By Cynda McElvana
I met Gleb Cherniy at Cramps night. I couldn't really understand much of what he was saying because of the loud music, and plus, Russian accents are tricky when you're from the South. But I knew right away I wanted to take his picture. He invited me down to his compound where he lives and builds motorcycles. He's covered in wild tattoos, he builds all sorts of cool bikes, and if you ask nicely he might take you surfing.
Animals: When did you move to Los Angeles and where from from?
Gelb: I'm from Russia and I moved here 2 years ago.
What has inspired your work with motorcycles?
I dream about motorcycles. I collect parts from all over the city, sometimes weird parts that aren't even from motorcycles. I like how the bike feels and looks, maximum engineering design. I don't care for bikes to look fancy. I just care about how it rides and how it feels. I care about the lines of the bike.
Other than motorcycles, what are you interested in?
I like surfing. I just started surfing here. I used to skateboard a lot when I was young. That's why I started dreaming about California and LA because it opened my mind to that way. II started to feel that culture and spirit of LA. After that I always lived on that dream.
How did you know that you wanted to move to California?
I think I worked at about four different (motorcycle) workshops in Moscow. It's always about motorcycles and the customizing but it’s different location. I felt like I was wasting my energy. Political weather began to change in Russia and I started to be like opposite way to government. That made my life harder. So I thought I can do it once again; I can open another workshop. I thought why shouldn't I try in California? You can drive a motorcycle all year so, that’s the reason I came here; to make my dream come true.
How did you first get into motorcycles?
When I was 5 years old, I would always go to my Uncle's village and he used motorcycles for farm purposes. Once he put me on top of the gas tank and gave me the handle bars. First time I turned the handle I felt that power. I'll never forget that moment. From that moment it started. I'd be so excited about them. I would go crazy. I can't believe that feeling. It's like first love. It stays in my soul until I die.
How did you learn about building motorcycles?
In the beginning I just started to learn on my own like hobby. After school I went to a technical university and learned about welding, materials, diagrams, safety and protection; how it all works. After the experience, my bikes started getting better. If you never see something then you'll never know how it'll look. It's all experiments. When it's born I see what it becomes, but before I don't know. I don’t have a picture in my mind. I just keep going and do what I want to; I try to make it fun.
What music do you listen to?
I like a lot of rock music, Bad Religion and Sex Pistols - all that heavy music. It's funny because I’ve just recently began to understand what they’re talking about; pretty much rock n roll, punk rock, Motorhead.
What's better- surfing or sex?
Surfing and sex!
Best tattoo/Worst tattoo?
My favorite is the one that says SK8. I think it’s the worst and the best one. Oh, you know what…this one is the worst. It's T.B. stands for Turbo Beer. When you punch a hole in the beer and chug it all.