Haunted Tattoos

Published: 19 June, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 178, November, 2009

By the time you read this article, Halloween will almost be upon us and the shops will be full of ‘horror’ themed fun for you to buy and discard a week or two later. For a lot of us, the fascination with horror runs a little deeper than that. So it made perfect sense to accept the invite to come visit the guys and ghouls at Haunted Tattoos in Holloway Road, North London. But would it be a ‘trick’ or a ‘treat’?


By reading this far I’ll assume you have forgiven me for making such a cheesy seasonal pun, I just had to get it out of my system before writing up this interview. The moment you walk up to the North London tattooists you know exactly what you are in for: the entire studio is horror-themed, the reception is a cool black and white, which contrasts with the ghastly green and spooky purple theme of the main tattooing area. To enter the main studio you have to pass through a set of Frankenstein’s monster swing doors. The walls and shelves are decorated with drawings, paintings and many collector items taking the description of this being a ‘custom’ studio to a whole new level. The photographs here only give you a taster of what the inside is like; instead I recommend you check the place out in person if you have the time.


Allan, many of the best horror stories are based in a location with a twisted and murky past, is the same true for Haunted Tattoos?

I wish I could tell you a story with lots of twists and a gruesome ending but it would all be lies. For a long time I have dreamt of having my own tattoo studio, decorated in a really spooky and weird fashion. I used to work in LPS [in Soho, London] and over the years the place became more and more filled with horror-related gear… eventually becoming the first Haunted. I enjoyed working there, but it is a small-sized shop and I knew that for Haunted to really work it would need a bigger presence and more space.


I’ve been lucky and now I have my own shop, thanks to the support of Shiraz (his business partner, who also helps keep the shop running smoothly behind the scenes). My girlfriend Iona has also been really supportive whilst I spent many hours decorating and painting the new shop.


Apart from the ‘Horror’ theme, what sort of vision did you have for Haunted?

When we discussed setting up the shop, we decided it was going to be a really intimate affair. I wanted to work with some really talented people that I’d be able to consider part of my family. We have been building up the team making sure we have the right people. We are incredibly fortunate to have Andrew tattooing for us full-time and have Charlie and Leon in too. 


We have also been lucky, as Stitch is the full-time manager for the shop and both Nina Kate [recent Skin Deep cover star] and Natasha Purple also help us run the show. Due to the size of the shop we also have room to keep things varied by having different artists do guest spots.


Can you tell us some more about your tattoo style, and when did you ‘get into’ horror stuff?

It’s not so much that I got into horror, more like it got into me! When my mother was pregnant with me, she was reading The Omen and similar books…it seems to have had a lasting effect on me!


Usually when people think of horror and tattoos they see the really dark stuff such as Giger and Barker or the tattoo art of Paul Booth. What drew you to the lighter side of the genre?

I guess it was just that part of my personality, I like to laugh and I’ve been told I’m a really positive person, so I guess that’s why I got into the funny stuff and the good-natured side of horror! As for my style, anyone who knows me knows how much I love zombies and the undead. I’m also really into the happy side of horror, like The Munsters. Aesthetically I have some wider influences such as Scooby Doo, George Romero and Bernie Wrightson. 


The aesthetic of the shop itself is more directly attributed to Beetlejuice and Dr Seuss. The shop is changing every week as we add to the collection of spooky toys, horror-pop decorations, creepy furniture and zombies!


You said about the studio being quite a diverse family - can you tell us some more about that?

Sure. Outside of the studio everyone is really productive and this enthusiasm in infectious; I also have done design work for Hellwear and Kreepsville 666. Shiraz is a visual FX producer for film and TV. Stitch, the manager, is the front man of the notorious metal band ‘The Defiled’, if that wasn’t enough Nina manages him (which is a job on its own!) and owns Jane Doe Latex and finally, Natasha is the jewellery designer for Purple Poison.


What would you do if Haunted really WAS Haunted?

Well, we wouldn’t be the first tattoo studio in London to have a ghost, but we already have the Ghostbusters on speed-dial just in case.


Has anyone in the shop ever seen a ghost or been attacked by a zombie?

Well, we have all been spotted in our local, Big Red, after midnight biting and being bitten, so I couldn’t possibly say. But a while ago a kid came into the shop with a print of one of my clothing designs and was asking for a price. Out of curiosity I asked him where he got the design, he told me, “My mate drew it”. Of course I disagreed but he kept insisting it was a custom design his mate had drawn. Eventually he asked me why I was so sure, so I simply pointed to the original drawing that was on the wall behind him. He then went whiter than a ghost! So I can answer your question, “I almost saw a ghost”. 


Leon, you have cited your main influences as Japanese Woodblock prints, the associated folktales and legends. This seems a good match for the Haunted family, as it fits the spirit of the work yet has its own history.

Yes, I think that is part of why I was able to fit in at Haunted so readily. I also draw heavy influences from the old Russian/Soviet prison and work camp tattoos. My first attempts at tattooing were when I was in the army before I moved over to London. When I’m not drawing or painting I also build tattoo machines.


Allan, you’ve spent over five years tattooing now and seen a lot of different people during our time in London. As we all know, and most of us are pleased to see, there has been a massive surge in the popularity of tattoos. I’m certainly seeing a lot more people getting bigger and better pieces than even two or three years ago. As a tattooist, what have you experienced?

I think the popularity of tattoo culture has a lot of positive aspects, and too many people dwell on the negatives. The most significant is that it has made tattoos and tattooing more acceptable and less ‘fringe’. So now more people are feeling the freedom to express themselves in this way. But, like with everything else, popularity does bring with it a possible change in focus or motivation to those involved. Some of these motivations stray far from the artistic expression itself, but that is something for each individual to deal with in their own way.


Haunted Tattoos

Holloway Road, London, 0207 609 6276




Text & Photography: Al Overdrive


Skin Deep 178 1 November 2009 178