Jimmy Perlman: At about what age did you realize that you wanted tattoos? And what was the impetus?
Ben Nichols: I was in high school. Turned 18 and went down to a crusty old biker's tattoo shop on Asher Ave. in Little Rock, AR and picked some flash off the wall. That tattoo is now 19 years old and holding up fine... for better or worse.
Brain Venable: I never really did know for sure, Steve Lovett the singer for Raid "convinced" me to pawn my stereo and get the judge hammers with “stomp crew” around them when I was 18, after that I was hooked...
Rick Steff: 47. To commemorate my fathers passing.
Todd Beene: I got started relatively late. Growing up in rural Alabama, playing music, and working on a cattle ranch there wasn't much tattoo influence or example other than my grandpa's blown out Merchant Marine tattoo. I don't remember really deciding that I wanted tattoos but it was definitely after I moved to Murfreesboro, TN and started going to school. I thought about it from time to time, but for the most part I was gonna be "that guy with no tattoos" in my group of friends.
I didn't get my first tattoo until my 29th birthday. My friend Stephen Gilchrist was tattooing in Murfreesboro at the time. He and I used to play Dixie Youth baseball together when we were kids back in Alabama. So we were drinking beer out on a porch late after my birthday and he said, c'mon let's go to the shop -it'll be your birthday present. So that was that. I got my family's cattle brand in bold black on my left shoulder.
I was fresh off the ranch, living in a new place and definitely wanted to carry that around with me. Back then I thought that tattoos had to be deeply personal and meaningful and I went on to get some script and another of our cattle brands tattooed later. It wasn't until I the first Revival Tour that I began to understand what I liked in tattoos and what kind of tattoos I wanted to have.
JP: Whether you are aware or not, your music has found it's way into many tattoo studios around the world, what's your reaction to this?
Ben: I think Lucero's music in tattoo shops makes perfect sense. I figure we come from the same kind of life as a bunch of these tattoo artists, and so I figure they might relate to the songs Lucero writes. There is a certain appreciation for tradition that exists in both groups of guys. The tattoo artists take their influences and try to learn from and add to them and make them their own. That's what Lucero does with the kinds of songs we play. We try to develop our own style out of all the different influences and traditions we learned from. You don't want to take those traditions and water them down, but you still have to make them your own.
Brian: It's fucking awesome! I think it's cool how we are all kind of doing the same thing, some with musical instruments and some with tattoo guns, it's all art of some sort and we all like to share!
Roy Berry: Yeah. Badass.
Todd: It gives shop dudes a break from High on Fire every once in awhile. No, in all seriousness it's obviously great to be a part of anybody's life, especially being a part of somebody's creative endeavor whether they are drawing inspiration from the songs or just enjoying them for what they are. I really like the idea of Lucero being a part of somebody's tattoo experience when they go into their local shop and get a great tattoo.
Music can be such a big part of the whole deal. I remember walking into Immaculate in Tempe (Aaron Coleman) and Mando was listening to David Allen Coe and shit. I was like; well this is a change from what you normally hear in a shop! The whole time I was getting tattooed, Aaron was playing all Mississippi hill country blues. It was great experience and music can be a part of that.
JP: I know you guys have been known to bring tattooers out on the road with you, like Oliver Peck, what are the advantages and disadvantages to having 24-hour access to a great tattooer while on tour? Ha-ha.
Ben: Of course it's great being able to get a tattoo done at a show or in a hotel room or on the bus at anytime... Especially with the caliber of artists who have traveled with us. I don't think anyone's gotten a bad tattoo yet, even at five in the morning after a few drinks. I guess there is always the chance that a poor choice might be made in haste and drunken haze but I think that's part of what getting a tattoo is all about anyway. Where and when and who you were with is just as important as what the image of the tattoo actually is.
Brian: I may have more hotel room tattoo's than I have from actual shops! Some nights you get awesome flowers and some nights you get awesome backwards Texas tattoo's! It’s all good fun!
Roy: Awesome tattoos and awesome times. I guess the wallet gets a little lighter here and there, but it's better than losing it in Vegas (although last spring I did win $2500 bucks). Also, I guess healing upkeep is slightly tougher on the road, but we got it down by now.
Rick: Advantages are obvious, the disadvantage is: so much ink, so little empty flesh…
Todd: Honestly I can't think of a disadvantage other than having one more smelly dude in the mix. When Oliver comes out, he just tattoos his ass off. I felt a little bad at first because he's out for the hang, but he’s just tattooing like crazy until I realized, this dude totally wants to tattoo, like, all the time!
