Photo Credit: Jenifer Stratton
Twentynine Palms Band, Atala, are a group of no-nonsense metal rockers who have just released an emotive piece of musical art that dives beyond the surface and emits a hefty dose of raw passion. Frontman, Kyle Stratton, is also the owner of American Made Tattoo and has been tattooing clients from all around the world for decades. In celebration of the release of ‘Labyrinth of Ashmedai’, I caught up with Kyle Stratton to discuss how he balances all of his creative endeavors, a few of his favorite pieces that he has tattooed over the years, never giving up on your dreams and more.
Congrats on the release of your new album, ‘Labyrinth of Ashmedai’. Tell us about the creative and recording process behind bringing this release to life.
Thank you! It was a lot of fun making this record. First, I introduced the band members to riffs, we would arrange them together. After the arrangement was finished we would add the bells and whistles, like build the jams and add the atmosphere. When we felt comfortable with the music we would then demo the songs. After the demos of the music were recorded, I would let the vibe of the songs set in. At this point I would write the lyrics and melodies then record them on top, like a rough sketch. Writing a conceptualized album about a three-headed demon was a blast. When we finished all the demos we went into the studio and cut the record and slight changes were made then. And while the album was being mixed and mastered, I designed the art work and did the graphics. I even got to design the poster and select the color splatter for vinyl. I literally got to control the whole creative project. In all honesty, I am quite the control freak when it comes to my art. The idea of not being the project manager scares me.
Did you guys encounter any obstacles while recording that in hindsight taught you a lesson that you can take into your future experiences?
Yes, we did face some obstacles on a personal level between band members. What I ultimately learned is that Atala is my baby with Jeff as my right hand man. I learned just what I am willing to deal with and what I am not. So, basically I learned to make sure I find the right people to back me up. I assembled my dream rhythm section and we are ready to hit the road and destroy. All pro at this point.
How old would you be if you didn’t know how old that you were?
Interesting question, I think I would be exactly what I am 40. I don’t ever want to go back to my youth. I like the person who I have become. Not that I didn’t like myself at 20 or 25 or 30. It’s just, that was me then and this is me now. I have become so much more comfortable in my own skin as I have aged. I am a youthful 40-year-old, but I still have all the life skills I need.
Any upcoming tour or festival appearance plans that you can fill us in about!?
Yeah, We are heading out on tour in March with our label mates Earthride to SXSW in Austin, Texas to play The SX Stoner Jam on the 14th. After that, we head back to California. Not sure of exact dates or location at this point but it will be fun.
Let’s talk tattoos. Tell us about some of your favorite pieces and the fellow tattoo artists that you worked with to bring them to life.
Wow, I have been tattooing for well over two decades, I have done so many. One of my favorites was a portrait of Al Pacino as Scarface that I won best of day for at the LA convention center years ago. Another one I loved was a huge portrait of Nosferatu that I tattooed in Seattle at the convention center, it won second place for best of weekend – losing to Corey Miller. As far as artist who I worked with to help bring them to life, I was self taught. I had mentors but none that deserve mention, they taught me more of what not to do. All the artist at my shops inspire me but its so many to list.
As you are the owner of two tattoo shops, tell us about how you balance both artistic mediums and how you perceive that each compliment the other.
Well, my life is all about balance. Between properties that I own, businesses and my family, it’s all about scheduling and using my time wisely. Having a crew of nine people besides myself helps a lot. My staff are all great and all work so hard at being professional. The only way to manage everything in my life is discipline and hard work. I work anywhere from 60 to 70 hours a week. This week, I have done at least four written interviews, one phone interview, eight tattoos (large ones) and I went on a live radio show. Next week, I work all week and play two shows that weekend. I am busy, so all I can do is power through. The two compliment each other because they keep my creativity going. Creativity is like a faucet. You have to keep it turned on or the flow will stop.
What is the most bizarre tattoo request that you have ever received from a client?
I tattooed a lace “g string” on a stripper once, that is way to personal for me, never again. But once you start a project like that, you just got to hang in there.
If you could compare your current life experience to a movie, which movie would you choose and why?!
F**k. My life is no movie ever made, they are going to have to make one about me!
Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?
Never give up on your dreams. Work until it becomes a reality. If a guy like me can do it, then so can you!
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