Q&A with Metal Mulisha co-founder Linkogle
Larry Linkogle's new book, "Mind of the Demon: A Memoir of Motocross, Madness, and the Metal Mulisha," hits shelves June 24, exposing the raw nerve of Linkogle's lifelong struggles with his father, addiction, his Metal Mulisha business partner Brian Deegan and with himself as he has waged war on the world of mainstream motocross and the establishment in general.
Linkogle's still battling for control over the multimillion-dollar action sports apparel empire he helped spawn with a few hand-scrawled skulls on T-shirts.
We caught up with him from his home in Temecula, Calif. -- the heart of the international freestyle motocross scene he's credited with kick-starting -- for more on the book, an intriguing metaphor for his custody battle with Deegan, and the inside word on his new work mentoring at-risk teens, reformed ex-convicts and upcoming riders at the MDP Block facility he's been working on with X Games stars Robbie Maddison, Jeremy Stenberg, Nate Adams and Josh Hansen.
XGames.com: You've been critical of the current state of FMX, at X Games and otherwise. Let's start there: What do you think is missing?
As this sport me and my friends created has gotten increasingly mainstream, it's gotten to a point where it's been condensed down into arenas and circus events, which is funny because it was kind of an F you to the motocross establishment and a step away from that whole corporate atmosphere in the first place. To me, more than anything, freestyle is an art, an expression of self, and it's hard to confine that into a judged and critiqued area without taking some of the freedom out of it. I worry that these courses being set up and shown to the world as the public face of FMX are all pretty much the same. All the ramps are set at a certain distance, everything's all mapped out. It lets the top jocks in the sport show off their gymnastic tricks, but it doesn't really let you paint a big mural and truly progress. It feels stuck and confined, which is the opposite of FMX in my mind. So I've been really trying to focus on bringing it back to the core, to our roots, and the riders know in their hearts it's really about.
What can you tell me about the MDP Block and what you have going on out there in Temecula?
The sport was created here in my backyard for the most part, and we're lucky to still have these facilities here to help out the next generation of kids and pump it out to secure an existence for the future of this sport and not just have it all go in the conglomerate direction. That's really where my heart and motivation is right now. We've been hosting groups from an organization called Outdoor Outreach, where these kids have suffered from different kinds of child abuse, sexual abuse or substance abuse. The substance abuse, as you know, is something I'm more than qualified to speak on. We've also been mentoring some young and up-and-coming riders. Robbie Maddison, Nate Adams, Josh Hansen ... all of us here on my block, we're all experienced veteran riders. We all know how to do things the hard way and the wrong way, and we know how to guide people to do things the right way, so we've created a training facility to help kids out so that when they get on a big platform they're not just being thrown to the wolves. We start kids out, have them make sure their bikes are set up safe, do foam pit work with them step by step, and have really have opened up some opportunities for these kids.
Why is that important to you?
There are so many up-and-coming kids in FMX, I can't even just put one name down. We'd be here listing name after name after name. And they're everywhere, all over the world, in the outback of Australia and deep in Europe and out there in the desert somewhere, because of this thing we set in motion. We want to bring this sport back around and really create an outlet for these kids, because we see ourselves in them and we see the future of our sport in them.
What really excites me, and always has, is the underdogs, these kids no one's heard of who work their ass off. There are plenty of kids out there who've had everything handed to them, but I'm most drawn to those other kids who really have to work, who put all their dedication and everything they have into it, and then their riding speaks for itself and all their hard work pays off. It makes me so happy when any of our riders pull it out, win events and are out there having fun, because the fun is when progression happens. When you're out with your friends pushing one another and having a blast, that's when the magic happens.
Let's talk about your book and the legacy you want to leave. Why did you want to tell some of the more personal aspects of your story, and why now?
It's because I've been at the top and I've been at the very bottom and back. No one really wants to go in and expose the dark deep things that go on in their lives and in their minds, because they might be embarrassed or ashamed or whatever. But for me it was important to just put it all on the line, even the things I'm not proud of, so that maybe my mistakes and my perseverance and everything I've been through could mean something to somebody. I'd be stoked if some of the people I've lived with on the streets were like, "Link? I remember being strung out on heroin with him. If he turned his life around there's no reason I can't, too."
You speak pretty frankly about your experiences with drugs and the partying scene associated with FMX. Is that still a big part of the scene, or is it cleaner now?
I don't really know because I'm intentionally not a part of that part of the scene anymore, so I don't really know what those dudes do. But my sense is that they're all jocks now who want to be successful and are taking tremendous risks and want to be at their best, so I think it's considerably cleaner. In my day we all thought we were Ace Frehley rock stars. We were happy to not have to train, just party all night and then go hit a ramp. I know some of that still goes on, but my sense is that it's a lot cleaner now. Most of these kids coming up just love to ride.
You're also pretty open in the book about the long and ongoing beef with Brian Deegan over control of the company you founded. Why did you want to put that out there?
Things got really messed up with the Metal Mulisha, and that's part of the story. It's the biggest company in freestyle motocross and arguably one of the biggest companies in action sports. But the current status is that me and my partner will never get along. We haven't gotten along for close to 13 years now, but I think that's also part of what makes the company so unique. We both have different ideas and different views, but at the end of the day we both want the best interest for it. The Metal Mulisha is like a child between two separated parents: We both want to push our views on it and we both want it to succeed and be the best, even though we don't talk and we don't get along with each other. So we'll have our lawyers talk, because we'd rather be totally separated and that's just how it is. At the end of the day we still continue to push the company forward together, and it's managed to get very big and pushed in a mainstream direction while still staying core and antiestablishment. It's this weird little dysfunctional deal but it works.
But we've also been able to set some of that aside, and the thing I'm most proud of that we've created through Metal Mulisha is being able to employ people through rough times, to employ our friends and some of our favorite athletes, and give the team guys a chance to really pursue their future. We've also been able to give something to our fans, who have been so loyal and so incredible. With the Metal Mulisha, if you see someone wearing a shirt or a sticker on their truck or have that skull tattooed on them, it's like an identifier. It's turned into something bigger than we could have ever predicted.