So What! Article

Rob Dietrich: The So What! Interview

May 18, 2020

BY STEFFAN CHIRAZI

We are taught from an early age never to judge a book by its cover, yet all of us sometimes do, whether we admit it or not. Certain clothes earmark people in a certain way according to certain people. Particular hairstyles will never, escape public opinion. As for facial hair? Well, that can really set tongues wagging.

Rob Dietrich sports a feisty pair of sideburns.
Big long bastards that have invaded either side of his face.
No beard.
No moustache.
Just those giant sideburns.
Such sideburns suggest one of two things to most people: arsey hipsterism or eccentric, somewhat wild, free-living, and off-the-hamster-wheel process. A life taking place in areas of creativity, danger, and most of all, experiences. The following story will leave you in no doubt as to which of these two Rob Dietrich is.

I have interviewed hundreds of people, and I can categorically tell you that Dietrich is among the top 5% in terms of sheer mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, socks-blown-off twists and tales. By the end of our hour-plus double session chat, I realized a few things. I was only scratching the surface, that scriptwriters try to invent characters like this, and that if I’d asked Rob Dietrich whether he’d ever slept naked in a Mongolian bee hive to try and determine the synergetic modulation of their region-specific intent, he would most certainly have said yes because he most likely has. Look, I have no idea whether that sort of experiment even exists, the point is that if Rob Dietrich felt it was there to be experienced, he’d either have done it or be thinking about it right now. Before we delve into what I’m getting at, it should bear no surprise when I tell you that whatever blends of whiskey this guy creates for Blackened, it is an adventure I cannot goddamn wait to embark upon.

Steffan Chirazi: So, let’s start with where you were born and raised. Are you a Colorado native?

Rob Dietrich: You know, I consider myself a Colorado native. I was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, but we moved to Colorado when I was 6.

SC: Okay. So you’re born in Ashtabula. Let’s get a little idea of what the Dietrich household was like growing up. What did mom and dad do, what did you grow up around? The six-cent question would be: was there whiskey drunk in your household as a child that you remember or made an impact on you?

RD: You know, my parents didn’t drink at all when I was growing up. My dad liked the hippie lettuce a lot more than alcohol, he definitely liked smoking weed. I grew up in the country in southern Colorado, we were just about an hour north of Telluride, so I was one of “the weird kids,” you know, the punk rock metal scene which was pretty much nonexistent anyway out there…

SC: Are the FEARs, the Germs, the Black Flags, and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal stuff crossing your listening path?

RD: Absolutely! Just yesterday I had a random mix in my Spotify, and Alien Sex Fiend came up. I was like, Oh damn, I haven’t heard these guys in forever!”

SC: Excellent. Alien Sex Fiend an hour North of Telluride was a thing, huh?

RD: Yeah, y’know, trying to get any kind of decent music back then was pretty difficult because growing up in the country is kind of conservative. I had to bootleg stuff in, because my mom was raising us as Jehovah’s Witnesses and my dad was a bit of a dope smoking hippie, so there was kind of this weird dichotomy going on in the house.

SC: What???  I’m sorry to tangent but that’s quite a, errrr… how do you- I mean, how did you deal with that? Give me an example of how a typical split situation would resolve between your parents different life philosophies?

RD: My dad said, “Whatever your mom wants. If she wants religion in her life, then she can have it.” But it definitely was a very dividing aspect in the house. We didn’t celebrate holidays – any of the holidays – birthdays, that sort of thing. So it naturally made me an outsider in school, so I kinda gravitated towards the outsider groups who were listening to the Dead Kennedys and stuff like that. Whenever I’d get my hands on music, it was like gold. Anybody who traveled to Denver brought back stuff, like mix tapes, and you were, like, “Oh, my God, where can I get more of this?!”

SC: That’s crazy. Let me go back for a moment, what made the family move from Ohio to Colorado? Why did you move?

RD: We actually lived out of a bus for a bit. My dad took a delivery bus and made it into our home. I was born in October ’71, so it might’ve been ’72 when we took off, and we traveled all over. We were nomadic for quite a while. We had a house here and there, but my dad would build another bus and we would live and travel in that for a while – this was before my mom got into the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Once we settled down in Colorado, my dad worked a lot in Telluride, so he’d be gone all week. And I think my mom worked for the local newspaper and was also raising us kids during the week; she was really more looking for a support structure, and that’s how the religion thing works. Jehovah’s Witnesses were very “cult-like” in my opinion. Again, I got used to being the outsider, and that really helped strengthen my resolve. My mom’s no longer a Jehovah’s Witness; she’s been out of the religion for many years. I also got a lot of my resolve from my parents, as they were both very independent and creative in many ways. I have so much respect for them, raising a kid, then two kids at the age of 17. And they are still together today!  Then both my parents got into the community theater, my mom making costumes, then directing plays and my dad acting and directing plays, so I grew up doing community theater with them. And both my parents are still involved with the same theater to this day. I ended up getting my public speaking skills from doing a lot of community theater.

