November 2011 saw the passing of tattooer Mike Brown.
I remember seeing Signatures of the Soul for the first time (where this clip originated) and being blown away by that big ol’ frog on his back (which I think Rollo did) but I never really saw much of his tattooing until the mid 2000s.
The clip also features a young Jack Rudy.
Mike lived a hard life, but also lived tattooing. Bob Baxter interviewed him in 2005- what follows is a short excerpt; click the link at the end to read the full interview.
(about Mike Malone)
MB: I met him in Honolulu. I moved there in ’73 and just started hanging out in tattoo shops. Back then, white people were definitely in the minority, so we hit it off pretty good. You know, one white guy to another. This was Sailor Jerry’s shop. Yeah, we became good friends and then I started from the ground up. My first job was doing the floors. I used to mop and wax and get the floors real clean. Then I became the shop gofer. That was my whole life. I worked during the days in a cardboard box factory. That was my profession, during the day, and I hung out at the shop at night. It was the old-style apprenticeship, the way it should be done today, which nobody seems to even do. The fucking kids are just spoiled today―I can’t believe it―thanks to Huck Spaulding selling everything to everybody in the damn world. Anyway, Malone just started showing me things. I don’t think he had any idea that I was going to become a tattoo artist. I helped him; I made shaders for him. We’d make 20 set-ups every two weeks. He’d make 20 shaders and 20 liners, because military paydays were every two weeks. And we’d use the needles over again. Back then, you used them again. We’d clean ’em. We sterilized everything.
The full interview is worth reading, and can be found So Long and Fare Thee Well.
Mr. Grosso from Vice (responsible for the outstanding TATTOO AGE series) got in touch to share with us the interview he and the Vice team did with Mike in Hawaii in January of 2011. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mike, but he reminds me of the old guys I met when I was coming into tattoo culture; guys who packed more living into the years they had been given than most people twice their age.
Folk Art from the 50th State.
Rest in Peace, Mike.