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specki in extremo 0001 introThe interview that I would like to share with you today was not planned, which made it all the more interesting. I had the opportunity to talk to Specki T.D about his tattoos last December, while IN EXTREMO was on tour... And I must confess, he shared some very interesting thoughts. Take a look at our conversation and see for yourselves...

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: The first question is actually a more general one. I started this project because I consider tattoos a form of art. How do you perceive them? Are they a form of art? A way to remember things that are important to you? Or do you just associate them with something?
Specki: Yes, you have already mentioned the two important things, art and memories. But the thing that is most important to me as far as tattoos are concerned, is that I practically want to hold on to a point in time, to remember how I felt at that moment. And when I said that I was ready to get that tattoo, I knew I wanted to seal what I was thinking at that time, what my attitude to life was, how I felt and what I liked. Fashion is still a big aspect of tattoos, but I did not get them to make a fashion statement, and they are not based on any fashion trends, their primary purpose is to document various points in time. To seal certain things. And then you see how tattoo trends change: tattoos that will be in style in a couple of years will be different from what we think. And then people think to themselves: for God’s sake it’s a Tribal! For God’s sake, he’s got a tattoo on his lower back - that’s kind of odd. They do not want to have such tattoos these days and don’t want to demonstrate them. But the good thing about tattoos is that they are for life. And yes, they should stay that way.

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RoD: When did you get your first tattoo and what was it? How long did it take you to decide to get it?
Specki: I did not think for too long, so in 2004, I started exactly on 28 December, 2004 (that’s almost 20 years ago, wow!) and it was complete on 11 January 2005. I got my first tattoo to honour the survivors of the tsunami that hit Thailand. I was there at the time and it was all pretty scary and pretty dreadful. I wanted to remember it. So, I was visiting my parents at my old home for Christmas then. I live in Berlin, but I’m originally from around Munich. I flew back to LA in January. I met some musicians there and so on, did a bit of networking and then I met up with my usual tattoo artist. He said he’d beat a tattoo convention in LA, then I said, “oh good, I’ll be there too”, then he said “OK, let’s make an appointment!”, because he needed to have someone at his stand.

RoD: Perfect timing!
Specki: So, I’ll be back under the needle on 27 January and then we’ll take it a bit further, if you can say so. Although that’s not the right way to put it, because I do not have a goal of getting my body completely covered with tattoos at some point. For me, tattooing is not a kind of sport where you have to get the largest part of your body surface completely covered in ink. But I’m looking forward to every new session. It’s been a few years since I got my last tattoo. So we’ll pick it up from where we left it.

RoD: So you forget the pain and look forward to the new beginning.
Specki: Yes... that’s how it works, are you also tattooed?

RoD: Half of my back, my thigh, calf and ankle. So just a little bit. How many tattoos do you have?
Specki: If I think about it, not that many. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 but the tattoos on my arm have somehow been connected with the ones on my back, where I had several different images. Some were bigger and some were smaller.

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RoD: So, if I ask you now if you’re done, that would be a wrong question. That’s why I am not asking you that.
Specki: I’m not exactly finished. But I can’t say what parts are done. My definition of “done” is not when there’s no space left. My definition of done is easy - if I decide for myself that I’m bored with it and that I just do not feel like it anymore. And the nice thing about it is that you can just take a break for a few years. My last tattoo was done on my right forearm - that was about two, two and a half years ago. Since then, I really did not feel like I need another one - and I had no time either. The reason is that I think with my job as a drummer, you cannot do your job well when you’re freshly tattooed. You have to be able to move you sweat and then you cannot take a shower. I’ve even said to myself: “Come on, then wait with the fucking tattoo just a bit - until I have the time and until I can go into the world of pain again”. That’s exactly the point to stop and think, ok I do not really want to do it now.

RoD: Did you get all your tattoos done by the same tattoo artist or by different ones? How do you choose a tattoo artist? And finally, who draws your sketches?
Specki: I have selected my tattoo artist as I was playing in the sandbox. Because my tattoo artist and I grew up together. We went to school together, we went to boarding school together, and we have been good friends for a long time. Benedikt (Bene) Bader works at Studio 22 in Landsberg am Lech. On time, as we were in 6th or 7th grade, the teacher wanted to know what everyone wanted to be when we grow up. Then everyone said, “I’ll become an insurance agent, I’ll become a firefighter, I’ll be something else”. And then he said he would become a painter and I said that I would become a drummer. And based on these two career choices the teacher thought we were crazy and told us off in front of the entire class - something like “Look at those two - they will never become anything.” Something like that. Do not follow their examples, and the funny thing is that his tattoo studio is completely booked for the next two years.

