TATTOO PROFILE - RussOne of Outer Limits Tattoo in Costa Mesa

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Southern California artist talks tattooing Al Jourgensen, his start in New York City, and why he thought he killed his first client

 

by Paige Montgomery

 

When we caught up with SoCal tattoo artist RussOne, we didnt expect to hear stories of tattooing under fire (actual gunfire) and almost killing his first real client. Well, at least causing him to pass outrepeatedly.

 

Tattoo artists are typically creatures of few words but RussOne of Outer Limits Tattoo in Costa Mesa is a fascinating story teller. Currently residing in SoCal by way of New York City, this colorful artist and musician has inked some pretty famous skin, but what put him on the map was his work on the face (literally) of industrial metal legend, Mr. Al Jourgensen.

 

If you book an appointment with RussOne, be sure to make it a big piecebecause youll want to be in the shop long enough to hear some of these stories.

 Here is what he had to say:

 

 

SB: How did you get your industry nickname?

 

Russ: Wow.  When you put it like that, it sounds like there should be some great story behind it.  But honestly, I just dont think my real name sounds that cool.  So I try to only use it for things like government documents and shit like that.  As far as the RussOne deal, its just kind of an old school graffiti thing, I guess.  Also, back in the day the tattoo artists would go by an alias because tattooing was not looked upon as it is these days. Artists would use an alias out of respect for their families and to keep their families from enduring any of their scrutiny. 

 

Im kind of an old school dude and I think that upholding traditions like that are respectful, classy and coolnot to mention badass.  An alias is simultaneously classy, cool, and badass  

 

Where are you originally from?

 

New FUCKING York!!!!

 

When did you first get into tattooing?

 

It first captured my interest at around 16, when I noticed tattoo magazines for the first time.  I was captivated by the artwork and would use it as a reference for my own artwork; which at that time only consisted of drawings and doodles.  However, I never thought I would actually get a tattoo, much less do them on other people for a living.  I guess you could say that I started officially tattooing at 26. Im 38 now. 

 

Why did you get into tattooing?

 

Theres actually several answers to that question. I dont know if Ive ever thought of this till now, but I think Im finding new reasons all the time to be honest with you.  At first, there was certainly a bunch of definitive reasons whymaybe too many to fully answer the question. 

 

At the time when I did first get into it, I just thought the artwork that people were doing was just absolutely mind blowing, plain and simple.  So many things about the art itself caught my eye.  The way the colors were used, the way the lines were so sharp, and the way the details were captured were some of the initial things.  The people who had tattoos looked so fucking badass to me, which certainly had something to do with it.  I wanted to look like that.  I wanted to make other people look like that.  When you get intotattooing, as with most things, you immediately discover the whole world of things behind that one thing. 

 

Its kinda like going down the rabbit hole from that point on

 

 

When did you do your first tattoo? What was it?

 

Thats also a question with a few different answers, because it could mean when did I do my first professional tattoo or when did I first make an attempt at tattooing?  Or when did I do my first apprentice tattoo? I tattooed myself before ever tried it on anyone else, but then after completely fucking up both my legs and my right arm (cuz Im a lefty) a few of my friends let me do some tattoos on them and fuck their arms up and stuff too.  

 

I had no guidance in the very beginning. That was a big mistake. My first tattoo on someone else was on one of my best friends at the time, Juan, who passed away actuallynot because of the tattoo. It was some gangsta shit covering up some other gangsta shit he got in jail. The ink was made from a melted checker or some ghetto shit like that.  We did a five-pointed crown and some lettering.  We did it in my cousins apartment in the Bronx and at 3:00 am. Another drunken friend who was hanging out for this ordeal decided to fire a 9mm handgun about a foot from my ear inside the apartment and my hearing actually never came 100% back to normal since that.  When the shot went off I was in mid-outline. Juan immediately jumped up, grabbed the dude by the throat and dragged him out of the front door. The machine was still buzzing when he jumped up and I thought I accidentally buzzed a line right across his whole bicep and shoulder.  When he came back I wiped off his arm, but thankfully no line.  The dude who fired the shot drove around the block and when he passed by our window, emptied the rest of the clip into the air.  We had already gone back to tattooing

 

My first pro tattoo? That was a story and a half too.  After a long apprenticeship, I was finally given the green light and hired as a full time tattoo artist. I got my first client through a mutual friend and former client. The guy wanted an eagle holding two pistons across his upper back.  Black and grey.  No color.  So Im about 45 minutes into it, and obviously I cant see the dudes face because Im working on his upper back, but suddenly the guy started getting really wobbly.   So naturally, I was like, Hey buddy, you gotta stop moving around.But when I said that, there was no response. As soon as the thought popped into my mind that this this guy is sleeping or something, the dude falls face first out of the damn chair head first into the fucking garbage can!  It was so horrible.  Catastrophic.  His eye socket missed the corner of this counter by centimeters.  He blasted the garbage can with his face so hard the fucking garbage from every tattoo that day went all over the damn place.  Did I mention it was horrible and catastrophic?  But he came out of it, took a little break, went outside and smoked a joint or something and came back. We finished the tattoo and surprisingly, the tattoo turned out just fine.  That was some scary shitI thought I killed him.  I was screaming for help and I had no idea what to do. 

