Joe Koenigsmark has been apart of the custom car and motorcycle world for over 34 plus years. If you looked around while walking around the Lowbrow Customs shop, with a quick glance you probably would never realize that almost every single bike here has been painted by Joe and yet, almost every single one has. His style and skills are impeccable and the reason we keep going back to him for more and more paint work. Let's not forget to mention he is also a dedicated and knowledgable crew member of Team Lowbrow when we are racing out at Bonneville Speed Week. Joe is not just a good friend of Lowbrow Customs, he is a big part of the family. We thought it would be cool to share a little more about Joe's history with everyone, so we sat him down in front of a couple cameras and asked him some questions. If you hate reading scroll through the photos and check out the video to watch the full interview in its entirety.
Tyler: State your name, business, and where you are from.
Joe: My name is Joe Koenigsmark, the owner of Angel Dust Cycle Paint. I live in Lakewood, Ohio and my shop is based out of Elyria, Ohio.
Tyler: Tell us how you got started in the custom paint business.
Joe: I started painting because of my dad having a shop that he started back in 1957. It was called Jerry's Custom Autobody, a little shop located in Lakewood, Ohio, which is literally five minutes from my house that I'm living in now. It would have been great if we still had that location, it would have been an easy commute. The shop did custom bodywork, custom paint, '60s and '70s stuff. It was all the rage. My dad was a huge part in why I do what I do.
I remember moving to Florida for a year. He wanted to work in a van shop because in the '70s, vans were becoming the new "thing", and his partner was opening a van shop down there. We totally loved doing custom vans while we were down there but my dad hated the Florida weather. So, we moved back in 1978. That's when my dad started Jerry's House of Kolors. We always used the candy paint House of Kolor. There was Junior Connolly that used to paint for Barrett's, he used to have Junior's House of Kolors. We always loved that name, and we were always spraying multiple candy colors, so it just fit. That's my main job, at Jerry's House of Kolor, doing custom cars, chopping tops, candy paint, and flames. We do a ton of flames.
Over the year's, the resurgence of metal flake and that '60s look on motorcycles finally came back. I have cabinets full of my dad's old paints so I thought to myself, "Man, what a perfect way to start spreading some of this out, then on motorcycles for friends and stuff." It didn't really fit the House of Kolor vibe per say, hence why I came up with the name Angel Dust Cycle Paint. It's just trippy paint with a trippy name.
Tyler: As a kid did you know you wanted to follow your father's foot steps?
Joe: Before I was even employed there, after high school, I would always be at my dad's shop on the weekends, any chance I could. Even when he was in his own garage, I was always there helping out and learning where I could. It was my destiny that I was going to be a custom painter and a custom body man.
Every weekend, I would be out in the shop causing trouble or actually working on something with my dad along with my brother Jerry, who was also big into cars at a very young age... Jerry was definitely the smarter one though. He went into the money aspect of the business when he got out of school. Jerry was the head designer at PPG, which worked out for us because anytime I needed a crazy cool color, he could mix it. He would custom paint in his own garage too when he wasn't working. He made all the cool colors that I got to spray--
Tyler: And the money, right?
Joe: And the money. [laughing]
Tyler: [laughing] What's the deal with '80s and '90s paint? What's up with that?
Joe: A lot of guys have just been painting for a few years. I've been in it 34 plus years. I've run the gamut when it comes to styles. The '80s at the time were pretty cool, but when you look at it in pictures now, it doesn't look so cool. Those Miami Vice colors were so hot and I sprayed a lot of it just because I want to keep my customers happy. There were a few times I defiantly questioned what I was putting in my spray gun.
It's was '80s though, everything evolves. Now other paint styles are coming back. '60s paint jobs are in vogue now. '80s and '90s, people wanted checkerboards and splashed graphics. In every time period people request flames, flames are timeless. We've always done tons of flames, but even the way they are done has changed immensely... You guys don't know how good you have it. [laughter]
Tyler: Whats up with The Tiki Guy?
Joe: The Tiki Guy, everybody loves to hear about The Tiki Guy. A buddy of mine was trying to make them and sell them. It didn't go over so well. I think he made five of them, which who knows where are the other three. He has one that I actually metal flaked for him. Mine, once I planned to paint it, but a painter never gets his own sh!t done. It was just mostly meant to be a wall hanger. Then one trip that we went out to California, I snuck it in my bag and brought it with me.
