Time Out with tattoo artist Taka Tamada of Body Electric Tattoo

We sit down with the tattoo artist behind some of LA's choicest neo-traditional Japanese ink
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. LaymanTaka Tamada of Body Electric Tattoo
 (Photograph: Courtesy Taka Tamada)
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Photograph: Courtesy Taka TamadaTattoo by Taka Tamada
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Photograph: Courtesy Taka TamadaTattoo by Taka Tamada
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Photograph: Courtesy Taka TamadaTattoo by Taka Tamada
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Photograph: Courtesy Taka TamadaTattoo by Taka Tamada
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Photograph: Courtesy Taka TamadaTattoo by Taka Tamada
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. LaymanBody Electric Tattoo
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Photograph: Jakob N. LaymanBody Electric Tattoo
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Photograph: Jakob N. LaymanBody Electric Tattoo
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Photograph: Jakob N. LaymanBody Electric Tattoo
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Photograph: Jakob N. LaymanBody Electric Tattoo
By Amanda Montell |
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RECOMMENDED: The 10 best tattoo artists in LA

Time Out: What first got you into tattooing?
Taka Tamada: I started tattooing professionally about 10 years ago. I was always interested in tattoos, and became an avid tattoo collector. Growing up in Japan, as a kid I would draw all over my arms with colored markers, trying to replicate Japanese yakuza tattoos. Soon my friends and classmates started paying me 100 yen (equivalent to about $1 USD) to have me draw intricate tattoo designs on their arms.

Time Out: What was the first tattoo you ever did?
TT: The first tattoo I ever did was on a friend’s arm in my garage. I tattooed his son’s name in script lettering. It was a fairly simple tattoo, but I recall my hand wouldn’t stop shaking from the nerves. To my suprise, it turned out decent, but of course had some shaky lines. I’ve since touched it up for him.

Time Out: How would you describe your style?
TT: I would best describe my tattoo style as neo-traditional Japanese. I am heavily inspired by traditional Japanese tattoo art, but with a modern flair. I also like to take elements from Japanese art and incorporate traditional American style tattoo art.

Time Out: What are you views on LA's tattoo culture?
TT: LA is a special place and has a lot to offer. The tattoo culture in LA is so prominent and has evolved so much over the last 10 years. Early on in my career, most of my clients would be the typical musician, rocker, biker, rebel type, but these days, I have clients from all different walks of life, from politicians to grandparents.

Time Out: What is your rapport with your clients like? 
TT: For the most part, my clients generally come to me for custom work. They will usually bring me their ideas and let me run with it. I would call it a collaborative effort between client and artist. Once the design is finalized and tattooing is in progress, a lot of conversations tend to happen. Believe it or not, tattooing can be a very intimate experience; people tend to open up about life while getting tattooed. Maybe it helps tune out the pain, I don’t know, but I feel I share a special bond with a lot of my clients.

Time Out: What are some of the most memorable pieces you've ever done?
TT: The pieces that stick out most in my mind are usually the tattoos that take me out of my usual comfort zone. I enjoy doing other styles of tattoos, specifically photo-realism and ornate lettering.

Time Out: What's the the strangest request you've ever had?
TT: There are a lot that come to mind. One time a 19-year-old girl came in asking me to tattoo the side of her face with a pretty large tribal design. Pretty similar to the one Mike Tyson has. I tried to talk her out of it and told her to come back after really thinking about it. She came back the following week and did a smaller design on her forearm. Another funny request was from a regular client of mine. He wanted his girlfriend’s name tattooed on his manhood. I politely declined, but then my client offered to pay me five times what I normally charge. So, I put on my gloves and went to work.

Time Out: Do you have a favorite tattoo of your own?
TT: I would have to say it’s my back piece. It’s still a work in progress. My good friend and fellow tattooer Jacob Ramirez is tattooing this for me. It’s a tattoo of a ship with a compass, some roses and other elements. Most of the tattoos on my body are traditional Japanese tattoos and this one is done in a traditional American style. I’m really looking forward to finishing it.

Time Out: What is your favorite music to tattoo to?
TT: It all depends on my mood. A lot of the time I prefer to tattoo with no music.  Other times, Pantera, Metallica, Megadeth.

RECOMMENDED: The 10 best tattoo artists in LA

Follow Amanda Montell on Twitter: @AmandaMontell1
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