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Dennis Pase Interview by Pooch

Pooch: I’m sitting here with my buddy Dennis Pase at his home in Louisville, Kentucky, going to do a little interview here, alright let’s start from the beginning, tell me a little about your history and where did you grow up?

Dennis Pase: I grew up in Lake Worth and Boynton Beach, Florida, but I was born in Delaware in a doublewide…pretty cool haha!

Dennis Pase Tattoo

Delaware in a doublewide…cool, so when did you move to Florida?

When I was 5, in 1981, we moved in with my Grandma at her house in Boca Raton.

So, what got you into tattoos?

Y’know it’s funny, the only thing I can think of was there was this real crazy white trash dude named John Hubbard that lived across the street from us and he had an old panther on his arm and it just looked like shit haha. but it was kinda cool, it was like he was a rebel…and then I guess when I got into hardcore and was into the straightedge thing and started seeing more people with them.

Dennis Pase tattoo artist

Yeah I was going to ask you next if music had something to do with it…same thing for me…playing in bands.

I was straightedge when I was 18, that’s when I got tattooed by Kevin Buckstrup at Louie Lombi’s Tatttoo Paradise, it still looks crisp as hell, he put “One Life Drug Free” on my lower back, it hurt so bad I don’t know why I got any more after that haha! My friend Nancy had a bunch of work from him, all old english. Dude as soon as he started I was like “I hate you” a tramp stamp should be called a warrior stamp it hurt so bad haha!

Ok so warrior stamp from now on, cause tramp stamp is kinda bad, my wife hates that term, she’s like what about guys?

Dennis Pase interview

The Dong Antlers on the front…

Hahaha!!! So you were bands, what did you play?

I played guitar in various bands then I played drums in a band with Dean Corpse, then with Forever and a Day, then I played bass in a grind core band called What Wishes Can’t Mend.

So what made you want to start tattooing?

I always wanted to, and I had jobs that I hated and I had a shit ton of tattoos and I drew a lot but in hindsight it was really terrible haha..but I must have done something right because you gave me a shot hahaha!

Tattoo artist Dennis Pase

I can’t even remember exactly what I saw but it must have been tattoo style, what kind of stuff were you into then, or which tattoo artists rather…

I would say like…Cleen Rock One and Mario Desa’s paintings, some new school shit…

2002 era everything that was red had a blue glow on it haha! Even if you wanted to do a traditional sacred heart it still had that blue lighting on it !

Yeah I remember Hanky Panky in an interview ragging on kids for doing teal under lighting with yellow highlights and I was like oooh I do that..what’s he mean? But that’s when you learn ok I’m just doing what someone else is doing, now I gotta look into why I’m doing this and try to look at what came before.

Dennis Pase tattoo artist interview


Yeah right…

Ok so I remember you telling me about Jon Clue and that he was working in Ft. Myers, so that was a moment that changed my whole life, because he was the one that got me into painting…and his tattoos were amazing.

Oh yeah they were really good…that was before I started tattooing with you, I lived in Naples and was selling some shoes at Journeys. Clue tattooed an old roommate of mine when I lived in Coral Springs and was like fuck that thing is cool man, it was so solid, I never got tattooed by him because I was coming to you to get tattooed like 3 hours away haha!

What was the first thing I tattooed on you?

The desert chrome graffiti triple x on my stomach…

Yeah the ole Robert Williams chrome…

Pooch the train painter haha!

Hahaha!! So you were tattooing out  in Gainsville first right?

Uh huh but Sicko (Funhouse tattoo) was helping me out then cause I told him I wanted to start, he hooked me up with supplies, so I was at my full time job, working 80 hours then going home and tattooing most of the night on grapefruits and stuff…looking back it’s like God damn woah I should probably never go back to Gainsville haha! But there would be some people that would still get stuff done…

Dennis Pase tattoos


Yeah somehow I am still in the same town I started in and doing well…

Your shop is one of the funnest places I have worked at haha!

