When I first moved to New York, in hopes of making it as a comic artist, I lived in a small room in a friend’s house in Queens.
I couldn’t afford much.
I was working at a restaurant to make ends meet and spending spare change on art supplies, but I made sure I always picked up the latest fanzines covering punk and hardcore.
One had this feature on what I hadn’t seen in a tattoo artist before, someone who specialized in large-scale, original dark art.
Most of what I had been exposed to up until that time had been the more traditional, folk art-based tattoo style.
The artist’s name was Paul Booth, and in short order, he became the go-to guy for the metal and hardcore scene.
Sort of what Mr. Cartoon was to the Hip Hop scene after he tattooed the likes of Eminem, Busta Rhymes, and 50 Cent.
This guy tattooed Slayer, Pantera, and Sepultura.
He tagged along on Ozzfest for 8 years. He did album covers.
He started Art fushion at conventions. Definitely a pioneer.
I remember, a year into tattooing, I visited the NYC Convention, the old one at the Roseland Ballroom, and watched him bang out a portrait freehand.
He dotted in two spots for the eyes, and just went to town.
A few lucky people were walking around with finished art by him, and it just blew my mind at how good it was.
Twenty years later, he’s a well-established veteran of the scene, and we’ve become friends.
In this long-form interview, I talk with him about the evolution of his career, where tattooing has headed, and what his plans are for the future.
The talent is amazing. I’m seeing amazing work that I could never pull off and it’s nice to see that advancement but it’s only guys like you and me that can look at an Instagram post and know if it’s real or not.
Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t know that it’s bullsh*tted up in photoshop and oversaturated and unrealistic.
Plus it’s all fresh work, which I understand that because for me if I don’t get a fresh photo I get no photo.
And I prefer to show healed work because I want people to see what tattoos really are.
I don’t know how anyone could have the lack of self-respect in order to beef up their photos in photoshop to look hyper-real, like beyond real, and live with themselves.
I think it’s scummy and a lot of people do it.
I see it every day and it’s so unfortunate that that’s what it’s come to.Paul Booth
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!