By Matt Wooddy
From the December 2011 issue of PRICK Magazine
Brandon Bond just might be the most interesting person I've met.When I first made contact with the All or Nothing CEO, he could not have been more excited about the interview. He seemed more like a life-long friend than a tattoo artist I had never met before, as the jokes were flying during our mobile exchange.After setting me up with some magazines, books,DVDs and full leviathan of past work, it was clear that Brandon Bond is unlike any other artist — and that's any medium or style — I've ever come across.
But Brandon's recognition doesn't stop in Atlanta, Smyrna or anywhere in Georgia, for that matter. He's an internationally touring artist who has been featured in television and film, with a wide fanbase across the world. Hell, he was the guest editor for a UK-based magazine last Autumn, completely taking over the issue and promoting his shop. He has been on Animal Planet, MTV,A&E,TLC, in several films and tattoos a slew of celebrity clients and athletes. Bond is the type of artist who can travel to any tattoo convention worldwide and everyone there will know who he is.
While some artists are fortunate enough to establish their own style of tattooing over the years, Bond has transcended any type of familiar mold.With this ability, he's become an instant favorite among his peers, tattoo collectors and anyone that encounters his work. He's won countless awards over the last decade, written a book about his experiences and even has his own online community dedicated to fan interaction, charities, music, counterculture, animal rescue (pitbulls mostly) and tattoo interests.
Innovative tattoo techniques, combined with bizarre and impacting placement of imagery on the body, executed with brilliant coloring and a unique attention to detail give his work a recognition and signature style unlike any tattooer in the world. If you have a tattoo in mind, he can exceed your vision of the project ten fold. However getting in with him proves to be increasingly difficult as he is booked heavily and tattoos exclusively in his one of a kind private studio (www.AntiArtElite.com). Many clients simply get tattooed by his amazing staff, all of which are imported to Atlanta.All or Nothing Tattoo has yet to hire an Atlanta based artist; they scour the globe, find talent on the cusp of greatness and import them.
Born on a small island on the gulf coast of Florida, Brandon became interested in tattoos and drawing at an early age. Without even realizing it, he would create flash-style pages of characters,weapons and other typical grade-school images. He frequently found himself in trouble for drawing on his friends, himself and his sister.This initial passion for art combined with the interest to travel the world would be the two inspiring factors in getting Brandon to where he is today. Money, girls and the chaos of a "work hard, play harder" lifestyle would all come later, but not without a staggering level of dedication of man hours not previously seen in tattooing.Workaholic by definition, the man is relentless, and recently has seemed to step back, out of the limelight, to work on new projects and recharge for something on the horizon . . . If the last couple of decades are any indication, he will not disappoint both fans and haters alike. And whatever projects are coming,we do NOT need to plug in these pages, he can get the word out on his own, so we wanted to sit down with him and find out more about him and his studios instead as he leans into his 20th year of compulsive success.
Q: How long have you been tattooing, and how exactly did you get started?
I am getting dangerously close to the 20 year mark in tattooing! I am an old bastard now.As to the humble beginnings, I did a total of 3 years of apprenticeship for various aspects of tattooing and piercing. My actual tattoo apprenticeship was under Jim Wolfe of Tattoo Zoo. Apprenticeship is the only respectable way to get into tattooing, and by that, I mean a real apprenticeship. Not a scenester bubblegum and glitter with brass knuckle earrings thing, but working, 24 hours a day, towards a goal and learning a new way of life through complete dedication and sometimes suffering.We are fortunate enough to work in an industry that still abides by traditions . . . Formal apprenticeship is one of the blessings and markers of the rich history of what we do, to bypass it, is to cheat yourself.
Q: When did you decide that you had enough of working for others and establish your own studio? How long did it take for you to transform this dream into a reality?
Well I got fired from every other job I ever had in my entire life, so I had to open my own joint, just to be able to maintain employment. Honestly, the first money I ever made was (15 years later) put into purchasing the floor tile in All or Nothing. I saved every penny I could for 15 years and put it all into that shop.That's how I came up with the name "All or Nothing" in fact, because when I opened I had to do a tattoo to eat that day; I had put every penny I had scraped for years into that building. 15 years is a long time. But I was traveling, touring,working, studying studios, seeing what worked and what didn't, always working towards opening my own parlor.The American Dream still exists and tattooing is one of the few careers where it flourishes.Work hard, save money, do good and get rewarded. I love America.
Q: About your own personality, you are not the average guy in general, and even for the tattoo scene, to some you come across as quite crass and a bit eccentric. What is your opinion about that?
It is hard to stand out in a sea of creativity, mohawks, debauchery, half naked women, and artistic innovation without going completely off the deep end. Early on I was kinda branded with this strange morph of lunacy, unpredictability, gun brandishing, profane, "booze swilling guy who does tattoos" trip. This sells magazines and makes people watch things on TV. This attracts a certain demographic of clients and fans. But it has nothing to do with me. If you have read my book Whore, or have seen the Film VICKtory to the Underdog, you see more of who I am in real life. I'm not a rock star, I'm just a street shop hustler who worked my ass off doing tiny tattoos for no money for 15 years and who loves people and dogs. If I was remotely into being a scene guy in tattooing you would see me at every tattoo convention. I've only been to two shows in the last four years.And those two were just because I wanted to see Europe.
