Inked AU/NZ – Authentink Article – October 2010
by Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal
Ahh music.. the sounds that soothe the savage beast within, and nowhere could that apply more than in a tattoo shop. Many older and younger for that matter tattooers around the world come from the music scene of some sort, either ex musicians, clubland or rabid fans… I came from the late 80’s punk scene as lots of other contemporary tattoo artists do and have my background in that as both a fan and an ex singer in a band.. Albeit a crappy one that only played a few gigs out before losing half the band to various vices. Punk music in those days was far different than it is today and so was the scene, before MTV made punk mainstream, glossy mags brought the fashion into everyones’ home’s and worldwide tattoo acceptance was a reality.. the scene was dirty, violent, chaotic, highly charged and very legit, without a doubt the tattooing that came out of that environment was very much the same. And so its no wonder that so many tattooers have such passion for the music played while they work, myself included. And nothing starts drama and resentment quicker and nastier in a tattoo workplace than clashing musical tastes, I have witnessed it all over the world in nearly every shop I have worked in, including here in Australia time and time again.
I have see various schemes devised so that everyone gets their allotted time on the CD rotation, it seldom works as when there’s something playing that the majority disapprove off they end up bagging until it is changed.. it really is mob rules when it comes to stereo.
As a guest artist with somewhat extreme tastes I have bore the brunt of this more than once.. I worked at an all ‘rock’n’roll’ tattoo shop in Holland some years back where all they played was old rockabilly, Johnny Cash, 50’s rock, that’s what everyone who worked there was into, and then I arrived.. and at the time I was only really listening to gangta rap for whatever reason.. everyone hated it and me eventually, for playing it day after day. I was allowed 1 CD play a day in the end… haha, my revenge was getting those big 80min CD’s and burning every last second on there with the most gangster shit I had, it was definitely war! We all remained friends in the end.. but during work ours it was on!
The other consideration is that a lot of tattoos themselves are directly connected to musical scenes, genres of music or bands themselves. Entire styles of tattooing can be associated with styles of music and so it follows that the artists doing those styles usually also follow that music. For example a tattoo artist like Paul Booth, if you don’t know who he is look him up, he tattoos very dark and evil motifs in an eerily realistic and morbid style in black and grey only. Metal is the music for him and his shop, no exceptions, he tattoos people from the metal scene, people who mainly wear black and are rather dark in nature and he caters to bands like Slayer who get tattooed by him, so the music is intrinsically linked to the style, his style, of tattooing and doesn’t really go outside of that. The shop is decorated in this fashion as well and Paul along with some of his other artists travel on tour with metal bands tattooing at massive festivals all over the world!
Same can be said for a lot of traditional Americana tattooing with its links to rockabilly and rock’n’roll. There’s a certain dress sense associated with the both these scenes, haircuts and styles for the girls and the boys, shoes, pants and belts, right down to what hair grease to wear. I would venture an opinion that the ‘old school’ tattoo/music scene is probably the most visible and highly ‘fashionized’ tattoo scene out there, here and around the world. It is rather amazing to see first hand in the US where it is taken very seriously.
Car culture is also highly connected to tattooing and music and I dare say those 3 things compromise the holy trinity of underground culture. Now not all tattoo scenes involve cars, and none nearly as much as the ‘old school’ scene previously mentioned, and the lowrider/latino scene with its black and grey portraits, script lettering, clowns and angels, probably more so in America where hotrods and lowriders are much more accessible, but even here in Australia there is a massive scene of tattooed revheads. And they all have their styles of music they are dedicated to.
So where does Japanese tattooing in the west fit in musically to all this you ask? That’s a good question; from my experience Japanese tattooing isn’t tied to one genre of music, either by artist or collector and is very hard to pigeonhole. The music I listen ranges from techno, classic rock and hip hop to punk and drum’n’bass. And most of the artists I know that do what I have the same eclectic tastes and ranges in what they listen to. Although a little know fact is that a lot of accomplished tattooers in the Japanese style from America do in fact come from and still support the hardcore punk scene over there.
Some of my clients love rap music when I play it to pump them up and some love dark progressive house to hypnotize them for hours on end to get them through the long sessions. In the end though I reckon its whatever makes you feel good and let go.. and hey all you tattooers out there with various musical tastes.. lets all try and get along hey!
Also noteworthy, Rhys Gordon has moved on from Inner Vision Tattoo and will be working at Tatudharma from October 5th onwards. All of us at Inner Vision wish him luck and prosperity with his new beginning. He will be missed.