Ever imagine what it would feel like to immerse yourself amongst an assemblage of innovational artists subconsciously sprouting creative legacies from scratch while working toward building a legacy of your own at Hollywood’s most prestigious tattoo shop? I copped the opportunity to pick the brain of the multifaceted talent, Louie Perez III, who is sprucing up Mark Mahoney’s Shamrock Social Club on Sunset Boulevard with a touch of sublime mastery while decorating skin and injecting ink onto human tapestries.
What’s going on in the world of Louie Perez these days?
Hey!! Still working at Mark Mahoney’s Shamrock Social Club for going on 7 years. Best shop on planet earth! Great crew, friends, and family! I am also at my buddy Dre Perales’ shop two days a month with my former apprentice (now kick ass tattooer) Christina Harris at Tip Top Tattoo in Downtown Fullerton. Less than two years ago, I started a band with my cousin Ruby and dear friends Carlos, Fuller and Mike B. We toured SXSW by our third gig within that first year, got an indie record deal, premiered a video on Vice/Noisey and are now releasing our debut Vinyl LP on Maplewood Records supported by a SO CAL tour with X, Los Lobos, and The Blasters. As of now, shit got serious! LOL
Do you have a background in art?
I have been drawing as far back as I can remember and I was doing band art as far back as my early teens. Most notably a ‘sunglasses wolf’ logo for Los Lobos at 13 years old in an airplane with a sharpie and paper on the way to Florida during the U2 Joshua Tree tour with my dad’s band as direct support. I think it was by suggestion of Wally Hanley who was road manager for Los Lobos (and X before that) and Mouse De La Luz (RIP) who worked for everyone from Lobos to G’n’R and Neil Young. With much resistance, I stumbled into an art degree, scholarships and graduation with honors. That sounding way too prestigious for a striving and hopeless punk rock kid, I made sure to follow that with working at Laguna Cheveron, heavy drug abuse, and playing full time in my first band Los Villains. A year or two later, I was fortunate enough to score a Tattoo shop helper job in GuadaLa Habra, California. That was over sixteen years ago now. I eventually got clean and the Mystery became History.
I checked out your band, LP3 and The Tragedy. Your debut record ‘Southland Hum’ truly takes a listener on a vivid ride through social awareness. Explain the differences and similarities of the mindset you experience while being a musician and tattoo artist.
Thank you. I find it very fortunate to have experienced the differences and similarities of both of my occupations. Working as a street shop tattooer has given me a glimpse at many different types of people. From desperation to entitlement. Considering I played in bands before that, these characters and situations actually started inspiring my music almost immediately and vice versa. As a kid, I grew up around everything from being ‘poor’ all the way to ‘upper middle class’.
I guess that coupled with Catholic School guilt, gave me a very strong awareness of the difference in our class systems, as well as stereotypes. You sprinkle the ‘danger’ of the late nineties tattoo scene, which was nothing like the socially acceptable reality TV show it is now, and you get a fairly well rounded view of Southern California at least.
What are your immediate music career goals?
I think we would love to be able to afford to continue producing music that people enjoy and hopefully see some beautiful places doing it.
If you could metaphorically affiliate one animal’s characteristics to your own personal characteristics, what animal would you choose and why?
I always fashioned myself a wolf by nature and lineage. I was very familial and loyal to my pack for the most part, and sacrificing the older, weaker, or more troublesome of my pack to benefit the good of the whole does not bother me as much nowadays.
What’s the last concert you have attended?
I saw Steve Earle a while back and that was incredible.
For human beings interested in getting tattooed by you outside of California, do you intend on making appearances at Tattoo Expos or Festival elsewhere in the near future?
I spent almost a decade traveling all over the world with one of my best friends Dan Dringenberg. Over the last few years I got very comfortable tattooing with the amenities of my shop more often than the occasional one or two conventions a year. I definitely want to do a few next year, or at least a few tattoos if circumstances are traveling only by way of music. I love doing tattoos regardless of where I am geographically as long as I have electricity.
Alright, man. Your tattoo designs are worthy of album covers. If you could illustrate an album cover for one band, which band would you choose and why?
Great question. Generally I would prefer a doom or heavy psych band. Although it’s not the type of music I play personally, that music is what my brain probably sounds like. Aliens, Acid, snakes, fire, and supernatural shit like that. Put a call into EARTHLESS for me, I’m down to do their next joint…
Any words of wisdom that you’d like to share with young artists interested in artistically shifting from paper to skin?
I think if anyone wants to get into tattooing nowadays, I would only implore that they get into it for the right reasons. Get an education, learn the history and let that define a view of it more than what the TV and social media portray it to be. Get into it because the history of the trade speaks to your interest. Not because it’s some trendy shit that people might like someone for. Figure out who YOU are as a person first, so you can bring your cool to the industry, not take the cool away from it. I was attracted to tattooing because it was a very tight knit group of very unique and individual personalities. Start by getting lots of tattoos in good shops by artists you respect.
If that means working hard and saving money to afford it, you may eventually show a great artist that you have integrity. If you are patient enough that will maybe get you in the door towards a formal apprenticeship. I think that is invaluable to being great at anything. It’s something worked hard for, earned by determination and relentless sacrifice. The pride and self-worth of that may give you more years than that of someone who ordered junk equipment online and ruined plenty of fresh skin for the people who work hard to do quality work.
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