Radio City Riot

Published: 29 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 161, June, 2008

Although they only formed in 2007, Rob, Luke and Ruby have been making waves down south with their band Radio City Riot. The format is pretty simple: three lads, playing a Molotov cocktail of Dark, Slick and Stylish Indie Punk Rock with just a hint of ‘50s flare. They’re a little more eclectic now then your average punk / rock trio; a pleasant surprise from a band that refuses to be ‘pigeon holed’ and draws on so many different musical styles and influences within their own work. They took the time to come in for a shoot with Skin Deep to discuss their music and their heavy tattoo coverage...

Please state what tattoos you have and where they were done and who by?

Luke: "I have two full sleeves of Japanese work (with the exception of a star around my left elbow), done by Ade at Nine, which is located at Nine Boyces Street, Brighton. I also have a raven and a burning torch on my outer right thigh done by Sergi Besa who also works at Nine."

Rob: "I’m rockin’ a collection of old / new skool horror-inspired pieces that form two (almost complete) sleeves and some chest work. My early work was inked by Paul at Mantra Tattoo in Cheltenham and my more recent pieces have been done by Jason at Into You Tattoo, Brighton."

Ruby: "I’ve got several things going on, but most of it is ‘work in progress’ at the moment. I have some family-based old skool pieces on my right arm, nothing too extravagant. A few pieces around the body as well; my like lower back, right leg, and I’ve got the an oriental sleeve lined and ready to be coloured by Ade at Nine but as you can imagine it can be very frustrating finding the time to get back in the chair for a few hours."

How did you get into tattoos and what inspired you to cross the line and get that first one?

Luke: "I suppose my earliest memory of seeing tattoos was back when I used to be in the scouts, around the age of ten. One of the leaders there had sleeves; I’d never seen anything like that before. I used to ask him stupid questions about them all the time. I got my first tattoo around the age of 19, which was the star around my left elbow. I put it there because I thought if I never got another tattoo it would still kinda work, but if I wanted to expand on it I could. Luckily that was just the right placement for it as the Japanese work I have on that arm sits really well around it. Before getting it done I did a bit of shop research then booked an appointment. I suppose the reason I decided to get it was because I really wanted one and I’d had enough of waiting around. After that I was addicted..."

Rob: "I’ve always had a keen interest in art and design. I’ve loved ‘tattoo art’ ever since I first locked eyes on some flash sets, gaudy low-brow designs of pin-ups, daggers, scrolls and the like. That style is present in many of my own pieces today. My first vivid memory of tattoos was at a family do...I can’t remember when, I was 12 or 13. I have a large family that likes to get together and celebrate pretty much everything with lots of drinking and eating (like most immigrant families do), I followed the other men and left for the bar, to drink and smoke some more. I remember seeing a swallow tattoo on the arm of a family member and being intrigued. I asked him about it and he proceeded to tell me many tall tales about his youth and tattoos, some of which I found out to be true and others he’d just said to wind me up, ha-ha! After getting into punk and rock ‘n’ roll I found it very easy to get totally lost in a world of tattoos. They’re so natural to me now, like buying a new t-shirt, but a bit more fun and a lot more expensive. At most shows today you could easily go the whole night without seeing anyone with fresh virgin skin. Music, Art, Sub-Cultures and Tattoos have always been very closely linked in my opinion."

Ruby: "Likewise, from a young age I too had a keen interest in tattoo artwork. The story behind my first piece is a little cliché; I was far too young, I thought it was ‘cool’ to have one but I don’t regret it. It taught me a valuable lesson, 'They really are there for life!'"

I assume you haven’t finished; do you have any plans for more ink?

Rob: "Always planning man, always thinking. Finish my sleeves and chest piece off then neck and hands for sure (I’m really looking forward to those bits). I want my upper body totally covered, the rest I’ll add to as and when but I’m really on a mission this year, all my spare cash goes on ink!"

Luke: "Next on my list of tattoos is my chest, which is booked for the end of May. I suppose after that I’ll move either onto my hands and neck or my back, all of which I plan to have Ade do. Although I have some pieces on my legs, I think they’ll end up being added to gradually as time goes by. They won’t be large, complete scenes like my arms, more like bits and bobs I’ll have done by a few different artists whom I like. The top half is reserved for Ade; the lower half is free reign ha-ha!"

Ruby: "Big plans, it’s all ongoing, I won’t get anything new started until I finished-off what I currently have. One at a time y’know, but I will be definitely getting the majority of my skinny-ass body covered I should think!"

What came first for you, the rock music or the ink?

Ruby: "Well I guess with my musical background, I developed a profound and immediate interest in them. I guess you’d say yeah, music had a big part to play in my interest in getting tattoos! I guess without it, it may have taken me a lot longer to discover their charms but in a strange way, I have my folks to thank for that. Even with my mum’s strong dislike of this art form, a lot of the musical and sub-cultural influences I was exposed to at a young age were through her own taste in music..."

