Up Close with Miami Ink's Darren Brass
Imagine coming to work on a TV set every day, and you're the star. Every single thing that you say, and do is being recorded, edited, and played back to the masses. Your private life up for Netflix public consumption, entertainment, content on repeat, - for years and years to come. If you're anything like me the thought alone might trigger an anxiety attack. But to the guys at Miami Ink (Love Hate) it's just another day in the sun. During my most recent trip to South Beach I got to catch up with Darren Brass - an original member of TLC's first tattoo reality series, to talk a bit about the show, the shop, and life after TV.
Six years have passed since you debuted the final season of Miami Ink and people are still lining up at the door - how does the crew keep up with the volume of people wanting to get tattooed?
I think it's amazing and such a compliment after filming Miami Ink's last episode 7yrs ago, that we are still getting a positive response to the shows. I'm thankful everyday that there is a constant flow of new clients coming through the shop everyday. People always ask us if we are overwhelmed by the amount of clients coming through the doors. I let them know that this is what we love. We pride ourselves on being a walk-in shop and we stay true to it . It keeps the fire burning inside all of us! 12hrs a day...7 days a week !
Do you see much of a difference in the volume of people coming through now versus 6 years ago?
There's a bit of a difference between now and 6yrs ago ... I think that we have just become more efficient in how we deal with the constant flow of clients and manage to keep pushing forward in an industry that has become so saturated.
Recent from Tattoo Artists
I've heard that people get funny about seeing themselves on TV, were you able to watch yourself comfortably? Is there anything you would have changed if you were given an opportunity?
It's definitely uncomfortable watching yourself on TV, especially when you're edited. Sometimes the outcome tends to be slightly different from the "reality" that you remember. There were definitely times that I wish I had done things or said things differently, but that's just life... It's what keeps me evolving into a better person as well as a better artist.
This day & age it seems like TV has really capitalized on the tattoo industry, off the top of my head I might name 5 or 6 shows that are currently airing - as the synopsis for these programs become more and more ridiculous. I caught one show that was called "Tattoo Therapists" (or some shit) where you don't even get to pick your tattoo- based on your storyline the artist will choose your piece for you. For lack of a better word - one may say they're just exploiting the business at this point... How do you feel about this new wave of Tattoo TV?
I'm happy that we were the first to do it and there is a lot of comfort in knowing that we did it right. We didn't allow the corporate beast to compromise our integrity . We stayed true to what we learned and true to the industry and our peers. We were respectful of what we learned and to our elders that taught us and led us into this amazing industry.
Miami Ink was pretty authentic in it's formula. A client comes in with a mostly "tragic" story, and leaves with a remarkable piece of art to memorialize coming out of a hardship - with a little less weight on their shoulders. Are we correct in believing the way TV portrays the client- artist interaction? Do tattooers also double as therapists during work hours?
The whole position of being someone's therapist had been played for years by many tattoo artists as well as barbers, bartenders, and service providers alike. I guess that I've taken on that role at times and found myself genuinely caring. I've been humbled that I got to play such an important role in someone's healing. On the flip side, I love to just chill, do a fun tattoo, walk away and feel good about it.
Do you ever miss filming?
I could think of much worse things that I could've been doing. Filming Miami Ink was an amazing experience that I couldn't of ever imagined doing. I learned a lot in that time and it gave me the chance to take part in a number of great projects and opportunities that I didn't have a chance to be a part of before the show. Beyond all that, I made some life long friends with the awesome crews that we had on the production side of things and let's not forget some of the awesome clients like Dj Skribble, who has become like a brother to me.
The shop has a seemingly really tight crew of artists. You can really pick up on the family vibe, and everyone seems to get along just fine. Was the drama on the show a fabrication?
We are truly a family. I love all of the guys! There was a lot on the show that was pumped up, there were situations that were unavoidable... but unfortunately TV makes everything bigger than it actually is. They like the drama...
Do you have a favorite artist at the shop you prefer to work with?
These guys are my family, they've been with me through the best and worst of times.
It's hard to say who my favorite artist is to work with. We all feed off of each other, it's awesome in that respect. Let's just say, my favorite time to work is when we pack the shop solid with all the artists working together.
Were you friends with Ami before the TV thing went down? What's it like working for him?
I met Ami and Chris Garver when I was invited to do a guest spot at Tattoos by Lou 20 yrs ago (1995 ), by the man himself Lou Sciberras. It all started there. That's where our lifelong friendships were forged. It's hard saying that we work for Ami... I'd like to think that we all work with (him). We are part of this elaborate machine that moves and evolves continuously. Ami is the captain and he is always looking out for his crew. I feel very fortunate to be working with Ami for the past 20yrs and look forward to more.
What can we expect in the future from Darren Brass? Do you anticipate you will do more work on TV, or have you had enough?
You never know what the future holds, but in the meantime I will continue to tattoo with this awesome family at Love Hate Social Club. Along with tattooing, I have our children's (clothing) line Ruthless and Toothless which consumes most of my free time. Aside from the work I'm raising my amazing baby boy Cassius, who is now 7yrs old and keeping me on my game.
Darren Brass can be found on Instagram at @brass305