SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT
This month's featured artist needs no introduction. Due to his artistic abilities and machine-like self promotion, brandon Bond has had more than his share of exposure and magazine coverage. He has built bridges and burned bridges. He has made fans and friends within the industry, as well as gained a few haters. This article is the be all and end all. according to Brandon, this will be his last interview. He is also announcing his retirement and new ventures. So hate not haters and fear not loyal fans, your questions and comments have been heard and Brandon is here to set the record straight.
Did you see yourself becoming the artist and businessman that you are today back when you started tattooing?
When I started tattooing I was not even aware of the intensity and growth we were all about to experience as an art form, lifestyle, and as a business. The tattoo industry has since gone through a huge rebirth and renaissance and my plans were created on the fly as a result of that growth. Fourteen years ago, there really wasn't anything around like what we are doing today. It was later that 222 Tattoo in Frisco, Darkside Tattoo in Connecticut, Ed Hardy's Tattoo City, and NewSkool Kolectiv in Cali all shaped what people thought about the limitations of the parlor atmosphere. I knew that I was going to do everything in my power to learn and grow and develop my own style, but as I saw artists working together and accomplishing works that consistently blew everyoneï¿½s minds, I knew that collaboration was the future of tattooing. One artist alone cannot produce art like two or five or ten artists can. Strength is in numbers, but I never forget that it is always quality over quantity. One bad attitude or ego driven distraction can ruin the mood and art is all about mood. I worked in 20 cities at a vast number of extremely well known studios. I had U-Haul on speed dial for over a decade. I moved nomadically seeking better art, better artistic environments, and was consistently disappointed. I knew at some point that I would have to create what I was seeking and set out to make it happen at any cost. I feel extremely grateful to have pulled together the staff and environment that continues to grow here in Atlanta at our studio. I put everything I had into it and fought tooth and nail to ensure its success. It was worth it.
Your tattoo studio, All Or Nothing, just celebrated its second anniversary, and it's been one of the most publicized shops in the last few years. Did you have any idea how successful your shop was going to become?
Honestly, we have only achieved about 70 percent of the goals I have in place. But we are still young. I thought it would work, but the level of success we have achieved, and are still achieving, is only the result of hard work with a side dish of luck. My staff and I push each other at every pass, I could not have achieved any of this alone, and I remind them of that as often as possible. As amazing and awesome of a ride as this has been, there is much work still to do. "The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary." That is a quote in my book from my mother, and it's true. We have to remain hungry at all times, motivated and driven.
Your shop name pretty well sums up the type of person you are. You are all or nothing when it comes to art and shop promotion. What have been some of the triumphs and speed bumps that have helped or hindered you in your rise to fame and fortune?
Tattooing is an art form, studio ownership is a business. I think a lot of people blur the line between the two. I refuse to let my staff starve. The only purpose in business is producing revenue and feeding those who depend on it. I feel like a lot of people misunderstood what I was doing early on, and as a result we still have a lot of haters. The "starving artist" mentality that pervades our industry is doing nothing but holding us back. I was simply reaching out to our target demographic as a means to an end. Internet promotion and advertising are key to any successful venture economically. So I hired some people to plaster search engine friendly information all over the Internet. Tattoo artists have consistently misunderstood this activity and still do in some instances. If we win a pile of awards and then post it on the Internet we are not being arrogant, cocky, exploitative, or obnoxious; we are simply feeding information to our target demographic: the tattoo client. Why do we need 15 Web sites? Because clients read every single word on all of them and then book a flight to Atlanta. Why have a mailing list? So our clients can be aware of what's going on and which cities we will be appearing in. Why advertise on TV? Why not? Tattooing is no longer a secret, underbelly of negativity. It is a validated art form and a gigantic industry enjoying a level of success that was previously unprecedented. We treated our studio as a business and promoted it. I am not interested in being underground or secretive, this is not the '20s and I see no reason to act like it is. Would I have changed anything? Yes! I probably would have added a disclaimer specifically directed at other tattoo artists saying, "Relax, man. It's cool. This is just for the clients of the universe. Please don't hate the player, hate the game. We are not trying to say we are better than you. We are promoting, so please ignore this unless you want to get a really dope tattoo."
You recently started Stranglehold Publications and merchandise. What's available through Stranglehold?
