By Dave Walters
I had the privilege to sit down and talk James from Insane Throttle. James holds a special place in my heart because he was the first to give me a chance to write. To publish things that I put together (no matter how bad they might have been!) and encourage me to keep going. I love what he has done, and is doing, for the community on a social media and awareness platform, and the forefronts of the biker rights fights. Things that are important to me, in preserving this life, and I love getting a chance to talk, listen, and learn from James. I hope ya’ll enjoy the article!
Can you give us a little background on yourself – You’re a Chicago boy born and raised right? What part of Chicago?
Born and Bred in the Montclare Neighborhood of Chicago. Grand and Sayre and later Harlem Ave and Grand. I owe everything that I believe in and who I am to the neighborhood. It was mostly a Latino neighborhood (as it is still to this day.) The culture of the neighborhood is rich in tradition and made up of mostly hardworking blue-collar families. It was a place where neighbors looked out for neighbors. The neighborhood, like most places in Chicago, took care of each other.
What or who got you into riding and what was your first bike?
I think it was 7 or 8. I was outside doing what kids do at that age and 2 of my neighbors rode up and down the block on their Harleys. Whenever I seen them, I got pumped. Always telling myself one day I would get a Harley and be just like them.
We mentioned you’re from Chicago, and you came up from being a kid and then being a part of the motorcycle scene in the 90s into the 2000s and today, what got you interested in the MC World?
Got involved in the MC scene in 1993. My story and why I got involved in the scene is different than most. I’ve been a banger my entire life. In the 80’s and early 90’s things were pretty messed up when it came to street gangs. Or as I call them street crews (what we called them in the neighborhood.)
Many of the people I knew and grew up with where either dead or getting locked up for some hefty time. I had my first kid in 92 and decided even though I loved being me, it was time to look for something a little less “Exciting” if you will. This is when one of my friends’ fathers introduced me into the MC scene. He rode with the Predadores MC. A mostly Latino club from the neighborhood. Predadores were not your traditional MC. In other words, they had a street crew as well as a motorcycle club aspect to it. I hung around the club part of the organization for about a year before taking the plunge as a prospect. Prospect period lasted another year and half.
It was in this new world I heard the legends of Taco 1% Bowman. Who, To a street kid like me, he was deeply admired on the streets as a true Outlaws’ Outlaw. In 95 I got to meet a great man by the name of Skid 1%. President of the Chicago Outlaws Northside Chapter. It was then I was truly hooked on the club life. I not only experienced the brotherhood from my club. But I also got to see the best of the best set the example of brotherhood and biking.
Like I said above. A friend of mines father was involved in a local MC. I think the reason why I gravitated towards the club scene is because – #1. I just had my first kid and I wanted to be there for her. Being a banger on the streets of Chicago doesn’t have the best life expectancy. If you didn’t get shot up than you were probably looking at some good time in the thunder domes like Statesville, Pontiac or Menard.
#2 The Club scene offered what I was looking for regarding brotherhood. Without all the other goodies that came with banger life. It was quite refreshing. I was with the crew since I was 11 years old and it was all that I knew. The Club Scene offered me another side of life.
I think this is why I’ve become a huge club advocate now. I got to experience what the media would call a “Gang!” – Motorcycle Clubs. The two I was in, were very far from that. Actually, quite the opposite. When I was a Black Piston none of what the media says that goes on with clubs happened. You know, the drugs and gun running crap. Sure, some guys would go out and do that kind of crap. But it wasn’t with the blessing of the club. I would tell the media and LEO if it wasn’t for clubs. Guys like me would’ve drained their coffers dry by having to lock us up. Its motorcycle clubs that gave outlets to people like me to take the straight and narrow road.
The 80s, 90s and into the early 2000s were decades that really sort of brought about another shift in the culture of the MC world, if we think of the early 1900s and 20s as an era and then what was ushered in with the return of WWII vets and some of the legends coming into the 50s, the Vietnam era biker of the very late 50s and into the early 70s really creates this entirely different shift, for better or worse, that we start to see in the 80s and into the 90s. Chicago and Illinois in general was what you might call a frontline for this shift, as somebody living in this place and time, what did you see, what did you notice, what did you take away from this shift in attitude and makeup of the clubs?
