Indian Larry’s Last Interview With Born To Ride
The proliferation of cable biker shows has given mainstream exposure to the motorcycle industry and made celebrities out of many of the builders. Indian Larry has become well known through his exploits with Jesse James and the Biker Build Off series. Larry’s resume also includes stuntman, motorcycle artist, metal sculptor and movie actor. He’s also a member of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. BTR spent some time speaking with Larry on one of his recent visits to the Sunshine State.
BTR: Hey, Indian Larry, what’s going on? How’s it feel with all the media attention that bikes are getting these days to be a motorcycle super star?
Indian Larry: I don’t know what’s going on, they’ve got me working too hard, I’m busy signing autographs and posing for pictures with the fans here in Daytona. I’ve always been a motorcycle super star, except I was the only one that knew it so it really doesn’t feel much different today. I’m just a regular chopper guy, I’m just a biker and I’m no different from anyone else really. In my opinion everybody’s a super star in their own realm.
BTR: What do you think of the changes that have taken place in the motorcycle industry in the past few years?
Indian Larry: Well, there seems to be a big advent in the custom bikes. A lot of what people are calling choppers now are not choppers in my opinion, they’re custom bikes. I really build choppers, that’s what I like to build, like straight up choppers. Not that there’s anything wrong with the custom bikes, it’s just not what I do. I’m all about the motor all about the performance all about the speed and handling of the bike. I’m also about elevating actually the art. I’m the man who coined the term “Motorcycle Artist” in the industry. No one was using that term before I coined it years ago. But I think it’s all great for the industry. I personally think the whole world should be filled with motorcyclists and I think everyone would get along a whole lot better.
BTR: What do you have to say to someone who’s just starting out with some original ideas on how to build a bike? What should they do?
Indian Larry: What I tell everybody, what they should do not only in motorcycles but in life, find out what you like to do, what you love to do and pursue that with all the passion and heart that you can and your success and your money, and your fame if you want, will follow.
BTR: What goes through your mind before you build a bike? Where do you get the con epts and convert it to a rolling chassis, how doesn’t come to your head?
Indian Larry: Most of the ideas I have for bike building are already in my head. I don’t know where that comes from whether it would be like a God given talent or demonic possession. I don’t know where they come from, I just have tons of ideas and I just keep building. I don’t even try to build anything so radical, I just try to keep refining it to get the ultimate perfect motorcycle. I’m really on a quest for the Holy Grail, so to speak, for the perfect motorcycle, the perfect day, the perfect bike, the perfect ride. That’s what I’m after.
BTR: Can you tell us a little bit about the Discovery Channel Biker Build Off competition between you and Billy Lane? The bike was a really special machine and seemed to show so much of your passion and originality.
Indian Larry: Yea, the bike that I built for the last Discovery episode was with Billy Lane, the one where I won the 2003 Discovery Channel bike building championship is this bike right behind us. I had a lot of help on that bike from my painter Robert Padre from Custom Auto Design, my whole entire team, Keeno, everybody put there heart into that bike. We built that bike in 20 days which was a tremendous feat. Any real builder will tell you that’s a feat. Anyway, it’s beyond passion, it’s an obsession building these bikes and I tell people it’s not what I do, it’s what I am. I have no choice, this is really a burning obsession, it’s what I do and I’m gonna continue to do this until I can’t do it anymore actually.
BTR: What was behind what you did with Billy and the Build Off trophy?
Indian Larry: Well, as far as winning and cutting the trophy in half and me waiting for Billy and helping Billy, he would have done the same thing for me and that’s actually what you’re supposed to do. I mean, that’s what bikers are supposed to do. If you see someone on the side of the road, you help them out. And cutting the trophy up?I don’t feel there were any winners up there, we fixed the bike, we went for a ride, we got there and we partied and we had fun and that’s what it’s all about. You know, build some bikes, have some fun, go for a ride and try to get through this whole thing together. Try to get through life together. Don’t screw around and fight with each other. That’s brotherhood.
