Intro | Right Arm | Left Arm |
Extending Sleeves | Chest
"Show me a man with a tattoo and I'll show you a man with an interesting past"
Jack London, 1883
was first introduced to tattoos as a boy through bubble-gums purchased
from the local shop with my pocket money. I would ensure I had lots of
the little sweet treats included in my 'mixed bag of lollies' before
heading home on my push-bike. To the bathroom basin I would head, to
get the flannel face-washer – an essential tool for tattoo application.
I would decide where I wanted the back-the-front looking design and put
the little piece of paper on my skin, carefully following the 4-step
instructions. The damp flannel would then be pressed against the paper
while I counted and soon took little peeks underneath to see if it was
ready. Once confident, all would be removed and revealed. I would look
at the colourful little design in the mirror (now back-the-front again)
thinking that it looked good on me. It would then be time to go and
kick the football outside again, burning off energy from the lollies.
of my family had tattoos and there were really none around me to check
out up-close as I grew up. They were viewed as the domain of rough and
shady characters; perhaps this added to my intrigue of them. As a
rock'n'roll loving teenager, I was always looking at pictures of my
favourite bands and enjoyed checking out any tattoos they had. The
general rule was: the harder the band rocked, the more tattoos they
had. As I took hold of my independence and became of legal age to get a
tattoo, I thought for a long time about what design I would get. I
didn't really know what I wanted, but I knew I just wanted one. I was
keen to emulate my favourite rockers in as many ways I could.
befriended a bikie chick that worked at the local photo store on the
corner of my street. When I picked up my photos of bands and friends
from being developed, Cassandra would comment on them and we'd talk a
little rock'n'roll. She had a few tatts including one inside her bottom
lip. Her business card was a picture of a pistol with a big headline
"Cassandra Shoots Photos" – so we hired her to shoot us on our wedding
day! She even drove us there in her old blue Jaguar, swerving madly
across lanes; weaving in and out of traffic since we were running late.
I mentioned to Cassandra that I wanted to get a tattoo, she told me to
go and see AJ (Adrian Jarrett). I did… and (between you and me) he
scared the shit out of me! He was a large bikie dude who often wore a
huge gold bone through his nose with a ruby in the end of it. His head
was shaved into a Mohawk and not only did he have full sleeves and
tatts on the sides of his head, his face was heavily tattooed as well.
When I walked into his shop, he greeted me with, "What the fuck do you
want?" I had never walked into a tattoo shop before. Going in to sort
out your first tattoo is scary enough, but I guess I knew no different
and assumed all tattoo studios were like this. I told him that
Cassandra told me to come and see him as I'm ready to get my first
tatt. His demeanour changed in an instant and I was now welcome. As I
waited to discuss my design with him, I soaked up the smells and
buzzing noise of the studio, while looking at the flash designs on the
That's AJ in the middle
I took AJ a picture of Taime Downe – the lead singer from Faster Pussycat.
I showed him a close-up of his tattoo of a nurse's bust with ample
cleavage showing through her jacket, capped off with a nurse's hat and
a cigarette in her hand. I told him that was the kind of design I
wanted on my arm and he said to come back some days later once he had a
chance to draw it up. When I retuned and viewed the design, I liked
it... but I wasn't sold on it. Something wasn't right about it – she
wasn't as pretty and sexy as the one on Taime and it made me nervous
that once inked, she may look ugly. AJ and I talked about it and
decided to: change it to a skeleton instead of a chick, make the jacket
into a classic leather jacket, switch the nurse's hat to a top hat likeSlash
(from Guns N' Roses) and change the cigarette to a whip as I was
retiring my Marlboro habit. Plus, Faster Pussycat had a great song
called Where There's A Whip There's a Way. That summed this day up for me.
a month after our wedding, I turned 21. Another month later, and
appropriately just days before Halloween in 1990, I sat in the chair
for four hours and got my first tattoo on the outside of my upper-right
arm: a black, white and grey skeleton design that oozed hard rock to
me. I loved it – my parents hated it... always did, but I didn't care.
It was my body and I was adorning it how I wanted to. It was a
well-spent $400 in my opinion.
wasn't too much longer before I discovered the truth in the saying that
"tattoos are like potato chips: you can't just stop at one" as I began
to formulate my next tattoo ideas. I liked the horror theme and wanted
to build upon it and continue on my right arm. Again I looked at
pictures of my favourite rockers and to me, no one rocked harder or
cooler than Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue.
