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Eli van VegasOur today’s guest is Eli van Vegas, singer of the emerging Electro Punk / EBM band ZWEITE JUGEND. After having released their latest album about one year ago, followed by many club shows and prestigious festival shows at Wave Gotik Treffen and NCN Festival in 2019, the band is now about to release the single ‘Die ganze Nacht’ on March 6th together with the singer Liss Eulenherz (SONORUS7) who also produced the official music video for this piece. Some shows will follow right afterwards: ZWEITE JUGEND will take Liss with them to some of their shows. One of those will be at this year’s E-tropolis Festival. So, in between producing, rehearsing and travelling, Eli found some time to answer our questions 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?
Eli: I got my first tattoo when I was around 20 or 21. After many troubles I had at school and in my family before, I thought it would be a good idea to have a pentagram on my back. A symbol that is a safety sign. I surely wanted to enhance my life situation and that tattoo should remind me to feel and do better in the future. At that time I had some friends living close to Hamburg who were tattoo artists and piercers. That’s why I had more than 20 piercings back then by the way. On one Saturday I decided to get the pentagram just before we went out on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg.

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RoD: How many tattoos do you have? Could you please tell us their story?
Eli: I have five tattoos. First I got the pentagram on my back. Though the next tattoos after the first took some years. I have the three symbols that NITZER EBB used on their ‘That Total Age’ record - star, hammer and cogwheel - in a medium to dark red on my left forearm. On the side a little more to the hand I have two little meshed triangles which I designed during our ‘Monochromiac’ period of my former band COMBAT COMPANY. I really often have to remember that I have it, because it is on the side facing away from me. On the other forearm I have a 13 in black and red. This one was for my wedding anniversary, September 13. We are now divorced, but different from my ex-wife I didn't let it cover up. It reminds me of the wedding in Las Vegas and I would keep this memory at least as a memorial. And it was an adventure for sure. One of my favourites is the last one. It is the theorem “Homo Superior” on my belly. This is quite something like my highest maxim, a quote of Friedrich Nietzsche and a philosophical concept. This is about being a morally and ethically good person, to become more than a regular human and to accept the universe and to perceive things. ‘Homo Superior’ was also a song of COMBAT COMPANY just to mention it.

RoD: Have you already got all the tattoos that you wanted or will you get some new ones in the future?
Eli: I think that I will never have all the tattoos that I want to have done. I got a bit lazy in the last seven or eight years. I stopped around 2013, I guess. It was when I asked some tattoo artists to have done the original colour circle by Johannes Itten with all the twelve colours on my forearm. I studied design and wanted to put pen to paper in this matter. But every artist that I asked was afraid that I would not be able to use the circle for my job as the colours could fade. But I still keep asking from time to time - somebody might read these lines and could make me an offer (haha). But I still have more plans for years. I do not have any ZWEITE JUGEND tattoo. And I definitely want to have more than one West Ham United related tattoo. The new logo on my neck for example. The new logo is based on the traditional first logos of the club, but I might change the idea to the logo that the club used until 2016 and which shows the Boleyn Castle or the main entrance of the Boleyn Ground to be precise. And I want to have done two crossed hammers on my hand between the two-finder and thumb and the same with a little Saint George’s Cross on the other hand at the same place. The latter both are pressing me in the last few weeks. You see, I am into the English culture. And I have further plans, but I cannot talk about them right now.

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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?
Eli: All my tattoos were done by different artists, I went to a studio with a walk-in opportunity for the smaller ones. You won’t see such an offer very often in Germany as most artists work on a schedule. The sketches were all done by me, though the symbolic ones were inspired by the original designs. I am already looking for artists to get the next tattoos done.

RoD: Getting tattooed hurts, how do you cope with the pain during the sessions?
Eli: That was quite easy, none of the tattoos hurt too much. But on the belly was at the limit. I am not very sensitive to pain at all.

RoD: Do you regret getting tattooed sometimes?
Eli: I never regret any of my tattoos. Every single tattoo stands for something important in my life, in the present or in the past. That might be the point of not having more tattoos done yet. I have to be absolutely sure which takes its time. And then I get lazy on asking around again. But what I regret sometimes is that I never started as a tattoo artist myself. I dreamed of it while studying design. I can draw, so it was logical, but got stuck into my design and music job very soon.

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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?
Eli: I would never get any tattoo done that doesn’t say anything about me or at least a part of me or my past. It has to mean a lot to me. And I would never get any too political tattoo done or something like that. Okay, my NITZER EBB tattoo is a little political to be fair. Though there can’t exist anything without being political. That’s human.

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?
Eli: I tend to say that it is more a passion than an addiction. Others would say the opposite. You should ask me this again when I have a lot more tattoos done later. So right now I can’t really say if it is impossible to stop.

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?
Eli: All artists are producing consumer goods in a way, artists have to make a living from something in world in which nobody has the mind-set to pay for arts. I think, tattoo artists can be happy with the situation. I am an artist - musician and visual artist - myself and it is a sad but true story. You will always have fashion and sheep following it. And if it is fashion to have tattoos, there is one positive in this: tattoos become socially acceptable. But that’s all.

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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?
Eli: I don’t have one of those “good” jobs (haha). Overworked and underpaid, very typical for designers and artists. To be serious, I love my job. Nowadays you see many tattooed people everywhere, so I guess it should be accepted. But it depends. If you want to work for a bank or something like that, it could make some trouble. Those people are still old-fashioned. So you have to know what you want to become in life before you get tattooed on spots that you can’t easily hide. I would rather recommend to tear down these walls. Take what you need, be who you want to be.

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?
Eli: As I said before, be who you want to be. So why not get the tattoo in the style you love? If you want to have done your first tattoo, choose smart where to go to. Ask some friends who can share their experiences or even ask in an online user group or something. Everybody starts small, so please don’t hesitate to ask questions. There will be someone around who might be able to help you. Colour or black, now that is a matter of taste. Choose something that stands for you or that writes down your personal story. I have good experience with special tattoo ointment, I wouldn’t take normal healing ointment again as I did for my first tattoos. Ask a tattoo artist for the best advices, if you find a good artist you will get all the information that you would need.

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Project by Daria Tessa and Daniela Vorndran, Interview by Daniela Vorndran
Pictures by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)