For decades, Danny “The Count” Koker and Kevin Mack have made quite a business for themselves in their world of cars, whether it creating custom vehicles at Count’s Kustoms, refurbishing old ones, and even discovering little gems that are scattered across America. Danny’s skills first brought him to “Pawn Stars,” but as you may know if you’re reading this article, he and his longtime friend / colleague Kevin are now two of the stars of History’s “Counting Cars.” (Take a look at the official site if you want to see when it is airing next.)
We had a chance to sit down with Danny and Kevin earlier this week while they were in Toronto promoting the show, and it made for a fun, lengthy chat on a variety of topics, whether it be Danny’s longtime love of cars, how he and Kevin are basically yin and yang when it comes to preserving the balance of their business, and whether or not they are being constantly fielded with other reality TV offers now that they have become practically family to millions of viewers.
Want to watch more of the show without even turning on your tube? Then be sure to take a look at some of the webisodes that are online.
CarterMatt – So have you guys been in town long, and had an opportunity to see some people out on the street?
Danny “The Count” Koker – We did the car show up in Brighton, the Applefest Car Show, and it was phenomenal. Lots of beautiful cars and a ton of really nice fans. We got to meet a lot of cool people up there, and even just here around town and around our hotel last night. There’s been a lot of really nice people coming up to say ‘hi.’
It has to be almost strange for you guys in a way. You’ve been doing this sort of work for a long time, and you were doing it out of love and not to be on TV. And now, there’s suddenly this situation where people you don’t know are coming up to you and chatting. It has to be jarring.
Danny – It’s so different, I have to say. It’s completely different. I’m so fortunate that I get to do what I love to do, and it just blows my mind that so many people are watching it and loving what we’re doing. I’m so happy for that. It’s gotten to the point where almost anywhere we go, there’s a fan there to talk to you about something. It amazes me, frankly.
And Kevin, how often are there situations when you’re just out on your own time and someone starts calling out to you or poking you from behind?
Kevin Mack – That happens quite a bit, but what’s weird is because Las Vegas is where we live, they’re so numb to it because there’s always stars in Vegas and things going on; [it’s not as frequent]. But when you come to a place like Canada that is just car crazy … This happens to us in the midwest and the south, too, where you are walking down the street and people are like ‘hey, Kevin, can I get a picture?’ Not everyone knows the name of the show, but they’ve seen you on TV.
It’s different for me. I’ve never been a performer, I’ve never been in entertainment. For me, it’s a little bit mind-boggling. [Danny’s] a little bit more comfortable (laughs), so for me I just follow whatever he does. I’m not as gregarious as he is…
Danny – (On his phone) I gotta look that up…
Kevin – I’m not that outgoing, or at least I wasn’t, but I’ve become more…
Danny (laughs) – Gregarious.
Kevin – Boisterous. You become [something more]. Yeah, we’re car people, and we’ll always be car people, but we’re also entertainers at this point, and we’re documentary people so we’re not going to act. So when we’re out in public, or we’re in private, we’re the same people because we don’t know how to act. You’re not going to see somebody who isn’t there.
We were talking because the car show was crazy, and the amount of people [that were] there were going nuts. We don’t consider ourselves celebrities, but when people see celebrities, they shake their hand or get an autograph. They don’t have anything to talk about. What are they going to say to Brad Pitt? Like ‘you’re amazing’? They are not going to ask ‘what car do you drive’, or tell you about their car. So for every person that we meet, there’s a story involved. We hear the story, we talk to them for a minute. So these signings and these public appearances take time, and it’s because people want to talk to you about their vehicles.
Danny – And I think that’s one of those things that makes the show so popular is that everyone can relate to a car.
And you guys are in a little bit of a different place now when it comes to fans than say, even a year ago. People know who you are. Does that change production for you or the way you do the show, where you possibly have more people calling up just to try to get on TV?
Danny – It’s been really helpful for business; I mean, business has been great, and I knock on doors and I chase cars down. I love that; I’ve been doing that for years. The thing now is that nine times out of ten, the person recognizes you. So it makes that part a whole lot easier. But the problem is, because they know you, the negotiating is a little bit tougher and the deals are not quite what they used to be. They know that this guy is from TV and they try to hold on to their prices a little bit tougher.
Kevin – What’s interesting, too, is that when we’re filming, when we’re set up with the cameras and the sound and everything’s right, someone will go ‘Count, what’s up,’ and you have to start all over. Then comes a helicopter, and then you got a plane or a siren. Yes, our days are getting longer because of that.
Danny – We’re starting to get tailed by people [when we’re out shooting], which can hinder things because the crew is shooting when we go out and do stuff. You got people chasing you in minivans.
Kevin – We’re going to start filming the show from the North Pole or somewhere they don’t have people. (Laughs.)
Counting Cars: Northwest Territories edition.
Danny – There’s one car! We’re going to go out and count it.
There are probably people at the car shows who know a million times more about cars than I do, but what I’m curious about is how this all started up, especially artistically. Have you guys always been this creative, and has this passion been around since your childhood?
