Here’s the conclusion of my interview with Jet. Once again, thanks to Jet for allowing me to interview him. I thought this was definitely really fun, and I hope this isn’t the last time I interview someone. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I hope you enjoy Jet’s “crazy customer” story as much as I,and everyone else in the shop, did. Anyway, here’s the remainder of our conversation:
OED: Gotcha. So, kinda backtracking a little bit. How did you hone your style when you first started getting into tattooing?
Jet: I went and got tattooed.
OED: So, kinda the experience of just going and getting tattooed and seeing what people were doing?
Jet: Yeah. I started following people in the magazines. You get your favorite artists, and you start fucking booking your appointments and start getting tattooed by people, and experiencing the whole process. That’s why I laugh when I see people with no tattoos who want to do this. I’m like “You don’t even know what you’re getting involved in, man.. You don’t even know (what it’s like). You’re going to sit and do this, and hurt people all day, and you’re not even willing to get tattooed?” I’m not saying to go out and tattoo your face, but I’m saying get heavily tattooed. Know what you’re doing to people on a day to day basis. That will at least give you some compassion.
OED: How would you describe your style to someone who has never seen any of your tattoos?
Jet: Oh my god. How would I describe my style? I think my style is based on traditional imagery with Asian influence. Things that just have a timeless kind of connotation to it. I just try to build them to last, man, That’s pretty much it. I just try to make sure my customers are happy. It ain’t just about me.
OED: Do you currently paint flash?
OED: I saw the ones that are hanging in the lobby, are those yours as well?
Jet: There’s a few of those that are out there that are mine. That eagle sheet that’s out there is mine…
OED: Yeah, that sheet is badass…
Jet: Thank you. That’s based off of another tattooer. That’s based off of Owen Jensen eagles. I just repainted em’. I thought, “I don’t need to improve on these. They’re already badass.” You know what I mean? There’s that panther head with a building in it, I did that one too…
OED: That one’s realy cool…
Jet: I try really hard, when I paint, to do something different that I don’t tattoo, because I love painting, but I just wish I had more time to do it. I’m so busy drawing stuff for my customers all the time that painting takes a back seat and I wish it didn’t. I guess I just gotta make time to do it.
OED: You kind of touched on this earlier, but what are some of the differences you see in tattooing from when you first got into it, as opposed to today?
Jet: Way different. The internet’s killing it. Everything’s changed, man. Everything’s changed. I remember my first trip to Japan I went crazy. I had to buy another plane ticket for all of my reference material that I bought. I was like, “Oh my god. This is all stuff I can’t get.” You actually had to go to Japan to get this stuff. Now, you don’t have to do that. You can just track it down online, order it , and it’s at your door step. I remember the very first time I got my hand on good tattoo machines, or good tattoo ink. You coveted that stuff because you’re like, “Oh my god…”
Customer: You’re using that stuff today right?
(Everyone starts laughing.)
Jet: It’s just so easy. You know? It’s just so easy now. It used to really take sometime to get good, and now that’s changed.
OED: Do you see both sides of the coin to that, or do you wish things were still the way it was when you first started getting into tattooing?
Jet: I don’t think people have to work as hard to get knowledge, and to get equipment, and to get good reference material. You just don’t have to work as hard as you used to. You know? Yeah, I wish it was like that, because I feel like there’s a lot of people doing this that don’t fucking deserve to.
Customer: It’s like that in every field…
Jet: Yeah. It’s like that in every field, so I guess I just sound like a bitter old man.
Fellow tattooer: The learning curve’s way different. I worked with a dude in San Francisco. His technical ability is great, but he doesn’t have the fundamentals. It’s weird.
(Customer and Jet start talking about the dude’s tattoo)
OED: When did you open up Love Hate?
OED: What has that experience been like for you?
Jet: It’s been awesome. It’s been great. It’s been a wild ten years.
Customer: When in 2001 did you open?