SC: Well, talk about a childhood! It seems a no-brainer that music gave you a brotherhood, that you got your group of friends who were a pretty regular gang. Are you still in touch with any of those guys?

RD: Oh, yeah, I still see ‘em on occasion. Everybody kind of spread out, and there really wasn’t a whole lot of us, but we were a tight knit group. The cowboys always just wanted to kick our asses, so there’s always a camaraderie in that. I’ve gotten jumped. When I moved to Denver, I used to wear a kilt, combat boots, black t-shirt, black leather jacket, that was my “uniform” and I used to get rolled for wearing that all the time.

SC: No bueno! Just to round off the small childhood recap here, let me ask about the first couple of bands that really grabbed your ears and convinced you there was gonna be some great stuff in life?

RD: It’s crazy, but Metallica was definitely one of those bands. I remember listening to Master of Puppets for the first time in my buddy’s room on his boom box and I was like, “What the hell is this?! This is amazing.” I was blown away. I think around the same time, Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction came out and I just chewed that tape up as well, man, I wore that thing down. Twisted Sister was one of my first, and AC/DC of course, those were the forays that showed me this was my music. My dad had a great vinyl collection, which I now have, you know, and he listened to anything from like Black Sabbath to Harry Chapin to Jim Croce to Led Zeppelin. My mom liked the old country artists, and we didn’t have a TV growing up, so I was always listening to music. That was one of the things, handling the records; if I ever didn’t handle the records the way my dad taught me, I was not allowed to use the record player! So I was always meticulous and very careful. So I was well trained.

SC: Yes, I’m sure many of us know that territory well.

RD: Yeah, the same went for tools by the way.

SC: I can imagine, vinyl and tools are always “handle properly” territory. Okay, let’s move onto the next thing I think will surprise our readers, and that was you doing two combat tours in Somalia with the US Army plus a humanitarian tour in Haiti as well. I read somewhere that you had said these times helped shaped your life philosophy?

RD: Yeah, definitely. There were several things that came out of it, but I think the most poignant one was the confidence that came from going through those experiences and the lifelong camaraderie that developed. I went through some, you know, heavy duty stuff with some people that are still my dear friends today. And the acceptance of my mortality. I remember a moment very specifically… we got attacked by mortar fire and snipers on a regular basis. When I first got there, it was a lot of “hit and attack – hit and attack.” There was one night where I was laying in my cot reading a book, and someone started spraying an AK-47 over the wall, a one man attack which was a tactic they liked to use, and I was just so tired of reacting with fear. I just thought, “They’re not gonna win. I’m gonna sit here.” I folded my book down and I just accepted it, “Okay, if it hits me, it hits me, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But I’m no longer going to let them win.” And I just waited. And it changed up my mindset, because once I lost that fear, then I could really actually focus on the details of what I was doing. It was intense but it shaped my life. My attention to detail has always kind of stayed present because of that.

SC: That is a “wow” moment, so intense. And I’m presuming that you went into the Army, again, to find a group and get another solid foundation? What made you join?

RD: Well, when I graduated high school, the first thing I did was pack up my black Volkswagen bug and move to Denver. My “weird kid” friends, we all rented a house together and there was definitely a lot of drugs and a lot of drinking during those days, but it was me really finding my own identity within all that. So I was in Denver for two years before I joined the Army, and I think part of joining was that I was going down some pretty heavy rabbit holes and I felt a need for discipline and change. My parents were not wealthy, so there was no college fund, and basically I thought, “Okay, I could use some discipline, I can use a change, a positive direction, and this is how I’m going to pay for college.” So I enlisted for four years.

SC: Great. And I have to ask you, did college follow or not?

RD: College did not.

SC: Right. That’s what I figured.

RD: The music business followed.

SC: That’s what I thought. But what you did get from it was the ability to focus and lock in.

RD: Absolutely, a mental exercise in discipline and controlling your mind, controlling your fears.

