You dropped out of college to tattoo. How did your family react?
They weren't that psyched on it. [Laughs] I'm sure from any type of objective parental view, it looked pretty crappy. And especially at that time, it was a different thing. Now, tattooing can be seen as more of a viable way to make a living. There's all this bullshit fucking fame and TV show crap attached to it that you could use to “justify” it with. Back then, it was what it was.
What was the tattoo industry like at the time?
It was starting to move into a progressive time for tattooing. Ed Hardy sort of started that move. And there was Marcus Pacheco, Guy Aitchison, and Eddie Deutsche. All these guys doing stuff that was really progressive and mind-blowing at the time.
What was your style like when you started out?
When I first started actually tattooing, I looked at the magazines and the stuff that got me really amped was stuff by the guys I mentioned—Marcus Pacheco, Filip Leu, Ed Hardy, Aaron Cain, Timothy Hoyer. Those were the guys that I remember seeing in magazines and thinking, This is sick. This is amazing! I want to do stuff like this. I didn't have the artistic capabilities to do that, but it was something that I had goals about. That was a big drive.
The culture of tattooing stresses tradition. Does that make it hard for you to push the limits of what tattooing can be?
Yes and no. When I think about tradition, I think about tattoos that look good as a tattoo. I don't think, “If it has more than four colors in it, it's not good.” I'm not hung up on any preconceived dogmatic notions about tattoos. It doesn't matter what the art is or how fancy it is, if it doesn't have good impact as a tattoo, then it's not a good tattoo. I don't care if it's a Duchamp painting. If it doesn't look good as a tattoo, it's still a piece-of-crap tattoo.