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titleOur guest today is Mike Korchevoy, vocalist of Ukrainian Pop-Punk band ROLL MODELS, a talented musician who has performed on the same stage with PLACEBO, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, ZEBRAHEAD, POSCHLAYA MOLLY and many others, as it turned out, is an insanely interesting interlocutor, who has everything in his life connected with music, in particular all his tattoos.

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Hey, Mike, first of all, and traditionally, I’d like to ask you a few general questions about your band, as I have the opportunity to. Are you writing a new album? How long have you been working on it? What is the main concept of the new album?
Mike Korchevoy [Mike]: Yeah, the album was incomplete, so we decided we need a deadline. In the past we always tried to find a concept for the album. But this time there is no concept as such, rather each song has its own concept. First of all, this album will be heavier than the previous one. This time we were inspired by heavier bands - Post-Hardcore, Metalcore, one song will be very heavy, the other very dramatic, the third very Punk Rock, the fourth Indie, in general each song will have its own style. That’s where the concept of the album will be, there will be just seven songs, each in its own style and the album will be as diversified as seven colours, seven days of the week, and seven different moods. In fact, the album will be very diverse, and we wanted to be able to listen to it in one go, not to overload it with extra songs and make it short. And in general, there’s probably a tendency now that many people don’t listen to the album as a whole. Everybody listens to singles, so we’ll make a set of singles. Since we haven’t done anything for a long time, the album will be called ‘Vital Signs’. And the cover will have a burning car, but the cover isn’t ready yet, so I can’t show it. But talking about the album is one thing, but you just have to listen to it. It’s very diverse and we like the sound of it. For the first time in our lives, we made an album on our own, without any producers, without the intervention of any outside people, without any advice. Previously, I was the one who wrote all the songs, but this time we were writing them with whole band, going to rehearsal, arguing, discussing. This is the first release that will be made together.

RoD: Okay, great! Good luck with your new album! Let’s go back to our main today’s topic of tattoos! When did you get your first tattoo and what was it? Did it take much time to decide to get it done?
Mike: All my tattoos are very connected to the music. I have everything to do with music, I can’t live without it. In fact, I haven’t even thought about tattoos for a long time. I paid attention to the beautiful tattoos, some tattoos I liked on other people. I never judged anyone for tattoos. But I didn’t want to do it myself. The push was a performance at the tattoo festival. We’ve been invited to tattoo festivals for years because we play punk-rock style, and many punk-rockers love tattoos. And so we played at one of these events, and decided to stay and see how it all goes, apart from the musical component. We saw how artists work. And thanks to this I came up with a new logo for our band. And I thought about getting a tattoo of it. At the same time, I would be able to understand what a tattoo feels like. Because I’ve noticed that people have been getting tattoos pretty easy lately. It became common for them.

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Many people get tattoos even without thinking about it. I just thought maybe it isn’t that bad, and it doesn’t hurt that bad. I met a tattoo artist who turned out to be a girlfriend of my friend, and I thought I could trust her and ask her if she could make me our logo. She said: «No problem». And she tattooed me, the first sketch of our new logo. This logo was very important to me and to a certain stage of our band. I came to the parlour to see this artist and she tattooed me it in 15 minutes. It was a very simple job, but it was important for me to see how does it feel and I liked it. It wasn’t painful or uncomfortable, so I thought I could try something else. I have a lot of favourite objects in pop culture and music in particular, I love illustrations, art objects, and design, and I am a designer myself. I needed to make something related to music, but not necessarily a portrait of a vocalist. It was supposed to be some kind of art object of other bands that I like, something from their covers, posters, cultural heritage.

And so my second experience was MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE tattoo - a marching skeleton with a watch. I thought it would be a good example for the first full tattoo. And after that tattoo, I couldn’t stop. Almost all of them are made on the right hand and are dedicated to bands or their art objects. Sometimes I like the art band better than, let’s say, their records, concert venues, fonts, I don’t just follow the music, and I like the cool design. My tattoos are a collection of my favourite bands for the last 15 years. My next tattoo is an element of GOOD CHARLOTTE’s art, their album ‘Life and Death’, a fortune-teller (madam predictable), it’s noteworthy that this sketch was drawn by one of the band members, I was at the GOOD CHARLOTTE concert in Budapest and showed him this tattoo. I think they’re used to it, of course, but I’d still like it if I drew something from scratch and somebody would ink it. I would really flattering. It would have been important to me.

MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE and GOOD CHARLOTTE’s tattoos were done in one summer. Then I decided to pause because the girl who made my tattoos went to work in Poland. Her name is Vika Kirnes, I think. She’s a very cool tattoo artist, I’ve seen her other works, they’re interesting, I’d like to continue working with her, but she left the country. My other tattoo artist was also a girl. I was introduced to her by a buddy of mine who got a tattoo for a festival and she did it for free, for artistic reasons. And he agreed to be her model. They did some of this work. And she did him a portrait of Noel Gallagher, a musician from OASIS. She did it very nicely and realistically. And I thought I should go to her. Her name is Ksyusha VDLK ( She works somewhere on Besarabka (Kyiv) now, good artist. I have been going to her for two years to make tattoos.

My third tattoo is an ugly little man, it’s my favourite album of THE USED band ‘Lies for the Liars’ of 2007, though I love all their albums, even the failed ones. They have one of those. I really like the way they emotionally perform their music. And I’ve always liked this art very much. I love their art, they have the coolest cover artwork. Then I got my favourite band, GREEN DAY. It was a painful place, it was the ‘Nimrod’ album I heard in ‘97, it was the first GREEN DAY cassette I bought in a store on L. Tolstoy street. And this album is still one of my favourite albums of my life. I can listen to it endlessly, and it doesn’t bother me. And on the whole, GREEN DAY is the mark of our band ROLL MODELS, because we are called as Ukrainian GREEN DAY. I think we need to finish this tattoo, it has some kind of incompleteness. Then there was a short pause.

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And the next tattoo was THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. I’ve been listening to this band since I was a kid and this album ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ is one of the most outstanding for me. A 1995 two-disc crazy album that I can’t listen to from start to the end at once. It’s like the Sistine Chapel in modern times. Billy Corgan, founder of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS, has made an enormous effort to record it. They got a few Grammys for it. It was the peak of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. But I don’t even like it anymore because of the music, but because of the way it looks in the editions, it’s beautiful. It has got a lot of different interpretations, illustrations, drawings, which are inside the art books. This is my favourite Renaissance tattoo, a woman who is stuck in a star. It was the plot of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS’ ‘Tonight Tonight’, the title song of the album. The woman there falls out of the blimp and gets stuck in a star. That’s the story and the woman has become a symbol of the album. And I was wondering, if Ksyusha can fill it realistically? I think it’s the best tattoo I’ve ever had. She did everything very accurately and realistically. Some people think that a woman has a strange look on her face, but that’s exactly the look on the cover of the woman’s face.

The next tattoo is a cardinal bird. We decided to leave it black and white. It will probably be supplemented. To tie all this together, but no new drawings will be done. The cardinal is from the band ALEXISONFIRE, here in Ukraine few people know it, and in general they are not very well known, but their album ‘Old Crows/ Young Cardinals’ is important to me. I listened to it at some strange stage of my life. I really like this cover and the look on the cardinal’s face. He’s so harsh. And this is a very good illustration, I have always loved it very much. And I loved this album very much. And I keep forgetting about this tattoo, it seems like a stretch. Because I really wanted to get something related to THE OFFSPRING. I couldn’t choose what to do for a very long time, because they were very graphic. But I didn’t like their latest albums, and the first albums. I mean, I had to choose what I liked, but I didn’t want to make the boy on the swing, from Americana band, and I didn’t want to make the skulls from ‘Ixnay on the Hombre’. So I found an album with illustrations about the album, and I found a death that dragged the guy. And I thought it was a very beautiful Mexican-style story. A dramatic picture and a great realization.

I asked Ksyusha not to change the concept, she suggested making them in her own artistic style. The only thing that we didn’t put colours where they were meant to be. That is, all the tattoos were black and white. The snake tattoo is an AFI band. The 2003 album ‘Sing the Sorrow’. I liked that snake from their art book. It was drawn in the style of biology textbooks, in contrast to all sorts of graphics, additions and arrows. It looks beautiful and I like AFI very much too. The place for tattoo is perfect. It was supposed to be here. And the last tattoo on this hand is “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket”, not everybody understands this trick, it’s the cover element of the 4th studio album of BLINK-182.  So they decided to interpret it as “take off your pants”.

RoD: And you told me you don’t have a lot of tattoos. And how much you have already told me!
Mike: Well, they’re all about music, and they’re all important to me, because both musically and graphically I like the work of these bands. Basically, I’ve stopped at that for now, though there is still room on my arm. I’d like to stuff something from OASIS, it’s also one of my favourite bands, but unfortunately all the covers are built on photos. And I wouldn’t want that hand to be knocked out stylistically. But maybe I’ll find something else. And if we meet again in the future, my next tattoo will be devoted not to music but to pop culture. I would like to continue with my left hand.

