Q...) What happened to your retirement?
A)... HA! Well, I stopped tattooing at conventions, and stopped tattooing at All or Nothing, so technically I am done publicly tattooing forever. BUT, I run three businesses and work with another company in Boston full time, I still tattoo at the private studio ( www.antiartelite.com www.antiartatlanta.com ), I manage all my own folks, I answer all my stupid emails personally still (which is starting to kill me by itself), so technically I did retire... sorta.
The truth is its hard to stop a compulsion and for me workaholism is an unfortunate compulsive addiction at this point, I mentioned that several times in my book "WHORE" ( www.strangleholdmerch.com) It is both my success and my downfall at the same time. I am saving money and have been for 15 years.... I'm almost done.
Q...) What in your mind qualifies you as "BEING DONE"? And once you get to the DONE spot, do you think you'll really be able to do nothing?
A...) It is a financial figure that signifies being done for sure, and I am almost there. I feel like I don't have anything to prove anymore, I don't think that anyone will ever question my studios ability to do a bad ass tattoo, I've won awards, had lots of sex, partied a lot, toured, worked with some of the most amazing artists in history, tattooed some of the coolest people in the world, and worked my ass off from being a worthless, destitute, punk kid all the way up to being a 7 figure sole proprietor of several highly successful businesses. Say what you want, but we made this sh*t look easy, and it wasn't at all. A lot of people will say that's cocky or arrogant, but its not at all!!! Its the truth, and we worked extremely hard to get where we are, nobody handed us anything.
As to being able to eventually shut it off, yes I believe that I can do that easily and am working towards that everyday. I will always tattoo, it's who I am, but I would much rather just do it for fun on my friends every now and then, and NOT answer my phone 24 hours a day!
Q...) This year you released an instructional seminar DVD to widespread acclaim. Why?
A...) I was touring for two years doing live seminars and it was like a comedian telling the same jokes every night. It was also difficult because there way no way to show, in a live setting, up close tattooing and explain it the way we could with the medium of video. This 2 hour+ film is in NO WAY meant to REPLACE an apprenticeship!!! All aspects of sterilization and cross contamination must be covered prior to viewing this DVD. It is available to licenced professionals only and in all honesty its for the more advanced artists of the world, people who are already doing solid work consistently and want to take it to the higher level, those looking to get booked heavily 6 months in advance doing only the tattoos they want to do. Its about career development AND actual tattooing. It covers everything about stencil layout, illustration vs realism, tattooing, time management, focus, promotion, running a crew, attracting great artists to your shop, dealing with the customers, convention booth acquisition, awards, interviews, articles, and career growth. Its incredibly fast paced and detailed and we have received nothing from artists who watched it but gratitude. I've seen a lot of the new tattoos done after artists view the film and its amazing to see the growth and art explosions that our artists at ALL OR NOTHING seem to always experience IN OTHER STUDIOS and from artists we've never even met in person!
Q...) Where can one view some previews or purchase the seminar DVD?
www.strangleholdmerch.com sells all our stuff, and our previews are on there and on youtube at http://youtube.com/watch?v=h5jPWdJWtZ0
Q...) Will there ever be any personalized "Brandon Bond" tattoo equipment for sale?
A...) Yes, there are several new projects in the works, a new awesome tattoo machine made by myself and www.dankbuilt.com, two separate color palette of inks both traditionally made and the new more easily removable style, clothing of course, the sky is the limit and we are involved in producing a lot already.
Q...) Speaking of ink, there is a new ink being released called Freedom2 "Infinite Ink" that is easier to remove. www.freedom2ink.com Do you see a future in those inks and have you heard of them or even worked with them before?
A...) Actually I have been working with that company as a consultant for almost a year, and I have personally tattooed with that ink more than anyone in the world. I work with them at least 3-5 days a week every week. I have tattooed with every single version of the black ink, and will be developing a color palette with them and the geniuses at Brown University this winter. I was the first tattoo artist to work with them so closely and I am a part of their family for sure.
LOTS of tattooers initially were claiming things in the media like "tattoos are sacred, they should be permanent" well I COMPLETELY agree BUT ALL TATTOOS are REMOVABLE, this particular version of tattoo ink just comes out with less trauma, expense and scarring. and the new ink IS PERMANENT!!!!! I think there was a lot of initial skepticism and chaos surrounding Freedom 2 and the idea of an easily removable ink, but like all innovations, that will subside when everyone sees that its the same thing only better.
It is the next evolutionary step in our industry, change leads to growth and tattooing fears change more so than any other industry in the world it seems. It is our traditions and self governing rules that have made us what we are as artists, and I have nothing but respect for all of those who have come before me. Artists like Sailor Jerry, Don Ed Hardy, Mike Malone, Paul Rogers, and one of my own former staff members, Zeke Owen, were all innovators and introduced new concepts and advances in our industry, we should not forget that it is innovations and new ideas that led us to where we are today and will lead us to where we are going to be tomorrow.
The truth is I have endured hundreds of hours of horrible laser sessions, and so has my wife. I got tattooed heavily at a young age, long before I knew what to look for in an artist and a studio, long before the Internet, and the ability to see so many great artists. I DO NOT regret getting tattooed at all - but what I'm saying is... If I could go back magically and get tattoos that are the quality of the artists at ALL OR NOTHING for example, I would do it in a heartbeat. I love my tattoos and I love my bodysuit, but I also love ART and the artwork available today was not available to ANYONE 20 years ago.
