Johnny Thief Interview Posted

After having posted an interview a day all week, I’m taking a break for at least a few days with this great chat with Johnny Thief, which I think is definitely the one to read if you want to really “get” what American tattooing is about (at least in my mind). I enjoyed reading his responses immensely, and have presented them here almost exactly as they were received and without edit or restructuring, in the hope that you’ll enjoy them just as much as I did in their pure form.

Click through to read, come back to comment!

46 thoughts on “Johnny Thief Interview Posted

  1. “It makes you feel like an armorer, or an arms dealer.” That was such an enjoyable read. Honestly though, if I were tattooing a Christian symbol on someone who was being 100% not sarcastic about it and they were showing themselves in front of me to be a low worm, I’d have to say something. Not that I would say something to every worm, only the ones seeking to wear their religion on their sleeve and then be a total louse of a human.
    On the subject of wearing things on your sleeve, I thought an interesting notiion for a sleeve tattoo would be the word “nothing” incorporated into a natural design of some sort.
    BEATIFUL WORK, great interview altogether, thanks!!!!

  2. I think this is my favorite interview so far, what a great guy. His view on real art, everything he had to go through to get where he is, it’s inspiring. And the fact that he doesn’t take just anyone in to give them a tattoo.

    “Turn off the My Chemical Romance and start acting like a fucking man.”

    Oh god, my hero!

  3. HANDS DOWN BEST ARTICLE EVER. …Caps lock off. I’ve never been more upset about reaching the bottom of a webpage, yet so satisfied from taking it all in! This guy knows his shit, and I’d love to meet him someday.

  4. I kept having moments of “Okay pal, turn off the holier-than-thou attitude,” but then I kept reading and really liked most of what he had to say.

  5. What a great interview. He seems like a really interesting, outspoken guy. And I love that he spoke out against UV and white ink tattoos. They almost always look bad after a short amount of time. It’s just people always see pictures right after there done, and they do look amazing then. I respect him a lot more for not doing white supremacist stuff.

  6. #5: yes.

    That and… the tortured artist schtick got a little wearying to me too. I mean, yeah I gather that he’s hurting from that divorce, and I don’t blame him for still having it hard many years later, but give me a break. You get to be a renowned artist, when lots of people struggle to even break into those fields, and yet you’re whining? Bah.

    All that said, his art is awesome, and I agree with #6 about the UV thing — sure, people can take whatever risks they want, but it never seemed worth it to me. *shrug*

    Then again I’m not tattooed, so I should probably stfu 🙂 Eh. I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. I should be fine in an hour *grumble* *laugh*

  7. “When a hitman bows to you in respect, you are doing something right.”. Yeah, THAT’S the kind of individuals you want to respect you! :S

    Besides this, great interview and a really interetsing person with intereseting ideas about his chosen craft. Also, some of the best executed tattoos I ever seen!

  8. A great interview and the perfect way to round off a week of them too!

    As the disenfranchised ‘kiddddzzzz’ ’round here say, “nuff respeck, blud.”



  9. “ tongue has better uses than all this talking”
    Hahahaha LOVE IT!

    I am so making a trip to Georgia to see this fine artist! He is so refreshing..

  10. i really liked this interview. he really can talk. i bet he was easy to talk to. he did seem a little (i dont know if this is the best word to say what im trying to say but)cocky. overall though he seems pretty cool.

  11. This guy knows his shit, I like how far into the culture of tattooing he is, and how passionate he feels about saving it from pollution.

    A very good read, I’d like to see a similar one like this, but with a piercer.

  12. absolutely agree with the tattoo license test.
    i wouldn’t go to a doctor or a surgeon who hadn’t been tested in their field to prove that they’re up to a certain standard; i wish that there was a nationwide of worldwide official benchmark test to pass to show that an artist has at least bare minimum theoretical knowledge of How Not To Spread Disease.

