Dave Lum Excerpt: Walk-in Day

If you follow Robert Ryan on Tumblr or Instagram you’ve most likely seen his weekly ‘walk in’ day posts; killer tattoos that their wearers walked in and got, first come first serve. Some folks like to over prepare; have their clients tattoos drawn up before the appointment, but doing walk-ins puts you in a situation where you have to think on your feet, drawing the designs as the clients arrive and trying to give them a well executed kickass tattoo with very little time to dilly-dally.

Obviously walk-ins were the status quo for tattoo shops pre-Hardy (who I tend to over credit everything to, so it’s fair to say that he wasn’t the first appointment only tattooer, just the standard bearer for the concept) but as the whole ‘custom only’ thing hit it became a dirty word, something that you worked hard to move away from. It’ great to see people still enjoying the challenge of creating really rad pieces on folks who walked right up.

This clip from the classic MetamorphosisII video ‘Dave Lum’s Heavy Duty Tattooing’ features a group of die hard Dave Lum fans going that extra mile to get tattooed by Dave. In the case of one client… 200 miles, with some folks showing up at midnight the night before hoping to secure a spot. Dave is one of those guys who really influenced the way I got tattooed back when I started getting larger work; someone who didn’t mind nonsensical/weird imagery with a sense of humor and solid almost vibrating color. He’s also someone who’s name doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much as it should; it’s my hope that converting and sharing these videos will get folks interested in guys like Dave; people who don’t really have a digital ‘presence’ by who really made an impact on modern tattooing.

I know I haven’t been putting videos up lately- no apologies, of course, but to explain- my laptop is on it’s last legs and importing, converting, editing and exporting video is getting to be a process that my 2008 macbook can’t keep up with. I’m working on options, but for the time being video content will be fewer and further apart. OV doesn’t take advertising; we don’t monetize the videos on youtube.. save for selling tshirts (which don’t sell a lot) we’re 100% nonprofit, so budgeting a laptop for video conversion isn’t top priority in my life; hopefully I’ll have a solution long term, but for now- watch this fun short clip and keep checking back for more!

DeVita Popup Gallery Photos, Gallery 1

Thom on stoop 2

Thom DeVita

It’s really great when an artist you respect finally gets his due. Thom DeVita has been one of the most unique American tattooers his entire career, redefining the art and including his personal aesthetic more distinctly than just about anyone that I can think of, a folk style of art that is at odds with what is considered ‘cutting edge’  or special effects tattooing.

Ed Hardy shined the spotlight on him in Tattoo Time V (which you can find as part of a reprint package here. It’s indispensable) which did a lot to expose his ‘outsider’ art to a new generation of young tattoo artists, but it was the release of the five part VICETV Tattoo Age (again: here. Watch it and come back, we’ll be waiting)  that will, when all of the cards are dealt, hopefully establish him as an artist who’s work transcends the medium. I’ve heard it said that DeVita always just called himself an artist, not a tattoo artist, and with the public finally embracing (and one might even say consuming) tattoo art as a legitimate medium I can only hope that Thom’s work will get the attention it truly deserves.

Chris Grosso, the producer of the Tattoo Age series, and Mike Rubendall of King’s Avenue Tattoo, set up a DeVita popup gallery a few weeks ago to help Thom’s art get out into the world. The walls of King’s Ave were covered with his distinctly DeVita work; mashups of acetate tattoo stencil rubbings, scrolls…  all as interesting as the fella who created them.  Dan Meyer and Bernardo Garcia snapped the following photos and I’m pleased as punch to be sharing them with y’all. Daniel Higgs, Civ, Nick Bubash are featured in the ones that are going up today, but check back soon- I’ve also got some really great shots of some of Thom’s most recent work.

Thanks to Chris and Mike for setting all this up, and of course to Thom, for everything else!


Daniel Higgs and Thom DeVita

Thom + Nick 3

Thom DeVita and Nick Bubash


Thom DeVita and Daniel Higgs

Close Up Jesus

Recent DeVita work, King’s Avenue Tattoo


Civ, Thom and Nick

Jonathan Shaw Interviews: Col. William L. Todd

In the 1990s, Tattooist Jonathan Shaw interviewed an iconic lineup of Tattoo Legends for ITA magazine. With his kind permission, Occult Vibrations is going to be digitizing these must-read interviews.

The first interview is between Jonathan and Col. Todd.
It originally ran in ITA Vol 1. No. 1, 1992.


Back in the early 1970’s, when I first became interested in the mystery of tattoos, tattooing was a closed world, almost a secret society. Most tattooers were very tight-lipped about their secrets, and tattoo supplies weren’t openly available. Col. William L. Todd was working alongside his long-standing partner, Bob Shaw, at Long Beach, in California’s famous Nu-Pike, a sprawling amusement park surrounded by military bases and studded with a dozen tattoo parlors- a very different scene from today’s genteel tattoo/art studio scene. The Pike is an important location in tattoo history, a place where history and tradition came aline for those of us who were fortunate enough to be around the the words, action and technically superior tattooing of guys like Col. Todd.

A tattooer’s tattooer of the old school, Todd is a perfect southern gentleman with a streak of the badass bootcamp drill sergeant. He always ran a tight ship!

Today, the amusement area of the Pikee is gone, paved over by developers in the endless drive for progress. All that remains of the glory days is one lone tattoo shop where the famous Bert Grimm tattooed for so many years.

Jonathan Shaw: We’re at the Bert Grimm Studio, probably the oldest tattoo shop in the country.

Col. Todd: That’s what they say.

JS: Col. Todd, when did you first start tattooing?

CT: I started in 1947. I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I’d always been interested in tattooing. I had a couple of officers who were heavily tattooed, one of them having been in the Navy. I was raised on a farm where you didn’t see tattooing unless it was with a carnival or something like that passing through. I went into town in San Antonio, went up and down Houston street, where all the tattooers were, and down toward the end of the street was a circus trailer set up on blocks by itself that said “Tattoo”. It belonged to a gentleman named Jack Tyron. Anyway, Jack told me that he was tattooed all over when he was 16 by Charlie Wagner. He traveled with the circus for years then he bought a commercial lot and the circus trailer and set up shop. It’d be odd to see something like that today.

I went in, and after talking to him I got a little tattoo and asked him about buying a machine. Oh yeah, he said he’d sell me a machine. He started telling me about the mail order places.

JS: Zeis? Was it Zeis back then?

CT: Yeah, Zeis was in business in those days. I didn’t know the connections. I didn’t know how to go about it. It wasn’t as easy in those days. It wasn’t easy to learn, it wasn’t publicized in magazines like today. And the tattoo artists weren’t giving up their secrets. They wouldn’t give you any information.