DH: It’s been a while? How’s life?
MC: It’s been good man. I mean things have been a little crazy in the world, at least a little crazy in my world. On second thought, I guess we’ll say it’s been interesting. It’s been a long time since we were traveling the country together!
DH: Is the shop doing OK?
MC: Which one? I have 2 now! But yeah they’re both doing great.
DH: Nice! One in Philly and one down south?
MC: That’s correct! In Asheville, North Carolina.
DH: Does that one stay as busy as the Philly shop?
MC: It’s definitely busy but there are not as many artists. It’s a much smaller shop than the one in Philly.
DH: Are you mostly in the Philly shop? I know you had plans to move down south at one point.
MC: Yeah, it’s been a real up and down ride! I’ve been in Asheville recently so I could get the shop up and running smoothly, but it’s definitely at that point now. I’ve been blessed with a really good crew and a solid clientele. Philly got really weird during the lockdown, I was in the mountains in North Carolina, and I just figured I may as well stay put and social distance in a beautiful location!
DH: Are you mostly down there right now?
MC: Yeah, I’m still mostly down here but I’ve definitely been traveling back up to Philly quite often to hang out with my crew for a couple of weeks and do some tattooing.
DH: So let’s start at the beginning. You were a train-hopping punk rocker in California at the beginning of your late adolescence, early adulthood?
MC: Yup, but not only in California I was all over the US and Mexico.
DH: Ok, let’s hear the story!
MC: That’s a long story. Hahaha!
DH: Ok, the edited version! I think what we go through makes us who we are so in my mind it’s important!
MC: I guess from a young age I lived a pretty crazy life. I don’t think it was any crazier than any of what my other friends were going through because we were all doing the same shit. We were skaters and we just loved to f*ck shit up, go to shows, drink a lot, and do a lot of acid and mushrooms. And then I guess I just turned 17 and I committed an armed robbery where I robbed a guy for $27,000 dollars in gold coins. I was arrested the next day with the guys I did it with and that just snowballed into a whole lot of shit.
DH: Did you go to jail?
MC: I ended up going to prison for a short time and then getting out on probation. I violated probation and instead of going back to prison I hopped on a freight train and started riding around the country with my little brother Stevie in tow.
Before I had even been in trouble I had been kicked out of my house. My parents couldn’t deal with my shit! I got kicked out of every school! I was a pretty bad kid. I mean I wasn’t bad per se, I just didn’t really like authority figures.
So my brother and I ended up traveling around the country by freight train doing a ton of drugs and living a crazy life. One that quickly turned into a nightmare. With me having felony warrants I pretty much thought my life was over so I started doing really heavy drugs. I just didn’t care anymore.
During all of this, I started tattooing. I was really just f*cking up people and teaching myself how to tattoo. I was doing rudimentary homemade tattoos and all of my friends just wanted new-tribalism tattoos, lines, and dots, so it worked out.
My brother and I had turned into a couple of traveling punks living on the streets, getting f*cked up f*cking shit up. It was kind of living kind of a Huckfinn life, only underneath that was a lot of pain and desperation. In 1997 my little brother passed out drunk in an abandoned building. That building caught on fire and he died as a result. The whole thing is documented in the film The Decline of Western Civilization part three. You can watch it on iTunes!
DH: Wow, his story is in that movie?
MC: My little brother’s death is in that movie and they have the footage from the fire. I and my brother are both in that documentary.
Needless to say, after my brother passed away I was a total f*cking wreck. I had lost everything that was holding me to this world. My little brother was really all I cared about and he was gone so I went on a suicide mission. And that’s when the drugs got really bad and then I ended up getting arrested in Texas. Which meant going back to prison for four years.
When I was in prison I learned how to hand wrap coils and make my own needles out of wire-bristle brushes. I tattooed the entire time I was in prison. Oh yeah, I did somewhat of an apprenticeship right before I got arrested. It was in New Orleans with my friend Weasel.
Once I was released from prison I went out to California and stayed with my sister. I got a job on Hollywood Boulevard. Working at basically every tattoo shop on the Boulevard. My old friend heroine creeped up on me and I fell back into that nightmare. In a heroin daze, I had two children, my daughter Max and my son Malakai, and then in 2005 I checked myself into rehab and joined a 12 step program. I’m still sober almost 16 years later.
