Joe ‘JJ’ Jackson of York’s Awake Arise Tattoo Studio talks to about his success in the industry, his bands The Bastard Sons and Fizzy Milk alongside touring with Asking Alexandria and MUCH more.
This week, Dom Smith spoke to Joe ‘JJ’ Jackson, who is a tattoo maestro, vocalist for Bastard Sons and Fizzy Milk, and the finalist for Tattoo Artist of The Year. This interview goes deep into how Joe came into tattooing, his early years, new music, how he defines success and much more.
A lot has happened in the last few months, and JJ has been as busy as ever, “just been grafting and got a couple of different music things going on with a few different local heroes I guess, but yeah, other than that just been getting on with it.” Away from music business is still well at Awake. arise tattoo and piercing shop, after four months they’re back on track, even with the short notice on reopening.
Getting back to music, Fizzy Milk is his main focus at the moment, with creativity brewing within the band, “It’s really good, I just gotta get my shit together and start recording vocals,” he jokes. They do it all in house as well. “We’re basically trying to be self-sufficient without spending loads of money because we’re all nearly 40 years old.”
On the road to tattooing and music, JJ dropped out of a college fine art course he decided to go and work at a Virgin Megastore, after having seen films like High Fidelity. He was fired two months later, as his heart wasn’t in it and his bosses considered him lazy, but this led him to get the money from the time that he worked and buy a tattoo machine for £3000. He didn’t realise there was a business in tattooing and just wanted to do it on his friends. He eventually attended University in Newcastle and completed a graphic design course, but realised that he wanted to do tattooing, which set him on the path he’s on now.
When we move onto success, JJ defines it by setting achievable goals and trying to reach. JJ said by 25 he wanted to open a tattoo studio, as that day came closer he realised that he should do it and figured out everything he needed to do to open it within a few months. “If you set yourself natural goals, I feel that success is probably something that you can achieve, but I think people nowadays gauge success on popularity and money, and things like that, and for me, that’s an unrealistic goal.”
Before lockdown JJ was very close to quitting altogether, he was working six-day weeks, his relationship at the time was coming to an end, and he was also sick of listening to other people’s drama. After lockdown, he realised that he didn’t want to compromise, and for a while, he won’t be doing certain tattoos. He wants people to come for his artistry and not a generic tattoo. This leads into when we ask what sort of coping mechanisms he has for the bad days, “I like to go riding on motorbikes and stuff, it’s just to kinda just separate yourself from anything.” He is also keeping busy with his podcast entitled ‘Not Another Conspiracy Podcast’.
For those who might not know, JJ had a short stint on TV with the short-lived E4 show Tattoo Artist of The Year. He had an enjoyable experience for the most part on the show, there wasn’t much glamour as it involved low pay and staying in a Travelodge, but the people he found pleasant to work with. “All the production, all the crew were absolutely fantastic, it was amazing. The hosts were lovely, it was just great, and I got along with pretty much everybody there.” He worried about what his peers would say at the time, but now he has let go of that.
Check out the full chat, which talks about music, mental health and more, below…
Interview: Dom Smith / Words: Brett Herlingshaw