Danny- Absolutely for me yeah. My dad brought home a ’66 GT350 when I was nine. It’s been in my blood forever. It’s funny: At my shop I’ve got boxes of stuff that me and my family have hauled around for all of my life, and someone went through one of my boxes and they found all of these drawings that I did when I was a kid in school. In the kitchen room there in the shop, someone hung up all of these pictures [of cars] like they were your kids’ pictures from school. My mom, she’ll tell you that when I was just four years old, I would stand in my seat and just name cars going down the road. I need help, man. (Laughs.)
Kevin – I’ve tried to get him to get an intervention, but you know what he always tells me? It’s for quitters.
Danny – So it’s honestly been for my whole life. And as for the artistic side of it, I come from a family of musicians. There is a whole lot of art in the family blood.
Danny – Oh, don’t ask that. (Laughs.)
Kevin – He’s always been a different guy. I’m amazed sometimes with what’s in his brain. I’m more day-to-day, like I’m thinking about the day and what we’ve gotta get done today. He’s thinking two or three months down the road, about what a car is going to look like when it’s done. I think his creativity and my organization work well together. Apart, we miss each other because we’re one brain and it’s weird.
But with Danny’s creativity, there’s a lot going on there, and there are a couple other guys with that [too]. Horny Mike, who’s on the show, and Ryan, who is our painter. Those guys are so gifted, and there’s another guy in Shannon who everyone’s going to see a lot more of. In the bike culture, Shannon builds these bikes and it’s unbelievable. With the whole team, there’s a lot of creativity and that’s what is tough running a business, in that there are all of these creative people. They don’t think of the numbers. They just say ‘I want this,’ and it doesn’t matter what it costs. It doesn’t always work that way, but we try to make it so that it makes sense.
Danny – But that’s the drama of the show. We’re not the yelling and screaming and throwing wrenches at each other type, that’s not how we are. But the real challenge and the real drama of the show is the constant battle between creativity versus making business sense.
Obviously with this show, you’re getting a chance to have so many creative opportunities. Had this almost been an opportunity to have some wish fulfillment, or to do some things you’ve always wanted to do?
Danny – I dream about every kind of car, and I can’t do every kind of car and I can’t own every kind of car. But now because of this, I’ve got people bringing me the stuff that maybe I would’ve never gotten to touch. But I’ve seen stuff on it in my head, and now I’m having fun getting to do these vehicles that I maybe wouldn’t have gotten to do and I get that creative thought out of my head. That’s a really cool advantage. The disadvantage is that I fall in love with most of these vehicles, and most of them have to go back to their rightful owner or we have to sell it to make a profit on it. But I do try and feed my addiction as often as I can, and try to keep some stuff, for sure.
So you love it when you have a car that comes in that’s maybe four decades old, rusted over and falling apart. You love that sort of challenge.
Danny – It may be a challenge for the business side of the shop, but for me, I’m just having a ball. He wants to talk about ‘you can’t do this’ or ‘you can’t do that,’ I’m just like whatever. I’m still off doing what I want to do.
You guys have that entertainer label on your resume now, even though that may not be what you guys consider yourselves [first and foremost]. Are you being approached to other shows, and is that something you would really look at?
Danny – It started really when I was a regular expert on ‘Pawn Stars.’ I was doing that show all the time, and during that period of time I was getting so many offers from so many different networks that it was insane. A really wonderful gentleman by the name of Joel Patterson, who was the original creator of ‘Counting Cars,’ he’s out of New York and he was the producer that kept telling me to ‘sit tight. Don’t sign with these folks.’ Eventually, it worked that History wanted to do it, which is a blessing because they are so great to work with, man. I’m so glad; it was so scary to say no to certain networks; certain networks that I watch, and certain networks that I know a lot about, but Joel just kept saying to [hold out].
But we do get constant offers to do other things all the time, but I’m happy.
Kevin – I mean, ‘Dancing with the Stars’ just won’t get off my back! Can you imagine me on that show?
(There was a brief little riff in here, in which I suggested the “tattoo tango” as a possible dance routine in between laughter about what the sight of this would be like. Oh, and Kevin was definitely being sarcastic when he brought ballroom dancing up in the first place.)
The last thing we should really address here is simple: What’s coming up? Is there anything you guys want to tease?
Danny -Keep watching, because there’s more cool things going on, and as the show keeps going you’re going to meet some more of the cool guys in my shop, who I’ve been working with for a long time, and a couple of new guys, as well. And you’re going to see some cool, different vehicles that we’ve found that we’re doing up.
Kevin – In season 2, not like season 1, they run over into other episodes. So before you form an opinion on whether or not you like a pink car, or you like a ratty station wagon, just wait and stick with it.
Danny – Oh, and be sure to check out some of the webisodes, where you can see some really fun stuff behind the scenes at the shop.
Thanks again to Count and Kevin for chatting with us, and we’ll be sure to follow “Counting Cars” on the rest of its journey.