TOP TEN ROCK N ROLL TATTOOISTS
Just as there are legends in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, so, too, are there legends in the tattoo world, some of them arguably better known than the stars they tattoo, and some of their work better known than any album. Indeed, there are a good number of artists who have better rock credentials, either as fans of rock music or as musicians in their own right. Just as in the rock world, some of their names will live forever, while some will fade with time, like the ink with which they make those names.
Today we take a look at ten of the best known and most rock ‘n’ roll tattoo artists in the world, and while it goes without saying that our list is incomplete, it also goes without saying that there are no backstreet scratchers here, just professional artists, each with a style of their own. Just don’t ask them for a dolphin…
YAN SPENCER – HOLY COW TATTOO (UK)
Eastbourne may not be the beating heart of rock ‘n’ roll, being, as it is, largely populated with Salvation Army shops and damp people walking their dogs on the beach. But take a short walk from the station and you’ll find Yan Spencer at his Holy Cow studio, listening to stoner rock, and turning out fantastic tattoos, including a couple for Dwarves and ex-Queens Of The Stoneage bassist Nick Oliveri and Stone Sour/Ministry drummer Roy Mayorga.
STEVE PEACE – IMMACULATE CONCEPT (CANADA)
Aside from running several excellent tattoo conventions in Canada and being a hugely respected artist in his own right, the aptly named Mr Peace is a massive Judas Priest fan, and owns perhaps the largest collection of Priest memorabilia on earth, including one of Rob Halford’s Harley Davidsons, ridden on stage by Halford. He started collecting in ’84, has several Priest tattoos, and even went to Korea to see the band play live!
PAUL BOOTH – LAST RITES (US)
Having tattooed such rock luminaries as Kerry King, Evan Seinfeld, Corey Taylor, and Phil Anselmo, Paul Booth should need absolutely no introduction, not least because he uniquely dark style of horror inspired art is instantly recognisable (and often imitated). He was also co-producer of the Tattoo The Earth Tour in 2000, featuring 34 bands including Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, and System Of A Down. “My art,” he says, “is supposed to be the visual version of heavy metal!”
LAL HARDY – NEW WAVE TATTOO (UK)
If marijuana is a gateway drug, then Lal Hardy is a gateway tattooist. In the business for 35 years and counting, he’s relieved many people their tattoo virginity, not to mention inking the likes of Dave Grohl (that double F on the back of his neck), Vice Squad singer Beki Bondage, and Jack Osbourne, to name just a few. He is, quite simply, a legend among tattooists. What the hell else would Dave Grohl be doing in Muswell Hill?
DAN SMITH – CAPTURED TATTOO (US)
Also known as Dan Under, Smith was the vocalist for The Dear And The Departed between 2006 and 2012, but made his mark, so to speak, as a self-taught tattooist, appearing as a main guest on the third and forth seasons of LA Ink, before staring his own studio in Tustin, California. Among the many musicians he has tattooed are members of Parkway Drive, Bring Me The Horizon, and Bleeding Through.
KAT VON D – HIGH VOLTAGE (US)
Another artist who should need no introduction, Kat Von D first gained recognition for her work on the reality series Miami Ink, before getting here own series LA Ink. Her rock ‘n’ roll credentials are second to none; she was friends with Lemmy, dated Nikki Sixx, and the song, High Voltage, on Eagles Of Death Metal’s Heart On album is named after her shop, because, as Jesse Hughes put it, “That girl’s bad ass!”
CRAIG ‘JACKO’ JACKMAN – AMERICAN ELECTRIC (US)
Given that Jacko is an ex-pat transported from England in 1997, the name of his studio at the Silverlake end of LA’s Sunset Boulevard is something of a misnomer. But then, so, with the greatest respect, is Jacko. A brilliant performer, he played the washboard (yes, you read that right), frequently in just underpants and biker boots (and that), for the much underrated punk band Throw Rag before quitting the band to concentrate on tattoos and building motorcycles.
BOB TYRELL – NIGHT GALLERY (US)
When researching this feature the aforementioned Steve Peace said, “You have Bob Tyrell on there? He’s the most rock ‘n’ roll artist I know!” And it turns out he may be right! Perhaps best known for tattooing Kid Rock’s back, Bob Tyrell has also worked on members of Black Label Society, Slayer, Mastodon, Exodus, and Death Angel, not to mention doing album covers for Exodus and Death Angel.
JAY JAY BROWN – PERMANENTLY SCARED (US)
Of all the artists featured here, Jay Jay is by far the most difficult to find information about on the interweb, unless you happen to be pointed in the right direction (thanks again, Steve Peace). Which is odd, considering that, aside from being a much respected artist, Jay Jay also played bass for Rob Halford’s band, Fight, who released two albums in the ’90s.
GUY AITCHISON – HYPER SPACE STUDIOS (US)
By the time he was 17 years old Chicago based artist Guy Aitchison was already painting album covers for bands like Hex and the Skatenigs, and he began tattooing aged 21, getting off to a fine start by given Rob Zombie his first tattoo. Among the artists on the Tattoo The Earth tour, he has also appeared as a guest on LA Ink, and tattooed Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen.
Originally written for Classic Rock.
Motorhead tattoo by Josh Petty at Blue Buddha Tattoo, Las Vegas