Kings Cross Tattoo Parlour - Kings of the Wild Frontier

Published: 15 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 191, October, 2010

Kings Cross station is probably London’s most important rail link to the rest of the UK. Surrounded by typically grey London streets populated by people in suits rushing around, I was pleasantly surprised to see a dash of colour in the form of a shop front reading  ‘Kings Cross Tattoo Parlour’.

Passing it several times on my way to various shoots, each time hearing the buzzing of tattoo machines, I became curious and wanted to know more about the place. When Skin Deep asked me to go down to do a feature, I jumped in with both feet.

Kings Cross isn’t the first place I’d think of when it comes to finding a Tattooist. What inspired you to open up in such a prime location?

Snappy: "We opened up about two years ago, I had grown tired of working for someone else and started to look for a shop of my own to rent and run my own way. I wanted to avoid a basement studio and started looking for something spacious, on a high street and in Central London. I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap to find somewhere and after a long search a large shop near Kings Cross station was available and felt right. The price was high, so when my friend long time friend Rod offered to be my business partner, I went for it. I was confident that the gamble would pay off - I had years of experience as a tattooist and running a shop, money in the bank, confidence in my plans and the support of my best friends.

Does Kings Cross Tattoo Parlour have a particular philosophy behind it?

Snappy: "Our mission is to provide not only awesome tattoos, but good customer service too. We hear from far too many customers how they have been treated like shit by different studios so we promised ourselves we wouldn’t let that happen here. We depend on our clients for our work so we listen to them and treat them with patience and respect. Dealing with the public can be as challenging as it is rewarding at times, but it’s part of the job as a tattooist and you can’t avoid that. We don’t have room for ego in this studio!

Apart from the artists, we also have Thaiana as our full-time shop manager to ensure we can give the best service possible and make people feel welcome. If people want to check out our website or drop by for a chat about a tattoo design they are more than welcome. I hope you like what we offer.

I started tattooing in ’89 in my hometown of Porto Alegre (South Brazil), like a lot of kids, my friends and I started out doing punk tattoos on each other. I had been drawing for ages and took them into the local shops to show the old timers. They were impressed but as soon as I started asking about tattooing and learning the art, the answer was always the same ‘Get the fuck out of my shop!'. I used to hate the old timers, but I’ve come to realise some of them were right…

I finally managed to get an apprenticeship with a lot of persistence, not being allowed to go near the customers, watch the artists and just cleaning the place and doing drawing. I found out the owner was passing off my work as his own, so I left. I learnt some stuff from the shop including how to sterilize and clean everything properly. Then in ’92 I went to my first tattoo convention - Tattoo Ages Festival - and met artists from other cities that were in the same boat as me. Young and hungry for inspiration, I was inspired to travel.

After working in a few shops, I opened up in my hometown in ’97 and eventually was drawn to London. I tattooed in Angelic Hell for four years and now I am here with the help of my friends. I love working with the guys that I am working with now. Everyday I see amazing tattoos leaving the shop. They inspire me a lot.

I can say that right now I’m in the place that I wished to be years ago - the right place, with the right people and I feel I’m on the way to the place I want to be in the future. My customers keep coming back and sending other people along too, so these are the people that motivate me to keep progressing, I want to keep on impressing them with better and better work!"

Do you still attend many conventions? Do you like to work them or just see what new work is coming out?

"Yes I do sometimes. Conventions are essential but I think there are maybe too many now. Unless I am working I would only want to go once a year, I cant see anything new in tattooing happening over a month, but it can be good to give it a rest, then come back and see what’s new."

You talk of how comic books have inspired you as an artist.

"I’ve always been into comic books - artists like Jack Kirby, John Buscema and Sal Buscema, Moebius, Watson Portela, Albert Uderzo, Sergio Aragones and Robert Crumb. I think these were my heroes and all I wanted was to be able to draw like them when I was a kid."

Phetrus, is a close friend of Snappy and is an important part of the feel of the shop. He told us a little about what it was like tattooing in Poland before moving to the UK.

"I started out when I shared a house with some friends. It was 1994 and things in Poland were different to now. It was more difficult to get information and I had to learn a lot by myself. I had a lot of fun learning and opened a shop, it was always busy but I felt I needed to see more. So I travelled to the UK and started working in Self Sacrifice in London, it was here that I really made progression and almost felt as if I was learning the process all over again. I met Snappy when he was at Angelic Hell and joined him in business when he opened KXTP."

Who inspires your work and style?

"Some artists I have admired from my youth and still admire their art, all of them strongly influenced my perception, always being greater inspiration. 

