In this interview with Chazz Hysell, he talks about being brought up in the tattoo industry as a kid with the guidance of his father and uncles. Chazz has gone on to become well-respected within the community, as well as highly sought after for his iconic chrome creations. Read on to get some insight into his work, inspirations, and advice for other tattooers trying to make the cut.
How did you get into tattooing and why was it something you were drawn to?
I was young when I first caught the bug for tattooing! Probably 9ish. I’d go visit my father for the summers in Huntington, WV where he’d owned and operated a shop there on 4th avenue in the city. Both of my uncles, my dads brothers tattooed as well!! Tattooing for me was and is still completely magical. Pure wizardry at it’s finest!! I was completely infatuated with it!! All the flash on the walls was almost overwhelming. The mixed smells of speed stick, green soap and incense just added to mystique of the shop. I’d sit around and doodle or trace endless amounts of flash. I’d done my first run with a machine when I was 13 years old on pig skin. I finally did my apprenticeship under my father when I was 17 and shortly after my 18th birthday in 2006 I was thrown out to the wolves to sink or swim. Let’s just say I doggy paddled my ass off!! I wasn’t good by any means when I first started. I still feel like I could do better!! It’s like chasing a dragons tail I’ll never catch no matter how close I get!!
Can you talk about your inspirations, and how your style has evolved since you began?
I draw most of my inspiration from yesteryears tattooers. The ghosts of tattoo past!! The likes of Tex Rowe, pinky yun, Bert Grimm, and Mike Malone. But I also pull inspiration from life in general!! When I first got into tattooing I completely sucked for years and did mostly poorly drawn new school before I landed with doing mostly traditional inspired work. I was always drawn to the bold sticker look of a traditional tattoo. I love how you can read it from across the street if it’s done right!! They’re so complex yet simplified. Recently I’ve been doing a bunch of chrome tattoos. I thoroughly enjoy making them!! But I’m also attracted to shiny things. That all sparks from being a kid in a tattoo shop in the 90’s!! Everything was either chrome or on fire for no good reason other than it was cool! You want some dice?? Why don’t we make them chrome?? How bout if they were on fire?? But why?? Why not, that’s why?? Hahaha
Who are the tattooers, or fine artists/movements, that have inspired you over the years?
There so many Tattooers and artists that I’ve pulled inspiration from!! Everyone I’ve ever worked with have inspired me in some form or fashion over the years. Have you been on any social media lately?? It’s insane the amount of killer work that is being put out. I really enjoy classic flash!! One of my favorite artists is pat martynuik the artist for picture machine flash. Frank lee flash is insanely inspiring. Dan Higgs, old Spaulding and Rogers flash, and old JD Crowe flash. So is any and everything The Godfather Ed hardy has ever touched!! I absolutely love Japanese style art. Don’t do nearly as much as I’d like to. And not just the imagery but the stories that come along with these images. My dad, Charlie hysell, my best dude Brent green, my homie Leif Hansen, all the artists at Ever After Gallery where I’m currently working. Everyone of these people have truly inspired me not only to be a better artist but a better person. Just a few more names of inspiration for me. Timothy Hoyer, Brian Bruno, Eddy Duetsche, Mike Wilson, Filip Leu, Chris Garver, Tim Lehi, Dean Denney, and so many more!!
Many artists have a philosophy or motivation behind their work...what would you say is yours? How do you define success?
The motivation for my work or my work ethic would probably be my kids. I want to show them with a strong work ethic anything is possible. That and they like nice expensive things!! Hahaha!!! But seriously, I’d really like to leave behind a legacy in which they can be proud of!! I know I just make pictures on people for money but it’s everything to me!! As far as success goes, I haven’t quite made it there yet but I guess I’d define it as being able to spend worry free time with the ones you love!! Having all that hard work pay off by spending more time with family than I do the tattoo chair. The only philosophy I have is do unto others as you’d want done unto you!! Be kind!! Live free!! And always keep a positive mental attitude!! Not matter how tough things may get. There’s always tomorrow.
What advice do you have for young artists trying to get into tattooing? What was the best advice you received when you first started?
For any young artists wanting to get into tattooing the only advice I have is take your time and don’t rush it!! Get tattooed and do it frequently!! Ask questions!! Take care of your body and save your money!! Personally I feel tattooing has enough hands in this honey pot. We don’t need anymore Tattooers in the world at the moment. I’ve turned down a many people asking for an apprenticeship because of that reason. If I’d teach anyone it’d be my kids and only if they’re deserving of it!! Those our there who truly want it and are hungry enough will find their way!! The best advice that was given to me was slow down when you’re tattooing. Shoot for quality, not quantity!! Slowing down has made a huge difference in the quality of work I put out!!
How do you feel about the future of the tattoo industry? What things need to change, and what needs to stay the same?
The future of tattooing is written in stone!! It’s not going anywhere. They can deem it the most illegal thing in the universe and tattooing will thrive underground by those who care for it!! Tattooing is tight!! Always has been and always will be. Tattooing is better now then it has ever been!! Yeah the past was tight!! But now there are more good Tattooers in the world then there has ever been!! I hear people complain about tattooing these days but in all honesty if you’re unhappy with tattooing that’s on you!! You control what you do and what gets put out in your shop!! And right now for me tattooing is super tight!! If I really had to nitpick I’d say stop taking apprentices!! There should be a ten year ban of taking on any apprentices. But we both know that’ll never happen!! Hahaha
Beyond tattooing, what are you passionate about? How do you spend your free time, and what do you do on your vacations?
Other than my family, tattooing is seriously the only thing I’m truly passionate about!! Tattooing rules everything around me. I’m a tattooer from the womb to the tomb!! My vacations believe it or not are either conventions or guest spots!! We go and do things as a family periodically, like beach trips or whatever. If we ever go anywhere to be for any extended amount of time my equipment is with me and I find a spot to guest spot so that the trip pays for itself.
Any future goals, plans, collabs, etc. that you’d like to share?
I plan on traveling more once things settle down a bit. I want to begin traveling out of the country and make some tattoos!! I have a larger chrome flash collaboration that’s about to be put into works with a homie out of Nevada. I’m in the process of putting together a sketchbook and flash book that’ll be available for purchase when completed. I have goals to hopefully open my own studio sometime in the future. We’ll see. I don’t know what the future has in store. All I know is I’ll take it one day at a time and not rush anything!!