Jeff Wright: The interview PWI

Before you enter this interview zone know that it does not follow the typical receipe of success for web snipets. You know, very limited info, not more than three sentences of text to read, sensory overload of images/videos that only take about half a second to comprehend. So enter with caution, slow down, and enjoy one of Des Moines finest.

Most of you coming to our shop website don’t know who Jeff Wright is but you damn well should! You’ve seen him around for years whether it was at a show at the old Hairy Mary’s, getting a late night slice of pizza at the Big Tomato, or for you older skaters, getting drinks at either GT’s or the Kung Fu Tap and Taco. He’s a “bit larger” than most of your skateboarding peers here in Des Moines. Try not to let him intimidate you. If you catch him in the wild, he’s really a nice guy, just misunderstood sometimes.

Dan Rogers: This is gonna suck for you Jeff, great for me though, I finally have the upper hand on you. Time to get put on blast!
Jeff Wright: Yeah I’m not good at this stuff.
DR: Yeah right you’re a natural. How long have you been here?
JW: In this building?
DR: No Des Moines, IA!
JW: Almost my whole life.
DR: Not born and raised though right?
JW: Born and raised, but got shipped off to Brainerd, MN by my dad for being a delinquent. He was an ex-marine drill instructor.
JW: So you got shipped off to Brainerd to learn how to fish for walleyes?
JW: Bass (with a chuckle) (at one point in Jeff’s life he and Fatty bought a boat and entered bass fishing contests which led to one of the funniest prank calls ever. See Fatty’s upcoming interview.) I had to do something I was grounded for nine months. (we both burst out laughing)
DR: Nine months?!!!!?? What the fuck did you do? Smoking pot or stealing?
JW: Neither. I was just being a kid, but my dad was an ex-drill instructor so everything was amplified. I went to the school my dad taught at and every teacher ratted me out for anything and you know how that goes.
DR: He sounds a bit reactionary.
JW: Well every day after school he would make me do my homework until it was absolutely perfect 100%. Then on the school bus ride in the morning I would chuck it out the window…EVERYDAY.
DR: (laughter) Fuck, maybe you did need to get shipped off to Brainerd! Okay, everytime I come here I always ask you, Al Brown, Dan Koenig the same thing…..WHY DES MOINES!!!!!!!!?????
JW: (with a smug look) Why not? I’m right in the middle! I can ride in four directions and you can only ride in three. I can ride to L.A. in 19 hours or I can ride to NYC in 18 hours.
DR: Bullshit. 19 hours to L.A!?! That sounds like a time portal to me.
(of course Jeff gets Fatty to back up his wild ass claim…and Fatty claims 19 ½ hours. Fucking crazy by the way)

DR: I’ve always thought very highly of you and consider you an anomaly for Des Moines. You go out of your way to build the scene here and try to add a little culture, or coolness if you will, to it. From eating late night slices in NYC, seeing punk shows in LA, or even hitting up a cool bar in Europa, you’ve always tried to bring your experiences BACK to Des Moines and it HAS to be a difficult challenge. What motivates you to keep grinding and offer something that maybe you don’t receive the appreciation you should for it?
JW: You know these businesses, or experiences leading to these businesses, are probably a contributing factor as to why I stay in Des Moines. I mean, am I going to move to Williamsburg and open a pizza joint and compete with 300 other guys? I’m an opportunist as a businessman I guess, and bringing cool businesses here enables me to provide for my family. Hopefully these businesses will be successful enough for me to do other fun projects like Church of Choppers or whatever. Not to mention if I did move to a different place, how long would it take me to find the infrastructure of friends I have now? I mean how long would it take me to find another Fatty?
DR: Depends how many gay bars you went to.
JW: Exactly, he’s the best.
DR: That’s what he said.
JW: It would take me over ten years to find another friend like Brad. Plus I like being able to hop on a bike and be in the middle of nowhere in 5 minutes.
DR: That must be AMAZING!!!!!!! Not a single person in Southern California has two square feet to themselves, retarded. I’m jealous.

DR: Let’s change speeds and put your feet to the fire a bit. Do you think people appreciate you making the scene what it is?
JW: (laughs) You always say that, but that’s not how I look at it at all. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to be doing, not trying to be in a scene or dictate what people should be doing. I guess when I was doing Hairy Mary’s I was dictating the scene by booking certain bands. Now I just try to provide things that I would be into doing and hopefully it works.
DR: Ok fine, that sounded a bit too p.c. for me to accept, have it your way, you win that round. How did the Church of Chopper thing start? I mean , you went from making rad bikes on your own to developing an entire merchandise business not just domestically, which is insane on it’s own, but world wide…honestly how the fuck did you do that?
JW: That’s easy actually I went to art school and realized I was only going to make $7 an hour. (laughter) I was bartending and making as much in one night in tips as I would make in a week working as an artist at $7 an hour. I decided I was gonna go for the money now and catch up with my art later. You’ve known me for over ten years, I’ve always rode motorcycles. I guess I’ve always had this business plan in my head. I learned quick by booking shows for bands here in town, then realized that I left no mark. I spent 20 years of my life promoting other artists. FINALLY I decided maybe it’s time to start promoting myself.
DR: Which is a very fine line to walk.
JW: Yeah it gets tricky.
DR: You don’t want to be the self promoting DOUCHER out there.
JW: Right, right, right, you have to be careful.
DR: I think kung fu tap and taco is more than a bar, I truly feel it’s a mecca to bike culture. I know if you live here you take it for granted, but I know for a fact every motherfucker who rolls through Des Moines whether they’re in your club, or casual bikers, or a band, anyone who sees the effort and quality/creativity of the tap trips out and says, “dude, if this were in L.A, or Brooklyn, or wherever, you’d be a millionaire!” Do you ever dream or plan on doing something out of state?
JW: Yeah, we’ve always talked to different people and have been approached by different people, I mean John Copeland said lets do one in Brooklyn! And of course I said yeah lets do it. But it seems like it’s really hard to follow through. For me to open a spot up in Brooklyn I’d have to move there.
DR: Tell the readers how many hours it takes to run a bar.
JW: Oh my god. I’ve been doing it forever now that it enables me to walk away a bit finally and loosen up on the reigns. I can walk in at 2 in the morning look at the cooler and know “x” amount of dollars should be in the register right now. That comes with time. But the work is a nightmare.