SC: Awesome. In some strange way that does play into the next, what I see as the next ten years according to what I’ve been able to put together, where you were working with Bill Graham Presents. [Bill Graham was one of the biggest and most important live music event promoters in history. -ED]

RD: Correct, yeah.

SC: And Bill Graham certainly wasn’t one for slackers. But you were working as a freelance agent for venues like Red Rocks in Colorado and the Fillmore in San Francisco, that’s quite a spread. Define what you were doing in that ten year stretch for them?

RD: When I left the Army, I had built my own school bus, a ’67 Chevy half size school bus. I had gutted it and made it into a comfortable home, left upstate New York, got out of the Army, drove to Colorado, hung out with my family for a while, and then I went to Oregon and I was working as a carpenter up there. Some good friends of mine were there too, I was learning how to surf, it was actually a very free time in my life. My girlfriend and I were living in the bus. We’d get up and surf in the morning, I’d work doing my carpentry job, and we smoked a lot of weed. I think that really helped me actually level my brain out.

I did a mountain biking road trip to San Francisco with some of the guys that were teaching me how to surf. We drove down, would pull off the road and mountain bike these trails for a day or two, then come back to the car and carry on down, we were just taking our time. Once in San Francisco, we ended up meeting the wife of the guy who was running Bill Graham Presents, and we just hit it off with her, she was such a sweetheart. She said, “Hey, are you guys looking for any work? My husband is managing this giant concert in Golden Gate Park and they need all the hands they can get.” So we were like, “Yeah, absolutely.” When I was in the Army, I was in the Tenth Mountain Division, so I was trained as a mountaineer, in ski troops. I had my climbing gear with me, so as soon as I walked on site (it was the Tibetan Freedom Concert in ’96 in Golden Gate Park) they said, “Oh, you can rig? Okay, you’re a rigger.” So boom, immediately I spent 10-12 hours a day up on the steel, and I was just, “What? I can get paid to climb? You gotta be kidding me! This is awesome!”

SC: I have to tell you, Rob, usually when those of us mere mortals look up at the mighty Big Riggers on any tour, we’re like, “Fuck me, you could not pay me enough to go up there!”

RD: Ha! So I started literally as a rigger, that was my intro. Every show that happened from that point, I was rigging, doing lighting, and immediately right out of the gate, I was already specializing. I was working at The Warfield, Fillmore, Fillmore West, anything that BGP could put together. As a matter of fact, I was at the ’96 Lollapalooza Metallica was the headliner for. I still have the shirt from that show because I was one of the guys pushing boxes for the actual show onstage, so I still have the shirt.

SC: That was certainly a crazy one in terms of “them and us” vibes. It was never warm and fuzzy. It wasn’t like, for example, the ’92 Lollapalooza with Ministry and the Peppers was.

RD: I would agree. I saw that one as well. Actually, that’s the only time I’ve ever seen Ministry, but it was, you know, that was in their heyday, which was perfect.

SC: Oh, yeah. They were good. So one thing I am going to briefly segue onto that is pretty impressive to me about your story so far, is you always seem to have been able to find a meter in yourself to know what you needed to move forward from where you were. Does that make sense?

RD: Yes, it does. I think having been well traveled, even as a young boy, and just the lack of fear my dad had for taking his wife and two small children, throwing ‘em in a bus and hitting the road – I think I learned a lot of those skills from him. And also just being able to recognize when I was feeling stale in my life and ready to challenge myself too, for growth.

SC: That makes perfect sense when you say it. You mentioned your sibling again, brother or sister? And did they follow a similar path to yours?

RD: Younger sister, she’s three years younger than me and her favorite band in the world is Metallica. And no, actually, we’re quite opposite in traveling aspect, although she does enjoy her adventures as well. She’s recently gotten into camping, ha! She hated camping as a kid. It’s cool to see her exploring that now. I’ve always been the traveler and the one out doing the adventures and exploring, kind of the crazy one, and she has never really left the hometown. She has three kids, so yeah, she always stuck around to be close to the grandparents. We’re still very close.

SC: You carried on flying the flag of “crazy” then, which of course – cue my cheesy segue – brings us to the Flying Dog Brewery and your journey into the world of liquor, so to speak.

