Talk us through your first tattoo and what inspired it?
It was a simple star outline on my arm, inked by Helen at Skullduggery. Took all of fifteen minutes to do. I guess it was my way of testing the water, seeing what it felt like to be tattooed as well as how a tattoo would sit with me. Of course, I got addicted and was back in the chair very soon afterwards. That star is now part of a full sleeve on my left arm.
I’ve signed books at the Liverpool Tattoo Convention for the last three years, and always had a great reception from artists and punters alike. Tattoo magazines, such as Tattoo Revolution and Total Tattoo, have always been good to me, reviewing my books and giving me coverage. Zombie horror in particular goes down very well amongst tattoo fans, it seems. The fact that two of my books, Drop Dead Gorgeous and Doll Parts, feature a tattoo artist also helps!
What’s the connection? I don’t know. I guess there are artists who specialise in horror, such as Dan Henk and Bob Tyrrell, so there’s definitely a big market for darker themed tattoos. Is there a crossover between tattoo fans and horror fans? Sure. But there’s also a crossover between tattoo fans and cupcake enthusiasts. That’s the beauty of tattooing: you can have whatever you want inked onto your skin. There really are no limits.
Of all your tattoos which do you think is most synonymous with horror?
Geez, pretty much all of them! I think most – if not all of my tattoos – celebrate two things: my love for horror and freedom from organised religion. I love bright, bold tattoos so whilst I may have a lot of skulls, snakes and shit going on, it’s all very colourful. If you were to twist my arm, I’d have to say my ongoing chest-piece is the most ‘horrific’ of my collection to-date. The centre piece is a new school, graffiti-style inverted cross by Chris Jones (Physical Graffiti) and the rest is a work in progress featuring two medusa heads (one zombified) by Oz at Sinister Scrawlings. It’s going to be a kick-ass piece.
There are a lot of great horror tattooists working. Within realism, you’ve got Dan Henk and Bob Tyrrell, who I’ve already mentioned. Chris Jones is also putting out some great horror-themed portrait work right now (he also designed the front cover for the limited edition hardback release of my tattoo themed debut novel, Drop Dead Gorgeous). Jan Moat (Identity) and Sween (Dark Poetry) are also doing some nice horror stuff. As is Drew Romero over at Time & Triumph. But my personal favourite would have to be Oz at Sinister Scrawlings: he really captures the feel of what I like in a tattoo – bright, bold and evil as fuck!
How much do a person’s tattoos tell you about them?
As much as they want you to know. Some people get tattooed for no reason apart from ‘that would look fucking ace on my skin’ while others like to mark particular occasions, such as a birth or death. You don’t need to have a reason for getting inked and your artist sure as hell isn’t going to counsel you as part of their service, a la Miami Ink.
Is it OK to get a tattoo because it just looks fucking cool or do you believe there should be a deep message behind each tattoo?
I think the primary reason to get a tattoo should be because it looks cool. Even a memorial tattoo should look good – there’s nothing worse than a poorly inked portrait of a loved one on your arm. Go to a good artist and get the best-looking tattoo you can, whatever the reason.
Just the usual: shop around online, look at portfolios, ask questions and if you feel like you’re being disrespected by an artist or receptionist, or have any concerns at all about what they’re telling you, then politely leave and go elsewhere.
Any words of warning regarding tattooing and things to avoid?
Be patient. I’ve rushed into some tattoos and lived to regret it. Tattoos are for life and removal/ cover-up work can be very costly and sometimes impossible. So think before you ink.
For those who haven’t been to a tattoo convention, what can they expect?
A lot of fun. Cool, friendly people excited about tattooing. Booze (if you want it – although increasing numbers of tattooed folks are straightedge), burlesque dancing, music, contortionists etc. And the best artists working today, of course. I love conventions and wish I could visit more.
I’d have Oz finish my chest piece. There’s about eight hours left to do on it, and I really need to get down to Harlow and get it sorted. Plus, a visit to Oz’s place often involves watching horror flicks and hanging out with the man himself.
There are still a lot of people who discriminate against tattoos in the work place, why do you think that is?
I’ve never felt discriminated against within the workplace because of tattoos or piercings. In fact, the only place it’s been a problem is in a bar (the staff at one in particular having asked me to leave on two separate occasions because of tattoos/ facial piercings). But within the workplace? No. I guess it’s because I’ve worked the vast majority of my life within the community and voluntary sector, where how you look is not an issue. In fact, for some of the jobs I’ve done, having tattoos and piercings have helped break down barriers between me and the client group, making me look less stuffy and formal and often providing a talking point.
Do you think this trend is reversing?
I’m seeing more and more people with neck and hand tattoos working in shops and bars and supermarkets, so, yeah, I think it is reversing. And so it should.
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