OTHER: Trevelen Rabanal
Featured in Freestyle Volume 06 2008. Interview by Cristian Diaz. Photography by Estevan Oriol
“The word chopper has been molested too much, fuck choppers, everybody and their brother has a chopper shop. I ride frisco style rigid” Trevelen Rabanal.
The grey tones of L.A.’s Super Co. Customs, (S.C.C), paint a pretty backdrop for its owner and bike builder extraordinaire Trevelen Rabanal. He works well as its centre piece, pacing around the numerous artworks of 70’s style bikes. Noticing my sudden arrival there’s a slight altering of that trademark frown to a more conservative acceptance. He grins, waves a welcoming hand in my direction and mentally decides not to stab me, much to my relief…
It’s hard to not be distracted when talking to a guy that’s got a tarantula crawling up his throat. Okay it’s just ink but someone with arachnophobia might have problems. I was just concerned with not breaking eye contact, you know, “don’t present disrespect on any level or he’ll kill you, bitch”. But I didn’t mind that, or the beady-eyed stare he periodically threw my way or even the personalised message his drudge knuckles displayed, what I disturbed myself with the most was what filled the concrete floors of S.C.C.
Trev’s bikes are much like him, unique period pieces that probably don’t align with modern times. A self confessed artefact of Woodstock’s glory days, sex, drugs and wandering bikers were his Saturday Morning Cartoons. That combined with his father’s track racing pedigree, and you have a simple dude that keeps everything about him self old skool, including the fabrication of his Frisco style rigid bikes. From knuckle top ends, to suicide shifters, to riding with no front brakes, this chicano builder literally rides or dies for his cause.
Papi Rabanal was a chicano racer during his time. Is he the main inspiration behind the bikes you build today?
I’ve always been exposed to bikes as my dad was a super flat track racer in the early 50’s, so he was definitely a major influence with my love for bikes, but it was that and a bunch of other shit. Basically the way I grew up, the people around me, you know, watching these outlaws coming down and seeing how other people would get the fuck out of their way, it was something cool. I mean yeah I’m a product of the late sixties, early seventies and that’s what it was back then, a time that was more free. You learned how to be cool, you couldn’t buy cool, so you grew up around it and did it or basically you were lame.
So whilst other kids were trying to conquer kick flips with their skate boards you were witnessing Hells Angels and Iron Horses kicking the shit out of society?
Yeah but I was also riding around on BMX bikes then skating around home. I looked at guys like Tony Hawk, J Adams, Marty Brians and George Wilson. All these guys that were great skaters and a product of the 70’s were also cool.
So then who actually taught you how to create such rad bikes?
I just jumped right in there; I wanted to be a part of it. I had a real hard time listening to a bunch of bullshit at school that I knew was wrong, none of it was really true to me. The only thing I paid attention to was mathematics but everything else I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t want to hear about political bullshit or history that was written all wrong, so I went off and learnt it all on my own.
I take it you didn’t attend class 101 (Harleys for Dummies)?
Ha-ha fuck no man, there wasn’t any Harley School, there maybe is now for any one that wants to learn but back then there wasn’t shit.
Observing your modifying style, your bikes are heavily predisposed to the good old hippy days, why have you kept it old skool for so long?
You know I think if you really look at the late sixties to mid seventies generation it’s the only one that’s ever been kept the purest out of all the periods. Think about eighties clothing or eighties car designs?
Fuck that, Eighties car design suck! Nineties car design suck! Noughties car design suck! The seventies was where it was at man. It was the era that ’til this day has never be forgotten, where people stood up for what they believed in, where you go and get loaded and it was cool, you could have unprotected sex and do what ever the fuck you wanted. That was the highlight of mine and probably everybody else’s that lived through that time, you just can’t compare anything to that.
You’re inspiring me to grow a handle bar moustache and fuck groupies with Syphilis!
Ha-ha yeah well think about it, we had a standoff with the Russians that had 30,000 nuclear war heads pointed straight at us and everybody was living life just fine. But now we’re all pussyed up and scared of some dudes that are terrorists but don’t even have nuclear weapons. So I mean men were real men back then, they built real cars, drank real beers, you know and they had real fuckin’ sex! Chicks had real boobs, man I remember frisking my babysitter’s boobs you know, man they were huge!
What about the hairy beaver? Were you a fan of that too?
Yeah man, I don’t give a shit if it’s hairy, it’s all natural man.
Ahhhh, getting back to your actual modifying style, you talk a lot about the ‘Frisco style rigid’, was this also derived from the big titty era?
Back in the day a variety of guys would come down from the Frisco area, where there are long wide streets and long straight roads, so these guys could have a real long front end on the bike. This is where Frisco style originated from; they are also usually called ‘diggers’ or a ‘digger style bike’.
I heard you also talk a lot about riding ‘death trap style’, doesn’t sound too healthy…
That’s my style of riding where it’s like riding on a hand grenade, because you ride with no front brake, shift gears with your hand and clutch with your foot.
No front brake?
No, I don’t ride with front brakes so…
So that’s fuckin’ gangsta…
Yeah, I mean that’s what I saw growing up and that’s what I still think is cool to this day.
Ever plan on changing up the style to something more um, conventional?
Nah man, I don’t want to follow the crowd, the crowd sucks. You know I like who I am and I never change my style even when everyone else’s change.
