Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: The first question. When did you get your first tattoo and what was it? Did it take much time to decide to get it done?
Andy: It’s long time, a very long time ago. It was twenty four years ago.
Andy: Yeah. I got my first tattoo when I was 18. I didn’t think about what I wanted at all. I just wanted a tattoo. I went to a tattoo artist who already tattooed a friend of mine. So, I already, kind of, knew him. He was from Hell’s Angels. It was quite interesting: when you were 18 and he’s sitting in this little shop, especially back then. I said this, as the old man saying this, but now it is very different, it’s really accepted now. So, we were sitting in a little room somewhere at Hell’s Angels office in the middle of nowhere. Basically, I let him do whatever he wanted.
RoD: OK. And what was this?
Andy: It’s not there anymore. It’s covered up. It’s actually the only tattoo I covered up.
RoD: Yeah. Difficult question, but how many tattoos do you have?
Andy: One. That’s the easiest answer right now. I have one tattoo of 24 years with poor judgment.
RoD: And maybe you can tell the story of some piece of your whole tattoo?
Andy: Oh, it’s hard. It’s actually difficult to pick one, to me it’s more like postcards than anything else. This one, for example, doesn’t have the meaning that it looks like. It’s...
RoD: It’s Woody Woodpecker?
Andy: It’s actually the logo of a car parts thing, like a heartthrob, like a custom car thing, but I took it at a certain time and a special day and it doesn’t remind me of a lot of the classic cars, it reminds me of the day that I took it. And this is how it is. I have pieces from all over America, from Portugal to Norway, several places in Germany. And most of the tattoos are done by friends of mine or people that I meet on tour and I become friends with them. So, my whole body is covered with postcards, it’s a traveling map. Some of them remind me of poor choices in life. And some of them remind me of the really good times and some bad times. It’s just a story written out for myself to read, nobody else can read it because it’s not what it seems.
RoD: And I think you’re not done with your postcards, you will get more tattoos.
Andy: Yeah, I still have some room: I still have my knees, and a top of my head.
RoD: Yeah, maybe the most painful places.
Andy: Exactly. I have the top of my feet, my knees, my armpit, and top of my head. And that’s basically what I have left. So yes.
RoD: About the pain, getting tattooed hurts, how do you cope with the pain during the sessions?
Andy: I don’t, I’m a cry-baby, and absolutely hate it. I wish I could sit here and be a tough guy and say: “oh yeah, it doesn’t hurt”, but I hate it. I absolutely hate it. And the funny thing is your body produce only a certain amount of endorphins during your lifetime. So the more you get tattooed and the older you get, the less endorphins your body produce. So, every time you get a tattoo and the older you get, the more it hurts. You would think that you can get used to it, but you don’t. I’m sorry to say it to everybody who just got the first tattoo and thought it was really painful. It will only get worse. The last free places are the most painful places, because they are the ones you wait for. I used to get really drunk. And that doesn’t work either because then you are just a drunk cry baby. You just try to relax and breathe the right way and be comfortable; try to find a comfortable position, if you’re going to sit for three hours. Some people think: "it’s OK, I can sit", but it’s not how it works. You’re trying to have a conversation with tattoo artist and it does not work. So yeah, it doesn’t get any better. I’m sorry.
RoD: How long was your longest tattoo session?
Andy: Seven and a half hours.
Andy: I hated every single minute of it. It was actually done by Daniel Meyer from SAM.
Andy: If you know SAM.
RoD: Yes, I know them.
Andy: So, if Daniel wasn’t my friend, I had kicked him in the face. It was really painful and he just refused to stop. I can stand two hours maximum and he said: “I’m not going to see you for at least another year. So you’re sitting.”
RoD: Joel started to make tattoos too. I thought about going to him, but I have all my tattoos in colour. And he is working with black white tattoo.
Andy: He is very good, I really like it.
RoD: Do you regret getting tattooed sometimes?
Andy: All the time.
RoD: When did you start?
Andy: As soon as this started, I regret it. I have regrets for sure and I do have tattoos that I am going remove, next month’s actually. The worst choice of my life will be deleted. But mostly no. Even the shitty ones have their place. Some of them I’m getting rid of because they have no meaning to me - only one or two tattoos, but the rest have a place in time.
RoD: What is your taboo in terms of tattoos? What kind of tattoo would you never get done and don’t like to see on other people?
