Mike Riggs is conflicted about the brave new world of tattoo culture. The Scum of the Earth front man made his name playing lead guitar for Rob Zombie before splitting to make his own music and start a tattoo parlor in Branson, Mo.
“I just wanted to have awesome people tattooing in the town that I lived,” Riggs said in a grumble, his voice weighed down by a lingering hangover. “But in our shop, we have cops coming in to get tattooed. The dentist was in there the other day getting a NASCAR tattoo. I haven’t seen one person come into the shop that looks like us. Maybe I’m just losing touch.”
Riggs brings his Scum to Cox Convention Center this weekend to headline the Ink Life Tour Tattoo & Music Festival. Holding true to his days with Zombie, Scum of the Earth is brash, loud, grindhouse metal. The tour’s operations manager, Ragen St. Peter, said the band and the Oklahomabased Siva Addiction were picked to appeal to OKC’s substantial rock, punk and metal scenes.
“We choose bands that are the best fits for each city,” St. Peter said. “With tattooing blowing up and becoming mainstream, that broadens the range of music that fits with it. Now, there is a little bit of everything; there is even a growing hip-hop tattoo culture. It’s not about what band represents tattoo culture, but more about what band fits in with that particular city.”
It could be filled with schoolteachers wanting butterflies on their ankles.
The hope is that, unlike traditional tattoo conventions, the music will attract more than just industry folks and skinart aficionados, but the wider public wanting to revel in the overall culture. To cater to this widening demographic, Ink Life packs three days of entertainment into the event, including a battle of the bands, a pole-dancing competition and an appearance by Amy Nicoletto, Kat Von D’s nemesis from the reality series “LA Ink.”
Riggs believes that the tattoo world still has enough edge to it to scare away the squares who won’t get his “middlefingered” music.
“I’m guessing the people coming to the convention will be cooler, more open-minded who won’t take offense easily,” he said. “But everything is getting so weird these days. I like to think that it’ll be a bunch of guys like us: gnarly, totally tattooed, crazy people. Now that I think about it, the convention could be filled with schoolteachers wanting butterflies on their ankles.”
Unfortunately, artists from Riggs’ tattoo shop won’t make the convention because their employer wasn’t aware of temporary licenses required by the state of Oklahoma — yet another sign that the once-dangerous world of tattoos has cleaned up and gone straight.
“When I was 16, I got all the tattoos to keep people from talking to me, and it worked,” Riggs said. “But then tattoos got really popular, and you have people coming up to you in grocery stores — little old ladies saying, ‘I love your devil head. What does it say? “Fuck?”’ Yes, that’s what it says.”