The Illustrated Musician: Mike Ski Of The A.K.A.s

Who did you tattoo on Warped Tour? How many people?

I don’t know how many total. The first two or three weeks you’re just getting used to being on Warped Tour. I guess I kind of hit my stride about halfway through, doing two or three a day, which is a lot when you’re also doing a show and press and all the daily stuff to promote your set time, loading and unloading the stage truck. It’s pretty brutal.

I ended up meeting, for the first time, Oliver Peck, who is kind of a legendary tattooer that’s been sort of the official Vans Warped Tour tattooer. He’s been traveling with the tour for the past few years and he’s got a really crazy RV that’s like a mobile tattoo shop. I met him early on in the tour and another guy Keith Underwood who’s another awesome famous old school tattooer. Keith was out for part of the tour and I got tattooed from him on the RV and he had seen some of the tattoos I did, so when he was leaving, on behalf of himself and Oliver, that if I wanted to tattoo in there while there was an extra spot I could, which was a really awesome opportunity because then I had a home base for tattooing on Warped Tour. Otherwise, the ‘where’ of tattooing is another daily challenge. Because I’ve tattooed on my own for so long, being around other tattooers who are awesome is a really big inspiration and it’s a chance to be invigorated.

Some of the people I tattooed were the guys from Anti-Flag, Alexisonfire, I did stuff for P.O.S., an awesome band called Therefore I Am that played our stage that are an up and coming kickass band from Boston. Tons. Tons of people. I can’t remember (laughs). It was a long summer.

Do you prefer to tattoo musicians? Is it more fulfilling than say having someone come in off the street? Is that more or less interesting to you?

I wouldn’t say. I’m one of those people where the last thing I want to talk about is bands and music a lot of the time because I’m doing it so much, and I find a lot of other musicians are like that too. When I’m on the road and I’m just playing shows when someone wants to talk about tattoos I get super excited. While I love tattooing other dudes in bands and I get the opportunity to meet a lot of awesome people and cool bands through that process of traveling and being in a band and knowing other bands and the like, some of my best stories that I’ve picked up from tattooing people are people who have jobs that are from a completely different world. About 10 years ago, I used to tattoo this guy who was a repo man, and every time I tattooed him, he had the craziest story. Getting shot at, being left trying to repossess a boat, running down a street with people shooting at him. Not a lot of dudes in bands have that story (laughs).

That question, to make it broader, that’s one of my favorite things about being a tattooer is having that honest forum to learn about people. I’m fascinated by people and what they do, so there’s a sense of honesty that happens when someone’s being tattooed, maybe because they’re in a sort of exposed situation. I really love that. Some people don’t like to talk at all when they get tattooed or when they do tattoos. I get in my zones sometimes, but I love to hear tales of what people like and what they’re into and what they do for a living and their experiences. It’s the same thing with playing music. I love to travel around and meet new people and get reinvigorated.

Earlier in the summer you did a promotion where you tattooed the band’s logo for free all day at Philadelphia Eddie’s. How did that go?

I tried to keep it simple so I could do as many as possible. It was interesting. I showed up at 11 a.m. and there were some people waiting in line, and I’m like totally humbled by that, I think it’s crazy. I wasn’t sure if anyone would show up, so it was really cool. There was a kid who traveled from Rhode Island, traveled like four or five hours to do it. Some people drove from a couple hours away from Pennsylvania.

But the most humorous aspect was that it got picked up by the paper, so it was listed in the Philly Metro that there was free tattoos at Philadelphia Eddie’s, so there was a pretty good amount of bros that just rolled in off the street, like ‘Yeah, I heard there was free tattoos.’ Josie, our keyboard player, had the not-so-glamorous job of fielding everyone. But it was even more bizarre because when people found out it was a band’s logo they didn’t care, they still wanted to get it.

We tried to create a system where people who were actually there for the band who got tattooed. There was one guy who held out for eight hours though, and I ended up tattooing him at the end (laughs). And he got the tattoo on his neck, and he had no idea of the band. It was pretty gnarly.

Animal Summer is available now through Paper & Plastick Records.