Review And Picture Credit – Adrian Hexhall
“Can we talk later? I’m just off to do tattoos for everyone in Mercyful Fate. ” Such is the life of a tattoo studio owner Darren Hubbard. Darren has run ‘Old Sarum Tattoo Studios‘ for some ten years now. He’s been a tattoo artist for over 20 years and along with his team of tattoo artists from all over the UK, they provide both artists and fans the opportunity to ‘get inked’ at major rock and metal festivals every summer. Starting initially with Download Festival, Darren and the team are now regulars at Bloodstock Festival as well and the set up could not be slicker.
Three locations exist within the hallowed grounds of Catton Hall during the 4 days that Bloodstock runs for. The largest studio is, as one might expect, located in the main arena, providing both new tattoos for the masses attending as well as, and this is the important piece, aftercare support. The aftercare element which, according to my colleague Heather Laing is critical in those early days will prevent infection arising for anyone getting new ink and then living in a tent for several days thereafter.
“Anyone who knows tattoos,” says Heather, “knows that the aftercare methods (while unique to everyone) are rather meticulous if you actually want your tattoo to heal and still look as good as when you were having it created. Namely regarding things such as keeping it clean, the 24-hour wrap, bathing it after your first night, and aftercare cream applications.”
Darren’s team provide the complete package. Now of course, being at a festival, there’s no time to book in that full sleeve you always wanted, the back tattoo that encompasses all of your favourite horror movie characters interspersed with the logos and more of the bands that you’ve perhaps come to see at the festival.
To avoid ridiculous queues at the studio during the festival, each of the individual artists present comes with some designs that can be done in a ‘reasonable’ amount of time allowing a quicker turnaround for the artists and a constant stream of happy punters to boot.
The designs, many of which incorporated the official ‘Bloodstock logo,’ were varied, contained everything from small animals to the expected Bats, Skulls, Unicorns, and in the case of the studio in the Serpent’s Lair (the VIP section of the festival arena), designs based on some of the bands performing over what was to be the hottest weekend on record.
The VIP studio, run by Ashley Luka, sits just inside the entrance to the Serpent’s Lair. The team there have one table for new tattoos and 2 additional people there for the ever-important aftercare once Ashley has worked her magic. Based in Birmingham, Ashley, like most of the other artists on site for the Bloodstock weekend joins up with Darren and the Old Sarum team for events such as Bloodstock, but this year in particular, her desire to work the festival increases thanks to the inclusion of one Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein on the bill. Doyle, is an American guitarist best known for his material with horror punk band The Misfits and his own band eponymously named Doyle. Doyle’s set went down a storm on the Main Stage at Bloodstock 2022 and unsurprisingly, Ashley was keen to meet him.
“I didn’t have the nerve to go up to him,” she admits. “I saw him backstage but didn’t speak to him. He was really close as well.” Smiling when asked if she was able to show him her tattoo designs based on his famous look and unique guitar design, she adds, “I was standing there and, in the end, kind of hoped he might see me, wander over and we could talk…” Sadly it wasn’t to be. If, however, Doyle ends up reading this then Ashley’s Instagram ID is @ashleyluka and her Doyle designs are something else!
Back at the Main Arena studio, the team by the middle of the weekend are in full flow. The aftercare team have a constant stream of people returning each day to ensure their dressings are exactly as they need to be and if required new adhesive coverings are applied. Gone are the days of wrapping tattoos in clingfilm, a terrible concept on days when the temperature is nudging 35-40 degrees Celsius with dust and sweat everywhere. Instead, sterile, adhesive dressings that are good for a few days are applied and the tattoo gets to breathe and heal in a clean water and dust proof environment.
Chatting to the team in the studio, it’s clear the artists and the aftercare team are not only colleagues, but the sort of team that look out for each other. The smiles on everyone’s faces, the sense of innate calm throughout the tent almost sits at odds with the music playing outside on the various stages and in the majority of the designs from previous sessions that adorn the stream of punters heading inside for more artwork to be added to their personal canvasses.
One individual we speak to is there for his first tattoo. His artwork of choice, the raised horns as introduced to the world of metal by none other than Ronnie James Dio. A small design, an easy one for the artist working on our slightly nervous patient who when asked ‘why?’ admits he felt the festival was “just the right time and place to do this.” When asked for his name, our guy goes shy on us and when pressed, asked to be called ‘Bart Simpson.‘ Well Bart, I hope you’re happy with the end result dude!
