"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."
Kings Avenue, New York
Clearly advertised as "professional tattooing," Mike Rubendall's New York City and Long Island shops were launched "kind of from the opposite side of where I came in," says Miller, and he doesn't mean East Coast-West Coast. "He's a very smart businessman. He takes his time to get really good artists. I'm totally impressed with the guy." Rubendall's style emphasizes a mix of irezumi, the traditional Japanese style of tattooing, combined with elements of Chinese and Tibetan tattooing and classic horror motifs. [Kings Avenue, New York; 188 Bowery, Floor 2, New York; 844 N. Broadway, Massapequa, NY.]
Credit: Courtesy of Kings Avenue