Here's the unedited Kat Von D interview from the Missbehave story I did with her.
Is tattooing still a man's world? How does it feel being a woman getting in on the action?
I think tattooing is definitely still a man's world. I mean, I think the majority of jobs are. Being a woman in this business has sometimes gotten in the way, yes, but I have always tried my hardest to not make gender an issue. It makes me happy when people have opinions based on my work and not my gender. Hell, I love boobs as much as the next guy, but that's not what I'm all about.
How about Miami ink? You're the only girl on the cast. Do you ever feel out of place or outnumbered, or is it more empowering and make you feel more unique?
You know, Miami Ink is a very different situation for me. I have been tattooing professionally in a tattoo shop since the age of 16, so I'm pretty used to being around guys, and becoming "one of the guys." Because Miami Ink is a TV show, some of the scenarios are imposed and I am put in situations that I wouldn't necessarily deal with if I was working at home in LA at the regular shop I work with. I don't feel empowered in any way being the only female on the show, I do feel isolated at times, and left out. All The guys on the show have known each other forever, so I am kind of the new kid on the block.
Are there any female tattoo artists that inspire you?
No. To be honest, although there are a few gals out there that whose work I admire and appreciate, I feel like women in this business, for the most part, aren't as good as most of the guys. Maybe it's because there is a smaller amount of them, but there are not too many women out there that I would wanna get tattooed by. Plus, when I am getting tattooed and I am choosing an artist, I base my decision on their tattooing skills, not their gender.
How about artists in general?
I'd say my main influence in tattooing would be a gentleman by the name of Kore Flatmo (pronounced "Corey"). Aside from the fact that his tattoos are so fuckin' amazing, he has the best outlook on tattooing, and how artists should treat each other and clients, and how to keep tattooing sacred. As far as artists, not necessarily tattooers, I have always been a big fan of all the great masters, Michelangelo, De Vinci, Caravaggio, and as far as modern day artists, I'd have to go with painters such as Michael Hussar, and Shawn Barber. I think if I could paint like those guys I would be set!
What first inspired you to try tattooing?
I owe it all to punk rock to be honest! Hangin' out in the punk rock scene since I was a kid, and seeing all these kids tattooed, it seemed something that naturally suited me. I had been drawing since I could hold a pencil, and when I did my first tattoo, which was a Misfits skull, I knew right then and there that tattooing was my calling.
What did you want to be when you grew up, maybe before you got into the tattoo thing?
My father is my ultimate hero, and he's like a 6th or 7th generation doctor in our family, so growing up I wanted to be just like my dad... He would always tell me that I should be an artist when I grew up, and I would say, "No Dad! I wanna be a doctor, just like you! Plus there's no money in art!" and he would laugh. When I finally became a tattooer, it was funny to me because in some ways it's a cross between the two. And looking back now, I'm sure my dad would have been happier with me being a doctor, or at least finishing high school!
I heard you skateboard?
Well, I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm a skateboarder in any way. I have always been fascinated with skating, especially the style. Growing up loving Los Angeles, you can see it all around you, the history, the style, the attitude, that skateboarding brought to LA, and it was definitely inspiring. I do ride a skateboard to the liquor store every now and then! I probably rode my first skateboard when I was 14; just about the same time I started tattooing.
Give us a good Bam Margera story.
Bam is awesome! He is a perfect example of a good human being, and is probably the most non-self-promoting person I know. He'd rather promote a great band that he likes, or his friends, before himself, and I think that's why I love him so much. As far as crazy stories go, between the partying and drunk tattoos we have done on each other, I'd say the time him and I squeezed into his purple Lamborghini with his mom and dad (April and Phil) and drove all the way to Metal Skool on the Sunset Strip to have April do a cover of a Bon Jovi song was pretty hilarious. When he first approached me with the idea I thought it would be funny, but when we actually tried fitting into the goddamn two-seater car, I kinda doubted the fact that it was possible. It was and it was fuckin' funny! I actually have a clip of it on my website.
What's the one thing that's most special about tattooing for you?
You know, when we first started doing the show, I was a bit worried that I would be typecast as the tattooer you go to for a portrait when you lose someone. And at first, it was kinda crazy, I had a line of people waiting to get tattooed and tell me the horrible and sad stories of their loved ones dying. But now, I completely embrace it. The other day I had to tattoo a woman who had come in to get a portrait of her 18 year old son who had shot himself in the face 10 days prior, and when we were done with the tattoo and she looked down, I ended up holding her for 10 minutes as she cried on my shoulder thanking me for giving her her son on her leg forever. That shit is the most special thing to me. Helping other people heal one way or another.
What's the worst thing about it or something you don't like?
Hmmm, I guess goin' out to the bars and having people come up to you and asking you about pricing on a tattoo... that's probably the worst. It's so hard to find a way to tell people you just wanna get a fuckin' drink, and not talk about work. Other than, tattooing is perfect to me, and I have never taken it for granted.
What's the worst tattoo you've ever seen?