Now correct me if I’m being slightly stereotypical but aren’t most chicano’s first love the low rider? Isn’t that what you know best?
Not really cause they both go hand-in-hand. A lot of people think it’s only a recent thing for chicanos to be riding bikes but the first Mexican chicano motorcycle club was the Flamingos out of East L.A. which was 1946. There was also the Galloping Goose who were out of Pacoima back in 47’.
So your low rider passion is also there?
Yeah I've always been a car buff, I been building cars since I can remember.
1961 Impala, that was my ride, I actually had a few of them back in the day but I’ve sold them all now.
Getting onto the reality show issue, is it a positive or negative thing that old yuppis want to pay you big bucks to make them look like outlaws?
Um I mean that’s what I’m in business for, the only reason I would turn someone down would be because I just didn’t like the dude or I just wasn’t feeling him, you know. Have TV shows watered it down? Of course they have but corporate America has always taken everything and molested it. They use shit and throw it away when they have drained everything from it, that’s nothing new. That’s what they are in business for. They’re in business to take stuff we think is cool and stuff that’s from the underground. Everything starts from the underground and trickles its way down to the mainstream. Tattoos have been around for years, bikes have been around years, I mean they just do what they do best, they’re marketing animals. I get those fucked up envelopes every thirty days that say I owe this much to the bank, so I mean honestly I won’t go sell my soul or do anything stupid with selling out but I gota keep those envelopes away.
Ever been tempted by the corporate devil and his almighty dollar?
Some shit just don’t make sense to me and I just can’t be a part of it. I mean I’ve been approached by beer companies to do beer ads and build beer bikes but I don’t drink so why would I do that? One of my best friends was killed by a drunk driver so why the fuck would I promote alcohol and shit? For me it’s like a company of guns; if a gun company came to me I’d just say I’m sorry ’cause I’m the wrong person for an advert of hunting; I’ve never gone hunting so why would I promote a rifle? If it was clothing and that crocodile shirt company or some shit asked me to wear it, I wouldn’t represent, it’s not me.
But you have to admit it’s crazy how the public’s perception can change once it's on T.V, even with something as hardcore as bikers and biker gangs.
It is fucked up as back then it had a bigger and more negative impact on society and now it’s accepted because they are doing TV shows about it, so I mean how negative could it be? You got shows now like One Percent on HBO and Gang Land on Discovery. Back then it was sacred to put on a three piece patch and those guys were true outlaws. Those were the guys that didn’t shower, were doing pillaging and drug dealing and all this other shit I can’t speak on, but that was the true meaning of guys that didn’t want to be accepted by society and didn’t want to follow society's rules.
Tell me more about your shop, Super Company Custom (S.C.C.), is it just bike building?
Nah we do bikes, cars yeah whatever, whatever pays the bills
Is it true you do exotic furniture on the side?
Well if somebody came to me and said hey man I want to do a really cool chair, you know, I would because I don’t think I’m too cool for anything. So if I think I can do it and it’s challenging I’ll go for it. Shit, it might even be fun.
I heard you also encourage young kids to come in and learn a trade at your shop?
I basically have an open door policy with kids that want to come and learn at my shop, where I try and just rehabilitate them with something positive. I teach them welding, fabricating, machining automotive preparation and painting. I mean I’ll teach them what ever I can, shit it’s free! These fucking kids sit around and play Playstation all day, you know get off your ass and exercise. I mean I’m speaking on behalf of America, I can’t really be speaking for anywhere else, and to stay out of trouble of course. I mean without teaching these kids the right values and the right ways how are they going to learn? Man if I didn’t hang around somebody older to teach me better ways, how would I have learnt? So it would be selfish of me to not teach them shit.
Sounds like you have definitely changed the cards you were dealt as a kid?
Man if God was a card dealer or whoever this person that created the card deal of life is, they definitely placed me in the minus category and I’ve always owed the house, you know what I’m saying? So I got to give back to try and square up with him. So I definitely have to try and do the best I can with giving back. But I guess I did have a real fucked up childhood and fucked up upbringing. Yeah it wasn’t an a, b, c, d, e, or an f, it wasn’t like I failed or anything I didn’t even know if there was a grade 4. It was all a learning experience and it was a rough one you know… A lot of the kids in the area I grew up in were put into that situation, and I was unfortunate to be one of the kids. The wrong teachings started my life in a fucked up way, Johnny Law had a different opinion on everything I grew up knowing and understanding that I thought was right. I thought it was cool to beat up on people, to use drugs, steal and all that shit. But now I know the other side of the fence and there’s a much more different approach. I now have two girls and I’m getting married for the first time next year. So I’ve experienced all that by doing the mathematics of life the hard way.
So what’s next in the works for Trevelen? Any promoting and branching off into different areas?
To be honest, I don’t want to really promote myself I just want to get the fuck out of the U.S.A; I mean bottom line is this country has gone to shit.
Ha-ha well there’s always the land from down under if all else fails…
Yeah man, I’d love to get down there, I’m trying to get out of here as soon as possible ’cause I don’t want to be around this shit. I just want piece of mind. But I might have some issues with entering the country because of my past.
Don’t worry hermano, if they can let in a little Chilean refugee like me then you should be fine.
Ha-ha yeah, let’s hopes so.
To find out more about Trevelen and Super Co. Customs, visit www.sccla.com
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