BTR: How’s it feel to be working hard for all these years and finally get national acclaim for your bike building now that the biker phenomenon is drawing so much attention? What do you think of the change in the attitude towards bikers? It used to be bikers couldn’t get into some restaurants because we rode motorcycles. Indian Larry: Yea, the change in motorcycling, I love the accept-ance. As you said, we were thrown out of restaurants, we were not accepted, we were always looked on like you were a bad guy and in some instances we were bad guys but not in general. There’s much more understanding of the whole bike thing now and I love it, I love the acceptance, I love to be able to make the money and to make it so that everybody in my crew actually profits from it. I’m not done yet, I don’t believe I’ve reached my peak. I’m just gonna pursue my goal and my dream as hard as I possibly can and not just so much for myself as I basically have everything I want out of life, it’s just mostly for my crew. I want everybody to share in the success and to be able to fulfill their dreams. My wife, my whole crew, I just want everybody to be happy.
BTR: A lot of people are building choppers that are cookie cutter bikes, but you really have a style, it’s really a throwback. It’s like you have the 60’s today and you’re sharing it with a lot of people who didn’t get to see it back then. How do you explain that?
Indian Larry: Well, you know I’m sorta like a throwback to the 60’s because I started doing this when I was very young and I don’t think I ever grew up. I don’t think I ever progressed out of motorcycling. I do use all the modern technology, the best materials, the latest state of the art stuff. I use a lot of stuff from the space program and I try to build these bikes the best I can. I don’t care what other builders are doing. Like these cookie cutter bikes and stuff, I really don’t care about what anybody’s doing about anything in my life. I do what I feel like doing regardless of where the chips might fall. Even if I do something and someone perceives it as negative, if I feel in my heart it’s the right thing to do I don’t care what people think. I don’t care how people perceive my bikes. If I like them and I love them, then people can go to hell. I’m really happy if people like them. I like it when people look at the bikes and smile and they’re happy and they just start staring and they get hypnotized when they look at them. I like it when people enjoy them as much as I do.
BTR: Larry, along with your bikes you’ve got some great tattoo work. Can you tell us when you got your first one and can you explain what’s behind some of them?
Indian Larry: Oh, I must have got my first tattoo maybe about 25 or 30 years ago and I just been collecting ever since. You know, a little bit here, a little bit there. I have a lot of favorites, this spark plug is for the spark plug that controls my life. Then I’ve got a lot of women, a lot of devil girls. Of course the motorcycle. I have no club affiliation with the exception of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club which is a cold weather, cold swimming club. Of course, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Rat Fink, he was a gigantic inspiration for my career and I even did a tribute bike and I’m independent, I don’t ride with any clubs. I respect all the clubs but over the years I just couldn’t have anyone telling me what to do.
BTR: How did the name Indian Larry come about?
Indian Larry: The name came actually from an Indian motorcycle. I built a chopped ‘50 Chief years ago and I had a lot of names in the biker world, you get a nickname here and a nickname there and finally one lands on you and sticks. And luckily, Indian Larry stuck. It was a nickname I could live with, some of the other nicknames weren’t so flattering. But it came from the Indian motorcycle, I’m actually Belgian, I’m not Indian but I do believe in the American Indian spirits and ideals so it was quite an appropriate name.
BTR: Larry, any last words for the readers?
Indian Larry: I think I already said just pursue what you love to do, don’t listen to anybody, if you know it in your brain and in your heart. And it may take a long time, like me, it might take 40 years, but even-tually it’ll come out and you’ll get there. If you’re gonna build these bikes and ride ‘em, try to ride safe and don’t do what you see me doing on TV. Don’t be stupid and crazy like I am. Just pursue your dreams.
BTR: You’re for real, Larry.
Indian Larry: Yea, there’s nothing fake about me, it all hangs out.