Soren Granhof Schjott - The Great Dane

Published: 15 October, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 217, October, 2012

The small town of Svendborg, located on the island of Funen in south-central Denmark, is not necessarily where you’d expect to find a tattooer who could spotlight as a comedian, and that is as good at conjuring up a Bob Dylan sleeve as he is at drawing on Eastern influences, his favourite. But then again, stranger things have happened.

Meet Søren Granhof Schjøtt – don’t worry, we’re pretty sure we’re not pronouncing it right either, so we’ll just stick with Søren – a tattoo artist whose penchant for ink was sparked while working on a magazine, perhaps not so different from the one you’re currently reading.
It was the late ’80s and Søren was part of the team working on Progress, a publication dedicated to tattoos and music, which was fronted by a tattooed editor whose black and grey pieces done by Henning Jørgensen of Royal Tattoo, so inspired Søren that he chose to learn more about tattooing, eventually deciding to pick up the craft himself. Tough that didn’t really come as a great shock to anyone who knew him.

“Being a part of the metal music and tattoo scene all my adult life, I think everyone more or less expected me to start tattooing sooner or later,” says Søren, although his love affair with the arts began much earlier than that.

“My first seven years of schooling were in a Rudolf Steiner school, a pretty special school with most of the focus on music, art and so on, so I have always been drawing and creating stuff. On the other hand, I can’t write, do math or speak foreign languages,” he laughs. “Around the mid-’90s, I did my first couple of tattoos on myself and a few friends. But because of the fact that I was busy starting up as an independent graphic designer, I didn’t make much out of it before the beginning of the new millennium when I started taking in paying customers and doing less computer graphics.

“I’ve only been a full-time tattooist for the last couple of years, finding it hard to quit the graphics completely. Now I enjoy putting all my heart into it and don’t miss the computer at all.”

Except maybe when things start aching, or the prospect of ladies in uniform crosses his mind. “It’s very hard on the body, and sometimes when my back or my wrist or whatever is killing me and I can’t work, it would be nice to take a couple of days in bed and still get my pay at the end of the month,” he laughs, “but it’s a wonderful job and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, except maybe being a doctor, like my dad, fooling around with the young nurses. But then again, it takes good grades to be a doctor and I went to this Steiner school, remember?”

Keep It Lowkey

Following that first self-inflicted tattoo – his band’s logo – and a tough learning curve that unfortunately did not include an apprenticeship, Søren managed to rather quickly arrive at a point in his career where one look at his portfolio is all you need to see he’s a finely skilled artist, as well as to discover which particular style he’s best at.

“I love the Oriental and Asian-inspired style – it’s very important for me that my customers don’t think I do traditional Japanese,” he explains. “I think I love this style because I’m very much into flow, motion, positive/ negative relation, and the interaction with the body, much more than following a special school or style, and you find all these elements in the Oriental style. Basically, it boils down to the fact that organic stuff – flowers, fire, wind, waves, animals – work excellent on the body. You can say I don’t care if people want a Buddha or a Hannya mask, it’s how I can make it work and live on skin that’s important for me.”

Other than accomplishing what he set out to do only a few years ago – mastering the needle – Søren has also had another grand milestone in the industry in the form of opening his very own shop, Lowkey Tattoo.

“Lowkey is my shop, my second home, and a very personal place for me. I try to keep it very familiar, cozy and relaxed, and only work with friends so I don’t have to be bossy,” says Søren. “And due to the fact that Lowkey is an appointment-only shop, we don’t have customers coming in and out all day long, which is good for the atmosphere and mood and a thing our customers love when in the chair.”

Currently home to two other artists, Lowkey may soon be feeling a lot lonelier.

“Rasmus finished his apprenticeship this spring. He’s a close friend and a little bit like the younger brother I never had! He’s ready to rock now, partying in Thailand as we speak and travelling to New York soon to do several guest spots and learn the trade the hard way.

“Bastian is a cool guy who loves everything the old-fashioned way. He has helped out the last couple of years, but is opening his own shop, Black Harbour, very soon.”

Danish Rule

“Everybody is tattooed in Denmark, really; I think we’re the most tattooed nation in the world. Don’t tell the Swedes!” jokes Søren. “Danish Crown Prince Frederik has several, most TV presenters, everybody working in your local supermarket, half the national football team, and so on. So I think you find most styles here, but a lot of crap as well, of course. When everybody is tattooed, there’s a lot of them who have bad taste!” he laughs.

Speaking of the prince, that’s one client Søren would certainly never turn down, already having decided on what he’d love to tattoo on him, given free reign.   

“It would be cool to do a nice Oriental half sleeve on the Danish Crown Prince. I think he’s a cool and mellow guy, he has a couple of small tattoos already, and his grandpa was very much into tattoos – it was actually him who wrote the Danish laws about tattooing.”

But as great as the tattoo culture is in his homeland, it’s tattooers from across the globe that inspire Søren.

“I’ve been heavily inspired by amazing artists like Filip Leu – I had the pleasure to get tattooed by him in his old apartment in Lausanne, Switzerland, many years ago – Shige of Yellow Blaze, Jeff Gogue. But I think for the last couple of years I don’t refer to anyone special, I seek references and do things the way it feels natural for me. Last year I had my left arm done by a very talented bloke, Johan Finné of Evil Twins in Sweden, which inspired me a lot, so check him out!”

With a constant drive to be involved in something artistic, what would happen if Søren had to stop tattooing? Surprisingly, even with his quick wit and perfect timing, comedy doesn’t cross his mind.

“Body painting maybe,” he laughs. “No, I like doing carpentry and the smell of wood, but I guess it’s not that fun standing on a roof at seven o’clock in the morning, in the rain. 40 years ago I would have loved to have my own small farm, living off the animals and the earth – I spent a lot of time as a child at a place like that, but those kinds of farms don’t exist anymore.”

Now, because we like to let artists have the last word – yeah, we’re nice like that – we thought we’d let Søren fill in the blank: ‘Søren is…’

“… ready to go to work right now after four weeks of vacation, and very happy to finally do this interview with Skin Deep!”

Ink Goals

I have a long journey in front of me and I haven’t reached many of my artistic goals yet. Most important is to have a good vibe in the studio, [not] fuck up my body working too much, and being able to support my family doing that.

What’s Next?

Trying to get the studio up and running with some changes ahead. Rasmus is guest spotting around the world; Bastian is opening his own shop – I think I’m ready to take it up another level!


Text: Barbara Pavone; Photography: Soren