Ten questions for Kenny Bugeja, Rebels Malta Motorcycle Club sergeant-at-arms
What is the Rebels MC Malta?
We’re a motorcycle club, an MC club. Originally our club was established in 1969 in Australia, by Alex Vella, and over the years it grew all over Australia and now we’ve grown world-wide as well.
We’re just a bunch of guys, like a brotherhood, and we’re really into our motorcycles and having friends, but then it gets a little more intense in the sense that we treat each other with a lot of respect and loyalty, and we’re like brothers.
Why does the Australian government consider bikies as rebels?
I don’t live in Australia, you know, I’m here with the Rebels MC Malta, so it’s hard to say; it’s the image of the outlaw motorcycle guy I guess. We’re easy targets as well, easily identified, because there’s a lot more people and stuff that are doing bad things that they don’t really discuss or speak about. I guess once a club starts to grow as well, you let in the good with the bad, you get certain members as well that start doing certain things that they shouldn’t be doing, and that makes everybody look bad. I guess at the end of the day we’re just an easy target.
How does one become a member of the club?
Usually we if see someone who has a nice bike like a Harley or something like that, we approach him, and if he agrees, he’ll come with us for about five to six rides to see what kind of person he is. Then he gets voted as a nominee and then after 12 months he gets voted again to become a full patch member; if he does something which we didn’t like or some members he didn’t like, you need to get two that are against him becoming a full-member, and then we give an extension for another six months. Then after those six months if he is still black-balled, then he’s out for good; that’s the only chance he’ll get. But if he’s good enough, he stays with us. We do this process to see his attitude, sometimes you might find a person which is perfect, but then he gets a beer, and goes over his head and we don’t want none of that stuff you know, because if he gets involved into trouble he’s involving us, and we all wear the same colour so we are one.
How do members advance up the ranks?
Well, basically, it’s seniority, but the thing is opening a chapter in any country, you have five people – the president, the vice president, sergeant-in-arms, treasurer, and maybe road captain, but to get into these positions, obviously you have to become a prospect, like what happened to me was after I prospected, I was voted in as a full-patch member, after being a full-patch member, I was voted in as sergeant-in-arms, then after sergeant-in-arms I was voted in as President. But that’s the process, and it depends on the years and the loyalty and your attitude towards the club and how much you want to get involved as well cause there are certain people… they already want to get involved and they weren’t built to be leaders and to lead the brothers and all the rest of it.
What constitutes being a biker?
My dad was into motorcycles. He bought me my first motorcycle. I was 10 years old, you know, so I’ve been on bikes my whole life. I had a motocross bike I used to go on enduro riding with, and all the rest of it, road bikes, you know you name it, I’ve had it; it’s in your DNA, it’s in your blood, and for some people it’s from father to son, it’s like me and my son, my son already has two bikes, and he’s seven years old, it’s in the blood, you know. It’s the freedom you feel when you’re on a motorcycle, when you’re just riding down the road, and you get the wind… I’m not going to say my hair because I don’t have any hair, but you know it’s just the freedom you feel, the feeling you get when you’re on a big bike you know.
The President of Rebels MC in Australia, was stopped from returning to Australia. Do you think it’s because of the rebels’ criminal association in Australia?
Well that’s all politics, and I don’t know if I can use the word bullshit, but what they did to Alex was very unfair. It was a very low blow you know, and they didn’t give him a chance to go back and fight his court case, against the government or the immigration. You know they did it to him when he was here in Malta, he was here on holiday where he came to one of our events you know what I mean, then he gets a call that his visa has been pulled and that he can’t go back to Australia. I don’t understand, because that man is married in Australia to an Australian woman; he’s got kids, grandkids, he’s got his businesses, all his properties he’s always paid tax on and all the rest of it, but for them they want to try and cut the head off the snake, get rid of the big boss from Australia, and you get him stuck here in Malta, which…
Alex Vella built the club from the ground up, and a lot of people respect him for that, but what they did to him to – a man that doesn’t even have a criminal record – they just said listen ‘you can’t come back because of one man’. That doesn’t mean everybody’s bad, because some priest has done something bad to some child, you don’t go and arrest the pope, and Alex Vella gets all the heat for everything.
Can women join the club?
No… we’re not sexist or something, but the reason why women are not allowed is to safeguard them, sort of you know, not as such in Malta, but overseas, in some countries they’re a little bit tougher… I mean not a little, they’re a tough lot and a woman can become an easy target. It doesn’t mean that they won’t come out with us. My wife she comes riding with me, but they can’t be a member. There are some clubs in Malta for sure I know, that are women only, so we don’t take it against them
Is body building a requirement to be a biker?
