Tell us about your bike-building design philosophy?
It’s really simple; I pretty much just wing it. If I don’t like it, I rebuild and keep going. I suck at drawing, probably couldn’t do a stick figure properly and have certainly never used AutoCAD. I don’t look around on the internet or social media at other bikes — I don’t want to be swayed from the picture I have in my head. When I look at a bike (or a car) I start at the front and do a sweep with my eyes across the entire body, I want it to be a seamless movement, nothing must hinder this process. If something catches my eye that doesn’t look right I will start over and work 24 hours a day if necessary to achieve perfection. Customers trust me and I work alone so that I have complete control in the workshop.
All successful artisans have a breakthrough moment, tell us about yours?
Mine was more initial relief than revelling in success, and a feeling I remember so very clearly. I got invited to the 2010 Artistry in Iron contest, an invitation-only master builders’ competition in Las Vegas. Only 20 builders from around the world were invited for a $10 000 winner’s cheque. I was so stressed at the time, money was eventually going to come in, but I think we had $64 in our home account and $78 in the LA Speed Shop account — with rent and bills to pay and two kids to feed. I really didn’t recognise myself amongst that sort of company, and honestly didn’t expect to even score a place. My wife Fiona and I were standing at the back of the convention centre and they start reading the bio of the winner [without saying the name] and Fiona looks at me with a jaw-dropping OMG face before saying, “That’s you!” I was quite overwhelmed, and sometimes tear-up thinking about that moment and the timing of it all. We deposited the cheque the next day, paid the bills, bought bunk beds for the kids and took them to Disneyland for the first time. The money was crucial at the time but looking back at it now, the fact that my peers voted for my build means a lot to me.
What current build are you most excited about at present?
I’m busy with a 2017 BMW R nineT Racer that needs to be ready for a show in April in Austin, Texas. I’ve really enjoyed taking it apart — to see how it was built — identifying what modules, sniffers and sensors they’ve used. It’s been a trip dissecting and cutting stuff out, unchartered territory for both parties really, BMW are entering a whole different sub-culture of customising and I get to work on something other than vintage choppers and bobbers with a bare bones style.
Tell us about the time a big brand approached you and wanted to buy your own personal bike?
Oh yeah, [laughs] never sell out, always try find a way so that both parties benefit — good life lesson that. I built a 1947 Harley Davidson Knucklehead for myself, basically a personalised 74-cubic inch engine with a stock frame and four-speed gearbox. Representatives from Sailor Jerry Ltd. came into the workshop asking for a bike to be built as a promotional tool. They saw mine and wanted to buy it immediately. But that was my bike, I didn’t want to sell and I only do one-off customs — no copies, no repeats. So we comprised, I re-did it, the old skool bobber now has beautiful artwork (hand painted tattoo images) and Sailor Jerry Ltd. rent it from me for shows. It’s been all over America, the longest journey I made was from Joplin in Missouri to Dells in Wisconsin putting in 1 200 miles (1 900 km) over five days visiting five cities and five bike shows.