I think toward the end of this tour we’re gonna get you to do some more. We’re all just gonna tattoo each other one night. [Laughs]
I’ll do something on your face.
The only other question I had was: What’s the next tattoo you’re going to get?
Well we talked a little bit about that, about my wanting to finish this shirt. And it was pointed out to me that it might be a good idea to finish my center, which I have a great start on, a Jesus that Chris Garver did.
And when did he start that?
He did it in probably ’95, or ’96. It started out as just a chest piece, but it was me, recently, looking in the mirror, like, visualizing, because I’ve got a chopped ’50 Merc on my stomach, that Maaske did, and thinking it might be cool to kind of bring the Jesus down into that, so it becomes a chest and a stomach piece, and then that’ll dictate what my ribcage does. And then my back is primarily traditional pin-ups, just like a bunch of pin-ups, and I don’t only want pin-ups on the back, so I need to put the rear-end of a car on like two corners, or something like that, and then try and blend other things in there, like cars, guitars, bikes, motors, or something—so it’s not only pin-up girls.
You said it all right there. Cars, guitars, bikes, and motors…around ladies.
Right. So one more thing. You guys have touched on it a couple of times, but were you very close with Eric?
I was. I met Eric and this other kid, and they were just two little rockabilly kids down on Orange Circle one day, and they recognized me and came over and started talking to me, and Eric said he was from Reno, and I knew people in Reno, and then we started talking about old cars, and then he said he was a tattooer. And it was one of those, “Really? All right, let’s go!” kind of things, and he went and did a Sick Boy on my stomach, and it was probably one of the first tats that he’d ever done. And then it was funny, because years later he went over it and made it real refined. But he was a great guy, and we were really close for many years. We collected a lot of the same stuff, we loved the same music, we loved old cars, and customizing them, and you know, I was already clean, and it was just one of those things where, for a couple of years there was some distance between us, and you know, we weren’t mad at each other, but we both kind of knew that we needed to give each some distance, for whatever reasons, and we each respected that. And I didn’t go to the funeral- because it was turning into a circus. It was like everyone who ever got tattooed by him wanted to go to the service. Probably because he left a good impression on them—he was a sweet guy—but I could see him very easily doing the same thing at my funeral, crumbing on everybody, being like, “I don’t want to see that guy,” or, “He’s going? I’m not going.” [Laughs]
Something that I think a lot of people in the tattoo community don’t know, and I’m sure you’re aware of, is, you know for years there’s been a giant resurgence of American traditional tattooing, and Eric, man, he was on top of that as a young tattooer, before there were even books of flash out. He hooked up with Leroy Minugh, who worked with Owen Jensen, and so he had a lineage to some of the greatest traditional American tattooing ever done, West Coast or otherwise, and he really should be viewed as a pioneer in American tattooing. And I wonder if, down the road, years after his passing, people will start to revisit Eric’s importance in American tattooing.
I think Eric really felt the need to explore the soul of tattooing. The old soul history of it, the tradition of it. And once again, “if you don’t have roots, you don’t have shit!” And what I really liked about what he was doing, when he started drawing his own flash, was taking traditional Sailor Jerry-style flash with a little more of a soul thing added to it. For a good tattoo artist, like Eric Maaske, or Mark Mahoney, or Bob Roberts, or Jack Rudy, or Joe Vegas, or Juan Puente, or those guys—it’s not a fad for them. It’s not a fashion thing. They really took the time to understand what tattoos meant. And these people today— when I see a guy with fresh flash tattoos, to me that’s like a pretty boy, almost. I admire how uniform it is, and how colorful, and how fresh it looks on his white skin, but at the same time it’s kind of like, you know, it doesn’t have that edge. It seems like some of the danger is gone. I remember, punk rock used to be dangerous! Now it’s cute. These people are just getting these tats and you’re like, do you know…do you know that this is forever? [Laughs]
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Crash: Well, there you have it folks, TAM’s very first music interview! I hope you’re all as stoked as I am to have Mike Ness in the magazine. This guy is the real deal. Get the new record (it’s fuckin’ great!) come to the shows and show your support!
Thanks to Mike Ness for taking the time to do this with us, to Jimmy for such an awesome experience, and to my friend Brook Hewitt for dropping everything to come shoot pictures for us.
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