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Modern Primitives Interview: Hanky Panky

RE/Search: How did you become a tattoo artist?Tattoo by Hanky Panky on a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers

HP: I was a photographer for a long time for a magazine here in Holland. I did a couple of features on tattooing and became more and more interested in it and started collecting anything I could lay my hands on-business cards, photos, books, and I started correspondence with all these people. All of a sudden I had this tattoo machine in my collection, and another old tattoo machine, and then I had to do this big article on the Dutch Hells Angels for the magazine. And they knew me, they said, “Yeah, you the tattoo guy?” I said, “Yeah, yeah.”

R/S: You’d already been tattooing?

Tattooed handHP: I wasn’t tattooing then, but they went, “Well, why don’t you make a tattoo on us?” So I put my first tattoo on a Hells Angel-that’s one of the best ways to start, because you’ve got a critical client. You don’t want to f*** up with him!

R/S: So what percentage of your clientele want New Tribal designs?

Tattooed headHP: I don’t know. I do a lot of them. Especially because of a couple of books that showed it, like Tattootime. And it was actually something new going on in tattooing. In Western-style tattooing, for years people were making the same old s**t: eagles, anchors, and all of a sudden all these punk kids wanted all this tribal stuff. So many books in the last ten years have been published on tattooing; ten years ago to find a book on tattooing was—well, you would find one or two books a year from 1859, 1920, 1950. It was very hard to find anything on it. Now there’s a book coming out every year—five or six a year, maybe. And of course all these books were covering the new tribalism, the new thing. So all these kids are seeing the new thing and that’s what they want. The Borneo scorpion is probably the equivalent of the Black Panther of ten years ago-that’s the design you’re making all the time now!


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