Meet Tony

Which was your first tattoo?

It was an imp, but doesn’t exist anymore. It has been covered to give place to the full back one.

What is the story of that? (the full back tattoo on the back)

There are bits of stories involved in it. I came through a bad patch, overcoming problems. And I had a basic idea of what I wanted, then I found Aaron – a cartoonist originally – who filled in the gaps. He was really really good. He actually drew the whole tattoo (except the face) directly on my back. It took around 3-4 sessions, 38 hours to create the one I have now, but it’s not yet finished and I don’t think it ever will be. We are continuously overcoming problems so it’s never finished isn’t it?

What about the style?

Well my birth sign is dragon and I am quite interested in Japan and the oriental world.

Do you believe dragons have existed?

Oh yes, in some kind of forms definitely. There are too many stories around them, most cultures have dragons in their folk stories. I am not religious but I believe that just like in the Bible, there are too many facts about the stories that there got to be something, there got to be someone. If you go back a few centuries a lot of creatures (animals) were much bigger than now. When I was in Singapore I’ve heard that there is a woman who has a dragon at her home. Nobody believed it, but I went there and there it was: a 3-4 meters long lizard sitting on the couch. [laughs]

What is the story behind your chest tattoo?

I’ve been ill for a while, but getting better – I’ve had heart problems. If you look closely there is a stent in this tattoo (in the heart). And the dragons depict the lungs.

I have a Japanese geisha on my right leg that is committing a suicide. She is killing herself for numerous reasons. One is shame, might be family shame, the other can be the monster that tells her to do it and she cannot cope anymore. Now, if it’s done through ceremony then some respect returns to her family. It’s a wasted life but she got her respect when she ends it.

What do you think about Japan?

I like Japanese culture. I think it’s fascinating. The first time when I was in Japan it was frightening. They couldn’t speak English and I had a huge cultural shock. It’s hard to put in words this experience, but the culture is just so interesting. There is also a lot of poverty and abuse, sort of what is hidden, or part of their tradition. I would love to go back and spend more time there. It is a very diverse culture as well because of the lots of islands.

You worked at the Royal Airforce as an aerial photographer for 8 years. Can you tell more about this period of your life?

It was in the ‘70s and wasn’t that glamorous. I needed to use these big cameras in the back of the airplanes that usually were not built to have the camera in it. Occasionally I had to take photos of shipping.

Then once I was sent in America and then back in the UK and then back in America. From where we went to Vietnam. I was doing basic stuff. But it was a bit scary basic stuff. Helicopters played a big part of Vietnamese war. I did photographs from helicopters that were sent to the jungle. You didn’t really think about what you were doing. You know just click-click-click and then forget it as soon as possible.

How this experience influenced your life?

It just made an impression on me. I was out there for around 3 months. There are people who live in those war conditions in the jungle for months, even years, but then your mind just go crazy. I signed up for 9 years but came out before – I had enough. There’s a lot more in it but let’s just say I had enough.

What happened after?

I went back to London and started to play drums again in a goth band. Once we’ve been booked to be a support band for someone else, but we didn’t know who they were. We set up, everybody set up and suddenly it turned out that the Rolling Stones was playing. “No, it can’t be.” We were all amazed. It was a small venue in London, only about 600 capacity place, so nothing big but they did some gigs like that. But I think it was purely a mistake that we were at the same time at the same place. [laughs]

At this period, I also returned to wear only black clothes. It was great. I mean, we had good times and bad times.

But then I got older and you know, you just don’t want to live your life in the back of a van. I was still drumming for a while for sessions, but I started to do a proper job as well – plumbing. 

I finished up in Nottingham and settled here. I had few drum sessions with friends, but then I started to have problems with my hands. That was too painful. I tried twice to play, but didn’t work. It was painful on the hands and mentally too.

What about your personal life?

I’ve been married, divorced, I’ve got a daughter. One day, it was actually funny, I was dressed quite gothly and saw my daughter on the street coming towards me. But she walked pass by and couldn’t recognize me! [laughs]

Do you still dress up?

I did dress up and I still do. Sometimes I wear colourful clothes – just to freak people out [laughs] and let them guess and think. I usually wear only black, but rather than do it every single day I surprise people and challenge their way of thinking about me. I think everyone should do that. I think people stereotype too easily. And it’s not just about pushing the boundaries of others but also yours.

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