by 3rd Eye Crash   trieye@aol.com
Photos courtesy of Grime

Grime book cover
Grime's   "Two Year Autopsy"   book cover.

This guy needs no introduction. I hate to sound cliché with that, but when you ask almost any top tattoo artist who they think is leading the pack in artistic ability and technical precision, inevitably, the Grimemonster is the name you hear most ... with good reason. Grime's career thus far includes time served with some of the best in the trade including: Adrian Lee and Paco Excel at Newskool tattoo, the illusive Marcus Pacheco formerly of Primal Urge studios in San Francisco, and most recently with the illustrious Don Ed Hardy at Tattoo City, San Francisco.

Alright, man ... you ready?

I haven't thought about anything, but go ahead.

Care to reveal your secret identity?

What's that?

Your name.

Fuck no ... it's none of their business. (laughing)

How'd you get "Grime"?

Well, if you knew my real name, it would be obvious.

Uhhh, I don't know it ... (laughing)

My last name, this kid couldn't read it, he looked at it and was like "what's that say ... Grimey-bean"? (lots of laughter) So there you go.

The secrets out! (laughing) Let's start with a little history. You were doing graffiti before tattooing right? How'd you get into it and when?

I saw Style Wars when I was like 16, and that kind of sparked some of that. But I think I already had natural tendencies towards being a vandal because a few years ago when I went to my home town, I saw a tag that I did and it was dated '84 ... like I dated that shit!! (laughter) It was hot, man. I didn't get a photo, though. I'm gonna try to get a photo when I go home. I hope it's still there 'cause I really need a photo of that one, y'know? I hope it's still there.

(laughing) Right ... and you dated it ...

It's hot, dude. It's so hot ... are you kidding? It's these angular letters like Def Leppard. It's sick. So I guess I was like 12 and spray painting my name on things. That was on some bridge.

Where did you grow up?

Grand Junction, Colorado.

Are you still doing a lot of graffiti work now?

I haven't done as much in the last 6 months as I should, but I still like graffiti a lot. Just having to put my energies in other directions.

But it's still a first love?

Oh yeah.

Grime self-portrait.

Do you have any sort of formal art training?

I took two art classes in college in like 1992, a basic drawing class and a basic color class. That was it. Then I quit.

Really, did you do a lot of art growing up? Or did you come into it at that 12-14 year old age or whatever?

Uhhh ... no. I would say that I was creative, but I wouldn't say that I was a productive artist by any means. I didn't draw a lot or paint or anything.

Man, I'm really surprised at that! Well, what other mediums do you like to work in now?

Uhhhh ... None.

None? Well, what mediums do you work in even though you don't like them?

I don't know ... tattooing is awesome. I like to paint with acrylics and stuff. I like to just ... y'know, it's kind of fun when you just fuck around and you don't have any parameters. When I do other art I like it when it's loose and real personal. Just kinda at the other end of the spectrum from a very refined and necessarily complete composition like tattoos. So, just paints ... doodling, shit like that, simple stuff. I like doing a lot of self-portraits. I like letters a lot. I draw lots of letters, well, I don't draw lots of letters. Let's just say I'm very interested in letters and lettering. What else? I like photography a lot ... I like polaroid photos quite a bit ... and I like to write.

Like that dragon wall painting you sent me. That's amazing! You did that with just house paints?

Yeah. It was so big, I wasn't going to go to the art store and buy a bunch of expensive paints, y'know? I had a bunch of mistints that we got from the paint store for like a buck a gallon, and I had pints of other shit.The only thing that wasn't a mistint was the bronze. I went and bought this bronze and I washed it and I used it for the belly plates. Besides that, it's all house paint. It's all painted with a house paint brush too, accept for the outline, y'know ... out of necessity.

I'm just shocked that you don't have more of an art background.

I don't. I'm not trying to sound cool ...

Like I'm a natural ...

Right, because I'm not. It takes a lot of hard work. I just didn't. You won't go to my house and find my mother going ‘And here's a drawing he did at age five’ ... (laughing). I remember Troy Denning looking through some drawings of my art from the beginning, some old sketchbook, and saying ‘God, I cannot believe how much you've improved! I don't feel as though I've improved at all ... my drawings still look the same as when I first started.’ Thanks,Troy. I was just never a productive artist until I got into graffiti when I was about 19. I didn't have the discipline nor the direction.

