Published: 18 April, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 176, September, 2009

Keeping the work good but not too serious...


If you have ever been to a UK tattoo convention, the chances are you will have seen the Priestley brothers from Skinshokz tattoos. You won’t have missed them. Roy is the spiky punk-haired smaller of the two brothers, always with a smile and a welcoming demeanour and Paul is the quiet one who towers above everyone else at the show; but the thing that you will have noticed about the chaps is the quality of their tattoos.


These guys regularly drive away from conventions with a boot full of trophies, as a testament of their tattooing skills.


Roy and Paul have been on the UK tattoo circuit for a long time now and both admit that they find the show scene good fun as well as informative.


Between them they pretty much have the tattooing spectrum covered, with Roy laying down some amazing black and grey work and Paul putting in some eye wateringly colourful tattoos. Both lads can also turn their hands to each others chosen styles with equal ability too.


Step into the Skinshokz studio and you will be instantly put at ease by the laid-back and comfortable decor as well as Roy’s, Paul’s, and Tony’s friendly manner and off beat humour. Behind the laughs and friendly banter, all the guys at Skinshokz are extremely focused when the tattoo machines start humming and take their art very seriously.


So how did you get into tattooing Roy, is this your first shop?

No I’ve worked at four before this. I came away from the other stuff because it was all town centre walk-in work, which is fine, ‘cause it really helped me loads, because you really learn how to run a studio, and how not to as well. But I needed a fresh start.


Were you working for someone else?

Yeah I was working self-employed, but working under another studio’s name. But erm, I think the sort of road I wanted to go down… I was just in the wrong studios, and to be honest, I was being held back… a lot, really. So I went, I had enough. I came away then I opened this studio on my own, which is just the thing for me, doing little bits of custom work and stuff I enjoyed doing. And it got that busy; it was just unbelievable. It seemed within like, 12 months, I just couldn’t cope with the amount of people that were coming here. A lot of the other studios I’d worked at, the customers all started coming here when they found out where I’d gone. Then Paul left school and he came to work here, sort of just helping out cleaning and doing all the bits and bobs, making needles and sterilising. So he got taught how to do all that early on. And then we were just sorted of chatting one day and said “Y’know, do you wanna learn tattooing?” And Paul was up for it. So we taught him, right from scratch, doing little bits and pieces, so we were doing that for a couple of years, and it seemed like overnight. It went from Paul doing nice basic stuff to, like, his own style of work, which was just amazing. It was never meant to be like that, he just started putting these colour pieces on that were just fantastic and blowing my mind. I was like, “That can’t be right!” It was really good. And then, from the first convention he ever worked - I think he was a bit nervous doing it - but Paul nearly won best of show! So it was unbelievable. That, to be honest, is probably my best moment in tattooing. Best of show, which to be honest is first place, innit? (Laughs). Honestly, if you come second to Paul it doesn’t count, it’s like you’ve won. I mean he’s like an amazing artist. It’s like, I come second to Paul, and I’m well happy about it. 


So where did your interest from tattoos come from? Were your family tattooed?

No, it’s not been in my family at all. It’s really weird. My earliest memory is from about nine years old. Drawing tattoo designs at nine, I remember doing it and it seemed to me the ultimate medium. I’ve always drawn and stuff like that, but it was like, putting it onto the skin seemed to be the way I wanted to go with it. Which is really odd, ‘cause like, back then, it wasn’t even seen as a cool job. It was sort of seen as a bit horrible and dirty really. I remember my uncle saying to me, “What do you want to do a job like that for?” He said, “Boy, you’ll never make a mint doing that.” But then again this was like, 1979/80. You know, tattooing, it just really sort of interested me. Which again, it’s really, really odd, because I’d never been around it, but I remember looking at tattoos on my uncle’s forearms and thinking, “They’re shit.” And I thought, “I could do better than that”, at nine, honestly! (Laughs). That’s it really. I think it’s been a natural calling, more than anything else. I’ve been pushed into it, been exposed to it, or anything. I think that’s what was really hard to get into when I first started because it just wasn’t available. The equipment wasn’t available, the teaching, it just wasn’t there. I think that’s how most of us started anyway. It was hard. I’m completely self-taught, no one’s taught me anything. Right to the stage of going to shows. I’ve been going to shows for the last ten years, obviously you pick stuff up by watching people. And I think my work has evolved like that. I think sort of working alongside, and getting work from some of the best artists in the world has really shoved me forward. When Milosch and Jack Ribeiro have tattooed me, I’ve watched exactly what they’ve done, and I’ve learnt tonnes from that. And again, like from Paul at Indigo, looking how he works... I think taking little bits from each of their styles has really helped me with sort of, how I work. 