RD: You know, it’s interesting. People in the whiskey world will ask me, “How did you become a master distiller?” And my short answer is motorcycles. [This, of course, is the precursor to another much longer Dietrich story which boggles the mind. -ED] When I was in the height of my music business career, managing stages and venues, touring with different shows and different bands, my buddy and I were always building motorcycles and cars and working on anything we could get our hands on. I had converted my Mercedes 300D to run off of vegetable oil with a tank that I put in the back of the car – the back of the trunk – and I would get vegetable oil from restaurants that were gladly giving it to us back then because they had to pay to get rid of it. And so I would take it and filter out all the chunks of, you know, french fries and whatever, and I would run it in my car. So my buddy and I were talking, it was like we need to make a motorcycle, so we found this Jawa motorcycle, a Czechoslovakian bike, down in the desert in New Mexico. We took a diesel engine from a cement mixer, we had to recut the frame, but we mounted it in that frame and we had it to where we could start it on diesel, then you could switch over to vegetable oil and then run on vegetable oil. You’d get, like, 3- or 400 miles off of a two-gallon tank.

SC: Amazing. A chip-oil warrior ride that you built!

RD: I was always into this alternative fuel, and just making these weird little rat bikes. I shot that motorcycle with a .357 because it was… we were like it’s a rat bike, it needs a bullet hole. So I blasted a big hole through the back fender.

SC: As you do obviously.

RD: So when I ran into Jake Norris, the original head distiller for Stranahan’s Whiskey, at the Flying Dog Brewery, we were talking about motorcycles first and I was telling him about this diesel bike that my buddy and I had built. He said, “Oh, I work at a distillery. I’m converting my motorcycle to run off the heads,” which is the waste product, the high proof waste product that is not potable. He said I should come on down and check it out and we’d work on motorcycles there. As soon as I got there, I fell in love immediately. I walked in and there was this big, beautiful, giant 800-gallon copper still. It was just like a work of art! I needed to know how to make that machine run, so he said I should head down and help them bottle the following week. In those days it was just a bottling party where they invited their friends and we bottled by hand, put the labels on. There was a six head filler, we’re filling the bottles by hand, and at the end we have a big stainless steel bucket we poured whiskey lines into and just ladled whiskey out into everybody’s glasses, so it was just an awesome shit show of a party pretty much.

SC: But what’s fascinating to me is that once again, how you grew up is so actually vital to your story, because this combination of being able to flow wherever you need to go plus also being able to publicly speak and communicate with people is so massive.

RD: Absolutely. I should give a little more background detail here too. George Stranahan owned the Flying Dog Brewery. Him and Jess Graber, the founder of Stranahan’s and my mentor, were neighbors up in Woody Creek, Colorado. Jess Graber was a volunteer fire fighter, he got called to a fire at George’s house and they struck up a friendship over their mutual love of whiskey and beer, and so Jess asked George if he could start distilling in his other barn; Hunter S. Thompson lived right next door. So he would come over and sit there with Jess when he was distilling, and they’d sit there sipping on what Jess called “corn squeezings.” Jess taught me how to distill and he took me under his wing. When I started working there I was on the bottling line, and I told him if he added one more shift to the two they had, we could keep the stills running 24 hours a day and make “x” amount more barrels. I was used to working crazy, crazy hours. When I was in the Army, I’d had the night shift in Somalia. When I was in the music business, I’d work 14- 16- 20-hour days. I’m used to being awake at all hours. So I asked them to create this other shift, and they did. They made a shift from 1:00 am to 9:00 am and I did that shift for four years straight.

SC: And doubtless learning as you’re going.

RD: Yeah, and it also allowed me to continue working different shows when they came up if I wanted to moonlight a little bit. But I switched my gears into being a whiskey distiller; I could tell that this was gonna go somewhere. There were only three of us there. I was the second guy that Jess hired. Jake, who was the head distiller, another distiller, then me. Then they had another guy who eventually came on. So we were running around the clock, five days a week, and I took a serious pay cut to do that. I hadn’t worked for $10 an hour in years, but I knew that if I stuck with it, this was gonna be a career that would open up and lead to other things.

SC: Wise indeed. So let me fast forward through you becoming a master distiller to the moment when you get here at Blackened. How did Metallica find you?

