A Johnny Cash (and Nine Inch Nails) tattoo tale

Categories: Tattoo You
Adam DeGross
Amy Robertson shows off her Johnny Cash tattoo

"I had been a cutter my entire life," says Amy Robertson. It all started in elementary school. She had a pet iguana named Spock -- a reference to his apparent lack of ears. "He would cut me all the time and I would make the cuts worse. He would scratch me, and I would make the scratches deeper. It kind of came out of nowhere."

What began as a compulsive behavior quickly grew into Robertson's trusted coping mechanism. Throughout high school, she was able to hide the mostly superficial cuts. In college, her habits of self-injury grew more dangerous. She began getting more creative with her disguises.

"I used to wear a sweatband. That was part of my fucking attire for like, years, because I was just ashamed of it. Even that didn't stop me from doing it. That was like, my thing. I was Amy the sweatband girl."

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Why Bon Iver lyrics are tattooed to model Sar Elle's leg

Categories: Tattoo You
Photos courtesy of Sar Elle and Brad Ogbonna

"Sold I'm ever / Open ears and open eyes... / Oh the demons come / They can subside."

When we hear a song, the message that we receive may depend entirely on the space and time we are in, the moment that the sound hits our ears. Some songs cut more deeply than others. For model and photographer Sar Elle, that song was Bon Iver's "Calgary."

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The story of an Elliott Smith Figure 8 tattoo

Categories: Tattoo You
Sarah Stanley-Ayre
Tim Bass shows his tattoo, inspired by the Elliott Smith album Figure 8

In 2008, Tim Bass left his hometown of Champaign, Illinois in his band's van and headed to L.A. It was under the spell of a dream and his group's fame-crazed frontman, who Bass describes as a "real controlling, sort of dick guy." It was an ill-fated attempt rooted in idealism, as Bass quickly found. "It sucked. I was miserable out there. I had no friends," he said. It was there that Bass first found comfort in the 2000 Elliott Smith album, Figure 8.

See Also: "What's with the banana on your arm?" A Velvet Underground tattoo tale

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"What's with the banana on your arm?" A Velvet Underground tattoo tale

Categories: Tattoo You
Photos courtesy of Sarah Stanley-Ayre

About 14 years ago, I read Legs McNeil's infamous book, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. That's how I first encountered the Velvet Underground's Lou Reed. I was a tall and gangly high school freshman in New Jersey  with a mouth full of metal. My boyfriend and constant companion at the time had hair down to his ass, a room full of horror movie memorabilia, and a penchant for Marilyn Manson.

I'd just discovered Trash and Vaudeville, a store on St. Mark's Place in New York's East Village. It still peddled the vestiges of an alternative culture gone awry. I was basically drowning in plaid and carefully sewn-on patches painted with band logos and slogans: "No Gods, No Managers." Like so many acne-riddled adolescents who came before
me, I was generally pissed.

See Also: The story of my Pearl Jam tattoo, and why I still love it

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The story of my Pearl Jam tattoo, and why I still love it

Categories: Tattoo You
My Pearl Jam ink

When is listening to and loving music just not enough? At what point does a song or a band speak to their fans so directly that they feel the need to form a deeper, more permanent connection with the art and the artist? Or, to put it simply (and personally), why did I decide to get a Pearl Jam tattoo in 1994, and why do I still love it as much today as the moment I first got it?

Pearl Jam's iconic stickman, which is featured on the cover art of the band's debut single, "Alive," has had a prominent place on my left ankle for nearly twenty years now, and remains my first and only tattoo. And even though PJ's studio output has been shaky and somewhat lackluster in recent years, I've never once regretted getting that ink. It's not only a constant reminder of a truly great period in my life (I was a sophomore in college when I got it), but also a proud symbol of when I fell completely in love with music, and how much I love music to this very day.

See Also: Nirvana's In Utero vs. Nevermind: Which is better?

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