By Takahiro “Horitaka” Kitamura
I recently had my friend Ben Grillo come visit to hang out and make some tattoos. Most of you may know Ben for his incredibly detailed single-needle masterpieces, and I thought it would be fun to do a little TAM Blog interview with Ben...
HT: How long have you been tattooing?
Ben Grillo: I've been tattooing seven-and-a-half years now. I got a late start, I didn't start tattooing until I was 29. I had my share of crappy jobs before I got to do the best "job" in the world. Maybe it makes me appreciate it better.
HT: When did you start doing the micro-tats?
BG: Those? Probably about five years ago, something like that.
HT: You don't seem afraid at all... Do you worry about how they will age or heal?
BG: Well, I pretty much warn everybody, the smaller it is, the harder its gonna read, especially the older it gets. That's just like any tattoo but more-so the smaller it gets. I try to tattoo it in such a way that it will stay sharp and looking good for as long as possible. But no matter what, they're gonna eventually turn to shit.
HT: Do you think you would not be able to do these if you weren't also good at portraits?
BG: I actually did these before I started doing portraits.
HT: Do you apply any of the same principles?
BG: Of course, sometimes I do the miniature tattoos like a portrait. It's just smaller, that's why they take so long.
HT: How long would it take to do a bodysuit of lil' tattoos?
BG: I'd probably end up being 70 years old if I started now.
HT: Do you worry about getting pigeonholed?
BG: Totally, it's already happened and I find myself doing a lot of the same things over and over. Whereas my favorite kind of tattoo to do would be like old-school traditional, American traditional. But I don't think that many people know that, or they think I only like to do small tattoos or fine-line black and gray.
People that want to get tattooed by me say, "I know how you like to do small tattoos or black and grey roses" and that's not the case, not that I hate it, but I do like other styles too. It's good to have variety instead of doing micro-tattoos or single-needle stuff all the time.
HT: What's the better restaurant, Dorsia or Tex Arcana?
BG: Nobody goes to Tex Arcana anymore, besides Dorsia has a better bathroom to do coke in.
HT: Is Huey Lewis too black sounding?
BG: I'm not into singers...
HT: How can people get a hold of you??
BG: By calling the shops that I work at, I'm not really into Facebooking about shit like this. Call the shops, Flying Panther or Power Tattoo.
Ben Grillo can be found at:
Power Tattoo Company
2129 Industrial Ct., Vista, CA 92081
Phone (760) 599.1111
Hours: Mon - Sun: 11:00 am - 8:00 pm
Flying Panther Tattoo
2323 Broadway Ste. 101
San Diego, CA 92102
Open Sunday through Saturday: 12:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Horitaka (Taki) can be found at:
State of Grace Tattoo
221 Jackson Street
San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: (408) 441-7770
Hours: 11am - 7pm
Closed on Tuesday