Joe Marzolf is no stranger to the tattoo world. With almost 30 years of professional experience, he is clearly doing something right. His solo tattoo shop, Roadhouse Tattoos, has been open for 16 years. Completely custom, Joe always caters to his customer’s desires for a unique tattoo experience. Whether it be realism, Polynesian, portraiture or anything in between, Joe has established a reputation for being a jack of all trades. Read his interview below:
Hey Joe, start off by telling us a little about yourself…
I was born in Buffalo, New York and grew up in Orchard Park. I love to ride ATVs, Harleys, and sketching.
How long have you been tattooing? What was your inspiration? Were you artistic as a child?
I apprenticed for five years and have been professionally for 29 years. I started in 1980 when I tatted my first person, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Mike Kelley from South Carolina first taught me how to set up my machine, but I ended up being completely self-taught. I always drew as a kid, but my brother Duke was my main inspiration.
How did you wind up opening Roadhouse Tattoos? Where were you before? Did you have to make any sacrifices along the way?
I wanted to move to North Carolina, but I love my kids and couldn’t leave them so I stayed in Western NY instead. I worked for Skintastic just outside of Wilmington, North Carolina for a short time in 1980 before I went back to Buffalo and tattooed out of my house for what seemed like forever. In November of 1997, I decided to open Roadhouse Tattoos in Holland, NY.
What kind of tattoo style do you prefer to do the most? What is your “specialty”? Is there anything you don’t enjoy tattooing?
I love to tattoo trees, butterflies, script, and flowers. I don’t generally use an outline for most pieces, that’s what I prefer most. What I hate doing are tribal armbands.
Talk about your relationship with your clients a bit…
Every time I tattoo Someone, we talk throughout the whole process, I feel that if you don’t talk to your clients, they most likely won’t want to come back, even if you’re good. I get a lot of clients from out of state and most because my clients have traveled abroad and the people from other states like what they see. Makes me feel like I’m doing this right.
On the subject of traveling, does your schedule permit for it? Do you tattoo at conventions? Ever won any awards?
I generally don’t travel to conventions as I’m always booked for three tattoos per day and for three months minimum. I have won best in Buffalo, best individual, best color, best sleeve, best back piece, best black, and grey most realistic.
Which tattoo artist do you admire most and why?
Guy Aitchison. He is one of the most unique artists, his use of colors and contrast along with his one of a kind style blows me away! I could only wish to meet him and pick his brain.
Talk about the equipment you like to use; machines, needles, inks, etc…
I use Huck Spaulding and Dirty Irons Machines with TTC power supply. Ink, I use Intenz, Victory, Eternal, Starbrite and Area 51 inks. Each brand has their color that really stands out. I use Skinvoke and Bullseye needles.
Cover-ups can be tricky. Do you find them to be more difficult to execute? What is the hardest part about covering up a bad tattoo?
I love to do cover-ups, I have had a lot of practice! It’s like a challenge to me and I have never lost. The hardest part of a cover-up is telling the client that you can’t put a portrait over an old tribal piece.
From your experience, how have you seen the tattoo industry change over the years? Better rules and regulation? Where do you see it going? What would you change?
It’s changed for the better no doubt, we all have to adhere to stringent rules of sterilization and disease control, things we didn’t have to in the early 80’s. As long as there’s competition and the hunger for individuality then you will always see new things, and yes, tattoos are here to stay. I would like to see more disease control. There’s a lot of people just starting out that don’t have the proper training and are making it dangerous for the customer and their families.
What would you say to an up and coming artist trying their hand at the tattoo industry?
Make sure to apprentice under someone with experience! Don’t use your clients as test dummies, you’re not going to establish yourself by screwing jobs up! There’s a lot to learn; depths, machine speeds, types of inks, needles and disease control.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a tattoo artist?
It’s the most gratifying when a customer is so happy with your work that they either hug you or brag about your work. I love when someone makes an appointment and tells you they have seen your work and they only want you to tattoo them.
Any last words?
Tattoos are and finally have been accepted in all circles, we are no longer treated like criminals. It is my life and I will do this till I drop dead.
Well said Joe! Check out Roadhouse Tattoos at 323 N Main St Holland NY 14080!