He had sleeved out recently, so there were plenty of design ideas and
inspiration to help me develop a piece that could become mine. I wanted
to also add a touch of colour this time and decided a purple moon with
bats set above and behind my skeleton would be awesome. Nikki had a
great moon and bat design and I took a large picture of it to AJ.
Before long I was in the chair again and my skin's artwork had its
first addition. It took one-and-a-half hours and cost $150.
was then a few years later that I felt the itch again and started to
think about getting more ink. I wanted to turn my existing pieces into
a short-sleeve. Talking with AJ, he thought the horror theme should
continue to fit in with the existing design and I certainly agreed with
him, wanting more dark and macabre images. He showed me a couple of
large pieces of skull flash by the famous Paul Booth in New York. I
liked them and we began planning the number of sessions and hours
probably required to ink them in a greyscale form, plus the rest of the
filler required for the short-sleeve.
of the pieces was a vicious wolf skull. The wolf tied in to my art as a
creature of the night to fit with the existing moon and bats (and
representing my own nocturnal habits). The wolf is also a powerful
spiritual character often symbolising ferocity, darkness, stealth and
even demonic possession. But instead of howling at the moon, mine looks
more evil as it is in skeletal form, angrily baring its teeth. The
placement of this piece on the rear of my arm is symbolic as a
protective gesture to ward off any would-be attackers from behind.
other piece placed on the front of my bicep was also a Paul Booth
designed skull. This skull is a bit abstract due to the odd perspective
of which the piece of art is presented. One of its eyeballs has fallen
out along the way and it is poking its tongue out in a creepy way, so
whilst it still reeks of evil, it was like no other skull design I'd
October 6, 1995 I had the outlines completed of both these large skull
pieces. As filler to the sleeve, a melting face amongst some licks of
hellish flames was hand-drawn with a pen before being inked over. The 2
hour session finished at 5pm with me handing over $200.
three months later in January 1996, my next 3 hour session also
finished at 5pm after having all of the black ink work completed on the
two skull designs. Another $300 well-spent I thought, as my short
sleeve was really starting to take shape now.
commitments made it hard to for me allocate further money to the arm
for some time, so it wasn't until November 11 that year that I was able
to get back in the chair again. AJ commenced the session at 2:30pm that
Monday afternoon and it took 2.75 hours to ink the grey and white of
the bicep skull and wolf skull. As I paid my $250, I looked in the
mirror thinking how it's odd that the ink goes in brown yet heals to be
grey. I was really happy with the pieces and liked their demeanour as I
got used to them being a part of me once healed.
performed his last work on me on February 9, 1998. I had a gap between
my two large skulls running up the inside of my arm that I wanted
filled with something complimentary. It had been bugging me for a
little while so I decided it best to extend the melting faces in
flames. These new flames and the previous ones were coloured with
bright orange and yellow ink – my eternal flame.
out the outside top of my sleeve, I also had a red and black skyline
with stars placed in behind the moon and bats (which were also
re-coloured). The specific star design was mimicked from some that
Nikki Sixx has on his shoulder blade. Fittingly, these eight-point
stars are said to represent completeness. This session took 3.5 hours
and cost $350. Finally, my half-sleeve was finished on my right arm
after 16.75 hours under AJ's tattoo gun for a total sum of $1650.
time, I began to feel somewhat lop-sided having just my left arm inked.
Furthermore, the darkness (both design-wise and colour-wise) of the
half-sleeve tattoo was weighing me down on my right side. I am a Libran
and looking back now, this was probably one of the first times in life
that I was truly becoming very aware of ‘balance in life'. I realised I
needed to add ink to my other arm to straighten me up (if nothing else
it's a good justification right?) Giving thought to a new design for my
left arm, I felt that I also needed to balance out the death and horror
with art of life and beauty.
was again singing in a band at this time and Paul Stanley of Kiss had
been my favourite singer for many years; his small rose design has
always held some appeal to me. I again took further inspiration from
Nikki Sixx, whose first tattoo was a black rose on his blank upper-arm.
Roses are my favourite flower and decided I would have one of my own
that would never wilt. Purple petals were chosen for a few reasons: 1)
it has always been a favourite colour of mine, 2) it would give me more
balance with its even positioning in alignment with the purple moon on
my opposite arm, and 3) a purple rose was also the design featured on
the cover of my band's first CD release. I was looking for something
beautiful and purple is a very majestic and opulent colour. There's no
greater sign of pure love and beauty than a rose; it is the ultimate
floral symbol. It all felt right.
felt the style of the dark and aggressive AJ was not the man to do this
work; I was now keen to experience other studios and artists. An old
friend of mine from the punk days – Dave Llewellyn – had served an
apprenticeship and was now in my city (Perth, Western Australia)
tattooing, having returned from working in Hong Kong. (Dave was also in
the crowd the night I sang at my first gig) We hooked up and hit it off
well again, sharing interest in music and tattoos. I talked with Dave
about the type of rose I wanted and he inked it for me on October 15,
1999 for just $250 in a sitting from 12-4:30pm.
