Carsten Klatte is a German musician, singer, lyricist and composer. The Berlin-based artist has been part of the German music scene since the early 1990s. He works as a solo artist as LACASA DEL CID and in collaboration with Yve Darksound as WIDUKIND. Furthermore he is known for his collaboration with German and international bands such as WOLFSHEIM, CASSANDRA COMPLEX, PROJECT PITCHFORK, GOETHES ERBEN, PETER HEPPNER and N. U. UNRUH. A new WIDUKIND album will be released in a few weeks. During last NCN we met the artists and he immediately was willing to join our project. Just read what he has to tell about his tattoos.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: When did you get your first tattoo and what was it? Did it take much time until you decided to get it done?
Carsten: I got my first tattoo with 14/15. It was a butterfly on my right shoulder. I didn’t take any time to decide that I wanted it. I managed to keep it secret for nearly one year inside of my family. (I left my parents with 16, by the way. I guess a tattoo wasn’t a big deal in opposite to all the other “punk rock” elements of my out-of-puberty-rebellion.) It symbolized that I became a person, that I was a soul. The butterfly symbolizes the soul and the change of becoming what you really are…. We had a huge Squatter scene in Kiel where I grew up and in one of those squatted houses, there was an older punk rock tattoo artist. He gave me a tarot card session after doing the tattoo. He told me, or I felt as if he was telling me my life, without even knowing me. I was deeply impressed. So this tattoo stands for a unique moment in my life. I still love it.
RoD: How many tattoos do you have? Could you please tell us their story?
Carsten: I think this “I have this tattoo and this”-time ended after my fourth tattoo. I started experiencing tattooing as a documentation of my living process. Each work stands for an experience that has somehow changed my life. Each tattoo is in some way a decision I made, with all the consequences that followed. In the 90s, there was a term that I liked, where people called themselves “modern primitives”. It’s the confession that life has some ritualistic character and that it deepens your understanding of life, if you go “with” the ritual, not against it. And if there is an experience, no matter if good or evil, that is “burnt” in my soul, it’s also good to know that there is a place on your body where you can find something symbolizing this experience. So now, tattooing for me is something like a process. It started with one, then two, then three but now it’s maybe working everything all over again or putting something new into something old, depending on how the life view has changed during periods of time…
RoD: Have you already got all the tattoos that you wanted or will you get some new ones in the future?
Carsten: I guess, in my case, it becomes clear that the process of tattooing ends with the end of my life… and if I wouldn’t have any space any more, it could be another “layer” somewhere…
RoD: Have all your tattoos been done by one tattoo artist or by different ones? How do you choose the tattoo artist? In addition, who draws your sketches?
Carsten: Three questions in one, so let me start with the first answer: No. I have lots of artists who were working on my body. Because of understanding tattooing as a process, not a product, I always have the “right” artist at hand, when I need it. But of course, I know some very special guys of the genre, for example the Inmost Light Studio in Wiesbaden, especially its founder Boris. Living in Berlin, I sometimes travel to Wiesbaden, just to have a jam with Boris. He did quite a few things on my arms…
RoD: Getting tattooed hurts, how do you cope with the pain during the sessions?
Carsten: Tattooing is a process, shaped as a ritual. If I would not like the content of the process I wouldn’t be into it. Pain is just a feeling. If you have a broken heart, the pain is much worse than tattooing. It’s so simple in tattooing, just one to one. A needle, some pain. That’s it. I had a lot of conversations with, for example, borderline persons about scarves and cutting. In my opinion, tattooing, for example, can be an expression of a scarf, but filled with ideology or beauty at the end of the day. It’s processing your consciousness in the way you want to be. So the pain is not empty, just pain… it’s filled with devotion and willpower, so it is ritualistic, though useful. Besides, if it’s getting too hard, there are breathing techniques I use, as a Tai Chi Chan player. You can “redirect” the pain by breathing and give it to mother earth.
RoD: Do you regret getting tattooed sometimes?
Carsten: Hahaha… Do I regret being an individual? Do I regret that I became who I am? Do I regret documenting the process of becoming conscious? Is the pope a catholic?
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?
Carsten: We created a new style on my arm, we called it graffiti style. Not because it looks like a graffiti but because we started from scratch and did it freehand. I also have a lot of old school stuff on my arm and calligraphy. I always have to smile, while sitting in a studio and a customer comes around, asking for some “stars” but they have to be “small”… and are there any “no go´s”? I don´t know… I am not very interested into tattooing my penis… or my face.
