Andrew McLeod of ‘Chapel Tattoo’

Words and Photography: Cory White

So unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will have noticed the ongoing renaissance of tattoo culture in today’s social order. Gone is the mystique and child like intrigue that most of us had when we caught a glimpse of uncle Barry’s faded anchor or swallow tattoo at the family BBQ.  Nowadays it’s more than likely that on a lifestyle cable channel some media savvy tattoo shop is whoring itself out, closely followed by a home renovators feature. It’s pretty safe to say that having tattoos is now main stream.  Hell even Ive lost half an arm to ‘em  which is commonplace these days.

That being said, it is important to recognise the people who continue to create demand for their tattoo art in an oversaturated market. Cue, Andrew McLeod: co-founder of Chapel Tattoo and very much a gentleman.  I stopped by Andrew’s peaceful mid century pad in the hills just outside of Melbourne for some great chatter and a cuppa’ tea. If it wasn’t for the weather we could have been in Palm Springs. He plays a mean slide guitar too. If you are looking to be tattooed by Andrew expect a lengthy wait. He’s a good man and his art speaks for itself, which explains the high demand. Read on and enjoy!

First up let’s hear the nicknames: Never had a nickname.

Years as a tattoo artist? 18 years.

Have you always tattooed in traditional style? No, but I’ve always had an affinity for it and from the first time i did one (traditional tattoo) I knew that’s what I wanted to focus on. But having said that I feel its important to be able to tattoo in different styles.

Coffee of choice? Latte from Dukes.

What inspired you to become a tattoo artist? Seeing stuff in American tattoo magazines in the early 90’s with Guy Aitchison, Freddy Corbin, Eddy Deutsche etc.

Do you have children or pets? Both. A daughter named Violet. And two dogs: Inky and Vance.

Three movies everyone should see before they die? Easy Rider, Beyond the valley of the dolls and Ghostworld.

How important is having passion in your chosen career? Very

Desert or Ocean? Ocean I guess, but I am partial to cactus.

Have reality TV shows commodified the art of tattooing? Yes, I’m not a fan but it has been good for business. They have completely killed all the “mystery” from tattooing though.

What elements make a great tattoo? Outlines, simple colors and a skull or rose in there somewhere.

Messy or organised? Messy.

You play guitar very well, including lap steel and slide; would you trade tattooing for a career in music? Never.

Describe the current state of tattooing in Australia: Really good. Check out Bugsy’s “Done with electricity”, there’s also a heap of crap out there too but that’s always been the way.

What’s your worst habit? Potato chips.

Does the permanence of your art form ever stress you out? Only when i think about some of the stuff I did in the first couple of years of tattooing.

Favorite food to cook? Green mango

What album gets high circulation in the tattoo shop? Black Lips- Arabia mountain.

Has a book ever changed your life? Not really with regards to a novel but those ‘Tattootime’ books and some early tattoo magazines inspired me to change career.

Do you find your home and work space affect your creativity? At home I can’t really draw when my daughters running around and playing and stuff. So I usually wait until she’s gone to bed or she’s at school to draw or paint. At work I’m around people who inspire me everyday. Although I do most of my drawing at home because its quieter and there’s less distractions.

Dream location to reside? Palm Springs, USA.

Where would we find you at 11pm on a Friday night? At home probably doing my drawings for Saturday.

What local Australian tattoo artists have given you inspiration? Matt Cunnington, Trevor McStay, Jane Laver, Jakob Morley amongst others.

Two or four wheels? Four,  but lately I’ve been more interested in two.

What does it take to become an apprentice these days? Drawing, getting tattooed, to work hard and be willing to tattoo all different types of subject matter. Not just traditional stuff. Hanging around tattoo shops and luck.

First thing you think about when you wake up? Tea.

Best piece of advice you have ever been given? Don’t bag out other tattooists, as it’s a small world and it’ll end up biting you on the ass.

Can you judge a person by their tattoos? There are plenty of dickheads with cool tattoos and plenty of cool people with shit tattoos. And visa versa.

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