Starting from Diego Velazquez with his delicate touch of brush, richness of tones and colours in such a narrow palette, then Francisco de Goya for his nightmarish wall paintings which have stayed with me from the first time I saw the small reproductions of it in some catalogue - many years later, I had a chance to see them in Prado and they didn’t disappoint me! Francis Bacon, Anselm Kiefer for their mysticism mixed with ugliness, blood and flesh of the living, then Bill Viola for his perception of time, every little moment and action being so meaningful and finally, the writing of Bruno Shultz. I’m big fan of Agustin Cavalieri’s art, the way he pays attention to details and importance he gives to whole composition always amazes me.

I enjoy working with as much freedom as possible and would prefer not to do a tattoo than do something I feel isn’t right or forced on me.

I have too much respect for the art."

What would be your dream piece?

"That’s easy! Somebody who can afford sessions every two weeks! People these days are busy and sometimes I have a really hard time when someone appears after a year’s break with just a few lines on their arm ready to do few more. Then, I have to go through all my sketches and old stuff, finding out what exactly I was about to do in that particular piece or just simply improvise - but I don’t like pure improvisation under those circumstances."

Are you a fan of conventions?

"For now, I’m not attending any besides the London Tattoo Convention. I’ve tried a few conventions and I realised that it doesn’t go with me and how I work.

The type of tattooing I do takes time, I work quite slowly which is exactly the same way that I draw or paint. I enjoy making decisions and trying a few options before every step, so if I do things quickly and spontaneously, I often finish with feelings that there were some parts I could do in a different way. Still, I think tattoo conventions are important to build relations between customers and tattooists in the same way that tattoo magazines do. It gives a good opportunity for meeting people you probably wouldn’t meet otherwise and share information."

Rod Medina: "The first time I came into contact with tattoos was when my grandfather took me on a round the world trip from Rio to Tokyo, stopping in a lot of places in-between on a merchant ship. I was just 14 but I remember seeing some sailors with amazing tattoos. I started tattooing when I was 18 in Rio de Janeiro, I was used to seeing a lot of tattoos on the beach and my friends had started to ask me to draw tattoos for them, so after a while I started doing them myself.

When I started there was nowhere I could apprentice, so from Rio then returned to London in 2001. After working a few different studios I was invited to join Snappy at KXTP and feel quite settled here.

I am free here to be honest with my customers; I don’t give them false hopes about what can or cannot be tattooed and feel totally comfortable in sending them to a different artist if I feel they are better suited."

Oliver Macintosh echoes these sentiments...
"I feel here that I am free to work as hard as I can and concentrate on custom tattoos, my preferred style is traditional tattoos. I like it most when customers come in with one or two ideas and allow me to guide them towards a great design. I think my favourite things to tattoo at the moment are Snakes, Eagles and Wolves."

These guys like to let their work speak for itself, so if you want to see more of their work, either drop by and flick through their portfolios in their wonderfully decorated studio, or check them out at www.kingscrosstattooparlour.co.uk

 

The Legend That Is Sergio Aragonés

Aragonés is a Spanish born artist who started to make his name in 1963 when he began to contribute “silly drawings” to the seminal MAD magazine and apart from one tiny hiccup, has had work published in every single issue since. This was his main output until the late seventies when he created - along with Mark Evanier - the legendary Groo the Wanderer strip and although the comic didn’t see publication until the early eighties, it outlasted many of the publishing companies that released it. To give you some idea of just how influential Aragonés is, amongst others he won the Harvey Special Award for Humor in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001.

 

Francis Bacon: Life in the Raw

Dublin born Francis Bacon died in 1992 leaving behind a wealth of art that would surely disturb even the most optimistic of people – Margaret Thatcher (though not particularly known as one of life’s big optimists) once described him as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”. Well known for his travels, having spent long periods in Berlin, Paris and London, he is one of the UK’s best known modern masters and should not under any circumstances be confused with the other Francis Bacon who died in the 15th century from contracting pneumonia while studying the effects of freezing on the preservation of meat.

Bacon always stated that he never prepared for any of his works by sketching them first but since his death, a number of sketches have indeed surfaced and have not yet been acknowledged as legitimate canon. As is the norm with great artists after they have died, much furore surrounds their work and Bacon is no different – two of his major works – Popes and Heads – which were thought destroyed appeared in the art world and are considered to be amongst the better of his output.

 

Kings Cross Tattoo Parlour

185 Kings Cross Road

London

WC1X 9DB

0207 8374 634

Credits

Text & Photography: Al Overdrive

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