I never would have thought when I started out that I would have Joyrides Art Co T-shirts represented out in Romania. The Romanian model, George Mutu, sent these in to me. Thanks George. Check out his dwrenched blog.
Made a quick drive down to Kenny Brown's wood shop in LA. I was there to take photos of him making wood fins for a custom surfboard shaped by legendary South Bay Surfboard shaper, Hap Jacobs.
The final cut pieces ready for glue.
Kenny glueing the pieces together.
Kenny Brown with one of the finished fins.
Kenny Brown and V.P. of Body Glove, Billy Meistrell.
One of the finished fins.
Jig for cutting the diamond inset.
It was all about multiple pass and shaving a little off the edges to get the tight fit around the diamond cut piece in the pattern. Going to Mangelli's in the South Bay to shoot photos of the board getting glassed. These boards are gonna look sweet when done.
JAC: Who are the people who helped you learn or have been an
influence in your career?
Aki: A lot of people.
Not just one person. Jesse is one of them. He taught me what to do and not to do. I’m
not sure if he was a big influence though.
At certain age’s I’ve always had someone to look up to. He was one of them at the time. I should say the people who worked at West
Coast. They taught me a lot of
stuff. All of the people I met when I
was at West Coast are where I learned a lot of skills and of course Jesse
too. There are a lot of no name people
that nobody knows that I look up to.
JAC: When did you start Hog Killers?
Aki: I started Hog Killers in the 2009. Right after I quit West Coast on Dec 25th. I started my shop on January 1st. I already lived in my shop and worked on my own stuff back then. I would do side jobs here and there. Mainly I had the shop because I had a Lincoln and other projects. No landlord would like me working in their garages. They kicked my out in Long Beach so I moved here. It wasn’t my initial plan to have a shop here, but it was the only place I could live and work on my stuff.
A lot of my work comes through word of mouth. I’m trying to take my bikes to more shows to get exposure. Hopefully the economy catches up and people start spending more money. I’m just trying to survive. I’m doing ok though. I do full customs, servicing and sell parts. I have to work on my website though so I can start selling online.
JAC: Is there a favorite part of the bike building process you enjoy more than others?
Aki: I like everything. I like doing electrical. People can’t do wiring well and I know I can do it well. I like to hide everything in tubing and try to keep everything clean. I like working on the details. Like clips to hold the wiring, I never use zip ties. That’s one thing I learned from Jesse. He never uses zip ties.
JAC: What are some of the projects you got going on now in your shop?
Aki: I got a Goose Neck that I’m working on. The ULH, 60’ Panhead, 76’ Shovelhead and an 84’ Shovelhead. I’m trying to get them done for the Born Free 5 show. Hopefully I can get the Goose Neck done soon so I can have Sonny (Boy) paint it.
JAC: What got you into working and building motorcycles?
Aki: I eventually got my first Harley when I was 18 years old. It wasn’t even in good condition. I was going to this bike shop, but they were kind of jerking me around because I was young and it really made me upset. So I said, “Fuck it! I’m going to learn it myself.” So I quit going to the bike shop and I started tearing the motor apart and working on it. That’s how it got me started because I was dealing with that shitty motorcycle shop.
I went on to Motorcycle Mechanic Institute in Phoenix, Arizona in 1998 and graduated in 1999. I went back to Japan and worked for a dealership for like a year.
I have been working on bikes since I was about 16 years old. Back then we were borrowing scooters so you needed to hot wire them. That’s how we all learned to work on bikes too.
I worked at car shops early on. I was working in the car industry till I was 18. Paint shops and stuff like that. Then I worked out of my garage before I got hired at West Coast Choppers. That’s when I moved back to the U.S. in 2002. I wanted to work for Jesse James of West Coast Choppers so back in Japan I finished two bikes and sold them to make money to get here. I showed up at West Coast and applied. Fuck it. I got lucky.
Joyrides Art Company showcases the photographic and design work of Mark Kawakami. Specializing in the hot rod, choppers and tattoo industry. Our goal is to find those people who love to ride, drive and create art as a way of life. We aim to bring that love to you through photographs and design.