“Jackanese” Tattoo Master. There are plenty of tattooists that tattoo Japanese Motifs and then there is Jack Mosher. Jack has more than put his own stamp on the often copied but rarely bettered Japanese iconography.
Jack aka Horimouja, has carved a unique career for himself by not following the herd and is proud of his individuality; not only in his tattoos but as well as his outlook on life. Jack is a prestigious producer of books on Japanese motifs and plaal. All of His book can be found at www.gominekobooks.com For a complete understanding and passion for Japanese mythology and motifs as well as making his tattoos just that little bit different frons to be the world’s most published tattooist and so far he is well on his way to achieving his gom everyone else, you needn’t go any further than the tantalising tattoos of Horimuja - Jack Mosher
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was actuaas a really bad reputation; in fact it’s considered one of the most violent towns in America per capita. Itlly born in Florida but grew up in Michigan in a town called Saginaw. As a town, Saginaw h was not a nice place!
What were your interests, passions and inspirations during your teenage years?
I would say that my passions at that time were drawing and martial arts. My father was a teacher of Karate and Judo at the university, so my interest in those sports was initiated at an early age. As far as inspiration goes, I would say my main influence was Frank Frazzetta. One of my dad’s friends gave me a book by him when I was little and from that day on, I was hooked. Now I go out to visit the Frazzetta Museum each year.
When we met at the London Convention, you mentioned that you had been in the Marines and that you had taught Martial Arts. Tell us a bit more about that period of your life.
When I was seventeen and just out of school, I joined the Marines, (infantry). Looking back, it was one of the best and worst things I ever did. Ha. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself, so I joined in order to give myself time to think more carefully about my future. In many ways it was a great place to be. I think they should make it compulsory for everyone to join, for at least one year, and then maybe we could straighten this country out. Having been involved with Martial Arts since early childhood, I already knew most of what they were teaching, but it was still a lot of fun.
At what stage of your life did you first become interested in tattoos?
I’ve had an interest in tattoos for as long as I can remember, probably due to the fact that my father had a few, small, handmade ones, nothing fancy. It was when I was in the Marines that I actually got my first tattoo. One day, after boot camp, I had a friend of mine do it; it was awful and has long since been covered! From that time on, I started getting tattooed on a pretty regular basis.
What was it that made you decide that you wanted to be a tattooist? How did you find your way into the industry and did you undertake a formal apprenticeship, or are you self-taught?
After I left the Marines, I was doing bodyguard and high-end security work, but also used to draw for a local tattoo studio. The guy who owned the place wasn’t the greatest artist in the world, so he had asked me if I would draw for him in exchange for tattoos, which at the time seemed like a pretty good deal. So I said, “Hell yes!” After a while, however, I started thinking, ‘Man, I could do that. Why not do my own drawings and tattoo them on people?’ I was sure I could do a better job than the guy I was working for. So after a couple of years, when I thought the time was right, I asked the guy for an apprenticeship. Wow, what a crash course I had! After only two months, I was set out to raise havoc on poor customers. I love the guy for getting me started, but he was a really bad tattooist. Invariably I tell people that I am self-taught. What I mean by that is that I had a very basic training but after that I set out to study on my own, decided to travel, meet other tattooists and generally ask questions. Nobody is completely self-taught. You don’t just wake up one day and say, “Wow, I want to start tattooing”, then just go out, buy your gear and get going. You really do have to watch and ask, that’s the way you learn.
Since your early days in the industry, how have your style and technique evolved?
In many ways, since I started out, my style had changed drastically. The first tattoo convention that I went to was held in Detroit in 1996 and it was there that I met Hanky Panky. He asked me if I wanted to go to his tattoo convention in Amsterdam and as I had only been tattooing for about a year, I was pretty freaked out at the prospect, but excited at the same time. So I went, and that was probably the best thing I ever did! Whilst at the convention, I saw a guy who was covered from head to toe in tribal designs, real tribal, and I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen. This was so inspirational to me and from that moment on, I dedicated everything to studying and perfecting that style.
So how would you define the work that you do?
In many ways the work that I do now is just a face-lift to the traditional Japanese motifs. People call it, “Jackanese”, and I kinda like that. My style is not traditional Japanese, but the theories, stories and superstitions are! I try to do my best to keep things accurate as that is very important to me. Sometimes, however, customers don’t like the traditional Japanese style, they don’t understand its simplicity, but when I show them my work, my Japanese style, they often understand it a little better because it has a comic book element and that’s something they can relate to, so this way, we both win.
Is there a typical Jack Mosher tattoo or a typical Jack Mosher client?
I don’t really have a favourite motif, but I do like creating images that you don’t normally see. The only problem is that the general public are often not very well educated in terms of Japanese motifs and so they tend to get the same images over and over again. My favourite client would be someone who comes in a little prepared, with an idea of what they would like me to do for them. I don’t really like it when they come in and say I can do “whatever”. Man, that could cover a whole lot of crazy things! So when a client has some kind of direction, that’s great, if they then let me do my thing and trust in my judgment, that tends to work out best.
What makes your work different to that of other tattooists?
I guess that would be my own particular style. By that I mean the way I combine old with new, rather than trying to tweak an old image by merely applying a few little ‘bells and whistles’. I don’t mean that in any bad way and definitely don’t intend to offend anyone by making that statement. I can appreciate that style too, but nowadays there are so many good tattooists out there that it has become hard to stand out, so that is why I have developed my ‘Jackanese’ style. I am just trying to let people see that there are other options rather than just picking the same old image.
