Freshly Inked Interview with Thom Bullman
Photos by Dale Schenck
How ya doin'
Good, it's like a blizzard here in New York.
I can only imagine! Soo, for a little introductory question who is your pop culture spirit animal?
A spirit animal? Hmmm.. I guess, because I'm a huge Luke Skywalker fan, I'd probably be Mark Hamill. Also because he's a super big nerd, he runs a lot of websites and a tv show about him collecting. He's my spirit animal as far as collecting goes.
On the subject of Mark Hamill, what's your favorite Star Wars movie?
That's easy, Empire Strikes Back!
To be more general, what's a favorite movie or tv show you had growing up?
There's a couple different categories, as far as cartoons my favorites growing up were the darker Disney movies that John Bluth put out, like Secret of Nim, The Black cauldron. I was obsessed with anything Muppets. Any of the Muppets movies I could watch a billion times.
What do you think the best era of music is, 80's, 90's, or now?
I kind of teeter totter back and forth, and Josh will tell you I have a horrible 80's playlist that I play every day. Like Wham and Toto, singing Africa, and all these other songs that he hates. I definitely think the 80's to me, they have catchier more simplistic but cheesier songs. I'm also nostalgic to, like when I was a teenager I was in the 90's so I'm real nostalgic to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, bands like that. Those really have a place in my heart. The ones I can always put on if I'm in a bad mood, definitely some 80's songs. Boy George comes on, Come on Chameleon (or whatever that song is) I'll always turn it up.
What's one thing you absolutely need to get in the zone for tattooing?
I have my go to album, usually every week, I'll listen to right when I'm outlining and that gets me in the zone. And it always changes, it could be the Soundtrack to Bladerunner for a week straight (and Josh goes crazy because he has to hear it) or a week ago it was The GooGoo Dolls. I had to listen to a boy named Goo for a week straight. Something where I know by the end of the album my line work is done.
Tell us about your shop and how it came to be.
Alchemist studio in Cortland, New York. Which is like dead center of New York, started by me and Josh Payne in July of last year. It kind of came from, I had my other shop in upstate NY, which was classic trilogy tattoo was, I just got tired of driving up an hour, one way (for three years) I finally decided I want to open a private studio (up here in Cortland) And Josh was in Cortland too, so when I mentioned it to him he was totally about it and said let's do a studio together.
Is that how you decided to go into business together?
We actually used to work together like four years ago I worked with him, for a year or so. Then he was just a dick so I quit. (Hahahah) Now we work together again.
What was your immediate first impression of him?
Josh is, uh, LOUD. I guess loud is the only word that really describes him. When Josh comes in a room you know, I mean damn when Josh comes walking up the hall you know. He's just a loud person. (hahaha)
So, how did you go from working together...to not working together...to becoming friends and eventually business partners?
He's not the type of person to take things personally. So when I quit, ya know, I left on good terms. I pretty much let it out like, "listen, I want to just go off and do my own thing," at the time we had a lot of different aesthetics (on what a tattoo shop should be) Like he wasn't digging what I was doing at that time. I was mid thirties and I didn't want to be bossed around by a younger boss, cuz at that time he was in his late 20's. I left on good terms and he was like, it's cool man. Once a week I'd stop in on a Monday to say hi and hang out. The friendship was still there, it was always there.
And if you could compare your partnership to a famous duo who would you pick?
Dumb and Dumber, Harry and Lloyd!
And who would be who?
I'd like to think I'm Lloyd, but I'm thinking he would think he's Lloyd too.
Out of pure curiosity, who do you think is the smaller one of Dumb and Dumber?
I'd say Harry is just a hair smarter. But they're not far up the I.Q ladder at all, so it's not that far (hahah)
Very true! If you guys had a TV or movie about you, what would it be called and why?
It would probably just be a remake of The Odd Couple, cuz we joke around like his booth is like the dad all clean with nice fancy paintings, nice frames, everything has it's place; then my room (he jokes) I have the little kid room. Mine is just full of toys. Everywhere! (hahah) Jam packed and he's like I don't know how you find anything. But somehow I make it work.
On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most how much would you say you've changed since first becoming an artist?
For the full interview please check out our Pop Takeover issue!