 

But the story doesnt just end there.  I wound up tattooing this guy for a good year and a half or so after that first timehe comes in about every month or two.  And every single fucking time the guy passes out.  After about a year and a half, I had to make a professional decision and cut the dude off.  It got to the point where I was tattooing one dot at a time until he passed out, then spent an hour or more nursing him back to health so we ould get through the rest of the tattoo.  I just couldnt do it anymore. I just couldnt do my best work with the given circumstances.

 

What was the most memorable tattoo you have ever done and why? Im assuming it was Al Jourgensen (Ministry).

 

[Laughs]. Yeah of course it was Al!  His forehead tattoo. I guess, to date, that is the one little thing Ive done that Im most known for.  I mean, if you Google my name, a photo of me and him is the first thing that pops up!  Really awesome experience for me [and] something I think about all the time that Ill never forget. Ministry has been my number one since I was 14, so it was a life changer for me to get the opportunity for that type of face time (pun intended) with Al. 

 

Im so unbelievably grateful to my homie Aaron Rossi, who plays drums for Ministry, for hooking that one up.  That dude fucking rules!  I have actually tattooed Al several times now, and each time has a story attached to itlaced with complete insanity. I cant actually emphasize that enough, nor can I elaborate.  From birthdays to backstage, both Al and Angie have become close friends and Im also super grateful for everything the Jougensens and the 13th Planet/Ministry compound have done for me. 

 

I do have to mention, that tattooing Mikey Sack (Ministry/Rigor Mortis/Revolting Cocks) is something that I hold really special to me as well.  That one is at the top for sure as well.  Mikey passed away December 2012, onstage, mid-guitar solo during the Rigor Mortis reunion show in Dallas.  That was something that made me look at life completely differently.  Here you have on one level, the saddest and most devastatingly horrible thing ever, but on the other side of it is this [poetic] situation where his dies in mid-solodoing his favorite thing in life.  His passion.  He was playing his favorite guitar and wearing his favorite boots and vest.  So theres this other side of it which is so, for lack of a better word, beautiful.  You just cant help but think of things in a different perspective after something like that.  But yeah, thats a real memorable and special tattoo experience for me too. Im really thankful for that time with Mikey. 

 

How many tattoos do you have?

 

I dont really know. Are we counting full body parts as one big one or are you going to make me sit here naked counting?

 

If you had to pick, what is your favorite? Or do you have any memorable stories or meanings behind any of your tattoos you want to share.

 

My favorite and most memorable tattoo is my 9/11 tattoo.  It says Ground Zero on my right wrist.  I did it on myself (freehand) and it was probably the 3rd or 4th tattoo I ever did everever.  I did it with a single needle and the line is thicker than one made with nine needles, but the color stayed as solid as it gets even after frying it in the sun for years.  I first started tattooing close to around when 9/11 happened.  I am originally from about 18 miles north of what they refer to as Ground Zero. 

 

I bought my first tattoo beginners kit from a supply shop on Canal Street less than two weeks after 9/11.  Canal Street was the last street you could get to in downtown Manhattan.  Everything was blocked off passed Canal because the fires were still burning.  I remember walking down the street after buying the tattoo gear. It was the saddest feeling in the world.  I forgot about this until now, but people were fist fighting on the street because the street vendors, who just happened to be of middle-eastern descent, were selling framed photos of the towers blowing up on their little folding tables on the sidewalk. Normally they would sell incense, oils, bongs, and shit like that onit was totally fucked up.  What was so fucked up about it was that you could tell the street vendors didnt actually understand why people were mad at the photos they were selling. They thought they were selling these pictures as a memorial item and trying to send a supporting message, as opposed to like a malicious or disrespectful one. I could clearly see the communication breakdown.  It was by every definition, awar zone. 

The news referred to the site as Ground Zero (as they still do), however, the technical military definition for the term Ground Zero, is that of a place where a nuclear device has been detonated [cough, cough].

 

How would you describe your tattoo style? What are you known for?

 

Definitely, my style is realism and portraiture. That is certainly what I am most known for.  I work in either color or black and gray and am impartial to either. 

 

Anything you wont tattoo?