RD: So I had already heard about this project before it was even public. There’s a friend of mine who was a huge fan of Stranahan’s who was James’ neighbor in Vail. And he reached out to me and said James was asking him about whiskey and what he knew about Dave Pickerell. I told my friend to let him know that in my view, they’d picked the right guy, the perfect choice. And I said, furthermore, let me know if they need some help in the future. So I’d already heard about the project, and I was actually in San Francisco at that event [WhiskyFest 2018 in SF -ED] when Dave passed away. We were all devastated. We’re a small, close knit community of distillers and the [Blackened] sales director, Mario, his brother is also in sales and I’d worked with his brother before. They were familiar with a very special limited release that I made called Snowflake. With Snowflake I would do all these different cask finishes, we’d only sell it at the distillery, and people would literally line up days in advance like the old concert ticket days, you know, camp out in the snow for a chance to buy two bottles. So I’d kind of built a reputation that way, and I saw Mario about a month later, after Dave passed, at the WhiskyFest in New York. I went over to the Blackened booth to extend my condolences. He took me off to the side and said that even though it might have seemed very sudden, they were are actively looking for a new master distiller. They all loved Dave of course, that goes without saying, but Mario said he thought I’d be perfect to take on the role. He asked if I was interested, I said absolutely and gave him my number.

Around that same time, I was working on building my own mezcal brand down in Oaxaca, Mexico, with a buddy of mind. We’d been going down to Oaxaca and visiting with this family who’s been in the mezcal business for over 100 years. I was literally in Mexico establishing the brand when I got the call from Mario. This was roughly two months after I’d had that conversation with him, so when he called me up and said they’d love to do a first interview with me, I was doing back flips. I was ecstatic! I kind of shelved the mezcal project at that point.

My first interview was in Colorado; Mario and John Bilello [Blackened Whiskey CEO -ED] came out, and I did a series of interviews with them. I figured that they were gonna be looking for someone who had their own distillery, to be honest. The third interview was at HQ, and of course, you know, I’m getting to meet one of my favorite bands on the planet and also be interviewed by them at the same time. I haven’t had to do a job interview in like fifteen years, so there was that too, which was kind of funny.

SC: What were some of the more unique things that you felt you were bringing to the interview with Blackened? And where does your inspiration come from?

RD: You know, I really feel like it is a culmination of all these life experiences. There’re other things in here that we didn’t even really discuss, like when I managed a totally clothing optional natural hot springs for a little while, things like that are where I learned about pumps and stuff.

I think the biggest thing for me is – any time where I’m, you know, if I’m truly interested in something, I dive in 200% because it’s something I’m passionate about, I want to know about it. And that’s how I learned all those systems with the hot springs. I got to use the hot water and apply my creativity in the sense of learning how to heat the building using old Jeep radiators, glycol, and the naturally 127-degree water coming out of the ground. I love being able to explore and really go outside the box to create something entirely different.

That’s what I really loved about this [Blackened] project: the sincerity and passion that the band approached it with. They didn’t want to just have a cheap whiskey and slap a Metallica label on it. They wanted a distiller who knew what they were doing and who could create something unusual, that was Dave and now myself. And using the sonic enhancement technology was something I was completely intrigued by as soon as I heard about it, because I tend to nerd out and look into different methods. You know, when I was at Stranahan’s I wanted to use anaerobic digestion to create methane and power the plant off of it, and I looked into controlled cavitation where you could use these new technologies and tie them in with what we’re doing. That’s what I really loved about Dave’s initial approach with the sonic enhancement. I got to see the lab reports on it, which had been one of the first things I’d asked to see, and the freedom to be able to do that when working directly with someone is really exciting. When I was working with Stranahan’s, they were purchased by a large company, Jose Cuervo, so everything had to run up a series of flagpoles before you could move forward with anything. What I like about Blackened is it’s about the creativity, it’s about the artistry, and the sky’s the limit. There’re other things we’re going to be creating and making, so I can dig around and really pull some of that stuff that’s been sitting in those boxes in the corner of my mind.

SC: Off the top of your head, is there one of those boxes whose contents you might want to share with us, or are you still unpacking them?

RD: One of the things we talked about doing was finding a location for the actual distillery, and one of the ideas that I’ve had for quite a while was actually building a distillery in a location where we can utilize this natural geothermal water coming from the ground, the hot water, the natural cold water, just utilizing those properties. There are a couple of other ideas I can’t get into right now…

SC: Interesting stuff indeed, especially taking into account how your hot-springs knowledge plays into this. Now I have to ask, how do you think you can get Blackened to be seen not just as a whiskey by Metallica, but as a whiskey in its own right that can live without the band’s name, a brand in its own right?

RD: It is rapidly gaining recognition organically and being recognized as a world class whiskey. We won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits competition this year, which is where they’re [blind] tasting these whiskeys without knowing what they’re trying. So that, to me, lends credibility as a whiskey that is capable of having its own identity.