Luke: "I have two passions in life, music and tattoos. Despite the aforementioned experience, I really got into tattoos when I started listening to music seriously. The first style of music I really got involved in was the punk/pop-punk scene, where so many bands had sleeves or heavy coverage. My favourite drummer at the time was Travis Barker and I looked up to him a lot, as any young child with a role model like that would. I wasn’t a fan of his actual tattoos; it was more the amount of coverage he had that inspired me. I would never say I got tattooed to fit in with a certain scene or anything, but being surrounded by tattooed musicians growing up was a definite influence. I’ve always felt music and tattooing goes hand in hand, most musicians I know are into tattoos and most tattooists I know are really into their music..."

Rob: "Music is my life! I wouldn’t have done half the things I have and conversely wouldn’t have missed out on half the things I did if it wasn’t for the music I love and the lifestyle I lead! I love tattoos equally and the harder-edged sub-culture styles I’ve been drawn to have always had a certain look or an attitude about them. Tattoos play a huge part in that for sure. I’ve always wanted to be heavily tattooed and enjoy messing with the public’s pre-conceptions; like dressing up in a real sharp suit and opening doors for old ladies with your ink out smiling like the devil; they never know what you’re up to...ha-ha! I guess a real tough question for a musician with ink would be to ask them to choose between fame and glory or full badass coverage? I’d never be able to choose between those two; luckily I don’t think I’ll ever have to..."

Most tattooed musicians seem to have at least one music inspired piece, do you?

Rob: "Yes, I guess I do. I have a Nosferatu vampire-dude slappin’ a Double bass, which is pretty cheesy but it makes me smile. I would never get a direct band tattoo done like a logo or an advert. Nothing wrong with that at all but it’s not for me. I don’t believe in free publicity for anyone, ‘cept maybe my own band ha-ha, but I do have several pieces that hint at or are done in the style of certain artists...Tiger Army, AFI, Rancid, Social Distortion would be a few artists that subtlety spring to mind when I look at certain tattoos I own."

Luke: "I agree with Rob in that I’d never get a direct band tattoo. I’ve often played with the idea of getting some lyrics that are personal to me tattooed, but I can’t really see how I could fit them into the grander scheme of things right now... That’s definitely one for the future."

Ruby: "No, not really, mine all are based around a family theme or cities/countries I’ve been to...some are just there for the love of the artwork!"

What influenced the tattoo styles that you have? Did you see similar ones elsewhere and dig it?

Luke: "I was drawn to Japanese tattooing because of the history of it. It’s a classic style of tattooing and I love the way the bold colours contrast with the black and grey backgrounds. I also love that every subject has a meaning. My research definitely paid off in discovering Ade. So many people try to emulate Japanese tattooing, and there are so many crappy attempts out there but Ade definitely has done his homework and knows what it’s all about. Another thing I love about Japanese style tattooing is it’s a slightly rarer thing to see on musicians, especially ones who play in bands that are similar to ours. It’s good to be an individual, why try and be like anyone else?"

Rob: "I love spooky Halloween tat you’d get at the pound-shop, I love watching ‘50s b-movies or crap ‘80s zombie gore films, and I love the old, odd and the obscure. I love ‘50s pin-up gals and big American-led sleds like Mercury’s. I really don’t care what people think of my tattoos or their own really for that matter, life’s too short. I’ve chosen artists and styles to best suit my own ideas and the grander design for my body. I think if it’s well inked, looks cool and you love it that’s all that matters really."

Ruby: "I think of my work as road map...I have what I have because I love it or it means something to me."

Do you have any regrets about your tattoos?

Luke: "No, I try to make as informed a decision as possible about what I get. That way I can drastically reduce my chances of ever getting something I’d regret. It’s paid off so far, I love all my tattoos."

Rob: "I love what I have, sometimes I see designs on people at shows or in magazines and think ‘Wow! What a great idea’, if I had a spare arm knocking about I’d like to do it like that but I’d never change what I have under my skin. I’ll be 100% honest with you, I did get one once that I really regretted. It was an impulse decision at the end of a sitting with some time to kill. Thankfully it was only little but I regretted it the minute I got home. Without going into too much detail, I was able to get most of the ink out myself with a pumice stone and some surgical spirit, but I learnt that the hard way. It’s important to plan this shit or have a good sense of humour I think. Getting tattooed is an experience and shouldn’t be regretted. Hell, everyone looks shit at 80, so why worry?"

Ruby: "Yeah, well, we all do foolish things now and then. I thought it would be a good idea, after a few drinks, to self-tattoo the sides of my hands, but I soon came to realise, it doesn’t always bode too well with ‘the boss man’ at certain types of job interviews, Oh well, Ha-ha."

