Q+A: Pete Wentz
Q+A: Pete Wentz
The new host of Oxygen’s Best Ink rocks tattoos.
Usually when a young, hot band blasts onto the scene, it’s the frontman who gets the spotlight, but Fall Out Boy was a little different. It was bassist Pete Wentz, with his pop-punk-boy-charm, who drew the attention of the lighting technicians, the girls, and the media. The camera still loves him, which is why Oxygen tapped him to host the second season of Best Ink.
In the competition reality show, 10 tattoo artists flex their creative muscles in a series of art contests called Flash Challenges and then are presented with their Skins (subjects to be tattooed) in the elimination Ink Challenge. As they attempt to out-ink each other in the eyes of judges—tattoo icons Joe Capobianco and Hannah Aitchison, and tattoo supermodel Sabina Kelley—Wentz will keep the action lively, injecting bons mots, advice, and his luminescence.
INKED: How did the gig come about?
Pete Wentz: Honestly, different competition shows have reached out to me before, but this one was really authentic. I like tattooing, I respect all the judges, and I got in on the ground floor for season two—because I was in early they asked me for Flash Challenge ideas. I was excited to really be a part of the show; it felt like I was a little bit more than the master of ceremonies.
Can you tip us off to any interesting Flash Challenges? The tattooers painted Fender instruments, which was cool for me since that is my world. We went out to an airplane graveyard in the Mojave Desert to have the tattooers paint airplanes. It was unreal. I jumped on the planes and felt like a kid in a candy store. For the first Flash Challenge we suspended the tattooers six stories up on a billboard in downtown L.A. It was just off-the-wall because it was the first challenge and there were some scary adrenaline rushes early on. That’s when I knew this was a real scene.
What did you think of the contestants? All the tattooers were really talented from the start. When you watch a show like American Idol half the fun in the first couple of weeks is seeing how bad some people do, but you don’t want to watch somebody get a terrible tattoo because they are going to have to live with it forever.
Was it daunting walking into that situation? I have zero experience in reality TV competition, so I had no idea what to expect. I am a big fan of tattoos, I have a bunch of tattoos, I own Halo tattoo shop in Syracuse, but I learned a lot during the shooting, like line weights and gray scale. I deferred to [Capobianco] a lot, but I got more confident as it went on. To me, tattooing is like any other art, and being somebody who really appreciates the culture I can tell a really good tattoo or a really bad tattoo—it was the stuff in the middle that was the hard part to weed through.
What do you think you brought to the table? I offered the perspective of an educated audience member, as in somebody who has tattoos and is very interested in tattoo art. By the end of the season I felt like I etched out a little place for myself.
Capobianco was the heavy last season. What’s he like? He is an interesting person in that he has a super- tough interior, but at the end of the day he is really passionate and really believes in what he is doing, so everything he does or says is from the heart. My own personal take is that even when people walked away from the show they respected him. He is a great guy—how he comes across on the show is an exaggerated version of who he is.
That’s fitting, because the pinups he puts out there are exaggerated feminine forms. This season he is joined by Hannah Aitchison. How is their dynamic? Joe comes across that he lives and breathes tattoos, and he really believes in the old-school way of coming up. Every time Hannah would speak I would say to myself, Oh, great, now I have to look up that word. She later told me that she taught an art class. When she spoke it was a lot like an art critique, which is fascinating and really different. She and Joe agree a lot of the time, but when they disagree they both really dig in and don’t give in to each other.
And Sabina Kelley also returns to judge. Yeah, she also offers a tattoo enthusiast’s perspective. I think it was interesting that when there were dissenting ideas or opinions between the three, it was usually Sabina. I think that it was cool and refreshing to hear her perspective because she is a person who wears many tattoos as a tattoo model. There were times when tattooers would try to defend their placement to her and she would call them out on it.
As you were hearing the critiques did you ever look at your body and second-guess your tattoos? I was thinking about Tim Biedron, who has done work on me, and thought, Oh, wow, he did all the techniques they talked about, like line weights and fitting the characters the right way on the arm. But there are some of my tattoos where I look at them and say, I’m not sure if that happened with that tattoo. That’s okay to me, though. I think the only thing better, to me, than a great tattoo is a “whatever tattoo” with a great story. All my tattoos are great snapshots from moments in my life, which is why I can live with all of them.
When did you first start getting inked? I started way too early. I got my first tattoo when I was 15, on my back. Sure, I did the in-class tattoos, like with pen ink on my ankle, but I really wanted a real one in ’95. My parents told me that I would regret it when I was older. But 30 years old sounded ancient to me then. The cool thing for me is that I have been lucky enough to do work where I can have tattoos.
Yes, it’s rare now to see a rocker without ink. Why do you think that is? I feel like tattoos are a rite of pas- sage, and it does get super monotonous out on tour so that contributes. The two cultures of music and tattoos have been intertwined for so long that they have mixed together to become one. With music, I was happy that I could do something I was passionate about and still wear what I want and have tattoos. Not only can I look the way that I want but tattoos are embraced by the scene.