Man the 90’s seen a huge shift from what I was used to. The Yuppy or better known as the Rub invasion started. This not only changed the price of motorcycles, but it also brought a shift in attitude. Sure, it was minimal at first. But as the years went forward everything I knew about the scene transformed. Especially during the early 2000s when all the biker shows started coming out on discovery. The scene went from hardcore to pussy in a flash. The ideology went to mush. You had grown men bowing down to females. Letting them grab on to their balls and lead them around like some puppy. That was one of the biggest transformations in the scene.
It’s funny. I get fan mail all the time. 10% of it must be from haters complaining about how I talk on air. “You shouldn’t have those viewpoints on women.” One of my favorites. Look, I love women. But I’m not going to let one lead me around by the nut sack. A man is supposed to be the strong one. Not someone who drops to his knees every time a woman cries or whines about not liking something. Better yet, in my day, a man sure the hell didn’t have to get permission to buy a motorcycle or hang out with his friends. You have so-called bikers out there who have to beg their ole lady to go out to play with their friends. Screw that! My advice to all you guys who have an ole lady like that is either put her ass in her place or find another one. Shit, find two!
The bikers of today don’t hold anything on the guys of the past that were involved in this lifestyle. The lifestyle is just a shadow of what it was in the past. I blame my generation. Generation X. Generation X became a bunch of pussies and in doing so ruined a lot of what the lifestyle is all about.
Going forward you can bet your ass it will only get worse. The Rubs have taking over a once proud lifestyle. It used to be one lived and breathed the lifestyle every day. Now the New Age Biker is nothing more than a bunch of half ass wannabes.
Obviously, Chicago is legendary in regard to the big club that comes out of McCook and then Chicago, for you, you were there during the time when the largest Affiliate club was just being introduced here in the US from Germany. What was that like being a part of bringing that here?
First off. I’m always open and honest with my fans and subscribers when it comes to a question like this. The Chicago Outlaws in my eyes are one of the best clubs in the world. They define the true spirit of biking and brotherhood. I am and always will be, a supporter of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.
You ask about the Black Pistons. I was a member of the Dupage County Black Pistons. Eventually becoming Vice-President of the Chapter. You ask me what it was like in the early days of the Pistons. Before I get to something like that I would have to say what kind of men were helping getting the Pistons going.
Stever 1%er. Boss of the Chicago Westside Outlaws. This is a man who’s had the biggest impact on me when it comes to being a one time member of a club. He’s also a man which inspires me to be the best I can be while reporting on the scene as I do. Stever 1%er is a true legend in my eyes and a man of great honor and integrity.
One thing I’ve learned from him is to stand up for what you believe in and when you’re wrong admit it and fix it. I’ve made some huge mistakes while reporting for Insane Throttle and when I did, I would always make sure I acknowledged the mistakes and corrected them. Most journalist won’t do that. But I do. Why? Because those who had the honor of knowing Stever 1%er were taught that was the right thing to do.
Without Outlaws Like Stever 1%. The Black Pistons would be nowhere today. Instead, under the leadership and guidance of Outlaws like him, the Black Pistons have grown into a huge club. One that is strong and one I’m so happy to see turn out the way it did.
What was the Black Pistons like in the early days? Just like any organization it went through growing pains. There were a lot of learning curves as with anything else. But the one thing I was most proud of was being a part of the biggest and best support club in the world. Traveling around the country, meeting new people and really enjoying the club life. There isn’t anything better than being a part of the Black and White. It’s truly about the Biking and Brotherhood.
Speaking of, we have seen a trend of overseas Clubs coming to the US, and just not really working out the right way.. To put it politely. As someone that was a part of the first to bring a club over here from Europe successfully, what do you think allowed you guys to be so much more successful in growing here?
In simple terms? The AOA is what made the Pistons grow and prosper. If it wasn’t for the guidance of AOA or people like Stever 1%, the Pistons wouldn’t have gone anywhere. Plain and simple. The guidance a club can get from the dominant, especially one that has been around for decades, is priceless. The dominants worked out the growing pains already. They’ve been there and done that. This is the very reason why I don’t understand why people wouldn’t want to go to them for guidance and counsel. Instead these pop ups go off on their own and next thing you know they are non-existent after a year.
