Having hours to kill on the road always turns my mind to tattoos. Namely getting more of them out onto my body. It’s a tricky balance choosing new ink. What artwork & where? What does that artwork mean? Can I afford it? What will my wife & kids think?
But possibly the biggest decision is who am I going to get actually do it? Choosing an artist is crucial. I’ve learnt that it’s a very personal experience having someone tattoo you. It should be a moment that you look back on with fondness. A couple of my tattoos weren’t like that & I regret that. There was no connection between the artist & me. But isn’t that kind of the point of getting ink? To one day regret them?
One of my favourite tattoo experiences happened with an amazing Maori artist called Kai. He doesn’t work out of a studio so we met in his squat in Kings Cross London. For those of you who don’t know the word a ‘squat’ is a house or flat which is illegally occupied. I guess you might call it a doss house here in the States.
I don’t mind admitting I wasn’t scared. I was terrified. There were mattresses on the floor & broken windows & people screaming at each other up the hall. It really was like something from a movie. And not a romantic comedy.
Kai’s got all his stuff neatly laid out on a sheet on a table & is acting very much like someone who’s ready to inject ink onto my body. I start mumbling all the excuses I can think of for why I need to leave.
‘I have to get to a gig.’
‘I left the oven on at home.’
‘I forgot to feed the cat…..’
Kai just bows his head & starts to pray.
I wanted to know what he was doing so I asked him
‘What are you doing?’
‘I’m praying to my ancestors to be with your ancestors. I want them to explain what we’re doing here. I want to let them know that you’ll be fine & no harm will come to you in this place.’
It was possibly the most calming thing anyone has ever said to me.
He genuinely meant it & it worked.
Instantly I knew that everything was going to be OK. Two hours later he was burying the bloodied tissues in the garden out back & saying some more prayers. And even though my arm throbbed I was completely elated.
That Kai is one very cool fucker.
I don’t really think of myself as a tattoo person. Whatever that is. Phil has a couple & maybe one day we’ll go get one together. Folks with ink come in all shapes & sizes. I like that about tattoos. A pal of mine likes to wind me up by calling them Tough Stickers. Maybe he’s right. Funny the stuff you end up thinking about in the back of the van.