Exclusive Interview: Alan Aldred!

Either you’ve been living under a rock or you didn’t check out Monday’s post- I will take no other excuses- in which case you’ll probably know that Alan Aldred is coming to Newcastle for a guest spot in Inkslingers in November! Awesome! Alan saw our post here on Monday, and loved it so much he’s been kind enough to offer us an interview, which I believe is the first of hopefully many for Alan. He’s a great tattooer and an all round nice guy, so I’m really happy to be able to present this to you all. I caught up with Alan for this just yesterday, here’s what he had to say, below…


M: Right then Alan, for those losers who don’t know you, care to tell us a little about yourself and how you got into tattooing?

A: I’m a complete and utter workaholic to start off with! A wonderful father to Bella (My girlfriend’s pug), hopefully a gentleman to my gorgeous girlfriend Betty who’s helped me through a lot and when I party I party hard! Haha. As far as tattooing goes I was fortunate enough to get an apprenticeship as soon as I came out of a local 6th form, where I studied art as well as other things. Apprenticed and worked at this first shop for three years, which I wont name as the bastard doesn’t deserve it! I’ve been at Diablo Ink Custom Tattoo for around about eighteen months now and its awesome.

Those who know your work will know you as a predominantly traditional tattooer- what is it about traditional work you love more than other styles?

What do I love about traditional tattoos? That’s a pretty difficult question to answer, really. I think I’m drawn to them aesthetically for their timeless quality, their bold simplicity and the charm that these “simple” designs seem to hold. I’m a big fan of Japanese tattooing as well for the same reasons, both styles you can easily read and appreciate! Its a shame I don’t get to do more Japanese work but I’m no Horiyoshi, haha.

A lot of your customers seem to ask for the ‘tried and true’ subjects of traditional tattooing, what is it about these tattoos that people still always find themselves coming back to after all this time?

I think it’s definitely their timeless quality and with recent media attention traditional designs- Ed Hardy and Sailor Jerry can be seen on everything from sweat pants to rum. This in itself has further engrained these designs in western culture, however in my opinion it’s watered it down to a massive extent. Rant over haha.

When you’re dipping your toe into other styles, what makes you really excited about trying something else out?

Well I’m a big fan of working in different styles, as I mentioned earlier Japanese artwork interests me and I massively enjoy doing black and grey realistic work. Especially if its an interesting subject matter. I have a customer who I recently completed a whole sleeve of big cat portraits on, which was a challenge but got me really excited. Generally if its something different to the norm and the customers excited then generally ill pick up on their vibe!

Do you think it’s important to be varied in your work, or is this a case of you catering to what your customers would like?

I think it is important to be varied and to have a very solid technical base. Someone who’s been tattooing only a few months shouldn’t be taking on large scale work ‘cos they don’t have the solid technical background to be consistently good. I think what I’m trying to say is don’t try to walk before you can run. When you’re first starting out don’t turn your nose up at anything that comes through the door and if you’re fortunate enough over time your preferred clientele will come to you.

When a customer comes in with an idea you’ve heard a billion times before, do you sometimes think it’s hard to ‘re-invent the wheel’, or are you comfortable drawing what comes to mind, even if it’s been done before?

I’m not gonna lie, it can be difficult. A good example of this is when customers want a “Sugar Skull”. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing them, but you can only change so many things before the image looks far too different to what the customer has in mind.
Nine times out of ten I’m happy to go with what the customer’s feeling as long as its not a blatant rip off of someone else’s work.

Too many tattooers aren’t honest about their influences. Tell me yours.

Haha, well I’ve got a fair few and I’ll be honest about them; here’s a list, if you have a chance check them out:
Hunter Spanks
Bert Krak
Steve Boltz
Uncle Allan
Nick Thorpe

I’d say that’s a top five, I’ve been lucky enough to work with Hunter, which I’m gonna be honest, I learnt a massive amount from him and owe him a lot. Nick Thorpe also helped me out a lot at the beginning of my career and is like an older brother to me!

You come across to me as a guy who doesn’t suck a lot of dick in tattooing- do you sometimes find it hard to get noticed by tattooing’s occasional ego?

I think that’s a pretty accurate statement, a lot of people will happily suck a lot of dick and not speak their opinions just to get in magazines or to be the new flavour of the week. I’m just too opinionated to roll that way, haha. I’d much rather be known for good solid consistent tattooing rather than being a cock sucker who’ll be old news if they’re not in next months magazine!

If I look in your sketchbook, what will I see?

Lots of half finished shit I’ve scribbled out, pin-ups with ghetto bootay (based on the girlfriend :P ) anchor, roses, pugs, skulls, some more skulls, and lots of daggers! Nothing cutesy or family friendly! Currently working on a lot of one off flash sheets and sets so check those out and you’ll get the basic idea!

Who would be your dream customer, and what would they get tattooed?

Dream customer? I really have no idea, someone who wanted a cool as fuck original idea, wanting some sweet neck / throat / facial work haha! Honestly i really don’t know. Pop in and see me people and you might end up being that customer!

Come on then, my regular readers know what’s coming- want to ask yourself a question?

If I was gonna ask myself a question… where do I see myself in ten years time? Hopefully doing some more interviews for people who actually care about tattooing and not cock suckers (Mel: why thank you, Alan!)! Doing a lot more guest spots and have a lot more flash making its way around the world haha. Or at least not on the doll!

Any last minute plugs?

Well you guys have lovingly already covered my guest spot at Inkslingers from November 25th – 28th. I also currently have a shit load of prints for sale and original paintings can be commissioned!


Once again I would like to thank Alan for such a great interview, and I highly recommend you take a look at his work here, and book in with him very soon- I know I have!

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