What did you lot get up to on the weekend of the 23rd, 24th and 25th of September at Tobacco docks in East London? No, it’s not a Crimewatch appeal, it’s the location of the 12th annual London Tattoo convention. Moshville was there.
If you’re interested in history, then Tobacco docks is filled with it. Back in the day, ships from all over the world brought wonders from the new worlds, such as food, materials and different languages. 23rd September 2016 not much had changed as it’s the Tattoo artists showing off their craft.
Friday the sun shines with many resting their weary feet on the steps outside. Inside is the smell of tattoo cream, the sound of the tattoo gun firing away at a possible 4.68 speed. Oh and guess what? You can get inked today, if you pre-book or arrive early and race to your chosen artist.
Lal Hardy is the first we see. The legendary tattoo artist tattooed a pal of mine a mere 15 years ago and guess what, he remembered. She also managed to get a picture with the infamous artist. He mentioned that he’ll be at the Falmouth tattoo convention in October.
Being the first day, I allow myself to get these bearings of mine settled. Strolling to different galleries and booths where the artists currently live. At the entrance a map of the site is handed out, but being a bloke I won’t look at that until I get lost. But, I did, in a secretive way, I sat down, made sure no one was looking, unfolded said map to see where I should go. It’s a bit like the New York grid system… or not.
Jump straight to it. The Fuel Girls are here every year, their dynamic stage show’s on each day at their very own stage in the middle of this Grade 1 listed building. The music stage is at the far end by the ragamuffin statue. Wille and the Bandits are the first band on today at 6:30pm. Later King Kurt and final band are the rejuvenated Raging Speedhorn to close off the Friday.
Wille and the Bandits arrive to a handful of people. They introduce themselves as the least tattooed band at a tattoo convention, one tattoo between the three. The band consist of Andrew the groove flower on percussion, Matt the six strings maestro of the bass and Wille the slide guitar vocalist. Performing for an hour giving us tracks from new album Steal and a few from my favourite album of theirs, Grow. The crowd begins to form around the stage, bobbin their tattooed heads. A great sight of a barrel chested bloke with a Desperate Dan beard walking up to the stage from behind. His chest sticks out; his beard of a strong style make. He catches the beat of the bandits which makes his stance turn to a head bouncing swagger, such a beautiful sight.
Their hour set concluded and a cheer of appreciation. Want to know more about these guys? Well we caught up with them after their gig, in the back of their van!
A few hours roaming the corridors of Tobacco Docks, checking out other wearers of ink, watching artists in their cubicles tattoo the new and the old. It’s time now time to go home. It’s been a long day… until tomorrow.
I’m back, in the loud verbal style of Randy Quaid from the Independence Day movie. I’m here once again, I’m here with a purpose to get interviews and understand the routes within this venue. It’s Saturday, it’s day two,
Snatch it Back play the voodoo bar around the 4pm slot. The place filled with rockabilly types and not so rockabilly types engrossed in these guys smashing out old school sounds. The great thing about this convention is the people wearing what they feel comfortable in. Some in Sumo nappies, some in tight leathers and wide awake shirts and some have their David Beckham hairstyles.
I find the great gallery where artists of the following appear:
Dan Smith, Tim Hendricks, Ami James, Cleo Wattenstrom, Alex Engel, Mike Rubendahl, BJ Betts and Nikko Hurtado to name a few. Alex Engel tattooed the face of Marilyn Monroe on a young lady’s forearm, it’s so realistic and still surprises me how art like this can be made to look even more beautiful on someone’s skin. There in one cubicle is Tim Hendricks tattooing. I’ve been a fan of his work for many years and guess what, all I had to do is say “Hey Tim, I’m from Moshville Times, got a few seconds” but I didn’t, I just didn’t… Dan Smith the London-born tattoo legend is here too, and guess what, I didn’t say a damn thing to him either….