Q: You must be incredibly busy just administrating such a large group of individuals and looking into all the money matters as well as creating such a high level of art consistently. Doing things like soundtracks, films, editing magazines, teaching seminars, where do business and art clash?
They clash constantly, like a war inside my head.The two have not one time worked together, only against each other. I am constantly back and forth, and my artwork has suffered.This is temporary I believe. I will tattoo longer than I will be a boss. Because I love to tattoo about 10,000 times more than being a boss. Don't get me wrong I love ALL the guys that work with us deeply, but I hate paperwork unless its paper we are scribbling drawings all over. Art wins in the end.
Q: What is the structure of All or Nothing? How many people work for you in total, how many artists, what do the other people do?
First of all I work WITH our staff, they do not work FOR me. This is key to what we are doing.We work together. I may be the Dad in the family, but we are a family nonetheless. My whole career I was working FOR someone who did not appreciate me. I vowed to never be that type of shop owner. I have two amazing managers that I work with, Dave Tedder and Matt Dunlap, and an amazing (and recently badly injured) right hand woman named Nicole Webster who helps me with everything that is NOT the tattoo shop.
To answer your question though, our family is 87 people strong, including tattoo artists,web guys, graphics, video, merchandise, shipping etc., and they are my favorite crew of all time.We do websites, videos, books,music, tattoos, graphics, promotion, animal rescue . . . It is a leviathan. I also own a private studio, not open to the public at all, A.N.T.I.Art Elite.The name implies that we are NOT elite, but just tattooers.We are blue collar.We are our own labor union, fightin' the power, not dissin' the sisters.We work hard every day, we tattoo every day. I have recently been living off of Wendy's exclusively, and while a Frosty is divine, it is still only .99 cents.
Q: You are tattooing at ALL OR NOTHING again, talk about that.
I'm thrilled with the new space inside of All or Nothing! Nicole@allornothingtattoo.com and I are currently about to book 2012, which is BLANK at this moment (by choice obviously). I have been very selective about what projects I am personally taking on, and I am STOKED on the new artwork I'm doing. Plus, I missed my staff!! www.antiartelite.com is fun, but the new place is a perfect halfway point between total privacy, VIP style, client treatment and being able to walk out a single door and be surrounded by some of the best artists in the world to bounce ideas off of or even just eat Wendy's with. I am enjoying the newer space immensely. Good to be back around such inspiring artists. My work will reflect that in 2012 as will theirs.
Q: Is there any one style that you enjoy tattooing the most? Say, if a customer comes to you with absolutely no idea what he/she wants, where do you begin?
My primary concern is placement based on anatomy and any existing work neighboring the space given to me.The shape of the blank area dictates what I tattoo. Obviously art for a backpiece is going to be rectangular and verticle as well as large, so there would be no limit on detail . . . these factors change everything, as opposed to doing a throat, a calf, a thigh, or a forearm.Placement, contour shape, and juxtaposition of the imagery on the bodypart are everything.The only rule is bold and clear, loud and direct, makes for impacting artwork.
From there I simply discuss whatever artwork I've done that they were into that brought them there and try and keep the ideas general.Thematic words like if they just had a daughter I would think "protective" or if there was a death, a portrait with initials and sad dates is boring so I will ask about the person who died instead, and what their relation to them or what feelings come out when they think about the PERSON not the death. Then I will draw whatever fits that space and loosely matches that theme that pops into my head. I will do it in the style of whatever pieces of my art they liked. If they dig my black and grey stuff guess what they get? And so on.
Q: With so many artists and apprentices who work with you at your Smyrna location, how do you determine who will work best?
I don't actually pick the artists, the staff does. I let everyone tell me who they want to hire out of our guest artists.We have a couple guests every month, sometimes we have slews of them, it just depends on my resident guys touring schedules because everyone travels as much as they want to here. But yeah, they vote and the two managers approve it and then I say ‘Hell yeah, welcome to the family.’ There is no creepy ceremony but maybe we should invent one?
Q: The history of career development with All or Nothing is relentless. Can you name 20 people that have tattooed under your roof that I would have heard of?
Hell yeah, easy: Sean Herman, Chris Vennekamp, Nate Beavers, Joshua Carlton, Mike Devries, Josh Woods, Matt Dunlap, Mike McMahon, Josh Lindley, Bob Tyrrell, Flaco Martinez, Mike Demasi, Jeff Paetzold, Eric Merrill,Tim Orth, Justin Weatherholtz, Jason Ackerman,Vince Villalvazo, John Lloyd,Tony Mancia . . . and me. [Note: Bond named SEVERAL other artists, including some from current AON lineup, in addition to these consolidated twenty, excluding Bond himself.]
Q: What kind of technical equipment do you personally use? Do you encourage or even require your co-workers to do the same?
My staff uses whatever they want to,we all use each others’ stuff and experiment regulary. I also have a large collection coil of machines and rotary machines for everyone to use whenever they want.We all have different styles and tastes and we encourage everyone to explore and utilize whatever is comfortable for them.
I personally use Pulse machines,Tat-Soul furniture, Intenze Ink and Waverly Ink, Envy Needles, and H20cean for healing everything. Their H2Ocean Vet Aid products work great on dog injuries as well.