Galaxy of Tar Talks Tattoos
12:37 PM
Brookyln's Galaxy of Tar - who have created a powerful amalgam of 70s-era Santana psychedelia with the prog-rock/metal components of contemporary acts Tool and Mars Volta - recently released a pair of tracks for free download at Lapdance Academy.  I was fortunate enough to get a few minutes to sit down with songwriter/drummer Elias Diaz and singer Naima Mora (yes, the winner of America's Next Top Model - Cycle 4) to talk tattoos...


Please describe to our readers your tattoos and let us know what artists/shops did the work.

elias1.jpgELIAS DIAZ: Well, i have one of toxic waste that takes me back to a weird period of my life and three chinese symbols that sum up the meaning of existence.  A tattoo of a totem pole that's an incarnation of black magic and dark masks. That one was done by an artist who's first name only i can remember as Patrick.  I remember the tattoo shop was somewhere on MacDougal street.  I've been looking for him here in NY to no avail.

We'll have to put Patrick's face on a milk carton, I guess.  What's the ethongraphic origin of this imagery - the totem pole, black magic and dark masks?

ELIAS: The masks are definitely Latin. In DR [Dominican Republic] - where I'm from - the people celebrate magic goblins in the carnival festivals every year for the entire month of february.  My tattoo has a lot of influence from that, and of course a collaborative creative effort of the artist.

NAIMA MORA: My first tattoo was a little star on my ankle, that was randomly done one night out drinking with friends. We all decided to get a tattoo just for the experience.  Some place in the the East Village in NYC.  I have four other pieces, another star on my head, because I had a big tendency for randomly shaving it at the time.  That was done at MacDougal Tattoo by an artist I can't remember, either... I don't think the shop is there any more [ed note: MacDougal Tattoo closed in 2007 and most of their artists moved to a new location at East Side Ink].  I thought it would be "gangster" to get one of "Detroit" on my forearm done by some crazy brazilian guy in the East Village and followed that with another tattoo of the name of my best friend... And i also have a magical spell on my forearm of Mayan hieroglyphics done by Becca Roach.

Where is the star on your head?

NAIMA: The tattoo on my head is above my left ear. Its pretty small.  I wish i had gotten something bigger now that i think about it...  But if were to do that I would mean I'd have to shave it all off again!

naima1.jpgCan you describe the spell?  Also, why did you choose Mayan glyphs?

NAIMA: Well I am Mexican and my family is of the Purepecha Indians in Michoacan which derive from the Maya. They still speak Nahuatl in Mexico, which is the same language as the Maya spoke centuries ago. The spell reads the secret words spoken by the Mayan god Quetzalcuatl that a shaman gave to me one trip visiting home and that I can not disclose.  

At what point in your life did you both decide to start modifying your body and why?

ELIAS: The age of 14 was my first experience of being ripped open by a needle. I don't why.

That's pretty young - did you have a good fake ID or did you and your pals build a machine or hand-poke?  

ELIAS: At that time in Brooklyn, you didn't need an ID out on Avenue U. The Chinese characters were my first someplace on Avenue U.

NAIMA: I was 19, I think, and it was more of a spontaneous thing to try something new. I always thought tattoos were really cool, but I wanted to get a small one first to understand the feeling, the pain and the symbolism of marking my body.

Does your ink have a "deeper meaning" or do you believe in adornment for beauty's sake?

ELIAS: It marks a timeline for me of what i've gone through.  The Chinese characters are my own personal version of a latin Bar Mitzvah - my claiming of rights to manhood.  My second piece - [the] toxic waste [symbol] - represents a weird transition in my life where I was really disgusted by humanity. And the totem pole reminds of the beauty in cultural history that people share in common versus the negativity that we can be so prone to.

NAIMA: All my ink i got done for different reasons and they remind me of the reasons i got them for.  Detroit, murder capitol... A star on my head at the suggestion of a dear friend of mine, my best friend... And magical spells to remind me where i am from.  But with that said, I also think tattoos are very beautiful and I love the way script looks.

Naima, how has getting tattooed affected your modeling career, if at all?  Do you find it easier to be accepted as a "tattooed rocker" rather than a "tattooed model?"

