Six Feet Under
116 N. 2nd Ave., Upland, CA
INKED: How would you describe your journey?
COREY MILLER: Very well-rounded. I started with a homemade tattoo machine, then when I was 16 I began hanging out at a real tattoo parlor, and at 20 I was lucky enough to get my first real job tattooing at Fat George’s Tattoo Gallery in La Puente. George had apprenticed under Rick Walters, who tattooed at the Pike in Long Beach. That instilled a great love and respect for the history of tattooing in me. Working at Fat George’s was a true street shop experience, and George was a true old-school mean bastard. But I say that with the greatest love and respect.
Then it was Goodtime Charlie’s Tattooland?
Yeah, after George’s I was fortunate enough to work with Jack Rudy at Goodtime Charlie’s, which was where the best black-and-gray artists were working or had worked. Since I started tattooing I naturally gravitated towards black and gray, and I was fortunate to be working around some of the best in the business.
So did they solely inform your early aesthetic?
About the time I went to Goodtime Charlie’s I started traveling to conventions all over the world, and again was fortunate enough to meet some incredibly talented artists and amazing people. It was at a convention in New Orleans that I met Suzanne Fauser, who probably had the biggest influence on me as an artist and as a person. I spent the next 12 years making my way out to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to visit and work in her shop. She passed away in 2001, the year my second daughter was born. We named her Suzanna in her honor. After leaving Tattooland, I opened up a shop with two partners. That didn’t work out very well, so I kind of went back underground with my tattooing, which is where I got the name for my shop when I resurfaced in 1994 and opened Six Feet Under tattoo parlor. Looking back, I never would have never dreamed I’d be tattooing on TV. When I started out, tattooing was for outlaws but today it’s on television, in people’s living rooms. So yes, it’s been a well-rounded journey.
And now that the revolution has been televised, how has that changed the business?
I think LA Ink just put forth another view of what some tattoo shops are today. And it’s not just the stereotypical seedy shops anymore. When I started tattooing, the business had more of an outlaw vibe. Today there is a much cooler artistic vibe.
Do you feel opening up the culture is a good thing?
It’s just a fact, man: Shit has changed. Every underground industry has become somewhat mainstream, from bike building to tattooing. No one can control it. With the media and the internet, everything is just more accessible today. When people ask me about tattooing going mainstream, I think about what would have happened if Kurt Cobain just stayed playing music for junkie kids under a bridge—none of us would have been able to experience it.
Do you miss the outlaw culture?
The past is a great place to visit, but I’m just fine dealing with today. So many tattooers romanticize about the old days, and about being an old, hard-ass carny, but a lot of guys today haven’t tattooed nothing but cute college girls and policemen, so it’s pretty silly to act like a tough guy. I admit when I was young we did some pretty unspeakable shit and probably had way too much fun, but becoming a father helped me make better choices and leave the bad elements alone.