Interview with Chris Birdsong
By Tattoo Masters Magazine UK
Purchase your Official Signed Copy of the All or Nothing Tattoo Edition of Tattoo Masters Magazine here: http://strangleholdmerch.com/all-or-nothing-tattoo-issue-of-tattoo-masters-magazinesigned-p-229.html
Describe yourself in 140 characters twitter style.
Hi I am BIRD, and I tattoo for fun and money. Bikers, truckers, outlaws, electricians, tattoos, and the south are the factors it took to produce this guy.
How long have you been tattooing?
- I have been tattooing 8 years, and I never once had any doubt that this is my destiny!
How long have you been with ALL OR NOTHING?
- I started tattooing at All or Nothing in February of 2008.
Where DID you live before coming to Atlanta?
-I have lived in Macon Georgia my whole life. Right smack in the middle of this beautiful, oppressive, bless his little heart, self-righteous, police state........but I love the woods! Don't get me wrong, I love Georgia. But the people we have running this sh*t, are running this state into the ground!
How did you come to ALL OR NOTHING, tell us the story!?!
-I started coming around All or Nothing the same way a lot of other artists, I think. I was seeing some of the sickest tattoos come from here, and knew I had to check this sh*t out in person. I hung out here and there, Made a lot of friends, and would kick it at conventions. One day, out of nowhere, I get a call from Dave Tedder asking if I would like to do some guest spots. Came out to tattoo for a couple of weeks, and a couple of weeks later, I get another call, but this time, it is about a full-time gig. I knew that I had to do it.
What is your favorite type of tattooing to do?
-I don't really know the answer to these types of questions. Really, I just love tattooing. I definitely love to do one of, or one of a kind tattoos. Tattoos are my favorite tattoos to do. Ha ha. I will put it this way, when someone bases their tattoo decisions simply on price, and don't care anything about my educated opinion; those are my least favorite tattoos.
What machines do you use? How many do you set up for a substantial session?
-I use all kinds of machines. The machines I frequently tattoo with range from 50.00 to 350.00. So, I don't believe you should have to spend a grip for a machine to do a good tattoo. I think if you really know what you're doing, you don't need all kinds of bells and whistles or some dude's name on the side of your machine. There are some sick tattoos that come out of prison- it's working with what you have. I don't believe in air driven machines. Fine if they work for you, but it's like electric machines, don't think you have to have something just because so and so uses them and they do awesome work. Like, hey my setup came in today, who wants a color portrait?
I never use over four machines at one time. Skinny line, fat line, tight shading, wide shading, what else do you need?
What type of needles & groupings do you prefer? How did you come to
start using them?
-I use a couple of different suppliers for needles. Usually King Pin, Bicknee and World Wide. As far as groupings, I use tight liner groupings. Like, instead of using a 3, I will use a tight 5, or using a tight 7 instead of a regular 5. I typically only use 9 and 13 mags. Every once and a while I have to use something smaller or bigger. The biggest, being a 23 mag or smallest, being a 7 mag. I have tried a little of everything over the years. Like machines, I have found that you have to use what you feel comfortable with. I would love to be able to make my own needles again. I believe it is a lost art form. Just knowing that fewer and fewer apprentices, and even legit tattooists, don't even know how to, makes me want to do it even more. I have seen Zeke Owen make mags with liner groupings, that kinda sh*t is dying out.
Is Brandon really a psychopath to work for?
-To work for? No. The shop is very chill. But have you watched his short film See You In Hell?
What has changed about your tattooing since you first walked in the
front door of ALL OR NOTHING?
-Sh*t, everything. For the better...for sure.
Everyone that comes arrives at different times, so the list of artists
is always in flux. Who have YOU worked with, gotten tattooed by, met
or gotten to watch work since coming to ALL OR NOTHING? And how did
any of that affect you and your art?
-Wow, I don't even know where I would start. Too many of the WORLD'S greatest artists have been through here.
What other type of art do you produce? Paintings, video, flash, graphics etc?
-I constantly draw. Drawing is the best thing you can do for your tattooing. I paint here and there, usually watercolor or acrylics.
Are you tired of people talking to you about dogs?
-Not really. People are just so passionate when they are talking about dogs.
How has your LIFE been changed since coming?
-Life? I don't know.
Was there ever a time when you realized you had figured this out or
had an "art epiphany" about your own growth as a tattooist?
-Ok, that's different. Yes, I feel like I have more ideas. When you work with so many great artists, and they all vary in the type or style of tattooing, you are going to pick up this and that. If you were to give everyone at the shop the same concept for a piece, you are going to get 10 completely different ideas. Like, I wouldn't have thought to do that. And I use that to approach a tattoo differently.
What kind of inks do you use?
-I use a lot of eternal and Starbright. Same with machines and needles, I use what has worked for me for so long.
What is it like to work with so many artists from all over every day?
- Oh, it is a blast. Everyone is so chill and nice.
What types of tattoos would you LIKE to do, like if you could start
doing any specific style a lot, what would it be?
-Probably Japanese kind of stuff. The imagery is so awesome. And it has meaning, and not just this or that. It has a story. And these stories have been around for centuries. They have a TRUE tradition of tattooing. It's not just, you go to a shop and give them thousands of dollars and they will teach anyone. A lot of tradition and a lot of history. American ways of tattooing are losing the tradition every day, and they're not even that old yet. I mean, really, just barely even a hundred years old. And we are losing it to consumerism. And we are losing these pioneers of American tattooing left and right. The Japanese hold tattooing pretty fucking sacred, and that's how I feel. I think we are letting unworthy punks into this sacred secret society. They will have no real since of self. Just like America, no real ancient history, but a sense of being the best. It's cool, I am confident there will come a time where it will force you to prove yourself, and only the strong will survive. Oh, and I fucking love samurai movies!!
Tell me about your kids (if you've got any?)
- I have an awesome little boy! I love that guy with everything I have in me and more!!! He will be four this year. So awesome!!
What do you love about tattooing the most?
-I love that I know this is my destiny. I love that I can say I create art, and it is under some ones skin and it kinda tells a story for that person at a point in their life, even if the tattoo is a unicorn having sex with a dolphin underneath a waterfall and a rainbow. And, I can afford surviving in the world, by me creating these nuggets of "art".