NAIMA: Thats a good question. As far as a modeling, i've never really cared whether it affected the career or not... I always knew that I wanted to do more than just model, so i was never reluctant to getting ink or worry about how it would affect my job as a model. But I think in the modeling world, I was always that "edgy girl" as the fashionistas liked to call me. So I don't think it affected it that much.

I spent a short stint in Miami where clients hated my tattoos.  My agent encouraged me to cover them with make-up, so i left Miami!  But I definitely think that being a rocker a person is accepted more for who they are.

Do you both have plans to get more tattoos?  If so, what are you looking to get and what artists would you like to be tattooed by?  

ELIAS: I'm definitely considering more work. Don't know what i want yet... but it all depends on if I can find Patrick. That's the only man that can touch my body that way.

That sounds dirty, bro...

NAIMA: I really want another tattoo!  Soon!  But i don't know what i want to get tattooed yet either. I should start looking for an artist soon though.

How do you look for an artist?  Is it by artistic style, personal recommendation, or do you just go to the nearest place when you have some free time and money?  

NAIMA: Most of my tattoos have been walk ins, thats why i don't remember the artists very well by name. But i've been asking around for suggestions from friends. Ultimately, this time i think i'll really research the work an artist has done, check out their portfolio and get some really great work done! I think thats a mature decision and part of growing up.


lp_got_vg.jpgThe two-song release with PDF digibooklet - "Volatile Glass" - is available for free download at lapdanceacademy.com/galaxy.  Download your copy today!

Top photo by Cathrine Westergaard.


[Ed. Note: We have located the elusive Patrick - he is the one and only Patrick Conlon who works aside my old friend Sweety at East Side Ink here in New York City]


Nice detective work, Brian. ;)

Do you think people are getting tattoos without having any idea what they mean. Or why they wanted it. My nephew explained to me that he got a full sleeve tattoo because he thought it would be cool. He is old enough to have a tatoo and had the money to pay for it. So everything was legit except for his reason. I have tats but they all have meaning and I had to earn the priveldge of wearing them. What's you take on people getting tats for no reason.

Hi, Vena -

I don't think anyone should EVER get a tattoo that is an imbued symbol without knowing what it means. We've all seen too much Kanji that was supposed to say "love" and actually said "cheeseburger."

I also know that when I chose my first tattoo, a half-sleeve of Japanese mums and water, I knew would the traditional symbolism "meant" - but it didn't necessarily hold any real meaning for ME. My father was raised in Japan (as an American "war brat") and while we are by no means "royalty" it was a representation of the Japanese aesthetic and ethos with which I had been rasied. I also thought it was wonderfully ironic that the average American would see a 6'2" bald, dirtbag, white-dude walking around with a big sleeve and get scared - when the tattoo truly means serenity, regal composure and, at the end of the day, I was walking around with a bunch of sissy-ass FLOWERS on my arm.

Since then, I have spent quite a bit more time researching the iconography that I've chosen, but it still follows my bastardized roots in Japanese culture and my desire to have "feminine-friendly" images on my body.

That said - I know plenty of people who have tattoos "just because" - and I can't argue with that... UNLESS, it's a bad tattoo. (And, even then, there's a certain amount of leeway I will grant).

Personally, I didn't start getting tattooed until I was 29. I was never quite sure that I would make the right decisions until I had found the right artist - and that was a three year process. I totally understand your nephew's desire to "get sleeved" - and I equally understand your apprehension at the assumed lack of thought on his end.

To some, tattoos are a spiritual process. To some, it is an aesthetic process. To some, it's just something the cool kids do - and it's THAT group that we have to be concerned about.

But, honestly, at the end of the day - tattoos hurt. And in that pain lies a large (but not necessarily complete) amount of privilege.

I think I can safely say that none of the contributors at Needles and Sins think that you always have to have "A Meaning" or "A Story" - sometimes you just like the way the tattoo looks. But at the end of the day, you should sincerely and objectively talk to your nephew about how to make the right decisions as to WHAT he gets on his "sleeve" as well as WHO does the actual work.

I have a lot of art hanging on the walls of my home and carved into my skin. Not all of it "meant something" when I paid for it - but all of it "means something" right now.

All the best!

Further discourse is encouraged...

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