We pitted Phil Kyle and Lou Hopper against one another in the latest instalment of our Whatsapp off interviews! They spoke about their apprenticeships and how they got into the trade, their appearances on TV shows Londonink and Tattoo Fixers, and getting back to what it’s all about – having a good time tattooing. We started off asking them about the early days, where it all started out…
Phil Kyle: Ah the scrubbing toilet days
Lou Hopper: I remember those…
Phil Kyle: An apprenticeship actually teaches you a lot about climbing that ladder, about respect etc. You can never be too proud to scrub someone else’s shits stains… Because you do that the rest of your life anyway. My first actual job was scrubbing toilets in a Woolworth for 3$ an hour I was like 15, so I had experience…
Lou Hopper: It does teach you a lot; I had a traditional apprenticeship (if there’s any such thing) dogs body stuff. I wanted to tattoo so badly, I didn’t care about cleaning floor or toilets. I’d been a zookeeper before that, so I was used to being elbow deep in shit. I would have done just about anything to learn to tattoo.
Phil Kyle: Exactly, earning it. I had to do shit like spread gravel around my boss’ pool, really like karate kid style. But hey I stuck it out, they saw it and respected me for it so then to the next level; learn how to talk to clients as there are a million questions, drawing all the time, watching people tattoo, lots of hard work, and if you aren’t a lazy bastard you can get to do a lot of cool stuff. Build needles, tinker on machines, try to build some – lots of early mornings and late nights.
Lou Hopper: Fore sure man, people still always ask me, how long was your apprenticeship? I still kind of find it a weird question, as you never really stop learning, like there isn’t a cut off point where you just know everything & now it’s OK to tattoo people. There’s so much more to tattooing than can be taught in a technical sense. You’re right, it takes a lot to work with people everyday and to figure out what your clients want. There’s history to everything you learn, and you’re constantly trying to develop. It can still be tough now, I think now I probably put even more pressure on myself, what I expect from myself. It’s scary how little I really knew when I look back at the first few years…
Phil Kyle: Agreed. Every tattoo is a new experience even now. Never stop learning. When people think they know it all they never progress.
Lou Hopper: How did you find dealing with the attention after you did the show Phil? And are you glad you did it? (Phil featured on “Miami Ink’ spin off ‘London Ink’ and Lou Hopper featured on Tattoo Fixers)
Phil Kyle: Well I mean it can be strange at times depending on the people really
Lou Hopper: Yep, crazy people don’t know they’re crazy, they just come at you anyway. Do you still have people bring it up a lot & would you do it again?
Phil Kyle: I am glad I did it though. It was a great experience and I also from that learned a lot. I got to work with a good bunch of people and had a lot of fun. I would be kicking myself now if I hadn’t done it. I got to represent what I live to do; tattooing, and I always want to give back to tattooing what it’s given to me. I wanted to just do my thing and be myself and make tattoos.
I do get people that still bring it up a lot. As it still comes on every so often. Was just on in France in February, so it’s still going. How about you? Did you feel on the spot the first filming days? The pressure can be good in that aspect.
Lou Hopper: Honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about my experience. I feel like it didn’t really have anything to do with tattooing, more of a misrepresentation really. I guess they where both very different shows. I never really felt uncomfortable in front of the camera, that never bothered me, I guess I just knew what to do. There where a lot of other things that bothered me though, I guess that’s why I quit. What about you, did you get nervous around the cameras?
Phil Kyle: I didn’t get nervous really but they are so close to you sometimes when you are tattooing. Then you just get used to it. When I did the show there weren’t a whole lot of tattoo type shows yet so was still pretty new-ish. I had a great time working with Louis Nikole and Dan, it was just natural, no scripts etc. Just like everyday banter and jokes and tattooing, but with cameras, haha. Was an experience – roll the dice you never know what’s going to happen. I’d been tattooing for 15 years around that point already, so was pretty busy before; I had been doing conventions all over the place in USA and Europe, and was signing the lease on magnum opus the same 1st day of filming. Lots of adventure.
Lou Hopper: That’s kind of what I was expecting, I thought it’d be more of a real life situation but I didn’t even meet everyone until the night before we started filming. I’ve got to admit, I don’t even watch tattoo TV shows, I haven’t even seen a full episode of mine.
Lou Hopper: How’s the new studio going? It looks like you guys are right booked up now!
Phil Kyle: Yeah good and busy in France too. Mental really, opened and not stopped tattooing since July. Stoked. Luckily I opened here I would have lost my fucking mind sitting on the couch all day, eating chocolate or something. [Phil recently fell and broke his knee cap in several places]
Lou Hopper: Or watching all the Eddie Murphy movies! I was gonna start a Tarentino marathon as it’s his birthday this weekend (I AM GEEK)
Phil Kyle: Ooooooh great idea. Start with reservoir dogs, old favourite. But now I’m part animal part machine… The latest X-ray. Heavy metal.
Lou Hopper: Damn man, I can’t believe you did this to yourself in one trip! Actually I can…
Phil Kyle: I so fell hard like getting hit by a car. It was a new experience never broke any bones before.
Lou Hopper: Shit man, I’ve never broken my leg or knee, my arm was bad enough. What have you got planned tattoo wise when you get back to Brighton?
Phil Kyle: I’ve got some fun pieces lined up. Need to do my December appointments! Knee fucked my agenda. So do you have some projects in mind? We talked about doing some independent filming at the shop that’s going to be fun.
Lou Hopper: Yeah, it’d be cool to do some stuff just for fun.
Phil Kyle: I’m thinking about a beard oil that heals tattoos as well… Haha not really.
Lou Hopper: Hahah. Coconut oil dude, it’s for everything
Phil Kyle: But I’d like to do some more art shows at the shop, and some more work with sea shepherd and the Samaritans
Lou Hopper: Yeah that’d be great. I’m gutted I missed the last one while I was working in London.
Phil Kyle: I think we can arrange it, do some of our classic Halloween tattoos, those things are always fun.
Lou Hopper: I love Halloween horror tattoos! Iv always wanted to do a godzilla to, but no one’s ever asked, I’ll just have to paint it up instead…
Phil Kyle: Godzilla!! I’m sure plenty ideas will come to mind for some great projects. And I’d like to organise some more gigs, just about having a good time tattooing.
Lou Hopper: Yes! Cool, I’d like to get the filming to cover all of this stuff to, music, skate, tattoo, art, all of it, there’s so much going on here.
Phil Kyle: Excellent it’s all the things we like. So why not. It’s what me and my bro Oliver of sea bastard do with black reaper records. We put out music we like. We’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of great sponsors and charities at magnum opus and will continue to do so. Peter and the test tube babies played in the shop. Epic night. More fun to be had for sure. Been some great times in there. Can’t wait to bring in a new wave of projects and events.
Lou Hopper: I can’t wait to get stuck in to! The moves given me some spare time back & I’m feeling pretty good about this year! Getting the love back.
Phil Kyle and Lou Hopper will be tattooing at the 9th Edition of the Brighton Tattoo Convention, which takes place on April 30th – 1st May 2016. You can check out the full line up of artists here. Tickets are priced at £40 for the weekend or £25 per day. Join us for a weekend packed full of 300 world class tattoo artists, scores of hand picked independent lifestyle traders and awesome events and entertainment. Tickets are available here from our partner Skiddle.com.