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julienkidam introJulien Kidam is vocalist and songwriter of French Electro Industrial Metal band CHEMICAL SWEET KID and during the last year the band was very productive. On 11 June, the single ‘Lockdown’ was released together with AESTHETIC PERFECTION and on the 2 October the single ‘Pass Auf!’ was released. We have planned the interview with Julien already last year, but it was postponed each time because of Covid-19. Our original plan was to meet during the PROJECT PITCHFORK German tour where CHEMICAL SWEET KID was planned to be special guest. But we needed to adapt our planes to new reality…

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?
Julien: I did my first tattoo when I was 16. It was a tribal dragon on my scapula and it has been covered up since then. It didn’t take much time until I decided to get it done because I wanted to get tattooed since a long time but I was way too young. It took much longer for my second tattoo. I did it something like 10 years after. That was two faces in a biomechanical style inside my biceps.

RoD: How many tattoos do you have? Could you please tell us their story?
Julien: I didn’t know how many tattoos I had until you asked. I just counted them for you and I have 17, located on my back, my low stomach, my ribs, my arms and my legs. After my first tattoo, I was interested in the biomechanical style and more specifically Giger’s dark universe. I began with one inside my biceps, like I said before, to continue with a bigger piece going from my scapula to my ribs and covering the tribal dragon. It’s hard to express something with pure biomechanical design, that’s why I slowly went to some more realistic style with symbols like an hourglass, a coloured skull when I discovered Tofi’s style, a sad clown, an owl… Just like in my music, darkness, destiny, speed and flying of time are some of my favourite themes.

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Each of my tattoo is related to a thought, a feeling or a way of thinking. For example, I recently get tattooed a scene from ‘The Crow’. This movie means a lot to me. I saw it when I was 13 years old and something really happened. I was touched by the story and mainly all the universe inside the movie. The starting point of my attraction to dark things. Not to mention the wonderful OST. On my left forearm, I have a puppet manipulated by a hand, a butterfly with a broken wing on my right arm, a chess piece with three heads on my right forearm. These are strong and meaningful symbols to me.

RoD: Have you already got all the tattoos that you wanted or will you get some new ones in the future?
Julien: No, I still have a few appointments for this year. Mainly for my back.

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?
Julien: My tattoos have been done by different tattoo artists. Most of them by Jack Ribeiro and Tofi. Jack is a well-known tattoo artist who had a shop in my hometown, so it was very easy for me to choose him. Tofi is from Poland and well known for his surrealistic work. Most of my other tattoos were made during conventions. I chose the artists by looking at their work on the convention website. That’s how I discovered Dr Pepper’s work who did the puppet on my arm and the nailed heart on my ribs. Word to mouth is also a good way to choose or discover tattoo artists. That was the case with Mathieu Varga who recently did a sad clown on my calf.

RoD: Getting tattooed hurts, how do you cope with the pain during the sessions?
Julien: All my tattoos were made in one session. From 3h to 7h30. I can stay without feeling too much pain during four hours. Then, it starts to hurt a little bit more and I try to focus on something else or doing some breathing things. I’m doing a lot of sports like Muay Thaï, CrossFit… and I like to push my limits so I guess it helps.

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RoD: Do you regret getting tattooed sometimes?
Julien:I had two removal laser sessions to cover up some tattoos. No big surprise, on my first one, the tribal dragon on my scapula. Tribal tattoos were a thing in the 90s, but they’re kind of outdated nowadays… The second was a Mexican skull on my forearm that I did when I was on tour in Mexico. I decided to remove them because I wanted some bigger pieces and I couldn’t find a way to include them.

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?
Julien: Everyone is free to do whatever they want but I will never get tattooed the name of a girlfriend or political things. You will probably change your girlfriend one day and you can change your way of thinking but tattoos will remain. All the rest is just a matter of taste.

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?
Julien: I can’t stop. My wife is becoming crazy with that cause I have two or three new tattoos per year. I can say I’m addicted. I can’t explain why but I like to have new pieces of art on my skin, suffering to make them mine. It works like a therapy for me. Talking with other tattooed people, the main reason they stopped is because they couldn’t handle the pain anymore which is not my case for the moment.

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?
Julien: I’m feeling sad about this. When I started, it was a very underground thing and this is why I liked it. You came with an idea, talked with the tattoo artist and worked on the sketch with him. Then, you took a few days to think about it before getting tattooed for good. More than a tattoo, it was a collaboration and an exchange. Maybe not with all of them but that it was I experienced for my first tattoos. Now, that it has become a new trend, tattoo artists don’t take time anymore and I feel it’s becoming more like assembly line production than working with heart and passion. Nowadays, most of tattoo artists just consider customers as a support to put their art on and win the 1st place at the tattoo convention’s contest. Like in every kind of art, some artists are just becoming divas when they get recognition and think their art is better than any other’s. Not all of them of course but I had this experience in a tattoo convention in Paris where the tattoo artist didn’t even want to change a few things in the design. Come on, it will be on my skin forever so the choice is mine, not yours!

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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?
Julien: It depends of the country. I feel that in France, if you get visible tattoos like on the neck or hands, it’s still difficult to get accepted for what people see as a good, respectable and “serious” job. Just like if people were judging you because of your tattoos. But in Germany it seems to be different.

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?
Julien: Think a lot about the design, talk with the tattoo artist, ask him if the design fits the part of your body. More than being talented artists, they also know how and where to place the design to give the best effect with the shape of the part of your body. Important thing to be considered! I’m more into black and grey because it ages better over time but that’s just a matter of taste. No white because it will become brown under the sun or just fade away in the best case. I experienced that… Last advices but definitively not least: sleep well, eat something before the session begins and above all, don’t party the day before your tattoo session. It will just make it more painful and unbearable. Experienced that too…!

Project by Daria Tessa and Daniela Vorndran, Interview by Daria Tessa
Pictures by Julien Kidam