Lindsey Carmichael: But you are not the type of person I know to be affected in a negative way by nonsense. And most of the people who would have negative things to say about the show or whatever—it wouldn’t affect you. From what I’ve seen, in your life- only great, positive things have come of this. So, I’m just wondering, what the experience was like? It seems at times overwhelming, but mostly great…
Dan Smith: Well it’s such a funny thing, because everybody and their dog has an opinion about it. Yet, no one really knows about it. Everyone wants to know about it, and wants to talk about it, but it is what it is. How much thought and energy do you want to put into the fact that it’s a TV show? In order for tattooing to be a TV show, it has to cover some stuff that’s exaggerated, or that might not be 100 percent accurate, or whatever else. That’s just being realistic about what TV is.
LC: It’s a show.
DS: Why should that make you have an opinion about somebody that you don’t know, haven’t met and haven’t had a conversation with? You know? They film for 50 or 60 hours a week and put that into a 45-minute show…
LC: That says a lot, right there.
DS: Anybody that has common sense is going, “Okay, well they’re cutting and pasting, and editing it the way they want.” But, in saying that, I’m just myself. I can’t do anything else. I feel like I treat people the way that I would want to be treated. I’ve always been like that to my customers. And I’m very appreciative of the opportunity that I got. But if I didn’t do it, there’d be a list as long as my arm of people that would have said yes too.
It’s not my world; it’s not where I come from, and I’ll be the first to say that. But just because I do it, that doesn’t mean that I’ve changed, or that I’ve forgotten about that world. There’s people who don’t know, who just see me on TV, and they’re like, “Why are you at this convention?” And it’s like, “What are you talking about? I’ve been at conventions since the day I moved to America.” Since before I moved here.
It’s about education, man. And I don’t think I’m going to change the world. No one’s reinventing the wheel. But if I can educate the people that need to be educated about how amazing tattooing is, and how it’s made my life better, then I need to do that if I’ve been given that opportunity.
Why? Because there’s people on that list as long as my arm that would love to take it and throw it in the waste disposal… totally use it for bad. And I want to use it for good. I want people to know what a good tattoo is and why I’m doing it. And I want to give back in any way that I feel I can, in that world.
DS: So yeah… There’s been a very small amount of criticism, but why care about those people? The people that I care about, I asked before I decided to do the show. I asked you. I asked Grant Cobb. I asked a lot of people—Dean, everybody. People who have a lot of different opinions about it, and people whose opinions I really respect. And everybody was positive, like, “Of course. Do it.” Because it means nothing. It’s temporary. Everything we do is temporary.
LC: True. But from what I’ve seen, and from knowing you a good deal of time now, only positivity has come from this experience.
DS: Well, I think so. But I feel like it was the ethic that was installed in me from a lot of different people that I met on my travels that made it that way. And that’s what I want people to know. I want people to know what I feel is important. And being realistic, a lot of time that isn’t going to get across on a TV show. But as far as the way that I hold myself with customers, and what I want to get across to the people who watch that show—it’s what I feel is important.
LC: And from the people who watch the show, you have pretty much gotten that back, I think.
DS: I think so, for sure, which made me feel great because there was so much doubt going into it. I was like, “What the hell am I getting myself into? This is ridiculous.” I hadn’t even really watched it before I was asked to jump on board. And there were people that I’ve loved and respected for a long time, that came out of the woodwork and were like, “Hey man, I think what you’re doing is amazing.” And that meant the world to me.
Dude… Like, Mario [Desa], who I’m working with here, in the booth; I love his stuff. And have, for so long! Since before I was tattooing. And he mentioned to me, like, “Hey man, I just want you to know, it’s cool. It’s positive. I think it’s a good thing.” And I was just like, pfff…man!
LC: And at dinner last night, we were talking about tattoo history, and these kinds of things, and working together at the convention—these are the kinds of things that have been really great, positive experiences that have come of it. And I’ve also seen, just in the times we’ve been together, in Europe or whatever, people come up and they’re so sweet. They’ve seen something on TV, whatever it is, and they’re always very sweet.
DS: I just feel like, you got into tattooing because you want to express yourself and you want to give somebody something. So where do you draw the line on that? Who decides what’s acceptable and what’s not? If I’m taking it and running with it in a negative direction and using people, and charging appearance fees or whatever else, then it’s justified, I guess… But that’s not what I want. That’s not who I am. So I don’t draw the line on who I make happy, or who’s worthy of an opinion of me. If a little girl comes up at a convention and says, “I like your stuff!” What am I going to do? Be like, “Hey. This is tattooing. Beat it.” No. It’s not in me to be that person. But I’m a realistic person, and I know that people assume a lot. And if me being on a show makes people assume that I’m a dick, they’ll probably still think that, but that’s not the way I am.
LC: There’s only so much that you’re in control of.
DS: Exactly. And there’s only so much energy I can put into that. I love my friends and my friends are who I care about, in terms of their opinion of me.
Dan Smith can be found at High Voltage Tattoo in Hollywood, CA.)
Dan Smith is featured in Tattoo Artist Magazine issue #28.