ZZ Top, Henry Ford, and Gandhi got together, had a love child and named him Brother JD El Rey. Brother JD is an eclectic enigma with a larger than life personality and a vocabulary to match. From “Hillbilly-Hoodrat” to “Pimptastic”, he comes to us complete with his own unique vocabulary, image, creativity, and perspective. Torqued Magazine’s recent interview with Brother JD gives us a behind the scenes look at this man of many talents, and not just a look at the cars and the music that make up so much of JD’s public persona, but also a look at some of the inner feelings of the man that can thump a bass guitar or the bumper of a Pontiac with equal passion, and precision.
El Rey’s Garage was actually established in Brother JD’s backyard in the gritty little beach town of Venice Beach, Southern California. What started as something of a personal, family “show and tell” project build, evolved quickly into a reality TV enterprise. Brother JD and his crew (Patrick and Felix), Stars of “Turn & Burn” TV Show on Velocity Channel, are The Real Deal. In this interview with Torqued Magazine Brother JD shares with us his earthy, downhome character that is both appealing and genuine. In a world of celebrity where the norm so often evolves into a less-than-appealing sense of self, JD has been able to maintain a genuine quality that draws you in like we are all, in the end, a bunch of friends hanging out. We’ll pop open a cold one. We might talk cars, we might talk music, we might talk life…but in the end we’ll all feel a little better about ourselves and the world we live in, for having spent a little time in the refreshing shadow of Brother JD El Rey.
Q. Where does “Brother” come from?
A. Well I’ll tell you. That name came from a dude I used to work with at the dealership. Matter of fact, he was the mechanic I had with me on “Turn & Burn”. His name is Harry… real good cool guy…used to always say,”Brother JD this”…and… “Brother JD that”…started to stick. Strangely, I always felt like everybody’s brother, no matter who they were …so I started usin’ it when I’d play my gigs at the clubs. Another strange thing about that “brother” moniker is that my own Pops used to call his best buddy….”Brother Harry” when I was growin’ up. Whoa, that’s kinda weird!!!
Q. How would you describe yourself to someone that doesn’t know you, or what it is you do?
A. I would tell them, I’m an old school, Americana artist/entertainer heavily involved in the art of “Rustoration” using the finest techniques of “Craprication”!! I express my “hillbilly-hoodrat” soul and flavor in many forms which include, creating cars, trucks, bikes, television production, and music.
Q. What is your first love?
A. First love is Family….gotta take care of them first and foremost before anything else. As far as the art side …. I’ve loved cars and bikes and music since I can remember. I started customizin’ my bicycles with extended front ends and custom paint jobs. On the music side …l started playin’ electric bass at the age of 12. After my dad taught me “Honky Tonk” on that first day, I started playin’ all the bass lines of the records I had. Because I’m a self taught bass player performer, I actually came to Los Angeles to study bass at Musicians Institute in Hollywood. I wanted and needed to understand the mechanics and science of this language of music. I was playin’ the clubs 5 nights a week from the age of 18 on, makin’ a livin’ and payin’ my rent …but didn’t know the difference between a major and a minor chord!! I dig it all it’s all expression of the soul.
Q. What (in your opinion) was the greatest car ever to come off the assembly line?
A. Because the question didn’t mention, speed or looks, or luxury I guess it would have to be an all American 4×4 pick up truck. Trucks are still the top sellers in the marketplace, they can still haul all your stuff, can still take you anywhere you wanna go (including date nights and church) and they are still made to take a beatin’ for many many years. To this day, the big 3 compete fiercely for the truck market and that is why for my all around greatest ever to come off the assembly line….(drum roll) The 71 Chevy Cheyenne K10 4×4 pick up truck …a truck that could go anywhere, do anything, and all with a little added luxury. They have all been gettin’ better and better every year.
Q. What project/build is your most memorable, or the one you are proudest of?
A. I would say the 67 Riviera “Pimptastic”. This whole TV thang started from the Riviera that I put together in my back yard in Venice, California with my kids. That is the car that prodded my wife and I to go buy a camera from Sears and video tape the project and create our own show. After our low budget Rivi was done, complete with scenes of “Willie the Pearl” antics …we posted it up on YouTube in February, 2011. Next thing you know, we’re havin’ production meetings in L.A. and getting calls from NY. One thing led to another and “BAM”….we’re shootin’ a real TV show …. crazy stuff man..crazy!!!
Q. What car haven’t you had a chance to work on that you would like a shot at?
A. My next project is a 49 Chevy Business Coupe that I’m actually gonna put a nasty, big electric motor in. I have zero experience with electric motors so….should be “electrifyin” to put this thang together!!! From my calculations, the car should be very quick and very quiet!!!! Lean, mean and green!!!! It’s El Rey’s Garage first ever “eRod”. I’m hopin’ to get her done by mid- 2015.
Q. Is there someone else’s work that you admire currently in the industry?
A. I honestly admire anybody that spends the time, effort and money to create something different and make it their own. Different budgets allow different levels of builds, so for me 1 admire the young guys in their home garages figurin’ stuff out that have no money. I gravitate toward the rough, dirty, low buck side of things and that’s what I like. I like to see where a guy had to make do with somethin’ because he couldn’t afford the right stuff. I also admire the guys that can do most tasks on their own.
Q. There does seem to be a “Spiritual Quality” to your life, music and art. What do you attribute that to? What is your inspiration?
A. First, I dig that you would see some type of “Spiritual Quality” in what I do. My business started with a piece of paper where I listed all the things I liked and wanted to do and went from there. I listed, cars, bikes, trucks, music, style, production, all that stuff,.. but also written was that our business had to be a positive influence in the world. That is the spiritual side and inspiration for our biz. I strive to give 10% of anything I actually make away to charity. It seems to work well for the receiver and the giver for sure. For those that don’t know, the name “El Rey” means “The King” in Spanish. The “King”, to me, is the “Big Man Upstairs”, “God”, “Jesus”, “Love”, “The Holy Spirit”, “The Creator”…whatever you want to call it…it’s a personal thang to each individual how to envision this entity. The way I look at it, I’m workin’ in the “Big Man’s” garage.
Q. What legacy would you like to leave the car and music industry?
A. It would be cool if people said after I’m in the ground…”You know, he was a good guy…always smilin’ and makin’ you feel good about what yer doin’ he never met a “stranger”. “His rides, music, style everything he did always had that cool “Hillbilly-Hoodrat” flavor” …but the best thing he ever did was with his wife when they established the “The El Rey’s Family Foundation”…look at all the lives they’ve helped over the years” ..THAT…would be cool and THAT is where we are headed next hopefully….fingers crossed!!!
Words by Scot Irwin