Celebrity Skin - Josh Todd of Buckcherry

Published: 22 June, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 200, June, 2011

16 years, five albums, countless shows around the world and to think – it all started because of a tattoo artist. Yes, it’s true: Buckcherry would have never been if tattooer Kevin Quinn hadn’t brought frontman Josh Todd and guitarist Keith Nelson together all those years ago. With the release of All Night Long last year (which Todd describes as the band’s “most rocking record to date”) and the slew of concert dates that followed, including the U.K.’s massive Download Festival, Todd took some time to explore a subject he’s not often asked about by the media – tattoos...

You and Keith actually met thanks to a tattoo artist, is that right? 

"Our tattoo artist is Kevin Quinn and he works out of L.A. He’s been doing it for a long time and he started at Sunset Tattoo way back in the day and then went to Holland, did some stuff at Hanky Panky for a while, and now he just tattoos out of his place by appointment only. He’s a really great guy and at that time, the time I met Keith, he had a little tattoo studio across the street from Guitar Center on Sunset in L.A. He was just tattooing me, telling me about this guy Keith. He knew that I was kinda looking for a guitar player to start writing songs with, I was in between bands at the time, so Keith came over when I was getting tattooed and we just met and then started writing songs, and it was all kinda around the tattoo parlor."

So how much of your work has Kevin Quinn done?  

"Pretty much all of it."

Really? You never felt like venturing out to find new talent? 

"I have this thing, I feel like when you, as far as tattooing goes, it’s such a personal thing for me that once you find an artist that you really love and respect, and who gets you and understands your direction and where you wanna go with everything, you stick with him. I also have this thing about cleanliness, I don’t trust lots of people to take care of their equipment, so I don’t think it’s a good idea to get tattooed by a lot of different people. Unless they’re really great."

What first brought you into contact with Quinn? 

"I was actually rehearsing with my band and we had a new bass player; my band at the time was called Slamhound, and he came in with this fucking sleeve that was just unreal. The colors were popping and the Japanese art on it, the dragons and everything that was going on, was just unreal and I’m like, ‘Who did that?’ At that time, I wanted sleeves but I didn’t know who to find to do it that was great, and he said Kevin Quinn and that I should come meet him; so I met him and he was really cool to me. I was a broke musician, you know, and I was like, ‘Listen, I’m gonna give you a portion of my paycheck every week and I’m just gonna pay you until I’ve accumulated enough funds to get tattooed’ and he’s like, ‘Okay.’ And he was just really cool like that. He knew that I wanted to get tattooed so bad that he tattooed me for very cheap at the time, and it was great work."

Have you ever had anything covered up?

"I had a few bits and pieces I covered up – they were terrible. [But] once I found Kevin I was like, I’m never getting dumb tattoos again. No drunken tattoos, no more bad tattoo decisions."

So even though it’s not there anymore, what was your first tattoo? 

"It was Betty Boop, got it off the wall. Dumbest fucking decision, I just wanted to be tattooed so fucking bad.  I love women, so I was just like, ‘She’s cute, let’s do her.’ I was just out of my mind. I was 18, I tried to get tattooed at 16, but they wouldn’t tattoo me."

What, in your eyes, makes a good or bad tattoo?

"I’ve seen a lot of bad tattoos and I think what I’ve learned over the years about getting tattooed is to get stuff that’s really bold and beautiful because it stands the test of time. I’m really not a big fan of heavily detailed work because I just feel like it becomes a mess after a while, you know? It just happens with age and your skin. 

I really think that some people who get too involved in their artwork and don’t let the tattoo artist kind of take their idea and make it a tattoo, that’s when you wind up getting a really bad tattoo. People have this idea of like oh, they want this beautiful piece on them, but they don’t look at it in terms of well, it’s gonna be on your skin, it’s not gonna be on a piece of paper. You have to understand how to make a transition to make it look like a tattoo, something that you’re gonna be really glad to look at after 20 years." 

Of all your tattoos, which one’s your favorite?

"My back piece is pretty special to me. It’s the suicide king of hearts; it’s the only king in the deck with a knife through his head. I’ve had a suicide in my family so it’s kind of personal to me. 

It’s really big and bold, and I really earned it; it was a lot of pain and a lot of time. I went in there four or five months straight. We just worked the top, that started healing and before it was even healed, we started working on the bottom and so on and so forth until we knocked it out. I just knew if I didn’t keep going consistently that I wouldn’t finish it. It was really painful."

Have you come across any Buckcherry fan tattoos?  

"Many. Some good, some really horrible, but recently we just saw a guy who got the first record girl completely lying down on his forearm and that’s a really nice job. I love it when they do the girl 'cause it’s a beautiful tattoo and even if you’re 60 years old, it’s still gonna look cool and it’s not necessarily associated with Buckcherry. It’s when people get your autograph tattooed on them, which has happened, that’s a little creepy."

Finish this sentence: “Buckcherry is...”

 "...a good fucking time!"


Text & Photography: Barbara Pavone