INKED: Where did you grow up?
GRIME: Grand Junction, CO. It was a small town. There wasn’t a lot of stuff for kids to do, especially if you weren’t a jock or a redneck. We were part of a small group of kids who were skaters and punk rockers. We caught a lot of shit for it.What career path were you headed down before tattooing? Was Grime nearly an accountant?
I don’t think I knew what I wanted to do. Since middle school I had taken every art class I could, so I guess there was part of me that enjoyed it. I never really pursued it outside of that. Skateboarding took up all of my free time. It was when I got to college that I tried to figure out what it was that really made me happy. I was always really good at math, so I’d taken higher-level math classes. In college I realized I didn’t even like math. I can be good at it but so what? The things that made me happy were art-related. It was a small epiphany to realize that in order to make myself happy, I probably needed to do something creative. Then the tattoo opportunity arose, and it all kind of jelled at once.
How did you get into tattooing?
I was in Tempe, AZ going to school at Arizona State University. My buddy Chris Rupp taught me how to tattoo. It was pretty basic stuff. He wasn’t that knowledgeable at the time because he was pretty much self-taught. It was a different time then, too. The information wasn’t there. There was no Internet. You couldn’t talk to people. Knowledge was very guarded. The tattooers we were around at the time were more of the old-school guys. They were the old guard in Arizona. They owned shops and were some of the only guys we could get equipment from. They were the kind of guys who would blow up your shop if you opened up too close to them.
You dropped out of college to tattoo. How did your family react?
They weren’t that psyched on it. [Laughs] I’m sure from any type of objective parental view, it looked pretty crappy. And especially at that time, it was a different thing. Now, tattooing can be seen as more of a viable way to make a living. There’s all this bullshit fucking fame and TV show crap attached to it that you could use to “justify” it with. Back then, it was what it was.
What was the tattoo industry like at the time?
It was starting to move into a progressive time for tattooing. Ed Hardy sort of started that move. And there was Marcus Pacheco, Guy Aitchison, and Eddie Deutsche. All these guys doing stuff that was really progressive and mind-blowing at the time.
What was your style like when you started out?
When I first started actually tattooing, I looked at the magazines and the stuff that got me really amped was stuff by the guys I mentioned—Marcus Pacheco, Filip Leu, Ed Hardy, Aaron Cain, Timothy Hoyer. Those were the guys that I remember seeing in magazines and thinking, This is sick. This is amazing! I want to do stuff like this. I didn’t have the artistic capabilities to do that, but it was something that I had goals about. That was a big drive.
The culture of tattooing stresses tradition. Does that make it hard for you to push the limits of what tattooing can be?
Yes and no. When I think about tradition, I think about tattoos that look good as a tattoo. I don’t think, “If it has more than four colors in it, it’s not good.” I’m not hung up on any preconceived dogmatic notions about tattoos. It doesn’t matter what the art is or how fancy it is, if it doesn’t have good impact as a tattoo, then it’s not a good tattoo. I don’t care if it’s a Duchamp painting. If it doesn’t look good as a tattoo, it’s still a piece-of-crap tattoo.
At what point were you able to making a living off tattooing?
I think I was able to do that a few years into it. That really happened when I started working at Primal Urge. I paid the rent before that, but I wasn’t ever really making good money. All the pieces I wanted to work on, I always did really cheap. I remember when I was potentially going to work at Primal Urge and Marcus and I were going through my portfolio. He would ask me what I was charging, and I’d tell him $100 or $200. He was like, “You’ve got to charge more!” I’m sure I had 40 tattoos in my portflio, and they were all from the size of your palm to half-sleeves. I added up what I charged for all of the tattoos, and it was a little over $3,000 for every tattoo in the book. [Laughs] To my credit, it was nothing that I planned. That’s what you do when you love doing something.
How do you feel about the tattoo TV shows?
I definitely think it’s detrimental. It’s a horrible tattoo education for the general public. It’s some fucking TV show with an agenda from producers who don’t give a fuck or know jack shit about anything. The whole goal is to make a product that is going to be the most appealing to the most numb-minded people because they want to have Snickers buy their ads. It’s a bunch of bullshit. Does tattooing need a TV show? No. It doesn’t need it at all. Not even a tiny fraction. It’s not like they’re doing a bunch of really horrible work. But it doesn’t do anything that tattooing needs.
What about the Ed Hardy clothing line?
Does that serve tattooing? I don’t know. I think it’s going to have a slight backlash because it’s going to be oversaturated with Ed’s designs. Maybe people will start to be a little bit tired of it and people will rebel against it. Maybe in five years people won’t want as many Ed-type designs. They’ll push for something else. Or maybe tattooing will slow down a little bit. I can only assume it will anyway as the shows and tattoo-related cultural stuff has run its course. Right now, you have so many people throwing a crappy skull, a swallow, an anchor, and a rose on a shirt. Everything has tattoo imagery on it now. It’s reached a peak. But tattooing has lasted since the beginning of time. This isn’t going to kill it.
You collect vintage skateboards. What’s the pride of your collection?
I think my favorite is an old Natas Kaupas. I have an old Natas from SMA. That’s probably my favorite board because it’s a board that I’ve liked since I was a kid. At this point, I only have a few boards left that I really want. There’s a Black Flag deck that was made by Rip City and says “No Net Ever.” And I want the World Industries Rodney Mullen “Rock Is King” board. I’m interested in any unused, vintage skateboards. I will move someone to the front of my two-year waiting list and work a fair trade for the board or simply pay them well for it.
So if I walk into your shop with one of those decks, I can get some tattoo time in trade?
Damn straight. Oh, yeah. We’ll make a party on