No, it’s not at all. I just want to be strong and ready for anything, you know just in case something happens. I just like taking care of myself, I’m not getting any younger basically and it’s just working out and exercising at the gym. It’s always been a part of my life, but it doesn’t mean that it has anything to do with bikes or anything like that, but it’s good to know you’re there when you need it, you got the muscles when you need them, if you ever need them.
Is there rivalry between the clubs here in Malta?
Not as far as I’m concerned. There might be some personal issues between one person and another, someone might be with a club and went with another club, crossed over, as they might have some issues with a brother or something, but they’re mainly more like social clubs… sometimes we go to their club, sometimes they come to our club, and we drink together, we eat together, and there’s no room for such things in Malta, because you know, it could be your cousin with a different club, it could be your brother with a different club.
What is the shittiest bike make?
I don’t know, I’ve got to be careful on what I say, because some people, for them, a fuckin’… sorry…. the Harleys are the worst bikes. I don’t know, if there’s something that I wouldn’t buy I guess it would be a Yamaha Bop. You remember those little red ones, the Yamaha Bop? I fucking hate those things anyway, but not the Yamaha… Yamaha are good bikes, I’m just talking about the Yamaha Bop. I don’t want people thinking that I said bad things about Yamaha, but nowadays, all the bikes are good bikes.
Don’t you think 40-somethings getting a Harley is just a mid-life crisis?
I had my Harleys and my tattoos before I was 40 years old, but for me, what I did was when I had my kids: you know the older you get, the smarter you get, the more mature you’re supposed to get, right? So, I had enough of all the crazy riding, the Jap bikes and everything else, and what I did was I sold the Jap bikes, and I bought another Harley, then we built this chopper, Phil Piper and I.
I’ve seen guys who all of a sudden, turn 40, and they go crazy, and they do tattoos and they buy a Harley and whatever. It might be because its’ that time of their life that they can afford to do stuff. A lot of people work for their family all their lives and when you’re at 40, 44, 45 your kids have grown up a little bit and you can maybe afford them, because nowadays to get tattoos it’s big money if you go to the good ones, €700, €800, a €1,000 tattoo and you go to buy a €30,000 bike… you got to have the money for it as well, and some people at that age can afford it.
What role do tattoos hold in biker culture?
It’s just because you’re proud to be with a club, and you want to honour that and show people. Like I got the death-head here and the Rebels MC Malta 13, and the Rebels over my eyebrows. It’s just that I’m a member, my loyalty towards the club. Some people get them, and some people don’t, but when they see the guys that do get them, they’re serious about it, because this is a lifetime thing – once you tattoo, it’s there you’re never going to remove it.
What do patches mean and how are they earned?
When you get a forever patch, you either have to be a president of a chapter or a lifetime member. Once you’re a lifetime member, that means ten years in the club… it’s a part of the few guys in the club that they’re really went the extra mile, to get this patch, or are really loyal towards the club, and have done things for the club, that other people haven’t done or couldn’t do or whatever, and all these – the 1% and the 13 – there’s a lot of different explanations for the 13, and my favourite one is that if you go the alphabet, we got 13 stars in the flag that we fly on our patch on our back, but for me it’s the letter M, and you know because Alex Vella was from Malta, for me the 13 means the letter M and that’s why I’ve got the number 13 on my back as well.
How is the President elected?
We do elections… I’m the sergeant-in-arms at the moment. Basically every year we have an election. Now if maybe next year somebody else wants to go for whatever position, they just put their name in and the members vote and if the members would like a change in the committee or something, it will happen, it’s voting, we vote.
Are there certain standards to what bike members own?
Well in Australia we’re a big V-twin club. Big V-twins are Harley Davidson, now they’re sportsters, anything above the sportster, the 1200cc engines they’re the cube or whatever they are, they’re less than that, they’re not allowed in the club. But here in Malta because not everybody can afford a Harley or a flashy bike they changed the rule for us and they allowed us to have Japanese custom bikes no less than 600cc though. And that’s the thing for us, were really into our bikes, we’re really into… we like our Harleys and our Choppers and whatever, we like the American stuff.
Kenny Bugeja, Rebels Malta Motorcycle Club sergeant-at-arms – MaltaToday
Ten questions for Kenny Bugeja, Rebels Malta Motorcycle Club sergeant-at-arms