Mike Ness interviewed by Cole Foster of Salinas Boys

What the hell is Black Kat Kustoms? You have talked about making cool t-shirts and stuff for a long time.

I started Black Kat Kustoms because I hated everything else, I wanted to design kustom car, hot rod and chopper t-shirts, so I would have something cool to wear. I found that the only shirts I was wearing were from local speed shops. Graphic Arts was the only thing that kept me in school, I had a real passion for it. We used to make our own punk rock designs in class. We’d be the only ones anywhere to have one. I have always designed or help design the Social Distortion stuff, so I thought why not design some cool car, and bike custom culture stuff as well.

Do you think you have a queer eye?

Yes, definitely. Remember when we chopped the top on my car. When you were done, and I came back up to Salinas and thought the back of my car looked “squatty” - like someone’s kicking dog. That kept me up for nights. Then we drew sketches, and decided to lengthen the rear quarter panels. Next time, I’ll buy a hard top. I do feel that I have an eye for design, though. Call me if you need any help… 555-1212, any area code will work.

I started my shop to have a place to do my own projects and ended up making a living at it. What’s your reason?

Yes, it's mine and Donnie's hobby shop, a place to work on our cars, and bikes.

Are you friend or foe?


I know in music of whom you are “under the influence,” how about in kustom car and bike, past and present?

Well, I of course love the early Westergard style, and Barris’ early customs. I personally think the kustom scene ended around 1955. It just got kind of silly after that. Then came vans and VWs, mini trucks, etc. The Kennedy Bros and Salinas boys are my favorite present day builders. My favorite bikes are bobbers, diggers, and Bay choppers. You and Jesse James have been very kind. Indian Larry and Rico are great as well.

Are you compulsive and what trouble has it brought you?

Oh yeah. Well, I’m broke all the time because I can never just have one project going at one time, I have to have about three going. So the album just can’t seem to get finished. No wait, almost. I promise. I don’t fuck around!

When you would come to my shop and work on your Chevy for months, I told people, “Mike’s the best high school kid. I would hire him.”

Well, thanks pal. Lets see, I’m a shitty welder, I’m heavy handed with a grinder and I forget just about everything I’m taught. But I am getting better at turning a wrench.

I know you have matured in your personal life. You seem to have followed suit in your automotive as well. How?

Well, rat rods and bikes are cool, but how cool can they be if everyone has one? When we had our car club, the Lonely Kings, we wanted to have finished, painted, and upholstered cars. Elegant, sophisticated as well as mean and evil. Money is always the obstacle, but it’s no excuse for laziness - even safety, for that matter. All I can say is “When you gonna finish it?”

What are your current projects?

Finishing the ’54 Chevy…upholstery, interior lighting, last-minute stuff, etc. The electrical has a short somewhere since we air bagged it. We built a neat console for it, and I’m excited about getting it finished.

We just finished a frame off restoration on a ‘79 shovelhead - an over the top dresser with ape hangers. It’s a big bore with dual plug 107 cubic inches - a real tail dragger.

We’re also working on our Black Kat retro pan digger. Lookout for this one!!

I’m still collecting parts for my ’32 roadster project… on going project that is. Got those Stromberg 97’s, Cole?

Lastly, finishing bumpers on my ’36 Ford.