Tagged: Dark Age Tattoo

Interview With Prof. Nicholas York

Our guest writer, digital marketing executive and traditional tattoo fan 21-year-old Poppy Ingham, talks to Nicholas York about his humble beginnings and the work he does out of Dark Age Tattoo in Denton, Texas…


21-year-old Nicholas York is customarily cited as Professor York, in a nod to the likes of Samuel O’Reilly, the dubbed King of the Bowery tattooers, who adopted the “professor” epithet. He has been tattooing since he was 15 and although this might not be the licit way of entering the tattoo world, Nick received his first tattoo machines two months before starting high school. Coupled with a power supply purchased with his earnings from a part-time job, Nick began tattooing classmates and anyone who was willing. 

Fast forward five years, give or take, Nick is now embodying the definition of “world class electric tattooing”, producing nostalgic tattoos and paintings that ring true to the early 1900s. 


What first inspired you to take on tattooing, especially at such a young age? I was in eighth grade at a school for kids with behavioural problems, and I started seeing some of the kids in my class get small tattoos. After I saw that you could get tattooed underage, I got my first tattoo at 14. The tattooist who did it was different from the guy who was tattooing the other kids, he approached me at the public library and asked if I wanted to get tattooed. Just a of couple days later I was in his apartment after school getting a tribal design that I had drawn.

I started tattooing a couple months after my first tattoo. In between the time of my first tattoo and the first tattoo I did, I had gotten my neck and my chest tattooed and started working on my arms. I was 15 when I got my throat tattooed. The throat tattoo was what made me start thinking about pursuing a career in tattooing. I knew I had found the job for me, when I found out that all you had to do was buy a kit online and do it out of your house. I started getting good and I was starting to feel hopeful about my choice.

My mom always knew about my tattooing and watched me do my first couple the day I got my kit. She was always supportive, because my dad was a tattooist, although I didn’t grow up with him (he went to prison when I was two). Over the years, he’d send drawings and paintings, but at the time, I was too young to realise they were tattoo designs that he had tattooed on people in prison.

My dad tattooed before he went to prison in the 1990s in downtown Dallas. He painted cars before he was a tattooist so it was a natural transition. Then he met my mom and stopped tattooing for a bit. He picked it back up when he went to prison a couple years later. I’ve seen a lot of his work and I hold onto all the paintings he sends me now. He is, in my honest opinion, one of the best black and grey tattooers out there. He does extremely smooth tattooing with a 90s twist. He really hasn’t gotten to see just how much tattooing has evolved since he has been locked away, except for the tattoos that he sees on me when I visit him.


Have you always wanted to tattoo in the traditional style, or did you experiment with a number of styles before settling on it? When I first started tattooing, I was doing a very new school style and everything was extremely colourful and cartoony. I was hanging around with an old tattooist named Sneaker and he had a big influence on my style and technical application. Over the years, my tattooing evolved into a more neo-traditional style thanks to a guy I worked with named Rene. He did some of the best neo-traditional tattoos I had ever seen up until that point. Rene told me I needed to simplify my designs and stop using so many colours. He told me I couldn’t do traditional tattoos because I always complicated my tattoos so much, so to challenge him, I did a traditional tattoo. From that one tattoo I realised that I was missing out on what I was meant to be doing.

Thinking along the lines of Rock Of Ages, Belle Of The Plains etc, what are some iconic pieces of art that you never get tired of recreating? Easily one of my favourite iconic images is the Rose of No Man’s Land. I always love seeing renditions of it. I also really enjoy dragons; they’re always big and impressive. And, of course, the Rock of Ages is always a classic.


Do you find that younger people (our age) are aware and appreciative of traditional tattooing, or do you feel like there is more demand for other styles? I think young people really dig the designs of classic traditional tattooing, but I don’t think they care for the history. The history posts I make [on Instagram] never get as many likes as the flash posts. I understand, though – not everyone has the attention span or appreciation for history.

Who, in particular from the past, do you admire and why? I’m a big fan of George Burchett. He encompasses everything I love about turn-of-the-century tattooing and has some of the best paintings I’ve ever seen! When I started tattooing in the style I do now, George Burchett was a big influence. My stuff doesn’t look like his that much, but if you know your stuff you can see small hints of it. I’m also interested in the early Bowery tattooers of New York. Samuel O’Reilly and his contemporaries have a certain mystery about them. We only understand a small fraction of their life, while we have a decent amount of George Burchett’s history.