We could’ve gone on, oh trust me on that. And further, let me tell you that if Rob even gets half the ideas he discussed during our chat off the ground, Blackened Whiskey is going to be on a series of epic journeys. As I wrapped the chat up, I realized that I had neglected to ask him too much about his hot-rod and vehicle side, so I asked him if he’d mind sending me a quick list of a few of the Dietrich mechanical creations over the years, plus let me know a couple of dream vehicles. Never one to go half-measures, I’ll leave you with his response, knowing that you can all see exactly why Rob Dietrich is the Master Distiller for Blackened Whiskey; because he is a gloriously talented, unafraid, and pioneering creative nutter. Welcome to the family my friend!

RD: You asked about cars and motorcycles that I've owned and also about my dream car. Here ya go...

Before cars, I learned how to drive tractors and motorcycles. In the country, you learned on farm equipment before you ever learned on a car.

Because we were so spread out, in order to visit your buddies, you needed a motorbike. My first bike was a '73 YZ125 Yamaha, which I traded a pump-action bb gun and $50 for. The throttle cable was snapped on it, so I wrapped a piece of wood around the end of it, and pulled the throttle directly from the carb for an entire summer, until my dad saw me doing that and asked me, “What hell are doing?? Fix that damn thing!” My dad was the one who taught me how to work on machines, and to this day, we still have our own language when we are troubleshooting a mechanical issue.

After that, it was a ’73 Honda CL Scrambler, which was too big for me at the time. 

My first street bike was a 1981 Yamaha Virago, which I literally lost my virginity on. I shit you not. 

My first car was a canary yellow (painted with house paint) 1964 Triumph Herald at the age of 15. I spent my entire savings on it. $500 bucks! Not $400, though that would be much cooler, haha! [This refers to the Reverend Horton Heat’s classic cut “400 Bucks.”]

I dropped the transmission, put in a new clutch and that was my first major mechanical job on my own vehicle. 

After that, there were a series of Volkswagens, one of which I painted black with 88 cent flat black rattle cans from Kmart and painted the Batman logo on the sides of the doors. 

My favorite set of cars was a pair of 1953 Chevy Bel Airs, with which I swapped the engine from one into the other. I drove that 3-on-the-tree from Denver to San Francisco in 1997, still working for BGP for the summer, then back to Denver just before Christmas. Got pulled over in that car in Utah and arrested for possession of less than an ounce of weed. More on that story sometime…

Another favorite was my 1959 Oldsmobile Super 88, which eventually ended up in Sweden. And of course, the lineup would not be complete without showcasing my 1967 Chevy school bus, which was my home for a couple of years after the Army. I spent a lot of time behind the wheel of that rig from coast to coast.

I also picked up a 1972 Moto Guzzi Eldorado LAPD cop bike from the sound guy for the band Lonestar, when I was on tour with them as the production manager. It was a basket case, completely taken apart and sitting in a garage in Nashville. I paid $500 bucks for it, sight unseen, and had to swing through Nashville to pick it up. I’ve still got that bike.

Another favorite bike was a bike I lovingly called “The Goat.” I could go anywhere with that bike. It was a 2004 KLR 650 enduro, and I have ridden the continental divide all on high Alpine Forest service roads and did a trek through Baja, Mexico living off the bike. I ended up crashing that bike in Mexico and it caught fire. The throttle cable had melted through and separated, so my buddy and I fixed it in the middle of nowhere Mexico with splice using a sardine can lid I found on the beach, and I rode it back to LA with a broken foot from the crash. There’s more to that whole story, but it was a fun adventure.

As for my dream cars – they're like shirts, you can't just have one favorite – I've always loved the 1938 Buick Roadmaster, 1932 Ford Coupe, and am obsessed with the 1954 Dodge Power Wagon Pickup. And I would love to get my hands on a 1938 Indian scout motorcycle. My bootlegging grandpa had one, and they are such a great machine.

I also have a huge crush on the 1932 Bentley Blowers. A very kind and trusting gentleman once let me drive his beautiful beast down the winding Rocky Mountain roads to a car show in Denver.

One more rig that is close to my heart, but was never mine, was the Stranahan’s 1937 Dodge Brothers double-clutch barrel truck, which I did a lot of the engine work on and drove every year in the St. Patrick’s day parade in Denver from 2008-2019. Love that ol’ dog! Originally owned by John Wayne, bought for 50 bucks to be used as a hay truck up in Aspen by Jess Graber, eventually making its way into the whiskey fold. I could wax poetic on more vehicles, but figured this was enough for now…