"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."
The Leu Family's Family Iron, Lausanne, Switzerland
Second-generation tattoo artist Filip Leu carries on the family tradition, which he learned from his parents at age 11 while they were living in India. Before settling in Switzerland, Paris-born Filip studied with tattoo artists in Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, and elsewhere, culminating with a residency at Ed Hardy's Realistic Tattoo Studio. Leu, an advocate of tattooing as fine art, specializes in elaborate Japanese body suits. "He's one of the best in the world," says Miller. "His essence just breathes tattoos. I've been tattooed by him, and that was an awesome experience." [The Leu Family's Family Iron, Lausanne, Switzerland; Rue de L'Observatoire 1, 1450 Ste.-Croix, Switzerland]
Credit: Courtesy of The Leu Family's Family Iron, Lausanne, Switzerland