Hahaha thanks man, when I started technically I didn’t know shit but I always had the art side down and I think that’s half the battle, when you put your heart and soul into it for the right reasons it comes back to you…that being said the hardest part is the technical side and knowing what makes a clean lasting tattoo…

Ain’t that the truth…

A lot of it is knowing your machines and how to make them run the way you want em to, most of the time it’s just the filing of a contact and turning of a screw…and that’s it. If you do that every now and then the shit will stay good

Yep… And stop using copper on machines haha!

Tattoo artist Dennis Pase interview


So how did you wind up coming to me for the apprenticeship?

I stopped in and I was that kid that annoys everybody, but it worked out haha! I asked you before one time when you were tattooing me and you were like “yeah whatever” haha! But that time I came in with a portfolio and I remember Scott White was tattooing Brad Cain the other guy that worked there and you were tattooing a guy that I had met before there, cause I was there a lot haha! So while I was there I saw that colored pencil Rangda mask you had just done and we talked about you doing that on my thigh at the Tampa convention so we talked about me learning to tattoo there while you were doing that. Then I did my first tattoo on my friend Amanda at your shop and you asked me that night if I wanted to come work and I was like… uh yeah! So I gave my job in Gainsville a 2 month notice and I started on the 21 of June 2003

Wow you have a good memory haha! So why did you decide to work at Altered State?

Well I had been getting tattooed by you for about 6 years at that point, I met you when I was 16 and I knew you from bands and shit and you were the guy to go to for sure, I

lived in Gainsville but came to you for work, so when I brought you my portfolio I didn’t know how you would be but you were receptive to it, so we went to Tampa and you tattooed that mask on my thigh for 8 hours in a fuckin’ folding chair for a crazy cheap price haha!!! The next day I had to cut the leg of my underwear to get my leg through.


I remember you introduced me to Gunnar there too and we met Jime Litwalk too…

Dennis Pase

And we were next to Boog…

I just loved everything about tattooing at that point, tribal whatever it was cool, even when I started at the shop and I was making like $60 a week, I was like this is what I need to do. It didn’t take me long to get shit going though, looking back I didn’t do too much tiny stuff, but the shop was not that kind of shop.

You were doing the drawings, putting them up, and that’s what works, people see it and they want it…

So many people don’t want to work these days, they get into tattooing and they just want to party, they are like “ yeah you get to travel and blah blah” Yeah I went through that I was never a crazy partier, I drink and stuff, but people are like yeah 12 to 6, I ‘m like mother fucker when I was broke I was not complaining about having to work 10 to 4 ! Fuck off! You remember I was there ALL day and ALL night half the time, if someone wanted to start at 9pm I was like whatever you got money I’m down!

Yep you gotta do what you can…

I remember some of the crazies I tattooed back then, there was this old shot out dude that got comedy and tragedy masks, old skeletal looking dude he was a trip, then there was a guy who got an armband of dicks…

Dennis Pase TAM interview

Haha! yep that was a good one…

That guy Shannon I tried to do some buildings on back then, I was like I’m going to do what Pooch does haha! well it looked like an asshole and he just posted that thing on my Facebook like a year ago and I was like oh no!

Hahaha! Yep, He’s a good dude, loyal to the shop for sure, that’s another thing, the lifelong friendships you develop from tattooing people, those are the ones that let you do whatever you want and have that trust in you.

That’s the biggest compliment you can get…

Yep and we get to paint and do our own art but most of the time you gotta tattoo what people want that how it is…

And also you know what, there was not all this internet shit when I started…

Tattoo artist Dennis Pase interview


Yep and now people come in with pinterest and google search, which is fine but I’d rather them tell me what they are into and let me draw it up, it used to be tattoo magazines and now it’s the internet as long as they are not dead set on copying someone else’s tattoo it’s ok.

