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During its tenth season, contestant Josh Payne swept the Ink Master competition: taking home four main challenges wins and the overall title. Now, he's returned as a coach alongside season 8's Nikki Simpson to assist the artists on season 12. We caught up with this week's coach to learn how his life changed after winning his season and what he thought about the artists competing for the top spot on season 12.

How has your life changed since season 10 of the show?

It’s been an awesome ride. Coming off doing it was such a high and then getting to go to the conventions around the country was amazing. With that being said, I wasn’t looking to get famous per say and the show was just a great experience. I’ve kept my head down and kept on working. I’m just trying to get better every day.

How were you approached about coming back for season 12?

Oh man, when I got hit up about the option of coming back, I jumped on it in a heartbeat. I had an absolute blast with my experience on my season and any other opportunities I was presented, I’d do with no questions asked. And getting to be a part of the Battle of the Sexes with a small coaching role was incredible.

What were your initial thoughts on the Battle of the Sexes theme of this season?

I’m very happy that I walked onto season 12 as a man in today’s society. I think that it’s an interesting concept, but I also don’t believe that there is any sex behind art work. I don’t believe that there should be any divide or there is any difference. I think that an artist’s hand and an artist’s mind is exactly that, it doesn’t matter what it’s attached to. So the concept of guys against girls having any divide or difference doesn’t necessarily equate to me.

What was your experience like being a coach for the women this season?

Getting to go back and not knowing how many other coaches had been there, I didn’t know how their experience was with anyone prior to me. I went in there kind of nervous, hoping that they were receptive, hoping they wanted to learn from me, and hoping that I had something to teach them. I know that my image may have been slightly negative in some people’s eyes and I wanted to go in there and be able to work with them. And I was lucky that the women I got to be on my team were absolutely incredible. They were super incredible and all big fans of mine, which made it really easy and an absolutely incredible experience.

What advice did you give to the artists still competing on the season?

For me, it was important to remember that at the end of the day, you are competing in a game and just like any other sport, there are set guidelines. You need to fit within the confines and follow the rules, if you can do that then you’re going to produce some solid work. That’s always my biggest thing, to remember the rules and remember why you’re there.

Were you surprised in any way by the level of talent you saw this season?

I’m lucky enough that young in my career I was blessed to work with a female artist named Sarah Peacock. She was one of the early women that found their way through this industry, and paved the way for female artists to be accepted in our industry. So me having that insight and being able to work underneath someone as amazing as she was, allowed me to see that there really is no difference between a man and a woman in the final product. There was no big surprise, I never thought ‘Wow, these women are better than I imagined they could be.’ It was just awesome to work alongside such energy and so many outgoing people that were really hungry.