Currently reading : SB6 Archive (2012): Rafel de la Lande
"I believe that if I persist in this way it's precisely because I'm inspired by tradition, and although my work is really contemporary, this link with tradition convinced me that I'm on the right track. I work hard these days to develop my aesthetic, make it dirtier and wilder."
Where do you come from and where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Mallorca, Spain. I came to France when I was 13.
What kind of environment was it?
Even though my parents are smart people, I must say that it was pretty chaotic. I come from a family of six children, and the atmosphere was kind of gypsy-like but not in a romantic way. I think that's where my taste for dark, wild and sad symbols comes from.
What were you like as a child?
I think I was a good kid. I used to cut myself off in my own world; it was a way to avoid the real, and with hindsight I think it inspired a lot of my personal mythology.
When did you start to consider tattooing as a practice?
I remember seeing tattoos for the first time on young heavy Spanish boys. A buffalo skull, the S of Sepultura…In Mallorca there is no tattoo culture, so the first tattoos I saw were more on young rebels than on old sailors.
Did you study?
I didn't really study. I spent three months in an art college, but contemporary practice and conceptual work are not for me.
When did you realise that tattooing was your thing?
After my college failure, I realised that the only possibility for me to live from my drawings and improve them was to tattoo. I was about 20 years old at the time.
How did you learn to tattoo?
By hitting it off with my tattooer, Olivier de Glamort, who had a shop called Atyka. He has been really patient with me and given me a lot of good advice. He unfortunately moved to Montreal a year after we met, so I started to practice in the Paris suburbs, keeping my equipment in a backpack. I was underpaid, but the weed I earned for my crap seems with hindsight a respectable wage. Technically, it was really bad but it was authentic. Later, I met Guy [Le Tatooer] who taught me how to tattoo for real.
Who were your main inspirations in tattooing?
I think that since the beginning, my main influence in the tattoo world was Jean Luc Navette from Viva Dolor. I recently discovered the work of guys like Duncan X and Liam Sparkes, and I feel close to them. And of course, there is Guy who taught me everything that I consider to be the essence of tattooing.
Are you interested in art beside tattooing? And if so, what in particular?
I'm mostly interested in popular arts like cinema (Franju and Tourneur, or movies like Haxan); traditional painting (Goya, Bosh, the Flemish school...) and engraving (Felicien Ropps, Odilon Redon, Grandville). Musically, even if I like many different things, my main influence comes from black metal.
How did you meet Guy?
I met Guy when he tattooed me. I was looking for a good tattooer. He really quickly opened his doors to me, and I will always be thankful for that. You travel a lot and cultivate a furtive way of life, which characterises many tattooers.
What is the importance of mystery and dream in the tattoo culture and in your own life?
It's always a good thing to play hard to get. I like the idea of the hobo way of life. I live in shops, I travel, I visit my friends. For now, it's the perfect way of life; I think I take pleasure in this romantic side of the Beatnik on the road. It makes sense with my work, too. But I think that soon I'm going to need a real place to stay and work on other projects besides tattooing.
In some way, you are now associated to a new school of tattoo which is inspired by popular arts from the occidental tradition, but also by graphic design and contemporary art—aiming at a smarter and larger audience. Is that something you are aware of? What is your position on it?
I really don't like the idea of being associated to a new school of tattoos. It seems fashionable to me, but whether I like it or not it's a fact…I think that people who are in the same line of work with me will agree. We all came in this world by passion and because these techniques reflect our personality. I believe that if I persist in this way it's precisely because I'm inspired by tradition, and although my work is really contemporary, this link with tradition convinced me that I'm on the right track. I work hard these days to develop my aesthetic, make it dirtier and wilder.
Does your clientele change from one country to another? And if so, how?
I work a lot in between Berlin and London with Jon John at AKA. Since they are both huge capitals, each city’s clientele is basically the same. Roughly, I don't tattoo only British people in London and in Berlin I don't tattoo lots of Germans. Many people come to me, it's gratifying. The French clientele is a bit more difficult, more cautious, more classical. I think my best clients are in London.
You just came back from a long trip in Thailand. How was it? Do you have any interesting anecdotes?
I'm looking forward to going back in Thailand. It loved to see that, at the other side of the world, people still listen to Black Sabbath while they drink Jack! I think I could spend a lot of my time there. Strangely it felt like home.
What are you plans for the immediate future?
An exhibition with Guy, a real one with big substantial work. Going back to Thailand to make jewelry. Buying a house in the countryside with a big studio to work in, looking after some dogs, hens and some small grounds to do some rifle shooting.