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Buy Motley Crue's
Saints of Los Angeles album

Motley Crue Down Under
Motley Crue Down Under book
On Tour with The Carnival of Sins

This is Gonna Hurt
This is Gonna Hurt by Sixx: A.M.


Tattoos & Tequila by Vince Neil


Motley Crue's Greatest Hits CD

Motley Crue's Carnival of Sins Live concert DVD
Motley Crue's Carnival of Sins
Live concert DVD

 
Tommy Lee's latest album from
Methods of Mayhem

 Buy Motley Crue Greatest Video Hits with discount
Motley Crue
Greatest Video Hits DVD

Buy Motley Crue - The Dirt with discount, cheap
Motley Crue - The Dirt



Talk about getting close to the band! Eaves drop on this Mötley conversation with renowned Sunset Strip Tattoo ink pusher Greg James, conducted during April 2001, as he yaks about the many times he's got under the Crüe's skin and left his mark on their lives forever. Greg's art has helped create the Mötley image, that has helped them to sell over 40 million albums worldwide.

Chronological Crue: This site traces the complete history of Mötley Crüe Greg and I'd like to step back in your career to begin with. Can you tell me about how you came to be a tattoo artist, and working at one of the world's most famous studios - Sunset Strip Tattoo?

Greg James: Well my brother Dave apprenticed me around late 1974. At that time, a man named Cliff Raven owned Sunset and he was at that time the very best tattooer around, specializing in Japanese and brand new innovative styles of tattooing. I knew that if I stuck it out and worked, maybe I would get a shot at working for him. He truly inspired me. His partner in 1985 was Robert Benedetti, an amazing and innovative tattooer whose work impressed me. I based a lot of my tattooing style on those two guys. I felt I was ready and went to talk to Cliff. He and Robert liked my work and felt they could take me to a higher level of tattooing, so they gave me a job. About a year later, Cliff retired and sold the business to Robert. Robert was known for tattooing all the celebs in Hollywood, so after about two years he was ready to slow down working, and he has been retired for about eight or nine years now. I started taking over his clients and started to become friends with Nikki Sixx around late '86. After doing a few tattoos on Nikki, I got to do some work on the rest of the Crüe.

CC: So what was the first tattoo you inked on Nikki, and what do you recall about that session?

GJ: To the best of my memory, which is not so f@cking great, it was on Valentines Day around 1990 and he had called and set up an appointment. He wanted a cherub or cupid like angel with a ribbon with his wife's name in it. Funny thing was, when they came in for the tattoo, I had spelled Brandi wrong on the stencil. I had Brandy. Whoops!

Greg James - Mr. Crue TattooCC: Oh no!

GJ: So a quick change of a letter on the stencil and a few hours later the tattoo was done. I am not sure if that was the very first tattoo I done on him but I sure remember that day the most. It was always cool having the guys come to the shop. They would always go out of their way to be cool to everyone and give autographs, and sometimes buy a tattoo for someone. We had a lot of times like that, when they would just come in.

CC: That's cool of them. So Nikki had already had his right sleeve done by that time, right?

GJ: Yeh Robert Benedetti, the guy that owned Sunset Strip Tattoo, did the right arm.

CC: How much of his left sleeve did you then do, after the angel?

GJ: I did the octopus on the upper part of the arm and on the chest, and after their Japan tour he had a Samurai done by Horiwakka on his lower forearm, and then as time went on I finished the left arm. I think I finished most of it in Vancouver, BC. They flew me in and put me up, to do tattooing on them while they were recording with John Corabi. We turned the hotel room into a tattoo shop. There is a video of it out there somewhere... fucking fun!

CC: Cool. So that's where they had the album's working title Til Death Do Us Part tattooed on them then, was it?

GJ: No, they did those tattoos right before Vancouver. The guys were in the studio in L.A. and it was happening real good. One night they ALL came in and got the [Til] Death Do Us Part tattoos. I didn't get to do any of those 'cause I was working on another guy for a while. Eric [Blair] at the shop did John and a guy named Kobo did Mick. I think Eric did Nikki also and... well shit, I just can't recall who did Tommy... maybe Mike.

Tattooing Nikki at homeCC: Oh OK.

GJ: It was a great night and I think after I was done with the guy I was working on, I tattooed Nikki with a tribal piece as a cover of some weird thing on his leg. It was a very rare and cool bonding moment for the guys. They were so having fun and into making music and just ready to kick some rock'n'roll ass! We had a great night and it was pretty late when it was all said and done. All done without booze, chicks, drugs, and whatever - just tattooing and music and some good times. I remember John singing Shout At The Devil as would be sung by Frank Sinatra. Very Funny!