The Web site (www.strangleholdmerch.com) is a collection of books, shirts, tattoo chairs, original paintings, sketchbooks, framed signed prints, tattoo equipment, armrests, stickers, huge mag tubes, collaboration tables, and other high-quality, high-end tattoo type shit. It is really exciting because the stuff we're moving is top of the line. We could not find the equipment we needed to do all the crazy stuff we're doing, so we started building it.
What's the best way to describe your new book Whore, and why was it something that you wanted to put together?
I was approached about doing a book two years ago. A company asked me to send them some drawings and photos, and then they would do the rest. I blew them off, knowing that anything I put together would have to be completely controlled by my graphics team and uncensored. Their offer inspired me and I began a journey to create something extremely personal, powerful, motivating, artistic, and fucked up. It took us two years of working everyday on it. Every page is a piece of art, an uncomfortable window into an extremely disturbing and blunt reality. I address every aspect of tattooing, sexuality, relationships, promotion, exposure, motivation, money, frustration, being a boss, hatred, love, despair, and success. I touched on every subject that we could force into the 170 plus pages. There is text, photos, drawings, blood splatter, firearms, nudity, money, short stories, and deeply personal messages exploding throughout the book. It's pretty insane and every word is completely honest in every way. In fact, it's too honest at times.
You recently announced your retirement. Are we still going to see new Brandon Bond tattoos?
Yes, I am still tattooing. The honest truth is that I couldn't handle the amount of clients flooding my appointment book. We have booked the rest of the year, and we aren't taking many new clients. I am not all art fagged out, or trying to dissuade any potential clients, however I'm dying from way too many hours of tattooing. I worked seven days a week for over a decade, literally. This is actually a large part of what my book is about. I haven't done anything but tattoo since I was 17 years old, and I need room to breathe. Still, I don't know anything other than tattooing. It is my life. I'm not abandoning it, just backing up off of it. I will no longer be tattooing at conventions, doing guest spots, no more crazy tour schedules, and hopefully things will not be so hectic in my everyday life. I will still be teaching in convention seminars, but not trying to tattoo my ass off.
Tell me about your new studio, A.N.T.I. Art Elite.
I wanted to be able to tattoo in an environment that I could not be distracted in, an area where we could do collaborations without interruption. This studio I have built is incredible, complete with movie theaters, Koi fishponds, huge drawing areas, an art gallery featuring my own private collection of works from all over, and the most laid back luxurious setting imaginable. Clients cannot get tattooed here without approval. It is not a public studio. It is perfect in every way. It relaxes both the client and the artists to the point of bliss. The days and nights pass as though I weren't even working at times. It made tattooing fun again for me. It's opulent.
When a client comes to you and says, "Do whatever you want," how do you decide what to tattoo on them?
I'm extremely fortunate to have the clients I do. Most of them pick a body part and say, "Fill it up." This freedom allows for an incredible level of consistent experimentation and motivation. I keep a heavy black file folder with me at all times that contains hundreds of sketches, photos, images, disks, and tattoo ideas. I work to overflow this folder constantly. On the day of a clientï¿½s appointment, I just lay out a few printouts and drawings that fit the body part, and explain what direction I'm pushing towards. From this the client selects the style or imagery he or she is most enthusiastic about. I stay up late into the night regularly, researching, drawing, screwing around with Photoshop, and printing all types of images that intimidate my artistic confidence. I look to do tattoos that are extremely hard to do. Clients really dig going through all the secret files, and sometimes they argue over who gets what, but nothing is wasted. I discuss a lot of this process and how to emulate it in my seminars.
Where has the world of collaborative tattooing taken you artistically in the last year?
Further than I could have ever gone on my own in another 15 careers of workaholism. I learn from every collaboration we do. It is the absolute height of art and growth. The way I look at tattoos is affected by challenging myself to work with another artist who I respect. It's nerve racking, intense, and occasionally uncomfortable, but it creates change and anyone who fears change in their portfolio is not growing at all. Tattooing with another artist's favorite ink or machines, and using different lighting and colors in the imagery is like a window into another artist's secret creative process with an all access pass, VIP style. My back piece is a collaborative work, and my new studio is set up specifically for doing collaborations. I cannot explain the magic that happens to your vision by doing this with someone you can be yourself with. My work changes slightly with every artist I work with and I can always see the reciprocal occurrences in the other artists corresponding portfolios. It's like setting your creative gasoline on fire and drenching it in truckloads of gunpowder. Albie Rock, Dave Tedder, Nate Beavers, Sean Herman, Josh Woods, Lenny Renken, Joe Waulken, and Joshua Carlton have all had an influence on what I do as a result of hours and hours of intensive focused debate while creating mutual works of art together. I will continue to work in this manner regardless. It's so personal and beautiful. It's confident and scary all at the same time. I'm all tingly just thinking about it. Your gonna make me all misty and stuff man...
