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Interview With Harley-Davidson’s Paul James

Harley-Davidson’s Paul James is the Director of Product Communications. In non-corporate speak, that means that he is there to get the word out about new bikes, products and services for those who live to ride and ride to live. In honor of Harley-Davidson’s new lean and economical Forty-Eight bike, James gave Noisecreep the lowdown on new Harley models and that quintessential rock star/biker dude relationship and the company’s parternship with Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival this summer. He also lets us know which headbangers are Harley enthusiasts — it’s not just Rob Halford, but even Ravn from 1349.

What does your job entail?

We’re here to make sure that the word is out on our new bikes, products and services. We do this both in a traditional sense — getting people to ride and write about our new motorcycles — but also in some non-traditional ways, too, like heading out on tours like Mayhem Festival and bringing our bikes to people who might not have stopped into a Harley dealership lately — or ever, for that matter. In the end, we’re here to spread the word that Harley-Davidson isn’t always what you think. We’ve got some great new bikes, parts, accessories and riding gear that’s affordable, easy to maintain and in a word: bad-ass.

Harley-Davidson and hard rock would seem to go hand in hand, as a brand and a lifestyle. Do you think that the new Harley models and products would benefit from marketing to that audience since the two cultures are interlinked?

Yeah, it’s a collision of two loud, fast and rebellious worlds — hard rock and motorcycling. It’s about doing your own thing. Metal through the years hasn’t always been the ‘fashionable’ form of music, but it’s always been an authentic and loyal family of individuals banded together and following their own path. Yes, both groups wear black and have tattoos, but what connects the two is a shared feeling for the world and a need for release. An urge for rebellious expression unites us. So it’s no surprise that the metal and hard rock community connects with the Harley vibe.

There were Harley models at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards earlier this month …

We just got back from the Golden Gods Awards, and working with the artists and fans there was a blast. It was fun to have some of the new bikes like Forty-Eight and Iron 883 out on the black carpet. They totally get the customization, the art and the experience of the open road that Harley-Davidson encompasses. Many of the artists, techs, crew members and production guys and gals are longtime Harley riders themselves.

Does Harley work with a lot of hard rock and metal musicians?

Harley has always been linked with rock music. They go hand in hand. In metal specifically, Rob Halford of Judas Priest still rides on stage every night in concert, and he recently rode out for the Golden Gods Awards on his Harley Cross Bones. Of course ’80s metal vets like Mötley Crüe and LA Guns have been big on Harley over the years. But it’s not just those guys. It’s really all genres of hard rock and metal music. It’s an amazing brotherhood that’s out there. You’d be surprised: bands like As I Lay Dying, Lamb of God, Slayer and Trivium are all Harley riders. Even Ravn from 1349 is a Harley enthusiast. I’m dying to know what his riding gear looks like. Dave Grohl has done a lot with us lately as well. He’s got a bunch of Harleys in his garage that he rides as hard as he hits the drums. And when we hear of bands that ‘have the bug’ to get riding, like Job for a Cowboy, Whitechapel, Atreyu and Five Finger Death Punch, we put them through our dealership licensing program Rider’s Edge and make it happen.

The new Forty-Eight model seems like it would be a great product for an audience/readership like ours. What makes it special and appealing, besides being stripped down and raw?

The Forty-Eight evokes a lean and low look that’s reminiscent of the hot rod era. Honestly, it’s a work of art: minimal in its design elements but with just enough added custom touches that it’s really just cool right from the start. Like all of the Harley-Davidson Dark Customs, it’s stripped, but the Forty-Eight standard features, like chopped fenders, under-bar mounted mirrors, stop-turn-tail lights and a side-mounted license plate really bring the bike to the next level of customization. You really have to see one for yourself, walk around it, sit on it and spend some time to see all the custom touches. It’s a lot of little things. Sometimes you look at a bike, and even before you get to the features you just look at it, and it’s an emotional connection.

I love the ‘bike for young America’ vibe that the Forty-Eight model has.

There have always been bands singing about the temperament of America’s youth. And that feeling is that their freedoms are receding and there’s a need to rebel against society. Listen to their words, and what they are feeling. A lot of other people are feeling the same way, and the way they choose to express it is on a motorcycle. The beauty of the Forty-Eight and our other Dark Custom models is that you can get on the road without breaking the bank. They don’t have the chrome and the doo-dads that you don’t need, and even the price is stripped down with several models under $7 bucks a day. Most importantly, they’re a blast to ride — whether it’s out on the open road, through the twisties or just taking the fun way home from work. It’s about riding. It’s about having fun with your friends and getting away from it all. Nothing more. But nothing less.

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