CC: [laughs] Nikki's back job was also progressing at this time. What can you tell me about that?

GJ: Well it was pretty straight forward. Nikki found the design and I drew it up and we started doing it. We did it at the Sunset Strip shop and I think after we did the outline, we worked on the tattoo every week until it was done. It was fun having him at the shop that much.

CC: Would that be your favourite tattoo you've done on Nikki to date?

GJ: I think when his daughter drew the heart tattoo that is on his leg probably would be. I have a lot of favourite tattoos on Nikki, but that day was real special. I was at their house tattooing Nikki and Donna, and Stormy drew a design. Nikki got me to tattoo it on his leg while I was doing a dragonfly (from memory) on him. I did a sun on Donna and her son's name [Rhyan] that day. Also, it was cool as I had my son David with me and he was swimming with the [Sixx] kids. After, we all had dinner. Nikki and Donna cooked.

CC: Wow. That's certainly sounds like a very special day. Kevin Brady from Sunset inked a lot of the Crüe's early tattoos then designed the album cover flash art on Dr.Feelgood. What do you recall about that?

Tattooing Nikki's hand at the Sixx residenceGJ: Kevin is a very talented artist and it was fun. I learned a lot from watching him do the work. It was interesting times... full party mode at that time. I won't say anymore about that.

CC: Can you say then what the vibe within the studio was like, when the album went Number 1?

GJ: We were ALL very excited to be involved. It was 'Mötley RULES' around the shop. I can't remember all the kids that wanted to get Mötley tattoos but it was a lot. They made a great impression on the local music scene as I am sure the whole country. We would get collect calls from girls and guys all over the world asking for Vince or Nikki or Tommy or Mick... like they were hanging out all the time or maybe lived there or something, hoping to talk to one of them or find out something. I think our phone bill was as much as the cost of the tattooing we did on them for a couple of months. After a while, we just had to hang up. Some of the calls were funny!

CC: The video clip for Dr. Feelgood shows the Sunset Strip Tattoo logo. Were you able to be on set for any of the filming?

GJ: No, as a matter of fact they did it all on a sound stage and we didn't even know until the video came out.

CC: Right, OK. The Sunset Strip Tattoo logo was then visible again as part of the New Tattoo stage set. Did you see any of these shows, and how did it perhaps compare in your opinion to other Crüe shows you may have seen over the years?

GJ: I was able to go to some of the rehearsals and see them put the New Tattoo show together. That was very cool. I liked that show. My favourite was the Maximum Rock tour with The Scorpions because I got to go out with them for a week. All in all, I think the shows got better musically and were more fun!

CC: You also designed some flash for Nikki's bass guitar which he used on that last tour. How did that come about and what was the process in getting it on his aural weapon?

GJ: I was hanging out at rehearsal, and well... every time the guys do something, they like to have a sort of tattoo tie in, like New Tattoo. I was going to tattoo, or do or paint designs, or do something to Randy's drum kit, but it got too involved and there wasn't enough time. Nikki said he always wanted to have a tattooed bass.

CC: Cool.

GJ: I think if time and money were no object, and then if the ideas the boys come up with came to light and happened, people would shit themselves... the imagination is amazing.

CC: We've seen some tattoo artists go on and play in rock bands recently; guys like Kevin Quinn in American Pearl, and Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst. Are you a player yourself and ever had aspirations of rocking the stages around the world?

GJ: Oh yeah... I play guitar. I know how to play the E cord.

CC: [laughs]

GJ: Kevin Quinn in American Pearl... RULES.

CC: Yeh I think they're a great band too. He's tattooed a fair bit of the Buckcherry guys I believe... and I notice your name in the new Buckcherry CD with a thanks next to it, which is cool. Tell me a bit about those guys.

GJ: Well Kevin did a lot of work on those guys and since his band got signed, he hasn't been tattooing much. The guys from Buckcherry, Josh [Joshua Todd] and Keith [Nelson] mostly, started coming to us. I did two on Josh's hands and a spider on his stomach. Eric Blair did one on his neck and Paul Timin did the other on the neck and is in the process of doing his lower (I think) right leg. I did a nice rose and name thing on the guitarist Keith. These guys rule and their new CD [Time Bomb] is great. They are a bunch of fun when they come around.

Tattooing Nikki's hand at the Sixx residenceCC: Yeh they're one of my favourite bands... and my sons. Who are some of the other bands and celebs that you have tattooed in your career to date?

GJ: I have had the privilege of tattooing so many celebrities since I have been at Sunset, it is amazing. I know I should have made a list but to me it was never that important. All I know is that they are all cool to me and the shop, and in so many ways they are just like us. Most of the time, I don't even know they are famous until someone says, "Do you know who that is?" I guess I lead a very sheltered life... I am consumed with tattooing most of the time.