There were no websites to look at back then, most artists did not even have one…

The first one I remember seeing was Paul Booth’s back when I would look at it at my sister in laws house before I had a computer…

Yeah anything metal looking…I’m down haha!

Well now with Instagram you get to see amazing shit everyday, with tattoo mags you had to wait every month…

Now you can pick and choose your battles on that…

Well now young tattooers are coming into it at a whole different level for sure and I think there are way to many tattooers now and it’s going to get worse but the talent will prevail and make it harder for the ones that are not…

And who loves tattooing enough…you just gotta do right by people, there are tattooers that are like whatever just do this today and don’t put the time or effort into the work, man I’m there 2 hours before any appointment or I feel weird, when people get there I’m set up I’m ready. They ask “ are we going to have a drawing appointment?” No that will already be done. I hate when people have to wait in the lobby, it just makes people get nerved up anxious and mad.

That’s commendable and really early to be there but people can learn from that shit. So you were at Altered State from 2003 to the end of 2005, then you moved to Savannah because your roommate ripped you off…

Twice…and a hurricane hit too and fucked up my car real bad and was like man I’m outta here, but I was booked for like 2 1/2 months at that point too…

Yep I was like Dammit haha! No! So why Savannah?

I knew some people that knew a tattooer Chris Autry at Black Orchid and I was up there and told him how my situation outside of work was really bad and he offered me the job and I figured it was still close enough that I could come back and tattoo Florida people, I was only there for about a year and a half then moved to Louisville to work at Acme in 2007.

How did you wind up at Acme?

I had been up here and had a lot of friends that lived here, my buddy Matt, It’s funny because when I first came up here I was 19 and went with Matt to this tattoo shop here and I thought it was Acme for the longest time, way before I tattooed, we went there and this dude Brad worked there and we had fun, that place was awesome. I came back and when I was actually tattooing some friends while I was in town that I stayed with I met John Furse at the old Acme, that place was cool, just a cool street shop man, small just row booths. So he tattooed my hand then the next year I came up and did a guest spot and he’s not a talker, he is awesome but quiet, I though he hated me haha! So I told him I needed a place to do appointments and he said to just move my stuff out here and we would talk…

Wow that’s pretty solid haha!!

Yeah, that didn’t sound right, but 6 months later he called me one day and I was in the Philadelphia airport and was like what the hell? ha! He’s like hey man you still want a job? I said yeah and wound up coming to do a guest spot shortly after that and I said yeah I’ll come work and then he ended up moving to Salt Lake City haha! and Now he’s back and I work for him again.

So when did you work at Acme?

2007 to 2010…

Acme was the most formidable part, I really learned a lot there…

Yeah I remember that you really progressed a lot then, you were turning me on to a lot of different stuff for sure, how does the Louisville tattoo scene differ from Florida?

In Louisville they are kinda fanatical, In Florida sometimes it seems like a pissing contest, like I gotta get more tattoos no matter who does them but in Louisville it seems like they do some research. People in Florida will cheat on you real fast if you are booked out.

Yeah I think that’s why it doesn’t bother me because I had to get used to that a long time ago…I remember when one of my artists got mad when you tattooed his customer and said something to her, I told him that wasn’t cool and never do that again. So do you find that people pretty much let you draw stuff your way?

Dennis Pase tattoos


Well yeah that’s kinda how I run it, I have gotten to that point where it’s like this how I’m going to do it, you can look through this book, there VARIOUS different things hahaha!!!

But you are going to know that I did it hahaha! If you want a blueberry color portrait… no I’m probably not going to do that, or at least not going to do it in the way you think haha!

Well people know what you do and come to you for that. Which related to how so many clients want you to send them sketch beforehand, I stopped doing this about 2 years ago because I do not need 5 other peoples opinion on how I should draw something, I tell them that they will see it the day of the appointment and if changes are needed I can draw it freehand if I need to.

