Interviewed by Timmy B
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Timmy B: Did you grow up in Texas and is that where you first started tattooing?

Nate: I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I first began tattooing in a small shop in South Houston.

Timmy B: Did you do a formal apprenticeship or were you more self-taught?

Nate: I was apprenticed by a tattooist from Ecuador named Santiago Diaz. He had just moved to Houston from New York. He was an interesting fellow to say the least. He had me soldering needle groupings on bars from the get go. I didn’t have a drill gauge to tighten the liners so he told me to pinch the tips and solder them down. Needless to say I still have burnt fingertips from that nonsense, haha. I did a lot of tracing and ran the counter for about a year before I actually tattooed any clients. I wish I had some video footage of those days. It was a different world for me back then.

Timmy B: Do you find that the role of tattooing is now different in your life now that you have a wife and two kids, as opposed to the role it played before the family life? Is it much harder to travel and balance everything or is it a blessing in disguise that you can maybe be home a little more?

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Nate: The role of tattooing has changed a little bit. I find myself doing tattoos that I might have turned down before just to pay the bills. I was a loner for so long, it was easy to survive on a few tattoos. I have my wife and kids to provide for now. I want to do as much as I can to give them what they need. I still put my all into every tattoo I do, that will never change. I will always try to push the envelope when I can. I don’t want to become a grumpy old fart! Haha

Timmy B: A few years ago you put out a couple of instructional DVDs for professional tattoo artists, which honestly helped me like crazy, when you look back at the decision to make those do you think you still would have put them out now? Or do you think it might not be the best idea to share your personal knowledge with so many people worldwide? Do you think seminars and DVDs have helped our industry? Or do you think they have hindered it because artists don’t have to work as hard to find out secrets and techniques?

Nate: You know, I often ponder that question. I sometimes have regrets for putting out the instructional DVDs. I decided to do so to give a wider range of tattooists the same advantage as seasoned veterans. I wanted to see what would happen if I evened out the playing field, so to speak. Well, needless to say the ratio of good to bad tattoo makers has changed. I hate the fact that so much of the material that myself and others have put out there is available for free on the web. I know how musicians feel now when they don’t get residuals from their songs that are pirated. I think the DVDs and seminars have helped create better artists in the industry for sure. I think some people might not respect those who came before them because it is so easy now to pick up all the tricks and techniques. I always give respect to those who were in the business before me. It was so much more difficult to excel and become a great tattooist back then. I guess that technology will always speed up progress, even in the tattoo realm.

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Timmy B: I’ve heard stories that when you worked with Josh Woods and Sean Herman that you used to hide which inks you were pouring to make certain colors and not let them see what you were mixing. True?

Nate: All lies! Haha. I used to make them so upset by using unmarked ink bottles and mixing crazy colors in the cap. I did sit down one time with Sean and set out a bunch of ink caps and starting mixing random colors together and labeling them. We both looked at each other and smirked like we just discovered the Holy Grail. I had a lot of fun working with those guys. We were always trying to put out a better tattoo than the next guy. A little friendly competition goes a long way.

Timmy B: Lately due to the popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Instagram, there have been more and more cases of artists stealing other artists work. Does this drive you crazy or do you chalk it up to the fact that it’s just too easy to see artwork from everyone all the time?

Nate: I think if you put it out there on the internet it should be expected. There are so many artists that are tattooing to make ends meet in a fast paced street shop; they are just banging out what the customer wants. The owners of those places are the ones at fault for letting it happen. I think greed overrides doing the right thing in many cases. If someone makes a direct copy of a tattoo and puts it in his or her portfolio, calling it their original art, that is something far worse. For doing that I think a beat down is in order. I have seen it many times, I have been sitting a few booths down from some douchebag that has one of my tattoos (tattooed by me) printed out and put in a portfolio as if it was their work. That is some ridiculous fraud right there. What the hell does their client say when the tattoo they get doesn’t look anything like the work in the artist’s portfolio?

Timmy B: When you work, do you use coils, rotaries or both? Any reason why you prefer one over the other?

Nate: I use both, but I will always use coils no matter what. I have had a pair of Seth Ciferri machines from 2000 that I have used nonstop ever since. They are a pair of J Walker frames cast in iron, the geometry is perfect. I like the rotary because you can listen to music no problem haha. They’re so quiet and virtually maintenance free. Although, there is nothing better than a really well tuned coil machine, I just hate it when I have to replace a spring. It is the equivalent to a chick breaking a nail or something haha. Luckily Keith Underwood isn’t far from where I am at! He tuned most of the machines I am using now. I have a rotary and a coil machine from Dino Casarin that I use on a daily basis as well, he makes some good machines.

Timmy B: Have you considered joining any of the common tattoo TV shows out there or is that not something you’re interested in? Are you a fan of these shows or do you think it cheapens the industry?

More of this interview inside Tattoo Society Magazine back issue #38