Any Radio City Riot tattoos being planned?

Rob: "I’d definitely get a tattoo to remember this band; we’ve had some great times together and hope to have many more with these lads. We’ve often chatted and joked about crazy things we’d love to do to ourselves but I guess only time will tell..."

Ruby: "Hell yeah, it’s another stop on the road map, another piece of the puzzle."

Do you have any funny stories from touring where your tattoos have gotten you into (or out of) trouble?

Luke: "There’s been a few times when I’ve gotten into trouble with the other guys in the band for getting tattooed on show days. Luckily my arms are finished now so that torment is over. Saying that though, the day after I got my leg tattooed we had a show to play. I was paranoid on stage that I might be punching my leg by accident as I was playing. Ha-ha, I suppose it could just be said that fresh tattoos and drums shouldn’t be mixed..."

Rob: "I love how when ya rockin’ a lot of ink, it’s like a huge sign above your head inviting every junkie, piss-head, or general foul smelling vagabond nutcase to come over and talk nonsense at you for an hour. What’s with that business eh? I also personally get so sick of ‘discussing’ what great tattoo ideas ink-virgins have planned for their own skin when or if they ever get round to growing some balls! Ha-ha get it inked fella; then we’ll talk, man I’m harsh!"

Luke: "There was this one time actually when our tattoos could have got us in major trouble... Ruby was having difficulty with someone whose house he was staying at. To cut a long story short, we had a show to play that night and all our equipment was locked up in this girl’s house. Picture the scene: three heavily tattooed individuals, dressed head-to-toe in black, with one big, suspicious rusty old van, blatantly up to no good on a busy street in the middle of the afternoon."

Rob: "The phrase “I know what this looks like officer...” springs to mind."

Ruby: "Ha ha, well I couldn’t possibly comment, other then to say I’m currently recovering from a hospital visit to fix a broken knuckle. I not sure if having tattoos or not having ‘em could have helped out there but all’s fair in love and war I guess."

Rob: "Tattoos are a lot more fashionable now than back in the day; it’s not such a shocking or rebellious act any more in my opinion. However I still believe that if you’ve got the guts to get a big piece of work inked on ya body for life, then ya probably not gonna be the type of person to back down from trouble if/when its rears its ugly head."

Tell us more about your music...

Ruby: "It is hard to specifically categorise it, ‘cos we all have such eclectic music tastes. We all have such a wide variety that’s input into what we play, I guess we could class it as a mix of Indie / Punk / Rock ‘n’ Roll. I could definitely say that recently, we’ve developed what you might call ‘our sound’, we’ve really come into ourselves as a band, and so we just can’t wait to get some new material recorded!"

Rob: "Our first record was very punky, very rock ‘n’ roll inspired. Our live shows have always been raw, high-energy affairs. As times progressed we’re starting to find our feet as artists and writers and taking those great traits from our first stab at it and trying to work them into a more mature, full grown sound to appeal to a wider audience but still keeping it rockin’ at the same time...we got a few new tricks up our sleeves for ya this time!"

What’s currently in the pipeline for Radio City Riot?

Rob: "The thing I’m most excited about right now is our new material. I love change and I love discovering new sounds and ways of writing great new songs, I love a band that grows and evolves. We’re working on some dynamite stuff right now and we hope to secure some backing and release another record real soon. Other things of interest; we’ll be back to tour Europe again in May. We’re hoping to get out to the States this year too, I think they’ll really like what we’ve got going on. Finally just to keep doing what we’re doing, hopefully do ok for ourselves outta this and keep enjoying The Riot!"

Any lessons you learnt and would like to pass on to people reading this who are looking at getting tattoos, or considering their first tattoos?

Luke: "I think the main thing to remember when looking to get your first tattoo is that you shouldn’t rush into it. So many people just go to the shop nearest and pick something off the wall, you should look into getting something that you’ll actually like a few years down the line, done by someone whose work you really appreciate... Also, try not to worry about cost. I know that spending lots of money on a tattoo may seem ridiculous to some, but what price can you put on permanence? It’ll be there forever, so you wanna get it right first time."

Rob: "Like Luke said, don’t rush in, remember trends come and go, and always go big! Don’t be afraid to push a good idea to the max, it’ll be a nightmare to get done but you’ll be glad you went larger on a cool design than smaller every time!"

Ruby: "Don’t get drunk and do it yourself, leave it to the professionals, they DO know what they’re doing!"

Thanks for your time... Any closing comments?

All: "Cheers guys and thanks for reading. Big shout-out to our Families, Friends and Fans! If you feel like checking us out some more please head to our MySpace page - - GO! RIOT! RIOT!


Text & Photography: Al Overdrive


Skin Deep 161 1 June 2008 161