Tell us about your own tattoos. Do they have any special significance or were they chosen purely for their aesthetic appeal?
Most of the tattoos on my own body have no real meaning to me, though there are a couple that do, but for the most part, I got them purely for the look. In some ways I’m jealous of the young kids who have all these kickass tattoos, it makes me wish I could start over. I never regret being totally tattooed, but I would love to have one whole Japanese style body suit.
Are there any other tattooists from whom you would like to get work? If so, who are they and why?
Unfortunately I only have a couple of little spots left, and a whole list of artists who I would like to get work from, that sucks! There is a place that I am saving for Horiyasu Sensai. I will be getting that in spring 2009, when I go visit, that’s very exciting.
You are rapidly covering your skin with incredible ink. How will you feel when you have no space for new work?
By the end of this year, I will be pretty much covered. I don’t plan on doing any more on my head or face at the moment, but maybe when I’m really old I will get some more on my face, just to scare all of the town folk. It will be nice to finally be done, it seems that the older I get, the more painful they become. Getting the tattoo is okay, but healing them, man I hate that. The older I become, the less I enjoy being uncomfortable. I think a lot of you out there can probably relate to that. But like I said before, if I could do things over, I would have a Japanese-style body suit.
In my opinion, you have an incredible look, but for some people you may appear a little extreme. What kind of reactions do you generally get from the public, and how do you feel about those reactions?
It has to be said that the way I look does tend to freak a lot of people out, but I don’t normally have any problems. The people in my town are used to seeing me. I can say though, that when I ride my motorcycle in the summer, with all of my tatts showing, that does turn a lot of heads. If I go to the beach, it tends to feel as though I am on show, so I tend to stay away from there. I’ve travelled all over the world and the places where things seemed worst for me were Mongolia and China. Man, those people just completely freaked out! In Mongolia, people thought I was a bad spirit, and in China, I just scared them. I think that the reason I don’t generally have too many problems in public is due to the way I carry myself. If you give off a positive attitude, you usually get it back. In my studio, for example, I don’t let my guys come in to work looking too rough, they have to be shaved and dressed in a decent manner; I don’t even want them to wear shorts. The general public often perceive tattooed people as being party animals who don’t know how to behave, so for me, I feel that I must be an ambassador for the tattooed community. When people have met me, I want them to walk away thinking that tattooed people aren’t actually so bad. Just holding a door open for somebody can make a huge difference.
How do you feel about the fact that the tattoo scene has become almost mainstream during the last few years?
Tattoos becoming mainstream doesn’t bother me at all; it was always going to happen at some point. The thing I do like about it is that it has encouraged more artists to become involved, so it has inadvertently raised the standards. I know a lot of you may not like to hear it but our industry has now got a lot of bad ass tattooers, not like in the old days, when there were only a handful. Nowadays, you have to be on top of your game. I love that. It’s like with my books; a lot of people ask me if I’m upset that there are so many others out there making sketch books. Hell no, I think it’s great, it’s stops me from being lazy. To progress is human nature, so you either have to move forward or be left behind. This doesn’t automatically mean that you have to do what everyone else does, but you should still move forward.
We met at last year’s London Convention. Do you work many conventions and what did you think of London?
I do tend to work a lot of conventions, mainly in Europe, as I like them better than the American ones. 2008 was my first year attending the London Convention; man, there were a lot of great artists there, I just wish I had more time to visit them.
Looking to the future, how would you like your career to progress?
Wow, my future! Well, I would like to see my work become better and more refined. I want to start focusing on my art a little more and I have a lot of book projects in the making. I don’t have any children so I have to leave something positive behind when I’m gone. Books are forever!
Aside from tattooing, what other hobbies or interests do you enjoy? What do you do to chill out?
I like to relax by riding my motorcycles or hanging out with my little dogs. I like little dogs as I’ve always said that I don’t want a pet that I can’t take in a fight, just in case they go crazy. Watching movies is a big thing for me also and I love to study, draw and read. I’m great at multi-tasking.
Are there any other ambitions that you would like to fulfil?
Let’s see. Ambitions, before I die I want to have the most books published by any one artist. I want to be able to look back at my life and be able to say that I lived it to the MAX! I don’t want to say I should have done this or that; I just want to have experienced it for real.
How would you like to be remembered?
Many people would like to say that they don’t care what others think of them. That’s probably true to some extent, but what you leave behind does matter. I want to be remembered as a good example of a human being, artist and tattooist. I want to be a positive influence on the future. I know that sounds a little deep, but there is no better way to describe how I feel. I try to surround myself with positive people, people who want to move forward, and I like to help and teach people who also want this. One of the greatest feelings comes when you have taught and helped another human being to become a better person.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
I would like to say that all I have done and achieved over the last eleven years has been a lot to do with my wife, Monika. She has always given it to me straight from the hip and always backed me up when I needed it. She has made a lot of things possible for me and with her support I have been able to concentrate on my work, so I just want to say thanks to her. In December ‘08 I worked at Kat Von D’s studio, High Voltage Tattoo, and yes, I will be getting a MySpace page, finally! Okay, take care and hit the ground running! Ciao!