The reason why foreign clubs don’t make it are #1. They are made up of people who’ve got no idea what the hell they are doing. #2 They have no respect for the traditions of the MC Culture and karma comes back and kicks them in the ass. The reason why the Pistons made it is because they had some of the best teachers in the MC world guiding them. My advice to those who want to start up a club? Go join an existing one. There are so many out there to fit anyone’s personality. If you just must go out and start one. Go to your dominant then. They will help you. Going to a dominant is not what all these asses tell you. For example: Asking permission. They will make sure you don’t look like a bunch of amateurs and are there for you to get advice. Again, they’ve been through everything you can imagine and will help guide you through the problems.
You retired from Clubs do to health issues, that really allowed you to focus all your passion on journalism and media and presenting Clubs in a more positive light, you don’t shy away from the flaws we all obviously have, but you seem to strive to give both sides to a story, when so often, MCs just get slammed with media slant. Have you always been into journalism and media? Or was it something you came by as a way to heal and stay connected when the health issues had you down?
9mm round jagged lump took me out of the game. It’s located on my brain and something the doctors were not able to drain or remove because of its location. This led to grand mal seizures. Something you don’t want to have while riding a motorcycle in a pack. It’s also something that I’ve kept under wraps for the last year. It took a good friend of mine. Someone who is actually an Outlaw, to get me to come out about it.
One thing growing up we were taught was never show any weakness. When the seizures started. I kept them hidden because I thought of seizures as a weakness. Now I know this is something that was just a health issue and didn’t have any control over. But I do wish I did tell the guys in the club back then what was going on.
As far as Media is concerned I’ve always loved writing. Insane Throttle started off as a stupid little blog. I was actually surprised when harleyliberty.com grew as fast as it did. I would do editorials and would get more and more feedback on what people thought. I would take that feedback and start cultivating it from a blog into a full-blown news and publishing company.
Today Insane Throttles harleyliberty.com has surpassed Pisano Publications AKA Easyriders as the most read biker news source on the internet. We are honored to receive millions of bikers around the world. With that many people we owe it to our readership to present both side of the story. Just because I’m an ex Black Piston and supporter of the AOA doesn’t mean we slant stories against a club I might not support. We see enough slant coming out of Mainstream Media, so it doesn’t need to happen on a biker news site.
I’m glad you brought up the point “Presenting Clubs in a more positive light, you don’t shy away from the flaws we all obviously have.” Insane Throttle is not a propaganda publication for motorcycle clubs. We are huge club advocates and support them in every way we can. But we also know in order to fight issues facing the motorcycle club scene we have to be objective. If there is something a club does and ends up in the news it not only effects a certain club. It effects the scene as a whole. Honesty and Integrity are the tools which fight propaganda from the mainstream media. If we as a biker news site loose integrity because we carry a club’s water when they do some stupid shit. How do we maintain relevancy? We might as well be a novelty or National Enquirer.
I have been honored to call you a friend since the very beginning almost and since Insane Throttle had about 500 followers (now its at almost 40k and that is just Facebook alone), what do you envision or have planned for the future for Insane Throttle and Harley Liberty? Recently I’ve seen you book your calendar with Club events and runs about 100x over compared to just a year ago, is that live format something we’ll see more of?
Insane Throttle Has come a long way. One of the biggest regrets I have is not working the social media platforms. My concentration was always on harleyliberty.com. I spent the better part of 3 years building up the main site. Making sure we got other sites to link to us, pick up the RSS feeds and getting ranked in Google Search Rankings. In doing that I didn’t concentrate on building the social media platforms until the past few months or so. Boy did I learn that’s a whole different animal. One I should’ve started out first on lol. But hey! Live and learn.
