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Rock Star by Day, Tattooist by Night—David Foral of the Dirty Heads

One of the most intriguing things to witness is when an artist's creativity spills into other media. For David Foral, bassist of the Dirty Heads, that other medium has become tattooing. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Foral before performing one of their last shows of the "Everything is Awesome 2015" summer tour, to discuss his the band and his passion for the tattoo culture. Something tells me that the tattoo community is going to be seeing a lot more of Foral in the not-too-distant future.

Inked: How would you describe the tone and vibe of the Dirty Heads for those who have never heard them?
David Foral: We have an influence from a lot of things. I think we came from a generation of listening to groups like Sublime, and we would have music where you don’t listen to just one specific thing. And think that’s coming from Southern California, we kind of grew up with people saying Oh you are gonna have a gangster rap tape, and oh you're gonna have a punk tape, and of course you're gonna have a Bob Marley tape. This is back when, I just dated myself back to when people actually had tapes, but I think it naturally just came about, we cant make just one type of music. Ya know? We are classified as alternative just because we don’t want to be held as just a reggae group, because we’re not. We don’t just make rootsy-reggae songs and we aren’t a traditional reggae group, but then we do hip-hop but its not traditional hip-hop. It’s kind of a mix. Sometimes we do acoustic songs, sometimes well do a hybrid of hip-hop/acoustic/reggae songs, so it's fun. I think a lot of people in other bands start out saying they are going to be a punk band and then you can't change that. If your music changes, you could be inspired and listening to hip-hop, but then you are stuck writing punk songs. I see why groups break up, because they are saying, Hey we’ve been doing this for 10/15 years, I'm over it. I want to do something else with my life. But because we have that freedom, I think we are really lucky. We could come out with a total rock song, then a hip-hop song, then a reggae song and our fans would love it. No one is going to complain and we all get our creativeness out.

How has the “Everything is Awesome 2015 Tour" been so far, now that is coming to an end?
This tour has been phenomenal! We have been friends with Slightly Stoopid for a while. We did some festivals with them but never a full tour. It was always something where it seemed to be a fan favorite, we would put out who would you like us to tour with and it would always be you guys need to to tour with Slightly Stoopid and for whatever reason it just wasn’t in the cards [before]. It finally happened. We were stoked, it’s been amazing.

[Previously] we had done shows with them and we would kind of always gravitate towards each other. Oh these guys are kind of doing the same thing that we are doing and kind of have similar mind sets, so, I think it was just very organic. We were just sitting around drinking a beer, smoking a joint, going “What are you guys doing this summer?” “ I don’t know what are you guys doing?” It seems like that’s how most of our tours come about. We have toured with Matisyahu before and that was the same, that came out of a recording session. It seems easier that way because you know that you are already going to get along with the artist and it’s similar genres, so it worked out for all of us.

What has been your favorite moment or place while traveling this summer?
Well, we are always kind of partial to Red Rocks. That’s kind of our, I mean maybe to a lot of bands it’s like this also, but it’s kind of sacred to us. Last year we toured with Pepper and that was the first time that we headlined it and it was sold out. So we knew it was going to sell out this year for sure. Stoopid does really well there and weeks before the show, it was sold out, so that’s already a great moment. Highlight the tour to go to Red Rocks.


How has this tour different from the other tours you have been a part of?
I mean touring is pretty much the same; you go to a lot of the same venues and stuff, but the attitude across the board, I mean, we knew them but we didn’t know them know them. I think just from the attitudes, everyone is just like, some of our guys will go and play on their songs during the set and it’s just very good. No one has any attitudes, it’s very just chill. It feels summer camp, it’s a very laid back vibe.

What’s the first thing you have planned for you when you get to go home?
I’m going to sleep for a long time, in my own bed. I actually just bought a condo a week before we left for tour, so I just got everything out in boxes, and so I’m just in my head, I’ve been watching, every day off and every chance we are in a hotel room, I’ve been on HGTV. I’ve just been watching and figuring it all out. I’m like, I can do this with my back splash, and I’m going to paint this color this and here.

What are other things you do when you have a day off or a few hours to kill, besides watching HGTV?
A lot of the guys are golfers, so you know, Duddy B (Vocalist/Guitarist) is a big golfer and Matt just started getting into golf a little bit, so we try to hit some sort of golf course. For fall tours we look for stuff like zombie mazes, or all those haunted house type things, roller coasters, any type of really fun activity that we can do on our day off.

Who was the first one in the Dirty Heads to get a tattoo?
I would probably say Jared. Yeah, he was actually apprenticing at a tattoo shop for a little bit before the band actually started doing anything.

Does the music you write and perform, inspire your tattoo ideas?
To our fans, yes. Almost every day it seems like we get tagged in some photo and we will do meet and greets and someone will be like, hey man check it out. We’ve seen a lot of lyrics and we’ve even had people that say, Hey sign my arm and I’m going to get it tattooed, and they go right to the tattoo parlor.

Are there any Dirty Head tattoos that have stood out to you the most?
I guess it’s always weird to see our signatures. I mean it’s one thing to get a cool piece of art but to see and know it’s going to be on there for the rest of your life, that’s kind of interesting. But a lot of album covers are pretty cool. We have this mascot that is an octopus and we see that going on a lot of people.


Do you have any Dirty Head ink? If not, would you get any?
I do not. Um I might not be opposed to it. Some of the guys have “DH” on their hands, Duddy and Jared have that, so I guess that would be the first DH ink ever.

