interview with tattoo artist Mads Hansen

    Hello Mads Hansen! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. It really means a lot having you here. Please start by telling us something about yourself, how it all started? Well, getting into tattooing was the easy part, I guess. When I was sixteen, I was at the local bar in my hometown of Løgstør, Denmark and was offered to buy one of those shitty suitcases with some cheap china machines and shitty colors. So I bought it, and I got a great deal on it, like 1600.- DKK (230$). It had all I needed to start tattooing. So I did, that very same night at a friends house party. There were two super cool machines in the suitcase, one where the frame was a dragon! I knew a bit about setting up the machine from when I got my first tattoo done at age 14, when I lived in Spain, and from the tattoo artists on YouTube, of course. I talked my good friend Kristian Tang into getting a Tuborg Beer logo on his right buttcheek, which seemed like a great idea at the time. Later that night I got to do a tiny heart on an asian girls ass. Since that night, I was all about tattooing! I got my "studio" set up in my room, at my moms house and all the local guys started coming to my room for tattoos... Which was awkward, since my mom was downstairs most of the time. Quickly, the little business I had started from my room had grown. I started to invest in better machines, colors, needles and all the other supplies. Soon I had two Micky Scharp machines, Intenze colors (from China) and plastic wrap on almost everything I came in contact with while tattooing. So in my own head I was doing ok, which I can see now that I was not. After a year or so I decided to look for an apprenticeship in the closest big city of Aalborg. But I was turned down from the studios I went in to. So I moved to Copenhagen and quickly found a biker shop that was ready to let me hang around and clean the shop. One day I came to work at the shop and the boss had packed all my stuff and told me that It didn't work out with me. I guess I was too soft for this type of studio. Later after trying a lot of different shops in Copenhagen, I found another apprentice shop in Bad Boys Tattoo, where I'm still working now. So that is pretty much how I got into tattooing, a lot of turndowns!

Q: How long have you been tattooing?
A: I'm 25 years old now, so if you count from when I first did a tattoo, that makes 9 years now. But I prefer to count from when my apprenticeship started in February 2011. The most challenging part was to find and finish my apprenticeship. But I would say, I was very lucky to have mentors that were old school and helped me to shape into a better person and tattooer. One of my mentors used to say that without pressure a diamond is just coal. For me there was no other way to learn tattooing.

Q: Many say that having talent and good drawing skills are crucial for success in this business, do you agree?
A: I guess you need to be able to draw a little or just imagine an image in your head, before you start tattooing. But I think the most important thing is to be dedicated to learning and put every hour in to it. Everything has to come second to tattooing, friends, family, girlfriends. If you are able to put everything in to it, I think it's possible to become a good tattooist. The time before tattooing was mostly drawing little paintings. I tried to get a real education when I finished school. As a construction painter, but that was only something to fall back on if tattooing didn't work out for me. I decided that if I had a safety net, I would go all in. The things I learned in the short time as a painter, I learned a lot that I could use later in tattooing, like color theory and getting a good color combination. After painting I started another education in serigrafi. This tough me how to use Photoshop and other digital ways to work with images. Which has helped me a lot later in tattooing.

Q: You have impressive portfolio, It's like you can do almost any tattoo style. Do you have a favorite?
A: In the beginning I really wanted to find my own style and only do that one thing, but every client wants something different, so I decided to be open for everything. Because it's all tattooing, no matter how easy or hard it may be. I can't really say that I have a favorite style now. Maybe it's because I get bored if I do the same style for more then a week. But if I had to pick one, I would go with new school! This is always super fun to do. Because you still need to know and use the same principles of other styles, like how light works and how it shapes things. But I wouldn't be one of the tattooers who only knows how to make one style, never.

Q: Knowing that you can do many styles, it's like there's something for everyone. Do you draw for each customer?
A: That's always a mystery to me. I never prepare or draw before the appointment. Last minute panic, I guess. Of course, sometimes where I have to do something before the client is in the shop. But most of my tattoos are made on the spot. It gives me peace to not worry about tomorrows client. Back in the day, I would always prepare the tattoo, and put many hours in to it. But after getting to know that most clients change their mind a lot, I stopped preparing. I'm not saying it's the best way to work, but it works for me at this point in my life.

Q: Do you accept refference images?
A: Most the clients I have in the shop come in wanting the same thing as the guy from yesterday, so I have to tell the same story in a new way most of the time. I worked in the sales sector for some time, so I learned to sell another idea to the client. Otherwise I would do the same thing.

Q: Talking about sketches, I think you can make a beautiful collection! Have you ever thought to sell some prints or just do an expo?
A: I wish there was more of that... But the truth is, I'm not so productive. I've had a few drawings on expos and made some prints, sold a few.. But it's not my strong side. I'm way more comfortable with just tattooing and doing stupid drawings that are just for myself. Every time I open my instagram I see all these crazy guys like Jamie Pis, Kenni Puke and others, and they all do so much cool stuff on paper, but there is no way I could be that productive on paper. Not at this time. I hope the time will come soon!

Q: Big projects such as sleeves and back tattoos are always a challenge for the artists, even clients who have to go through the "pain" and many session to finally see the outcome. How long does it take to complete a big piece?
A: It's all different for each client, some takes the pain really easy, and some have very hard time getting through the session. Every tattoo I do, is made to connect with the next one. So if you get a forearm done, you can always come back if you decide to get the full sleeve done. There is always a flow that allows me to build more to the tattoo. I think the fastest sleeve I have done was 3 sessions, so around 18 hours, and it was done in new school black n' gray, 3 days straight. If it was in color it would have been 5-6 session. But most sleeves are 5-6 session. Depending on the style and amount of detail of course... it's really hard to give a precise answer.

Q: WOW, the longest?
A: The longest, is 17 hours. First I did a normal session, but I had a drawing of a honey bear I really wanted to do, so my apprentice jumped in the chair and we finished at 05:30. I felt like I had been partying all night after.

Q: I bet beautiful Denmark is so inspiring for many artists! Stunning architecture and breathtaking landscapes... so much history! How is the Danish tattoo scene, do you see progress?
A: I think it depends on when you got into tattooing. If you are one of the old farts, you have seen the industry go from a shady bars backroom in Nyhavn Copenhagen, to a famous TV show with rockstars getting tattooed by famous tattooists. I was lucky to get in when it all took a turn for the better (in my opinion). A lot of new young tattooers came in and took another perspective on the industry. Machines got easier to use, photoshop became an every day tool and all the young ones who were good, shared their knowledge. So the quality of work and the numbers of styles exploded. More and more people got tattooed and now it's not "special" to be tattooed anymore. So it's for everybody and that is great! Clients from all classes comes into our shops and get tattooed. Not just tribals and Beckham sleeves. So I think we Danes have a very open mind when it comes to tattoos, and it's only going to get better.

Q: Do you go to tattoo conventions, seminars etc?
A: Out of the conventions I've been to, only two have been so cozy and well organized that I come back every year. Aarhus Art Convention and Stockholm Ink Bash. But the best memories I have from a convection was the first one I did with my buddy Kenni Poke, it was a Danish one in Frederikshavn. I have so many good experiences from all conventions, it would be a very long night to write them all now.

Q: Your advice for the new artists?
A: Well... Some of the best tattooers I know and met, all started the same way. With a shitty tattoo kit and some friends who trusted them. Including me. I think once you made a few tattoos on your buddies and you realize that it's not as easy as it looks, most of them will quit and never pick up again. But a few will keep going and even fewer will learn how to do a decent job and get an apprenticeship. But of course getting an apprenticeship is the smartest way if you want to get into it. So if you do it, do it good!