Wes Lang And John Copeland - Street Chopper Magazine
Editor’s Note: Wes Lang and John Copeland are the founders of a collective dubbed White Knights in the House of Kolor out of NYC. Much more than a motorcycle club, the White Knights fuse art, bikes, and music in a way that can’t be pinned down or categorized. Both men are true individuals in a sea of sameness and make their living as fine artists. Both men along with Keino and a few of the other White Knights organize the Brooklyn Invitational show, which is heralded as the East Coast’s best. Our intrepid interviewer, Jeff Wright sat down with them to decipher fact from fiction. Here’s what he came up with.
Who and what are the White Knights in the House of Kolor?
WL: The best friends a guy could ever ask for. We are not a club, just people who care about and support each other through every aspect of our lives.
_**JC: **Some real close friends who ride. And for the record, our name has nothing to do with anything racist. People need to get a sense of humor._
What do you guys do for work?
_**WL: **I live and work in Brooklyn. My trade is being an artist. I am currently working on several exhibitions around the world, including a solo show with V1 Gallery in Copenhagen this fall, a show of my Chateau Marmont works out in L.A. with OhWow Gallery, and a show this June in Portland, Oregon, at Stumptown Coffee Roasters_.
_**JC: **I make my living with the artwork, mostly paintings and drawings. Work with a few different galleries, here in the US and in Europe. I build and ride motorcycles for myself when I’m not working in the studio. I live in the East Village, I split a large shop in Brooklyn with a Jeffrey Schad and Neil Fenton, my studio is down the street from there._
John, how long have you been in NYC? What makes the East Coast so different from the West Coast?
_**JC: **Thirteen years. Just different out here. Way more dense. Older buildings, shittier weather, a good place to work hard, and a lot of talented people here. I like having seasons._
The art you guys make seems to take influence from a range of styles. Did each of you come from similar art backgrounds? Do you find yourselves feeding off each other?
JC: I went through art school in Oakland, been out here ever since. Yeah, we have studios down the hall from each other, very different work but similar mind-set. Good to be around people doing good work that you respect. Always good to walk down the hall and get an opinion, and talk to someone who I actually believe in. I don’t really go see art very often. My biggest influences are probably my friends and their work, even if it looks nothing like each other. I’d say it’s more about the thought process and the attitude.
_**WL: **I didn’t go to art school, just taught myself how to do it. I don’t limit myself to any one style or medium. I just make what I feel like making, keeps things fresh. John and I have studios in the same building, so we do influence each other. It’s great having him down the hall, so we can bounce ideas off each other. We work with some of the same galleries. I see John more than anyone else I know. He’s the best fucking guy in the world. His artwork is amazing, his bikes are insane, he can outdrink anyone, and he will do anything for me. I’m very lucky to know him._
I can’t help but think a young successful artist who builds and rides choppers in NYC would have a line around the corner of girls. Any truth to that?
WL: (laughs) I actually have a great girlfriend, who I live with and have been with a long time. The queen seat on Deep Purple, the bike Keino did for me, was made and measured out just for her. No other chick’s allowed on it. I’ve had plenty of trouble in the past, but now I am stoked to have someone I actually like to be around and gives me the space I need to be me.
JC: Uh, yeah, I actually have a great lady so can’t complain. No trouble at all.
John, you crashed a bike in the city?
JC: Yeah, only once. I got hit by a Town Car a few years ago. The guy T-boned me and fucked me up pretty good. This year will make 20 years of riding a motorcycle, which is kind of crazy, but I guess those are pretty decent odds.
What are you building at the moment?
JC: A dual-carb Pan-Shovel, mild stroker. Motor is a mix of years and parts I had been collecting. Mismatched cases, ’61 left and ’63 right, so I had to machine those, ’66 barrels, ’69 heads. I did the heads and am running dual DC Linkerts. A ’49 frame. I modified a late juice drum for the front and narrowed the star hub. I’m looking forward to riding it.
WL: I made a decision a couple years ago that I leave the building to guys who do it for a living that I know and respect. The bike Keino did for me is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Can’t express how thankful I am to him for making Deep Purple for me. Next up I am going to do a bike with Max Schaff. I have the ’69 swingarm frame and wide glide from the Keino build, and Max and I will be getting that going really soon. My schedule is so filled up with the artwork that I just don’t have the time to spend doing bike builds. I like to collaborate with people on planning it out, giving my ideas, and letting them run with it.
What direction do you think the chopper world is heading? Any trends or decline in trends foreseen?
JC: I don’t know, more people building bikes is a good thing. I try not to get too wrapped up in it. Trends get annoying, but everything is cyclical. The fetishization of some old parts is a little out of hand. Thankfully there are more people doing neat shit and trying new things, making new parts. And lots of grassroots events popping up, which is good.
WL: I try not to pay too much attention to it. What’s important to me about motorcycles is the friends I have because of it. I don’t care what the latest thing is, because it’s all been done before anyway. People need to realize that it is a tradition that is being carried on, not a way to prove how cool you are. Feels like the days of big attitudes and big money bikes are disappearing more every day. That’s a good thing. I was really impressed by your Hammer of God bike in last year’s show; wouldn’t mind seeing the streets covered with machines like that.
The Brooklyn Invitational was the best bike show I have ever been to. The mix, the venue, the art, vibe, and location were top-notch. What are we in for for 2011?
WL: This year’s show will take place at Root photo studio in Williamsburg on September 17. Hoping that a lot of the guys involved last year will be willing to participate again. It was overwhelming how many builders we respect came out here to be a part of it, and now have become good friends of ours. We are going to add about 10 more bikes to the show this year and also have the artwork become a bigger part of it. So many talented bike builders also take amazing pictures and make paintings. We think it’s important to tie that all together and give the public a chance to see it. Walter from Kickstart Cycle’s Gypsy Run will be the weekend before, the Dice party Friday, and our thing Saturday. It’s going to be a solid week of great things for people to do here. We are so excited. This year, Stumptown Coffee, owned by my good friend Duane Sorenson, will be sponsoring our show, which rules.
_JC: **Wes pretty much covered it. We have a lot planned, and it’ll be a solid week of awesome shit to do in NYC. Thanks to everyone for being a part of it and helping us make it happen._ **SC