So you’re in a band. Or you like bands that like tattoos. Or you just like the idea of ink on skin. Still, you shouldn’t just trust any ol’ tattoo artist to permanently etch your body in a permanent fashion and Hive’s here to solve that potential crisis. We asked five tatted-out indie-rock musicians to recommend their favorite tattoo artist who will lovingly create whatever artistic expression on whatever body part you want. And remember: the story behind the tattoo is just as important as the story of getting the tattoo.
1. Chris Wilson of Teo Leo & the Pharmacists
The Tattoo: “When I was 14, a friend of mine went to California for the summer, and I sent $30 I had made from mowing lawns and a list of about 20 records [to buy]. The Germs GI was one of the ones he brought back. My group of friends at the time were all into the SST stuff from skate videos, and other ‘punk 101′ bands like Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, etc, but this record wasn’t something you could get at the Camelot Music in the mall in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in the late ’80s. All of my friends hated it, and that made me love them more. They were the first band I could call my own.”
“I started tattooing part time in 1998. I was a carpenter in San Francisco full time and I would come into the tattoo shop during the evenings and do what tattoos I could. I began tattooing full time in the spring of ’99 after I quit my day job. I was really green at tattooing then, but a tattoo shop landed in my lap back in the summer of ’98 in the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco, and I knew I had to jump on it. The shop itself was already an established shop with some pretty interesting tattoo history attached to it. A friend of mine who I opened it with now owns it and it’s still going strong after almost 14 years!
I remember Chris well. He’s such a great guy and he always brought great ideas to me. I think my two favorite ones I did for him were the 1960s stylized owl that came from an old drinking glass of his mother’s, and a heart with a banner and swallows around it for his ex. It just says ‘Karen.’ I’ve done some pretty interesting ones on him too. I really liked the Crimson Ghost I did on him too! The first tattoo I ever did on him was the the Germs blue circle logo. I did that around his elbow. Ouch!”
2. Mathieu Santos of Ra Ra Riot
The Tattoo: Santos’ tattoo is of the Boston Bruins’ logo, because he’s a big fan of the team. When he got the tattoo, he didn’t know tat protocol, and neglected to tip his artist, Michael Williams. Later, Santos — once he had gotten wise — found Williams on Facebook and messaged him an apology. When the band played in Austin a year later, Santos finally managed to tip his artist. They’re apparently BFFs now.
“I’m originally from Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma was the last state to legalize tattooing, not until 2006. Before that time if you tattooed or got tattoos, it was underground tattooing. In 2002 after being tattooed by my friend Josh Crain, he offered to teach me the craft. I tattooed in Oklahoma for two years and then started working professionally in shops in Texas. I’ve worked in Gainesville, Texas; Denton, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Panama City Beach, Florida; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and now in Austin, Texas. I’ve been here five years on the world-famous 6th St. I help people every day. They come in excited, scared, maybe unsure; I get to share an experience with them that most will never forget.
I do recall Mat’s tat. It was a few SXSWs ago and Mat and his band Ra Ra Riot were traveling through. They stopped by our shop and I was lucky enough to impress/convince him into letting me tattoo him. If I recall correctly, he got the Boston Bruins hockey team logo on him. I don’t recall if this was his favorite team or also his hometown team. As a fan, getting a team’s logo tattooed is a real commitment. Mat was a great guy. I hope he swing in again some time.”
3. Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls/La Sera
The Tattoo: “My favorite is this huge tattoo I have on my ribs that covers my entire side. It is an interpretation of this image.
It was hard to take a picture of it without being obscene, but I think I did it. I got this tattoo a few years ago, while I was going to college at Rutgers in New Jersey. In my eyes, it represents the scientific revolution, and looking behind the curtain and figuring out why things happen. I love physics and cosmology, and this tattoo is a beautiful image that represents those pursuits.”
“I have been working in tattoo shops since I was 20; I’m now 38. I apprenticed for three years and started actually tattooing 15 years ago. One of my former bandmates and best friends Mike Schweigert taught me how to tattoo and we are still business partners to this day.
I remember meeting Katy at a basement show in New Brunswick and seeing her tattoos and thinking, ‘Those are great.’ I love utilitarian images, especially ones we use every day like a fork or spoon. You can see sincerity, a sense of humor and sharpness of wit in her tattoos. Usually tattoos on young people are posturing, grandstanding or status symbols, so that was refreshing to see. We got to talking and eventually I started doing some tattoos on her. The tattoo I did on her side is an Alchemic engraving of a man passing from the material world to the ethereal world through the cosmos. It’s a really striking image that conveys the microcosm and the macrocosm.”
4. Cason Kelly of Tiny Victories
The Tattoo: “I got the dots on my hand during the supposed ‘hurricane’ in New York City. The dots are a homemade tattoo, prison-style. I have no explanation for them.”
The Artist: Alia Kate, rug dealer, budding tattoo artist
“I got my first stick-and-poke tattoo in 2008 in a rural village in Morocco. In these more indigenous areas, homemade tattoos are quite common, especially among older Amazigh women. Most of these women have tribal and agricultural designs inked on their faces and hands and most of these symbols also repeat themselves in the rugs that the women weave.
With homemade tattoos, the most important thing is the placement of the tattoo on the body. In my opinion, the final image of the tattoo takes a backseat to how the tattoo fits into the curve of the skin and the contours of the body. Most people I’ve tatted have no idea what they want to get, and so to figure it out, I ask them where they want to get tatted and from there we decide the what.
The tat that I did on Cason’s hand was the second tat I did for him. The first time I inked him was during Hurricane Irene and it was just as epic as it sounds, but that’s a story for another time. The best part about Cason’s tattoo, though, is that it totally upends that age-old question, ‘What does it mean?’ People might try to deduce deeper meaning out of Cason’s tat or any of the other tats I’ve given, but at the end of the day, it’s all just a bunch of lines and dots. In this way, the meaning is derived out of where the tattoo takes place, the body part that is getting inked, and how it is inked. So, what does it mean? It means that Casey has a pretty sick homemade hand tat that flies all over the place when he’s rocking out with Tiny Victories.”
5. Andy MacFarlane of the Twilight Sad
The Tattoo: “I try to get tattoos that are like old illustrations similar to the artwork on our first record. The chair and poison bottle ones are illustrations from that album. They were designs from a first-aid book from the ’50s. The rest of the tattoos that I have are just drawings that I have done in the similar vein.”
The Artist: Kevin Younger of Lucky Cat Tattoo Parlour in Glasgow, Scotland
“I started tattooing full time in 2002. I had been working as store artist in Tower Records in Glasgow. Back then we sold lots of tattoo magazines from the states, which I spent a lot of time looking through. That’s really when I became aware of the quality of work out there, and it was then that I decided I was going to become a tattoo artist. I was lucky enough to get a tattoo apprenticeship within a week of Tower closing and I honestly haven’t looked back since!
I’ve done all of Andy’s tattoos. I first tattooed Andy about a year and a half ago. Andy has a very unique style. His tattoos have a 1950s graphic feel to them, mostly black line work with only a little shading. All the images he’s brought in to me have been very detailed and we’ve been carefully piecing them together, to make what is now almost a complete half sleeve. Andy is looking to start on his other arm soon. I’ll look forward to seeing his latest ideas when he has some time off from the current tour and the promotional work for the new album.”