Dave was working out of The Tatt Shop on James Street in Perth; the shop also became a sponsor of my band SkinInc.
We even recorded the sound of Dave's tattoo gun as he pushed ink, using
it at the start of our song Seven Needle Scratch; a song I wrote about
tattoos as I was enjoying their beauty and reflecting on their
Seven Needle Scratch by SkinInc. Lyrics by Paul Miles: Now
I need the sound of you shaking so fast, I don't think I can last. Come
flash me your art, custom-made designs. Set me up another of your sweet
fine lines. C'mon and catch the seven needle scratch. Buzzing in my
head, you really make me ache. My love for you is real, never fake. You
made the choice, now shave away. But etch me forever ‘cause you're here
to stay. C'mon and catch the seven needle scratch. You are what I need,
you make me bleed. C'mon and catch the seven needle scratch.
Japanese tattoo art really started catching my eye as I explored tattoo
ideas and styles. Wanting to continue work on my left arm, I discussed
designs that would fit with my rose, and round out my shoulder in the
same way as my other arm for balance. Continuing the flower theme, Dave
showed me a design of a Chrysanthemum flower being blown by the wind –
perfect! Chryssies are symbolic of cheerfulness and optimism; traits
that certainly fit with my persona. In Japanese culture, they are
considered to be a noble flower, which also ties in perfectly with the
majesty of my purple rose underneath.
traditional Japanese black and grey swirls of the wind blowing the
orange and yellow petals of the flower made an interesting visual piece
of body art to me. There are also some cherry blossoms in the design
and you can see the petals being swept by the sumie wind. This was all
done in the one six-hour session on November 11, 2000 from 11am for
$500. It remains my longest session in the chair to date (we did yak a
lot in between though).
was loving the beauty of the traditional Japanese theme and wanted to
complete this other short-sleeve with Dave as soon as possible; however
I was moving across Australia to reside in Melbourne in six weeks'
time. I knew it can be difficult to find an artist willing to work into
another artist's design, so Dave suggested I look up an artist that he
once worked for, trusting he would be happy to continue with Dave's
great work to date.
the relocation to Melbourne, I found the referred André Cleary in his
Highline Tattoo studio in St. Kilda and introduced myself, telling him
that I was a friend of Dave. He was willing to contribute further to my
sleeve and was impressed at how far Dave's work had come along. Design
decision time again, but this time I was clear on what I wanted and
again had sample Motley Crue pictures and material to provide.
Lee's orange Koi fish on his left arm had always impressed on me and
now I had a space on my left arm that was screaming out for a
traditional Japanese design – it was an easy decision. I told André that I wanted the water splashes around the fish to be in the same
style as in this picture of Nikki Sixx's arm, pointing to another
colour picture in my hand. I liked the Koi's symbolism of perseverance
in the face of adversity and strength of character. The addition of a
water tattoo would become my third of the four principal elements of
the Universe, to go with my wind and fire already tattooed.
further large Japanese design was needed to complete the work and after
looking at a scroll with Japanese kanji characters next to Tommy Lee's
carp, I decided I also wanted a scroll with some Japanese characters.
It seemed appropriate that the characters would spell out Motley Crue,
so I looked for the Japanese katakana representation and double-checked
the characters said what I needed them to. I took in an obi strip from
a Japanese version of a Motley Crue CD from my collection and André drew it all up. It looked great. I had wanted a Motley Crue tattoo for
some time but needed it to be something unique and somewhat
unobtrusive. This was the perfect choice I thought.
began my first session with André on August 17, 2001 at 5pm to complete
the half-sleeve on my left arm. I paid him $420 at the end of the
four-and-a-half hour session after he inked the entire carp, plus the
outline of the waves, cherry blossoms and Motley scroll. The bright
colours of the Koi were awesome and I was particularly struck by how
beautiful the fish's face is – I still love that!
a good healing period, I went back on October 6. André got to work at
12 noon by colouring the waves around the Koi. When it came time to
colour the additional cherry blossoms, he asked what colour I would
prefer them to be. My daughter's absolute favourite colour was pink, so
that was my colour of choice for her. He then completed the Motley
scroll and the fill of green bubbles around it at 3:30pm and I passed
over $330 to him.