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RoD: What about the inscription on your left hand?
Mike: It was a spontaneous decision. I met a running girl named Mary. She’s a professional coach, and she is running. She wrote a book, and she’s fully covered in tattoos. We met and talked. And she got my name, and I got her name. That’s how it was. Maybe she regrets it, but I don’t. I thought maybe I will cover it someday. But I’m not in a hurry to do it yet. Although my current girlfriend doesn’t like this tattoo very much. She doesn’t like it. But she understands.

RoD: And tell me, please, about the tattoo of the collapsing house on your stomach. What is this tattoo about?
Mike: The girl jumps out or breaks the roof more precisely. I saw a similar drawing on the Internet and I liked it very much. I can’t say why, although I love beautiful graphics. I liked the abundance of details here, the exact physical transfer of energy that comes from this girl, some destructiveness. And I made it while I was in the mood to destroy something and at the same time create something. Plus, I really like architecture, and I thought that a house that’s falling apart would fit my mood. This tattoo is the hardest to explain. I probably just liked the story.

RoD: And who is the artist?
Mike: Ksyusha made it. I have known her for many years, everybody comes to her by recommendation. Just like I did. She doesn’t advertise herself, but she has very good works. I just showed her the picture, we thought we’d make it easier, but she said she loved it and she’d do it like it was in the original. It’s not realism, but rather attention to detail. She displayed every detail of this house. The girl is made on a bone near the solar plexus, and I remember the pain well. It’s the only tattoo when I was really in pain. I’d switched on a concert on the phone and say, “Ksuysha, I’m sorry, but I’m about to scream”. But here I ordered a special ointment. Ksyusha just said the tattoo should be a pleasure, so I thought, really, why do I have to suffer if it’s unpleasant?

RoD: We had already talked about this, but did you get all the tattoos you wanted, or would you get new ones soon?
Mike: There will be new ones. Everything will depend on the time and capabilities of the artist. I mean, the sooner the artist is free and makes a sketch, the faster it will be done. As I used to have a separate, spot work, I want to get a big artwork on the whole hand. It will be a collage based on ‘Predator’ movie. I really like this character. It’s one of the best images and designs of a monster, an alien and a film character for me. It was the first film I saw on a videotape as a child, and I still dream of seeing a normal sequel. For the past 15 years they can’t think of anything else with this character, maybe they won’t. But I still love the first part with Schwarzenegger. And I want something based on the film. It’s likely to be the jungle, the predator himself, and the elements of his outfit. This is the design of the Stan Winston School. He is an American figure who founded a special effects studio. He did Aliens, Terminator, and Robocop. He worked on the most iconic characters in Hollywood film history. And did it not on the computer, but manually. He created models, painted them, created special effects. All his designs are very cinematic and memorable. I would probably call him a genius. He still has a school that continues these traditions. They are addressed if it is necessary to create dolls or models for cinema. They continue to work and I like his designs very much.

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There is also an option. I love the Japanese ‘Dark Souls’ series of games. It’s a dark fantasy. I really like the aesthetics and stylistics of this fantasy. And I would like to do something based on ‘Dark Souls’. It can be different characters, armour, knights, monsters, dragons. Everything that relates to this subject. It is made in their style, in Japanese. This game is very complex. I periodically like to play it, it’s cool and very addictive. And this game also has a very beautiful design, I really like the aesthetics. I would try something in this style. Basically, everything that concerns the pop culture of gaming or cinema. But I don’t do it quickly. So the next tattoos are either ‘Predator’ or ‘Dark Souls’ or something like that. And most likely the sleeve, as I said.

RoD: The next question we have discussed a little bit, too, about pain syndrome. How do you cope with pain during the sessions?
Mike: It doesn’t really hurt everywhere. It hurt to be tattooed on the bones on my chest. I could feel that needle right there. It wasn’t the most pleasant feeling to say the least. It was hard to tolerate, and it slowed down the artist’s work. She was distracted all the time with me. Of course, you can handle the pain, but if you can’t do it, why not use it? The artist gave me a special ointment, instructed me how to use it. Tattoo of the house on the side and stomach, we returned to it many times, we had to cover some things. And these places didn’t have time to heal. In general, inking the bones and ribs were painful. And there was also a painful place near the armpit where GREEN DAY is. Those were two painful places I had and where I could use the ointment. It all depends on the artist and how long the session is. If you make tattoo on large area at once, it would be painful. Five or six hours, for example. Everybody has different ways, I probably have high pain tolerance. I would prefer to tattoo my hands without ointment, and some difficult places like ribs, for example, with ointment.

