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Music Tattoos

Music Geek Tattoos

Music geek tattoos

Growing up in the Ottawa suburbs I used to watch MuchMusic pretty religiously. I still have a few VHS tapes kicking around from back in the day when I would tape videos off the television, VCR locked and loaded, ready to hit record when one came on I liked. A sort of visual mixtape really.

My introduction to a lot of music early on was through Much, particularly The Wedge hosted by Simon Evans and Sook Yin Lee, it was an absolute goldmine in the 90’s for Grunge and Alternative music.

It was on Much that I first saw Adam Ant, probably during one of their 80’s retro throwback weekends.

‘Stand and Deliver’ was unlike anything my little Doc Marten wearing, thrift store clad self had ever seen before. And while my Reality Bites cohorts killed themselves laughing at the campness of it all, I was absolutely mesmerized. The Dandy Highwayman had me hooked.

Adam Ant's TattoosAdam Ant performing at the O2 in London, UKYears passed, my Adam Ant collection grew and I moved to the UK where Adam and the Ants were still relatively well known, even if by some on just on ‘fancy dress‘ sort of level. It was here where I met my good friend Emma and finally got to see Adam Ant in concert.

Emma on the tube with Adam Ant concert ticketsI’d been throwing about the idea for years of getting a music related tattoo but nothing stuck with me. Passing ideas ranged from the cover art on the Smashing Pumpkin’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album to Robert Smith’s Boys Don’t Cry silhouette to something NIN related. And while I still love all those musicians, I’m glad I waited till I was certain what the perfect music geek tattoo was for me.

Post Punk girls in front of an Adam Ant gig posterWhen I decided to move back to Canada from the UK, as a last hurrah together my friend Emma and I decided to get matching ‘Jolly Roger’ tattoos. The piece was so perfect on many levels, representative of all I loved about London and my friends there. The city is an absolute musical paradise, Punks, Post Punks, New Romantics, Goths and Death Rock kids knocking about Camden, Angel Islington and clubs in Soho. The vibrancy of different scenes, and the crazy energy of Adam and the Ants with their decadent theatricality rooted in punk and the Kings Road.

Tattooed Post Punk GirlsAnd hey. Pirates. Who doesn’t love a good skull n crossbones?

The design – a skull in a pirate hat with crossed flintlock pistols and a wee black heart, artwork used by Adam and the Ants in the 80’s.

Adam Ant music geek tattoosAs for having matching tattoos, I wrote a piece for Tattoo Hero last year on that subject – The Ties That Bind: My Matching Ink Story.

Both Emma and I have incorporated our Adam Ant tattoos into full sleeves since getting the original piece. We were tattooed at Evil from the Needle in Camden Town by Dave Byrant, after an absolutely surreal encounter with Amy Winehouse who walked by Emma’s car while we were blasting music from her “Back to Black” album.

My boyfriend Jeff also has music geek tattoos. And while he rolls his eyes a bit at his first tattoo now (the Led Zeppelin symbols on his back) because of the ubiquitousness of them, the placement is great and they’re executed well. His love for Zeppelin hasn’t faded and the tattoos still hold meaning for him.

The four symbols are a hugely popular music tattoo for people to get, and it’s not surprising given the popularity of Zeppelin, but I also think it’s due in part to the classic design of the symbols.

Led Zeppelin four symbols music geek tattoosThe four symbols came about in the wake of poor reviews from Zeppelin III. For the next album Page decided it would officially be untitled, using symbols to represent each band member instead. These symbols appeared in the records inner sleeve and subsequently would result in some fans referring to the fourth Zeppelin album as “the Four Symbols”.

The four symbols are:

Guitarist Jimmy Page – ZoSo, a symbol designed by Page with roots purportedly going back to a 1557 symbol for Saturn used by Gerolamo Cardano. Page has been resolute in not revealing what the symbol means, and to this day it’s uncertain as to its true origin or meaning.
Bassist John Paul Jones – a single circle intersecting with a a triquetra, chosen from Rudolf Koch’s Book of Signs.
Drummer John Bonham – three interlocking rings, also from Koch’s Book of Signs (and upside down they also happen to be the logo for Ballentine beer).
Singer Robert Plant – a circle with a feather in the centre, his own design.

There’s no definitive order to the symbols, though you’ll generally see them in the order listed above. I asked Jeff why ‘zoso’ wasn’t first for his tattoo, and quite simply he wanted Plant’s symbol first. The tattoo was done by James Sroga of Dead City Studios in North Bay, Ontario, Canada well over 14 years ago now.

The other music geek tattoo Jeff has is the Radio Birdman symbol on his forearm, tattooed at New Tribe in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Radio Birdman tattooRadio Birdman was one of the first Australian punks bands on the scene in the 70’s and are quite frankly fantastic.

The logo was originally designed by singer Deniz Tek, who was trying to develop a symbol for himself. When he formed Radio Birdman (awesomely named so after a misheard Stooges lyric), the symbol came along. With a professional graphic artist in the band – Warwick Gilbert. it was finally used for Radio Birdman after modifications by Gilbert.