I tend to find my stuff’s a lot darker, really, so colour wise I tend to use a lot of black and stuff, rather than just shades of grey, which I think causes a dramatic sort of lighting effect, which is what I think makes the pieces really nice. Bob Tyrrell’s work as well; he uses black. That was the first time I’ve actually seen someone use solid black, besides me. So I thought, “I must be doing it right if he’s doing it!” After I’ve sort of spoke to him a few times, and he seems a really laid back guy… again he’s like… it’s a case of like, he’s happy when it’s finished, and when it’s right. Which is the way to go I think. It’s like, it doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as it’s good. So I never put a time on anything, it’s like; it’s done when it’s done. Which I think is the way to go. When you sit back and look at it, and go “That’s right”, then it’s done. 


I’ve spoken to other artists that are happy if a tattoo needs a second passing at a later date; do you agree with that sentiment?

Sometimes, if I think to get the best effect is going to overwork the skin a bit, I will ask to look at it in about 4 to 5 weeks, to see if it needs any sort of tightening up, or darkening. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but obviously whatever’s going to look the best at the end of it. You know, so… the piece has got to look right. It’s all about how good it looks, really.


Do you find the exchange of tattoo-related information better between artists nowadays?

I think they’re busier now and need apprentices. I don’t think it needs to be as closed anymore. It’s like, everyone is learning from everyone else, and there’s always room for a brilliant artist. You know, the trouble is, for every good artist you get, you get 20 shit ones, unfortunately. 


Has it been busy, right from the start here? 

It has from the day the doors opened… I think because I’d already been working for seven or eight years in other studios and I took about eight weeks off to do the shop up so I told everyone I was going; they all got my number. And the day I opened up it was just chock-full with people. And it’s been like that ever since. People were willing to wait; I remember about three or four years ago, we’d look at our appointment list and be like, “Wow, we’ve got ten days booked.” You know, solid. And now it’s like eight months. Throughout the year, it’s like, seven or eight months wait to even get anything. 


Do you find that some folk are just too impatient to wait and will go elsewhere?

We get that, and we just show them the way out. We don’t need that sort of customer. I think there are certain shops for certain types of customers. We’re happy to tattoo anyone, but when someone’s saying “I can get it cheaper”, it tells you exactly what sort of customer he or she are. They just want a bit of ink in their skin; they’re not bothered about the quality, the standard, or anything. If you want that sort of work, that’s fine, there are tattoo studios that do that sort of thing. And the thing is, there’s a customer base for them, so there’ll always be a need for them. It’s like, people that want to spend that little bit extra, wait that little bit of extra time, do get the nicer work on. And you can tell what sort of people they are. I think that sort of tends to filter out anyone that’s not sort of into the classier stuff. And that ends up over time, that’s the only sort of customer we get now, really. We now tend to get the ones that are willing to wait and get the proper work and that do understand that it does take time, and that there’s other people before them that want that sort of stuff. Especially the sort of road we’re going down, it’s like, Paul gets a lot of people waiting because of the way his colour work is; he tends to put colour in that seems to heal in no time, and so it’s really, really bright, as the day it was done. And a lot of people are really into that. And I don’t think there’s really anyone sort of doing that sort of thing that much. 

