It is extremely refreshing to see someone with a vision that goes far beyond their own personal interests and views for something as large as the motorcycle community as a whole. Someone who is not looking for personal gains and considers everyone in it as part of the family. Combined with his level of talent and charisma makes Mikey Revolt a truly unique and one of a kind individual. As a photographer, he has a natural ability to capture the soul of the builder and his/her motorcycle, whether it’s while riding or through portraits which are timeless, precise and top quality as can be seen in numerous publications and advertisements throughout the motorcycle culture. He is a true inspiration to a lot of people not just as an artist, but also as a person and it is a great honor to have this opportunity to pick his brain through this interview.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from?
M: I'm just a simple guy really, kinda nerdy, shy a bit sometimes and other times the most ridiculous human being at the party. I live in the great city of Cleveland, Ohio, born and raised all my life. I see those three little skyscrapers in the distance when coming back from long trips and it just makes me smile knowing I am home. No one else gets it really, but it's home to me.
How did you get into motorcycles?
M: Motorcycles have been around me pretty much my entire life. The very first memory I have as child; I must have been 2 years old, but my "supposed" real dad (that's another story) put me on his gas tank of his Harley and took me around the trailer park that he was living in at the time. He let me take the bars and let me feel like I was in control even though I know he had to been steering the whole time. I was so infatuated by the whole experience. My mother never found out nor knew about the ride till I was a lot older. If she would have found out, she probably would have shit a brick! I can just remember how fun it was and it's been in my blood ever since. My stepdad had bikes when I was growing up too, he would show me things here and there but not go into too much detail. He had Honda's aka "rice burners" as my uncles and others would always call them, never considering them a real bike. My uncle was a part of the Outlaws MC and I had another uncle that married into the family in the Warlocks MC. I would always hear stories of all the crazy MC shenanigans they were a part of and I thought it was something straight out of the coolest book or movie. It was almost as if my stepdad and uncles were just telling stories to tell stories but a lot of them were actually very true. Ever since I could drive I wanted a bike but never really had the money to get one. Growing up in a pretty poor household and having to work since the age of 15 to just to keep food on the table for my mom and me, it had to sit on the back burner for a pretty long while. I got my first bike a little more then 3 and half years ago and have never looked back!
How did you get into Photography?
M: I have always been into art in one way or another, from drawing, to painting, and I even played guitar in a ton of different bands growing up. It has always just been a way for me to escape and be creative. My mother passed away in '09 and I was having a really hard time finding myself or any real reason to do anything other then drink my sorrows away. I painted a ton of pictures to try and focus my energy elsewhere but I found it to be a bit boring at times even though I was getting some creativity out of it. I can't remember exactly what day I picked up my wife's old Canon Rebel XTi but I started playing around with it and taking it to parties and car shows. I really just loved the instant gratification of the whole thing. It was the first time I could actually put feelings, a story of how I felt, and what I exactly see in life with just one image.
Was there a point that you can recall when you made a conscious decision to combine the two, motorcycles and photography?
M: I combined the two when I got my bike. Every day is a learning experience with my camera and bike. I didn't actually start riding and shooting at the same time till Hood Bush 2013. I saw Luke Mouradian and Josh Kurpius doing it on the ride to the bush and I told myself, "if they can do it, I know I can!" and it has progressed so much for me since then. It's added a whole new element to my riding skills and the adrenaline from it alone is like nothing I have felt since my skateboarding days.
What do you enjoy most about traveling via motorcycle?
M: First comes the people really, I have met some of the most amazing, kind hearted, and genuine people on the road. It makes traveling anywhere feel a little shorter knowing you are on the way to seeing some good friends at your destination. Second, comes the views and scenery, you have never truly seen America in a car. It is not the same, you can never tell me you drove to California and back and say you have really experienced all this great land has to offer. It's a sensory overload on the bike, visually, mentally, even physically; nothing can ever compare to the feelings you have other than on two wheels. Third and finally the food! I am a big nerd when it comes to food and trying new places, trying to find the best dive bar food, BBQ spots, and pizza joints. I am all about it, and I'm not sure how I'm not 1000 lbs ahahaha.
