>> You mentioned earlier how the popularity of tattooing used to skip generations. Do you feel like there is any way that tattoos will go back underground?
No, not now. I think that on a philosophical level I’ve always believed that the more people there are, and the smaller the world gets, that everyone wants to be an individual. tattooing seems to be one way to do it. Even if they have the same tattoos, they feel like they’re different. people have always decorated their bodies one way or another. Whether it is clothing, doing weird shit with their hair, or getting a big ol’ tittie job or something like that. Look at how many people have face tattoos now. you see that a lot. In the old days people with face tattoos wouldn’t be let into tattoo conventions because the press was there. We were trying not to give us a bad name, or a worser name. There’s a nice southern word for you, worser.
>> It’s really hard to imagine that someone would be turned away from a tattoo convention for having a face tattoo now.
Having a tattoo certainly doesn’t close as many doors as it used to. You can get a job now. It used to be that you couldn’t get a job if you had forearm tattoos. People like them, people are drawn to them, and they are drawn on them. Little kids want to get tattoos now because it’s what they see everywhere.
>> It would have also been hard to imagine tattooing being the basis of a television show a while back, yet you recently appeared as a guest judge on Ink Master. Tell us a bit about that.
That’s all I’ve been talking about since that show came out! It was fun being on it. Oliver worked for me 20 years ago and he’s like one of my bastard sons. So it was a lot of fun doing it with him. other than that, those kids suck! There were so many people to choose from and they’ve got those sucky-ass kids on there.
>> Tell us a little bit about the shop that you are about to open in Tulsa.
We’ve been working on this place that used to be a massage parlor and whorehouse for years and years. It’s been fun dealing with that, trying to build a place when people knock on the door wanting a rub and a tug. It’s been there for so long that even when there are no signs on the windows anymore, people keep coming. It was funny at first, but by now it’s like, “Get out of here! We don’t do that no more!”
>> It’s funny the first couple of times, but not so much after that.
Exactly. It happens four, five times a day. Middle of the night, first thing in the morning, whenever. Right down the street there’s two more of them. When we went to sign the lease they still had the old sign up; the place was called Miss Saigon. We figured that there was no way these people would turn us down. you get a lot of that in tattooing. When you go to open a tattoo shop you’ll hear, “No, get out of here.” but here we’re helping them move up a little in the world. there’s nothing wrong with whoring. I mean, God bless whoring—it’s good, honest work. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to change the stigma of the location. the first day we started renovating the shop the news showed up to do a story about prostitution. I said, “Come on, fellas, give us a break. We’re having trouble as it is. you don’t need to put it on TV what this place used to be.”
>> Do you know when the shop is going to be up and running?
At this time it is officially “sometime in the future.” We’re busting our asses as hard as we can. It’s right on the cusp of going from “really difficult” to “rolling downhill.” Every shop that I’ve built before started off as an empty box and we filled it. I’ve never built a place where we had to tear it all down to start over again. We had to get rid of all these rooms and re-create it. the thing about this old building is that everything we have planned seems to go wrong. there will be pipes in a wall when we thought there weren’t any, so we have to rethink it. once we get it all done we get to start jumping through hoops with the Oklahoma Health Department. It’s a really difficult state to open a shop in.
>> What makes opening a shop in Oklahoma so difficult?
Tattooing has only been legal there for six years and they are still trying to figure it out. Back in Texas I worked with the health board and helped make some of the laws there. I think Jennifer and I are going to try and help out the state here. What they seem to be doing is kind of backward here, in that they are punishing people who are trying to do it right and being really hard on them.
>> What compelled you to open a shop in an area where it is so difficult to navigate the laws?
I didn’t want to open a shop with anyone that I knew because that’s a sure way to lose a friend. And I didn’t want to go someplace where I had a friend established already. I didn’t want to, for lack of a better word, compete with them. I don’t think it’s competitive, but you don’t want to go into their town and open up a shop. When I looked at Tulsa, I didn’t know anybody, and nobody was doing what I’m doing. I think the oldest guy there is 35, and they aren’t doing traditional. So I’ll be a niche. there’s no real history there, so I can make up some history. I think it will work good. Either that or it’ll be the biggest rotten pork chop of my life. It’s just going to be me and Jen, maybe some guests every once in a while. It’s not like we’re going to be taking away some kid’s college money by showing up there. I can only do so much, and it’s a nice place to live, it’s a nice town. Maybe it’s a kind of semi-retirement for me. the rent is easy and I’m not going to have to bust my ass while doing that mobile tattooer game. If I don’t have that much to do I’ll have a lot of time to paint, and that’s a good thing.