My wife had a f*cking fit. She's like, "What the hell are we doing with that?" I started placing him in weird spots and taking pictures. The Tiki Guy eventually took on a life of his own. Now she gets mad at me if I don't bring him with me. He's been to three Hawaiian islands, New York twice, California a bunch of times. He's been all over United States even in Utah. He's a big part of the family. He's been in the water, under the water, swimming with fish. He's even getting a bit rusty but I'll never clean him up because that's his look.
Through the years, I've had friends and people sign the backside of him as well. It's been an interesting ride for The Tiki Guy. Someday, he's going to become a coffee table book. I've got so many pictures of him all over the country. Maybe that'll be his due one day. I'll do a coffee table book and maybe a gallery showing of all these crazy pictures of his travels.
Tyler: What do you find most challenging when painting a car or motorcycle?
Joe: Painting for me, even though I've been doing it for 34 plus years-- to me, every job is a challenge. The guy that says that they're not challenging is lying to everyone because paint doesn't need a reason to f*ck up or us as painters don't need a reason to f*ck something up, things just happen. Good painters figure a way to get out of those screw ups. That maybe the reason why it takes me so long. It's not me being slow, per say, it's just problems. Yes, I have a little issue with being slow, but if anybody came to my shop and saw that I'm basically a one man shop doing eight cars and a couple of bikes all at the same time, they would understand. I write checks, I can't cash a lot, but thank God, I have so many great customers that understand it and for the most part, don't give me too much crap over it. To those customers reading this now, I'm sorry if you're waiting for something. I'm not at the shop right now so, I can't get it done [laughs].
Tyler: What is your dream car, motorcycle, or project you hope to do one day?
Joe: One dream project would be restoring an old survivor bike because people that know me know how much I love the history of painting cars, and motorcycles. It's an important part of our history.
It would definitely be a dream job to restore something like that or -- I'm a huge low rider fan. My favorite bike is the "Gypsy Rose". To do a motorcycle that would pay homage to that would be something that would be special to me. Also, my own 1950 Mercury, it was done in the '80s, early '90s but I tore it apart to redo it. Kids and life came along and it continues to sit in the corner of my shop in primer. I need to get that done. That's probably my biggest goal, is to get that back on the road because I miss it. My life's not complete without it.
Tyler: Is there any advice you would give someone who's starting to get into custom painting cars or motorcycles?
Joe: If I had to give any advice to new painters, try not to just rehash everything that's out there, I know you got to cut your teeth, but if you don't come up with your own flavor, as my friend, Sean, would say, "You're not going to have a long life in this business." You've got to create your own individual look for longevity. I can say this because I've been in it for so long. If you're just rehashing other people's designs or just the same design, it's just not going to carry well.
I know you've got to do some of it but you got to work on your own flavor too and work that into your paint. Sometimes, it's hard to get a customer to let you do what you want on their vehicle or motorcycle, but you got to be persistent and do that so you can spread your own love onto the canvas. Then somebody else will see that and go, " Yes! Man that's cool. It's different. I want something like that." Then you can get away from the cookie-cutter stuff because -- I'll sound like the grumpy old guy but the paint jobs out there today, everybody is just so cut and paste, it's color by numbers, and it's like, "Okay, we are going to put this in there and that square here--"
They're making money, that's why I don't want to sound like the grumpy old painter, but at a certain point, our soul is going into those bikes and you got to express what's inside you in paint and it can't be what everybody else is expressing. It's got to to be something of your own. Only other thing I would say is, "Get a day job. Don't paint." [laughing]
Tyler: Can you let people know how to get a hold of you if they are looking for a custom paint job for their car or motorcycle?
Joe: Yes, if anybody wants to hit me up for paint jobs or even a skate session -- I love skateboarding, so we can skate -- it's Joe Koenigsmark. The shop is Jerry's House of Kolors. Area code 440-458-6886 or hit me up on Instagram, @angeldustcyclepaint. Yes, I'm always out there and constantly at shows, so if you see my ugly mug, just run up and say, "Hey, what's up, man?" I'm always down to talk. I'm not shy as most people know. So please hit me up. Let's do some work. Let's just hang out. Let's get weird.