What do you do for a living and what else are you into besides photography or motorcycles?
M: I work retail, manager of a certain cell phone provider I'd rather not say. They are awesome when it comes to time off which really helps with my traveling, overall it's just a job, I hate it but it pays the bills. I am really into drinking haha, no just sometimes. I love long walks on the beach and picnics in the park haha no, not really. Literally motorcycles and photography has taken over my life outside of work, it's all I think about.
What’s on your bucket list for both motorcycle trips and photography?
M: Putting a show together like this one has been on my list of things to do for awhile and I can't believe it's finally coming together! I really want to ride motorcycles through Europe. My friend, Rob, took a BMW motorcycle all over Europe with his Dad last year and I was super jelly. Photography wise, I really want to make this a full-time gig. Maybe be a editor of a mag or website one day. I just want to be doing this kind of stuff and be able to make and curate beautiful imagery for companies and publications.
Putting a twist to your question about pizza or burger… fork or chopsticks?
M: Chopsticks all the way, if there is an Asian cuisine in front of my face. I actually got to visit Japan when I was 15 and stay there for about a month and a half with one of my Uncles. He flew me out to have a once in a life time experience and get me out of the states. I'll never forget that trip nor what he did for me, like I said I was super poor and never imagined to be able to go out of the country let alone Japan. While I was there is when I learned how to use chopsticks. Fork, on the other hand, man...what Italian or dive bar place you know of has chopsticks anyway? Haha.
Tell us about the most memorable moment, good or bad (or both) during one of your motorcycle journeys.
M: They are all so good and not too much bad. I did have an exhaust pipe explode by my leg on the way to this past year's Gypsy Run going 90 plus miles per hour. My wife Kat aka "Lady Wolf" likes to ride really fast on the highway for some reason. I had to try and catch up with no back pressure in my engine. Yeahhh, that wasn't too good. Somehow she either slowed down or I caught up but we pulled over to the side. The storm we were running from for hours had caught up with us. My wife rode off to a Autozone to try and get me some cans, heat tape and clamps to see if I could try and finagle the pipe back together so we could at least get to the next dealership or shop we could find in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. That ended up not working. We waited hours in the cold rain on the side of the highway with semi-trucks blasting by us until our tow finally came and towed my bike to the Harley dealership. If you don't already have it, I really recommend trip interruption coverage. Our insurance covered the tow & hotel for the night. In the morning, we headed over to Dubious Harley-Davidson. They were able to get me in and out with a new set of pipes in just a few hours. Thank god for Chop Cult and Lisa Ballard for the hook up and the help.
I think the most memorable part of this whole story was how we sat in the rain for hours. My wife ran to McDonald's, which was 10 miles down the highway, in the rain to get us some cheeseburgers. I remember we ate in the rain, singing dumb songs and laughing how shitty the weather was and there was no over pass or even trees to hide out under. When the tow truck finally arrived they put my bike the the truck and asked me if I wanted them to put Kat's bike on the truck as well since it was pouring rain. My dumb ass said, "No man, she rides in the rain all time. She's a bad ass and can handle it." I thought they were just trying to scam some extra money for towing two bikes. When in all actuality they were going to tow her for free so she didn't have to ride in the rain 50 miles behind the truck to the Harley dealer. Hahaahha oops. Her phone got completely ruined too. Man, I felt like a dick after it was all said and done but we laugh about it a lot today.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
M: Every single person in this show! There is so much talent and I am so damn excited that we are all going to be showcasing in one room. I am so honored that everyone could come together and make this happen. It's just so surreal to me that this is all happening!
