Privately educated, British born, Russell Mitchell, is the owner and CEO of the abundantly successful Exile Cycles, which is based in North Hollywood. Russell’s high profile, bleach blonde Mohawk, and heavily tattooed persona make him distinctive in the dog eat dog custom motorcycle industry.
Russell got his first, and only tattoo, at the age of twenty-one. He had always promised himself that he would get some ink as soon as he moved away from the family home. He shacked up with his then fiancée Tracy, but somehow Russell’s parents got wind of the tattoo idea; which resulted in a call from his mother threatening him, that his father would cut him out of the will. Russell’s blood was boiling, there was no way he was going to be talked to like that, so with any final doubts blown away, he jumped on his motorcycle and rode over to Breeds Tattoo studio in Exeter, where he was inked by Paul. Russell’s tattoo consisted of an eagle holding a banner, which read England, flanked with two crossed flags, a Union Jack and a Saint George Cross. Russell was extremely pleased with the inheritance-busting tattoo that was placed on his left shoulder, and still thinks of it fondly to this day, some twenty odd years later.
Right from the start, Russell knew that he wanted more ink, but he also knew, what an obsessive, perfectionist, personality he is blessed/cursed with. He therefore decided to wait until he could afford to have precisely what he desired. The body suit was started exactly five years ago in 2000. Russell wanted something bold, big and timeless, which lead him to choose traditional Japanese style artwork. After much thought and deliberation, Russell decided that he wanted a dragon; this idea then became the chest, shoulder and full arm dragon piece you see before you. When the dragon was almost complete, it was an easy decision for Russell to go for the full sleeve. Once that was completed, it only took a few years for the one sidedness of it all to get to him and the other arm was started. The eagle tattoo was skilfully buried under the orange and black Koi carp during this process.
Well, Russell’s tattoos were finally balanced with two complete sleeves, but as we all know, tattooing is highly addictive, so a year later, the idea of getting a back piece crossed his mind. Then it crossed his mind again a month later, then a week later, then every day until the decision was made. Once he had decided that he would have a back piece, he realised that a full body suit was on the cards, not least, because his legs are pretty fucked up from years of skateboard abuse, and an inheritors trait for burst veins close to the surface; at least he got something from his father!
Russell gets tattooed every Monday from 5pm until 9pm, October through April. He prefers not to tattoo in the summer, as it precludes him from using his pool. He already has next winter fully booked up, and hopes to have the full body suit completed by May 2006. At the time of these photos, Russell is in 64 sessions, which equated to 200+ hours and has invested $26,000. It goes without saying that Russell is incredibly happy with the tattooist he has chosen to carry out this work, finding him both talented and consistent, along with being a really nice guy. Russell sprang for a meal on my last night in LA, so that the three of us, along with his young son Lucas Mitchell could hook up. I found Greg James to be an unusual American, by which I mean, he was quiet, modest and understated, but I warmed to him immediately. Greg performs his art at the exotically named, Sunset Strip Tattoo, to be found at 7524 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California 90046. Phone (323)- 874 4596. www.sunsetstriptattoo.com