I had my first tattoo thirty years ago, a picture of a bat that I had on my left bicep. At the time I was into the punk/alternative scene, and besides the usual punk music, I liked bands such as Alien Sex Fiend, Sex Gang Children, Bauhaus and Nick Cave that originated from the Batcave in London – considered to be the birthplace of the English goth subculture. As I was primarily into a scene that set out to shock and be different, I didn’t think anything of getting my first tattoo, and I guess it was like stamping my identity.
There’s a lot of crossover between horror and ink fans, what do you think the connection is?
They’re both subcultures that have a fascination with the darker side of life. And of course both horror and ink are cool.
Of all your tattoos which do you think is most synonymous with horror?
Some of my early ones had skulls, but they’ve been covered over now, although I still have some skulls on my back, and I guess skulls have always been associated with horror. But I guess the only other one that is synonymous with horror is my latest one, which was started yesterday as part of my Japanese sleeve, of a Hannya mask, which represents a woman who has been betrayed by love and is filled with rage, jealousy and hatred and has become a demon.
I don’t have any that relate directly to my fiction, but when my novel, The Kult was filmed I decided to celebrate this landmark by having my sleeves done, which was something that I’d wanted for a while, so it was as good an excuse as any. It had been a number of years since I’d had a tattoo, and I had work on my arms already, but it was unrelated so I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task to cover them over, which is why I went to a tattoo artist I knew I could trust to do a great job, Kev Shercliff from Midlands Tattoo Centre. Kev had done the dragon on my shoulder, the woman’s face on my forearm, and pieces on my chest and back, but this was over twenty-six years ago. But Kev’s an award winning artist and his work has stood the test of time, so I knew he was the one I wanted to do the work. The only piece that has survived on my arm is a woman’s face as it was my favourite piece.
Who are your favourite horror tattooists?
Although I don’t have any specific horror tattoos, I’ve seen the work of various ‘horror’ artists online and in magazines, and like the work of Bob Tyrrell, Dan Henk and Ron Russo to name a few.
How much do a person’s tattoos tell you about them?
Someone who has a tattoo is going to be judged in some way by anyone who sees it, but I don’t really think they tell you anything about the person. In the past, tattoos for some cultures used to indicate their social status, or the designs included explicit references to genealogy, history, and societal roles, but now people from all walks of life have tattoos.
I believe people should have one for whatever reason suits them best. If you see a picture and think it looks cool, why not have it tattooed? Again, if a picture etc, has a deep meaning, what better way to show it than getting a permanent reminder?
What advice do you have for people considering their first tattoos?
Make sure you really want it. Once they’re on, there’s no going back unless you consider expensive removal techniques. Also, make sure you really want the design you’re having. Spend time deciding on the design rather than walking in off the street and saying “I’ll have that one” while pointing at the flash pictures on the wall. Also, make sure the tattoo artist is good. Ask to look at some of their work. Check around. Search the internet. Ask other people who have tattoos that you like.
Any words of warning regarding tattooing and things to avoid?
Regardless of what some people say, they hurt. They hurt a lot. It’s a needle puncturing the skin thousands of times, so of course it’s going to hurt. But for me, the pain is part of the experience.
For those who haven’t been to a tattoo convention, what can they expect?
I’ve never been to one, so I couldn’t comment on them!
Tough one. I guess I’d have my son’s name or his image, as he means the most to me.
There are still a lot of people who discriminate against tattoos in the work place, why do you think that is? Do you think this trend is reversing?
I think it derives from a stereotypical image that people with tattoos are thugs. But times and opinions have changed and now there are lots more mainstream people that have tattoos, but the stigma still remains. It’s probably as indelible as the ink itself.