It wasn’t all that long ago that a person sporting a visible tattoo was considered somewhat of a rebel, or a Vietnam vet. In some cases, even Samoan. An entire sleeve of tattoos might’ve had certain ends of suburbia clutching their purses. An entire torso covered in ink would denote a heathen, a person so freakish and defiled that he/it must surely belong to a sideshow attraction. Devil’s spawn. Hitler’s bastard children. Friends of Sodom. Riverside Community College grads. Etc.
Tattoos are as ubiquitous as pantyhose. Some people are works of art, just skin canvases for the skilled tattgun (read: dragon people). Others have tribal symbols or Chinese characters, fads that last a lifetime . . . yet place a bulls-eye on them as trend-following shmucks forever. Whatever the wanton reasoning, tattoos and tattooing are prevalent and more acceptable today, especially right here in the Inland Empire, one of the largest constituencies of urban nihilism imaginable. So, we’ve put together our second annual Tattoo Issue to spotlight a few of the parlors and shops in the area, as well as nine miles of unctuous tattooists who would love to scribble an initial on a fair tract of skin. One word of caution: Drinking leads to tattoos. It’s a documented fact. One more word: tattoo parlors don’t carry breathalyzers, so nobody’s counting. Enjoy.
Gino Dominguez or Tried and True Tattoo
Tried & True Tattoo’s booth at the Pomona Tattoo Expo was crowded with people waiting to get work done, but Gino Dominguez took a break to answer questions and wipe the sweat from his brow. He’s been in the industry for seven years; five years professionally, long enough to remember when “a box of needles that costs $14 now used to cost $120.” Currently, he specializes in realistic art, like flowers and other traditional artwork. “When I was kid, I saw my uncle’s tattoos and I’ve always wanted tattoos, so I tattooed.” Logical enough.
Considering the young crowd that attends the Expo, Gino acknowledges the widespread tattoo culture among the youth. “It’s helped the industry and it’s hurt the industry. We get a lot of kids. It’s so easy to get equipment, everybody gets equipment. There are people making stuff that don’t know about machines that just ain’t good.” He also believes that just because more people have tattoos doesn’t mean that tattoos are generally accepted. “We still get bad vibes. Last night at the hotel, they wouldn’t let us check in without calling down all the security just because we had tattoos. So we’re still in the alleyways, but because of the TV shows, people are a little enlightened.”
When it comes to tattoos becoming more prevalent, Gino doesn’t think it’s lost its meaning. “Tattoos will never lose its meaning. It’s a skin thing. You have to actually sit there and take it. Not everyone can take it. You gotta’ earn a tattoo.” (Rene Garcia, Jr.)
Tried & True Tattoo, 12540 Heacock St # 1, Moreno Valley, (951) 924-1486
1st Amendment Tattoo & Body Piercing
One close look at Reverend Mike Ferguson of 1st Amendment Tattoo & Body Piercing is all you need to know about the kinds of hands you’re in for tatt work. In his 18 years in the business, Ferguson has developed a bit of a legacy; he’s been featured in legions of magazines, he’s won tons of awards, and he has worked from Berdoo to the LBC, from ‘Nawlins to Florida—because dude knows his ink. And so does his staff over the 1st Amendment’s four locations—they have over a dozen artists totaling over 111 years of overall experience. “That’s older than your Grandma” Reverend Mike laughs when contemplating the number. Ferguson also hand makes machines for artists all over the world and has been featured in all three machine-building books. (There’s a pretty extensive display of machines on the 1st Amendment’s website, from primitive to complex.) But the greatest lure when it comes to Ferguson is . . . he’s a bona-fide artist. Reverend Mike’s paintings have been displayed in over a dozen art galleries and shows, each bursting with fiery colors and conveying much deeper emotion than just grim reapers and skulls.
For the patrons who stumble in his shop under the strength and guidance of liquid courage, Reverend Mike smiles. “Booze and Tattoos always go strong when the world is in a depressed state” he says. “We’re doing great!” But he’s quick to add that sobriety will be tolerated as well, as they are a non-discriminating enterprise. (Dusty Watson)
1st Amendment Tattoo & Piercing, 27911 Jefferson Ave # 106, Temecula, (951) 587-6990
1st Amendment Tattoo & Piercing, 25401 Madison Ave, Murrieta, (951) 696–6969
For information, visit: http://www.1stamendmenttattoo.net. Hours, Sun.–Thurs., 12:00PM–8:00PM; Fri. & Sat, 12:00PM–10:00PM
Fabian Iezzi of private renown
“I’m a skateboarder for life,” says Fabian Iezzi, who did our Tattoovian Man’s entire back (cover and feature images, on motocross icon Ronnie Faist). “I still skate at the ripe age of 36 . . . but don’t let the age fool you, I can still do 360 flips or ride vert like a pro.”
