A few minutes with Jason Wilson, star of Discovery’s upcoming “Sacred Steel Bikes”
Posted on September 11 2016
By Jim O'Clair
Following the airing of Harley and the Davidsons, The Discovery Channel is debuting a new motorcycle-build show entitled Sacred Steel Bikes, which premiers on Monday, September 12 at 9:00 p.m. Today, we are talking to Jason Wilson, the show’s star and owner of the Sacred Steel shop.
HMN: Jason thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. I just have a couple of questions about the new show that’s coming up. We have seen you on television before on the History Channel’s Chopper Wars when you won a build contest against Mike Simon with your Cripes A Mighty P-51 tribute bike. It looks like you and the crew are back doing your own thing in your new Discovery Channel show, Sacred Steel Bikes. We know from a little previous research that the shop has been around for over ten years is that correct?
Jason: True, true.
HMN: You are actually a union sheetmetal worker during the day and you work on bikes on the weekends and nights in your spare time.
Jason: Yes, that’s actually what I’m doing right now. I’m standing on top of a building talking to you fixing someone’s air conditioning.
HMN: Do you have a lot of previous experience with motorcycles? Did you study motorcycle repair? Or are you self-taught like a lot of other motorcycle owners?
Jason: Yeah it was just so expensive to get into motorcycles, really the only way to get into it was to start making our own stuff. It was more out of necessity and over time, that’s how we started getting better at it. You do your own stuff first, then the guys in the crew started doing each others’ stuff. Then customers started coming in and we started doing stuff for them and then other shops and it kind of grew from there.
HMN: What’s your everyday ride?
Jason: I love my old bikes. Old kick start stuff, but, for every day I have this Harley soft tail. We call them modern bikes or wild hogs and kind of give them like a chopper makeover. From a glance it would look like something custom. Whenever I take it somewhere, everyone’s like “oh, what a cool whatever” because no one knows what it actually is. It’s a 2001 soft tail but it has extended forks and electric start and it gets me where I need to go and I don’t have to worry about it.
HMN: do you have a favorite bike that you own or used to own?
Jason: I’ve never sold any of my bikes. I keep them all, so they are all my favorites.
HMN: The rest of the guys that work in the shop come from a wide range of expertise. You’re a metal fabricator, but I see there are auto technicians, engineers and some people with no motorcycle build experience at all, but it seems everything comes together nicely. Do you have an explanation why? Is it because you are all sweat-invested towards a common cause?
Jason: I don’t know. I stopped asking that question a long time ago. I just kind of know that whenever we all get together, no matter what, it’s always going to work out. Sometimes we stress out and get all worried but like deep inside I know it’s always going to work out. Especially even with these builds. Each bike build in the show was only really like 14 days, and everyone was freaking out like “we’re not going to do it, we’re not going to do it” and I’m still calm because I know we’re going to do it, because we always do. I don’t know how it works or why it works but together there is probably nothing we can’t accomplish.
HMN: Right, I saw some of the previews. I think viewers are going to be drawn to some of the other people who help out in the shop with names like Gnome, Floppy and Rock Hard. They all have their own interesting personalities, but it looks like it comes together well in the show.
Jason: Yeah I think so. I’d kind of like to touch on that. With the History Channel show, it was kind of straight forward and we did the same things. We just messed around and joked and we were freaking out that we weren’t going to finish the bike. But, by the time they edited it, they took all of that interaction out. The show wasn’t paying for us to build the bike and we soon discovered we didn’t even have the money to finish the bike. So, we threw a fund-raising party and raised the money and then spent the 14 build days building and getting the parts we needed to finish. But, by the time that show aired all that fund-raising and sweat to the details was edited out. All that joking and commentary and all that stuff was edited out and kind of made it look serious. This time around, with Sacred Steel Bikes, we’re not editing it out. This is the real story of us. Me and my friends, we built stuff and it’s not that we are trying to look like a serious business, or a bike shop. Some of the tools we use in the show are pretty plain Jane and anyone at home is going to be able to relate. It’s not like we’re sitting here with the fanciest of equipment.
HMN: How did the group start hanging out together? Was it like you started riding together? Or they started hanging out at your shop and you couldn’t get rid of them?
Jason: At that time it was just a few guys wrenching at the shop we were renting, a closed down ice factory in Duarte. We would run up there and back every night. Back then it was riding buddies who needed a place to fix their bikes, you know what I mean? Later, we moved into East LA closer to our homes, jobs, friends and families. l was the welder, we had a motor guy and we had a painter. We shared the idea that motorcycles were so expensive and this was a way for all of us to get our stuff put together for a quarter of the price that normal people paid. And then from there it just kind of opened up to a point where we had dudes from every background with unique skill sets, and it kind of made sense to everyone. We had everything locked up, had someone from every walk of life, and it all just worked out, you know? Maybe I wouldn’t be helping this one dude directly, but I would make Gnome a tank, and then Gnome did something for Floppy, and then it all in kind of progressed into this giant weird figure 8. It all works out and somebody is always helping somebody else out, even though we may not be directly doing something for each other.
