Stan Horaczek (writer),
Jay Watson (photographer)
INKED: When did you first step into a tattoo shop?
FREDDY CORBIN: I went to the shop on Broadway in Sacramento and I pretty much just walked out. It was a really funky, funky shop. I was, like, 17 or 18 and I knew I wasn’t going to get tattooed by the guy in there. His name was Broadway Bob. If you wanted to get a punk rock tattoo, like a skull with a mohawk or some lettering or something, he could kind of pull that off. But I wanted a dragon or some kind of wild shit and he just wasn’t up to par. I didn’t walk into another tattoo shop until I walked into Lyle Tuttle’s place in San Francisco when I moved there a year later.
Was that when you got your first tattoo?
I actually tattooed myself first before I went into the shop. My girlfriend had a tattoo of an Egyptian eye that she had done herself. She hand-poked it. I walked into the shop because it was going really slow and I thought, Man, this is going to take forever.
What did your artist say when he saw your handiwork?
It was interesting because it’s such a cliché for somebody to walk into a tattoo shop and say, “Oh, I did this one myself.” But I was so innocent that they treated me really cool. The tattoo was great and so were the people. I had great experiences and I was off at that point.
Is that when you realized you wanted to tattoo professionally?
I was getting a tattoo and my urge to tattoo was growing as it happened. At the time, I was doing all this artwork with black ink and black paint. The tattoos that I was seeing matched what I was drawing. It was an organic transformation. I just said, “Oh my God, this is my medium.” I was sitting around looking at people who could wear whatever they want, talking to people, listening to music and surrounded by all this art. I don’t talk about this a lot because it’ll make a lot of people want to become tattoo artists. [Laughs.]
Where did you go from there?
I immediately started asking where I could get equipment and stuff, which is such a faux pas. They corrected me because I was calling them “guns” even though I knew they were called “machines.” I said, “Oh shit, I blew it already.” They said they didn’t really sell that stuff and then I kept my mouth shut. I just kept getting tattooed by different people until I found somebody who was willing to teach me how to tattoo or at least sell me equipment.
Did you land an apprenticeship?
I never really got an apprenticeship because Erno [Szabady], the guy who taught me, was busy partying. Basically, I was making it really easy for him to run his business. I would smoke a little weed, but I wasn’t really partying. He showed me how to set up a machine. He said, “Here’s what you want to do and if you have any questions, ask.” I learned through trial and error. I learned through asking questions. I was getting tattooed by Henry Goldfield and I learned a lot from him too.