Paul Teutul Jr. was just 27 when American Chopper: Jet Bike premiered on the Discovery Channel, featuring Paulie and his father, Paul Sr., building a custom chopper for 2002’s Laconia Bike Week. Part of Bike Weekend, the one-off special and the intrinsic family dynamics so captivated audiences that a full series following the Teutuls and their business, Orange County Choppers, soon followed in 2003. Six years of family ups and downs ensued, culminating in 2009 with Senior firing Junior, who waited out his one-year non-compete clause before establishing his own business, Paul Jr. Designs.
Today, Paul Jr. Designs continues to thrive, producing custom bikes for a variety of individual and corporate clients. There have been TV commercials and personal appearances since 2012 as well, but the most important development in Paul’s life occurred when his wife, Rachael, gave birth to their son Hudson Seven Teutul in February 2015.
In his book called The Build, he reveals the “behind the scenes” story of the popular TV reality series American Chopper for the show’s millions of fans.
Paul is arguably the most creative builder of custom “chopper” motorcycles in the world. His talents were revealed to millions of TV viewers worldwide on American Chopper, as well as later on a spinoff series, American Chopper Senior vs Junior. The Build gives the reader at Paul Jr.’s life behind the camera, which included volcanic conflict with his father and business mentor, Paul Sr. Using his own story of improbable success as an illustration, Paul Jr. offers insights on how anyone can find and activate often hidden talents. In a charming, often humorous way, The Build is a rallying cry to unleash God-designed creativity and live life to the fullest.
Art Eddy: Let’s first talk about your book, The Build. I really enjoyed reading your book. From the introduction to the end you cover work, family, fatherhood, relationships, religion and so much more. What inspired you to write this book?
Paul Teutel Jr.: I think the intention behind the book was to give people some information that they wouldn’t otherwise know from the show. The behind the scenes is about ninety percent of the show. I wanted to give people some really good perspective.
All those years it was just me, Mikey, and my father. People just thought that was the Teutels. What they didn’t realize was that there were another three people involved. We are a six person family. My mother, my brother, Danny, and my sister, Cristin and the role that they played in it. I just wanted to let it be stated that it is more than just three of us. It worked out that way and that they were perfectly fine with that. At times it just put a lot of strain on our family when you have that global notoriety only for part of the family.
AE: I love how you talk about all of your family members and share your relationships with each family member. You are very open and honest. Did your family get to take a look at the book while you were in the process of writing it and if so what were their thoughts on it?
PT: There was no input from anybody. It is just me talking about the show, talking about the family, my faith, and my bikes. It is really all first person. There was no outside involvement except for my wife. She actually got me through writing the book. It is not my strong suit. We will put it that way. (Both laugh.)
I am a hands on guy. This was a challenge. I compartmentalize like a lot of men do. Honestly I forgot a lot. I had to go back and talk with my wife. She has a better memory. I also feel emotionally we kind of lock things out. I move on. I have responsibilities. I can’t live where I was at one time in an emotional place. Then it comes back up and you are like man that really happened. You tap back into it. It is draining. You are like I really didn’t want to come back here, but you have to do that to be able to explain it to the reader.
AE: You talk about how your relationship with your dad was not the best of a father and son dynamic. You talked about how the relationship he had with his parents affected how he was a parent. You told yourself that when you became a dad you would be different. You mention that your son is still young, but you feel that you have broken that cycle and you are doing everything you can to be there for your son. Do you think about that every day?
PT: That is the idea. You end up being so much more like your father than you think. (Both laugh.) My father has a lot of really good qualities. Although sometimes in our relationship it has been extremely strained and I don’t agree with the way he does things now that I have a son it is a double edged sword. It makes me not understand my father a little more because I have a son. I think I just want the world for this kid.
Then again it makes me understand my father from a perspective of having the responsibility of having a family. It is an interesting thing overall. I think it is a daily thing. I think it is easy to fall into bad habits. I am more like my father than you can imagine. The older I get I find myself talking like him. I am very similar to him not just physically, but also my mannerisms.
AE: I really enjoyed the parts of the book where you had design drawing and other inserts in the book where you showed the design aspect. Talk a bit about adding those aspects into your book.
PT: I had a writer to help me break it down. When you start to talk and you put it all out there it is a lot. You are just talking ten years of just the show and all the dynamic changes that came with it. All the creatives, all the themes, and all the clients and all the meaningful unveils. You have to put that all out there and then organize it for the reader for them to understand the balance of it all. I think we really tried to do that in this book to give this multifaceted kind of feel, but explain it in layman’s terms where it just flowed out and made you feel how dynamic things are.