HMN: That P-51 themed knucklehead that you had built for Chopper Wars was a really nice bike and I saw in some of the teasers that you also built this chopper for the cover of Easyriders magazine. Will that bike be part of the show?
Jason: Yeah, that is the bike we build in episode one, a long knucklehead. The difference between this show and Chopper Wars is that in this show, they’re not telling me what to build, there’s no theme bikes, there’s no goofy stuff. So because no one is telling me what to build, they’re all going to be kick starts, jockey shifts, knucklehead, shovelhead or panhead engines. There’s no fat tire stuff.
HMN: Will you be doing any restorations or are they all going to be custom builds?
Jason: So far everything has been custom build, but that’s all still in the planning. I do have this old pan head in the basement that’s probably a better candidate for full on restorations versus a chopper, you know?
HMN: Is the show going to have any appearances by any other bike builders or celebrities or anything like that?
Jason: Um, yeah I mean, we have Jeff Decker, the famous sculpture artist, and classic bike collector.
HMN: Oh yes, we are familiar with Jeff, absolutely.
Jason: Jeff came in and we did a David Mann (artist featured in Easyriders magazine) art show for the second episode. He came in and gave us tips on how to plan and put on an art show. We actually built a bike and then built the painting behind it so it’s a full-size, full scale David Mann painting with live actors in it. So, Sacred Steel Bikes is a little more than a build show, it touches in a lot of subcultures of motorcycles. Riding and the art and some of the history as well.
HMN: Jeff’s a great guy. He does excellent work. Fantastic stuff.
Jason: He’s really good on camera too. He’s really funny.
HMN: He’s got quite a collection of his own too.
Jason: Yeah he doesn’t care a lot about choppers. I mean he thinks they’re a little goofy and silly, but, what I think is a rare bike and what he thinks is a rare bike are 100% different. You know like I’m like “knuckleheads are cool” and he’s like “yeah that is cool but that’s a production bike and there’s blah blah blah made of them and you know that’s not really rare, but check out this bike, you know there were only four made and three of them are here or there and there might be one more in so and so’s backyard.” But he has his collection, which is really cool, and his collection is different than mine. You know?
HMN: Do you think the success of the show mean you might finally quit your “day job” and just do this or will you always have welding and metal working as your career for a backup plan?
Jason: Right now I’m working for the county and I have a daughter and I have a pension and health care, so even though this is coming together for me, I like be realistic. Most motorcycle shows don’t have a super long life span, so even if it seems like a lot of money now, it would have to compensate for my next 20 years, and my pension and my healthcare and all that. I do still really like my regular job and I don’t mind going to work every day.
HMN: So are you familiar with Hemmings Motor News at all?
Jason: Yeah, I started out with cars before bikes and spent many hours flipping through the magazine.
HMN: We do have a couple of pages of motorcycles and parts for sale, and many bike enthusiasts also read our motorcycle profiles every month. We are also one of the early sponsors for The Race of Gentleman. TROG is basically custom-built old school hot rods and vintage tank-shift motorcycles racing on the beach. Hemmings has been sponsoring TROG in New Jersey for the last three years and we were down there in June for their first event in 2016. TROG recently decided to expand and is going to be held twice a year, adding a second race out on Pismo Beach on October 15 and 16. This will be the first year that they are doing it out on the West Coast, and Hemmings will be there with our 1934 Ford AA tow truck and a bunch of our staff to support it.
Jason: Yeah I think now there is a new generation of people who just admire old iron. Before I think it was “oh, you’re a car guy or a bike guy” and I think that line kind of blurred away. Now it’s kind of the same people that love bikes and hot rods and customs too, you know?
HMN: I think your definitely right about that. If people are into 1930s cars then they also enjoy 1930s bikes, and they’re into the architecture, fashion and photography of a similar era. It’s really a melding of all sorts of different aspects these days. We’ll certainly be looking forward to seeing Sacred Steel Bikes, it’s going to be debuting on September 12 starting at 9:00 p.m., following the same time slot as Harley and the Davidsons the week before.
Jason: Yeah, from what I understand, during one of their commercial breaks they’re going to play like the whole first act of our show. You get a preview, that’s happening on Wednesday the 7th during the third episode. We will then take over that 9:00 p.m. Monday time slot after that show completes.
HMN: Well it seems that after that show, Sacred Steel Bikes would be a natural progression. Their episodes are advancing through the history of Harley Davidson, and you are into knuckleheads, which I believe is where their miniseries leaves off in the history of Harley-Davidson, so that will be very interesting. Ok, well thank you very much Jason. I really appreciate you speaking to us and good luck to you with the new show.
Jason: Thanks man!!