Interview by Ricky Williams
Tony Nilsson aka Tony Tox first came to my attention when I noticed Ricky Williams (The Family Business) was doing a guest spot at his shop, Blue Arms in Norway. The work Tony was turning out and the work coming out of the shop in general really blew me away. It’s great to find awesome tattooers flying under the radar in this day and age. I’d been looking to start a new interview feature with various tattooers interviewing their friends and this seemed like an ideal start. Ricky and Tony were kind enough to oblige me and below is the interview that came of this request.
Ricky Williams: Hey Tony I'd like to say thanks for doing this interview with me for the Swallows&Daggers blog. I was lucky enough to come and work with you guys in Norway. How's the shop going and what's the story behind Blue Arms?
Tony Nilsson: Were absolutely honoured to have you over buddy. I had a great time when you came over here; you're a funny guy Ricky! Yeah the story behind Blue Arms is basically that the three of us (Christoffer Wøien, Morten Transeth and I) needed a place to work at the same time and were buddies from some time ago so we started looking at a place and it all went super-fast so after just a couple of days we signed the contract for our new studio, then we started looking into what we should call our new shop and Morten came up with idea of Blue Arms Tattoo after reading the biography of the old tattooer Amund Dietzel, who was born in Norway and lived in the early 1900s. We have always loved his work and thought that it would be great to have a kind of tribute shop to him in Norway since he is/was one of the biggest names here, we opened the shop August 2012 and its been busy ever since. I’m so happy that it worked out…
RW: Getting tattooed by you one night after work was such a great and memorable experience and I must say it’s one of my favourite tattoos. Tell us, what are your favourite things to tattoo?
TN: Ha-ha, really, you have soooo many good ones! Well I'm honoured to tattoo you Ricky... I guess my favourite things to do are old classic flash pieces of any kind… snakes, girls, daggers, roses, eagles etc. and all of them combined together in any possible way.
RW: I still can't believe you let me tattoo you on your birthday and how nervous I was to do it. I know it must have been a big mistake (laughing) who else have you been tattooed by and what's your favourite piece?
TN: Aaah I love that little panther you gave me! And for you to do it on the first day guesting at blue arms on my birthday while I was drunk is awesome. Thanks for the great gift buddy! I guess I've been tattooed by mostly buddies over time, but to name everyone hmmm, let’s see; Morten Transeth, Christoffer Wøien, Marius Meyer, Marco Meloni, you, Mikael Harrstedt, Jonas Uggli, Steve Boltz, Bert Krak, Hillary Fisher-White, Brad Stevens, Ashley Love, Lautaro Belmonte, Nic Ink, Hans Heggum, Ezra Haidet, Austin Maples, Ryan Shaffer, some guy from Brazil, some shit from Thailand (since I'm Swedish hahahah) Jeff from AWR, Henry Hablak, and I guess that’s it. I must say that of my favourites is my neck from Steve and hands by Morten and yours off course, ahhh fuck they’re all good, great memories from everyone, even the shit from Thailand is cool in a way.
RW: You also have an awesome team going on at Blue Arms; Christoffer Wøien, Morten Transeth and Nico! I'm going to add it was one of the best guest spots I ever did, too much fun! Who else have you had guest with you guys and any good ones coming up?
TN: thanks a lot man,, yeah I'm super happy to hang out with such cool guys and to be a part of this, we have fun at the shop every day, tying not to think too much about that its actually work but just a fun collective of friends doing tattoos under the same roof, I guess that is what makes it even better. yeah since we opened a bit over a year ago we started having guests over this year so the first guest we had was my friend Mikael Harrstedt, then came Marius Meyer, Jonas Uggli, Peter Lagergren, Austin Maples, Ryan Shaffer, Henry Hablak, Ezra Haidet, you and today Adde Ramstedt will come as well but upcoming guests is kind of hard to tell. Our shop is now 5 people working everyday and I guess the shop is quite small but we can always fit someone in, I hope to have my buddy James McKenna over soon and you're always welcome back buddy!!
RW: I came to see you guys in September this year and already planning to come back! Do you have any travel plans, conventions, guest spots or general holidays coming up?