Have you ever thought of opening another studio considering you are so busy?

It’s like; if we had a bigger shop, we’d have to take someone else on. But the amount of people that go, “Why don’t you open another studio?” I’m not a businessman; I’m a tattoo artist! Do you know what I mean? I don’t want to have to do all the paperwork; I want to do tattooing. That’s all I want to do. If I could give all the paperwork to somebody, I would. I know we don’t have a massive shop, but it was only for me to work in. The fact that it’s gone like this, it was never planned. We work with enough room, we used to have a lot bigger waiting room but because we’re appointment-only, we don’t need it. So it’s like, people that are coming, they’ll just sit down, have a coffee and wait for their appointment. So we’ve had this studio remade so we can accommodate three people. It’s perfect yeah. It helps as well… I know Paul and me are brothers, but we’re all mates, good mates, so we’ll all help each other out no matter what. Yeah, we’re all from round this area too. 


Obviously we see you at conventions all the time, and that sort of thing. Have you got a favourite one in the UK?

Erm, what, that isn’t Tattoo Jam? (Laughs). Apart from the obvious! The ones that I really like to work are the Newport show. I love the show at Liverpool, that’s a really good show to work. The Cumbria show as well, it’s when a show is run by people that want it to be a bit of fun, you can tell. Like Tattoo Jam; it was a really good show, I really enjoyed it! Yeah, I think those are probably my four favourites. 


So how did you find the process of tattooing? Was it something you took to easily?

I think it’s about trying to not chop the skin up, and when you’ve mastered that you can sort of do your own thing with it. I think when you first start it’s all trial and error, I had to work it out for myself really. Then I’d been doing it for probably about a year and a half, two years maybe, and I thought it was probably time to move on. I was never one to work at home, and stay working at home, that was never the thing. It was just like, “This is what I’ll have to do to start with”, with a view to doing it professionally. I went to a couple of studios to see if they wanted to take anybody on, but again it was a long time ago, and nobody really did. 


I ended up going to see one guy, and he seemed quite interested, and he’d just opened a studio quite recently and it got a little bit busy.  So he gave me a ring and asked if I wanted to go down, so I started working just the Saturdays there. That lasted about two or three weeks, and I ended up full time. And I worked there about eight years, sort of solidly, working between four different studios. So then it was the case of, I’d done all I could there, it was time to go because I wanted to be better at what I was doing. And I’d exceeded the limits of what I could be taught, really. Which was really weird ‘cause I went in there as a total novice and my technique got a lot better, again just through doing it constantly all day. The guy that ran the studio had been doing it years, and just didn’t seem to be able to teach me anything. It was very old school, which was a good thing, I think. I think it’s good to come from that sort of route, and then your head’s not in the clouds really, about what tattooing is. Y’know? It’s hard.


I think you’ve got to learn to tattoo solidly before you can learn to be arty with it, ‘cause there’s so many basic techniques. I think if you just want to go into it straight away being artistic, you never really sort of learn or grasp the rudiments. Even something as simple as just putting a solid outline on.  A lot of the arty stuff doesn’t even need good outline, but it’s good to know how to do it. And it’s speed and depth too that you’ve gotta learn. I’ve put some stuff on early in my career that’s scabbed up like crusty bread. (Laughs). Now you can work stuff and you’re lucky if you even get a wafer of scab on it. Again, it’s just technique and fine-tuning that counts. 


Do you also find it’s down to the development of the equipment? Is the equipment better these days?

I think it’s basically all the same. It’s like; I think the colours are nicer, I think everything has come on naturally. The machines are probably better run, finely tuned now ‘cause the parts are a little bit better built. But they’re still basically the same sort of thing. I can’t see the difference from the stuff I started learning with to what I use now, but I only use coil machines. 


Do you find you’ve got a distinct style, or do you play around with colours a lot?