One time, Steve-O was in Miami during the time that we were filming, and we had gone out the night before and got wasted, and talked about how we never wanted to have kids, and I think he got so amped on the idea of being free and never having kids that he was like, "I wanna get a 'fuck babies' tattoo, ya wanna do it?" I was down for it, but the next day when he came in we were filming and I was busy with a client, so he had Garver do this tattoo that didn't translate so well. At first, he was gonna get a picture of a baby with, like a cross over it, like the no smoking sign, but somehow the idea evolved into a dude with his pants down actually fucking a baby. As funny as it was at first, I saw a look of regret in Steve-O's eyes (which is very rare when it comes to that guy), when we all realized it looked like a total pedophile tattoo! Later on he blacked it out himself into a big black blob that Bam and I transformed into an ostrich, and we tattooed over a few months later. So now he has this dude with his pants down fucking an ostrich doggy-style on his arm! It was pretty fuckin' bad.
Have you ever had to do a tattoo you didn't kind of agree with or didn't like?
I think when I first started tattooing I was tattooing whatever I could take, but I'm at a point in my career where I can just pick and choose what tattoos I wanna do. And there are plenty of times that I turn ideas away, whether it's something that I don't feel are in my realm, or someone else can do a better job at it, or something that I don't morally agree with. I don't do racial tattoos, or too gang related shit.
Originally you were filling in for another cast member on the show, but the audience took a liking to you and you are sticking around. What do you think it is about you that they gravitated towards?
Sometimes it's not a bad idea to introduce some estrogen to the scene. I mean, I know I personally might get bored of just staring at a bunch of dudes all day long talkin' about tattooing. Maybe the fact that I am a girl, and I tattoo a completely different style than the rest of the boys might have drawn a little more attention. But I think that we all kinda compliment each other. It's hard to put a group of people together and at the same time have the chemistry for everyone to get along…
What were you thinking when you first found out you'd be on the show?
I was on my way to Finland, to tattoo the band, HIM, when the producers of Miami Ink asked me to appear on the show. And I was completely down to go down there and film. I felt like if I didn't go and do it, they would get another girl, and I couldn't stand the idea of another person representing me and everything I stood for. So I cut my trip in half and flew completely hung over, quite possibly still drunk from the metal fest the night before.
Then when you found out you'd be a more permanent fixture on the show?
When they asked me to do the entire second season I was stoked, but at the same time completely bummed. I'm a huge fan of my home in Los Angeles, and it's hard for me to leave for too long periods of time. Since I knew it takes one week of filming to film a one-hour episode, that would be 20 weeks! I said, "It's worth it and I'll do it." Then they added 13 more episodes! I am still here finishing up this season through mid-January!
Where do you see this Miami Ink reality TV thing going? How long can it last?
Well, it's only TV. And TV has such a high turn over rate. I think right now the concept is so new and more and more people are getting tattooed and can relate, so the show will be successful, but I'm sure it will fade away, like anything else. We're definitely not as cool or nearly entertaining as the Simpson's, so I'm sure we won't be on forever.
You were well-known and respected within the tattoo industry/community long before Miami Ink came along… has anything changed? Do people scream "Sell out!" or anything like that at all? Or does it just add credibility and increase your exposure?
You know, I was really expecting a lot of "haters" going into it, as it turns out I think the tattoo world can differentiate between us and sell outs. We have made it pretty clear to the production company that is doing the show that we didn't wanna reveal whatever "secrets" or techniques we may use on the show. We did not want to provide a televised apprenticeship. I would also rather it be Chris Garver or myself representing this industry rather than some douche bag that tattoos out of his house. Overall, the show has helped the tattoo world more than anything. It has set higher standards for people, and educated them about it along the way.
I see a lot of more glamour-style portraits of you around on the Internet, you've been in music videos, are you parlaying the fame/celebrity/status/recognition you now have into an acting/modeling gig or what?
Well, because of the show other opportunities have presented themselves to me, and it's exciting to see where they may take me, but I will always be a tattooer before anything.
Was this your intention all along? Or is it something that arose as a natural progression from Miami Ink?
It's definitely something that has happened because of the show, I was never like, "I wanna be in movies! Or be a model!" I mean, look at me; I thought I ruined chances like that happening when I got my face tattooed!
And how about tattooing once all that takes off? Will you still do it? How will you balance it? Will it run its course and be over?
I will never stop tattooing, but I always told myself, if there was a way for me to make money elsewhere, I would not tattoo for a living, I would do it for fun... you know, just tattoo your friends whenever you want at your convenience. Tattooing is crazy for me, if I go too long without tattooing I get withdrawals!
What's the future hold for you? What are your plans?
I'm currently working on the "Kat Von D" clothing line, and between my marriage, filming, traveling, my family, doing the occasional convention, partying, and tattooing, I'm pretty fuckin' busy. My future plans are to get some sleep eventually! That would be nice.
I happen to be a huge fan, but give us three reasons why we should all listen to Beethoven.
The main reason is that if it weren't for Beethoven, we wouldn't have heavy metal. Need I say more?