Big Sleeps: What do you think of the lettering explosion today, as opposed to what it was like when you began tattooing?
Norm: I think that today, lettering has become its own individual art, as opposed to just being a sideline to other tattoos. I feel that lettering itself can be taken very far and we have no idea how far that will be, because we’re working on that progress right now.
Big Sleeps: You have built a name for yourself in the industry. What’s in store for the next 10 years?
Norm: The first thing is to learn as much as I can about as many aspects of tattooing as I can. This next year will be focused on new machine projects, and I will also be moving back to Los Angeles and trying to build a bigger body of work. I’ve been traveling so much (which I love), but I would like to spend more time in one space to work on bigger projects and surround myself with people who make me want to work harder and invent more.
Big Sleeps: You moved shops to Hawaii and now you’re moving back to Los Angeles, why?
Norm: L.A. street culture, graffiti, and gang hand influence has moved me since I began graffiti in 1998; with heavy influence from my MSK AWR graffiti crew, which is based out of Los Angeles. Old gangster typography is the coolest shit in the world to me and I’m just glad that my take on it has been accepted by some of the realest people I could think of. And I love L.A.
Big Sleeps: What do you like most about traveling the world and tattooing?
Big Sleeps: Your letters are strongly gang-influenced. What does it mean to you and why do you like this style of tattooing?
Norm: For some reason, this style of tattooing is what I wanted to do from the beginning. My teacher at the time would not let me do this, which was good because I learned a lot of things. But when I left on my own, I used my graffiti influences, combined with things that I liked and looked cool to me. Luckily, people have enjoyed this combination of everything and keep coming back for tattoos. I am also very lucky to have the people who influenced me as friends. It’s nice to be able to bounce back and forth with people that have a history with my favorite thing in the world, lettering.
Norm: I feel that moving back to Los Angeles and being around people who make me want to work harder in every aspect of life, will push me to be better than I can be, and I have a lot of gratitude for that. There are so many plans that I cannot name them all. But as far as fine art goes, I’m not sure how “fine” my art is.
Big Sleeps: You do many conventions, all over the place, on a regular basis. Can you explain the other side of tattoo conventions (traveling, packing, time away from home, clients, and dealing with people who want to price-shop for what we do for a living)? Compare it to working at the shop at home. Is it all champagne, first class and good food?
Norm: Tattoo conventions are amazing for many reasons: the people, the possibility of the amount of work that can be done, and being able to try out different things because of the amount of work. Also, when I’m around so many great artists, it makes me want to show off a bit and show what I’m capable of. Plus, I build tattoo machines, so it is nice to be able to have one-on-one dealings with the machine customers, and be able to explain in person what the machine is capable of. You can read more about them at www.normwillrise.com. Now, for the bad part…traveling takes its toll on you and your physical condition. Whether you are sick, tired, happy, or sad, you must be able to perform at work like a champion, and no one can know what is really going on. Traveling is a double-edge sword, because time at home