I was invited by the Sailor Jerry Rum folks to visit their Airstream on the site of Mess With Texas this year at SXSW to meet and visit with world renowned tattoo artist Oliver Peck, who has a popular shop in Dallas -- Elm Street Tattoo -- plus another one in Los Angeles. He is also about ramp up work on season two of Spike TV's tattoo reality show, Ink Master.
And I would also be able to get tattooed by the famous Peck, soaking in an hour of the man while he pounded ink into right ankle.
If you know me or have even have seen me, you know that I have two tattoo sleeves and a some leg and chest work. The fun and stories I collected from Peck while he worked on me helped form a great afternoon in a metal can at a music festival, and the trappings melted away and we could have been in one of Peck's own shops.
Peck is tattooing rock stars and rappers out of the trailer this week, working off three Sailor Jerry flash books, that I actually pulled from while I was formulating my sleeves with my artist Dustin Whelan in the early to mid '00s.
Ahead of me in the trailer was none other than rapper Theophilus London, who was getting a small shark tattooed on his upper neck, below the ear. Drummer Jahphet Landis of TV On The Radio was nearby nursing his new work by Peck too. Other British rocker types were milling about looking a flash for sessions this week too.
The trailer serves Sailor Jerry Rum (yum) plus there is free swag to be had, including hats, shirts, and other trinkets. The vibe was familiar to me and I could have stayed all afternoon.
I picked out a small pirate ship design with the script "Tramps Like Us..." underneath it honor of seeing Bruce Springsteen's keynote speech and concert on Thursday. Dorky, maybe. The location on the ankle was more out of necessity seeing that my arms are covered and my chest is spoken for.
Peck's personal tattoo journey begins about 20 years ago. Tattoo artists rarely stay in the same city forever. Peck has done time in Houston, L.A., traveled across Europe just these past few months, and he tours with his friends in Americana-punk group Lucero when he can. He's also tattooed the whole band.
One of his biggest peeves in the industry are would-be tattoo collectors who seem to want no input in their own work and hear a big-name artist and decide they want them to sleeve them out. To let Peck do whatever he wants. He wishes people like that put more thought into what they wanted. He is leery of even tattooing faces.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
He finished his entire body a few years back, which is something I have always wondered about. Where does one go from there? When you can't get anything else because you are covered up completely how do you get your kicks? Peck says he loves tattoos but hates getting them, the goo, the blood, the aftercare. I agree, it's maddening. He's still getting little bits of stars and filler now, so the journey isn't totally over, just the big stuff.
Music factors into inking, says Peck. He can't work without something playing in the background, or at a medium level. One of his favorites for tattooing are Electric Light Orchestra, but he had the wrong iPod on him during this session so we settled for the Hellacopters. Great choice.
My tiny ship took a little less than an hour to finish, which was lengthened by Peck and I talking about the tattoo industry. Titans like Richard Stell, Chris Trevino, and the late Mike Malone informed his work, with Peck going off on his own path years back.
I said goodbye to Peck and the crew at the Sailor Jerry trailer late in the afternoon, and hobbled my way back to Sixth Street and the hotel to clean off the accumulated gore. Don't worry, it happens. I'm a little sore, but I can say that I had a session of Oliver Peck, and I have proof.