Enough of my social anxieties and all that, it’s time to challenge myself and after a strong black coffee that came to the price of £2.20, I saw tattoo pin up model Elegy Ellem. I decide to ask her a few questions, to break my cycle of overthinking. On the ground floor her booth is by the Fuel Girls’ stage and by that is a DJ set blasting out mixes that get the head moving. Elegy Ellem is cool and is very happy to speak to us. Have a read of her interview. She loves Metallica and has great advice on getting your first tattoo.
I’ve been roaming the corridors like a ghost at the Tower of London for a while now, checking out so much which includes watching someone get their first. That’s right ladies and gentleman; a brave soul got his first tattoo in front of a gawping crowd… well three of us. The poor lad’s face was contorted but that, my friend, is the start to your tattoo addiction.
Meeting some artists I’ve had the privilege of being tattooed by, such as the guys at The Family Business. Jason Butcher and Lianne Moule of Immortal Ink are here as well. I see some other artists I’ve never seen before such as Nicole De Luna of Medway Tattoos. Matthew James of Bristol the same city Banksy is from… a coincidence? Also Victor Chill and John Anderton.
Three days of intense stare downs with artist designs, the tattoo gun along with whether to go and get this beard trimmed by the staff on the ground floor. Alas I didn’t. On Sunday no bands played, it was catching up on Nikko Hurtado’s backpiece. Seeing someone get Christy Mack holding two ice creams tattooed on their arm was a sight to see.
Then, while in the great gallery I spotted Sabina Kelly, in the same booth as her husband Nixx. I go over there; I try to make sure I don’t sound too much like a pre-pubescent teenager. I think I did a good job as to not sound like that. “Sabina, do you fancy answering a few questions for Moshville?”
Sabina answered “Sure why not!”
“Oh,” I say to myself, “this is now serious.” Check out the interview. Also, Sabina has one of the coolest tattoos which done by Mister Cartoon. She has Haus Wife tattooed on her knuckles. I stroll away after 6-8 minutes and feel more confident in this interviewing stuff.
Not just tattoo artists are on site. There’s painter Christopher Guest allowing us to see his creations. Joe Fenton the British artist, designer, sculptor and illustrator with his work on show. Also John Higgins and Tom Foster the 2000 AD artists with their breed of material for us to dribble over. Oh on the same note, among the section sitting at the helm is Anna Quinn – a model and cosplayer.
On Sunday we met up with 2000 AD artist Tom Foster. He is such as interesting guy to speak to, his love of art, music and finding out what music he believes Dredd would listen to made it such a pleasure to speak with him. You can read his interview here.
Spending time with the 2000 AD was an experience, but before I leave I want to get Dan Smith or Tim Hendricks. I stroll by and boom. I managed to get hold of Tim Hendricks, I ask…no let me say that again. I gurgled a couple of questions. The guy is a cool cat; he answers them honestly. This is how it went:-
What album in a rock genre can you hear all the time?
Any album man, any album by Led Zeppelin
Why do you think there is such a good collaboration between metal, rock and tattoos?
To be honest, I have no idea. I‘m not a huge metal fan, I like only a select few bands. I think metal has got too mish-mash just like hip hop – it turned in to a mash of repetitive beats and nothing new really. There are some good artists around.
I am huge Guru Fan, I like Living Legends because they have a lot of really good things to say. But if you want to go really far back, then Amnesty, do you know them? Go and check those guys out. They did one album and it’s one of the best. I think it is one of the best ever made. Check it out.
But, I like Rock n Roll, I like a little bit of everything, as long as it’s good.
I had plenty more questions to ask Tim, he would have answered them, but I couldn’t get the brain to function and I ran away to a corner somewhere and proceeded to get into the foetal position.
I got over it; I had another coffee and a cheeseburger. So three days spent at this grade 1 listed building built in the 1811 to be a warehouse for tobacco and the past few says has been a home to some of the finest artists the world has to see.
Next year will be the 13th annual London Tattoo Convention… does that mean it will get its “13” tattoo?
All photos by Amy Harris-Abbott of CE Photography