Tattoo artist Baz is bringing 16 years of experience to his new shop, Clash City Tattoo, opening today in the East Village. He had hoped to open last weekend, on the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death (“I was going to do Elvis tattoos for cheap,” he told us), but it took a little longer than expected to finish up the interior.
Baz, formerly of New York Hardcore Tattoo on Stanton Street, has made a name for himself, with clients like Muse band member Chris Wolstenholme and model-actor Tyson Beckford. He says he even chatted with Robin Williams once (the late comic didn’t end up getting tattooed) and was offered a role on NY Ink (he’s happy he didn’t join the show, since one of his friends ended up being its token bad guy).
Baz has pretty much seen it all. The strangest tattoo he’s ever given? A single matching freckle on the shoulders of friends visiting from Sweden. The worst idea he’s ever heard (which he refused to do)? A man once requested a Heath Ledger-style Joker tat around his mouth. Baz told the guy that even if he never had to get a job he’d still be ruining his life.
Of course, times have changed since Baz was a kid growing up in Liverpool, England, in the 1960s. “When I was first getting tattoos it was a pretty antisocial thing to do. Now it’s almost an invitation for people to approach you, whereas in the old days it was like a warning,” he said. These days, soccer moms are coming from Long Island to get matching dolphin tattoos. “And it means so much to them, and it’s fantastic, but it’s a different mindset,” he said.
Baz grew up as one of five siblings, whom his mother raised mostly on her own. He says his mom always encouraged him to be artistic; she may have given him the silent treatment for the rest of the day when she saw his first tattoo at age 18, but 25 years later she got her own first tattoo, a scorpion Baz tattooed on her shoulder. “I told her, ‘You realize everyone is going to think you’re a Scorpio,’ and she said, ‘That’s okay, I just like scorpions.’” He laughed and admitted that she may have also wanted to shock his brothers and sisters a little.
His mother kept two framed Salvador Dali prints on the walls, and as a kid the surreal imagery captured Baz’s imagination. “If you saw the circumstances we lived in you would never think these people knew anything about art, and yet she loved Dali,” Baz recalled. He says his success is largely due to her supportive nature. “Of course, going into my teenage years I was into punk rock, but she used to dye my hair for me. If I wanted pink hair or arrows shaved in my head, she would do it for me,” he said. It was tough growing up in the late ’70s and ’80s in Liverpool. “I was getting beaten up all the time. It was a weird time, to be honest, but it made me stronger,” he said.
Baz did design work, magazine layout, and eventually started doing “real art” on canvases. He showed his retro movie poster-style paintings in galleries all over the world until a tattoo artist saw his artwork and asked him to come work for her as an apprentice. He and his wife settled in New York City in 1997, and he had been working at New York Hardcore Tattoo for six years when it changed ownership and he decided to branch out on his own. He’s looking to hire several more artists and in the meantime plans to bring in guests artists from his network of tattooist friends.
Clash City Tattoo, 273 East 10th Street. Open noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, Monday by appointment only. 917-770-7555.