Where do you gather information and history on the tattooists of the past? I get all my knowledge of tattoo history from books I buy, websites like http://www.buzzworthytattoo.com and just speaking to and being friends with as many tattoo historians as I can. I am no historian myself, and I don’t add any unknown insight and I have not made any new discoveries, like some of the other historians that I look up to, I’m just a big fan of history and love to learn as much as I can about my craft. I do happen to have a good eye and have found many great bits of history in photographs that have been looked over before.

For people wanting to explore authentic traditional tattoos in 2017 and beyond, can you recommend any modern-day tattooers who you applaud? There are too many to name but those are just a few that come to my mind and I think they each are very true to the essence of traditional tattooing. I’m extremely proud I can call all of these tattooers my friends and contemporaries:


KMFDM Tour: A Lived Experience

KMFDM has been one of my favourite bands for more than 20 years, so getting the chance to see them live (again) and spend most of the day hanging out chatting about tattoos and music was wonderful fun.  On October 28th, I took the day off work, packed my camera bag and headed to Toronto, to the Phoenix Concert Theatre.  Kapt’n K, Jules, Andy and Steve, along with the crew and the opening band, CHANT, which that night was Bradley Bills alone (passport issues kept his bandmate in the US), were so lovely and a real joy to sit and share stories with.  Then there was the music … absolutely sublime.  Best birthday present EVER!

What you will find below are the complete transcripts of Jules, Andy, Steve and Bradley, on how tattoos have modified their lives. Listening to these guys tell stories is what inspired me to write about lived experience, since they so clearly demonstrated it.  At the bottom of the blog is a gallery of all the shots I took that day.  Click on the image to see it bigger and with some details.  I’ve also included some tattoo pics of KMFDM crew members David and Josh in the gallery as well.  It’s everything I couldn’t squeeze into my article (found in Things & Ink #6: The Modification Issue).  Enjoy!      ~Kimberly


-Jules Hodgson-

I came quite late to the tattoo game, so my first one wasn’t until 2000. A “tribal” on my right arm that was done in Japan by Permanent Mark. After its completion it was clear that I had gotten what looked like a tribal version of the old Kellogg’s corn flakes rooster. I’m in the process of having the covered up. The piece of flash on my upper right arm was done a year or two later at a shop in Tampa, FL while on tour with KMFDM. I recall Steve getting something done at the same time.

Next up was the glorious back piece that was done by my ex girlfriend who was apprenticing at a shop here in Seattle (where I live). I thought it would be novel to combine the”diamond” logo (Pig being the band that myself, Andy and Steve were in prior to joining KMFDM) with the fist symbol from the kmfdm “symbols” album. The addition of flames also seemed like a grand idea. The fact that she and I were in the process of splitting up and it was her first tattoo on something that wasn’t a grapefruit didn’t deter us from going ahead with the plan and the results speak for themselves!

The line work on my left arm is about 6 years old and I’ll complete the sleeve one day. It’s a bio-mechanical “twisted metal” thing that I’m sure is going to look amazing when I find the time and money to complete it. It was done by Jesse Roberts at Lucky Devil Tattoos in Seattle.

Most importantly, and most recently I’ve been covering up the “tribal chicken” with a more traditional roses and cobra sleeve. It’s a thinly disguised band tattoo – mine and Andy’s other band The Spittin’ Cobras. So as not to mislead your readers, it’s not industrial in any way. Think more punk/metal/hard-rock-n-roll. Sort of Motorhead vs AC/DC vs Judas Priest on PCP! How was that for a shameless plug? HaHa!

I’m really excited to get this finished. It’s being done by good friend Chani Murat, owner of Good Karma Tattoos in Edmonds, Washington. Every time we’d see each other she’d rib me about getting my tribal chicken covered up, so we got to it and started on my sleeve a wee while ago. Next up is going to be a heart and banner with my dog’s initials on my right wrist, and after that, who knows? Probably not another tribal chicken, though…


-Andy Selway-

I started getting tattooed at about age 14 or 15, at a tattoo shop in Ipswich, UK.  Me and a friend saved up lunch money, about £5 each, and went to this back alley shop.  These were little flash. Most are now covered over by other bigger tattoos. I had an uncle, one of my dad’s brothers – uncle Arthur – had a prison tattoo. Few playing cards on his arm. I saw them and I just wanted them.  Always wanted to fill up.

