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The Talented Mr. Reardon
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As told to Sofia Mella
John Reardon first caught our attention when The Tattooed Heart visited New York in 2006. He was a contributing artist in the Young Upstarts exhibition at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn, where he is a resident tattooer. Combining personal and commercial work, the Talented Mr. Reardon is also author of “The Complete Idiots Guide to Getting a Tattoo”. This meticulously thorough offering is really an essential staple of any shop waiting room, and reinforces Reardon as one of the tattoo world’s Renaissance folk.
We had the pleasure of hosting JR in February this year at our Auckland shop. He proved very popular and intends to return in December.
The following is a conversation between John and Tom McMillan, one of the permanent artists at The Tattooed Heart.
Tom McMillan: State your name
John Reardon: My name is –
Interrupted by John’s girlfriend, Amy.
Amy: What’s up
JR: A little interview
TM: I’ve never done this before. What are you doing here?
Reardon: Tattooing, and hanging out with my lovely girlfriend Amy
Amy: Can I go shopping?
JR: Yes you may
TM: We need to note that every time John says “yes” he sounds like Rhys Darby
TM: Yes. How long have you been tattooing for?
JR: 13 years
TM: Have you ever taught anyone to tattoo?
JR: Yes. One friend I helped get in and then I taught Billy Collagan how to tattoo but he has since expired due to a motorcycle accident and some drug influence on his blood system. Yeah, he was pretty awesome. I helped my friend Eli Quinters get in when we were in college, but I didn’t know anything back then. We did some tattoos out of the dorms and shit and then he started apprenticing at where I was working at. We showed him what little we knew at the time.
TM: How's ya book, what’s ya book about?
JR: Getting a tattoo…. Like for idiots actually. (Available on amazon.com) It’s in English, which I suppose you guys speak.
TM: It’s a certain kind of English
TM: Yes. Have you seen Flight of the Concords?
JR: YES! Only once. Actually Eli made me watch it, but that was before I metAmy.
TM: I reckon you’d be good on it
JR: They shoot in my neighborhood all the time
TM: Where do you live?
JR: In Williamsburg, Brooklyn
TM: If people buy your book from Amazon do you get money for it?
JR: Ugh, I really don’t know how that works. I don’t get any money from it cos not enough people have bought it. So everyone should just fucken put down what they’re doing and go and buy it.
TM- It’ll help them to get a tattoo. It’s a good one to have in a tattoo studio. What do you like to tattoo?
JR: Skulls, easy shit.
TM: You like to doing fine detail type stuff eh
JR: I don’t know if I like it but that what I seem to do.
TM: Who’s your favorite tattooer?
JR: Ah, so many. I mean, whatever. The same as what everybody else likes.
TM: Sailor Jerry, Horiyoshi…
JR: Well I don’t know about Sailor Jerry, I mean, yeah sure, that’s fine, that’s great for that period of time, but you know…
TM: He’s not very good
JR: Hahaha! Well I don’t know, there’s something cool about it, he paints better than I do by far. Filip Leu’s pretty…
TM: He’s quite good
JR: I meant like along the Filip Leu line, of people who are still alive, you know what I mean?
TM: Yeah, he’s good that way
JR: Filip Leu, Shinje, he’s fucken awesome
TM: Have you ever done traditional?
JR: Yeah, I did a little bit on my thigh. I outlined that when I was like 20
TM: Was that horrible?
JR: No! When I did that to myself it was really light cos I wasn’t about to cause myself pain. But then Horihiro came over, when he did it on me it fucken hurt like hell and I was like whoa.
TM: Where’s the best place you’ve ever been?
JR: My girlfriend’s bedroom, naked. She lives in Bushwick. Usually that’s pretty fun.
TM: What’s the NY tattoo scene like?
JR: Well I don’t know. No one hangs out with each other anymore. We’re all old and lazy and we just go home. Or we meet each other for dinner.
TM: What about getting a tattoo?
JR: Oh yeah, there’s tons of people to get tattooed by. There are also a lot of waiting lists to wait on. I don’t have much of one of those.
TM: Think you’ll stay there?
JR: Yeah. I don’t know where else I’d live.
TM: What would you ask me that would be interesting? A tattoo question.
JR: Do you have any tattoos of your kids? I didn’t even know you had kids, that was weird.
TM: I don’t have any portraits; I’ve got both their names.
JR: You just sort of popped up with some kids
TM: That’s what my girlfriend does
JR: Are they yours?
TM: Yeah. So are you going to come back to Australasia? People look forward to getting tattooed by you
JR: Yes yes.
TM: ummmm…. Maybe around Christmas time?
JR: Yeah, that’s what we were planning on, cos she (Amy) gets 2 weeks off. To me this is amazing, but she’s just coming home, so it’s not like, great.
TM: Have u seen some strange small towns?
JR: Well, there’ve been a few creepy things. There have definitely been some junky trannies.
TM: K Rd
JR: It reminds of St Marks back in the day when it used to be cool.
TM: Do you tattoo junkies?
JR: I try not to. I don’t have any hand sanitizer with me. I can’t stand junkies.
TM: They’re sniffing glue, not shooting up
JR: Well that’s junky enough for me
TM: Do you ever get into glue yourself?
JR: Well not usually, I mean, I haven’t tried it in a while. Maybe I should get back into it. It’s cheap!
TM: It’s 70% harder than it was back in the 80s
JR: That makes sense. Plus you can get all those paint thinners too.
TM: Have you ever read a tattoo interview that was of real interest to you?
JR: That Filip Leu one in Tattoo Artist magazine, that was great. Everything he says is amazing.
TM: What would you say to someone who wanted to tattoo?
JR: Oh, I don’t know. Don’t give a shit about it, just do it. Or whatever. And don’t worry about it. You’re going to fuck up. Fuck it. It doesn’t stop! So don’t worry about it.
TM: Don’t stress.
JR: I actually started pulling an almost clean line once I stopped caring.
TM: “Don’t work too hard?”
JR: No I think you have to work really fucken hard. But relax and don’t worry about it
TM: How many days a week do you work?
JR: Five. I’d like to work one if that were possible.
Receptionist over the intercom interrupts “Hey tom, your customer’s here”
“I’ll be 5 minutes”
TM: So do you do anything else with yourself? Do you paint? Make machines?
JR: I make some pictures. A bunch of prints. I have an art show in Atlanta on April 3 with Dennis McNett. He makes woodblock prints, really badass like knarly wolves. I’m really stoked (about the show); I’m like poppin my cherry. I’ve traced old flash, put it together different and write something stupid under it. And then I’m doing some letter block prints or whatever you call it. Like pressed into the paper, nice good paper, one-color prints. Pretty… sssweeeet. Ace.
TM: Well now I’m going to do a tattoo.
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