MY INTERVIEW WITH JESSE JAMES
by Rocky Marks
Jesse James may be known for his custom motorcycles, cars, television shows, a fast food restaurant, and his own clothing line in Wal-Mart, but few know him as a humble conversationalist. Fortunately, I got to know that side of Jesse first-hand.
Recently, I had a chance to talk with him for a one-on-one interview for my radio show called “On the Road with Rocky” which airs Saturday Mornings at 7:00 AM on 1250 WEAE-AM. As I prepared for the interview, I became seemingly more intimidated with each piece of information that I gathered on Jesse. I’ve seen his television shows and interviews before, but I was still nervous and not sure what to expect.
I don’t know why I was so nervous. I’ve worked in radio since 1994 and had the opportunity to interview dozens of musicians, comics, actors, and reality television stars. I even got to sing on stage with my favorite band of all time at Star Lake, Poison!
Nerves aside, the show must go on. The morning of the interview, I remember staring at the little red light on the telephone waiting for it to start blinking. Not only did that light designate the direct line into the studio but it also represented my chance to interview one of the most famous names in the sport of motorcycling.
After what seemed like eternity, the light started to blink. This was it, Jesse was on the phone. As I reached for the button, I could feel my face getting flushed from the neck up. My palms were warm and sticky with anticipation as I thought about how I would greet Jesse? How will I start the interview? What if I stutter?
I hit the button and said “Hello?” A voice came through my headphones and said “Hey Rocky, what’s up, brother?” All of the sudden the anxiety disappeared. He called me by my first name. He called me brother. It was at that moment that I realized, he’s a fellow motorcyclist and just one of the guys.
All of the questions that I spent hours preparing went out the window and a fifteen minute conversation between to people passionate about the sport of motorcycling started to flow. The first thing we started to talk about was West Coast Choppers. After all, it was his first venture that helped make him the household name that he is today.
He started the business in the basement of his mom’s house in 1992. Shortly after he moved his operations to a larger garage and the Discovery Channel picked him up for a documentary called Motorcycle Mania. The show was such a success that they created Motorcycle Mania II and III.
During these shows, the world got to see Jesse’s true talent as a metal fabricator, a skill that he picked up in a high school shop class. His love for high quality toys without having any money fuelled his passion for metal fabrication and welding.
It was his passion for creating the most obscure choppers and cars that lead to a new reality show called Monster Garage. In this series, he created everything from flying cars to lawn mower mustangs. Each show created a “monster” vehicle and during our interview, Jesse told me that he kept all of the “cool stuff” and the production company retained the remaining vehicles which eventually sold at an auction.
As out conversation continued, I learned that In addition to churning out 12-14 hand crafted motorcycles per year through West Coast Choppers and producing shows for the Discovery Channel, Jesse launched a new clothing line that caters to the blue collar worker.
Jessie told me that “it seems like manufactures are interested in making more clothes with less quality to cut costs and in the end it’s the working dude that gets screwed.” Jesse James Industrial Wear was created and is available in most Wal-Mart stores.
I was also amused to learn that Jesse has a retro-style hamburger restaurant not too far from his shop in Long Beach, California. It’s called Cisco Burger and runs entirely on solar energy. He uses biodegradable materials and even delivers in a Toyota Prius Hybrid. I asked him if that cramped his style and he replied, “Dude, it’s done WCC (West Coast Chopper) Style.”
This whole interview went very fast. He talked to me like he would a friend. And he loves to talk. Trying to keep him on subject got to be quite the task. Before we wrapped up our interview, I had to ask him about his new show on Spike TV called “Jesse James is a Dead Man.” It airs Sunday nights at 10:00 PM.
The premise of the show is more than showcasing Jesse doing death-defying stunts. Jesse explains it best by saying “The show follows me preparing for the stunt—which can be as hard as the stunt itself. It’s not some cheesy show where they spend most of the hour talking about the stunt and then do it in the final minutes of the show.”
At the end of the interview, he thanked me for taking time out of my day to talk to HIM. Wait, I thought I was the one who was taking time out of HIS day and here he was thanking me. From the opening seconds of the interview to our good-byes, Jessie James was simply a real, down-to-earth person on the other end of a phone line.
The interview can be heard in its entirety but going to www.hotmetalharley.com and clicking on the “On the Road with Rocky” link.
Rocky Marks is operations manager at Hot Metal Harley-Davidson in West Mifflin and host of the radio show "On the Road With Rocky," which airs Saturdays at 7 a.m. on WEAE-AM (1250).