Dynamic duo and life Partners - Michael Barragan of Evil Spirit Engineering and Photographer Casandra Wages tag team life well. Global contributors and motorcycle influencers, they showcased another chapter of the Barragan Wages adventure in the latest issue of Dice Magazine. We wanted to find out more about what makes them them... so we asked...
Tell us something about the two of you?
Cassandra: We talk, we work, we ride, we listen and push each other further all the time. We are a team.. we have been working together, living together and loving each other 24/7 since we met.
Michael: Cassandra loves motorcycles more than I do. Her grandfather was very connected to the biker culture when she was a baby. It's almost like it was bred into her.. riding is ingrained in her, it's pretty inspiring. Like any relationship, you can't survive on one common interest. The two of us, from my perspective, complement each other. We are very different in some ways, but somehow that's what brings us together. We do photo shoots together, run the shop together, we collaborate on the bikes, and raise my kids together. We just have this overall common goal... and it doesn't matter who is the lead on a specific project.
What is it about woman riding now?
C: I got my first bike when I was 5, my dad taught me to ride it in our back yard in the high desert. It was a crappy little dirt bike. My brother was smaller than me and not as coordinated yet so I was always the one who rode him around with me on our adventures. In the winter I’d tie a sled to the back fender with rope and pull him through the snow. My grandfather built bikes in the 60’s and my grandma always rode on the back with him, most of the ladies did back then. When he passed away, she gave me his bike, his leathers, the old club photos. She knew how much I loved it all. I still ride that sportster and am building a panhead based on one of his old builds now. So, to answer your question… I can really only speak for myself and tell my story. I don’t know what it is about women riding now. I mean I know that statistically, it’s happening quite a bit more. And I know that riding motorcycles reaches and speaks to so many people.. it’s incredibly inspiring. Maybe it just took the girls a little longer to catch on.
M: I think it's simple. I think the girls are done letting the guys have all the fun. We can communicate with people all over the world quickly now thru the internet, this has allowed all the girls that want to ride to hook up. I mean, in all honesty, it has allowed everybody to hook up. I think the entire sport of riding/building/fabricating.. what ever you want to do.. grew in numbers because it's so easy to communicate with people everywhere. It only makes sense that the girls have gotten together as well. Personally, I used to like hauling girls around on the back of my bike, but the novelty always wore off quickly because I like to feel light when I'm riding. Going to SF with Cassandra on her own bike is a lot more fun. It's a great thing to share with a close friend when you cross the country.. smelling and feeling every change that surrounds you, and it's even better to share it with some one you're in a relationship with. I love to watch her ride and to give her the lead. It's awesome. Plus, I think she looks great on her bike. Who doesn't like to stare at their chick? :)
C: I really love delicate strength and balance in a bike. When you see something and you’re like “how is that even possibly rolling down the road?” We’re in the middle of my first bike build which of course will be a collaboration. I personally am feeling influenced by my grandfather’s and his friends choppers (from the photos I have) and Louise Bourgeois.
M: Well I've been building for a while now, and I've gone thru many personal phases of what inspires me. I started by just trying to keep my old shovel chopper that I bought 2nd hand and was heavily 70s inspired 20 something yeas ago running. It broke down a lot. That began a precedent of me wanting to create a bike that was efficient. Once I began really focusing on bikes specifically, I went thru a phase of wanting to hand make every part on the motorcycle and using the most modern components available like STD heads or an engine and a Baker 6 in a 4. I've always liked to do distance so finding speed without vibrating/tearing a bike to pieces was important. Then I got into a phase that I wanted make all the old stock junk we would find at swap meets be as reliable as possible. I think my bikes have bounced back and forth from future performance driven machines to late 60's early 70's inspired bikes. In all honesty, I'm trying to combine the two. I have been for a while.. I get distracted and go off on tangents now and then, but those two precedents really resonate with me. I ride a sport bike often, I motocross as much as possible, and I built a drag car and am always riding the motorcycles I build and I try and always improve my designs. I consider all of these elements while being efficient like I said in the beginning. The bottom line is, I love being creative. I build bikes like I write songs.. I just try and convey a feeling that’s honest. My influences are old cars, drag racing, motocross.. anything really. Music has heavily influenced my way of expressing myself with the bikes.. I just let them, like a song, evolve within themselves. Usually after I get started the bikes take me on a trip searching for what I think they want and need and the bike lets me know when I get there.
Where do you guys go riding?