Andy: I would prefer other people not to have a swastika on their faces. But I don’t have any taboos for anybody else, everybody should be able to do whatever they want. What I think is stupid - is a completely different question. But if you want to be stupid - you can be stupid. Writing something really shitty at the top of your face - I find that kind of silly. But who am I to speak. It’s a rule for me. Other people have rules not to ink their hands or throat, or no tattoos at all. Everybody has their own limits. And if you want to tattoo your face, then you should be able to do that. As long as you don’t offend other people. But I don’t want to ink my face. But in ten years - who knows? Maybe, I will. I don’t know. But right now that’s true.
RoD: Some people say that getting tattoos is addictive. Are you addictive? Can you stop and say “No more”?
Andy: I am not. I can see how somebody at 20 years old having no tattoos and three years later they have their whole body completely covered, they have been addicted to the idea of covering body. Yes, I do have a lot of tattoos, but it took me 24 years. I don’t go every month. I go one time a year, sometimes two-three times a year, sometimes I don’t ink for two-three years. So, it’s nothing to do with addiction. I started it early and I liked it, and I never think about it. I am the last person to notice if somebody does not have a tattoo. I’m also the last person to notice that people do have tattoos, because I don’t care about tattoos. I just happen to have them.
RoD: Currently tattoos are a new trend. What I don’t really understand that there are many people, who made the tattoos because they want to be in trend.
Andy: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of people, who get tattoos because they think they have to, or they have to fit in with their friends, or in a Hardcore scene. I grew up in a Hardcore Punk scene. Of course, we all had tattoos, but there were people without tattoos. You never thought: “Oh, he doesn’t have any tattoos, it’s not cool.” A lot of people think that they have to get tattoos to belong, but you don’t. Sometimes it’s cool not to have tattoos. I think people should get tattoos, if they really want. And I don’t think people should overthink it. You don’t have to think about it too hard. Just get something that you feel happy with. Because in the end it’s not really about the tattoo that you’re getting. It’s about the memory of your tattoo.
RoD: But, basically, for this people it’s only about having something, it’s not about memories.
Andy: Well, it’s easy to see the difference too. I look like a colouring book, because I have so many different things from in many different styles. I like it because can see this as story. When you see somebody who has a full body suit for one tattoo. This person only just got started it. If they want to do that - that’s their thing, but that’s not my thing. It’s like to talk about the other day. Like, you remember 20s and 30s when they had freak shows with the tattooed man and the big fat muscle man and the bearded lady. And that’s society now: the tattooed man, the fat strong man and the bearded lady are common on the street. And I like it. We took something that was just the weird once for society and you make it normal. I like it because it takes away judgment. Tattoos can make us do that. And that’s a good thing.
RoD: Yeah. Next question. It’s to point about judgment. Previously, many people believed that if you have a tattoo, you will be never be successful and will not find a “good” job. Have this state of mind and people’s perceptions changed or these prejudices still alive?
Andy: Oh yeah. Of course, the judgment is still there, but luckily not everywhere. The judgment is still there in a few countries like Ukraine and, of course, in Eastern Europe, in Russia, South America, maybe Middle America. Religion is still very judgmental. I would say there are the places, where people judge other people based on colour, based on race, based on sexual preference and all these things, these places are going to judge you also from looking different in any other way. But it’s a lot better now. I don’t think that people really care too much if you don’t have your hands, or your face, or your throat inked. You can wear a suit and go to a business meeting at Microsoft. And if you tell people you have your body fully covered, nobody is going to fire you. It’s normal now. And that’s a good thing. Like I said before, it helps breaking down judgment of other things too. If you can manage to look at people as individuals and that everybody is different, and that everybody is equal no matter how weird and crazy they might look. The more we are open-minded - the better. And I think, tattoos help to do that.
RoD: Which advice would you give to people who are going to get their first tattoo? How to choose a tattoo artist? Colour or black and white? Any practical advice?
Andy: Oh, it is very-very easy one actually. Every time I’m in a tattoo shop and somebody walks in with first tattoo. They say: “OK, I have this much money. What can I get for it?” Or they go to another place because it’s cheaper. Or they say: “OK, I can’t afford this, but maybe do something smaller.” Never look at the price of a tattoo. If your want a tattoo, you go to the best artist you can get. And you get exactly what you want. And if you can’t afford it, then don’t get it. Save up money to get a good artist, motive you want, because it is on your body. And I don’t do cheap tattoos. It’s not worth it, even if you get paid for it.
Project by Daria Tessa and Daniela Vorndran, Interview by Daria Tessa, Ira Titova
Pictures by Daria Tessa (https://www.facebook.com/tessaswelten)