CC: Yeh sure.

GJ: I did tattoo THANKS on Ozzy's hand once. Robert [Benedetti] did all the cool stuff. He is an amazing guy! On our website there is a partial list of famous people and celebs we have done. The list is growing and we don't really keep track all that much. So many people complain that we don't take photos of their tattoos or of them posing... well, after you have been tattooed the last thing you want to do is hang around for a photo, and also we feel that if we did that, then a lot of people would want the same tattoo, and that would just get boring.

CC: True. We've spoken about Nikki's tatts a lot, but what are some of the tattoos you have done on Vince, Tommy and Mick?

GJ: When I was in Vancouver with the Crüe, I did the back of Tommy's left arm with a koi and water. I also finished some stuff on various parts of his body. Paul [Patterson] is working on him currently and I think Eric [Blair] did one on him a few years ago. On Mick, I did the skull band, a rose and skull design, and most recently the spider on his right arm. On Vince, I did the barbed wire and the name Skylar, the chest design of a cross, the tiger stripe back piece and various small tattoos. I also did some work for John when he was in the band.

CC: That's a lot of hours there.

GJ: Yeh... all the guys have been great to tattoo. They ALWAYS appreciate it and always send you their friends. They are big tattoo fans and on many occasions they have bought tattoos for customers when they used to come to the shop.

CC: Hey, they can buy me one anytime! My artist says my skin is really good for inking. Who has the best and worst skin in Mötley generally, for tattooing do you feel?

GJ: They're all good!

CC: I hear that the needle configuration called Rakes is as good as double flats with less needles. Have you ever tried that?

Finished new tattoo on Nikki's handGJ: I am not sure what those are. 

CC: Oh OK.

GJ: Maybe over here they are called Magnums... in any case, I just use flat shaders for large areas and small rounds for the tight stuff.

CC: Sure. Does Nikki prefer flats or rounds?

GJ: He and the guys don't have a preference. We've got a deal - we don't make music and they don't tell us what to use on their tattoos.

CC: Well that sounds like a wise deal to me. The Fan Ink section on Chronological Crue shows heaps of Crüe related tattoos adorning fans around the world. You mentioned earlier about Crüeheads coming in to get tattoos. Are there any Mötley related tattoos you've done on fans that stand out in your mind?

GJ: Well, mostly it has been small ones such as a rose like Nikki's, or something like that. I did the dragon and tattoo machine from the cover of New Tattoo on a friend of Vince's, and a few years ago I did an Allister Fiend real big on this guy named Mobean. My favourite has been the cartoons of the guys from their Greatest Hits CD. I have done those on this girl named Star. We did them as big as we could around her ankle. She is the nicest girl and a huge fan of the Crüe.

CC: That sounds cool. They are welcome to submit pictures of course. What are the most recent pieces you have done on the Mötley guys?

GJ: Well, the latest is a treble clef on Nikki's hand [as shown in the many pictures herein] to match the bass clef he had done in Japan on the other hand, and his newest daughter Frankie's name on his wrist. That is when this last photo [below] was taken.

CC: Yeh that's a cool photo. One last question: if you could look into your crystal ball, what do you see the Crüe up to in five years from now?

GJ: Five years from now? That is a big question. I can't imagine what I will be doing. Hopefully doing cool tattoos. Well I will go out on limb here and guess that the Crüe with Nikki's direction and all the talent of the guys, will bring something that resembles some great rock'n'roll music back to us. I think it is up to all of us to not accept the churned out bullshit that some of these suits try to market to us. Good old rock and "love songs written from their dicks" quoting Sixx!

CC: [laughing]

GJ: Can't believe I said that. [laughs] Maybe Randy and Tommy on drums. I would like that. Two drummers would kick ass. Some bluesy rock riffs ala Mars and hard ass kickin' bass and of course Vince's awesome front man show. After some time off, I think the guys can do it.

CC: Let's hope so. Thanks very much for your time Greg. I'll save some skin for you if ever you're down in Australia, or if I ever make it across the Pacific one year.

GJ: Thanks Paul, for including me in this. Let me know when it is all done and up. Love to meet you sometime. Shout at the Devil.

 Greg James & Nikki Sixx

Sumthin' For Nuthin' : Simply say the words "Mr. Crüe Tattoo" when booking your next appointment with Greg James and receive a special discount courtesy of Chronological Crue.

In 2012, Greg opened his own shop!

Tattoos Deluxe
4531 Van Nuys Blvd,
Sherman Oaks, California 91403
Phone: 818-783-1323

Thanks to Alex Berthod for the introduction.

Want more ?? Click to see the complete listing of Chronological Crue interviews.



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