Gene Priest and The Cardinal Sin Talk Tattoos
09:11 AM
Not too long ago, I was introduced to Gene Priest (above, right), a brilliant musician and tattoo-collector out of Knoxville, TN.  He was playing drums for a handful of bands at the time, but I was truly blown away once I heard the demo-recordings of his solo work that he was churning out on an acoustic guitar in his spare time.  Fortunately, I was able to convince him to let me produce the tracks (and add a couple of instrument tracks, myself) and just last month, we pushed his four-song EP, "Living To Die" (mixed by Scott Minor of Sparklehorse) out into the ether as a free download on Lapdance Academy Records.

"Free-floating art-folk (think Vic Chesnutt) on the four-song Living To Die... with disciplined songwriting [and] particularly long, billowy melodies that take a while to sink in but are inescapable once they do."
-- MetroPulse.com

I also got a chance to talk to Gene and his backing band, The Cardinal Sin, about their tattoos.  Some questions they took seriously and some, well... let's just say that I've taken the piss out of plenty of journalists over my own musical career...

[interview after the jump]

You're a rather heavily-tattooed bunch, so rather than ask for a laundry list of all your work, please give us a brief run-down of the artists and shops where you've gotten the majority of your work.

Gene_PirateShip.jpgGENE PRIEST: For the most part, all of my tattoos were done by a gentleman by the name of Corey Summers at a studio here in Knoxville, TN called Saint Tattoo. I was introduced to him while he was still in the apprentice stage under a very talented artist by the name of Scott (Doc) Cooper who had done the first 4 or 5 tattoos I ever got. After a year or so of getting tattooed by Scott he decided to move out of state so - regardless of how much I LOVE his style - it was going to be very unreasonable to keep up at the rate I was going and afford to get out of town every other month or so. I figured at that point the next best thing would be Corey.  I had seen his work and gotten to know him fairly well at that point, and if he apprenticed under Scott, I knew he would be amazing... and he is.

BRIAN WOODRUFF: I've had most of my work done by Patrick Blank at Body Graffix in Knoxville, TN.

WILLAM LAMB: My work has been done by Randy Janson at Avalon in San Diego, CA (he now owns Two Roses Inc.), Anna Waychoff (nee McLain) at Saint Tattoo and Baker at Pay'N Dues Tattoos, both in Knoxville, TN.

Does any one piece stand out in particular to you and, if so, why?

GENE: Without a doubt it would be my pirate ship. I decided long before I got my first tattoo that I was going to have loads of pirate themed work done. As a kid I was OBSESSED for some reason with "The Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disney Land. This realization struck me again when I was on tour with a previous band when we were in Anaheim and went to Disney Land on one of our days off.  I rode the ride just as I did when I was a child and instantly told myself when I got home from tour I was going to begin work on my pirate sleeve. Within maybe a week or so from being home I started work, or I should say Corey started work on my pirate ship and the rest of the sleeve to follow.

WILLIAM: The big red heart on my forearm; I got it right after my first daughter was born.

Brian_Montauk.jpgBRIAN: I have "Montauk" writen on both of my wrists. I got those after a weekend on Long Island, NY.  I love dive bars, so naturally I found the only dive bar in Montauk, made out with wrong lady by the jukebox and then got 5 staples in my head.... Come to think of it, i suppose I didn't need the tattoos to remember good ol' Montauk.

Do any of you have what you'd classify as "Idiot Ink" - that one piece that you're embarrassed of or that still gives you a good but unintentional laugh?

GENE: Luckily, I've always put too much thought into things before I commit them to my body. I've been pretty fortunate to not make that mistake and have anything to really look back at and cringe.

boobs.jpgBRIAN: I have a key on my leg that I fucking hate!  I lived with these three guys who all wanted to get matching tattoos after a very fun summer in '07.  That summer I learned not to ask a junkie apprentice to "just make it look cool, dude!"

WILLIAM: I've got a pair of boobs on my ankle.  Pay'N Dues Tattoos does $20 tattoos of a "13" on Friday the 13th.  So, I got my wife's boobs and a "13."  Not that I'm embarrassed... but it does make me crack up.

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

WILLIAM: I got my first tattoo when I was 18, but I've been fascinated by them as early as, like, five years-old.

BRIAN: When I was excommunicated from the congregation of Jehovah's Wittnesses, I wanted to piss off the elders in the church.  Tattoos are a sin, don't ya know? (laughs) It worked pretty good.

GENE: I got my first tattoo at the age of 17.  My parents took me to Cancun, Mexico after (high school) graduation and I was drawn to the idea of getting a tattoo in a foreign area - mainly because the bulk of my dad's tattoos at the time were things he got while traveling abroad in the Navy.  I got a small sun and waves in typical, 17-year-old, spur of the moment "I am on vacation and I want something to remember this by" fashion. I kept it for MAYBE a year and when it started to fade - as most poorly-done tattoos do - I immediately got it covered up with a rad sacred heart designed by Scott Cooper. To this day, if I didn't cover (that sun) up, it would definitely be my "idiot ink".

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

BRIAN: Im not sure... When I look at myself I don't see "tattoos."  I see my "arms" and "legs."  Its just what I look like now.  

brain_jar.jpgGENE: When I first got interested in tattooing for the artistry of it - and not just for the "I'm awesome, in a band, and have tattoos" mentality - I really felt that it was something I needed to do for - and to - myself for my enjoyment and my own reasons.  I knew that I never wanted to put myself in a situation in life where I could not be myself.  I really didn't think long and hard on it before getting a full sleeve, because I knew this would - in general and in life - force me to do what I want to do and not work for someone who couldn't understand that or who had issues with people showing their individuality.  I feel like it is a statement to myself and others: I am an artistic person and that is all there is to it. If I am not accepted the way I am, I don't really care to be associated with those types of people, anyway...

WILLIAM: I'd answer, "Both."  I have meaningful tattoos and just stuff I like.  I have a brain in a jar with my moms birth date on it 'cause I kept forgetting her birthday.

Well, I'd argue that's both aesthetic as well as functional.  Do you guys have plans for more tattoos and are there any artists in particular you'd like to get work from?

Gene_Geisha.jpgWILLIAM: Well, I still have more space so I'd like to finish my left arm with a War Of the Worlds theme.  I really enjoy getting tattooed by Baker at Pay'n Dues Tattoos, he's so fast and solid its ridiculous, I'd also like to be tattooed by his awesome wife Melissa Baker, they're both just super rad people.

BRIAN: Im thinking of getting a big crab boat blueprint on my back.  I mean... I like crabs so why not, eh?  Im probly gonna stick with Patrick (Blank). He's never fucked up any of my work, so...

GENE:  I plan to continue until I run out of room really or at least as far as my arms, legs, chest, and back go. Currently I am working on my right sleeve, it is all Japanese art and culture. The plan is that the next session will begin the background work to fill out and tie together all of the random pieces I have scattered over that arm.  As far as artists I would like to get tattooed by, I really don't have any aspirations as far as that goes except for maybe Kat Von D.

Alright.  That's it, Gene... This interview is over.


Download "Living To Die" from Gene Priest and the Cardinal Sin absolutely free at www.lapdanceacademy.com/living


Nice write-up, Grosz. It's always a treat to hear the stories behind the ink.

great article

I will check their music out today

I really believe these days the best music scenes don't come out of LA or NYC but smaller cities like Knoxville, etc

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