Haley Mills: When did you get your first tattoo?
Tony Kost: I got my first tattoo when I was 18 in Oxford, Ohio at the tattoo shop on the Miami University campus, by the owner, who was a big old biker dude named Panama Red. It’s a big circle of Japanese kanji on my back. I still have it. I’m going to get it covered up at some point. I want to do a big huge back piece with Oscar, Zeus and Abel (his dogs) fighting a big dragon, or some sort of magical beast.
HM: What possessed you to get tattooed then?
TK: Growing up I always admired heavily tattooed people and always wanted to have tattoos myself.
HM: When did you get the next tattoo after that one? Did you just immediately start?
TK: No, I actually had a huge lapse in tattooing. It’s kind of weird considering how heavily tattooed I am now. I got my first tattoo when I was eighteen, and then I didn’t get tattooed again until I was twenty-six. And then not again until I was 33. I didn’t start to get heavily tattooed until after I got sober.
HM: How do you choose where to go or what to get?
TK: Honestly, for me idea’s just pop into my head. I’ll see a drawing, a piece of art, and think, “boy, that would be a cool tattoo idea!” I get most of my tattoos at Black Metal Tattoo in Strongsville by the ever talented Chad Lenjer. But I also like to travel occasionally for tattoos as well.
HM: What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to get a tattoo?
TK: Right now, Virginia. I’ll actually be taking a trip to Dallas in December with my girlfriend to get tattooed. It’s the first woman I’m getting tattooed by, Her name is Jay Joree and works at a shop called Third Eye Gallery. She’s doing my whole lower left arm and my other hand.
HM: What is your favorite tattoo?
TK: That’s rough. A lot of my tattoos have a lot of meaning one way or the other. I think my favorite tattoo is probably my neck or my hand, both of which are tattoos I got from my sobriety. Every year for my sobriety anniversary I get a tattoo. So, the first year was a big wolf on my stomach, the second year was my hand and the third year, which was September 5th, I just got my neck done. It’s a kestrel which is a little raptor-type bird in a suit of armor. The bird represents my sobriety and the armor is protecting it.
HM: How did you come up with that?
TK: When I was thinking about what I wanted to get for my three-years of sobriety I knew I wanted to get something on my neck and ever more important then that I wanted it to make a statement. I always thought birds looked rad as neck tattoos, so I started looking up different birds online. Then actually, my buddy Kyle, who’s a regular at Terrestrial and who’s become a pretty good pal of mine said I should look up a Kestrel and when I saw how amazing these birds are, I sent some pictures to Chad and told him, “Hey, I want this bird in a suit of armor with its wings open.” Ta-da! Here it is now.
HM: How long did that take?
TK: It was about two hours, which is really quick. Chad’s been tattooing for a long time, and I know he knew it was going to be very painful, so, without sacrificing the quality of it, he just tried to move along. I will say, by far, it’s the most painful tattoo I’ve gotten. Not my throat, not the actual neck, but the lower part of my head was just awful. My poor girlfriend Lesley’s been there through pretty much all my tattoos, whether it’s holding my hand or sitting there consoling me.
HM: What advice do you have for someone that is looking to get tattooed?
TL: As I said earlier, I think that whether you’re just getting something because you want to go out and get a tattoo, or you’re doing it to mark a monumentally influential occasion or something in your life, do a little bit of planning. Look into an artist. Go on Instagram, go on something and find an artist locally or abroad that suits your style, because there’s no downside. The only thing that’s going to benefit you is a good tattoo by someone you want to get tattooed by. Walking into a shop like in the old days is totally cool, and I applaud people that just walk in and get one. I think that’s cool. It’s your body, do whatever you like. But, at the same time, why not look into it a little more? It is on your body for the rest of your life and you can still be really sporadic about it. You can still be lighthearted and whatever, but just at least find an artist that you like. Even locally, for Clevelanders, there are so many amazing shops in the city. There’s Black Metal Tattoo, Tattoo Faction, Voodoo Monkey, Kollective to name a couple that I really like. And there are so many more classic tattoo shops that have been around forever, and people don’t really realize how lucky they are in Cleveland because of how many great tattoo artists there are. There are so many. So, I’d say take advantage of it. Look into it a little bit.