By Stef Pitera
I’m one of those guys with that condition, the “Travel Bug.” Can’t sit my ass in the same place for too long. I’m sure many of you out there will be familiar with what I’m talking about... To spend years constantly on the road, out of a backpack, sometimes changing countries every week. The airport hall, check-in desks and safety procedures become what you may consider more familiar. I don’t know where this comes from but when you are on the way to your flight, carrying just the essential to go to tattoo somebody else, somewhere else and to look presentable, you feel light, free. No strings attached, no responsibilities. Some kind of eternal youth. Suspended in that limbo, with that rush you can only feel right after leaving and just before arriving. A new place to see, new people to meet, a new beer to try... Or maybe just running away. Who knows. Ask me in 10 years...
This time I’m heading to Spain, second home for me, after surviving the last Helsinki Convention, trust me it is not an easy task if you don’t master some kind of Zen-determination to take it easy at the after-parties... (I totally suck at that.) The place I’m gonna guest at is Barcelona Electric, the shop is cool as fuck.
At first you find yourself walking over the Parc de la Ciutadella heading to the Arc de Triomf, a beautiful meeting point where locals go jogging, skating, hanging out or simply chill with a cold cervezita under the friendly spanish weather. The closer you get to the shop the more you appreciate this area, a web of picturesque little old streets.
The arches discovered inside everyday buildings, belonging to a medieval “highway,” and old stones showing through, testify a glorious past. The tapas bars and the people chatting loudly down the street do the rest, giving this place a special atmosphere you can find only in latin countries.
Here we arrive at the Barcelona Electric Tattoo Parlour , a relatively new institution in the city’s reality but including many years of experience from some of the best artists in this country.
Here it’s pretty simple: No bullshit. You will find real people doing real tattoos, especially oriented to Japanese and American traditional with their own twist that tastes like good, old whisky. Forget that crap you see on TV, no attitudes here. As soon as I walk in I feel home. Warmly welcomed with few beers by Carol and Toni... I already love this place. Everything in the shop speaks directly to you: The flash, the antiques all over, the finished and unfinished oil paintings with their classic-slash-evil charm, the warm walls, the open tubes of paint on their side. This place has a soul with many stories to tell.
I guess it’s the energy that those guys put in here and that’s what they are all about; drawing, painting, tattooing and having good time. They are always busy with some stuff on different mediums. It’s crazy the inspiration you sense here. You can see it by the way everything has some kind of artwork on it. From the toilet cover hand painted with a cool tiger’s head to the little evil “twin” puppet Javi crafted himself.
I have been lucky to get introduced over the weekend to block printing and serigraphy techniques and I feel inspired just being here and seeing all of this. Just when you think you’re starting to get it, you get amazed again. Javi Castano shows up. I met Javi only over e-mail and it’s nothing like you could expect. Irreverent, a volcano of creativity, funny as fuck, always busy with side projects and against the average, competent and talented. Think about Lemmy doing tattoos and paintings and you’re pretty close. You can’t help loving the character.
This week I found him busy with the inauguration party for his new fanzine, 666 %. A new fanzine 100 percent self-produced (I proudly helped spilling blood all over the pages) about tattoos with a dark touch that is totally worth the money spent for it. I think anything similar has been seen before. Do a favor to yourself and check it out, on my website you can find a link.
After a day spent through those walls we get out for the night to the places the guys usually hang out at, some cool little rock bars a bit out of the center. Everything here is authentic: los bocadillos de jamon (spanish ham sandwiches), las canas de cerveza (the beer), the stories Juli tells about alternative ways to use a banana and hair conditioner (you never stop learning) and of course the music. It’s a nice way to try the party out of the touristic bullshit of the Ramblas and stuff.
Then the days go really fast in a tornado of charming spanish folk; the preparing of the fanzine, the sightseeing over the beautifully decorated Liberty and Gothic monuments (DO NOT miss the inside of the Sagrada Familia) the chilling time in the many parks and beach spots all over, the Semana Santa over the streets of the city (a yearly religious celebration), the daily battle with hangover, the culinary orgasms every time you step in one of those taverns and the meeting with the guys at Aloha Tattoo.
They recently put together a new shop that includes a big kickass art gallery, presenting works in different mediums from many different artists; including El Monga, El Carlo, Javi Castano, Alvaro Llorar and many more. Definitely one more place worth a visit.
Oh, remember to ask David to show you the little willy on the wall. Funny shit... Well, now I gotta go, they’re calling my flight... I leave this city totally seduced and with nice memories from those days and many more forgotten over the nights, promising myself I gotta be back soon for more.
It’s totally addictive and you see this on the eyes of the many foreigners moving here even for just a few months experience. Now one more stop in Amsterdam to visit some good friends and then back to the place I have recently chosen as home base, Royal Tattoo in Denmark.
Hopefully I get some energy back before heading to Oslo in a week for some good times with my family at Lucky 7. That’s gonna be hardcore...
(Gent Stef is a tattooer and blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine and can be found at Royal Tattoo in Denmark or at the following site: www.gentsteftattooing.com.)