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?
Ville:I think I was at my teens at the moment, 16 or 17. The first one was a classic barbed wire tattoo around my right wrist. Not very original, but at that time I thought it was cool because it was the first one and I had been begging my parents a long time to get a permission to get a tattoo. It took some time to persuade them because they didn’t want me to ”ruin my body”, but eventually they gave up and I got what I wanted. I immediately walked to a local parlour and got the piece. I even had a written permission from my mum to show to the artist, because I was underage. It felt like a real triumph when the tattoo was finished!
RoD: How many tattoos do you have? Could you please tell us their story?
Ville: All in all I have nine, depending on how you count them. I don’t remember the exact years or months they were made, but all of them were made during 13-14 years span. The first one was the barbed wire and there is really not much to tell about it than I just wanted to have a tattoo because I thought that every metal head should have tattoos and I wanted to be a bit rebellious towards my parents. The second one is a black tribal dragon tattoo on my right arm next to the barbed wire. I found a picture of it online and thought that this looks badass! Well again, great idea at the moment but later when I spotted the same image on the side of an energy drink can, it didn’t seem so cool anymore, heh! Stupid teenage me with the internet.
At least a good friend of mine did some editing on the original pic before it ended under my skin, so it’s not 100% same. I told everyone at the time that I took it because my Chinese star sign is a dragon, but nowadays it feels like a pretty stupid excuse to get a piece that you can find on google just by typing ”dragon tattoo”, haha! On to the next then: A friend of mine who is an illustrator, bought his own tattoo equipment just for fun and he needed some guinea pigs to test them on. My girlfriend of the time and I volunteered as subjects because why not! We ended up carving a text in Latin on my upper back. The text states ”Religio Infirmitas Est” (google translate it if you don’t know your Latin). I thought that the sentence was a strong statement towards my view on religions. I still do, but the overall quality of the tattoo is not very great since the guy wasn’t really a professional. I have thought of covering the piece someday.
The next ones were done by the same friend of mine, and this session included lots of alcohol (Jaloviina especially) and repentance in the next morning. We were hanging at our place, and they were continuing a shoulder piece for my girlfriend. I got a bit tipsy during the evening and started asking if he could do a small tattoo free for me too because he had already brought his equipment with him and it wouldn’t take long of his time. He understandably declined my request. I repeated my request a couple of times during the evening, and ended up being a bit annoying even as I got more drunk. He finally agreed, probably because he couldn’t stand me anymore but the tattoo would be done on his conditions. The conditions were that the tattoo would be a smiley face and it would be tattooed on my ass cheek! Well, any reasonable person would have passed this glorious opportunity, but at the point I had consumed a vast amount of liquor so I thought that this was a brilliant idea! So, half an hour later there was a smiley face carved on my butt. As if this wasn’t enough, I thought that it would be even more bad ass (pun intended) to tattoo the other cheek as well but with a sad face. My friend went ”Sure, if you insist.” and there I eventually was with both my buttocks decorated with smiley faces. My advice is that don’t drink excess amounts of booze when there are tattoo equipment laying around in the house!
Ok, enough with the awkward stuff. The biggest tattoo I have lies on my left shoulder. It is a battle between good and evil with lots of details and colours. The idea behind the tattoo is that I wanted to finally have a well done piece added with some personal thoughts and experiences behind it. I had some mental issues and problems at the time that I later managed to overcome, therefore the theme about the battle between good and evil. To find balance and inner peace within oneself can really be a struggle that occurs during the whole lifetime. I wanted to have something on my body to remind me of this constant changing of tides. Life itself is not a steady ride and we have to adapt to different situations without losing ourselves along the path. That was about to happen to me, and I had almost given up but somehow managed to drag the train back on the tracks. The tattoo is not meant to be a religious tattoo even though it has Christian symbolism in it. The artist and I sketched it very carefully before the actual tattooing, albeit I gave her all the artistic freedom she wanted with the sketching. The characters are inspired by figures and shapes in ancient Greek art and by the works of French artist Gustave Dore. It took some 4-5 sessions to finish it.
I have three different tattoos on my legs. All of these are written texts or letters. I went to see a live show one time at my hometown and the band toured with a tattoo and a piercing artist with them. I had an ex tempore idea to get some kind of a humorous drumming themed tattoo on me during the evening. With very little contemplation and a quick chat with the artist we ended up with an idea. The result was two different abbreviations on my calves: BD R on the right and BD L + HH on the left. For those who wonder what they mean, let me clarify: BD R = bass drum right & BD L + HH = bass drum left + hihat.
The latest tattoo is a Greek text ”Αδραξε τη μέρα” written on my right ankle. It means simply ”Seize the day” or ”Carpe diem” if you will. I was on a holiday for a week in Rethymnon, Greece accompanied by my dear friend, and we were thinking that we need something to remember the trip by. We decided that a small tattoo would be nice because neither of us wanted to bring any dull souvenirs back home. She suggested that on the last day of the trip we march to a tattoo parlour and get identical friend tattoos, and that we did. She had the text on her foot and I got mine on my ankle. Again, not very original to tattoo something like that on you but that is not the point in this case. It is there to remind me of my friend and the great time we had in Greece.
RoD: Have you already got all the tattoos that you wanted or will you get some new ones in the future?
Ville: I get some ideas for new tattoos every now and then, and I will definitely get more in the future. One problem is that the most skilful tattoo artists in my area have very long queues and I’m not the most patient guy around, and then usually spend the required budget somewhere else, heh.
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?
Ville: All my tattoos are done by various different artists. The sketches are drawn by the artists themselves.
RoD: Getting tattooed hurts, how do you cope with the pain during the sessions?
Ville: As you probably know the pain differs a lot depending on which part of the body is being tattooed. The most pain I’ve had to endure during a tattooing session was on the colouring sessions of the shoulder piece. The inner side of the arm and the armpit were the worst, almost unbearable. I guess all you can do is squeeze the arms of the chair you sit in and enjoy the ride. Maybe think of flying pink elephants or such to get your mind to the zen zone and out of the pain.
RoD: Do you regret getting tattooed sometimes?
Ville: Maybe the tattoos on my butt are something that should’ve been left undone, haha!
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?
Ville: Anything that includes radical political views or racism.
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?
Ville: Depends on whom you’re asking. I myself don’t have a burning addictive urge to get more tattoos, although more would always be nice, but I understand people who have a passion for them. The thrill you get when you’re under the buzzing needle is something pretty unique and you cannot compare it to anything really. Piercing is a bit similar experience, but it does not come even remotely close to the feeling when being tattooed, if you ask me.
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?
Ville: That’s a hard one to answer. All in all tattoos are way more acceptable nowadays than what they used to be like some 15-20 years ago and more and more people want to get them. I guess that’s not a bad thing if you think it on the financial side of the artists. In the end, making tattoos is providing services to the customers, and the more you have customers the more you make income out of it. However, if you think it on the artistic side of the craft, it may be frustrating to produce something as an artist that you don’t purely commit your heart and soul into.
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?
Ville: I’ve spotted less and less prejudice during the years when it comes to tattoos. I’m in a pretty good job myself and my employer has never complained about my tattoos or piercings, if you don’t count some avuncular teasing every now and then. It depends so much on the people, their ages, beliefs etc.
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?
Ville: Take your time contemplating on the picture and just please do not, and I can’t stress this enough, do not tattoo your face first.
Project by Daria Tessa and Daniela Vorndran, Interview by Daria Tessa
Title picture by Sami Kettunen (Kuvauksellista valoa - https://www.kuvauksellistavaloa.fi, edited by Mika Junttila). Other pictures by Ville Miinala