The Riverside-based Iezzi is also a genuine tattoo artist, something that should be distinguishable from a “tattooer.” Having over 80 pieces of original art and as a recurring contributor to the ever-growing “Sea No Evil” cognizance/maritime fundraiser (and having raised $4,000 personally to the cause), Iezzi doesn’t like to get cast in the same mold as the lumpen who consider themselves artists because they know how to work a tattgun. And it’s hard to argue the point; Iezzi is an eight-time award winner at tattoo conventions; he was featured in a 10-page spread in Tattoo Flash magazine in 2007; he graced the cover of Savage magazine; he is hired out to many t-shirt and skateboard companies who dig his intense style.
Not bad for a self-taught tattoo artist who began the racket six years ago, and one who doesn’t do it for the glitz and glamour (nor for the accolades) but to give a client an exact expression. Though he doesn’t like to name names (“I’ve tattoo’d famous people, but why should that influence anything?”), Iezzi has worked on a lot of noteworthy limbs, backs, necks and other body parts in his day. As his reputation would suggest, he doesn’t like to advertise his shop either. His clients prefer the privacy he affords them, and if you’d like to get in touch with Iezzi about a tattoo, you can contact him through his website of www.fabiantattoo.com. (George Donovan)
Henry Huff of Ink’d Chronicles
Henry Huff tattoos for Ink’d Chronicles, and he loves his shop. “You go in and it’s a really, really nice atmosphere. The owner’s [Terry Dipple] idea was to have a shop where a 50-year-old lady or an 18-year-old punk rocker would feel comfortable walking into.” His eyes light up as describes the architecture.
Like other tattoo artists, Huff says that he’s always been artistic and he looks every bit the part, with his long hair and aggressively unshaven face. “My dad’s an artist and I’ve just grown up around art. I wanted to make money drawing pictures, you know? My brother started tattooing in Las Vegas and he’s probably the one who really got me to go for it.”
Huff apprenticed in Los Angeles under established artists like Horihiro and East, but admits that it took him a while to get the nerve. “It’s important, y’know? It ain’t no joke. I just really cared about the finished product. But I just kind of dove into it and started working in Hollywood.” It’s been five years since then and Huff is supremely proud of his current work. “I know some cats who’ve been tattooing for 15 years and I think I’m pretty much right up there. But, I know that I’ve still got a long way to go. I just want to keep progressing and be one of the best.”
For Henry Huff, he’s found his dream job. “I just feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.” (Rene Garcia, Jr.)
Ink’d Chronicles, 264 W. 2nd Street, Pomona, (909) 622-5351, www.myspace.com/inkdchronicles
Money Mike of Ink Mafia
Ontario’s “Money” Mike is easily recognizable by the dollar signs that adorn his body—he even has one just under the corner of his left eye. And just like the namesake of his crew, Ink Mafia, he’s just as cool as ice. His answers are quick and to the point, and his expression betrays no emotion, but the warmth behind his gaze is undeniable.
“I’ve always been an artist,” Mike says between drags on his cigarette, “Tattooing was the ultimate medium.” For Mike, the road to becoming a professional tattoo artist wasn’t always straight. “I left school at 16 to do it,” he confesses. “After three years of street tattooing, I found an apprenticeship. It took me about eight months—just basically learning how to clean and live the shop life, not really how to tattoo.”
All of that’s changed now, of course. With eight years under his belt, Mike knows how to give an expensive tattoo, but he doesn’t forget his beginnings. “In the days when I messed up [on tattoos] it wasn’t on anybody I didn’t know. Nowadays, it doesn’t happen. It strictly doesn’t happen.” He laughs for the first time, almost breaking character.
Money Mike is quick to point out that tattoos have, in large part, lost their meaning since “people just get whatever,” but overall the culture has evolved for the better. “Doctors and lawyers are getting them now . . . it’s not like it used to be where only people in tribes or gangs or in prison would get them.” (Rene Garcia, Jr.)
Ink Mafia, 11031 Central Ave., Ontario, (909) 628-4546, www.myspace.com/inkmafia
When we called to talk with Mission Tattoo’s owner, Cathy Hennessey, her assistant apprentice told us she was at a Lynard Skynard concert. So we figured she was either there because she digs her some Skynard, or she went there to research what those southern rockers are sportin’ on their sleeves these days. Either way, you know you are getting the goods when you step into Mission Tattoo to get your new piece done. Just check out the portraits; they’re outstanding (truly). You will see Mission Tattoo at the Oasis Tattoo Convention in Palm Springs August 1–3 at Zoso Hotel. Hey I just stayed at this hotel for another convention a couple months ago and the pool GOES OFF so you gotta get out to this one you will not regret it. Call 760-325-9576 for more info on this one. Mission Tattoo offers many great services including Portraits, Cover-ups, Custom and Flash Art, Body Art, Japanese Body Art, Body Piercing, and much more. Walk-ins are welcome so stop by and say hi to Cathy and crew and have them add some color to your life. (Dusty Watson)
Mission Tattoo, 110 Mission Blvd., Riverside, (951) 685-5540, www.myspace.com/missiontattoo, Tues.–Sat., open at 1PM
Joey Chavez of Sign of the Times
Joey Chavez doesn’t look like your average tattoo artist. His ink barely extends past his sleeves or collar. He doesn’t have any visible radical piercings. His hair is conservatively coiffed and his facial hair is finely manicured. When he grins, the Cheshire Cat blushes with envy.