TN: I just came back from one week at New York Adorned, and I guess I'm planning a trip next year to Australia but since I have a little son can’t do so much traveling yet; I also want to visit your shop Ricky. But more trips in the future for sure!
RW: we spoke about this before but tell the readers how you got into tattooing and what keeps you going?
TN: hahahhah... I have the worst story, or maybe you have even worse but yes! when I was a kid I loved tattoos and I thought it would be impossible to get into tattooing and that it would be super expensive, but I heard that an old friend started tattooing and asked him what and how he did it, so after ordering some crap online I started tattooing at home on friends and made every possible mistake you can ever make,( so don't go that way) but after a year I realized that I couldn't keep doing this at home and wanted to start for real in a studio, and I went down to a local studio that I know is kind of well known, and asked for an apprenticeship, the guy asked me if I had a portfolio and I showed him my drawings and some tattoos that I made, even though I wanted to start over or something like that, but he ended up giving me a job instead, so guess that’s how it started. what keeps me going is that I worked as a builder before that and you have to be mental to do that shit in Norway with -30 C winter time, so if I can keep on hanging out with my friends doing the things I love everyday then I guess it’s worth working a little bit harder to keep it up. I guess the tattoo scene is not going to be the same even in 5 years from now, its soooo many good tattooers out there and people who have been doing this for a year can be suuuuper good. So I hope to stay in it as long as I can.
RW: Apart from me (laughing) is there anyone you really look up to, inspired by and admire their work?
TN: apart form you Ricky Williams I guess I really look up to all my friends at the shop, Marius Meyer, James McKenna, Henning Jørgensen, Mike Rubendall, Brad Stevens, Ashley Love, Chris Marchetto, Jonas Uggli, Steve Boltz, all the S.O.o.S guys, aaahhh shit there are too many good ones, but I guess everyone that makes good tattoos is an inspiration. All the legends like Ed Hardy, Sailor Jerry, Bert Grimm, Owen Jensen, Amund Dietzel, Ben Corday, Bob Wicks, Tex Rowe, etc….that have done so much for tattooing as it is today.
RW: We spoke a lot about the tattoo scene and industry with its ups and downs and it's pros and cons. What would you say to anyone who's dream is to become a tattooist and want to work as hard as you do?
TN: Ups and downs, I really don't see any downs in this industry. I guess it’s what you make of it and who you surround yourself with. It’s all about the drawing and painting, finding the thing you like and try to do it as good as you can every time, take your time.
RW: I told you before your name is hot on the streets of London and if you come over you'd be killing it. How does it make you feel?
TN: hahhahah,, really! Well that makes me feel really flattered and I guess I just might have to come over there soon to check it out. I've been to London about 4 times but never for work and I must say it’s a cool city to visit.
RW: We went out drinking a lot of beers and eating loads of burgers. Tell us what your interests are other than the crazy world of tattooing?
TN: Other than tattooing, I used to skate a lot when I was a kid but don't do that so much at the moment but I wish I could! Besides my beautiful little family (LOVE YOU) I really like going to concerts, travelling, and hanging out with my friends but I guess I don't have any other hobbies other than painting and music. Fuck that sounds kind of boring when I think of it but I guess that’s all that I have time to do.
RW: What has the world of tattooing giving you and has it opened up any other doors?
TN: The world of tattooing has given me a lot of good stuff,, like meeting a lot of cool people every day and to go to work and actually like it every day. That’s a pretty big thing for me, it has also opened a lot of doors like invites to different studios all over the world which I'm very grateful for. I need to travel more he he..
RW: Ok man I'd like to thank you for doing this interview with me , I know I’ve probably missed out some really good questions but is anything else you'd like to say to me and the readers ?
TN: thanks a lot Ricky!! You’re the best! and I’m honoured to be a part of this awesome blog, I would like to thank everyone that reads this and hope my English is not too bad, he he.. and I hope to keep up with this industry all the way, cheers!
RW: Cheers Tony have a good one brother and I’ll talk to you soon.
You can find more of Tonys’ work via instagram @tony_tox and Rickys at@ricktattoo.