Create to Destroy! with TrAsh

  • Published January 2, 2014 By Amelia
  • Categories Interviews

I met TrAsh through her touring in rad bands like OPT OUT and CONDENADA. Besides punk, we had a love of motorcycles in common. TrAsh was very encouraging when I got my first motorcycle and was an invaluable resource for me. I wanted to see how punk influenced the path that lead to becoming a professional motorcycle mechanic and all around bad-ass, here’s TrAsh…

What came first for you, punk or motorcycles?
Punk came first. I was a late bloomer, so to say, in both realms. I got turned on to punk in my early twenties — this was in the late ’90s, before the internet was an everyday availability.

TrAsh (photo by Irene LaTempa)
TrAsh (photo by Irene LaTempa)

Motorcycles came in my early thirties, which I’m glad about because I was such a wild-ass in my teens and twenties! I would have probably lost a limb or be dead if I had started riding then. I rode BMX bikes when I was younger because I grew up in Michigan and was surrounded by woods. But my folks would not let me near a motorcycle!

How do you feel about the combination of the two?
It just makes sense. I truly believe that anyone can learn to work on a motorcycle, and there’s nothing more punk than listening to WOLFBRIGADE and MISERY while wrenching on your own bike. There’s a pretty cool community around motorcycling. When you’re out riding, most bikers give a nod/wave of recognition to each other…car drivers don’t do that! Basically, we look out for each other. When you’re stopped on the side of the road, whether it’s to piss or take a nap or you’re broken down, someone on a bike will stop to check on you, or at least slow down to get a thumbs up that you’re okay or flagged down for some help. It’s pretty cool.

There are a lot of older bikes out there that have almost all mechanical parts that can be repaired, as well as repair manuals. All it takes is a basic set of tools, some cash and a whole lot of patience.

[pullquote]I think anyone who gets on a bike is doing themselves a huge favor. All that shit you hear people say is true: learning to ride on two wheels will set you free! Nothing clears my head quite like it — it’s my happy place.[/pullquote]

Can you give us a punk background on yourself? What bands and DIY organizations have you been involved with?
I got into punk working in a kitchen in Grand Rapids, MI (where I grew up). Jeff the Punk Rock Chef made me my first hardcore/crust mix tape (still one of my favorites) because he knew I was a metal head. It had bands like HELLCRUSHER, HIATUS, EXTREME NOISE TERROR, and GAUZE…it was like metal but without all of the long ass solos. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up — I was hooked! I didn’t start going to shows until I moved to Chicago in the ’90s. I was working at Whole Foods, in the deli, when I met Mariam, a bad-ass punk woman who later became my best friend and bandmate. My boss and I were in a pretty bad (not bad as in good) crust band called DEAD WAIT. We played our first show at Neo, with a band from the South Side. We got booed by some sketchy skinhead dudes. I can’t blame ’em…we were pretty bad!

Anyway, I was still learning to play the drums at that point and was having fun. Benny and the guys from the South Side scene were super nice to us. Back to Mariam… We hit it off right away and she was in a band called HUMAN ORDER at the time. She invited me to a show on the South Side where I saw REACCION play. Megan was the singer, who later became another one of my closest friends and guitar player. It was the first time I had seen a woman singing in a hardcore/punk band, and the show itself blew me away — so many punks dancing and drinking and having a good time. I began going to shows on the South Side on a regular basis, losing my shit in the pit to bands like NON FICTION NOISE, RAT BASTARDS, TRAS DE NADA, ESKE, HUMAN ORDER…so many amazing bands and people. The punks on the South Side took me in and gave me a home. There were so many shows every week, some were all local bands and always packed with dancing punks.

Mariam and I kept talking about how we wanted to start an all-girl band. We would talk all day at work about what it would be like. We didn’t want it to sound like any particular style, we wanted to find others who just wanted to play and get our shit out and see what came out. Mariam knew Megan a little from the scene, and I think Megan put a message on a board or something and found Angel and soon CONDENADA was formed. We met at Deluxe Diner on a cold-ass winter day, went to Mariam’s practice space in Rogers Park and tried to play together. Megan was learning guitar, and I was still fairly new to drums. We all hit it off and started practicing two days a week. We would sit and talk about our weeks, what was going on with us, the things in the world that drove us crazy, etc., and we wrote songs…together. Every single song we wrote, we all wrote together. I’ve never been in a band quite like it since. The ten or so years that we were together were some of the best of my life. Those women became my family.

Other bands I’ve played in… I was the drummer for a bit in DAYLIGHT ROBBERY. Since moving to California: SUICIDE BOMB, OPT OUT, and THE LIGHT.

I haven’t really been involved in any DIY organizations. I’m kind of a loner, work a lot and people make me nervous.

(photo by Autumn Swisher)

How does the bike scene in Grand Rapids, where you’re from, compare to the Bay Area?
I’m not sure what the bike scene is like there as I didn’t ride back then. I know there are no helmet laws in Michigan, and people do winter rides, which sounds bad ass! I hope to check out the Midwest bike scene more in the future.

As for the Bay Area, there seems to be many different bike scenes — same as punk. There are fashion riders, who look the part of a working class biker but work a tech job and don’t have a callous on their hands; the sport bike riders in their full leather riding suits, the weekend riders, the vintage riders, the adventure riders, the Harley riders, “real” bikers like Hell’s Angels, working class people riding loaded-down old bikes, people who only ride when it’s nice out…many, many different people — as many as there are styles of bikes!

