For my latest Icon profile for Inked Magazine
, I had a blast interviewing Baba Austin
of Vintage Tattoo
in Los Angeles. Baba is a great storyteller, and in this Q&A, he shares what it was like apprenticing under the legendary Jonathan Shaw
, touring with Vanilla Ice at his prime, and evading cops while executing a graffiti throw-up at the age of forty-three. Here's a taste from our talk:
When did you start to learn the craft yourself?
When I wasn't working, I was at Jonathan's. We basically became friends. I drew some graffiti designs for him. I became Jonathan's little slave. I'd keep asking, "When am I gonna learn to tattoo?" and he'd say, "Fuck off. I'm teaching nobody." At the same time, he's teaching me about tattoo design, placement, and tattoo history. I was just learning all this stuff without even realizing it. He was teaching me how to crawl before I could walk. I wanted to just run, like anyone else who picks up a tattoo machine, but he wasn't interested in any of that. He was interested in keeping the tradition, love and respect alive for tattooing.
Then around 1990 or 1991, Filip Leu came around and did his spot at Fun City. Filip was the same age as me but he was already an accomplished tattoo artist. He was doing this amazing shit already. Now Jonathan had a new pet project who actually tattoos. I wasn't blown off, he just moved on. And I didn't care because that's when Vanilla Ice hit me up for airbrushing and said, "Do you want to go all over the world?" Fuck yeah.
What was that like, going on tour with Vanilla Ice?
That was amazing because it was at the height of his career. Everyone knew who he was. It was before the whole In Living Color infamous Jim Carey [skit] making fun of him. I did the costumes and stage sets for his tours. I worked on his movie. We did the American Music Awards together; we did the Grammy's together; we went all over to Australia, Singapore, and Japan. All first class, limos, five-star hotels. It was amazing.
Read more in Inked
's "Sex Issue" on news stands now or download the digital edition