Yeah I do, I think I enjoy the darker stuff more but I’m really into doing sort of bright coloured work as well. There was a spell a while ago where I was getting asked to do a lot of colourful pin-up stuff, which I still do now. I really like doing them; I get a lot out of them. I think the first one I did, that got the most publicity, was the piece designed by Rachael Huntington, I did that at Derby about three or four years ago. The girl that wanted me to do it, I said “Yeah, that would work as a tattoo”, but I didn’t really want to use some artwork without Rachael’s permission, because again, I think it’s something that should be respected. So I emailed her, and asked her if she’d mind if I actually did it. Obviously if I did, I’d actually buy the print, because I didn’t want to steal anything off the Internet, I just didn’t think it was fair. So, she got back in touch with me and seemed really, really interested, and said; “Come down and see it”. So that was the first time I actually met Rachael, she’s a great artist. So that was a few years ago. So she then came down and watched the piece that I did and we’ve sort of been in touch ever since, really. I think about a year after that, she said she’d always been interested in tattooing. And I said, “Really, your stuff really does execute well as a tattoo. If you can learn to tattoo as well as the stuff that you’re producing, you’ll be fantastic.” So we started her off and got her a little bit going, ‘cause I thought she’d be a good asset really, to the tattoo industry. I mean, it was a shame we were so far away because we’d have quite happily had her working here, but I mean, I think she’s Nottingham way. So I sort of said to her, “You need to, if you can, get hold of someone, y’know a good studio that’s gonna teach you properly, not just anybody.” Which she did; working at Rampant Ink with Gray Silva, which is good really ‘cause she’s been doing really well now. And I’ve been looking at her tattoo work lately and it’s come on loads. I think she’s one to watch in the next sort of, two or three years. I think if she just finely tunes what she’s doing she’ll be remarkable, because she’s got the art behind her. So yeah, she’ll be a great tattooist.


There are a lot of artists from other areas of art coming into tattooing with the likes of Bez for example; do you think this is a good thing?

Yeah, again, he’s been doing it a short while but he’s sort of really kicked it up its arse, really, which is a good addition to tattooing. It really is, it’s like I’ve always said, there’s always room for a good artist because it will filter the shit out. I mean, I like Bez’s work, so good luck to him with what he does. I think he’s great, and I think he’s grasped it really quickly as well, in the time he’s been tattooing; he’s obviously watched and listened.


So between the three of you have you pretty much got all things covered here?

Yeah, we have really. We sort of cover everything. Paul does a lot of mainly colour work, but again his black and grey work is really good. I think Paul’s black and grey has got a little bit of a style to it. And with my sort of black and grey it tends to be slightly dark. And with Tony’s work it’s like - I mean, Tony’s new really, to tattooing, in retrospect of how long people have been tattooing. But his work again - Tony’s worked as an artist prior to working tattooing; he used to have his own modern studio where he did modern art. So Tony’s come from an art background as well, which is a good thing; he already knows what he’s doing prior to putting it on the skin. I mean, he puts it on canvas really well, so y’know; art’s not a new thing to him. It’s just learning the new medium. 


What sort of drew you to tattooing then?

To me, it just seemed a natural way forward. It was how it impressed me. It’s like putting something on the skin and, that’s on someone forever. I think again, people sort of trusting you to do it. But I think, anatomically, artwork on the skin if it fits perfect to the shape of the body…it’s always going to be the most impressive piece. Y’know, rather than something that’s plonked on two-dimensional, if you can work something round…again like most stuff we do, even if we work from an initial sort of outline, we tend to draw a lot of stuff on afterwards to make it fit the area and sort of move with the natural contours of the body. 


Do you draw directly onto the skin a lot then?

Mostly, yeah. It’s most of the stuff. Transfers and stuff…basically I’ll use one for like, contours and faces, and that’s it. But we mainly draw stuff straight onto the skin. I mean, we have designs here, but I think people come in here mainly to have stuff as a one-off drawn on piece. We’ve gone weeks without even putting a stencil on. We have a stencil maker that doesn’t ever get used. We also use stencils for stuff with symmetry, which you can’t really do freehand, but that’s about it. 


