I recently caught up with photographer, videographer, chopperer, father, husband and an all around solid dude Jordan Epp on art, bikes and 21 Jump Street. In our day and age, given that we think we know everyone around us through social media, I was pleasantly surprised at how down to earth this talented human is. See for yourself.
B: Lets get to brass tax...You seem way too educated to be a chopper guy...What gives? are you a cop or something? Is this a 21 Jump St scenario?
J: Yup You got me bro. Total chopper narc! hahah. No, to be honest cops don't seem nearly as smart as most fabricators or millwrights I know. I'm just an old punk who listens to country now. My background is in film and video production, but now I work with faculty at the University to design University courses for distance education. I've got a masters degree in Educational Communications and Technology, but basically I tell them why I'd hate taking their classes and then introduce better approaches to presenting it for dummies like me. I was terrible at school as a kid, but I take very little responsibility for that. The education system is fucked. I just try and not make it worse. Desk job. Anyway, it pays the bills and puts a roof over my family's head with lots of benefits and the hours are regular and predictable. Basically I sit at work all day thinking about ways to make my choppers cooler.
B: Tell us a little bit about your background. What came first, photography or film?
J: I did an undergraduate degree in film and video production way back in the '90's. All the professors were underground experimental weirdoes so I started out shooting 16mm film and spending most of my time in the darkroom doing experimental processing and printing techniques with a portable record player and a stack of vinyl. Fringe experimental film stuff, then later got into making social documentaries. There's a whole underground scene to it that I really enjoyed for a long time. No money in it really though so I started doing commercial work for a few years and supplemented it with photo retail gigs. Started really shooting photography then I guess.
B: Which do you prefer?
J: I love real film. Still or motion, don't matter, it's what I'd shoot all day if I was rich and had lots of time. I'd say I'm a better cinematographer than photographer though. I really love the movie picture shows.
B: What's it like being the guy behind the lens all the time?
J: It's a pain in the ass. Especially at events. I always forget to shoot anything. It does, however, give me a skill I can barter for good fabrication and machining skills. I shoot photos, you fix my bent ass frame.
B: What got you into bikes?
J: I got a ride on my buddy Gord’s Dad’s shovelhead when I was 5. No helmet, no shoes, pretty sure Gord’s Dad was half cut. Everything about it made me want more. The smell, the noise, the power, the fear, the danger, the way the girls looked at me afterwards. But years later it was the wrenching that got me hooked. I bought a piece of shit that died on me and I had no mechanical skills what-so-ever. I pulled it apart out of sheer desperation and actually got it running again. I was so stoked I bought another non-runner a week later and tore it apart. Hooked ever since. There is no better feeling than riding a janky basket case that you built from the ground up.
B: You have a beautiful shovelhead, and a new project on the go. Fill us in on what one might find in your garage.
J: The garage is actually starting to take shape. I've got less parts bikes than usual right now and I'm glad to have the space as a result. So yeah like you said, I've got the 80" 1980 Shovel and my 1950, '51, '55, '63 dogs breakfast of a Panhead right now. Pretty stoked to have that pan running considering the garbage I stacked together to build it. Next project is an early 1950's South Bend Lathe that I picked up. Needs a little work, but I can't wait to learn how to make it turn. Other than that it's mostly oil stains, Smiths cassette tapes, moldy whiskey glasses and a mess of tools, heaven.
B: Alright, I can't wait any longer for this one...What the hell is going on on Saskatchewan? You guys have some of the most bitchin bikes in the country. Please explain how a place that seems to get so little recognition by the average human, seems to be a chopper mecca of Canada?
J: Saskatchewan has an amazing bunch of people building old iron and custom death machines in, sheds, shops and shanties. Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Regina, Estevan; they all have some great riders behind the throttles of some stunning hand built vintage motorcycles; bombing the streets and grids roads that connect the province. We are incredibly blessed out here with old timers that are willing to pass along stories and trade secrets and a “no jerk” community of enthusiastic bike junkies. Saskatchewan folks are hardworking, community minded, "mind your business", help-a-buddy kinda people. Always have been. Add choppers on top of it and you've got what we've got, but it definitely starts with the right people. If it wasn’t for the cost of shipping we’d be in heaven. Even the long, bitter cold winters don’t get us down too much as it give’s us a few months of uninterrupted building season to rework what we’ve got or start something new. By spring, with a lot of helping hands, everyone usually has a whole new bike. Love my town. Love my scene. Love Saskatchewan.
B: This may be presumptuous, but it seems like you, Brian Jessop and your band of merry men a fostering a pretty tight community out there. Tell us about the events you guys are involved in. Chopmeet, etc?
J: The roots of the chopper community around here go way deeper than the current scene or Chop Meet. There's some crazy ol' grey bearded wizards out this way who have stories that make our parties sound like we're selling tupperware. Most of the dudes from that original scene think it's great to see another generation into the old iron (mostly they laugh at us cuz we're stupid, and drunk and leg wrestling in the streets), but that foundation is important to the scene here. That said, I think Chop Meet has really started to fill a big gap of grassroots get togethers here on the prairies and I appreciate the opportunity to put my name on such an great party. It's grown exponentially every year and the caliber of custom bikes is as solid as the quality of dirtbags who build and ride them across the country to the show. I seriously can't wait to see the new builds and meet some new pals next year.
B: Any last words?
J: I dunno I think that's it man. Thanks so much for including my work in the show and for taking the time to do all this leg work. I know what it takes to throw a shindig so bravo for getting it done again this year. Definitely cool to use my pics for promotion or whatever else you guys see as fit. cheers.
You can see more of Jordans work at jordanepp.com