You said once in an interview that tattooing was just a job for you.
That was just me being an asshole; the truth is, it’s my everything. It affords me the ability to buy food and take care of my kid. On a larger scale, tattooing takes care of my brain. If I didn’t have it I would probably be crazier than I already am. It’s super cheesy to say, but tattooing is zen. As long as I’m tattooing I am happy, but if I go weeks without tattooing I’m a real grump, not that I’m a treat in the first place. I’m fortunate to work at the places I do alongside guys who are my idols. When I go to Portland I get to work at Atlas, it’s crazy. Dane Gilsworth, Jerry Ware, Lou Hess, all of them – just an insane list of dudes who are crushers. Or Rock of Ages with Thomas Hooper, Steve Byrne, and Tony Hundahl. I got lucky.
I am most comfortable tattooing what I love. I only want to tattoo things that I am passionate about because I want to put love into the tattoo. I probably miss out on a lot of money because of this philosophy, but I’d rather enjoy what I’m working on and who I’m working on. I might not have a lot of money, but at least I have fun. I’m not rich with monetary stuff but I’m rich with experience. I guess I’m just a tat nerd.
You must have had your share of tattooing things you didn’t want to in the past.
Oh yeah, absolutely. Sometimes I’d prefer not to tattoo something in particular but the person is so awesome and cool that it makes it fun. That’s really what I care about. I care about someone I get along with. They could get something super mundane but it means something to them and they are cool, so I enjoy it. But sometimes people want a photorealistic piece, for example, and I want to ask – have you seen my tattoos? I cannot do that. I would if I could, but I can’t.
I’ve worked in shops that were so miserable to me that I’d hide in the bathroom for half the day to avoid everyone. Then, over time, I realized not every shop is like that. You just have to be around the right people in the right environment. As a client, you will have a wonderful experience in an environment you click with. If you try to force it to work you won’t have a good time.