In becoming who you are as an artist and shop owner, you built a lot of bridges and burned a few. Is there anything that you would do different or take back if you had to do it all over again?
It's weird because I have no regrets, but you can't please everyone. I have been repeatedly misquoted in articles, and people take that stuff so personally. In all honesty I would probably take it personally, too! It's extremely upsetting to everyone involved, especially me! I never meant to intentionally offend or disrespect anyone, but it's bound to happen when you're doing as many interviews per year as I have done in the past five [years]. A couple are going to suck. I am not responsible for what a magazine misrepresents, and I always require a retraction acknowledgment. I hope this is not one of them, as it is very important to me that I not offend other tattoo artists. I have nothing but respect for other artists, especially those who have been in it longer than I. My gratitude is expressed constantly in my work and in print, but that's not the part people seem to notice. It's ironic really, for instance, when your talking to your old lady and you tell her for five minutes how awesome she is, but all she heard was one sentence in the middle somewhere that offended her. Then, of course, she freaks out and doesn't give you any coochie. I have nothing but respect for tattooing, tattoo artists, and tattoo studios. Without those before us, we would be nothing. People seem to have formulated an opinion about me because of all the crap in these interviews. My book deals with this subject some as well. All I can say is, "Don't believe the hype." If you are offended by my statements, call me, let's talk about it. Don't freak out and talk shit about who I am as a person. I'm easy to find, and a magazine is not a venue in which I would start a war.
You just imported a team of great new artists. Who are these guys and where did you find them?
I honestly could not be more stoked about the talent that just moved in. Dave Tedder and I toured last year all over the country doing conventions, seminars and guest spots. We met hundreds of badass tattoo artists from everywhere, and word traveled that we were looking for some like-minded, driven and talented artists. The first was Nate Beavers from Big Brain in Omaha. He came to our shop to do a few guest spots and just blew everyoneï¿½s fucking mind. That guy is on fire. I have already done two collaborations with him, and I have to try to keep up with him. He has been tattooing as long as I have, I think. He's incredible. He can bust out a portrait, a bloody zombie, perfect traditional, and a Japanese sleeve all in the same afternoon without batting an eye. The second was Josh Woodkowski (Josh Woods) from Buffalo, New York. I cannot believe the shit this guy pulls off. He does so many different styles at the same time I don't think he even understands it! Watch out for that guy, he's burning both ends. The third was Lenny Renken who also comes from Omaha. He is a younger artist who you will soon get tired of being blown away by. We are doing a collaboration piece together in a few weeks. He is growing faster than all of us. These guys with Dave Tedder, Sean Herman, Joe Waulken, a slew of guest artists, and myself combine to form Voltron, and can really destroy some shit. We are always looking to find more hungry and driven talent, and are always hiring. Albie Rock, Justin Weatherholtz, Billy Hill, Dan Henk, and Anthony Orsatti come through regularly and lay the smack down. We are a Leviathan of motivation and creativity, I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not just hallucinating all of this.
Any final thoughts, future goals or shout outs?
Yes, we have a new addition to the A.N.T.I. family. Dave Tedder is about to reproduce any day now and All Or Nothing has never had a baby! So congrats to Dave and his baby mama. And Iï¿½ll see all of you in hell.
All Or Nothing Tattoo and Body Piercing
For more information, go to www.allornothingtattoo.com, or www.brandonbond.com, or www.davemftedder.com, or www.seanherman.com, or www.natebeavers.com, or www.joshwoodsart.com, or www.albierock.com, or www.strangleholdmerch.com, or www.antiartelite.com.
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2569 S. Cobb Dr., Smyrna, Ga. 30080 - Phone: 770.435.996