Seated in his home studio, he is surrounded by original flash, screenprints, tattoo equipment, lush plants, and a large, bright jobsite lamp. The noises of construction can be heard from next door, a common sound as West Oakland is slowly starting to gentrify. “I think that one of the cool things about home-made tattoos is that you’re definitely the only person that has that,” Discount Stab Shack says. “Maybe it has some weird sketchy lines, but there’s something about it that’s really friendly. Easy to warm up to. Approachable.”
No rules means you can really carve out your own path, however you see fit. “After covering my own leg [in early 2013], I was a bike messenger at the time, and bike messengers are broke and like tattoos,” he explains. “It never occurred to me to start tattooing other people, but they saw what I was doing when I was like, ‘hey, look at these stupid tattoos!’ and they were like, ‘oh, let me get one!’” Practice makes perfect, and soon he was filling his weekends with tattooing. He worked only by donation for the first three years, but eventually his business grew too large for that level of financial open-endedness — his first step towards turning his weekend tattooing into a real career began when he realized he needed to properly price his work.