S.T. Tattoo Studio
S.T. Tattoo Studio
12601 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
S.T. Tattoo Studio in west Los Angeles was founded in order to celebrate the fusion of punk rock and tattoos, two things that go together like coffee and cigarettes. Jason Brown (former singer of Evol) and Mike Muir (the singer from Suicidal Tendencies, which released their latest album, 13, in March) wanted to find a business that combined their two great loves; thus S.T. Tattoo was born. “I’d known Mike since the ’80s when we would go on tour and do tattoos on the road,” Brown recalls. “Basically when we got back from the road we decided we wanted to open up a tattoo studio that included punk rock music, art, and a little history on the band.” After a few years Brown bought out Muir, but the shop is still very much connected to the movement and the band.
S.T. Tattoo is located about a mile away from Venice Beach, where there’s no shortage of tattoo shops. “We’re on the borderline of Los Angeles and Venice, but not on the beach. We don’t want to be associated with the shops down there,” Brown says. “It’s just a bunch of scratchers down there; it’s more of a novelty tourist spot.”
Instead of being just another studio down by the beach, S.T. Tattoo is a celebration of all of Brown’s loves. The culture of the shop is deeply rooted in punk music, skateboarding, lowrider cars, and southern California black-and-gray tattoos. Brown estimates that roughly 80 percent of the work done in the shop is black-and-gray, but says the artists at the studio are more than capable of tattooing in other styles, such as traditional and Japanese. “We like to think of our shop as a lifestyle shop—people who are into black-and-gray, punk rock, and that whole lifestyle,” Brown says. “My first style was black-and-gray, but I also do whatever comes my way. We do everything.”
When the shop first opened, most of the business came in thanks to the connection with Suicidal Tendencies, but over the years the studio has built up a reputation for itself. Brown takes an awful lot of pride in the fact that S.T. Tattoo is a custom shop; there is no flash on the wall, only the work of the artists in the studio. “We don’t let anybody walk out of here without getting a custom piece,” Brown says. He handles much of the black-and- gray work, but is comfortable doing other styles. Artist Wayne Bernard is a local Venice boy who spent some time tattooing in Miami and returned to S.T., where he does traditional work. Donovan Faulkner is a jack-of-all-trades like Brown, and is known for rocking out sick Japanese tattoos.
Another aspect that makes the vibe at S.T. Tattoo special is its size. Originally it was in a larger location that also included an art studio and a skate shop, but that just didn’t fit the intimate vibe that Brown wanted, so he made the decision to move to a smaller location. In doing so he has created the perfect environment for the S.T. Tattoo Studio. “We’re a small crew,” he says. “We’re a tight-knit family and we try to give everybody a nice experience—they get a custom piece that nobody else has. What makes us different than all the competitors around us is the fact that … we can be one-on-one with the clients and make them feel comfortable.” A lot of shop owners might feel
as if they had taken a step down by removing some of the frills and setting up in a smaller space, but Brown believes that paring the shop down to the basics allows him to spend less time dealing with hassles and bullshit and more time focusing on what is most important—the tattoo art. “I think that, over the years, as tattooing has grown into fashion, there isn’t a lot of true art out there anymore. That’s why we decided to take it down a spot and just do our own thing. Everybody is connected to their clients here,” Brown explains.
It may be intimate, but S.T. Tattoo is always bustling, according to Brown. “There’s always something happening every day, whether it is Robert Downey Jr. getting tattooed or Danny Trejo stopping by to say hi. It’s that whole vibe of skating, surfing, and music.” If getting inked up next to Iron Man or Machete isn’t enough to make you want to pop into the place, the high quality of its custom work should persuade you. No matter how crazy a customer’s idea might be, the artists at S.T. Tattoo will do everything they can to make sure the client leaves with a custom piece they can be proud of. “We try and make every tattoo like it was our last tattoo,” Brown vows.