Do you collaborate with the customers quite a bit? Do they come in with set ideas of how they want something?

Yeah, we tend to get people that come to see us that have seen stuff that we’ve done, and gone, “I like that sort of thing”. And whichever artist has done that will be the one they need to talk to. They are quite happy with you to do something as a one-off for them, but again, it’s like, they see the style of the work mainly on the website, and they’re like, “Well, who’s done that?” And we’ll go, “Well it’s a one-off, we can do it in the style of, but not the same as.” 


I think that’s probably the one good thing to come out of all these TV shows, is the fact that now people appreciate that you can pretty much have what you like. 

Yeah, well…I think the media coverage of tattooing has created a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s created a lot more education for people; they actually know what we can do. But then on the bad side of it, it’s created this like…wrong image of like, a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, that a lot of kids are now wanting a part of that, and I don’t think they realise that it’s not like that in real life. It’s a hard job. And you’ll do more hours in this job than you will a normal job. And it’s so tiring. We’ll leave here on a Saturday, and I’ll sit down at home, and I’m like that. I’m just on and off, it’s like “Whoaah!” It’ll be like eight o’clock and I just can’t keep my eyes open! The kids don’t see you coming down early in the morning and sterilising, I mean, we don’t get it much here because I think it’s a bit of a chilled out shop, but it’s like people chucking up everywhere. They’re not seeing anyone on the telly chucking up and stuff like that, ‘cause it does happen. They’re not seeing anyone passed out, shaking on the floor. Unfortunately people just believe exactly what they see on telly. 


Do you think they should show the true sides to it all then?

Yeah, yeah they should because people come in…they see it as a bit of a fashion addition to what will go with what they’re wearing that night. It’s like, they’re asking you if it hurts, you’re like “Have you had one before?” “No.” And they haven’t even looked into it; they expect it not to hurt. Y’know, and they get a right shock when it actually happens! The amount of swearing we hear in here, from women… (Laughs).


So you’re obviously really busy with everything that’s going on, you must get a lot of people coming in asking for apprenticeships?

All the time, it’s mainly through email. We get a lot a lot of emails a day. It’s too many to answer as well, I can be up home and up ‘til midnight just answering emails, ‘cause I never ignore anybody. I mean, there’s been a case where we’ve had dozens in a week; people are like “I’m 16, I’m at school, I’m really good at drawing, and I think I could work at your shop.” And it’s like, “You know nothing about this.” And it sounds really sort of tossy, but it’s not. It’s just very rarely do you see someone where you think, “Yeah, you’ll actually do good at this.” You’ve got to be the right person. Again these kids have seen it on the telly and they go “That’s what I wanna do.” It’s like, when I was at school, my careers officer said to me “What do you wanna do?” And I said, “I want to be a tattooist.” And he just turned his nose up, he was like, “Why do you wanna do that? Don’t you want a proper job, like at B&Q or summat?” I was like “No!” He said to me, “No one’s ever asked me about that, I don’t know anything about it.” But now, I bet careers officers everywhere will be absolutely getting pummelled with that question, “How do I be a tattooist?” And that’s it, this guy had been doing it twenty years and no one had ever asked him about that sort of job. And he just said, “It’s an unrealistic job prospect, go do something else.” Instantly they just wrote me off. And I was like, “No, that ain’t gonna happen.” The TV is good and bad, but it has got the general public thinking that we can do stuff, but then again, they’ll go to any studio and think that everybody can do that sort of work, and they can’t, unfortunately. What they’re seeing on the telly are custom art studios, which are far and few between.


