Inside Chris Yvon’s Death Squad
Many brands have sprung out of the Southern California lifestyle. Companies like OP, Vans, Hurley, and even No Fear were founded on what it was like to grow up in a sunny climate year round and do the various things that are done in the water or on wheels when the weather is great.
The generations of guys that grew up surfing, skating, riding BMX, and motocross have always gravitated toward being punk rock kids. When some of these misfits got a bit older, many ended up dead, in jail, or riding custom Harleys. A decade or so later, this type of lifestyle has spawned a whole new subculture with a younger generation of riders, and now it seems to be spilling out to the masses.
Death Squad is a brand that encompasses the spirit of what is going on in the Harley subculture. Its roots are deeply embedded in what we used to call underground sports, well before the X-Games and mega-caffeinated soft drink manufacturers brought them to every TV in the world.
Death Squad is a pull-no-punches brand that’s been around for a few years now and evolved into something that is more than clothing. Death Squad also manufactures hard parts such as T-bars, risers, and a few kinds of pegs, and has more components on the way. The Death Squad brand is very core, and sometimes people get it twisted. As the DS website states: “All law enforcement, motorcycle clubs, and general inquiries. Death Squad is not an MC. Death Squad manufactures motorcycle parts and apparel for the motorcycle, skateboard, surf, and tattoo cultures.” Yes, that pretty much sums it up.
Death Squad also takes its brand to the streets by sponsoring pro and amateur surfers, skaters, and what some would call Harley Dyna and FXR stunt riders. Just like myriads of surf, skate, and BMX companies who use riders to get their message to the masses, Death Squad is one of the few motorcycle companies that also incorporates this brand of marketing. It seems that in a world of fluffy marketing firms and misguided product placement, Death Squad is a company true to its roots with no touch of fakeness. It comes natural to have a brand like Death Squad when the guy who owns the brand has lived the outlaw lifestyle.
We sat down with the owner of Death Squad, Chris Yvon at his tattoo shop, Power Tattoo, which also doubles as the DS headquarters and shot the shit about how the brand came to be.
are you a SoCal native? Where did you grow up?
Pacific Beach [Southern California].
Did you grow up surfing, skating, or both?
Both. I worked at Soul Surf, which turned into Soul Boarding Supply when I was young, when I was a grom. It was a surf and skate place in Pacific Beach.
What were/are your favorite spots?
Well I grew up surfing the pier in PB and love to surf South Mission Jetty and Blacks is heavy during the winter. I live in Oceanside now and I primarily surf the pier here and the harbor. For skateboarding I love skating Washington Street, YMCA, and MLK. I used to skate the Etnies Park a lot when I worked in south Orange County.
How long have you been riding bikes?
I got my first motorcycle in 1997. It was a ’98 ground-pounder, which I got rid of shortly thereafter, and got a ’93 FXR.
How long have you been tattooing?
I started in 2006 in Escondido, later I moved to Ink House in Orange County. I bought my first shop in 2007 in Cardiff. I’ve bounced around a lot, but two and a half years ago I opened up Power Tattoo in Vista.
When did you come up with the idea of Death Squad?
How did you first develop the brand?
Well the brand was developed by some Japanese friends of mine. It was not a brand until they came around and wanted to be distributors of the brand. In essence they’re the ones who created it. They generated a lot of hype and sales in the Japanese market and that’s basically how it became a brand.
When did the hard parts become part of Death Squad?
I would say within the first year we started the parts. I wanted to give the brand something more than just apparel. It’s like a performance lifestyle brand.
Where is Death Squad sold?
Select skate shops, streetwear shops, and we have stores in Europe, Japan, and Australia. We’re also in a ton of motorcycle shops and dealerships.
Who are your sponsored riders?
Corey Duffel, Bobby Worrest, Jason Jessee, and Kade Gates.
What do you see in Death Squad’s future?
We just want to see people stoked on our brand, that’s all.
Danny G, Corey Duffel, Bobby Worrest, Jason Jessee, Kade Gates, all the blood brothers, y’all at Hot Bike, Conan the Barbarian, Frank Frazetta, and the imperial dark lord Satan.