Tattoo Tales: Brian Anderson
When clothing company 4-Star coined the phrase "street pirate," Brian Anderson was probably the inspiration. At over six feet tall and covered in a smattering of vintage tattoos, he looks the part. With Anderson's respect of tradition and reverence for classics there's a timeless quality to his collection of tattoos.
Anderson's first tattoo was a test run, he explains, "This cross on my ankle that me and my friends did, is what people now call "stick and poke". We got it there, so we could hide it from our parents, at age 15 or so."
Stoked on the results of the cross, Anderson got the itch, reported by many people who get inked and then can't stop. Within a few weeks, Anderson and his friends started on his other ankle. Anderson rolled down his sock revealing sketchy lettering, which says The End. Chuckling he told the story, "The End was going to say The Clash and my friends and I did it while we watched Saturday Night Live. I thought, 'What if I don't like The Clash when I'm 40?' So we did 'The' first and the next weekend I said, 'Let's just write The End.' But I still love The Clash, so I wish I wrote The Clash, but I'm really happy that it says The End."
Anderson quickly got another tattoo, this time on his shoulder, and his art teacher even gave his friends credit for their work. Working his way down the same arm, Anderson got the first of his many commemorative skate tattoos. "I got the bird off a book of matches from being on tour in Europe the first time I went there. Going to all those contests and stuff, it was a cool memory to take a swallow from a book of matches and I got that done in Connecticut."
Skateboarders get their tattoos like sailors used to, in different ports and to commemorate a successful mission or particularly memorable conquest. For Anderson the partnership between his sponsor Girl Skateboards and notorious San Francisco based Anti-Hero Skateboards has been worthy of marking. Pointing to a cross on his forearm, "This one Sam Smyth (Girl Skateboards Team Manager) and I drew this up. Anderson broke down the codes, "187 Skater, because I am fortunate enough to have gone on tour with Anti-Hero, and their initials in the alphabet for AH are one eight, so together Girl, the G is a seven, so all together we're one eight seven. So I'm a 187 Skater, I'm down with both of them. Also Sam wrote over it, "Good talk. Nice Life", which was written in an old Anti-Hero ad and I thought, 'That's just perfect to me.' I purposely went to a really bad tattoo artist in Tampa. He had the shaved hair on the sides, and a ponytail and a Korn shirt, and I was like, 'Dude I want YOU to do this.' He did it really badly, which is perfect."
Anderson points to his 4-Star logo tattoo, "I had this star for a long time and then Donny Barley also got the same star on his wrist, because we're good friends. Then later on at (Skatepark of) Tampa, where everyone does tattoos in the parking lot, I added the 4 because I love 4-Star for the rest of my life, so I made it say 4-Star."
"So under my armpit, that's good story," Anderson said, smiling as he recalled, "It says Girl Anti-Hero together, but first I got the Girl logo because we were at Tampa Pro and Rick Howard walked by Jeremy Rogers and Jeremy Rogers was about to get a tattoo and Rick was like, 'Why don't you get that Girl one?' I don't know if you want to put this in the interview, but Jeremy said something hella foul, like, 'Why don't you show me my numbers on my check,' or whatever and he didn't get a tattoo. So I heard that and they were like, "He might be off the team." So I went straight to the tattoo artist and was like, "I'm getting a Girl tattoo." And I went and showed it to Rick like, "Dude down for life, forever." The next year after we did our Girl Anti-Hero skateboard tour I added the letters, which really hurt." Looking at his arm, pointing he said, "I got Chocolate the next year after Girl Anti-Hero in the parking lot of Tampa Pro."
An artist himself, Anderson's tour backpack always contains a sketchbook and markers. "Keith Haring inspired me when I was a kid, because when I read interviews with him, he thought that things should be drawn on a wall like cave paintings so people from any generation could understand what was going on. I think it's true, even if you can't read you can see movement and I think that's so important. He inspired a lot of the way I like to draw."
Although he currently lives in New York, Anderson took a ten year round trip from the East Coast to San Francisco and wanted to celebrate that era in his life. "Just recently in Florida I got San Francisco, Sam Smyth drew that on me. It's actually a SF Seals logo, it's not Giants because the F sits lower, but I always wanted an SF tattoo. SF Seals is an old baseball team and they used to play at Potrero Center, there was a stadium where now there's a Safeway."
Moving onto the patchwork that makes up Anderson's chest, he's got Trunk Boys tattooed over his heart. "Trunk boys is this weird name we came up with when we were on tour in Central America and it means you spend your life in the back of a van on tour. It's usually called 'back panel'. So when you're telling stories about being on tour you're like, 'I was in back panel and Ty was going 95 miles an hour.' When you're in the back seat it sucks. Back panel name got turned into The Trunk Boys and it's me, Kenny Anderson, Raven, Elijah, Stevie Perez, Rick McCrank, everybody for that matter. We live our lives in the back of a van. When I got home from that tour I was like, "I'm getting a trunk boys tattoo for us."
With the endorphins kicking in, Anderson wanted to keep going, "So I got SF and Trunk Boys then I texted Brad Staba and I was like, 'I'm in Miami and I need to get one more tattoo at this parlor, what should I get?' And he was like, 'Duh, get a weed leaf.' So we googled it and I got it."
Pulling up the legs of his pants, Anderson showed his calves and told the story, "So for a long time I had this Grim Reaper that Jeff Whitehead did on my leg. I'm so self conscious and vain that I'd be wearing shorts in the summertime and thinking that some old woman would be walking behind me and think I was a bad person, and again with the symmetry like 'How am I going to balance this?' Everyone gets funny tattoos now, so I was like 'I'm gonna do something funny, but related to our lives.' Somehow my brain came up with this idea and I decided to put Alfred E Newman's face on a Mark Gonzales drawing. I think it balances them out nicely and Mark laughed his ass off."