It’s like; you wanna see some good tattooing. I watch it, yeah, and there’s always got to be more to it. I wish they’d show a bit of tattooing. I remember I watched the episode with Guy Atchison. He’s an amazing artist, and the stuff he was doing was just fantastic, really good to watch him do it. His bio-mech colour work is just amazing; it blows everyone else out of the water. It looks like paintings. Then again, he’s a painter as well, isn’t he? He’s an artist on canvas. But he’s putting it on the skin with as much skill as he does on canvas, which again, it’s a good thing to see. You know, it’s always a good addition. And his sister Hannah, as well, his sister is a fantastic tattooist. She’s better than any of the others that work there, she’s the only one I’d have let tattoo me, to be honest.  Oh, she worked Tattoo Jam this year, didn’t she? Brilliant. 


Who influences you in the tattoo industry?

I don’t think I’m influenced by anyone, I think there’s a few who inspire me in the tattoo world, your obvious ones are gonna be people like Bob Tyrrell…Paul Booth, who really influenced me in my earlier years but he was doing the darker stuff then that I was more into. Milosch, Jack Ribeiro, and like Paul Naylor, again. They’ve been more inspirational to what I sort of do, and helped me go down the road that I want to go down. It’s been really helpful. Erm…Victor Portugal as well, his work is fantastic, the stuff he does. Again, I think my work is a little bit sort of mishmash and stolen from the best parts of what I see them do. You know, it’s helped me a lot. I think they’re probably the main ones, in sort of the darker stuff.


You say you like to collect art, is that just from tattooists?

Art as well. It’s massive…it’s probably my only weakness really, original art. I have collections of a lot of artwork at home ranging from artists like Simon Bisley, Greg Staples, Clint Langley…they’re probably three of my favourites; they are sort of comic wise. But then in fine art as well I have pieces by Mia, Sylvia Ji, Greg Simkins, Todd Schorr, Crayola, and then from the other end of the scale, very sort of simple stuff by Peter Brook. And I’ve got probably a couple of dozen by Jasmine Beckett. She actually designed our first ever banner for us. I have an absolutely massive amount of original artwork in my house; it’s like a gallery. I can’t even think of half of them there’s that many!


So you say you’re always busy, but how do you relax when you’re not tattooing?

X-Box 360, live! Call of Duty. That goes for Paul as well! Tony doesn’t play it ‘cos he’s strange (Laughs). He’s still got to come online yet! But yeah, 360. At the minute I’m trying to get a bit more painting done, but I just haven’t had time. But yeah, that’s my chill out! I’ve been on it this morning! That would be cool if we did a big 360 thing online with all tattooists, that’d be brilliant! Find out who play’s Call of Duty online on 360. It’s really funny when there’s like a gang of you playing. I also got a lot of canvases all primed up ready to go, I just don’t have time. It’s just finding the few hours that I’d need to sit down and do stuff. Y’know? I’ve got loads of paintings that I know I’m going to be doing, subjects I’ve got, I just don’t have the time at the minute. Paul’s got a reptile shop at his house! I’ve got a Californian King Snake but that’s it. 


We don’t drink, hardly at all. It’s like, if we go out, it’s on a night where we’re not working the next day. You can’t do it… I think it might be because of the sort of stuff we do, it is that mentally challenging, that you just can’t. I don’t think I could do this job with a hangover; I’d be just dead. It would be too hard. And to me, I really, really disagree with that attitude to it. It deserves more respect than that does this industry. Totally. There’d be no one with a hangover tattooing me; I don’t care who they were. No way at all. Tattoos are serious things, they’re not to be taken lightly. It’s a bit disrespectful. It’s not something we’d do.


So have you got sort of like, a shop person too, or is it just you three?

We sort of do it between us; it works well between us doesn’t it. We do all right. I think because we all muck in and do the same thing, there’s nobody’s above anybody else at all… Except me! (Laughs). No, no there’s none of that. We’ll all clean up each other’s stuff. If I’m ahead of time, I’ll clean up Tony’s stuff if he’s doing something so he can crack on with the next one. We all do that, that’s just the way it is. I think that’s what it is with us all being mates, there’s no hierarchy at all. ‘Cos we all leave at the same time anyway, unless we’re doing bits and bobs or we come in, in the morning. We try and do it so we’re all leaving work together.


