Interview with Ben Kaye

Interview with Ben Kaye

Hi Ben, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to interview you.

Thank you very much for the opportunity.

Were you studying anything or working before you were set on becoming a tattooer?

I was a baker for a number of years, I also went to art college but not in a conventional sense. I did a lot of art in high school but did a lot outside of school too.

Have you always had an artistic background?

No, I just doodled a lot and I was always the kid that was doodling in class. I would always draw on my hands. When I left school I definitely missed that artistic outlet.

What was your first experience in the tattoo world like?

My first experience was my first tattoo which I got from a very old school tattooist. You couldn’t just walk in, there was a note on the door saying “Ring this number and I’ll get back to you” with a number listed below. When I went in, there was an old Harley sitting in the shop and you could smoke, listen to rad music and art was everywhere. It was just insanely cool. I left with a lot of questions and I was sort of just hooked.

I’m a huge fan of your work and have read a lot about you from your website, the start of your journey to become a tattoo artist certainly wasn’t easy – could you explain to our readers about your trials and tribulations in your pursuit in becoming a tattoo artist?

Yeah it was very difficult. I applied for a lot of jobs, didn’t get any of them. Thinking back I was just going about it all the wrong way so it took a long time to get anywhere and I eventually had to leave England to get the opportunity to become a Tattoo Artist, so I ended up doing a short apprenticeship in Malaysia. Being abroad with no money and being away from my family and friends was hard on its own but the apprenticeship that I ended up with itself was a really difficult way of doing it. The culture shock was also quite dramatic.

Throughout your travels, you must have saw many vast differences in the tattoo culture and life in general. Did you ever have trouble adjusting to the way of life in so many country’s?

That’s an interesting question. I think tattoo culture is really universal, especially with social media and the whole TV thing. Some of the more traditional aspects of tattooing are quite closed off to outsiders I think so I wasn’t privy to a lot of that.

Cultures are always interesting, it’s what makes me want to travel. I think it’s quite easy to adapt as a single guy travelling on your own. And eventually with moving to so many countries, setting yourself up gets really easy, you know what you’re doing. It’s only really scary the first time.

Do you ever miss back home in the UK?

No. I used to miss raspberries, but then I realised that you can get raspberries anywhere.

So out of all the country’s you have been, what made New Zealand be the perfect place to ‘settle down’?

New Zealand..well they speak English for a start, that’s always a bonus! People are great in New Zealand, I really like the people, they’re real laid back, sort of chill. The lifestyle is really nice here. People are open minded, very liberal. It’s a beautiful country. And in case of any kind of nuclear war, we’re really in the perfect place.

You work at easily my favourite tattoo studio on earth. There is so much talent under one roof! What is it like working with so many top artists, do you tend to compete against each other?

It’s funny, people say this and “imagine what it must be like to work there” – we’re all just a bunch of losers. We rip on each other, there’s a lot of banter and multiple photos of Nicolas Cage in various scenarios in the bathroom. We’re just geeks that love to do tatts.

I don’t think there’s any competition when you admire somebody and you’re friends with them. We definitely don’t compete, we all have different styles and work differently. We all help each other out. I think the family vibe in a studio is very important.

Your work is just utterly amazing. How do you see your style evolving in 10 years?

10 years is a long time man! Like in the next 6 months I have some things I want to do, I want to play with colour a lot more, I want to do more neon. I want to do some more monochromatic pieces and steer away from classic realism and do something I find personally creative.

What has been the hardest moment in your career thus far, and what has been your favourite?

The hardest has been Trying to think 10 years ahead!

Haha!

One of my favourites would have had to have been tattooing my stepdad. So now I’m not the only tattooed person in the family.

What was the best advice you were ever given?

When I was 15 I did this horrible, stupid teenager, inner city, rap project. I wasn’t into it at all, it was really really shit and one of the guys was trying to convince me to actually get involved and I was playing around with a bit of blue tac and i made it into a flower and we got into a debate over whether or not it was art and he said “anything you make is art”. Not exactly mind blowing but it stuck. It definitely changed the way I thought about art.

Do you have any favourite pieces that you have done so far?

I really like the octopus that I did. In truth, my favourite piece is always the next one.

Do you have any favourite Tattoo Artists?

Boris man, that shit blows my mind. I like the way he thinks. He’s always doing something new which is hard to do in a job which is often repetitive.

Who are your biggest inspirations?

My amazing partner and one and a half children are a big inspiration for me. Especially my partner, for dealing with my shit.
Jason and Matt who I work with are inspiring, the amount of effort they put in, it pushes you to be more than you thought you could be.

Do you have any goals or challenges?

I’d like to own my own studio one day, I’d like to do more travel. Within tattooing, there are loads of people I’d really like to meet, people I admire and respect. I’ve got a guest spot coming up at The Black Mark so that will be good I’ll get to meet some of the artists work which I admire.

Time is a big challenge for me. I have a 2 year old daughter and my partner is pregnant again with our second. I am so busy with work and designs that sometimes it’s a challenge finding enough time to spend with my family.

Congratulations on your second baby on the way dude! And as I always like to end it, How would someone go about trying to get a tattoo from yourself? (i.e. ME)

Email me Tim. Lets get it rocking and rolling. benkayetattoos@gmail.com 😉

Will do brother! Thank you very much again 🙂

 

About Tim

I'm a UK based staff writer for Tattoo-Map and an avid tattoo enthusiast with a penchant for realism...and skulls, because everyone loves skulls.