Northern Ink Xposed

Northern Ink Xposure just wrapped up another successful event this past weekend. Fifteen years and still going strong, I caught up with the hilarious man behind the NIX madness, Damian McGrath, one of the biggest tattoo names in the industry, Paul Booth and local artist Jacob Richmond of Altered Native Tattoo Shop. 
Damian McGrath
TSR: So, for our readers who may not know who you are, explain yourself: 
DM: I’m Damian McGrath, I like strong drinks and short walks on the beach. But no really, I am one of the two founders of Northern Ink Xposure and Tattoos.com. 
TSR: How did you get into the tattoo industry?
DM: I joined the navy way back when I was a kid and got my first tattoo of a wolf’s head (symbol for russian subs) and then it just spiralled from there. 
TSR: What is Tattoos.com?
DM: It’s just a way to promote tattoos from around the world. We started it up in 1995, when there internet was barely even running and had to use shitty pixelated pictures and it took forever to dial up and load anything. Our first piece was us covering the 25th annual tattoo convention in Houston, Texas. It was just cool to be able to showcase not only tattoos, but artists and make it more accessible to a larger audience.
TSR: How did NIX come about?
DM:Through tattoos.com, we would go to many different conventions and art shows and so on. We went to Amsterdam and was amazed at their convention and was like “Shit, how come Toronto doesn’t have something like this?!” So we did it. And here we are running this circus. 
TSR: Does Toronto stand out at all when it comes to tattoo culture?
DM: It does, hugely. Toronto is essentially a melting pot of so many different cultures, that the tattoo scene reflects that. You get everything here, sailor jerry style, japanese, old school, new school, it’s fucking awesome. 
TSR: How much work goes into pulling off a successful NIX?
DM: Fuck, it takes years and an organized team of leprechauns running the show. 2014 is already initially planned out. It’s fucking never ending. 
TSR: Do you think tattoos are losing their initial appeal?
DM: It’s definitely becoming more of a novelty than what it used to be. Fuck, we used to get tattoos because it was badass and rebellious. Now every one seems to have it. It’s great for tattoo artists because many of them can really make a living, but it definitely has seemed to become more of a normality. 
TSR: Do you think you’ll ever retire?
DM: I have a fucking tattoo on my face, where will I go?
TSR: What are you most looking forward to this weekend?
DM: For it to be over! No I’m kidding, I would say seeing burlesque Venus Starr and just seeing all the fans and catching up with old friends. 
TSR: What would you say is the most rewarding thing that comes from putting on NIX and running tattoos.com?
DM: The free t-shirts! Nah, just seeing the crowd interact with the artists and seeing some of the artwork that comes through.
TSR: What’s next for NIX and Tattoos.com?
DM: Well I’ll be going into Detox after this weekend, haha. And then we’ll be headed to Shanghai for an art show at their Museum of Contemporary Art. 
TSR: Are you planning on getting tattoo’d this weekend?
TSR: After 15 years of running the show, have you made any traditions?
DM: It always falls on the same weekend as NXNE so pretty much: Play Hard, Party Harder.

Paul Booth
TSR: I read that your big break came from a convention. Do you think that’s what keeps you on the road?
PB: Yea, I guess you could say it helps to keep me here. I also like being busy and seeing my friends all over the world. And seeing the growth in fans. 
TSR: Have you been to Toronto before? Do you see a difference in the cities you visit?
PB: I’ve been here a couple times before and it’s kind of all the same. Tattoos culture is tattoo culture.
TSR: You were really involved in the design of Army of Two video game. WHat was that like?
PB: It was cool to design tattoos on characters that were just on a computer. Using 3D imaging and figuring out how to place the tattoos without actually having real life canvases was interesting. 
TSR: You’ve also directed a film and run one of the most respected Art Institutes in America. What’s next?
PB: We’re going to be switching shops as soon as I get back to NYC and just working on a bunch of new projects. I don’t like to sit around, and need to be constantly busy with something new or challenging.
TSR: You have somewhat of a dark/scary reputation. Do you think that accurately represents you?
PB: Home is where the heart is
TSR: Do you remember what it was like doing your first tattoo?
PB: I was terrified. It was a skull and thorns on a good friend. He still has it today. 
TSR: Do you still get nervous?
PB: Not so much nervous, more excited to start a new project and show off the end result.
TSR: Do you think tattoos are losing their initial appeal?
PB: It’s definitely becoming a novelty more now that all these shows and such are becoming more and more popular. It’s no longer a rebellion, but a fad. 
TSR: Do you think you’d ever retire?
PB: Doubt it. I’ll keep creating new things to keep myself sane.
TSR: What keeps you inspired?
PB: My obligation to my fans and trying to bridge the gap between tattoos and art. 
TSR: You have a “No Unicorn” rule. Care to elaborate? Would you ever make an exception?
PB: It’s just not something I do. I do dark, evil, scary shit. No fluffy frilly unicorn shit for me. I can’t see myself ever making an exception, it’s working for me so far, why change it now.
TSR: What are you most looking forward to this weekend at NIX?
PB: Meeting fans, and doing more tattoos. 
Jacob Richmond of Altered Native Tattoo
TSR: Who are you? Where are you from?
JR: I’m Jacob RIchmond from Altered Native Tattoo in Orangeville.
TSR: How did you get into tattooing?
JR: I knew I wanted to be in some sort of artistic environment and studied graffic design. I hated it because i didn’t want to waste away sitting at a computer all day. I got my first tattoo and just fell in love with the whole idea. I apprenticed in Keswick and the rest is history. I’ve been tattooing since 2006 and can’t imagine doing anything else. 
TSR: What was your first tattoo?
JR: The first tattoo I ever got was a tribal cross that I now have covered up. It was just a cool rebellious thing to do for me when I was young, but I grew out of it. 
The first tattoo I ever did, though, was a treble clef. I was terrified and sweating bullets and on top of that I had lied my client saying I’d already been tattooing for a year. Amazingly, it came out pretty good. 
TSR: What would you say is your tattoo style?
JR: I would say colour realism. Like portraits but slightly dramatized. My favourite that I ever did was an Ace Ventura portrait on a friend. 
TSR: Do you notice any trends in tattooing?
JR: Oh there always are. I see a lot of bird silhouettes, “Live, Laugh, Love”, a lot of feathers. People see things and they want it. 
TSR: Is there anything you won’t tattoo?
JR: Our shop just has a general rule that we will not tattoo anything on the face, hands or neck unless they are continuing a piece. Like if a person comes in without a fair amount of tattoos but tells us they want a big neck piece, we’ll say no. We don’t want to facilitate something that could potentially cause a problem for our client in the future. As much as tattoos are becoming more and more common, many places still don’t accept them, so why encourage someone to get one if we think it’s not right. Ya know?
TSR: What are you most looking forward to this weekend at NIX?
JR: Just being a part of it. We’ve been coming down for years, but to finally have a booth is so exciting. 
TSR: Any advice for newcomers to the show?
JR: Take your time to look around and ask questions. Don’t be afraid of the scary tattoo’d people. We’re all cool, chill and laid back (for the most part) and really just want to do what we love. 
Article by Celia Schepp

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