“It’s more of an idea rather than one specific thing,” says Julian Heppekausen, General Manager for Deus North America.
This “idea” is organic in nature, free flowing, loose. It’s hard to explain, but it revolves around passion and originality. In stereotypical Southern California fashion, it just has to feel right. “Then we translate this idea into whatever we’re working on, whether it’s motorbikes, surfboards, clothing or even our events,” adds Heppekausen.
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In early January, contributor Paul Garson took us for a ride through the Sound and Vision vintage swapmeet where we got a glimpse of the Deus culture and an idea of one of their events. But there’s much more to Deus than just vintage vinyl. In fact, the Deus story begins in Australia, with three friends: Dare Jennings, Carby Tuckwell and Rod Hunwick.
Jennings had long been a motorcycling fanatic, but his adult life was spent around fashion and his surfwear company, Mambo. After selling Mambo, Jennings used his newfound free time traveling. It was in Japan where he noticed a motorcycle culture unlike any he’d ever seen before.
“I saw an interesting bike culture of young guys referencing classic details from the 1950s,” Jennings told nett.com.au. “I used to stand on the street corners and see these bikes, and every one of them was interesting. It was a very Japanese obsession with detail. I came back to Rod [Hunwick] and said, ‘I think this is interesting.’”
Hunwick grew up around cars, motorcycles and motorsports, and has always been fascinated with the idea of making something go faster and work better. He translated this passion into a slew of motorcycle shops around Australia. Eventually, Jennings was able to convince Hunwick that the gospel of custom motorcycles influenced by Japanese culture would be a great foundation for a new company.
Thus, the original Deus ex Machina – “The House of Simple Pleasures” – was born in Camperdown, a suburb of Sydney, with Tuckwell its creative director. Tuckwell’s influence can be seen both in the store’s decor and its web presence.
While the sale of motorcycles and parts is at the core of the business – from Yamaha SR400s and TW200s to Kawasaki W650s as well as a selection of significant classic bikes – visitors to the Deus showroom will find hand-built, fixed-gear track bicycles and a range of Deus brand clothing, luggage, and artwork.
After Sydney, expansion was the natural next step, and Bali, Indonesia, was the next location. The “Temple of Enthusiasm” was a natural fit for Bali due to its relative proximity to Sydney and the fact the city was virtually Jenning’s second home. From there, expansion across the Pacific was in order.
“We always knew we’d come to California,” says Stephan Wigand, Brand and Special Projects Manager at Deus. “California made the most sense to us, but Venice worked best because of its culture. The Emporium of Post Modern Activities continues the theme of its Australian founders, with its cafe/restaurant, retail clothing space and custom surfboards, hand-carved at the Temple of Enthusiasm in Bali.
But Deus is best known for its custom motorcycles, and The Emporium of Post Modern Activities has extended this reputation in the U.S. The man responsible for every custom creation is Mike “Woolie” Wollaway. Being from Marin County, California, Woolie grew up steps from legendary dirt tracker Mert Lawwill, and even rode on his personal track.
In his younger days, Woolie “raced everything I could get my hands on.” Though, major injuries forced him to give up riding. Eventually, he would pack his bags and move south to Los Angeles, where he’s been working as a Hollywood gaffer for 20 years.
However, because of the recession and the Hollywood writer strike of 2008, Woolie had some free time, which he used to build bikes for celebrity friends like Ryan Reynolds, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Orlando Bloom. “I actually met the Deus guys through Orlando, and I originally was making bikes for them out of my garage.”
A major factor in Woolie’s decision to join Deus, besides the convenient location less than a mile from his house, was the fact Dare Jennings encouraged his creative freedom.
"I didn't want to build bikes other people built,” Woolie comments. “I didn't want to use parts that weren’t up to the standard I wanted to work with, and Dare completely supported me. Luckily, I've had success with my customer base and I'm booked out for the year. I roll out all the parts by hand, weld them, bend them, everything. I don’t work quickly, but I don’t say a bike is finished until I’m completely happy with it.”
Stroll into the shop at any time and you’ll see a number of bikes including both modern and vintage Triumphs, Kawasaki W650s, a slew of Harleys and even the odd dirtbike or two, which Woolie has been converting for supermoto or dirt track shenanigans. “Until recently I couldn’t ride, but with all these injections they have for knees now I’m getting back into it.”
If you ever find yourself in Venice, California, give Deus ex Machina a visit. The coffee is strong, the bikes are cool and they even have free wi-fi. Of course, while pictures, websites and internet stories like this are nice, as Jennings says, “the reality is the store is the place to come and the place to feel.”
For more information on all of the Deus ex Machina locations, visit http://www.deuscustoms.com/.
Inside Deus Ex Machina
2012 Quail Motorcycle Gathering - Video
American Chopper Live: The Build-off
2011 LA Calendar Motorcycle Show - Video
Ducati All Stars Concert
Hansen Dam Show and Ride