What is your take on the tattoo culture or lifestyle?

I think it’s that sort of cult thing really, tattooing. People are either heavily into it or they’re not aren’t they. So they’re not gonna miss any shows. People also go for the social aspect of it. Everyone sort of seems to know each other; it’s quite a close-knit community. Even though there are so many people on it. The amount of people we know now just from working shows and seeing them all the time, it just becomes an enormous social circuit. Which I think people are quite happy to go on, because you can go out and have all your tattoos showing, and no one cares. It’s nice to do that; it’s healthy. So I think that’s probably why they’re always busy.


So what won’t Skinshokz tattoo?

We get a lot of walk in work, most females. Cheryl Cole is banned from our shop, we’re sick of her! Again, it’s a fashion tattoo and they’ll regret it. But they won’t listen. Cheryl Cole won’t need to go for another job interview. We’ve told them, and you say to them, “Hand tattooing is a permanent visible thing.” And they don’t get what you mean. And it’s a case of like, you go, “No, we’re not doing it for you.” Or let them go to a shop that will just do it for them and it’ll be shit. And it’s on their hand so it’s got to be really good, so sometimes you just don’t know what to do. So we’ve come to a thing of, if they’re going to do it anyway then we’ll do it for them but we’ll do it right. 


That’s worse, if you’re 'going to have it and it looks shit, that’s bad. Again, neck tattooing. There’s load of people getting their necks tattooed, and we’ve turned a lot away for that. If you’ve got your sleeves done then going onto your neck is a progression, but it’s like… they don’t think. About three weeks ago a young lad came in, 18 years old, wanted his name on his neck. And I were like, “Nope, we’re not doing it!” There wasn’t another one on his body! He’ll have probably gone and got it done somewhere else, it’s like… I can’t bring myself to do that. He’ll probably end up regretting it and I don’t want to be the person that’s done it; he just didn’t seem to understand. I said to him, “Let’s do something on your arm instead. I’m not saying I won’t tattoo you, let’s just not do it on your neck for your first one. I’ll think you’ll regret it.” And then he ended up not having anything on. But then again, it sounds really contradictory ‘cos like I said, we’ll do the hand thing. But I think that many girls are getting a little bit done on their hand, it’s going to become more acceptable. Some bloke with a tattoo on his neck is looked at differently. You know, we start telling them about not getting into places and stuff, and they seem really shocked about it, ‘cos they’ve never had to put up with it. I’ve been refused entrance to a greasy café! When I’ve been out with my girlfriend they’ve not let us into a restaurant, when we’ve had a table booked. And it’s like, “Forget it then!” You know, its ridiculous. It probably isn’t so bad now, and again, we’ve not turned up scruffy. We’ve turned up in a new car, parked outside, all clean, and they don’t want you in there. Which fair enough, we won’t go there again. Ever. But they don’t realise, because the people I know, the people that were with us, none of them will go there again now either. They’ve turned down everyone else.


So what’s the best thing about being an artist then?

Er, I think it’s getting to do something that you love as a job. I’ve always said if I won the lottery, I’d still be here the next day because I do it ‘cos I 'wanna do it. The fact that it pays my mortgage is a bonus. We take tattooing seriously, but we don’t take being here seriously. And the amount of people that have gone like, “It’s so different in your shop”, it’s like… they’ve come in, they were nervous, we’ve had a right laugh, a cup of coffee, and they’ve gone out absolutely splitting their sides. Because they’ve had such a laugh with us! The amount of stuff I’ve read on the Internet from people that have been in being like “You’ve got to go in”, and “The atmosphere in that studio…” Most of the customers are women, I’d definitely say they’re 60% in favour. Even more. But I think women are a bit more conscious about who works on them, and cleanliness. I think people sort of come in, meet us, and we are all really approachable. And we’ll be silly with them, and we’ll have a laugh with them, and we don’t come across as scary or anything. And I think women tend to relate to that a little bit more. It’s absolutely gangs of women that we tattoo really! Tony probably takes them all home! (Laughs). 


