I‘m on the phone with Traphouse and it’s like meeting Batman.
He’s somewhere around me, he can see me but I can’t see him. He decides to show himself, I’m excited.I’ll finally see the face behind the mask of one of the biggest English tattoo artists active today, former drug dealer, born and raised in the dark and nasty streets of London. But I swear to Odin his face was blurred, I couldn’t focus on it, I can’t remember any of him. Anyway, we go somewhere to drink something. On the way, I ask him if he has his tools with him, he asks me in return if I want a tattoo. I tell him, no, but thanks, let’s do this interview first. We sit, we drink, I ask, he answers. He talks. A lot. Jumping from a subject to the next without a breath. I Wonder why he’s not a politician yet. I’ll find it out soon.
How was Traphouse born? And why?
Traphouse was born using the same formula as drug dealing since they were both running hand in hand at the beginning. I used to sponsor my Instagram through drug customers. Bag in one hand, visit card in the other. I used trap houses (hotel rooms mainly) for my tattoo sessions and moved around. When I wasn’t tattooing, I was drawing. I went to sleep just a handful of times in that period, stopped only to eat, charge myself and do it all again. This was for a while. Then, I moved to a shop to prove myself…
Wait a minute. You didn’t tell me why.
Why? Because losing people makes you think about what you’re doing with your life. You only get it once, you don’t want to waste it. I understood I had to do something I enjoyed all the time. I’ve been covered in tattoos since I was a kid, I’ve always liked tattoos, but I’ve never had a connection with the tattoo scene, not even today. Traphouse is a different thing, everything about is different. Only the actual action of putting a needle under your skin is the same.
Because, as you once said, you’re a tattooer, not a tattooist, aren’t you?
Well, I used to say “tattooing is working class straight” and tattooer it’s true to my roots, but I don’t want to categorise myself as one thing only. I created something that is supported by the people, without people they would have still been drawings. And the reason why people support me it’s because I’m more like them, they can relate to me. Why should I listen to a rapper who sings about big cars and big cash?
So, you don’t think your success is related to your cheap prices?
Traphouse was born because people wanted it even before it existed and, as soon as it was available, they jumped on it. People feel a familiar connection to what I do. The industry restricts the artists inside a box. You can come to me instead and we can do whatever we want because I’m free, art should always be free. They’ve never seen it before, they know it’s original, but they still love it and they’re going to love it their whole lives.
A familiar connection is honesty, transparency. Instagram is a window into everything I do. Everything. You can’t lie in 2017. I don’t lie and people trust me. The more the transparency, the more the dangers of course, but the message and the act become stronger and stronger. The way mainstream tattooist use Instagram instead is sick. They can’t advertise their crazy prices and they don’t even try to create a connection with their customers. And when you meet them, they might even be huge assholes.
Being nice is a key in this job. Life is about good vibes and good energies. I found it out since the drug dealing. If you’re nice, people stick with you.
Why hiding behind a mask so?
He skipped this one. Fair enough.
Ok, let’s step back. Why work at a shop after hotels?
To prove to myself I can do what they do better than they do it because there were a lot of people talking shit at the time (more than now at least). I wasn’t seen in a good way because people had never seen those kinds of things done that way, I mean people have seen good tattoos in shops, not in hotels.
The truth is there’s a general lack in the industry. I had a shop trying to force me drawing bigger things and wage massive excesses to make more money. Another one complaining because he couldn’t charge £500 for a tattoo when I do the same for less than a quarter of his price. I do eight to ten people per day, seven days per week, no days off. And I treat all of them well, I make a connection with every single customer, they’re all my friends. That’s why I have more than 1000 friends I tattooed since I started.
In 2016, there wasn’t a single tattooist who tattooed more than me. I’ve been seen as a professional since then… But, as I said, it’s always about good vibes. Even if this is a business, you don’t need to run it as a business. As a matter of fact, the few shops where I tattoo in nowadays are owned by good guys who aren’t selfish or greedy.
Do you think someone is going to follow the path you opened?
A lot of people is copying me and this makes me smile. But, yes, someone is following me, even if in different worlds, in clothing for example. It’s always the same story: when you start from the bottom and you work hard to reach the top, people like it and are always inspired.
Is this just a phase? Do you think you’re going to stop being Traphouse?
I’ll stop when I die.
Will Traphouse die a tattooer?
Well, the most consistent thing in my life is grime. I’ve always listened to it and I describe what I do as grime itself. So, well, music it’s the most obvious thing you might think about, but there’s a right time for anything. I’m very excited, that’s all I’m going to tell you.
What are your plans for your second year?
I can show it better than I can say it.