Obviously it's great to be able to get in line and get tattooed by somebody I consider not only one of the greats in my opinion, but also a solid bro. However, the real fun for me is meeting friends that he or Jimmy brings into the mix in different parts of the country. Like I've said before, I have no interest in becoming a tattooer, but I fully respect the craft and am extremely interested in learning what makes tattooers tick as artists. It's also endlessly fascinating to me to see how guys I respect act when they get around each other and what they talk about. So, I might be sitting there chillin', but I'm watching you!
JP: How did you guys hook up with the Elm Street posse in Dallas?
Ben: Not sure exactly. This little guy with long hair and a toothpick started showing up over and over at our Fort Worth shows... Then I hung out on his rolling tattoo studio RV at a Revival Tour show at the Hi Tone in Memphis. Oliver, and the whole crew just seemed to show up more and more from there on out.
Roy: “Fuckin' magnets how do they work?” Some of the guys knew Oliver before me, maybe from Revival tour, then the band played Musink in Dallas. I'd been in the shop before, milling around, looking at flash and books and stuff between sound check and show time.
Todd: I first met Oliver Peck when he brought his RV to the Memphis show on the first Revival Tour in 2008. He drew up a tour Tattoo for us and five or six of us got it that night I think. I remember watching Oliver rip through it in about 25 minutes even free-handing the little shine jug at the bottom right before I went on stage. I remember Jimmy made Tex show me his "Ranch" tattoo. Then after the show, we went back to the RV and things got a little dicey from there.
JP: How did you guys hook up with the Hell Bomb guys?
Ben: I met the Hell Bomb guys on the first Revival Tour as well. You, Jimmy, it's all your fault.
Roy: Last tour, we had a day off in between shows and actually planned a tattoo day and went there. Hell, I can't remember past last week.
Todd: Again, the first Revival Tour picked up a show in Wichita thanks to Jimmy Perlman's relationship with the Hell Bomb dudes. They threw a show together for us at the bar next to their shop. When we showed up, these guys didn't know me from Adam, but treated me like a bro. Insta-bros, as it were, and basically gave us the run of their shop all day and night.
Spending all day in that shop and seeing their flash, paintings, and drawings everywhere, I started understanding what getting tattoos was going to be like for me from then on. I already really liked bold line traditional style, but what these guys were doing inside that world really blew me away and opened my mind to what was possible and what to look for.
I'm pretty sure everybody got tattooed. There's a good story about the tattoo I got from Heath Leffel that night (after the show), but you're gonna have to ask me about it next time you see me.
JP: Do you feel there is a correlation between getting tattooed and touring the world?
Ben: Sure. Tattoos gotten far and abroad are the best kind of souvenirs.
Brian: I try to get a tattoo anytime we leave the country of something I learned or discovered and the date and town! I got addicted to cafe con leches in Spain so I got a coffee cup in Gijon Spain on 27-2.
Roy: There is definitely a result of me touring and me getting tattooed, because I have tattoos from all over the place and it helps you recall some of the things you've experienced. They're like badges. Instead of collecting little state shaped refrigerator magnets I get a tattoo every once in a while of something I want tattooed on me.
Rick: Yes. Both involve maps…
Todd: Well, you can definitely have one without the other, but touring and getting tattooed goes together pretty nicely, like white beans and cornbread. You get the opportunity to meet and get tattooed by people that don't travel or do conventions much without having to deal with travel arrangements.
The downside to that is that you never really have time to get anything substantial done -nor would you really want to while on tour. I've heard the kind of tattoos we get described as "stickers on the suitcase" and I think that's pretty accurate. There was definitely a time when I thought tattoos had to be very meaningful and personal.
But getting tattooed on the road, taking advantage of meeting great artists, that changed into something else. Now getting tattooed is about a time and place, a memory and something that you physically share with another person. I mean, you both own that thing. I can look at a tattoo on me and instantly remember everything about that day and the person who did it. I think that's a really cool thing. Ultimately, though, the real reason is that I think they just look really fucking cool. Steve Turner did some crazy shit on both of Mary's shins and I stare at those every chance I get.
JP: Can you list some of the tattooers who have worked on you guys?
Ben: You know how to spell their names better than I do.
Brian: Dave Boisineau, Gifford Kasen, Brad Rouse, Jeremy Swed, Hunter Spanks, Kevin Wathke, Mando, Mike Tweed, and many more over the years!