C: We are always working in one way or another. I joke that all of our dates are test rides… can’t tell you how many times I’ve been dressed to the nines feeling like a million bucks riding through the city, and 10 minutes later I’m missing a dinner reservation or a party, pulled over on the sidewalk of some gas station in Hollywood holding my phone light as a flashlight so Michael can look at a pushrod or something. I really love it though… those are truly the best times.
M: Well usually we use the bikes to cut traffic down and turn a 45 min drive into a 20 min drive. There is a lot of traffic here so when it's heavy we usually use the bikes for errands. As the story goes, I spent more time riding before I started building bikes. When we go out we usually take the day and go to Ojai mountains or the beach. The other day I went with a friend tooling around Griffith park to the 110 Pasadena freeway back to downtown for some fun. Usually I can make a fun ride locally cutting through town staying off the beaten path. California is a pretty fun place to ride whether it's local or if you stretch your legs. The last little trip we took was to San Francisco shooting for Saint.
What is it about LA? What about Burbank?
C: As I understand it, Burbank and the area around it is actually the birthplace of hot rods… there is so much history around here and the city still maintains a comforting small town feel. Our shop is 15 mins from Downtown Los Angeles and 30 mins from the beach. Griffith Park in our back yard has 52 miles of horse trails in it that we get to escape into on horseback. I can’t complain.
M: LA is a place you have to live in to completely understand. It's not for everyone, but I call it home. My mother moved here when I was a kid in 1979 from NY. I stayed until high school and came back when I graduated, following a dream of a life in a Rock Band. I think LA/Hollywood and most of California is a place where people come to dream.. anything goes. Here the simple answer: people come to be an actor or a model or a musician. But, you can start any business here... the resources that are available are unimaginable. I've found over my 26 years here that you can find everything here to do anything you want. Look, it's beautiful here. I came here following a dream of music and I stayed after touring the country for over 10 years. Maybe someday I'll leave, but for now California is some place I like to keep exploring. As for Burbank, I just ended up here. I bounced around the Los Angeles area for the better part of 25 years. I initially focused on Hollywood, having returned here pursuing a music carrier in my 20's. It's funny cause motorcycles then were a lot like they are now. Run by the youth! Hollywood was wall to wall bikes in front of every bar. It was unbelievable actually the amount of bikes that would line the front of the clubs like the CatHouse or the Rainbow Room or English Acid.. on a nightly basis. Anyway, it's to be expected that I became completely immersed in that culture which, like now, was just a group of people young and old that lived and breathed everything motorcycle/hot rod. The only way to truly understand this place is to live here. It has so much history. Stars lived in the Canyons and played the local clubs and drank at the local liquor stores and diners. I mean the beach Boys wrote a song about a corner on sunset strip as it goes to the Pacific Ocean from Hollywood "Dead Mans Curve." Man in the twilight you can probably go through that corner at close to 100 mph. I've lived everywhere from the coast in Malibu/Venice to Pasadena, Downtown LA, Alhambra, Hollywood proper, shit I think I even lived in Beverly Hills at one point. None of this by real choice.. I just floated around sometimes on couches trying to survive in this town. There was always a garage with a workshop and old fuckers that were showing me the ropes. What was the Question again? Oh yeah, Burbank. Well I passed thru and came back because I liked it. It's quiet, my shop and home are a few miles from each other. There is parking & my kids can run around. We basically live as if Griffith park is our back yard. There are 52 miles of horse trails there that we use sometimes on a dirt bike in the middle of the night. Bob Hope and Betty Davis came here to get away from Hollywood way back when it was countryside… in some ways it still is. There is a community that resided here starting in the 50's I'd say, that helped shape a lot of the car culture you hear about and see influence period cars of today. The energy is still alive in places like this. Which is one of the reasons I like it here. All of my bouncing around has landed me here and it's perfect for my family and my shop. What more could I really ask for?
What keeps you stoked?
C: Any kind of new creative project and our family. From film production to fashion shoots, knucklehead builds to photo books, there is never enough time in the day. It’s very satisfying and inspiring, and there are so many talented people surrounding us. Keep an eye out.. we have a lot of big work coming soon!
M: My family, watching my kids grow, exploring the California coast with them, camping. My girlfriend who loves bikes I think more than I do. Taking road trips, going to get a bike or paint wherever it may be.. sometimes 500 miles away in any direction. Building bikes that are in my brain, and having customers that want those bikes. Doing what I love.
Michael Barragan // @evil_spirit_engineering.
Photographed // Casandra @dustdiablo
Interview // Michael Lelliott @saint.cc
Michael Barragan shot on location in San Francisco with his Panhead.
Featured in DICE magazine issue 64.