Elsewhere whilst I’m talking to the team in the studio, Heather is busy interviewing members of other bands and was fortunate enough to chat to Mike Williams from Eyehategod. Talking to Heather later, she gave us the lowdown on her time with Mike. “As expected, we had a chat about all things music and tattoos. We started with music, discussing the band’s brilliant legacy and how it felt to see how far they’ve come from their days of performing in an abandoned shopping centre. Williams was certainly expressive of his pride, stating he thought it was really cool the band has come so far, especially since they originally started the band because they thought it would be a bit of fun. He was equally enthusiastic about this year’s Bloodstock festival. For William’s, they were certainly tired (and “hot”), as they were then concluding a very long tour, but were very happy to be back at Bloodstock again and see their friends while they performed. Moving onto the subject of tattoos, we delved into Williams’s personal experiences, ranging from his most painful tattoo (“my elbow and the cross on my neck“) and his favourite style “Black. ” I also came from a religious background, so I have a lot of Catholic tattoos.” When asked what the art form of tattoos mean or represent on a personal level, Williams stated “For me, they’re bits of my past. So, if I ever want to stroll down memory lane I can go ‘Oh yeah, I remember that.” I personally really resonated with this ideal around the art form. I feel that it truly puts emphasis on the power that tattoos have for people, but at the same time it also cements the idea that everyone will have a unique connection and no two people will be the same. Finally,
Williams and I concluded our interview with perhaps one of the trickiest questions of all; If he had to pick a style of tattoo to completely erase from the face of the earth, which one would he pick and why…?
His answer was surprisingly short and sweet.
“Bit generic, innit?”
It’s the sort of response that, to be fair, we expect from many of the fans and musicians present at Bloodstock. There is, without a doubt, a connection between metal and images of horror with the movies still containing heavy soundtracks, a pattern first seen in the late 70s and early 80s with series like Friday The 13th and Nightmare On Elm Street helping break new rock and metal acts globally. As such the connection between death and destruction, the devil and associated imagery is all too common in our scene but outside of it, when the artists all return home to their studios, then the opportunity to design and create tattoos that don’t simply look like the owner spends their spare time worshiping the devil.
Take the shots (as seen in our gallery here) from the two women providing the after-care support in the main arena studio. Non-metal, non-death, non-satanic designs and no less impressive than all of the other works of art decorating people’s bodies outside and in the various studios around the arena. Again, check out the photos with this article to see just what inspiration you too might find for your next piece!
With VIP and Main Arena covered, our final stop off at Bloodstock 2022 was the backstage area where Darren himself was working with both bands and crew. Anyone that wanted a tattoo got one. Performing on stage or working the lights, or helping out with the catering, everyone was catered for. As with the Main Arena and VIP studios, the options were limited as to what people could go for (time permits only so many slots each day) and as Darren and I spoke about his setup in the backstage area, we were joined by Griffin Taylor, founder and lead vocalist with American outfit, Vended.
Formed in Las Vegas in 2018 by Griff and lead guitarist Cole Espeland, the band was originally well known for having two members that are sons of Slipknot members (Griffin Taylor, Simon Crahan). Their style and importantly the song ‘Burn My Misery’ has allowed them to grow immeasurably outside of their parental influences and now Vended are standing firmly on their own feet and on the day we spoke to Griff, they’d just played the Main Stage. Bear in mind the band are famous for their iconic makeup designs, each of which represents a different character or persona. The current line-up consists of the original 5 designs: the ‘Skull Face’, the ‘Clown,’ the ‘Jaguar,’ the ‘Fox’ and the ‘Wolf.’
Still in make-up and his stage wear, Griff and Darren are discussing what tattoo would be suitable for the man who roars, growls and screams his way through a set and looks like he could have been an extra in the most recent Mad Max movie.
The answer…… ‘A Cat.’
“I just love cats dude,” says an excited Griff. Fair enough we say, and as he lies down on the table and Darren gets to work, we discover the best place for a photographer to stand on the hottest day of the year whilst the artist and client are in front of them, is NOT in front of the fan that would provide some small relief to the pair. Point noted, and my apologies fellas!
Once complete, the tattoo on Griff’s midriff shows a great all black Cat. Elegant, small and somehow totally in keeping with the rest of the designs and paint the front man is currently sporting, it just goes to show what does indeed work well.
Heather meanwhile has time for one more chat and that’s with one of the members of Avatar. Whilst rock and metal and tattoos go together like salt and vinegar on chips, it’s still the case that not everyone wants or is willing to embrace the ink and as the video below shows, even the heaviest of bands can have people that simply turn their back on the idea.
For those that do love their ink and love the idea of working with the team from Old Sarum, you can reach them on (+44) 01722 410767 or via their website HERE.
Our thanks to Darren and his team of remarkable artists and after-care specialists without whom this article wouldn’t have been possible. Check out their site and get that next session booked asap or even book your appointment for your next Bloodstock Festival!