I don’t mind sending someone an outline or red shaded drawing but I never send a fully colored drawing, because sometimes I want to do something a different color while I am tattooing it, I’ll ask them if there is anything that want a certain color, if it’s a leaf it’s probably going to be green or a shade thereof haha! Water is not purple and neither are koi fish haha! There’s all sorts of good sayings for that haha!

That’s a good saying I like that saying…

I have refused doing purple koi’s on a few people, how about black and grey?

That’s two colors for the price of one!

Haha! oh yeah! I think that the best tattoos have black and grey and color, it works so well…

Yep you can use 4 or 5 colors and that’s all you need whether it be concentrated of each color and white or yellow, or red gold some sort of a blue and black it’s perfect…

Warm and cool…

It’s all about creating a mood…it may sound art faggy or whatever but different tattoos have different moods, when I tattoo certain things I gotta have certain music, I’m can’t tattoo a pretty girls head on someone listening to Cannibal Corpse haha!! I gotta put a little finesse in it, that’s more a Marduk kinda day haha!

So what’s the thing you find most challenging about attiring still…

Linework haha! and black and grey and fucking learning how to draw stuff right. You can stylize stuff but you still need to learn how to draw it right first. Like Skulls, If someone wants a realistic skull I find that I can just draw it now and that’s how I draw girl heads too, just draw a skull first. An eye is an aye apart, things like that, you can geek out the perspective as long as you know how things work.

Dennis Pase ink

So speaking of lifework, let’s talk about machines.

Mike Godfrey makes great machines, I just got a Josh Ford I really like, Seth Ciferri machines are awesome but can sometimes be a bit too balls to the wall…

I busted out my Ciferri Liner that I got back when you worked with me and it was awesome for bold lines…

Yeah you are not putting a tight 5 in those haha! I got a Rollomatic I really like too, it’s pretty smooth…it’s fast. Generally I hear that I run my liners lighter, it don’t take that much pressure, if you are running it hard you can’t bear down or control it, but some people can do it. I take pride in that I don’t get much redness when I tattoo people, it’s always like, not too bad afterwards, I hate to see something that you know was chewed.

I saw a black and grey piece you did and it looked healed, no redness at all, and you said you used that stigma bizarre rotary.

Yeah I use that a lot for shading it’s rad. It can do soft shading real nice, but sometimes like for japanese clouds and windbars I pack it like black…

So where did you learn about machines?

Jesse Seronis, machine wiz, everything wiz Cheese whiz haha! That guy’s got mega amounts of knowledge, Everybody I have worked with… I worked with Scott Bryant at Acme, he was building machines for a while there. I figure either you have to learn more or let someone else fix it y’know haha!

Cool. so what about art are you painting a lot?

Drawing for tattoos haha! next year I want to paint some more, maybe do some more oil painting. I’m working on make a skull book maybe in red sketches or watercolor.

Did someone teach you how to watercolor?

Dave at Hellcat tattoo, I always saw that shit and loved Mario Desa’s paintings, there was that one in the first TAM I think it was a dagger, so badass, that was a turning point for me wanting to do watercolors.

Yeah that first issue really turned me on to traditional, I didn’t really like it that much before that but I had never seen any really great work…I tell everyone that you ere the one that showed me traditional and using more black…as opposed to using color concentrates.


It’s funny I was just a dummy and was trying to make stuff look like stuff I liked, back then nobody that tattooed oil painted, you see like Jeff Gogue, building all these extreme layers, for me it was I saw that it was black so I used black hahah!

Dennis Pase tattoo

Hahaha! So what’s your typical work week like?

I do 3 a day 5 days a week, and try to mix it up where I’m not doing three big outlines in one day, it’s rare that I start to finish something.

Well cool man it’s been a blast, any last words of advice for tattooers?

Yeah books, look at books and not your buddy’s instagram.

Right on thanks man!

Dennis Pase can be found at Five Star Tattoo, Louisville, Kentucky



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