Joey talks about his beginnings, apprenticing at a tattoo shop in high school for a project, “They didn’t really want me, because apprenticing is kind of a big deal, but they said they’d give me what I needed. So I only went three times even though you’re supposed to apprentice six months, but that kind of gave me the bug . . . it just seemed like a great place to work.”
Afterwards, he joined the Marine Corps as a combat illustrator. “Except I never saw any combat,” Chavez laughs, “and I only did three illustrations.” The upside was that he met tattoo artist he would apprentice under. “We did barrack’s tattoos, which are very illegal to do . . . but we made a lot of money doing it.” Ultimately, though, Chavez just wants maintain his creativity. “I want to own my own studio and my tattoo work will supplement my gallery work as well as my photography and film.”
Joey Chavez is the main tattoo artist at Sign of the Times which has been slinging ink for 16 years. “We’ve got a great atmosphere. We’re a smoke shop that does body piercing and tattoos. Come on in; you’re gonna have a good time.” (Rene Garcia, Jr.)
Sign of the Times, 2085 River Road, Ste. A, Norco, (951) 340-2714, www.mysignofthetimes.com
Six Feet Under Tattoo Parlor
Six Feet Under’s Corey Miller was a 15-year-old punk rock drummer who carved out his first tattoo on himself. Not long after that he started hanging out at Franco’s in Ontario where he learned the ropes and bought his first machine. Kicking around the Inland Empire he found himself hanging out at Fat George’s shop in La Puente. When Mark Mahoney left Fat George’s to open his own shop in Hollywood, Corey took Mark’s spot on the mountainheap and never looked back.
Corey Miller has worked from Los Angeles to New York to Hawaii, and to a host of worldwide destinations such as Canada, France, Amsterdam, and Japan. He eventually became one of the most sought-after purveyors of ink in modern times. Featured in both season of LA Ink, Six Feet Under opened in 1997 on April Fools Day. They obviously weren’t fooling around.
Corey has an elaborate personal collection of vintage machines—ask him to pull some out for you next time you are in the shop. SFU also sells apparel, flash and paintings on the website. Featured in literally every tattoo magazine on the rack (even GQ—I mean, WTF?) Six Feet Under boasts some pretty heavy clientele, including James Hetfield of Metallica and custom motorcycle artist Jesse James for starters. If you find yourself anywhere near the historical downtown Upland area and feel like hearing your skin pop and sizzle, stop by Corey Miller’s Six Feet Under Tattoo Parlor. Walk-ins are welcome. (Dusty Watson)
Six Feet Under Tattoo Parlor, 116 N. 2nd Ave, Upland, (909) 949-0157, www.sixfeetunder.com ; Mon.–Sat., 12PM–9PM
Brian Mascio of Corona Tattoo
Most professional tattoo artists apprentice under an established artist in order to land a shop gig. Once in while, however, a talented tattoo artist comes along to break the rule, like Brian Mascio. “I’m self taught,” he states simply, neither arrogant nor ashamed. “It’s good to apprentice since you’ll learn a lot and a lot faster. I’m kind of lucky the way I did it. Some people tattoo out of their house for 10 years and never get into a shop, but I caught on pretty quick.”
With five years of experience, Brian’s self-taught discipline has carried through to his shop’s work ethic. “We [Corona Tattoo] take pride in our work,” Mascio says, “We don’t do things the way they shouldn’t be done, like writing too small. We want the work that we do to look the same years from now the same as it did when they left the shop.”
Brian’s private to professional experience gives him a great perspective on the industry. “Everything’s getting better, like the equipment we use, but there’s a lot of people now that want to be tattoo artists. They see these TV shows and now they’re doing tattoos out of their house, messing people’s tattoos up and we have to fix them.” Not everyone can be successfully self-taught.
His advice for people getting tattoos: “It’s always better to have the artist design something for you or bring something in. Don’t pick something off the wall.” (Rene Garcia, Jr.)
Corona Tattoo, 508 S. Smith St., Ste. 205, Corona, (951) 520-9597, www.myspace.com/coronatattoo