"Every tattoo tells a story," begins the trailer for 'Tattoo Nation,' a new documentary on the cultural transformation of tattoo art that opened across the country in March. The narrator's voice belongs to Corey Miller, who has more than a few stories of his own. As the goateed proprietor of the Southern California tattoo parlor Six Feet Under, he became a nationally recognized face of the art form as one of the featured cast members of the reality TV series 'L.A. Ink.'
Miller, who has tattooed Metallica's James Hetfield and major leaguer Jason Giambi, among other notably inked celebrities, first got the bug when he began hanging around a long-gone parlor called Franco's as a teenager. According to Miller, Franco was "a 360-pound Sicilian with gold teeth, a Mohawk, and a .357 Magnum slung in a shoulder harness," but he sold the kid his first tattoo machine when the shop closed down.
Miller, who is now partnering with Bell motorcycle helmets on its Go Rogue campaign, tells 'Men's Journal' he's partial to the old-school tattoo guys and the shops that nurtured him. But even as he picks a handful of his favorite places to get tattooed, he emphasizes that he loves the field in all its variations: "I even like shitty tattoos," he says. "It is what it is."
Blackheart Tattoo, San Francisco
A relatively new shop, opened in San Francisco's Mission District in 2004, Blackheart boasts a Murderer's Row of talent, with over 60 years of combined experience. They'll freestyle just about anything a customer can suggest, often with a surreal comix or classic biker style. Miller says he's got to give props to his buddy Juan Puente, but he makes it clear he's an admirer of the whole staff, including Tim Lehi, Scott Sylvia, and Jeff Rassier. [Blackheart Tattoo; 177 Valencia St., San Francisco].
Credit: Courtesy of Blackheart Tattoo, San Francisco