I have a upper half sleeve, that was tattooed completely, lasered heavily, lasered some more, experimented with propane and scalpels, home removal techniques, and four different kinds of laser. I then got the scarred area re-tattooed by Eric Merrill, and when the skin didn't accept the ink, we did it again. I have spent over $15, 000.00 on that one section of my body and been through far more suffering than any reasonable person should have to go through. And it still doesn't look right. It's because the ink that was used was SO incredibly hard to remove. Many artists and clients have experienced similar stories, and sometimes the scars are so bad that you cannot RE-TATTOO over it successfully. IF WE CAN AVOID THIS WE SHOULD! Many of the best artists in the world have been through extensive laser, Guy Aitchinson jumps to mind for example. Yes tattoos should be permanent and stand the test of time, but once a client pays for that artwork it becomes THEIRS not OURS as artists, clients can do whatever they want with their own bodies.
To shun freedom 2 is absurd, its like "ohhh we should outlaw COVER UP TATTOOS, cause they should just be STUCK with whatever we do forever" or "we should not listen to what a client even wants to get tattooed". It's crazy. Its their bodies they can do whatever they want and not all artists are equal, lets be honest! I'm guessing about 15% of tattoo shops in the world are amazingly talented and that do award winning, super stylized, highly sought after art. That leaves 85% of either average or below average artists.
Getting tattooed is a journey, and an educational experience for the client. Not all clients are smart enough to start our with a sleeve from a Paul Booth or a Sean Herman. When I got my first tattoo, I thought "if I pick the right one, it will look awesome!" I was wrong, it looked like shit. I got tattooed by the guy who gave me the cheapest price and I got a piece of flash that came out all wrong. Hell, I dint even know what FLASH was - I had no concept of a custom piece of art, I had no idea who my artist was or what a portfolios importance was, I didn't even look at it.
I removed the tattoo years later and got on a plane to go get a custom piece from an artist like 8 states away. WHY? Because by then I had learned about what I was getting myself into. Clients aren't born with the innate knowledge it requires to find an artist like Bob Tyrrell nor is a client born with the motivation to travel across the country to get top quality work. Some are maybe, but in my experience VERY FEW are. So if we can give the world an opportunity to remove sub par artwork and replace it with better art at a later date, or remove something that is a painful reminder of a painful time in life or whatever, I say THAT'S WHAT WE SHOULD DO!
My wife is so badly scarred from laser treatments that the tissue is not even tattooable anymore. She got tattooed as a young lady, way before her and I met, now she sees great art everyday and wants that instead of her crappy flash dolphins. It's tragic that even being married to an artist like me, she is still limited in what she can do with her old tattoos.
I believe that this ink will also open our industry to an entirely new demographic, which means more families sustaining off of our art. People who are already heavily tattooed but are not sure about going past the elbow or getting their hands tattooed, or other visible spots. People who want to try out the tattoo world but don't want to have to sit through 13 laser sessions to undo it if their artist is inconsistent or sub par. The "fence sitters" of the universe are about to hop right off that fence and into your chair as an artist. More clients, more art, more money, more pushing the limits of what can be done with our art form. Say what you will, but the minute you charge one dollar for a piece of art it becomes a business, a transaction, a livelihood, an income. The only way to avoid that would be to do tattoos for free everyday forever, and I don't know any artists like that. There will be many more technological, and artistic "jumps" in our lifetime in tattooing, I say if its good for clients, and its good for artists, lets get it on.
Our studio will be one of 10 studios selected nationwide to offer the ink. I chose the studios that will use it initially in order to control the quality of the artwork that is a result. I enlisted the assistance of artists, Bob Tyrrell, Damon Conklin, Tony Ciavarro, Chris Blinston, Poalo, Scott Campbell, Larry Brogan, Shane Oneal, Johnny Jackson, and several other artists who are not only my friends, but guys I respect artistically. All or Nothing Tattoo will be the first exclusive outlet and the only one in Georgia for the next year. Tattoo Supergenuis in Seattle, Tattoo City in Lockport IL, Divinity Tattoo in AZ, Big Brain 2 in FL, Texas Body Arts in TX, and a handful of other will be the only studios offering this ink initially. They are all incredible studios.
Q...) How many times have you not gotten paid for a tattoo, because you decided you could put bl*wjobs in the bank?
A...) (laughter) I have had my share of fun times as a youngster for sure. But in the immortal words of Tupac M.O.B (money over b*tches!)
Q...) And, of course, what was the dumbest most f@#ked-up thing that happened while you were learning to tattoo? Like, the moment when you first thought "s&!t this job sucks"
A...) The first time I saw an empty body bag, chains, a cinder block and a chainsaw in my boss's trunk as a youngster in Texas.
Q...) Out of your many accomplishments, which one are you the most proud of?
A...) That's a great question with an easy answer. I would have to say professionally, the studio itself - ALL OR NOTHING and everyone involved I'm proud of all of us, when I opened that store, I didn't even know if we would last a month ya know? we lasted..... (laughter) I'm proud of my artists - those that are here now and those that have moved on, to see the growth, security, financial stability, new families, new babies and career achievement makes it all worthwhile. Their success validates my efforts just knowing that I had something to do with that.
In a personal kind of accomplishment kinda way, the dog rescue stuff - placing a dog in a safe and loving home saving him/her from euthanasia is the coolest thing ever. I have been fortunate enough to assist in the placement of over 200 animals (mostly rescued abused pit bulls as they are my favorite) and that is the "awesomest" thing ever.
Q...) Thanks for this interview, you surprised me with a lot of your answers, best of luck to you and your empire in the southeast and beyond.
A...) Thank you! I appreciate all your time.