It’s timing as well, say if someone has come in for a forty-minute tattoo, they’ll be here for an hour or so. And they bring their mates with them. I think if you take it too seriously the fun will go out of it. You know, and it’s hard enough to put needles into the skin but as soon as you stop, you’ve just got to have a bit of a laugh and a joke with people. I think people get our personality then too, what we’re sort of like. I think if you do click with a customer, they are a lot easier to work on. The customers we get, are often repeat customers, so they know what’s going on. They’ve all got the same sense of humour. I think generally people that get tattoo work have got a little bit of something about them anyway; they tend to be a bit more fun generally! 


Where do you see yourselves in the future then?

Just tattooing, generally. I think sort of me personally, what I’m doing now I’m happy doing. I don’t want to be in a big studio or running loads of studios. I come to work, do some nice work; then go home. I do like doing the shows too; the shows are hard work though. If I could I’d probably do more. More shows, yeah. I do enjoy them. To me it’s like a weekend away, you get to do some nice stuff. You need that break off from the shop too. It was never about making money from the start, that’s the thing. We’re ok, we can shut the shop and go away for a few days and do it. Again, it’s worth it for the fun, and it does sort of put the studio name and our names out there a bit. And it creates business really, even if the intention of it was for a bit of fun working away. But it does have its really big plus sides. We’ve done really well from conventions. People sort of see us work, and they book with us over the Internet to come and get work done. We’re never not busy. We’re generally booked way before a show. All the shows that I’ve confirmed for this year were booked from last year. Which is good! People come from all over too. A guy came from Holland specifically for me to work on him, which I thought was nice. We have a girl who comes from California. Yeah, she’s a marine biologist. She’s having a sleeve of like, comic/horror work, and she books with us when she can get into the country. She has family over here anyway, so if she’s coming over, she likes to five or six hours done at a time to get the sleeve finished on her.


So whom would you like to thank, in your career so far?

At the start it was my girlfriend, Sarah for kicking me up the arse to get it done. She also named the shop as well. She’s been the biggest help in my career, more than anybody. It’s like a cliché, but my Mum and Dad. They were always like “You can do it”. They’ve been behind me and Paul one hundred percent of the way. It’s nice to know you’re doing something that your Mum and Dad back you up on they’re probably the main three. To be honest, I think Paul as well, when he started working here, it made me think, “Y’know, we’ll do something else”, going further with it, because there’s someone else to think of. They’re probably the people that have put me where I am. As I said, my girlfriend really, really… she’s made this shop be here, to be honest. 


So is there anything else you’d like to add, that you think people should know about yourselves?

Mainly, putting the fun into tattooing. Keeping the work good but not keeping it too serious. That sums our shop up brilliantly. It’s ok to a have a laugh whilst you’re being tattooed, or tattooing. Y’know, that’s the main thing. It’s like, I wanted our studio to be the sort of studio that I’d want to go to, and I think we’ve achieved it. And I’ve been in a few studios where you’re like, “What the fuck…” It’s like, the only studio… well not the only studio, but one that I can say that I’ve been in and thought it was an absolute mirror image of here was Paul’s, at Northwich (Indigo Tattoos). They’re as sick as we are! It’s like I was back at work when I’ve been down there, which I think is a good thing. Plus, he’s got a thing about Sheep in suspenders Laughs. He won’t go to Wales anymore ‘cos he just can’t trust himself!


Roy and Paul Priestley & Tony Burdin 

Skinshokz Tattoo Studio

11 Towngate, Wyke, Bradford.

BD12 9PA

01274 676914


Interview: Neil Photography: Neil, Paul & Roy


Skin Deep 176 1 September 2009 176