HANS: It has become oversaturated. People are opening up shops because they saw some TV show and wanted to be cool. There aren’t a lot of artists tattooing, they’re just tattooing to be tattooing.
E: So, can it be said, then, that all newbies should have some schooling?
HANS: Yeah. They should pay their dues before they open up a shop. People need to take responsibility for the community. Some guys are ruining people, they just buy equipment and go ‘at it’. They think they can just open a shop and ‘bam’ they’re tattooers. And that’s just not the case (or how it should be). People need to pay their dues in whatever industry they’re in. Start at the bottom and you work your way up.
E: Much like chefs and entrepreneurship?
E: Have you apprenticed?
HANS: Oh sure, I attempted to. But one has to have the stick-to-it-ness, the desire, the drive to do ‘this’ because it takes ‘that’. I worked at a forty hour a week job for two years before I got into a studio. And when I wasn’t working, I was in the studio. You’ve got to be ‘there’, be present, that’s how it works. You have to pay your dues.
E: Your first job was at Shaper’s Quest on South Blvd.
HANS: Yes, with the amazing Vernons.
E: You stayed with Shaper’s Quest as it morphed into Fu’s Tattoos and moved a few locations (from South Blvd. to another location in Southend, to Tryon in Uptown and now on N.Davidson, in the heart of NoDa). A few years ago, you ventured to Texas to open a shop and upon your return you have been in the company of your friends at Fu’s Tattoos ever since, correct?
HANS: I went to El Paso and opened a shop, it was Heavy Tattoos. It was heavy, it was awesome. But I came back due to the offer of Mark and Wayne at 510, our neighbours right behind us. I worked for them for about five months.
E: So, how’d you end up back here?
HANS: The thing was that in the morning, before work, I like to take some time to prepare my artwork and there was never anyone in the shop early enough. I was always sitting on the curb, waiting… waiting. And Joey (Vernon) would be coming in to open Fu’s and he would smirk at me, knowing I had no keys to 510, and he would shake his at me and laugh and go on into work. And after watching him do that for a few months, I finally asked him for a spot back at Fu’s and he gave me an ‘alright‘ and a set of keys. Bringing me back full circle.
E: So, you’re back home. Fu’s is your home.
HANS: Yep, these are my people. I shared a locker with Joey in high school. I gave Christian Dunn his first tattoo machine. I hired Matt Terry. It’s just the natural place to be; back home with my peeps.
E: What sets Fu’s apart from other shops?
HANS: Well here, we’re all artists before we are tattooers. And we rock and everybody else sucks. (chuckles)
E: Let’s talk integrity of a tattoo artist. What does that entail, mean to you?
HANS: Oh my gosh. We are in a client-based industry. And the client wants what they want and our job is to give that to them, within parameters, of course. If it’s too small, you need to tell them. If it doesn’t work as a tattoo, then you need to let them know why it doesn’t work. Not just tell them ’I’m not going to do that’, we need to tell them why. We need to educate. Our job is also to educate. And a lot of tattooers aren’t willing to do that nor do they know how to do that. So, basically: do good work, be consistent and take care of your people. (pound)
E: So, there’s artwork that you’ve had to refuse?
HANS: Only in the beginning stages of a consult. If what they want isn’t going to look ‘good’ in ten years, then I’ll pass on it. I don’t want to do some ’tiny’ tattoo with a ton of detail in it that isn’t going to surpass time. Other than that, there’s no subject matter that I won’t do unless it’s ‘hate-based’.
(Joey chimes in, “I won’t do ‘Jesus crap’.”)
HANS: That’s hateful, I’ll tattoo Jesus, he had a beautiful swimmer’s body.
E: Would you say that you do cover ups : often, sometimes or rarely?
HANS: Rarely, but when I do, I do them well. I pick and choose them because, simply, there are some people who are way better at it (for instance Christian). We all have a different ‘eye’.
E: Are you a fan of tattoo conventions?
HANS: Sure, but it depends on the convention. If it is, indeed, put on by tattooers for tattooers, then yep. Some newer promoters are just trying to make a dollar.
E: What is to be gained by attendance at a (true) tattoo convention?
HANS: You get a chance to be recognised by your peers.
E: You have the reputation of a professional, talented artist and as a relationship type-of-guy, to whom a client returns year after year, always pleased. Accurate?
HANS: Thanks. I would say, whoever tattoos you for the first time, you usually go back to that person again. It’s like potato chips, you can’t just have ‘one’.
E: What’s the craziest thing a customer has requested /the dumbest?
HANS: Probably a date. I don’t treat my profession as a dating service, unlike other people ‘out there’.
E: Baku is a gallery attached to Fu’s that features a lot of local and in-shop artists, including live and collaborative painting shows and sometimes some work of yours in there. I’ve seen pictures of some of your paper-cutting art, sorta reminds me of the “Day of the Dead“ type-stuff. Can you walk me through this process?
HANS: Sure. I come up with the pencil drawing, then stencils, then the cutting and the layering of the paper. I got into this while in El Paso. I was invited to rent a booth at a "Dia De Los Muertos" convention in Albequecue, NM. It had arts and crafts booths throughout. And though I had ‘played around’ with cutting paper in the past, after that show I got more into it and loved it.
E: It looks kinda tedious.
HANS: Very. And meditative. There’s not a free creative process. It’s very meticulous. Very time-consuming. Very theraputic. But I’m really into painting lately. I’ve done some small ornamental pieces but next up will be some larger scale paintings in a gallery outside of my zip code. Unfortunately people don’t really come down here to buy art anymore.
E: You played the bass a few moons ago in a band. So, SEWER PUPPET. What was that? One sentence.
HANS: That was haneous, awesome, great, teenage angst and a beautiful memory.
E: Any music still pumping in those veins?
HANS: Oh, sure, I own an acoustic guitar and I like to play around. I also have a piano in the house. That’s about it.
E: What’s the one band you could never get tired of listening to?
E: So, you’ve been in Charlotte for a while, what do you think; Monroe Rd., too many tattoo shops or not enough?
HANS: No comment.
E: South Blvd., too many strip clubs or not enough?
HANS: Not enough.
E: What do you prefer; summer or winter?
E: Butts or boobs?
E: Sandwiches or wraps?
HANS: Wow, that’s really hard. Next.
E: Punk or metal?
E: The Tao of Pooh or the Te of Piglet?
HANS: The Tao of Pooh was pretty good. I read that.