DR: On a scale of 1 to 10 where do you rate your success with the website? It went from posting photos that you thought were cool as a hobby, and now what the fuck, it’s going bonkers! What would you rate the site at in your eyes of expectation wise?
JW: I’m a skeptic so about a six.
DR: A SIX? What more do you want! (lots of laughter)
JW: There’s so much more to do really! I think it’s a sleeping giant, it hasn’t even really started yet. What makes it tough is I had a kid come in and ask to be an intern, rad, so I thought. He said the right things, had the right look, and seemed enthusiastic, he lasted two weeks. (laughter)
DR: He didn’t know that it was actually work! Since this interview is for the skate shop site we have to bring up skateboarding. We’ve talked about this in private but lets air this thing out. Some of the articles of clothing you’ve made have offended skaters to the point where it actually came back to me.
JW: “skateboarders suck” I know.
DR: Clear the air. Why Jeff why?
JW: Tongue and cheek, fun, all my buddies ride skateboards, I ride motorcycles, why wouldn’t I? It sold out in a couple of days and people have been bugging me to bring it back ever since. BUT, I literally got hate mail for that little stunt.
DR: Are you hearing this Jon Humphries?
JW: I mean, just, I didn’t like it. I had never gotten hate mail before. Reading an email that said “fuck you asshole I’ll never go to your website again!” that just doesn’t seem right. It really bothered me.
DR: I know you well, and despite your rough exterior…
JW: What? What? Don’t ruin me right now!
DR: I know that you’re sensitive to that kind of thing.
JW: Well here I am working my ass off to get hate mail? (laughter) Whoa this sucks. I sold half of those shirts to skateboarders!
DR: Yeah well, skateboarders are the most fickle people in the world! Now from my perspective you’ve always respected skating. Somehow over time all my friends and I ride bikes. We respect the bike world as skateboarders from the actual act of RIDING the fucking things. We ride our bikes 400 miles to a skate park, camp, shred, repeat, repeat, repeat. As a true biker, someone who didn’t necessarily come from skating, how do you view skateboarding from the biker world?
JW: I think it’s a solo thing, just you and your skateboard. I think the lifestyles go together also, maybe because we’re not team players, just totally solo. Just two different solo things that will naturally gravitate towards each other. I mean you guys grow up, get houses or apts, you have to get to a skate park somehow right? What better way than on a motorcycle?
DR: Well said.
JW: It’s the attitude! Fun loving, “fuck it” attitudes are the greatest. And it just so happens that guys who ride motorcycles and skateboards have a lot of “fuck it” in them.
DR: I had this discussion with Trevilin(amazing bike builder and complete badass) once, and he was playing hard to get with me, denying skating’s rebellion, saying it was totally different than bare backing hookers and what not. But in the end he was skating in Venice the whole time growing up, and knows everyone from that skate scene.
JW: That’s what I’m saying. I had skateboards, had magazines, had the dreams of going to California.
DR: You’re a little bit big boned Jeff. (laughter)
JW: I think motorcycles have done this to me because I wasn’t always big boned you fucker!

DR: Last question on the scene errrrrr….the future of Jeff, scene of Des Moines, future of Church of Choppers, you want to let anything out of the bag?
JW: I just want to build some bitchin’ bikes. I don’t think I’ve hit one yet.
DR: What the fuck are you talking about!????! Get the fuck outta here!
JW: If I were to die tomorrow I would like to know that one of my bikes was worthy to be remembered. Maybe one day if someone were to open up a motorcycle museum that they would want THAT motorcycle that I built in there. Maybe that’s little far fetched, but that’s how I feel.
DR: I mean that might be far fetched for the average guy, but coming from the guy who built an empire of cool in Des Moines, I think anything is possible.
JW: Please don’t embarrass me now.
DR: NEVER. Lets play lists. Top three favorite skaters?
JW: Jay Adams, Trapasso, and Leo.
DR: Thanks a million pal, Heath and I are gonna cry now.
JW: I didn’t want to say you guys, that would be too much ass kissing. I’ll change my list!
DR: Forget it, no take backs. Now really offend some people and pick your top three bike builders!
JW: As you know that’s pretty much impossible because I’m a fan of so many bitchin’ dudes, but right now I’d say Sands, Shinya, and Kraus.
DR: I met that Kraus kid when I lived up north, he does make some rad road warrior shit. Ok, any shout outs or thank yous?
JW: Uhhhh, the taco makers of the world?
DR: Well thanks for taking the time man. I know you’re busy creating motorcycle master pieces, uploading photos, coming up with new art for t’s, raising kids, keeping everyone in check, you know, you’re really fucking busy and this means a lot to us. Thank you. Des Moines is a better place with you here.
JW: No thank you guys, seriously, thank you.

Previous Post

Steve Olson

Next Post

Brixton Summer Lookbook