completed my left short-sleeve of tatts in a total of 18.5 hours for a
total of $1500. With a comfortable length sleeve on each arm now, I
felt my body art gave me the balance I was missing before.
few years later, I got to hang with Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee of Motley
Crue, two sources of design inspiration for my own tatts. Less than a
minute after meeting Tommy for the first time, his eyes kept glancing
down at the Koi on my arm, until he interrupted our conversation and
said, "That's a nice carp."
with Nikki in 2004, conversation moved to tattoos and I showed him the
stars on my arm asking if he recognised them. He immediately said they
were the same as the ones on his back. I nodded and showed him my
scroll and asked if he knew what the Japanese writing said. When he
didn't, I told him it says, "Dim Sims - 20 cents each!" As we laughed,
I told him it really says "Motley Crue." He totally dug it.
On 15 August
2007, I was walking past Ricky Tattoo Studio in Wanchai, Hong Kong when I
decided to get a souvenir of my first time in Asia. When Hong Kong was
returned from the British rule to China in 1997, the new regional flag of
Hong Kong was hoisted. The bright red flag features a centrepiece flower
from the Hong Kong Orchid Tree. The actual flowers
are bright pinkish-purple, not white as on the flag, but I decided to get
my petals coloured red like the flag. The small flower tattoo is on the
back of my upper-left arm and ties in with my existing Japanese cherry
blossoms. The studio owner Ricky inked it for me in about 20 minutes. I
gave him HK$470, which was about $70 Australian for my memento.
itch for more ink again, I decided to get more tattoos on my arms and
start extending my half-sleeves down. This
time I visited André Cleary at his Taboo Tattoo
studio in the Melbourne suburb of Boronia on 6 March 2008. Here he spent
two-and-a-half hours from 2pm inking some thick, black five-point stars
around both my elbows. The stars are upside-down, which I've always
preferred as it looks more rock'n'roll to me. I've previously used
upside-down stars on the artwork for my
band's album, and my business card also has two of them on it.
(They're also used for the background design on this website.) I was
really pleased with the work and happy to hand over $350 to him at the end
of the session.
later at the end of a three-month stay in New York City, I decided on what
design I wanted to wear forever as a souvenir of my memories collected in
the city during that time visiting. On 26 March 2011, I visited Fun City Tattoo on
St. Mark's Place (located in the building next to the one adorning Led
Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti album cover from 1975 – Keith and Mick
also walk past the tattoo shop two minutes into the
video for Waiting on a Friend by the Rolling Stones back in
1981.) Steve Vonriepen inked the old school-style initials of NYC between
the upper-most points of the star on my right elbow. An hour later and
$120 lighter, I was a happy man. I fell in love with the city and
relocated my life there a few months later.
I went to
the acclaimed NY
Adorned studio in New York City on 6 October 2012 where Damion Ross tattooed a
greyscale feather quill on my outer right forearm. The hour-session wound
up at 7pm and
cost $300 for the high quality work. I got this tattoo the same month as
my Sex Tips From Rock Stars book was released in Portuguese across
South America, so to me it not only represents my writing and being a published author, but the spirit of creative
February 2013, I headed back to NY Adorned where Bart Bingham spent 2
hours from 4:30pm tattooing my next piece on my inside right forearm.
Taking the head of a classic Sailor Jerry pinup beauty, he customised it
to give a resemblance to my wife. A red love heart was then incorporated
into this old-school, traditional piece with a banner across the
heart saying infinity. I was happy to hand
over $300 for this art that reminds me of the thirty years we spent together.
26 November 2013, I returned to Manhattan’s NY Adorned studio where
Bart Bingham tattooed my chest with two classic Sailor Jerry style
swallows, carrying a “Rock & Roll” banner where the ampersand is
replaced by a large, true G-clef music symbol as the design's
centrepiece. Swallows were traditionally worn by sailors once they were
very experienced, so my placement symbolises how my life has come a
long way with the help of rock’n’roll. Swallows were also a good luck
symbol for the sailor to return home safely, and rock’n’roll has
certainly helped safely guide my life’s journey of ups and downs – this
music has always got me through; it means so much to me and forever
will. After paying $450 for the 2.5-hour session, I left the studio at
9:30pm a tender but happy man.
have 44.75 hours of work on me for a total investment of $4740. Will I get
more tattoos? For sure! I often have ideas of new designs that will run
through my head. I tend to let the ideas marinate a lot longer these days.
Photographer | Author | DJ
Production | Rockstars | Singer | Story So Far | Tattoos
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