DH: It sucks about your brother, but it’s really cool you are in the documentary! I don’t think many people know about it but to us punk rockers it was a huge deal.
MC: Yeah it’s pretty much a cult classic.
DH: So when did you move to Austin and open Eternally Bound?
MC: I grew up in California initially, moved to Austin in sixth grade, and lived there until I was 17. That’s when I got arrested for armed robbery. I went on the run until I was arrested again in 1997. Then I went to prison for four years, got out, and moved back to California until 2003. I returned to Austin and eventually got sober in 2005. Eternally Bound I opened in about 2006. I left Austin again in 2009 and went around traveling the country until I ended up in Philly in 2009. I’ve been there ever since.
DH: How did you meet Ron Russo? I was moving down to Austin, Nick Baxter suggested I go to Shaman Modifications, but Ron said “Go check out my buddy Myke first!”
MC: After I opened Enternally Bound I discovered the website Inked Nation and that’s where I met almost everyone. I did a guest spot with Ron and we quickly became good friends.
DH: So you moved up to Philly, I think at first worked at Art Machine, then opened your own shop?
MC: Yeah when I first moved to Philly I worked at the original Art Machine. That was a small private studio and then Tim moved around for a while before moving at first to a private studio and then another shop before opening his own shop. I went ahead and opened my own shop.
DH: What made you open the shop in North Carolina?
MC: I had a big space in my heart for the mountains and this part of the country is pretty amazing! I actually had a second home here about eight years ago and I worked part-time at a shop that used to be in the location I’m now in. I ended up taking over that shop 2 1/2 years ago, rebranding and remodeling everything.
DH: Do you prefer Philly? I would imagine Philly is a little busier for you.
MC: I like both places but I feel more at peace when I’m out in the mountains. I’m actually just as busy in both places. I’ve been very fortunate in my career. I never take that for granted.
DH: What led you to the old-school tattoo style you are known for? Did you start out in that direction?
MC: Now I definitely did not start out there! I started doing very basic tribalism. Then I moved on fine line black and gray, then new school tattoo and Biomech tattoo before finally landing on traditional. There’s definitely been an evolution.
DH: How long did it take you to settle on traditional and what led you to pursue that?
MC: I’m not really sure how long it took me to settle into traditional but it was not a long time span before I did. I just started to realize the longevity involved in the tattoos and the style. I’ve seen so many styles come and go but traditional has really held the test of time and it seems to be staying that way.
DH: Do you think your traditional style has evolved over time, and if so, how has it changed?
MC: I sure the f*ck hope it has! Haha. I mean, I think I’ve grown as an artist so I can’t really say how but it definitely has.
DH: Have you progressed into doing ever larger tattoo pieces as time goes by? I notice you’re doing a lot of large work right now.
MC: I guess I progressed into doing large-scale stuff around 13 years ago. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like doing one-shot tattoos!
DH: Do you feel there is a better set of tools for doing traditional? Better needles, inks, machines, that sort of thing?
MC: I don’t know that they really are because they made some damn fine machines back in the day.
DH: Do you have a setup you prefer using?
MC: The Cheyenne cordless, it’s the Sol Nova. Oh, and the Dan Kubin Sidewinder.
I prefer Eternal Inks over anything else, and I’m currently using Black Claw liners on metal needle bars. I use Kwadron cartridges for my shaders.
DH: Are you more of a mag guy or do you favor round shaders?
MC: I definitely prefer shading with mags.
DH: Do you have any projects you want to work on, or are excited to start?
MC: Well I’m debating on opening a third shop but its location is still undecided but I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also working on an apparel company with my sister. Oh, and a documentary.
DH: So, after a rough start, everything seems to be working out for you! It’s been good to reconnect. How can people see your work and how can they get ahold of you?
MC: Thanks, Dan!
Dan Henk has been working in and as a part of the tattoo community for 20 years. He writes novels, illustrates magazines and books, and owns The Abyss Fine Art & Tattoo Gallery in Long Beach, NY, and competes in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jujitsu. Check out all his adventures on danhenk.com!