Amid all the madness of Harley Rock Riders, I had a chance to pull Kaichiroh Kurosu of Japan’s famous custom house, Cherry’s Company, aside for a little chat. Invited by Harley-Davidson to judge the Custom Champion event, Kurosu san gave us some insight into the world of customs
Bike India (BI): You are an “old school” custom bike builder, but considering you live in Japan, at the very cutting-edge of motoring technology, are you ever tempted to build a more contemporary design?
Kaichiroh Kurosu (KK): I don’t really customise many brands; I mostly customise Harley-Davidsons, bikes that are more suited to the old-school approach, and that is really my signature style of customisation.
BI: How much has American culture (with its strong influences on Japanese pop culture and vice-versa) influenced your style?
KK: In the beginning, this was very much the case. I was heavily influenced by the American style of design, because the custom motorcycle movement had its roots there, but over time I learned to develop my own style, and now the American influence is negligible in my design; it is more Japanese.
BI: Do Japan’s other creative and artistic avenues such as anime or Manga or any other form of art influence your work? If so, how?
KK: I haven’t really thought about it, and, maybe, not directly, but I’m sure it plays a part somehow, somewhere in my design.
BI: Harley-Davidson motorcycles are a big craze in Japan and they rule the customising world. Are there people who approach you with different motorcycles for customising, say, a Honda or a Ducati or, maybe, even a Triumph? If yes, then how different are they to customise from a Harley?
KK: I haven’t customised much apart from Harley-Davidsons; only the BMW RnineT, which is a very different bike, and I was a little worried, because Harley-Davidsons are definitely simpler to customise.
BI: On your travels as a customiser, have you picked on certain design trends that are found only in certain countries? Or is the custom scene very global in this respect?
KK: The customising environment in every country is really different. There are not too many customers in Asia comparatively; they don’t want to spend too much money. The taxation is high, so not too many people want to customise. So the customisation in Japan is perfect right now because we’re working on relatively smaller bikes, and that is why a lot of people want to come to Japan for customising their bikes from all over the world.
BI: When you approach a new project, how much prioritisation do you give to performance and how much to aesthetics?
KK: I try to balance both as much as possible but in the end it comes down to the customer and what he wants.
BI: What is the most radical design you’ve conceptualised or been asked to create?
KK: Most of the people who come to me come to me because they like my design. I usually steer away from the really crazy stuff. The customer has to trust me and my vision, and if they try to impose their ideology too much, I’d rather drop the project than indulge in something that doesn’t work for me.
BI: As a judge for the HRR custom build off, what are you looking for in a winning bike?
KK: I’m looking for uniqueness. Individuality. Something that stands out.
BI: What are your impressions of the creations put before you so far? How does it reflect on India’s custom scene?
KK: From what I see, it’s still starting out; it’s still in a very nascent stage. But I can also see that it will get there, it will reach a world-class level.
BI: In pop culture, customisation and metal music go hand in hand. Why is that so?
KK: Oh, I don’t know. If you actually listen to the music, the image that comes to the mind is of someone who rides a Harley; maybe, that’s why today [at HRR] also you see the two going together.
BI: Are you a fan of metal music yourself? Are you looking forward to Megadeth’s performance tonight?
KK: Honestly, no. I don’t really like metal music.
BI: One last question: why do most, if not all, custom bike makers, you included, have tattoos? What’s the connection there?
KK: (Laughs) Culture, I guess. I don’t know. They’re just two things that go together.