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RoD: OK!
Specki: And I’m not doing bad at all. And then the thing that the teacher predicted did not happen. Well, I do not know what the other classmates from that time are doing, but they’re probably not doing as good as you and me. Therefore, one can only appeal to the creativity of the young people and say “stay true to what you think is right and not what your teacher has in store for you”.

RoD: Yes, you are right. Getting tattooed hurts. How do you cope with the pain during the sessions?
Specki: I think I suffer enough pain. Since I’ve known my tattoo artist for so long, I am not afraid of the physical touch of the needle. But I can still remember that one time, when he was going over one sensitive spot… that tattoo session was in the winter, December or something like that, and it was very long. And that spot was up here in the neck area where it is relatively painful anyway. And then the heating in the tattoo studio wasn’t working. And we were really busy there. I sat there for three hours, bare-chested. And in addition to the pain from getting tattooed, it was just bitterly cold. And then I told him: “If you don’t stop soon, I’ll punch you in the nose.” I was so aggressive and so upset because he was hurting me so much and tormenting me. I reached my limit of pain tolerance much faster then than when I feel well, and it also depends on the spot, if feel pain a little more or a little less. So, I think I am pretty wimpy when it comes to getting tattooed - there are people who can sit there for up to twelve hours in one take. I think my longest session was somewhat about eight hours.

RoD: Right, I just wanted to ask you about this.
Specki: Yes, I think it was eight hours long or so - that was enough.

RoD: Have you ever had any regrets about getting tattooed?
Specki: Naah, not a single one! I also think that you should never regret anything, because every decision is unique. For example, I have a few spontaneous tattoos, where I was passing by a tattoo studio and thought: Hey, that’s cool, I can get another one done again. And I don’t regret that either.

RoD: Do you think there are any taboos when it comes to tattoos? What image would you never get yourself and what don’t you like seeing on others?
Specki: Anything that goes along the lines of a bad political course is absolutely forbidden, but otherwise everything else is perfectly fine. As I said, it is a form of art. Everything is allowed in art, and everything should be allowed, and it should stay that way. Because otherwise it will no longer be art.

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RoD: Some people say that the drive to acquire new body art is addictive while others say that it fails to meet the true definition of addiction, simply calling it passion. Is it really impossible to stop?
Specki: Naah. I don’t think it’s necessarily addictive. I think the extent of the addiction depends on the person - there are people, who are extremely tattooed, and that’s amazing. They all walk around in shorts and T-shirts at festivals like one of those where we’re out in the summer, and you can see that they’re completely covered in tattoos - I think the source of addiction is not the pain or the pictures. When such people look in the mirror, they do not even see how tattooed they are. And then they say to themselves: “Oh yes, I should keep going.” And after they get a new tattoo, they see the same thing again. And that, I think, is the addiction. But I do not think getting tattooed is addictive. People just do not see it the right way anymore!

RoD: So, I have to say, that’s the first time I am hearing an answer like this. I have heard many takes on this question, but not this one. That’s interesting! Tattoos have become a fashion trend; many people do not care about the meaning behind them, they just want to have something colourful on their skin, to be trendy. Those people often just go to a tattoo salon and ask them to show which sketches they have. Tattoo artists are not artists any more, they are kind of like production line workers now. Not all of them, of course. How do you feel about this?
Specki: I think so too. But I think that that’s only the initial drive. Tattoos have been a fashion trend for a long time. Or you can also say “Clothes make the man.” That does not always have to do with fashion, it is also about one’s appearance. I think most people that get tattooed just want to appear different - maybe they just do not want to imprint everything that reminds them of things and events in their lives, or things they do not want to forget, on their bodies. Funny, but I keep seeing this again and again. People say they want to be free, but everyone just feels better when they are in their flock or surrounded by their crowd. And I think if that was their reason for getting tattooed, that’s a mistake. No one should get inked to fit in. It should not be the reason for getting a tattoo. It’s a part of the culture and it’s not: if I do it because I want to show everyone that I like rock music, that I have a sense of humour, or that I have a great fashion sense, that’s a mistake. Tattoos are something that is very good and very important. And they should not be diminished and misused as a means for one to say: “I belong to this group!”