Have you ever tattooed? I have literally given one tattoo in my life, and it is possibly the worst thing that anyone has ever seen.
Go on. On the Warped Tour it gets pretty boring, same bus, hanging out in the backs of clubs. We had a buddy on tour with us who was our mascot. His name was Dirty and he was out of his mind. Bring up anything crazy and he would do it. On tour everybody called him “The Dirt” so I started calling him “The Bert” and that drove him even crazier. At the end of the tour we had a tattooer out with us and there was some bet between me and Dirty that he lost, so I got to tattoo a really bad freehand Bert from Sesame Street. There was an audience around, and people were shouting, “You are not getting in there! You are not getting in there! It’s going to fall out!” I didn’t have any idea at all so I think I went a little hard on his shin a few times.
Does everybody in Fall Out Boy have ink? Everybody but Patrick [Stump].
Do you guys make fun of him? The funny thing is he says he wants to get a tattoo but he can’t find the right artist.
You do know a few more now. Do you view tattooing differently than you did before? After being a part of the show and really looking at people’s portfolios, I see tattooing as an art. Obviously people can go into a tattoo shop and get the flash on the wall— they could get a hot dog smoking a cigarette and that’s cool, that’s fun. I see room for all that stuff, but for me tattoos are a way to let the rest of the world know that there is more to you than the clothes you are wearing or the way that you look. One of the cool things about the show is that all the Skins who came in to get tattooed had these really epic stories. Whether it was celebratory or tragic or they had to overcome something, their stories were moving. The tattoos really brought a conclusion to their stories or gave them a memory they will always carry around with them.
Have you ever had a cathartic experience at a tattoo shop? I was at a pretty low place about a year ago and got a brother-tat. Me and my brother got tigers on our arms. If you are going through something tough and you go through the pain of getting a tat- too, it kind of resolves something in your head.
Have you had similar experiences with most of your ink? No, I’m a collector too—I have some stuff by Grant Cobb—but then also on tour you have those moments when you just want to get a tattoo. On my right arm I have a sleeve that was pretty thought out and placed very well. My left arm is patchwork.
What is the Japanese design? I got it at my buddy’s house when he had a traditional Japanese artist over. Because my son was going to be born soon I got Japanese ornamentation with this little guy that brings good luck for boys. They hang this guy in Japanese boys’ bedrooms. I asked if on one side I could get it surrounded by wild waves and on the other side get calm waves, because I wanted it to represent the change in my life. But the translator said, “No calm waves in Japan.” So it is all turbulent waves.
And you are now the tattooed father. I’ll be at pre-school with my kid and the parents will ask me about the stories behind them, and it’s fun now. That wouldn’t have happened a few years ago.
Do you think that’s thanks to tattooing on television? More than anything, embracing the idea that tattoos are part of pop culture now is what our show it about. Tattooing is not a dark thing that hides in the shadows anymore. A lot of people have tattoos, and the people who don’t have them are interested and open to them now. There was one Skin who was 45, 50 and got his first tattoo. That’s cool! As a culture we have gone from when I was in high school and I hid my tattoos to now people are open about it and proud about it. You’ll see that in season two.
Being a Skin can go horribly wrong with the mistakes that come with competition shows. Do you ever feel for them? There were two incidences where it kind of went sideways with the Skins. There was a point when the artists and the Skin kind of lost it and couldn’t finish the tattoo because somebody was being too hectic. I was concerned so I talked to Joe about it and he said, “Yeah, but that’s how it is in a shop. People come in with all kinds of stories and acting in all kinds of ways, and they are not happy but it is your job to make it happy.”
What else will go down in season two? The stunts are bigger and better. We did a crazy one in downtown L.A. that involved a fake car crash.
You film in L.A., and Spike TV’s Ink Master tapes in NYC. Is there an East Coast/West Coast beef? I’m from the Midwest, so I don’t know if I would get into an East Coast–West Coast thing. If it goes down, I’ll just duck behind Joe.
Has the show given you an idea for your next tattoo? I might finally like to get the calm waves into my life, and I definitely want to get something for my kid. The standard is a handprint, but that doesn’t feel right for me. He is going to be 4 years old, and he has these little artistic gems that he is working on now. When he does a piece of art that he really likes that is for Dad, I would like to get that tattooed on me. That would be something that I would really like to show off. Most parents put their kid’s art on their refrigerator, so it would be cool to walk into preschool and show them that something my kid did is tattooed on me.
Would you go to Capobianco or Aitchison for that? I think that either would do a great job. It would kind of depend on what kind of art he does. If, for some reason, he does a dark pinup girl with lots of blood, you know where I am going.
Tattoos and art collide when Oxygen’s “Best Ink” Returns for Season 2 with new host Pete Wentz on Wednesday, April 3 @ 10ET/PT!
Visit Oxygen’s Best Ink website: http://best-ink.oxygen.com/