Paul Miller is the founder of PanicRev Customs, based out of Calgary, Alberta. His first build was a tracker made from a ’77 Yamaha TT500 that was featured in BikeEXIF, which launched his career. He was invited by Thor Drake of See See Motorcycles to put his latest custom motorcycle on display at the 2016 One Moto Show in Portland, OR.
Everyone just wants everything right now these days. Craftsmanship isn’t a thing anymore. People who cast machines and make shit by hand just ain’t around anymore. And that’s sad. But I want to be one of those people that carries it on.
British Customs: What do you believe is the heart and soul of The One Moto Show?
Paul Miller: It’s hard to put your finger on it. I’ve been to a lot of shows, but none of them are like The One Show. There’s a whole different feeling there. The core community was there. People came to see the bikes because they have a passion for it. It was unlike anything I’ve ever been to before. Everyone wanted to talk and see your stuff, and they wanted to show your their stuff and bond over it. Everybody was on the same level. There weren’t any pissing contests where people were like, “Forget your stuff, come look at my stuff.” Everyone left everything at the door, and the atmosphere and the attitudes were just so good. It wasn’t the bikes that made The One Show, it was the people. As soon as the sun went down, I wasn’t even looking at the bikes. I would show up early in the day to look at the bikes and meet the builders. At night I just wanted to talk and have a good time with people.
BC: What does the motorcycle community mean to you?
PM: In Calgary, we don’t have a huge motorcycle community. We only get to ride three months a year. But still, the motorcycle community here is really cliquey, and it’s hard to get into. I’m still trying to break my way into it. It’s tough. The community here is full of guys who walk into a dealership, buy a GSX-R, hit the button, and go. And I hate that. Those bikes don’t have any soul. If it doesn’t give you any trouble, it isn’t a real bike. The people at The One Moto Show made me feel more inspired than I’ve ever been because they understand and embrace that. It was so amazing to be around real, hardcore riders.
BC: What do you get your inspiration from?
PM: The internet. I mainly get my inspiration from seeing craftsmanship in a range of forms. I’ve always wanted to build a pre-war hotrod, but halfway through my tracker build I really started to get inspired by the motorcycle world. I’ve always been a huge fan of Jesse James because of his craftsmanship; his whole life is based in his craftsmanship. My inspiration comes from doing stuff like this bike, building stuff like this. It comes from everywhere and everything, from seeing how things works, from airplanes to turbines, to guns, anything with craftsmanship.
I get inspired by other builders and their motorcycles. I don’t always know how I’m going to make something work when I go into it, but you make it work.
BC: Every builder has a different approach to getting the creative juices flowing. Some create concept art, other arrange and rearrange parts on the floor of their garage. What’s your rain dance?
PM: Throughout my entire adolesence I was a graffiti artist. I grew up destroying the streets. I’ve always been into art. For Christmas gifts, I would render hot rod cars for people. Before I ever even touched my Yamaha tracker I had the whole thing planned out to the smallest detail. Throughout the build I did not stray from it one bit. I knew it was going to be this color and that color, and it was going to look like that, and I did exactly that. The only time I almost strayed from the bike was with the number plates because I thought they were going to take too long, and then I remembered that sticking to my vision was the whole point of the build. I need to have a plan when I go into a project. I have a lot going on in my life, and I have to know what a bike is going to be like before I set out on it. And it was the best exercise ever for me. I can’t have clutter in my life. And a year later, the build turned out exactly how I wanted it to. Accordingly, it’s really constraining when I have a customer who makes me pull back and stick to what they want.
BC: How hard do you think it is to take the first step towards customizing your own bike?
PM: The first steps aren’t hard. For me, it all has to do with getting the capital together for a project. I bought a $400 project bike and started from there. When I start something, I have to finish it. It’s never trouble starting a project because I know what to do. I write things down as I’m working on them; I make lists of everything. The hardest part of starting a project is finding a project.
BC: Where do you think is a good place to start for someone who wants to get into customizing a bike, but doesn’t know where to begin?
PM: It’s tough for me because I’ve been around it my whole life watching my old man work on his car. I screwed up a lot working on this first bike figuring everything out through trial and error. But you have to ask yourself: do you want to do a ground-up build, or a bolt-on custom? Start with buying a bunch of bolt-on parts and making it happen. It’s a great way to do it, because then you can give your bike its own DNA. When you change its parts you change it as a bike, and it feels different. I feel like people should be doing that sort of thing. Be a part of it. That’s what I want to see. I want to see people be a part of their motorcycle. No more stock motorcycles. I want to see the whole streets covered in custom bikes. I want to see people riding, and loving what they ride.