It’s just like punk. How did you learn to fix bikes?
I was an avid bicyclist. I rode year-round in Chicago and worked on my own bikes. Just started taking apart old cruiser bikes and cleaning them up, taking them apart and seeing how they were put together. When I moved to California all I had was my bicycle. I was cleaning houses and had clients all over the city, including one in Sausalito (across the Golden Gate Bridge) I went to once a week. I rode so many miles up so many crazy hills, then cleaned twelve-plus hours a day… I was tired. I also took a 400-mile bicycle tour down the coast, which was beautiful! But there were places I wanted to see that were further away that I didn’t have time to see by bicycle…

When I moved to California, I wanted to do something completely different with my life. I promised myself no Whole Foods/9-to-5 job. I started looking on the internet at City College (which if you’re a Cali resident is super affordable). I always wanted to learn to work on cars and was checking out their auto program when I came across the motorcycle technician program, and one of the teachers was a woman! I had to wait a year to get California residency, then applied, started learning and working on bikes before I even had one or my license. I’ve never had anything keep my attention quite like it. Got straight A’s and rarely missed a class. I still study and read tech books today. I got an unpaid apprenticeship at a place called the Bikeyard in SF, owned by Franzi, a dyke from Germany. She got old bikes running and sold them or parted them out to list on eBay when they were too far gone. I learned what all of the parts were and how they worked. She paid me in lunch. I worked five days a week, went to school three days a week and had 12—15 cleaning clients. I made motorcycles my main focus and they have been ever since.

What was your first bike?
My first bike was a 1991 Honda Nighthawk CB250 named Beastie. Franzi sold it to me for $400. It had huge holes in the headers and sounded like a Harley! I would pull up at stop lights and Harley guys would turn their heads to see what bike that noise was coming from and they’d see my ratty-ass blacked out Nighthawk and turn their heads quickly in embarrassment. That bike ruled. I rode the shit out of it.

What do you ride now?
I ride a 2002 1100 Shadow Saber named Holy Diver — a lazy boy on wheels that goes 110. I loooooove her so!

How do you feel about queer, trans, and women in the bike scene? What have you seen in the Bay Area? Is there a strong community out here?
I think anyone who gets on a bike is doing themselves a huge favor. All that shit you hear people say is true: learning to ride on two wheels will set you free! Nothing clears my head quite like it — it’s my happy place.

Last summer was the first time in San Francisco the Trans March had a motorcycle contingent. I was super happy to be part of it! I definitely see a lot of lady riders and we have quite a few come into our shop.

There is definitely a strong community out there. Motorcycles bring people together who normally wouldn’t give each other the time of day. If you’re on a bike, especially an older, custom bike, something you’ve obviously put love into, people will chat you up. It’s cool.

Any disparaging comments made to you when you first started? Recently?
When I first got Holy Diver, I dropped her a few times. She’s over 500 lbs and I was learning to handle her weight. I was parking on a steep hill in Bernal Heights and lost my footing and she went down. A group of dudes were standing there and they just stood there watching. I can’t pick her up by myself — I asked them for a hand and one of them begrudgingly came over and as he walked away, muttered something about how I shouldn’t ride something I can’t pick up. Fucking dick.

Nothing recently. I am much more comfortable and have many thousands of miles under my belt.

(photo by Autumn Swisher)

Do you get to work on bikes for a living now?
I certainly do! I work at a shop in South San Francisco called Esoteric Cycles. We specialize in vintage Japanese repair and restoration. It is the best and most challenging thing I have every done. I’ve been there six months or so. It was a long road to get there — I’ve never been happier. My girlfriend and I also sell parts on eBay and I have a huge haul of vintage dirt bikes I’m working on restoring and parting out. We work out of her garage in Guerneville, which is a super cute small town in the redwoods, an hour and a half north of SF. Pretty rad!

Japanese bikes are the way to go. Are you in a band right now?
I am not. First time in over 18 years that I am not in a band or even playing drums. It’s a nice change for now. I honestly don’t have the time and I am doing what I love, so it feels good. I miss the release of banging it out for sure, but I’m sure I’ll play in a band again some day…although it’ll probably be some rock-and-roll band with a bunch of old guys or ladies! Ha!

Any advice to punks who want to ride?
Do it! Take a motorcycle safety class. They have them in most cities and they are worth every penny. They teach you how to handle the bike on a closed course with instructors. They provide the bikes and helmets, and their riding test is usually easier than the DMV’s test. Learn how to change your own oil, give a tune-up, etc… Get a manual for your bike and use the internet — YouTube is an awesome tool! Start getting tools at flea markets. I can’t help but assume everyone wants to work on their own bike — I would bet most punks would be down with that.

Favorite biker flick?
There are so many! Hot Chrome and Leather, The Last Ride, Easy Rider, Girl on a Motorcycle, Miniskirt Mob… Pretty much any movie with a motorcycle in it — especially from the ’60s or ’70s — is amazing, but my favorite is definitely On Any Sunday — bad-ass movie from the ’70s about the different styles of dirt bike racing/riding all over the world. It’s my happy movie.

I love Girl on a Motorcycle and own the VHS! It was so hard to track down. I want that leather riding suit! So, any last words, TrAsh?
Live Free, Ride Fast!!!!!