Jet: Jan 1st. You know what, man? It’s taught me a lot about people. It’s taught me a lot about people, man. People…it’s amazing to watch the transformation in people from when they want something from you, to when you no longer serve a purpose in their life. It’s very interesting.
OED: Is this customers, past employees?
Jet: I’d have to say more employees, or people that have worked for me. It’s interesting to watch their path, and watch what they see as important, and then see how that changes. Kinda interesting.
OED: Gotcha. Has there been anything with the shop that you feel like, “Man, I wish I would’ve done this with the shop,” or, “I wish I would’ve done this better?”
Jet: Nah. I’m pretty happy with everything. I think everybody…You know, I wouldn’t really change anything. I really wouldn’t change anything. I’m really happy with the direction. I’m really happy with everyone that works here, and I’m really happy with everyone that’s worked here. You know what? I needed to learn something about myself too. The learning experience about everything is incredible, because that’s what brings me to learn today. I had to go through that.
OED: Before opening the shop, where were you working?
Jet: I worked at White Tiger, and before that, Physical Graffiti. Actually, Physical Graffiti was when my career took a drastic change, huge change. That’s when I really started learning how to tattoo the correct way. Before that, I was just taking too many risks, and doing things that I just had no foundation for. When I started working at Physical Graffiti with Joe T., I mean, that was a street shop. We were pumping out ten/fifteen tattoos a day. If you didn’t have your shit together, or you were way behind and not making money, you spent your time doing free touch ups. That’s really where I learned how to tattoo like a fucking man. (Everyone starts laughing) That’s just the way it goes.
OED: How long did it take before you felt confident with your tattoos?
Jet: Fuck, a long time…still.(Jet laughs) A long time, man. six years, seven years. After I hit that point of tattooing for ten years, didn’t feel like it. I was like, “ Am I comfortable with this? Do I have a grip on that?” I feel like I still learn. I feel like I’m better at somethings than I am at other things, but I’m definitely still learning. Every guy who works here, along side me, I learn from them. You know? Sometimes, explaining the way you do something, or the way you think about something to somebody, makes you think about it differently. You’re like, “ Well, maybe I won’t approach it that way anymore. Maybe I do should do something different.” There’s just so many angles and facets to this business that a lot of people fail to realize or don’t think about.
OED: Kinda doing a 180, what are some horror stories you have? Whether it’s tattooing someone, or any crazy customers?
Jet: Man, I got a lot. Everyday. (We all laugh) What’s a good horror story I could tell me (to the shop)?
Fellow tattooer: That’s a loaded question…
Jet: I know. Right?
Fellow tattooer: “I don’t need this shit!”
Jet: (laughing) All right. I’ll tell you that one, because that could happen to anybody. So, I have this customer, his brother passed away, and he never had a tattoo before. This guy is kind of a scary dude, because he’s associated with some folks you wouldn’t want to mess with at all. He’s done a lot of jail time. He’s a nice guy, but you know he’s got a volatile side to him. He’s getting this big tattoo on the side of his forearm. One of them ambagram things for his brother. Did I say it wrong? Anyway, he’s getting this big tattoo for his brother. He comes in, relatively lucid, seemed to have his shit together. He reaches into his coat and puts a half of a bottle of Southern Comfort on the counter. So, I’m like, “Whoa.” He starts to talk about his brother and then starts acting really drunk. I was like, “You okay, man?” “Yeah, I’m okay. I just drank half of that bottle and I took a handful of pills, because I didn’t know how bad this would hurt.” So, this dude started going downhill fast. He Started like flailing about in the chair. He wouldn’t sit still. I knew I didn’t have a lot of time to finish this fucking tattoo before he was completely uncontrollable. He’s pretty strong.
