Ever seen he started out by making his own tattoo gun from Scalextric parts and guitar strings, tattooist Dan Gold, 35, has always approached the craft in his own way. Known for his individual, graffiti-style work, Dan still loves his vocation.

Dan Gold - Tattoo Artist

I was a graffiti artist when I was about 15. Back then, in the late 1980s, the only tattoos you could get were swallows and anchors but my mates wanted tattoos of spray cans. I used to draw up the designs and then we’d take them to a tattoo artists and get them done, using fake IDs, but they’d come out looking terrible. I thought “Hand on a minute, I do all the work of doing the designs and they mess them up - I should do the tattoos myself!”

I built my very own tattoo machine out of a Scalextric engine, my mum’s sewing machine foot pebal, buts of a biro and strings from my brother’s guitar. Tattoo equipment wasn’t available then - it was a closed circle to get into - but I was determined. I found an old article about Russian prisoners who smuggled their own tattoo machine into a jail and I built mine use those instructions. I did the first tattoo on myself, which was really painful. It was so bad, all I ended up with was a little scribble and my whole arm swelled up. The guitar string was supposed to be like a needle but I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do it that way - it bloody hurts.

I started hanging around tattoo shops to pick up techniques. When I was 17, a guy who was a bit of an alcoholic gave me the keys to his shop and left me to it. I shouldn’t have even been in it, never mind tattooing! I syatyed without any training but ignorance is bliss. I’ve always been good at drawing, I was better than the average tattooist at the time, so that saved my ass a lot! The worst one I did at that time was on a man’s arm when the whole thing scabbed over and fell off!

Tat’s the way it goes…

I started improving after a couple of years in the shop and went to all the conventions around Europe. I had my own shop at 21 and realised the art form had so much potential. Things really started happening in the early 1990’s with different techniques emerging. Tattooing was taken to new heights. I stood out because I was the first to use graffiti in tattooing and now it’s one of the most popular tattooing styles - there’s a huge demand for it now.

The great thing about the job is that every day is different. Each tattoo I do is custom-made for each client. The client has an idea and something comes out of it that neither of us had thought of. The creativity is my favourite thing. People worry that they’re going to regret their tattoo but if you get one that you’ve really thought about, that’s been done well and that people admire when you show them, it can quickly become addictive.

Round the world on a leg…

I’ve lost count of how many I’ve got. I’m trying to join them all up. I’m keeping one leg free. I plan to go “arouind the world in 80 tattoos”. Every civilisation has had tattooing. Eskimos used to do it; it’s on every remote island in the world. I want to collect a tiny tattoo from each of these plces with their own tattooing traditions and get them all on one lef. That’s be a really cool thing to have.

A lot of the work in the shop is fixing bad tattoos. A lot of kids are getting really bad ones done right now. I just had to fix an 18-year-old who had “Respect” written on his hand in gangster writing. At that age it can really affect your opportunities for the future. Tattooing “Respect” on a kid’s hand is irresponsible. As a tattooist you need to think for people sometimes. A tattoo should benefit life, not scare people away. We tattooed a Jesus face over the guy’s tattoo. I wouldn’t have picked it myself but it’s what he wanted and it’s easier to live with.

We also do a lot of celebrities. We did Kate Moss. I can’t tell you what she got but it was somewhere you won’t see if and i had to do some shaving. If you’re thinking of having a tattoo, consider what you really want and remember; you get what you pay for. People will spend £150 on trainers but get cheap tattoos done. It’s crazy! Spend time researching what you want and get the best you can. A good tattoo will be value for money because you’ll love it for the rest of your life.


London Ink started on Discovery Real Time at 10pm on September 23rd.
Article written in Metro Newspaper by Andrew Williams. 18th September 2007.