The great thing about the London tattoo Convention is you get to watch top artists at work, and we managed to get a few words with one of my favourites. The owner and artists of Immortal Ink, Jason Butcher.
Hi Jason – first question is. What made you get into tattooing?
Oh…what a tough question that is…when I first saw tattoos I just loved it, I have no idea why, but there is something about it. I loved it, but the artwork of the time wasn’t really what I was in to. Then I left it alone for a while. By chance I saw a couple of magazines with some people’s work of the time; the early nineties, like Paul Booth and saw what they were doing and I thought it can be art like that…and that is when I said “I’m in”. Seeing their work of that style made me realise everything is possible.
What were you doing before you decided to become a tattooist?
Oh God…just anything; a lot of nonsense jobs. I actually thought I just didn’t like work, I thought I was one of that group. I’ve got to do this shit for the rest of my life, this is boring.
First tattoo you had done on yourself?
It’s a cobra on my arm with a love heart and “Mum” in the scroll. I remember the guy put the scroll on it and I didn’t even know what it was for. He asked, do you want a name in the scroll? I said “No”. I had no idea that the scroll is to have a name in it. He said, “What about a girlfriend’s name?” I said, “Err, no”. My mate who was with me just said “What about ‘Mum'”? I said, “Yeah, whatever”. Obviously since then my mum has seen it and I did really do it for her, which is what I told my mum.
What was the first tattoo you did on someone?
Wow…I did a love heart on my brother’s leg which had his girlfriend’s name on it. This was twenty-three years ago…and they are still together. The tattoo is still there on him, but you can’t read the name.
When did you open your own shop?
I opened a shop November 1999. I worked in the odd place here and there before that, but I’m self-taught…a scratcher. We opened in South Woodham Ferriers, Essex. I loved it there. We had ten years there. It just came time to move, we had outgrown it a bit, we needed a bigger space. So, we got the place in Chelmsford. I loved that shop, we had a lot of good memories there.
So a little about music. First band that you felt a connection with?
Wow. I’m not sure what the first band was…but the first thing that got me interested in anything music was seeing a punk. I saw a punk when I was very young and I liked what he was wearing, liked what punks were doing, it was another level. All my mates were into the mod scene. Which was cool, but it felt like it was what my parent’s generation were into. But then, there was hip hop, mid-eighties electro hip hop, I just like things that feel like they are brand new, that style of hip hop, and when I saw those punks – it gave me that. It was exciting, and I just stood there thinking, what is this? This is amazing. Any of those movements like hip hop and punk had that fresh feel and newness and I wanted to be part of that. It’s the same as tattooing, there’s a connection, it’s changed over the years with different people tattooing but I like to think there’s still that punk element to tattooing. We don’t want to lose that do we really, kind of being outsiders.
s there a record you can play and never get tired of?
The Specials, Anything by those guys. From being 10/11, I loved their music and still do.
If you had to tattoo a lyric on you…what lyric would it be?
I don’t know what the exact lyric would be but, you know what, the thing that inspires me when I listen to music, is I want my art to feel like that music feels. It’s hard to figure out how you get that feeling from it, but, I like Bob Dylan’s music and I think my tattoos are bit like that sometimes. Yeah, a Bob Dylan lyric. Music has changed these days, you don’t really hear a story in music any more. I wonder if that will ever comeback, probably all goes in cycles.
What advice would you give someone who is going to get their first tattoo?
Research your artist. Look around, don’t make the mistake of going into your local one and going for anything, we’ve all done it, research your artist.
I’ve always believed that the number 13 is a number special to tattooists, what does it mean to you?
Doesn’t mean anything to me. There’s loads of stuff like that. It could mean something to some people, but I didn’t get the memo.