    Something that’s easy for people who AREN’T obsessed with tattoos and bodymods [and who know to vet their artists and what to look for / ask when going into a new shop] to instantly see that the person they’re going to will be halfway reputable.
    [yes, i know there are loads of health and safety courses you can get certification in, but that’s not quite the same thing]

    I mean, there are nationwide tests to pass to rip hair out of people’s legs with waxing strips [which will grow back anyway] – but no standard certification for people who regularly deal with blood and body fluids from a wide range of people and who are permanently changing their clients’ looks.

  13. Wow, I can’t believe I’ve never heard of him before. I quite like the way that he is famous and popular, but he is still himself and quite happy to be such. His work is phenomenal!

  14. hmm i meant number 5 on the other page… but it posted it on a different page for some reason. ah well

  15. I love his respect and intense love for the craft, not only tattooing but all art forms and the history of these things. I can only wish I will love my career as much as he does.

  16. I’d agree with NO. 5 as well, but he’s gone the hard yards so I can’t fault him for it. I also really enjoyed the interveiw and am sure I’ve seen that spiderman tattoo before.

  17. amazing tattoos i wish i had the money to get one done by him amazing beautiful!!! best tattoo artist on here

  18. Amazing. Awesome read. I would totally have lunch with this guy.

    I’m actually moving to Savannah, Georgia from Gainesville Florida in about 10 months. I just have to suppress my urge to get some work done till I get over there!

    I’m sure he’ll appreciate the work references from this interview. He deserves it.

  19. @19 I think that’s an awesome idea. An interview along the lines of this one with an experienced piercer.

    I think an interview with Brian Skellie (also a Georgia resident) of Piercing Experience in Atlanta would be an awesome read. From all I’ve heard from friends who’ve been pierced by him he’s exceptional. One friend who has significant ear projects going on described him as a Jedi master of piercing :). And he really, like Johnny Thief here, seems to be deeply ingrained in the piercing culture and its history. There is an interview from May 2000 on his site ( but a lot can be learned in the 8 years in between so I think it’d be a worthy interview.

    If an interview with Brian isn’t possible then perhaps Max Brand of All or Nothing Tattoo (also in Georgia). A good many of his play piercing projects have been featured here on Modblog. I’m from Georgia myself and I promise these picks of mine aren’t biased as i’ve not been pierced by either, it’s just that i’ve not heard a bad word about either of them.

    Just my 2 cents.

  20. forgive me if this has already been said (it’s late i’m tired) but can we get an interview with Rich Bustamante (IAM: bustattoo)??

    i love love love his work. i think he used to work with Johnny Thief too…

  21. This interview is a joke, right? The guy is the biggest dick I’ve ever heard, aside from the fact that the tattoos suck for the most part. Rockstar tattoo “artists” can suck my balls; I don’t care how well known you are, you’re not inking me. Keep your “secrets” and maintain the tattoo “underground”… faggot. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  22. I enjoyed this interview enormously. He came across as incredibly intelligent, articulate and passionate about what he does.

  23. #5 — I have to work with the fella…
    #37 — Naughty language from a naughty girl…
    And yes, a great interview with Giovanni the Great…

  24. Great interview. Really interesting and he def knows his stuff. True, artists are born. Just like singers. They can hone their skills but you have to be born with that “X-Factor” that cannot be learned.
    Too bad just being born with the gift wouldn’t be enough to ever get to apprentice under this guy.
    Makes me wish I was young and Asian…

  25. Johnny used to work for me — one of those screen printing gigs — and he is the real deal. An intelligent, hard working dude who lives an artists life. It has been a pleasure and an honor to watch him progress. And he is a punk.

  26. That was a great interview.

    I respect his attitude towards tattoo ART as ART. It was especially interesting to read about his opinion regarding tattooing as a “fine art.”

    As a student enrolled in a BFA program (and coincidentally an aspiring tattoo artist) I love to hear about professional views regarding the correlations between fine art and tattoo art.

  27. What a pleasant surprise to see this interview! I’m living in Savannah (going to SCAD) and have been working out this massive tattoo for johnny to do for me. What a sweetheart, let me tell you. He’s an amazing artist and well worth any wait time and definitely worth the money.
    See you soon thief!

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