God, the early ones were awful, so needed to cover up and go bigger and bigger. Then just had to fill up the rest when the empty spaces were noticed. Once you fill arms, chest  and such, might as well do your back … and then you’re full.

Many are tour mementos – tattoos as tour souvenirs and band tributes (Swine, Pig, KMFDM, etc.) when tattoo artists are willing to do them for free.  My left forearm, this 3-headed purple thing was by a fan boy. Got it 2 days till end of the tour. Started it – 1.5hrs – immediately prior to going on and drumming – and 1.5hr after playing. Beyond painful.  You know Andy, Jules and I have been present for each others tattoos (most of them). Since 1997 or so we’ve been together (1996 he and Steve were in PIG, then Jules came in 1997).  I gotta mention these guys too, for my tattoos and other art:

  • Dan Gold, Astronaut guy on my arm, London Ink (Graffiti artist, Denmark)
  • Artist for cobra tattoos & Spittin’ Cobras band logo – Mark ‘Firehazzard’ Hodgkinson, he has a website and Facebook
  • Skunx Tattoo London, London, UK.  Nick Reid is close friend
  • Bones Lininger (my cobras tattoo) Fort Lauderdale, Bones Tattoos & Barbers (shop no longer exists?) – now an independent artist in Florida. I have plans to see him for a big back piece and some touch-up work on other tattoos
  • Kenny Dick (my knuckles) Lucky Seven tattoos, West Palm Beach, FL


-Steve White-

So, briefly I suppose living and growing up in London UK in the 80’s I wasn’t aware of Tattoo art, as virtually nobody had anything other than the odd prison/ school yard pin and ink (cue Skinheads with a spider’s web and tear on their faces). The art hadn’t really developed as it has today, so apart from the odd aged roadie or biker at a rock festival there were no peers.

When Jules, Andy and I toured the US in ’97 as Pig supporting KMFDM we became more aware of the advanced US development of Tat Art . We wore suits onstage in those days so we were protected from revealing our virgin flesh. Andy,  I remember, had a couple of coloured scabs that he insisted were Tats and he eventually had a tour tat that turned sceptic and peeled. Not a particularly enticing experience for Jules and I so we didn’t give them much more thought. Eventually it became apparent to me that this tour was fast becoming the time of my life and the only fitting memento would be an indelible one… A few years later and now on tour as KMFDM , it didn’t take us long to find a keen fan boy artist in Tampa to deliver our first ink. I rushed the decision and chose some colourful flash. He proceeded, while I gently snoozed, to choose olive-green as the only hue his colour blindness could register. I awoke from the tour fatigue and the gentle stabbing of the needle (quite a soporific experience despite what others warned ) to find a large bloody, verdant smudge on my upper arm. However, despite my disappointment at the shoddy needle – work, I gushed like a teenager onstage that evening, with my cellophane, bandaged arm, dripping and bloody a true rock ‘n roll badge of honour. Not one known for succumbing to peer pressure, I felt I had captured the essence of my foreign adventure and never missed a photo opportunity to show it off.. Ha!  What did I care if it more resembled a piss stain on my Khaki pants than a multi-coloured, fire-breathing Dragon?

These days teenagers with full sleeves and full chest pieces (and that’s just the women), have made me a little more wary, not to mention the huge hourly rate increases due to said popularity. However I’ve collected a few and still catch myself staring longingly at others ink and I feel good to be part of the experience . But unless we start selling truck loads of records again or that colour-blind fan boy from Tampa calls me, that will be all for now …


-Bradley Bills-

It definitely enriched my life experiences for the better. As a musician, it’s always wonderful to share the experience of writing music with another musician, so likewise, as an artist or even a human who loves art – when you get tattooed, you are sharing that art experience with the artist in a very open, intimate, and personal way – especially if it is custom art and represents something of deep meaning in your life – like my larger pieces (the Dragon and the Whale). But, another great thing about tattooing and art is that it doesn’t ‘HAVE’ to be all serious and full of deep meaning. Art is FUN, and like the silly anchor I have on the back of my leg, it was a fun and liberating experience to run get something with some friends so we had something to share. If I never got ‘inked’ then that would be fine, but then I wouldn’t have these experiences.

For ‘Tattoo credits’ – here are the shops and artists in Austin, TX who worked on my big pieces: