The legendary tattoo artist talks dragons, bikes, and “apocalyptic chic.”
What’s the most memorable tattoo you’ve ever done?
The one I remember the most is my wife’s back piece - it’s one of the most high-pressure tattoos I’ve ever done! You know what was cool? I’m not a big NASCAR fan - maybe I shouldn’t admit that - but I did tattoo Tony Stewart, and I just noticed on the news this morning that he was in a fist fight at the track. So that’s cool. There are so many people that you tattoo. I guess I hate to say it, but rock star tattoos - I tattooed James Hetfield and it’s neat when you do guys like that. It’s cool, man, because guys like that are bigger then life. When you tattoo someone that so many people look at, it’s cool.
How was the experience of being on L.A. Ink?
At first it was a trip, man, from the simplest things like walking through Home Depot and people looking at you in a weird way, or they’re stalking you and following you down the aisle. The loss of anonymity was a trip. A few years later, I look back and I’m glad it seems like people liked me on the show. I think it would bother me if people didn’t, you know what I mean? I’m glad I wasn’t a villain.
You’re very into your bikes, what are you riding these days?
I’ve got a few motorcycles right now, but what I’ve been riding the most lately is a Husaberg. It looks like a dirt bike and it’s got street bike tires - it’s just fun. It’s like this ugly blue, white, and yellow, but it’s a really fun bike. I’ve always ridden Harleys - I have this bike I tattooed for and painted for in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and it’s a Jesse James frame, original west coast chopper with a 113 inch S&S motor on it. Everything on there I tattooed and painted for - I traded Jesse a hundred dollar bill tattoo on his back for the frame.
You’ve recently partnered with Bell helmets – how would you describe the helmet you’re wearing here?
The Rogue helmet is badass! It’s cool, kind of military, real low-key, and covers your face a little bit. It’s apocalyptic chic - it looks like an old war helmet. It looks like you’re going to do a raid with a S.W.A.T. team! Bell asked me if I would be the face for the helmet, for their Go Rogue campaign. They filmed me tattooing some guy, riding around L.A., playing music in my shop – that right there is the kind of stuff that changed my life ever since the TV thing. To get something like that is really cool.
What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
I had to apologize to my wife for getting mad at what some jackass wrote on her Facebook. I didn’t get mad at her - I was just mad at some creep. Facebook is the essence of not having to be responsible for the crap that comes out of your fingertips.
What’s your favorite curse word?
All of the above! I just like them. I think if you cuss more, you will live longer. My poor kids, oh my God… When they are older, they’re going to be foul-mouthed, but they’re really smart, so they’ll know when to use them and not.
What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had?
It was probably recently - I’ve been doing this little tour with this liquor company that I drew a label for. I’m not a big drinker, but every night we went out to these parties and sometimes they’d have these contest where I’d judge cocktails, and it’s kind of a sweet drink. I don’t remember if it was Baltimore or Wichita, Kansas, but man, it was rough. All I knew was, I was hungover and I had to jump on the plane, and there is nothing worse than being hungover on a plane.
What was your first car?
1971 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. I loved that car! I know the guy that’s got it, and every once in a while, I think about getting it back…
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I have a really good one - it just happened on New Years Eve and it gave me a two-week vacation from tattooing. We were camping at the beach and my son backed into a heater - I leapt over and started smacking out the fire on his back with my hand, but by that time it was spreading across his back, so I leapt on him and hugged him and smothered the fire out. He didn’t have one burn on him, but my hand was charred - it was only second-degree burns, but man, those hurt.
Do you have a party trick?
Yeah – at the end of the night, when it’s getting later and I’m tired and I want to go home, I usually just disappear. I won't say goodbye, it’s too sad. I want to leave, and I just disappear. That’s my party trick.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
My own foot. I am so good at that, man. I don’t usually think before I talk…
What’s the one thing to remember in a fist fight?
Hit first! And aim for the part that was offending you, which was probably their mouth.
Who was the last person to see you naked?
My wife, a couple hours ago. Too much information!
Finish this sentence: If I ruled the world for a day, I would…
Well, I might as well be a flower-kisser on this one. I would just wish everybody would respect each other equally and realize that there’s flowers and weeds in the world, and somehow, we all have our place. It would also be great to ride a wheelie on Route 66 from here to New York - shut down the freeway, guys, call the National Guard, I am doing a wheelie! - but no, I would much rather have everybody fucking get along.
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