I find inspiration as motivation a lot of the time. I do a lot of research on the internet and find a lot of photographers with so many different styles and eyes for certain things. I really pull inspiration from it all, from portrait takers, to epic scenery capturers, to car and motorcycle enthusiasts. I don't want to mimic anyones exact style and I really feel like I have found my own over the past year. People influence me to be the best I can be. Every day, I see some one take the most amazing mind blowing picture and it screams to me to be better. The feelings go through my head "wow, this unbelievable, how the hell did they do that?" and then I tell myself I need to step my game up and put something out just as good if not better the next time I am shooting.
Have you ever faced a life changing event that shaped who you are today?
M: I would have to say my Mother dying had to be the biggest effect on my life and shaped who I am. Today, I am a stronger and more loving person. Her death has caused me to live life to the fullest and never give up on my dreams. Not trying to be a momma's boy but she was a really big part of my life and I lost her way too young. She taught me a lot of things, like being kind to those that are kind to you and cherish relationships worth actually cherishing. I owe a lot to that woman and it definitely has put me where I am today. I miss her terribly but I know she is smiling somewhere proud of her son.
What do you shoot with?
I have a Canon 70d, it seriously is a game changer from my last camera. The low angles I love to do are way easier with its flip out LCD screen and the frame rates per second for shooting while riding is pretty epic. It's been through a lot this year and it's still fucking kicking harder than ever.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
M: I hated this question in high school, and I hate it now hahah. I have no clue, I think to me that's what makes life beautiful though, not knowing what's in store. Wherever I end up, it was for that reason I ended up there. Fate I guess, not because I planned it.
Do you have any projects lined up this year that we should be aware of?
M: The obvious one is this show, Fuel Cleveland on May 9th. If you are not in Cleveland you are missing out on something that's truly going to make history. I am showing my work in a few other locations this year. I just confirmed to be in a show called Spit-n-Shine on July 17th out in Vancouver, Canada. I am also procrastinating really hard on a book that I am slowly working on called "Legends". If I ever figure out what I want to write about it should be a pretty good collection of my work, along with some good poems and stories. 2015 is shaping up to be a really good year!
Who would you like to thank and give a shout out to?
M: Man, I know I am going to forget someone on this, I always do. I want to thank first Tyler from Lowbrow Customs, and Jessie from The Gasbox for making this dream to have a little photo show turn into the monster of a show it has become. Without their help none of this would even be possible. I can't thank you guys enough for believing in me and wanting to make this something real! Love you guys! Thank you to the entire staff at Lowbrow Customs for always giving your love and support along with helping with this show to make it the best it can possibly be. I want to thank my beautiful wife for all her help with graphics, designs, and proofreading for not only this show but always. She's the real brains behind FTCL operations for sure and I couldn't do it without her. I want to thank Lisa Ballard and Chop Cult, without them I don't think very many people would even know what FTCL is let alone support my vision. I am in absolute debt when it comes to all the thanks I can give to Lisa, she is a true friend. I appreciate her and everything she does for me. I want to thank everyone at Biltwell for believing in me and putting some of my photos out there to the masses, your love and support is so amazing and I can't thank you guys enough. Big thanks to Michael Lowney and Jake Krause at Harley-Davidson for all their support, not only for this show but there constant love and determination to help the little guy. They believe in me and my vision and it's truly an honor to call them friends of mine. I want to thank anyone that is physically in this show. Your crafts are out of this world and you are all so talented, without your commitment to amazing art and craftsmanship this show would be nothing.
I also want to thank everyone and anyone I have ever took a photo of, or their bike. Anyone I have ever met on the road or shared a story with me. Anyone that has ever liked a photo, bought a print or shirt, or even just commented that you liked one of my shots. Without everyone's love and support and allowing me to take photos of your wonderful lives to share none of this would even be possible. So thank you to everyone seriously from the bottom of my heart. It's truly an honor to be doing this kind of stuff because humanity and life is so beautiful. Thank you for letting me share a little piece of what I witness with you. Cheers!
You can see more of Mikey's work not only at Fuel Cleveland on May 9th, but on his website: www.foreverthechaoslife.com