RoD: Was there a time in your life when you have regretted about a tattoo? For example, Mary’s tattoo?
Mike: No, I have no regrets! Mary’s tattoo is very small, and I’ve carefully inked it on my wrist, not in the most prominent place. I can wear a bracelet or watch. Plus, I don’t have the most unpleasant memories with Mary. On the contrary. Of course, she’s an unusual and quite strange person. But we had a good acquaintance with her. And I have no regrets. Plus it’s a tattoo that means nothing to others. And for me it means something. Although, perhaps, if I had the opportunity, I would have covered it. I won’t wear it for the rest of my life. It doesn’t bother me now. If there’s a whole composition on my hand in the future, I will cover it. And it will have to be covered for aesthetic reasons. But I tell this story to everyone who asks. I like that period, it was really crazy. I didn’t think it could affect anything. I’m easy on tattoos. I didn’t get it on my face! And I didn’t get a portrait of this girl!

RoD: That’s where the next question comes from. About the taboo. Do you have taboos in terms of tattoos, that no matter what, you will never do it on yourself and you do not like it on others?
Mike: If you’re talking about tattoos on your face, I wouldn’t say it’s a taboo for me. Aesthetically, on other people, I even like it very much. There are just psychos who inked their faces with very strange tattoos.

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RoD: And the Zombie Boy, the guy in tattoos who died of depression?
Mike: Zombie Boy made an art object of himself. I like body modifications. It can be for a career or business, or for a cultural contribution to capture yourself in history. And this dude died of depression, we don’t know why exactly. But not because of the tattoos. I’m sure that any decision to get a tattoo in a prominent place, especially if it’s something big and serious, is still related to a person’s mental state. It can’t be otherwise. I associate my tattoos, though frivolously, with my mental state. If I was making them easily, then it was easy for me at that moment. When it was hard for me, I got a tattoo of a house that was falling apart. I had a lot of fun and wanted to make some changes for the better. And I think other people have the same situation. And I wouldn’t want to have tattoos on the face, not because It is a taboo, but just because I don’t see myself with it.

If I don’t have enough room anymore, maybe I’ll add something to my neck or temples. But the face in the classical sense - lips, cheeks, eyelids, I would not touch. I don’t like it very much. From that series “What if I regret it?” I didn’t blame anyone for the tattoos on the face. I like how fashionable it is now among young performers like Lil Peep, Tekashi 69. They look great. The tattoos on the face can look cool, usually with inscriptions or things people come up with. And they don’t have to explain it to anyone. I understand that, but it’s not always clear to others. In our country, it seems to me that the face tattoo is still considered to be some kind of wildness among the inhabitants. I often read some resources like Medusa about people with tattoos on their faces, and they talk about other people’s reactions, their experiences. I’ve read such articles and many people say that they are not hired.

RoD: And that’s also our next question… You’re ahead of my mind.
Mike: It’s understandable. Everything is logical. One thing leads to the other. I wouldn’t be afraid that I wouldn’t be hired. Because I work as a freelancer. I usually don’t even see my customers. I work on the Internet. That is, I can basically ink everything, and can do a piercing in all places. Anyway, no one will see me. But I do not like that someone is not hired because of the tattoo. It turns out that in our society stereotype thinking continues. I wouldn’t judge a person by tattoos. Or by the quality of the tattoo. There are beautiful people with horrible tattoos. And vice versa. If a person has a tattoo, why judge him for it. Why not give him the opportunity to show his professionalism.

If I was an employer or I had a choice to work with a person who had made a tattoo, somehow changed myself, I would look at his professionalism. And I wouldn’t refuse him just because of the tattoo. Appearances do not matter at all in such cases. There is a concept of dress code in banks and offices. And it is not quite pleasant to be in a place where everyone wears suits, and a person will be with a tattoo on his face, it can cause discomfort to other people. But it still shouldn’t affect them. If a person is a great specialist and if he fits this company, no matter what he looks like. If he can benefit himself and the company. All these dress codes should be in second place. For example, in Japan, person with tattoos, some institutions, baths or saunas is not allowed in. There are still many places where tattoos are considered a taboo. If the tattoo on the face or in a prominent place, they may even refuse service. It is normal in their society, and they live with it somehow, they accept it. And, for sure, there is some explanation for this. We have no explanation. Our people explain it just by personal dislike. There should be no public condemnation of tattoos.