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RoD: I would also like to talk about the social aspect of tattoos. Back in the day, many people believed that if you had a tattoo, you would never be successful and would not find a “good” job. Has this mind-set and people’s perception changed or do these prejudices still exist?
Specki: I think it is starting to work the other way around. I know so many people, who are bankers, and they’re all tattooed. I mean really tattooed. Because that’s exactly what I wanted to say when I was answering your previous question, that they want to belong to another group, because they do not want to identify themselves only with their work. They know that they should not have any tattoos on their neck or hands, but they’re completely inked where their suit starts. There’s the mistake, but it’s perfectly fine. Anyone can have as many tattoos as they please, but that’s a kind of protest reaction when a banker gets tattooed like this. This is an act of rebellion, and it has nothing to do with thoughts like “this tattoo helps me reflect on some things in my life”. He does it because he knows that Sparkasse does not want him to get tattooed. So, what should he do? He can get inked as much as it is possible. He’s still my friend, so I told him, “Dude, what the fuck?” This is a reaction of pure defiance, which is just stupid. Now you’ll be getting shit about it all your life - all right, fine. Again, as I said, “Clothes make the man.” That sounds a bit conservative, but actually that’s a good thing. You know, everyone should be free to grow as a person. And everyone can try different things every now and then. But when a TV chef has to get tattooed in order to land his own TV show, then you know that something is wrong, because the original idea has been reversed.

RoD: Gordon Ramsay doesn’t have tattoos.
Specki: Okay, he is just very good. This is not the kind of a TV chef, who makes better fried eggs than the other guy. Gordon Ramsay is a great artist. He does not need tattoos, he cooks in Las Vegas. I ate at his restaurant, that’s just another level.

RoD: One of his colleagues, who joined Masterchef, is inked. His arms are tattooed.
Specki: What I did not understand was this tattoo-related hype on TV here with Randy Engelhard and the likes. Somehow that pretty much shocked me. Especially the fact that it has gone so far that such a promotional campaign is now hitting tattoo studios. Tattoos became a fashion trend, but they can go out of style just as fast. And at some point, a big revelation hits you: “For God’s sake, how crappy do my tattoos look?” That will bite a lot of people in the ass. Because they have tattoos for fashion reasons, not because they want to reflect on some things through them or because it’s a modern way to document their lives.

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RoD: What advice would you give those who are going to get their first tattoo? How should they choose a tattoo artist? Should they get it done in colour or in black and white? Can you give any practical advice?
Specki: Start slowly. I have seen this in tattoo studios. There are 18-year-old kids, who are still pretty green, and they are going through a certain phase at a certain time, follow certain fashion trends, have a certain attitude and follow the crowd. They come with a template and say: “So now I’ll do my arms and then half the back.” And such a project then costs 4,000 euros and lasts twenty or so sessions. Do I have to say that you should never plan such projects when this is your first introduction to tattoos? But many also say, “Hey, I do not want it to look that pieced together”. Actually, I think it’s good if you can see how a person is starting with his tattoos and how that compiled work of art grows and reaches maturity - even if the art itself is no longer consistent. But when I see such a 20-year-old, I tell him: “Dude, what’s up with you? Firstly, you probably had to save this money for three years and secondly, that may be a bit too much. You don’t have so much life experience that would allow you to get tattooed so.”

RoD: That’s true.
Specki: But that’s just my attitude. Generally, of course, anyone can do what he or she wants. But I also believe that there are many people who have come to regret the fact that their first tattoos were so big. And of course, they underestimate the hardship and the pain that goes with it.

RoD: You can easily stop the people, who are afraid of pain.
Specki: Yes. But do you know anyone who was planning such a big project and then pulled back? People are too vain for that. Because they say, “No, that was just too painful. I could not stand it”. And then they run around for 10 years with only the outlines and say, “Nah, I just could not handle it any longer, that hurt too much. I got a bit of the tattoo done up here, and the rest is not finished yet.” Almost everyone has enough vanity in them to say, “Now I’ll pull through”.

RoD: Of course, that’s a shame not to, if you’ve already paid the money.
Specki: If you have to pay for something like that, then it is clear. Then, of course, you’d accept the pain. But that’s the wrong attitude. So you should always start slowly and ask yourself: Hey, is that really the right thing for me? And do I want to continue in that direction? Funny, I’m 38 and I sound like my dad.

Project by Daria Tessa and Daniela Vorndran, Interview by Daria Tessa & Perverted-Puppet
Pictures by Daria Tessa (

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