The future of Insane Throttle is developing as we speak. Our parent company, now known as Insane Throttle Publications is on a mission of being the best biker entertainment venue on the Internet. Motorcycle Madhouse Live (which is the video potion of the radio show) is on numerous platforms around the world. Motorcycle Madhouse Radio is on all the major radio podcasting platforms. The ultimate goal we are working on right now is our own 24/7 Roku channel. This channel will be nothing but biker shows and entertainment. We are actually working with Black Dragon on this project. This channel will be filled with biker shows from all over the world. A place where biker content creators can have their material seen without having to jump through hoops like with the discovery channel.
Insane Throttle also has in the works a documentary about the true nature of motorcycle clubs. Not the bullshit you see coming out of Hollywood. No, blue collar motorcycle club members who go to work every day to support their families and pay taxes just like the rest of us. This is a 2 year project. Available June of 2021 and will be at all the film festivals as well as streaming services. In the coming year I will be following club members from different clubs and getting their stories. Exciting time here at the Throttle.
Speaking of media, often times it can be looked at negatively from those in Clubs and those that look to preserve a more closed off left alone mindset, but i know for you and I, some of our heroes have been guys like Danny Lyons and Flash 1%er who have taken iconic stories and photos of the biker life. Is that something you feel a responsibility towards? To preserve doing it in a respectful manner, and also in a way that allows us to preserve what history we are making right now today? Everybody today has a cell phone, but it’s up to us to know when it is appropriate or not appropriate to take that picture or ask about that story. Our grandkids and great grandkids are going to look at the pictures we take and the stories we pass on, the same way you and I look at Time Magazine, The Wild One, Flash 1%ers work, Danny Lyons and others and that makes preserving it so important. How do you feel about it?
Man, Danny Lyons and Flash 1% are giants. You’re totally correct. The preservation of the history of the club scene is something you have to be very careful in telling the correct way. Many people don’t understand the importance of this very point. Men throughout the decades have not only sacrificed their lives for what they believed in, but many served decades and life sentences for what they believed in.
This point alone is why Insane Throttle feels it’s of the most upmost importance to always let both sides tell their story. Something the mainstream media will never do for clubs. At least until the clubs realize the importance of talking to the media.
One of the biggest points I always bring up is the importance for clubs to speak out. Clubs need to be the ones that control a stories narrative. Not the media or cops. Especially in this day of social media. Many clubs come back and say “Fuck That! Fuck Civilians!” That thought process might of worked in days gone by, but it won’t work today. Not only has the way people changed in how they received their news, but their attitudes on motorcycle clubs have changed as well.
This past decade people’s attitudes have changed from supporting clubs to taking Leos side. Why? Because of the information they are fed through the media. Now, I’m not just talking about TV shows. I’m talking about news articles. Paper Medium and the 5 o’clock news are no longer the way people get their news. Now the news is right at the tip of their fingers anytime they want it. With that delivery system people are bombarded with the bad some members of clubs do. This forms their opinions of clubs as a whole and without the clubs side of the story those opinions are cemented. Clubs must realize those civilians are the ones who vote and sit on juries. They are the ones who will contribute to motorcycle profiling by having no sympathy for clubs when it happens. Why? Because they have a vision of clubs molded by some article they read. Hearts and Minds I always say. Once you get that you will start seeing movement against what LEO is doing to club members.
Insane Throttle has a unique position in seeing developments in the biker life. Not only do we cover motorcycle clubs, we also cover industry news. Now, one might say the two doesn’t have anything in common other than motorcycles. I beg to differ. They go hand in hand. The future of the club scene is tied to how the manufactures are doing. The motorcycle manufactures are having a very difficult time getting the next generation of riders just to by a bike. Now add in the bad press the clubs get and you start seeing the numbers dwindle ever farther down for those who support clubs or even want to be a member of one. This will eventually affect how the history of the scene is written and perceived.
What are your favorite roads to ride?
Country Back Roads. Growing up and being from Chicago it was always an urban environment. I’m now in Northern Illinois. Live on a river and have nothing but country roads by me. I’m able to open up the bike and just go. Something I wasn’t able to do in Chicago.
What else would you like to say to anyone reading this?
Support your local Motorcycle Club. Get involved in Bikers and Motorcycle Club rights issues. Don’t be the one who sits in the corner and lets others do all the work. If you truly love the biker life than give back to it. Stand up and fight for it.