Do you have any particular tattoo artist that you love to get tattooed by or inspire you?
I get a lot of my stuff done by this guy named Kirk Ellingson, he is out of Sleepy Lagoon in Fullerton. He has mentored me and it’s actually a funny story. Years ago, I mean probably 20-something years ago, my brother bought a tattoo kit out of some tattoo magazine and he started doing it. He did a couple and it just wasn’t for him any more, he moved on to other things. He then sold his machine to Kirk, and he learned on his own, and then he got really good years later. When I went to get my first tattoo from him, he was like, Oh I still have your brother's machine and he tattooed me with my brother's machine from 20 years ago. So that was pretty cool.

I see that you have a lot of skin covered with ink, do you have any more room for ink, and if so where and what do you plan on getting?
I still have some room. When I get back, I think I’m going to work on my chest. I got my stomach done and that was pretty painful, so I figure going up wont be too bad. I’ll probably have Kirk do that also.


Have you always been able to express your artistic skills and creativity?
I’ve always kind of done art. I dabbled with it for years, and I was a graphic designer for a while, I even had a company that did graphic design and websites and all that stuff. So it was cool to start out in the real world with sketching, charcoal, pastels and all that stuff then go into the digital; photography and photoshop and stuff. Then I started getting so many tattoos that I just, ya know you sit there for hours and you're watching people work, and if you're an artist you just have that creative mind of like, Oh I can do that, that doesn’t seem too hard. So I started talking to Kirk more about it saying, Hey man, if I got some supplies, do you think you can give me some tips and pointers on what to do? And since he came up just learning on his own, he didn't mind even though I know traditionally you have to be an apprentice and it’s very political and structured. It’s sort of similar to the old Kung Fu master, you've got to sit out on the steps for two years and then finally you can come into the gates. And I guess that’s one way to think about it, but because Kurt didn’t learn that way I think he was a little more open. Tattooing is not for everybody just like with anything. Some people pick it up and then after a couple months they are like, This isn’t for me, and they move on. But the thing for me, it was just another expression. The band is doing great, we don’t really need to have side jobs or anything. Tattooing is a fun... I don’t want to say hobby because hobby just seems as though you're not really serious about something or you just kind of mess around with it, but it is [my hobby]. Some people golf or ride skateboards or surf, and for me tattooing would be it. I want to further a new medium and just be artistic and expressive.

So does that mean you haven’t/aren’t doing an official apprenticeship?
No, I just learn through Kirk, watching him, and asking him a lot of dumb questions with him guiding me. It’s better to ask questions, but it seems that the more I learn and the more I figure, the more I don’t know. It’s one of those things that you could be doing for 20 years but you still have so much more to learn, with the different styles and techniques and stuff. For me, I'm taking it slow and I'm not tackling these huge giant pieces or doing these realistic portraits. I kind of want to do, this to where I just create art and then I'm not sitting around taking art requests from people. It’s just, I do art and hey this is available, if you want it you can have it. I know a couple different tattoo artist that do their jobs like that. They don’t do custom work, it’s this is what I do, you’ve come to me for a reason, it's because you like this specific art.

What style have you gravitated towards, even when just simply sketching in your spare time?
Maybe a new-school traditional. I love the bold lines of the traditional but maybe with a little more artistic flavor. Kind of a little spin off of traditional. I really like angles of tattoos. I like putting a lot of hard angles kind of similar to deco, that has an industrial kind of look to it. I’m still trying to find my own style, but whenever I see tattoos with those qualities I gravitate towards them. That’s where I think I'll end up.


Out of all of your bandmates, who have you tattooed the most?
Probably Duddy. I just added more to his existing lighthouse tattoo on his leg the other day. It had some waves on it, and he wanted to add more stuff. So I kept looking at it and I added a sea creature at the bottom, added some lightning going down into the lighthouse and some clouds. That was fun. Renegade tattooing—on the road and in hotel rooms.


Now that you have a little bit of tattooing experience under your belt, what is your favorite piece that you have tattooed and what is your favorite tattoo on your body?
A guitar on Kirk. Kirk eventually was like, You have to do a tattoo on me and I was thinking, OHHH MAN. It’s one thing to tattoo just someone that doesn’t care, when I first started out I was tattooing people with really bad tattoos, so I didn’t feel so nervous if it didn’t come out that great, I would look and go I can do better than those. Even if I mess up I would still be able to do it better than some of these tattoos. But for Kirk, being a professional tattoo artist, I was really nervous going into it but it was the best thing because it was real time mentoring. I would be in the middle of it and be like, How come this always happens? He would either fix it and show me or give me more advice and tips to fix it. After I look back at the whole experience, I realized I learned more in that one hour than I did in the months prior. My favorite piece that has been tattooed on me would be this “1” symbol, taken off the dollar bill, but it was to commemorate our single “Lay Me Down” hitting number one on the billboard charts, so it means a lot to me. It’s kind of my own personal DH ink.


When you come up with new ideas for tattoos, do you use the band as your guinea pigs?
I try. Jared wants some stuff right now that I have to draw up. But the crew guys, yeah definitely. I did a Boba Fett type thing with some roses and the next day off we have that is going to go on our merchandise guy. Its usually just a few buddies. Ya know I normally get hit up by a lot of our fans that are always asking for a tattoo and I would love to but it comes down to logistics. I mean, you wake up and it's hard because I got to take a shower and then there is sound check, interviews, meet and greets, then the show. I never have chunks of time, like three or four hours, of doing nothing. It's pretty hard to actually commit to appointments on the road., I have some friends that own shops and now that I am traveling a lot they tell me to come over and hang out in shop for a week. Eventually I might schedule a tattoo tour where I kind of hit a bunch of shops and guest spot.

Available at INKEDSHOP.COM: SA "Flower Field Skull" Monokini by Sullen Clothing

Available at INKEDSHOP.COM: SA "Flower Field Skull" Monokini by Sullen Clothing