Headbang to metal tattoos Image: Saurabh Prasad
Sitting in a dimly lit hotel room with doom jazz playing in the background, tattoo artist Paul Booth reminisces about inking rockstars on moving tour buses and meeting bonafide crazy fans – ones that escape mental asylums just to meet him. As you listen to him, it's easy to imagine yourself as a part of an eerie music video. T2 Online sat down with the celeb tattoo artist for a little chat about his favourite music bands, tattoo art and more.
Art is metal
A Booth tattoo seems to be a prerequisite in a metal-head starter pack. But that's easily wished than done as he has a three-to-four-year waiting list. He has over two decades of inking experience and a reputation of the go-to guy for all the major rockstars — Kerry King (Slayer), Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit) and even wrestler Mark 'The Undertaker' William Callaway, to name a few. Music has been an integral part of the 48-year-old's creative process. He was one of the co-producers of Tattoo the Earth concert tour that combined music with body art. Forty-three tattoo artists and 34 metal bands, including Metallica, Stone Temple Pilots and Sepultura, were part of the show.
“I tattoo a lot of heavy metal stars since they usually ask for something brutal and aggressive to go with the music. My art is supposed to be the visual version of heavy metal. It tends to be too intense for an average person,” he says. Being a favourite of the major metal bands brings its own share of adventures, too. “I tattooed on a moving Deftones tour bus once, rolling down the road for Stef (Stephen Carpenter). That was great fun. Then, Swiss artist Filip Leu and I did a collaborative art on the chest of Ryan (Ryan Martinie) of Mudvayne. It was total free-form, no plan, nothing. Just jumped in there and started making shapes,” he says.King of rock Tattoos
A master of grotesque who was crowned 'King of rock Tattoos' by Rolling Stones, Booth has earned some pretty intense fan moments. “A schizophrenic man escaped a mental asylum in Washington state and hitchhiked across America to meet me. Then, he slept for a week under the front window of my studio waiting for me because he claims to have met me in another universe and wanted to meet in this one, too. He believed there are 16 universes.” Booth then inked an upside down crucifix on him, at his fan's request, leaving bloody fan letters to shame.
But Booth doesn't care much. “I don't think about it. I am just scared that I will wake up one day and be a jerk. I just concentrate on the art and appreciate the perks that come with it. I feel very grateful since it got me here to India,” he says, adding, that he's never felt 'more welcomed in any country for a long time.' His fans can also prepare to see some of the popular Indian demons depicted in his art soon as he plans to delve into the Indian mythologies for inspiration.
With crazed fans and celeb clients, is there someone that he really wishes to ink? Pat comes the reply, “The Pope, with depictions of Catholic tyranny over the ages.”