 

I wont tattoo any Nazi or hate or discriminatory shit. I also dont tattoo male genitalia, the bottoms of feet or the inner lip.  I also dont do the tattoos that people just print out from Pinterestlike the feather turning into the bird silhouettes.  Wait a minuteactually I take that back.  The price for dick tattoos is $10,000 [laughs].  No matter what you get, whether its a dot or if you want your whole mule tattooed green, the price is the same.  And as for Nazi and hate stuff, the price is also $10,000.  The only stipulations with that one is that I will only tattoo it in solid black, on your face, as large as it will fitand I use a single needle for the job. 

 

 

 

 

What other types of art do you do?

 

Oil painting.  I used to do a lot of drawing and sketching. I discovered painting many years into my tattoo career.  First water color, then acrylic, and now oils.  I am currently studying the masters and learning to paint in the style of the masters as well.

 

Is there some sort of connection between music and tattooing that lead a lot of musicians to tattoo or vice versa?

Well if you are a musician, being a tattoo artist is one of the best things you can be.  Think about it. You can travel and do both. If 

youre in a touring band that is making money you can actually make an awesome double income doing both.  But most of the time bands these days arent really making money, so if youre a tattoo artist and in a touring band, chances are you very well could be the only guy on the bus actually making, not just a living, but maybe even some decent money while on the road.  But the fact of the matter is that I really dont know too many who do both. 

I know recently there have been a few big name tattoo artists who have crossed over into professional music, but realistically its not something that is all together very common.  A lot of times visual artists have some sort of musical involvement at some point in life, but generally, its more common that one profession takes precedence and a single path is followed over another one.  Although we are talking about people whose lives revolve around creativity, so all of it is really interconnected in my opinion.  Shit, I wake up at four oclock in the morning sometimes with a song idea in a dream and record a riff on my iPhone so I dont forget it.  The same thing happens with a painting or tattoo ideaI think it just comes whenever it comes and it takes on a lot of different forms.  Thats how it is for me, and Im sure other artists are the same way. 

 

 

What bands have you been in?

 

I played bass for Seismatik, Madlife, Demona Mortiss, and Permacrush.  I have been on hiatus from music for about eight months while working on some art projects, however I am currently looking for a band situation. I am available for touring, recording, showcases, local shows, or any other professional situation.  So if you are reading this and need a bassist or guitar player, please contact me.

 

What is the worst tattoo you have ever been asked to cover up?

 

Oh wow, Ive seen so many bad ones. Hmmm, okaySo my first day as an apprentice this girl came in the shop and asked the artist who was on shift that night for the word slutabout a half an inch from her crotch.  So, I watched the two of them go back and forth about it for a while and finally she convinced the artist to do it.  The artist agreed but he told her he was going to do it in a font that she could cover up easily and that he wouldnt make it too dark.  Well, they started tattooing but instead of the dainty and light tattoo he was originally going to do on her, he gave her this gigantic, solid black tattoo with thick cursive letters spelling outslutright there.

 

So he does this tattoo, like the fucking opposite of what he was explaining, and she didnt even bat an eye.  She paid the artist the money and on her way out of the door the artist goes, Hey, remember to come back when you want to cover it up ha ha ha!!!.  She giggles and leaves.  So like four years later, Im in the shop by myself (that other artist was long gone), and who would you guess comes walking in the door to get the word slutcovered up..?

 

Where is your shop currently?

 

2981 Bristol Street in Costa Mesa, California.  Open seven days a week.  I am there mainly on the weekends from Thursday through Sunday. 

 

What is the best and worst part about being a tattoo artist in Southern California?

 

The worst thing is the sun. But its also the best thing.   Its the best thing because its just awesome out here. The weather cant be beat and as far as tattooing, it is popular here in a way that isnt like anywhere else in the world. 

 

In this region people generally enjoy the sun and the climate here understandably, but as a tattoo artist its something you are always fighting against.  Cooked skin is one of the biggest challenges I face in southern California.  I do have to mention another shitty thing about Southern California is the number of tattoo artists and tattoo shops.  I do believe there should be less of them and more exclusivity.  And too often I feel as though tattooing gets treated like a product, rather than an art, and its because of the amount of artists and shops in this area.  Dont get me wrong, there are a ton of super amazing artists out here, many of which I can humbly say I look up to and even emulate, and certainly there is no shortage of people looking to get tattooed; but as with anything that is over saturated, the value gets driven down.  Also, it makes it harder for the health department to do their job with more shops, which effects the artist community financially.  But all that being said, I am incredibly fortunate to be able to practice this art in such a beautiful area with so much to offer. I feel very grateful for that and try to do something to give back every day. 

 

You can find more of RussOnes art and book an appointment with him at Outer Limits Tattoo in Costa Mesa at OuterLimitsTattoo.com.