And that's really the key, right? Lots of hard work, research and studies.

Throwing your whole life away, trading everything, fun and social skills, for your art.

Tattoos by Grime.

How did you break into tattooing?

This friend of mine was already tattooing for a few years, he was self-taught, Chris Rupp. He was tattooing and I had already been wanting to tattoo for some time, then the time arrived and I knew I just had to fucking do it. And he agreed to help me. He helped me out a lot and basically started me off and taught me how to tattoo.

When did you first get into a shop? Was it with Chris?

We worked at some shop together and it sucked! God, did it suck! We didn't do any tattoos 'cause it was in this crack neighborhood ... we did like three tattoos in a month. There was no one to tattoo there and it was so ridiculous! (laughing) Then the owner was like ‘Hey man, I think I'm gonna start sellin' pipes out of here’ ... and we were like ‘cool,’ then we split! Then my friend Mike Roper, who I met after tattooing for three months, got me a job at another shop and we were just hackin’ people up, y'know?

What was the first shop you worked at that you liked?

Sin City

With who?

Mike Roper, Chris Rupp and Harlan Thompson.

Eventually you ended up at Newskool, right? When was that and how was the experience out there?

April '96. It was great.Those guys are cool as shit.They didn't even fuckin' know me and I rolled into town and it was like super late and Paco hands me the keys and says ‘We'll see you tomorrow. Here's a bed, there's the shower. Later.’ (lots of laughter)

Then where to?

uhhh ... to work with Marcus.

How was that? He was always one of my favorites.

Oh yeah. He's one of the reasons I wanted to tattoo. Back in 1990, I remember seeing his stuff and thinking ‘wow’.

Who else had a big impact on you?

Marcus I think is an obvious one ... Filip, Guy Aitchison and Kari Barba. Those four jump to mind and I remember seeing other stuff, like Timothy and a few more. But it really hyped me onto tattooing and it's possibilities.

When did you start working at Tattoo City?

Last September. Sept. 2001... is that right?

What? Right before the terrorist bullshit?

Yeah ... No! 2000.

How did you land that position?

Ed asked me to work there.

Really. Straight from Primal Urge?

No. I was on the road for a year. I was traveling and I knew when I came back I was going to have to work somewhere, and I didn't know what I was gonna do ... open a little shop or work in my apartment. Then I heard from Whitehead and Lehi, they were like ‘Hey, you should talk to Ed.’ And Ed said he had a spot opening up ... so I uhhhh, I took the job.

That's pretty fuckin' cool!

You ain't kiddin'!

So you're on the road now?

Yeah. I don't for how long. I don't want to do the long road trip thing, I already did that.

I've seen that a lot of your new work is more traditional, either Japanese or American. What got you going to that stuff as opposed to the graffiti work?

Yeah. I guess I just like the way that they look. It's hard not to, y'know? They read so well, they look so nice. A lot of the shit that I did a while ago, I just don't like. I just don't think it reads like I thought it did. You just go for a while and your tastes change. I think that I understand a lot more about art and that it just didn't translate as well as I thought it did at the time. I think it was really much more masturbatory than what I'm doing now, too ... well, I guess it's all masturbatory ... I don't know.

Did working with Ed have anything to do with that do you think? Or was it already leaning that way before going there?

Oh, way before that. I was already going strong on that road before Tattoo City. Strong on the kick ... not that I was strong in it, but I was doing it. But I like all kinds of stuff. I like illustrative quality tattoos, I like flat stuff, I like fancy stuff ... in between and all that.

Grime tattoo.

Well, what's you favorite tattoo imagery right now? What do you really get off tattooing?

There isn't. It's all application, y'know? I can tell you that the tattoos that I'm happiest with are usually the simplest ones.

Are you still doing a lot of the graffiti influenced stuff now?

hhhmmm ... not so much.

Is that a conscious decision or are you just finding the clientele dig all the new imagery you're doing?

I think it's a combination of both, maybe. You think ‘I want to try something new’ and then people come for the something new. It's not so much ‘I'm not doing that’ as it is ‘I want to try that’ then someone comes in and says ‘I want that’ and you're like ‘wow, I wanted to try that!’ I just have good luck with that. I don't know, you're thinkin' it one minute ... and once you're thinkin' it its already in the air, it's done y'know ... it happens I guess, or you make it happen.

