at the context of the situation then, yes. Someone did see an opportunity to capitalize on a demand for branded merchandise, from response to our idea. However, it can be looked at as, The “Captain America” brand is not mine. It belongs to Marvel. That’s why I have created from my mind and desktop my own rendition of the brand as a one-off, for me alone and Marvel has no problem with it, because I’m not using it for commercial or private gain or representing it as anything that it is not.
Tomcat: Well I have seen some for sale? So I wondered.
A-Train: Not from me you didn’t. [laugh] We get to see so many cool companies do so many innovative things. They come up with unique and creative ideas and that’s what drives the economy and the industry. When someone would take an idea, brand or other intellectually property, that is not theirs. I call it how I see it and label it for what it is and move forward.
Tomcat: I can hear by your tone I hit a nerve.
A-Train: Not really, I’m comfortable in my stance. There is enough room for everyone, with having their own ideas, I encourage that. I actually was going to use the brands to raise attention and awareness for charitable organizations, however we found a better use for the money that would have secured it as ours.
Tomcat: What is that?
A-Train: I gave it away to a The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. We figured the money would do better there. Also, considering again, it’s not my brand. Just my version of it.
Tomcat: And you are a patriot of sorts.
A-Train: Somehow it inspires some people. And yes, I consider myself a patriot. I also consider that paintball is one of the last bastions of liberty left, we are still for the people by the people and as long as we have a voice and are not afraid to take a stand, this will remain OUR sport. Another one of my points I have underlying and sometimes at the forefront of our brand is that, as a business owner, I firmly believe in building a stronger America!
Tomcat: Or North America.
A-Train: Sure. I am not here to create a stronger Hong Kong or China, if I can help it. I encourage others to do the same.
Tomcat: Well, I’m sure we could go like this forever. Any last words or thoughts?
A-Train: Relax… it’s a game. But take ownership of it.