Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls is one of my favorite bands and I often travel to see their shows, which also ends up inspiring some road ink. Their output of passion and energy on stage is infectious, and I love seeing the audience get drawn in, no matter the venue. If you’ve never heard their music, do yourself a favor and have a listen, as you’re sure to find a song that strikes a chord. Frank Turner’s style is maybe best described as folk music played by a guy who used to do punk rock. His lyrics are based on his many life experiences, both good and bad, as well as influenced by his love of reading as he often weaves in literary and historical references. I especially love I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous, which references The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot, a poem that I memorized in high school and still recite to myself on occasion to keep it fresh in my memory banks.
My favorite song is The Road, which celebrates the freedom of constantly being on the move, and will get your feet moving on the dance floor, if not out the door and onto your next adventure. Turner also sings about tattoos, and he is pretty well covered in them. Because he’s always on tour, he often gets tattooed on the road, and graced me with answers to an email interview about those tattoos, which I’m honored to present here.
At what age did you get your first tattoo and what was it?
I was 16 (oops) and got “UKHC” tattooed on my upper left arm. I was knee deep in the UK hardcore scene at the time and it meant a lot to me. It’s a little naïve to me now but I still like it.
What inspired you to start getting tattoos?
I don’t really know anyone who had any but it seemed like something I wanted to get into. Probably Henry Rollins and people like that, I was very immersed in hardcore.
Do you have a process in deciding what to get next?
Not really. I’m at a point of coverage now where it’s as much about which area I want to cover as what I want. I have a list of ideas somewhere, and I try and find the imagery or the artist to make it work when I have time. I’m not in a huge hurry, but I do like tattoos and I have no problem with the idea of being very covered.
How long does it take between making your decision and when you get the tattoo?
That depends entirely on the logistics. Some are spur-of-the-moment things, some are things I plan and work on for months, if not years.
When you get tattoos on the road, do the places you go inspire you at all, or is it more about wanting a particular design and getting it when and where you can?
Again, it depends. It’s mostly about the artist. Sometimes I seek people out – Matt Hunt in Birmingham UK, Aaron Hamilton in Birmingham AL, Oliver and Tex at True Tattoo in LA and so on. Sometimes though I have a design and just find someone local who is recommended who can do it for me. I recently hooked up with Phil Robertson in Ohio on a day off to get a Freddie Mercury piece done.
Do you research the shop/artist before you get the tattoo or just go to whoever is convenient/available?
It depends on how big or visible the piece is, but usually yes. I don’t want to get anything shitty done!
Do you chat with the artist while he/she is doing the work? Do you ever ask for suggestions on where to hang out during your stay in town?
Yeah usually, I’m a gregarious person. More often than not it’s someone I know doing the work so we’re usually catching up. My stays in town are generally low on free time, and if I’m getting tattooed my free time is even sparser, so I’m not usually shopping for stuff to do per se.
What is your usual aftercare procedure, considering you’re going on stage and traveling with a fresh wound?
I keep it wrapped for 24 hours then wash and use Tattoo Goo or similar. Recently people have started using that Tiger Balm skin stuff which is great. I don’t get places tattooed that will be affected by the show. My back piece is taking forever as a result – it’s where my guitar strap rubs.
Do you ever regret the design or quality of the tattoo?
I don’t believe in regretting tattoos. It’s a permanent, grown-up decision. Own your own choices.
Any removals or cover-ups or fixes of tattoos gotten on the road?
I very much don’t believe in removals or cover ups, for the same reasons.
Any idea of how many you have? Any favorites?
I don’t know. 50 maybe? No idea really. I love the backs of my hands. Done by Ian at True Tattoo, to a design my buddy Kenan Nichols drew for me.
You have so many. Do you remember every place you’ve ever gotten tattooed? Any favorite cities/shops/artists?
I like to think so. I’ve mentioned people and shops here.
What is your most recently done tattoo?
My friend (and favourite artist) Vanessa Jean Speckman has started doing stick-and-poke tattoos lately. She did a hobo-code sign on my right forearm in a little gap in San Francisco the other day.
Any places in the world or artists that are on your tattoo bucketlist?
There are a few artists I’d like to get done by. Civ would be cool, plus Frank Carter and I have talked about him doing me sometime.
Any advice for others looking to get tattooed on the road?
Do your homework.