Right. I always have an easy time selling the things that I'm into that month.

Yeah ... and at the same time, it brings up one of the things I hate about tattooing, which is that ... ahhh god, it's so hard to say that though 'cause ... I love tattooing so much and in tattooing I find a lot of creativity, but there's such a dearth of creativity in the majority of tattooers and it just makes me sick. But maybe that's just me hating what I'm doing ... I don't know, it's hard to say.

Well, like you said, there's so many biters out there who don't put in their homework.

Yeah, and unfortunately, you can't really get mad at them 'cause they don't have it ... they don't have that other part, y'know? So you can't crucify them for it. They don't have that creative spark. Then you have another whole dilemma. I guess just keep doing what you're doing. I have my own style of stuff, and I have influences, of course, not to mention the whole foundation of history that lies before me ... but whenever I do something I try to make it different, y'know ... I try to add stuff to it. The best part is when you can see when people steal your stuff, I mean, no matter who it's from, but it's easier when it's your stuff 'cause you know what it is, and you see that they didn't do it right because they didn't know why they did it in the first place! That's the best part! I love that ... I love it when they do something and they almost do it right, but you're like ‘ahhh, you don't even know what you're doing, that's why it isn't right!’ (lots of laughter) That's the best part. They thought they did it, but they didn't ... and they didn't know why you did it in the first place! That's why they fail when they don't do their homework.You may know what you're doing, but you don't know why!!

(laughter)...That's the best explanation I ever heard!! Now, along those lines ... who are some of the guys coming up that you think really have it?

Hmmmm. I don't know.

Well, you know what I'm saying ... people that are out there that some tattooers know about, but the general tattoo public hasn't heard of yet?

Underground names ... I only got one: Mike Roper!

Your old friend?

Dude, and this is coming from me, for whatever that's worth, but I'm a snob ... Mike can tattoo circles around like 99% of the tattooers. Fuck, dude ... that guy is insane ... he's the shit! I mean really, when I see it I'm like ‘Oh my God, I've got to get on the fucking ball!’ But he's always been better than me. I don't even know how much of this you should print ...

Oh yeah, back to the question ... you're going on the road soon, right? Where you goin'?

Ahhhh. fuck, I don't know, man, I just got to travel some more now. I try not to plan stuff too much.

Well,West Coast, East Coast?

East Coast, yeah ... I'll drive out to New York and then to Atlanta and Florida and I'll hit spots in between. Then I'll drive back to New York then back to SF. I'll go to Europe probably ... I don't know.

Where will you end up after the road trip?

After all that, I'll be working at AWR, (Art Work Rebels) in SF.

Let's talk about the book. When's it coming out?

Dude, let's not talk about when it's coming out.

(laughter)... Oh shit. Problems?

It is such a headache.

So then it's safe to say that it's coming out sometime this year?

Dude, it better be out in like a month!

Well, what's it about?

It's a masturbatory scrapbook of 1999-2000. Photo journal ... shite!

uhhhh ...

Want one yet? Sound like people would want to buy it?

(Laughing) What's in it? Tattoo photos?

Yeah. Photos of graffiti. Artwork. Photos of travels. Photos for artistic sake. Miscellaneous scraps, receipts and shit ... anything collected on the way that was like somewhat interesting ... that and my journals.

Are you self-publishing?

Yeah, self-publishing.

How many pages, that kind of shit?

128 pages, portrait size 8 1/2" x 11", full color hardback ... 40 bucks.

Where can people get it?

Uhhh ... I don't know. Last Gasp is supposed to carry it. From me. On the website, hopefully ... pay online.

You did the layouts and everything?

Not the layouts. I edited everything and gave it to my friend to do the layouts, which was really easy 'cause I just gave it to him and said ‘do what you want,’ so he was really excited. Vince is his name, he's really cool. Shit, I wish it was done! It would help me soooo much if it were done.

Is it on schedule?

Shit no! I was supposed to have them and be in Philly right now ... fuck!

Grime should have his books by the time he comes blazing through your town, or check out Grime's website for more info and availability and to see his awe-inspiring inkwork, graffiti stuff and paintings. He also posts a regular itinerary so you can keep up with his travel plans.


In the near future you'll catch the Grime at:
Art Work Rebels
1755 Market
San Francisco, CA 94103

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