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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?
Mike: To be honest, I don’t want to stop. It’s not that I can’t stop. I had to do it because the artist was busy. And we had to pause. But honestly, in the process, when you do a tattoo and it heals, you know you can do one thing or another. There is a certain dependence and a desire to continue. If the circumstances are such that you can’t continue, it’s better not to force it. I am for the artist to be the same. I wouldn’t change artist often. Therefore, if this artist cannot do it, it is better not to force him. The quality of the tattoo and the resultant work depends on the mood of the person too. I would like to continue and I have an addiction. But so far it’s not possible, because I am always busy.

RoD: Recently tattoos are a new trend; many people do not care about the meaning, they just want to have something inked on the skin, to be in trend. Those people often just go into a tattoo parlour 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?
Mike: I don’t think that’s a problem. It’s just for many people it’s like going shopping or buying things. If we are talking about a trend. Such people want to be here today, here and now in the trend. They won’t think that it will not become fashionable afterwards. For them it is important now. I do not think that it is bad. But they can regret it later. I just don’t get how they make a spontaneous decision to do what will stay with you for the rest of your life. And I can understand that a person can follow the trends. I didn’t think for a long time if I really wanted a tattoo. The fact that a lot of people started getting tattoos for themselves also affected my decision. Society has made it easier to have tattoos. And I thought I needed the imaginary symbolism that had previously dominated in tattoos.

Some people do tattoos without meaning, just like the picture or somehow, at the subconscious level it means something to a person. He may not be able to formulate it in words. Or he saw it somewhere and he was pleased at that moment. I can admit that this can also be the case. It’s just not always possible to express it in words. I thought that as soon as the tattoo became more widespread and it would be easier for society to tolerate it, then you can do anything you want. Therefore, I will not judge a person if he or she does a tattoo without any common sense. Sometimes I don’t even like the fact that some tattoos make sense. I’d rather have an aesthetic sense. Excessive symbolism ruins the aesthetics and beauty of many drawings. For example, a girl gets a tattoo with a butterfly on her coccyx, and everybody says she’s easy to get. Of course, it’s stupid to ink a butterfly on the tattoos. I think that a beautiful picture is enough.

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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?
Mike: The first thing I want you to do is not to get a big tattoo right away. Make a small drawing in the most convenient place. As a rule, I noticed by my acquaintances or my personal feelings what they do either on the arm, wrist or near the elbow. Where it is visible to the person himself. Colour isn’t important in general, although it’s probably best to start with black and white. It can be coloured later. It is not known how a person’s skin will react to any colour. It is necessary to wait, so that the pigment of the skin is accustomed to the colour and vice versa. And then it will be clear whether the colour fits the person or not. That is, you should start with a small drawing and a black and white tattoo. And for it to be something personal, which a person will never regret. Some kind of favourite drawing or the most favourite composition.

And I wouldn’t recommend to tattoo words. Especially in some languages that people don’t understand. It happens that a person gets a tattoo in the form of a hieroglyph, or in a dead language, like Sanskrit, Latin, and he does not speak this language. You can find a translation, but you do not speak this language! Yes, it can be a beautiful sign, and it means something, but I wouldn’t fill words. If you want to get yourself the word “winner”, you’d better feel like one than tattooing it in some Hindi. I would start with images, beautiful art objects, and beautiful drawings. If I had a few bodies in theory, I wouldn’t have enough room to ink everything I wanted. And I would only ink words if it was cool from a technical point of view. For example, there are a lot of words and the whole composition is built on them. It should be like a graphic design, Swiss design, some big object filled with small words. If it is a word, it should be a part of the composition. I have the inscription “Madame the prophetess”, but it is a signature on the booth with the witch. You can even get a tattoo of something ugly or provoke religious people who are tattooed themselves with religious dirt. I am for any fuss, as long as it is beautiful!

As for the choice of an artist. Here a person should decide for himself. The main thing is not to go make a tattoo to a friend who just recently learned it. Do not look at the price tag! Some people want to save money, and they get terrible tattoos. And initially you need to go to the artist, see his work, and the feel if a person is nice and you will not be bored with him to spend together for 5-7 hours during the sessions. It is important that the person is comfortable and silent and that you communicate with them. An artist should not be a friend, but an easy-going person. He, first of all, should be an artist of his business, a professional, but also you should not be uncomfortable with him. I wouldn’t go to an artist who hasn’t done anything yet, who is a beginner. I wouldn’t want to be a “test material”. Everything else depends on the person himself. What choice he will make.

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Project by Daria Tessa and Daniela Vorndran, Interview by Daria Tessa, Iryna Kalenska
Photographer: Kateryna Lashchykova

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