AE: You wrote about the relationship you saw from your parents as well as your relationship with your wife. From the book it seems you wanted to make sure you approached your marriage in a different manner from your parents.
PT: We try. We really do that. Marriages have their challenges. If I look at what I saw growing up and what me and my wife are now compared to that it is lightyears apart. We have our challenges. We both come from broken homes. We are both of the mindset that we really want to set a precedent for our son. We want to have a loving home and not have the arguments. We want him to feel comfortable and safe. We want to love him and each other for that matter. Again none of this is perfect, but I think we both have it in our heads that what we saw is not what we want for our family.
PT: I was just blown away by it. I just couldn’t believe it. I was actually dozing off on the bed and my wife came in and said that she took the test and that she was pregnant. I was like Oh my God. I didn’t know what to do. I was very happy. We were trying. It did not come easy. It took a while. Matter of fact I thought that there was something wrong. It was almost a year and a half to two years.
It was starting to get stressful. Everyone was asking why we weren’t pregnant. My brother has five kids. I think that they just look at each other and got pregnant. It just wasn’t happening. We were like what is going on? We were right there. We had to go to Tennessee to get pregnant. It was just how it went. New York wasn’t working. It is just so funny how it works.
We were literally in Tennessee for three days. In Nashville was when we got pregnant, but it was amazing. I was just blown away. I felt so fortunate especially after the period of time that it wasn’t happening. I do sympathize with people who struggle with that. People in your family don’t realize that they have the best of intentions, but they can make it even harder.
AE: In your book you talk about your relationship to God and how you try to live as a good Catholic. What are some of the core values you look to teach Hudson as he grows up?
PT: How to treat other people is always key. How to love people. For him right now he is three. We are just trying to manage and keep our head above water. (Both laugh.) We are treading water right now. It has been challenging. He is a great kid. He really is, but we are new parents. We are not sure.
Looking back I look to my father bringing us up. I was the first. So there was no precedent. They didn’t have good experiences or teachers. We just want to instill good Christian values into our son. One of the reasons that I did not name him Paul, we have a long line of Paul’s, is that the show is a globally received show. The Paul thing has really run its course.
I always thought that my son’s name was going to be Paul. I am a big name guy. When it came down to it I was like I am not naming this kid Paul. He is going to be his own dude and have his own thing. You are going to look in the future and say what is this kid going to be up against with the namesake? So let him be his own guy. Honestly Hudson was the only name that we both loved. That was it. We can’t find another name we like even if we had another boy. It was perfect for him.
Long term we just want to lead by example. If we can show him a good and healthy home environment I think that will go a long way.
AE: What is the one biggest piece of advice you have for new dads?
PT: I think when they get into the two’s you just got to be super patient. (Both laugh.) You really do. You got to spend time with them. Don’t be too distracted. That is a big thing. I swear these kids know way more than you think they do at that age. They pick up on everything. If you are there, but you are not there they know. I have noticed that I am guilty of that sometimes.
I would say just be real conscious when you are with your kid and what it is you are doing. In this day and age of technology it is always right there. Even your phone can get between you and quality time with your child.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: Do you guys have a favorite family movie that you all love to watch together?
PT: Growing up it would have been Christmas Vacation. It is still one of my favorites. We watched that movie until is stopped working.
AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing to or dance to as a family?
PT: He likes The Itsy Bitsy Spider and songs like that. We do sing The Hot Dog song that is on Disney. We dance around. He will come grab us out of the kitchen and will pull us into the living room. We will all dance to The Hot Dog song from The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
PT: We really like going to the shore. My wife is from Long Beach Island. We like going down to the beach. I have always felt like the beach is the perfect vacation. So I would say the ocean.
AE: You have created so many unique and fantastic bikes. Is there a bike design that you are looking to build in the near future or haven’t gotten to yet because of time?
PT: Not really. The way I take on design is the challenge of it. When the product is presented to me that is when I go into a design mode. I put in the book some people that I would love to do bikes for. One would be a U2 bike. I would love the opportunity to do that. Then do some stuff for Stan Lee. He is such a creative genius. I could do bikes for him for the rest of my life.
PT: Europe. Just to be around Europe. I will tell you that I spent one day in Ireland and we did the Ring of Kerry. It was for the show and it was rushed. I would love to do some real serious riding around Ireland.