Gary Chase is a top draw tattooist and part of the Yayo family. He also plays a mean cello and knows his way around a bass guitar. We sent out Yayo shop boy Matt Haddon-Reichardt to meet Gary and talk tattoos, music and how social media has revolutionised the industry.
“So I’m a realism artist, however I dabble with any style. When I started tattooing it was before this specialism era when tattoo artists had to take any request that came through the door. With realism my favourite things to tattoo are themed around horror and music. I also enjoy rejuvenation projects where someone brings an awful picture, say out of focus or poor contrast, and bringing it back up to resolution through the tattoo.”
Its breakfast time at Weatherspoons (other pub chains are available) and as me and Gary tuck into fry ups a steady stream of punters come and go at the bar. It’s Friday the 31st of January and its officially Brexit day. By the looks of some of the pub’s clientele many have started celebrating early. But we aren’t hear to talk politics, we are here to talk tattoos.
"I started an apprenticeship at 16; I was so young I had to hide my age!"
“I work at Intense Colours, Southampton UK where I am the owner, artist and piercer,” explains Gary as he passes me the brown sauce.
“The shop is 8 years old now and I’ve been tattooing for 16 years. I started an apprenticeship at 16; I was so young I had to hide my age!” He laughs decapitating a sausage with his knife.
“Basically I got my foot in the door by holding a sign for a local shop on the high street. I worked any weather conditions just to show how hard I can work. I also hassled the owner relentlessly until a position for an apprentice came up. As soon as I was offered the position I called college and quit immediately, which was an awful idea but luckily paid off for me massively,” he chuckles.
Gary is great company, super positive and passionate about tattooing. If I could criticise tattooing for one thing it would be being a bitchy industry. Gary is no bitch and is clearly in love with his chosen profession
“What I love about tattooing changes constantly as so many situations have made me thankful to be an artist. When I was younger, I loved that this job opened so many opportunities to travel; I lived and worked around quite a lot of Europe. I lived in Slovenia for 5 years which was an amazing experience and was only realistically viable for me to do as I tattooed.”
“Recently my main love for tattooing has been how awesome so many artists will be to each other."
Being an old fart (42 and counting) I’ve always found social media a difficult arena to navigate and I see more negatives than positives in the online world. Conversely Gary feels that the internet has opened up tattooing rather than erected barriers.
“Recently my main love for tattooing has been how awesome so many artists will be to each other, I feel like social media has really broken the walls between artists in different shops and made for a much friendlier atmosphere and a world of information being shared. After all we already have a major lifestyle choice in common so that should be good grounds to be closer to friends than enemies.”
While Facebook is my pet hate its awkward customers that stick in Gary’s throat.
“As with anything, there are definitely a few things that grind my gears when it comes to tattooing. First and foremost clients that make you feel like you need them more than they need you, the type that will say things like "I'll bring you so many clients if you give me a better price".”
“I’m no rock star, and I’m certainly not arrogant, but I don’t need people telling me how lucky I am to be tattooing them. When you become an established artist and have a good group of clients, people like that ruin your day and I’d rather not deal with them or have their money. Another pet hate for me is the ones that will take a stroll to the shop and bring back booze. In old school shops it was much more common place but it’s never been right to do, much the same as the days where you could smoke in a studio but you don't see people lighting up without asking these days. Normally people will even have courtesy to ask about vaping.”
The conversation turns to music and I quiz Gary about his band.
“Oh god, I’m useless at selling myself!” He laughs. “We're called The Distant and I’m the resident bassist and backing mime.”
“We’ve had a few line up issues that has got us to our current point but things are pretty stable right now. We have two sides; the first side is our original songs. Our influences are heavily towards Motorhead, AC/DC, Guns and Roses and Black Sabbath. Second side is a covers band for pubs, clubs and parties. We play Motorhead, Foo Fighters and Lenny Kravitz to name a few. Quite versatile with our covers choice I’d say.”
“My gear right now is dotted all over the Hampshire area, but my main gear is a Fender P bass and an Ibanez 6 stringer to prove to guitarists that bassists do it better! I kid of course! I also used to play cello for previous bands when needed but now my cello is probably a moth sanctuary.”
“My favourite bands are Rammstein and Apocalyptica, which are probably like fire and ice in similarity. My general music taste is very Eastern European, top genres for me are German Industrial and EBM; its music to terrify people in the tattoo seat!” He laughs.
“My granddad was a versatile musician so was encouraged and inspired at quite a young age so I got into cello around the age of 12. I packed it in because it wasn’t rock and roll enough so went over to bass around 16, then discovered how much you can rock a cello watching Apocalyptic so decided to pick it back up and blow the dust off it.”
"Another pet hate for me is the ones that will take a stroll to the shop and bring back booze."
Music, like tattooing, has been opened up to a wider audience thanks to the internet but for Gary this has been a double edged sword.
“It has definitely got better to get music out there. My band used to use a company called Cd Baby, that would handle all the legal side and get it out there on various platforms such as Spotify and iTunes which is great. It means you can show your music right away for free to people which in turn deffo helps with concert attendance. However the downside is there is little money now, gone are the good old days where venues would promote and pay big and then you could bring a little box of merch with you to sell. Back in the day the bands I was in got to points where we are making serious cash and would still not consider ourselves successful. However these days I feel like you're winning once you can break even on your band costs. Anything past that is a bonus.”
As I mop up my yolk with a slice of bread an old boy at the other end of the pub starts singing Jerusalem. As he slurs through the first verse I ask Gary about his plans for 2020.
“I have quite a lot of plans for this year. Outside tattooing I mainly want to get my life on track to where I probably should already be such as starting to save for a mortgage. I have recently passed a CBT so in next couple of months I want to do my unrestricted bike license, buy a Harley and start getting out and seeing more of the country. Ironically all the travelling abroad I have done I’ve seen very little of my own country and some point, before the end of this year, I want to do my car license too.”
The old boy is now on verse 2 and a few others have joined to form a rag tag choir of drunken voices.
“Inside tattooing I'm really getting into using smaller and smaller needles for my realism, which I love. It feels more like pencil sketching and now we use the Yayo guard film the added skin trauma that used to be caused through smaller needles during healing is a thing of the past.”
The Brexit choir finish their tribute to this green and pleasant land and applaud themselves.
“Shall we talk Brexit? I ask Gary.
“What’s Brexit?” Gary says with a smile.
A final thought from the author: "We live in uncertain times. By the time you read this Brexit will have happened, Donald Trump is still in the White House and China is being ravaged by an epidemic of biblical proportions. One thing you can be certain of is that Yayo is the industry leader when it comes to quality tattoo aftercare. If you want the best then use the best; use Yayo."
Yayo... its a family thing.