RoD: Some people say that the drive to acquire body art is addictive while others say it fails to meet the true definition of an addiction, simply calling it a passion. Is it really impossible to stop?
Carsten: As mentioned above, tattooing is a magical, ritualistic process, documenting the way, a human becomes conscious about himself. It´s the expression of spirituality, no matter if you realize it or not. You “take something under your skin”. How couldn’t this be magical?! Transforming all this pain into manifested ideas doesn’t lead you to decoration, it leads you to manifestation. So be careful what you wish, it might come true. If you are into it, you go on but there is no goal or aim. You just go on. If there is nothing to declare, fine, if there is, let´s do another one.
RoD: Currently tattoos are a new trend; many people do not care about the meaning, they just want to have something coloured on the skin, to be in trend. Those people often just go into a tattoo salon and ask which drafts they have. Tattoo artists are not artists any more, they produce consumer goods. Not all of them, of course. How do you feel about this situation?
Carsten: It mirrors the actual situation of society. I don´t care. People nowadays are doing rendezvous via Tinder App. They live like robots. So maybe it´s good for them, just in case they will ever wake up in the next couple of years, to have something on their body, what lets them remember, that they were stupid. It´s not the problem of the tattoo scene or of tattooing. It´s the same situation in the music industry. There is no art left, just producing consumer goods. If you´re no rebel, there is no rebellion. People give a shit about content, they appreciate nice forms, promising social success and this kind of stuff. If they are so stupid, it´s not my problem. As a musician I am quite aware of the fucked up situation, concerning content and society. I would say, this kind of “zeitgeist” will also change. Trends come and go, truth (the ritual) remains.
RoD: I would like to talk about the social aspect of tattoos, too. 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 are these prejudices still alive?
Carsten: I once was the only tattooed person in a travel party and they charged me the price for a double room in a hotel in Kaiserslautern because I have used the two pillows of the double bed. It was obvious that they didn´t like me as a (tattooed) person. I can laugh about things like this. In Berlin where I live, it´s more than OK to be tattooed. If you want a job, it´s not that easy. Last year I wanted to work in the security business and nobody would give me a job, because I have a tattoo on the neck, visible for all, and a tattooed finger. There is also discrimination among tattooed people for tattoo artists. A tattoo Artist, I guess he was a “Bandito” or “Angel” once asked me for an HIV test. He was of the opinion that my tattoo motives were not “that cool” (he meant some works of my punk rock era) and connected these two things together. To make a long story short: He was a complete asshole. Tattoo arts are various. There is old school, there is the way the Russians do it in prison, there is tribal, there is 3D art, whatever. As an expression of individuality, each tattoo is special and beautiful. Even, for example, a “Knastträne” (trans.: teardrop tattoo), made 1976 in Berlin Moabit, is a unique expression of beauty in my eyes, if the person had to make this experience.
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?
Carsten: If you just want to have some small stars, leave me alone. Tattooing is a process, so, if you decide to experience it, think like doing a composition. Leave space for later things to come, think decentralized, imagine what you want to become. It should be what you are, so intuitive decisions with an enthusiastic feeling of identification are the best. Tattoo artists are expensive, but most of them, working officially are good, because there are many, many others, wanting their position in the studio, at least here in Berlin or Wiesbaden (There you should visit Inmost Light Tattoo). If you are not interested into the process of “no pain, no gain”, don´t do it. Even some small “stars” will hurt you and, at the end of the day, nobody would like you more, because of having some creepy pop shit on your body. In the nineties there was a trend that was called “Arschgeweih” (trans.: tramp stamp). You remember the days, when it started to get popular? Everybody had the freedom of choice but the ladies all did the tramp stamp and most of the guys something like “Search and destroy” of this kinda shit. This has nothing to do with real freedom. The tramp stamp has become some “Stars” and “Search and destroy” this old comic strip school pop art. Be free. Do what you want. In society, in life and especially in the choice of the right tattoo… (at least there is no choice I know. If you are stupid, you are stupid. Just look at all the tramp stamps from the nineties…
Project by Daria Tessa and Daniela Vorndran, Interview by Daniela Vorndran
Pictures by Olle Icke
Special: Artists and their Tattoos - Carsten Klatte (vocals) from Widukind and Lacasa del Cid
- Written by: Daniela Vorndran
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