He started handing my son hundred dollar bills and talking non-sense. He’s like, kinda getting up in the middle of me tattooing him. Just standing up. So, I tell him, “Man, you gotta calm down or i’m gonna fuck this up.” He said, “ You’re not gonna fuck this up. You’re gonna be fine!” So, I finally finish the tattoo. The dude stands up, and my son had a customer that’s about ready to get tattooed, and the dude stands up and passes out right on the body table. He was not moving at all. He was kinda breathing, he wouldn’t wake up. I couldn’t let him go home. He was wasted. He’s snoring and farting (everyone starts cracking up). He’s a mess. I’m totally serious. I’m totally serious. This guy is a total mess. It’s late, and it’s snowing outside, it’s before Christmas time. I couldn’t let the guy stay here. So, I couldn’t wake him up for nothing. He wouldn’t wake up. Everyone here is cracking up. Finally, the dude’s cell phone rings. I answer and it’s his wife. So, I answer and I’m like, “Listen, you gotta come get your husband. He’s a mess.” She’s like, “Again?” So I say to her, “This is where we are. How soon can you get down here? It’s 7 o’clock. I wanna go home. I’ve got other things I need to do.” She’s like, “Okay. I’m in Greece. I’ll be there.” Fucking, like three hours later…we’re like, “Where is this chick?” She shows up, she’s got all her makeup done. She totally got all ready to go out. She shows up and we wake him up. I’m like, “Yo, dude, your wife’s here.” He’s like, “fuck that bitch! I don’t fucking need this.” He’s fucking wasted and I’m trying to hold him up. We got that fucking stairway and i’m trying to drag him down. I ended up having to carry him down the stairway with his wife. He’s like, “What about my truck?!” I tell him, “Bro, your truck will be fine.”
OED: Okay, dude, last question. Who are some of your current favorite tattooers?
Jet: Everybody who works here. They’re all my favorites. Benny, Aidan, Dylan, Adrian. Those are my favorite. Or do you want me to give you some of the famous guys that everyone beats the shit out of? Oh, man. Current favorite tattooers? My son. My son is one of my current favorite tattooers…
OED: How long has he been tattooing?
Jet: Not long enough. A year and a half maybe. Coming up on two years. Tony D’Eerrico, Brad Fink. Jeff fucking Cribb, Josh Mason. You know, a lot of my favorite tattooers come work my convention. I specifically ask everyone I like…Krooked Ken.
OED: Krooked Ken’s the man. He tattooed my forearm last year at the convention.
Jet: I love Krooked Ken’s stuff. Jonas Uggli. You know who that is?
OED: I think I know who you’re talking about. (I have since learned that Jonas Uggli also goes by Jonas Gbg. I had only seen his work listed as Jonas Gbg beforehand)
Jet: He does a lot of traditional, a lot of funky stuff. Wow, I have such a list. There’s so many. I don’t really look at tattooers stuff as much. You know what I mean? I don’t wanna set myself up to recreate it. Ed Hardy, always. I kind of base everything I do on Ed Hardy. Man, I love everything Ed does. He’s the reason I tattoo. I remember reading the Tattoo Time books when I first started tattooing. I still reference those books. My friend Scoot McEwan. He’s one of my favorite tattooers. He was in Toronto, but left for New Zealand. Chris Trevino is one of my favorite. Dave Cummings from Montreal. I have a lot, man. I can keep going. I can keep going on and on. A lot of tattooers from New York…(Mike) Rubendall..
OED: Rubendall’s the man.
Jet: Yeah, and everybody that works for him is badass. I mean, how do you deny them? Those fucking people are amazing.
OED: I’m sure you saw Tattoo Age…
Jet: Oh, yeah. It’s inspiring. I love it. I love looking at stuff and be like, “Wow, that is badass,” and then it turns you around and you’re inspired you to do something that makes you feel that same feeling where you’re pumped. That’s the best feeling. You know what I mean?
OED: All right, any last words before I take off?
Jet: Any last words? Wow, I don’t even know. Go out and get fucking tattooed. I think that’s what everyone should do. Everyone should shut up, get off Facebook, and get fucking tattooed.
OED: All right, thanks a lot, man.