Roy: Uh, these will all be spelled wrong and fuck if I remember my own name sometimes, help me out Jimmy...
Anyhow, here's what I could manage:
Rick: Oliver Peck, Gifford Kallen, Jimmy I need your help with this one.
Don't know who did my skull?
Todd: Aaron Coleman, Oliver Peck, Heath Leffel, Ben Seibert, Gifford Kasen, Stephen Gilchrist, Mike Tweed...
JP: You all have Buddy Holly glasses tattooed on you, can you please explain?
Ben: We were passing through Lubbock TX on October 10, 2010. Buddy Holly's birthplace. We all wanted a 10-10-10 tattoo and so a pair of black-rimmed glasses, Buddy Holly's trademark, with the numbers 10-10-10 under it, seemed like the perfect tattoo.
Brian: it was our first day month yr tattoo and we were in Lubbock, TX home of buddy holly so we got the glasses, I voted for Lubbock or leave it too!
Roy: Tour tattoos, everyone got 'em on 10/10/10 (glasses and the date). We were in Lubbock, TX where Buddy Holly was from. Just seemed like the right simple, small tattoo image . . . and it plainly illustrates what a bunch of nerds we all are.
JP: I've noticed for a while in various shops that it's a weird tradition for you guys to drunkenly tattoo the Lucero “L-star” on folks. How did that come about and how do you feel about being the temporary tattooer?
Ben: We all got the cursive “L” inside a star after band practice a long, long time ago. As new guys have joined the band, they've gotten the tattoo as well. Sooner or later folks in the audience started showing up with the same tattoo. Now we've even been handed tattoo guns and have given the tattoo to people ourselves... those are the interesting ones. Some of the guys in the band are better at it than others.
Brian: now that I’m so fat and have a huge beard more strangers ask me if I’m a tattoo artist more than if I’m in a band, it's pretty awesome, I have only really not paid attention and messed up once, the rest just look like a drunk 5-year-old had a seizure while tattooing!
Roy: First of all let me say, in my mind, the “L-star” is ours and even though lots of folks have it, it will always be our band tattoo. Short story: We were practicing at my old apartment (this is early Lucero, couple of years in) and we started playing "All Sewn Up" and John C. interrupted the song like "wait wait wait" style, said he didn't feel right playing that song not yet having any tattoos. Long story short, we decide to get band tattoos, Ben draws it up, we go to Ramses Shadow downtown near the pyramid and get it done. We might have even had a show that night; show's a little fuzzy but I do remember our friends giving us shit for the tattoos at some point. How do weird things drunkenly come about? I do know we weren't drunk when we got our “L-star.” It is a compliment to us that people want Lucero tattoos. To actually do one is fun and kind-of funny. I've signed a couple of people.
Rick: Tres cool, plus Dreyfus said if I didn't tattoo him, he'd make me play,
“The stun-gun game.”
JP: Are there any tattooers that you have not yet hooked up with but would really like to get a piece from?
Ben: Haven't gotten anything from Marcus Kuhn yet. Since we did some music for his project, I need to get some of his work done.
Brian: Steven Turner from Hell Bomb, Vanessa Waites from underground art, Jill Bonny from State of Grace.
Roy: I was thinking sometime I'd like to get one of those shaded type tattoos from Gifford, but, I need to think of or find the right image (taking into account how it might age and all that). Generally I've just been kind of lucky with tattooer selection; I didn't study for the test.
Todd: I've had the extreme pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Marcus Kuhn and I can't wait to get the opportunity to get tattooed by him. I really like Nick Ley's thing and I'd like to get tattooed by him as well. Honestly, I also want to get back to Aaron Coleman, as soon as possible…
Lucero is currently on Van's Warped Tour 2011. Click here for more info on the band and Lucero tour dates.
This article was previously published in Tattoo Artist Magazine issue #26.
- Darby Firpi (first tattoo done at home)
- Joel Hilgenburgh (Last name spelling? Ask Brian.)
- Dave Boysno (Last name spelling? Again, ask Brian.)
- Justin something, Tupelo MS (ask the other band members if they remember this guy's last name.)
- Andy Bolin, (you know, the guy that makes tattoo guns)
- Rob Hostetter (however you say his last name) Lifetime Denver CO
- Oliver Peck
- Mike Tweed influence Lubbock TX
- Dude Ohio
- Dude England
- Dude Spain
- Lady in the desert somewhere