Article By: Chris Callen
Photos By: Jazmin Monet Estopin – jazminmonetphotography.com
Originally Published In The February 2014 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
So the bike on the cover of this issue is from well known West Coast bike builder, Michael Barragan of Evil Spirit Engineering. What a lot of you might not realize is that as many people who know him, only know him as a bike builder, and just as many more know him only as a national touring musician. Now I’ve been a fan of this cat’s bikes for quite some time, but as we talked about his bike being on the cover and the idea of doing the shoot in and around his band, I downloaded the CD and became a fan of his music too. The band name is Drag News and the sound is raw, loose guitar driven rock. I wanted to take a little more time and delve into this hidden part of Michael’s persona so we decided to make Drag News this month’s FTR feature.
When he was 17, Michael was living in Texas. He was around cars all the time but was itching for the California music scene so he split and headed for the coast; he was following his rock ‘n’ roll dream. After trying for some time to get into a band and not having the guitar skills to embrace that culture, he found his way to the bike life. See, during this time in LA you were either a rock star in the music scene or you were a rock star for the bike you rode. There were bikes everywhere. He’d watch these cats pull up and take back off with hot chicks on their bikes; this made him want to be a part of that — fast.
The Sportster he scored was a small distraction, but it gave him enough of a release until he’d finally start landing some gigs. He was in a few different bands through the ‘90s and eventually got into a group called Plexi, named after the Marshall Plexi amp. Before long, they signed a deal with Sub Pop Records and started touring the world. They were everywhere, and up until about 9 years ago it was all Michael ever wanted to do. Eventually, he got his fill of the drugs and booze and one day just walked away from it all. He was done with music, at least the performance aspect of it, and from there on he focused on the bike building. In this industry he’s been all over the world and has had bikes in magazines from many different countries . His bikes are beautiful and he’s already had a great career as a builder, but there was still something missing; something was calling Michael back to the music.
It was around this time he met Gene Troutman, the drummer for Drag News. He had played with Queens and Eagles of Death Metal, and they knew of each other. Michael knew this was the drummer he wanted for his new band. Together they set out on the task of trying out singers. They saw everything from chicks to punks, but to no avail. They picked up Bryan Ray Turcotte, the bass player, who also has his own music publishing company and record label – BetaPetrol. Singer Richard Lafebre, who had previously put out one of Plexi’s records on his own label, joined on and they got ready to do their first EP. Just as they were about to record, Richard quit the band, leaving them with no singer. So, Michael stepped up and they’ve been a three piece band ever since. He says he doesn’t think of himself as a singer even though he sang backup in his other bands and even sang lead here and there.
The vocals, along with the big, loud sound the rest of the band is backing him up with is just some great music to drive a hundred miles an hour to with no place to go. It’s the kind of vibe that reminds me of my younger days and the little clubs in my hometown like The Electric Banana that would find us fist fighting in the just for fun. In spite of the fact that they refer to themselves as older guys who are just into playing, the groove they are on is aggressive and young like gas on a fire.
I got the album earlier this week and have it on rotation with other similar artists like The Exploited and Agnostic Front . Songs with titles like “Come On” and “Who Are You” pour out of the speakers in a loose but specific manner and make you want to smash your face off the wall. With inspiration from Zeppelin and Priest, they take styling cues from The Gories and The Cramps; it’s in your face rock ‘n’ roll, man! They’ve already played some kick ass gigs in LA at the Viper Room and are currently embarking on a mission to record their first full album that will be announced shortly.
Keep up to speed with Drag News on their Facebook at facebook.com/pages/Drag-News and for you motorcycle nuts, keep tabs on Evil Spirit at facebook.com/pages/Evil- Spirit-Engeering