Radio Birdman

If you’re considering a music geek tattoo we really love ours, and absolutely no regrets.

As with any tattoo – think it over well first. Music tastes can change, so you really need to know yourself well.

As to future plans for more music geek tattoos I know Jeff’s mulling over the artwork from the Beta Band’s Three E.P’s, and I’m seriously considering a piece inspired by artist Stephanie Pepper’s rendition of Adam Ant as a Dandy Highwayman.

If you were to get a music geek tattoo, what do you think it would be of?


Sólstafir – When The Raven Flies

solstafir otta

I’ve been all kinds of obsessed with Icelandic band Sólstafir since my friend Diana introduced me to them a few months back. In particular their fourth full length album “Svartir Sandar” and this years new release “Ótta“, have both been in heavy rotation for me as of late.

Their label, Season of the Mist best describes their sound:

Their unique blend of metal with beautiful melodies, psychedelic moments and a strong undercurrent of classic/hard rock comes as varied and at times appealingly bizarre as the landscapes of their native Iceland.

Though Sólstafir’s earlier music originally fell under a viking/black metal genre, it has since shifted to a more post-metal/atmospheric rock sound. Regardless of whatever classification of music you try and slot Sólstafir under, they’re quite simply fantastic.

Much like how Canadian artists tend to be shaped and influenced by the incredible (and often overwhelming) landscape of this country, I feel the same can be said of Sólstafir’s music and how it feels deeply rooted in that ancient land of volcanos and vikings, drenched by the all surrounding sea and in history.

So it’s not surprising to discover that Sólstafir have created a completely instrumental film score for Hrafninn Flýgur (When The Raven Flies), an Icelandic cult classic viking film.

when the raven flies solstafirThey’ll be performing their score live to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the film at the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands on Thursday, April 9th, 2015.

The festival itself looks exceptionally good with a killer lineup, that has me seriously thinking about heading off to the Netherlands next spring. In addition to Sólstafir’s performance, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin will also be performing their acclaimed film scores for Dawn Of The Dead and Suspiria.

If you’re curious about Hrafninn Flýgur, you can watch the film on YouTube with English subtitles using the CC option, if like me you can’t speak Icelandic (though I wish I could!)


White Ravens, Black Sands


Recently I’ve found myself listening to a lot of psychedelic rock, and stoner/sludge/doom metal.

I haven’t forsaken my post-punk roots (all hail Siouxsie Sioux) but am thoroughly enjoying a totally new musical experience. Jeff’s finding it pretty amusing after my years of shrugging off metal, and has taken to leaving music in my iTunes for me to find. Little musical easter eggs all my own.

So inspired by my new found love of doom metal, here’s a mixtape of what’s currently on heavy rotation for me, enjoy!


Record Store Day 2014

Recordstore Day 2014 Toronto

It’s that magical time of year – Record Store Day is tomorrow!
Record Store Day 2014We’ll be heading out early tomorrow with coffees in hand to check out several independent record stores in Toronto and pick up a few RSD exclusives. Below are a few RSD 2014 releases on my radar, what will you be hunting for this year?

RSD 2104 PicksFirst Row

1. David Bowie – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (7″ picture disc)
2. The Dresden Dolls – The Dresden Dolls LP
3. The Julie Ruin – Brightside/In The Picture 7″ Vinyl

Second Row

4. Motorhead – Aftershock, special edition picture Vinyl
5. The Cure/Dinosaur Jr. – Just Like Heaven, 7″ white Vinyl
6. Nirvana – Pennyroyal Tea/I Hate Myself and Want To Die, 7″ Vinyl

Third Row

7. Christian Death – The Edward Colver Edition, 7″ White Vinyl
8. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth, LP pink Vinyl
9. Mazzy Star – I’m Less Here. 7″coke-bottle clear Vinyl


The Damned – Anything

The Damned Anything LP

Artist: the Damned
Album: Anything
Cost: £10.00 GBP
Found: Casbah Records, 320 – 322 Creek Road, Greenwich, London, United Kingdom

Oh The Damned! I used to see Captain Sensible all the time wandering around town when I lived in Brighton, he was an institution in the city with his trademark hats. To see him strolling around the North Lanes after brunch was always a good omen for the weekend ahead. I never took the opportunity to see The Damned play live though when I lived in the UK, and to this day regret it immensely. 40th anniversary tour maybe?

Inner Sleeve & Back Detail - Anything LP - The DamnedI got into The Damned pretty late in the game. I’d always liked their earlier more punk songs like Neat, Neat, Neat and New Rose. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really started listening to all their albums in full and as a result am now a massive fan of both their early and later work.

When I really began to start amassing records, I had trouble keeping track of my collection (ridiculous I know) and wound up buying duplicates of the same album.

Anything by The Damned was one of those albums, and I had three copies of it at one point, only once being a duplicate purchase by mistake.

The Damned - Anything - Gatefold PopupThe final (and hopefully the last) time I bought the album was due to music geekery and the lure of alternative album artwork.

While out in Greenwich, South East London with my friends Natalie and Joe, we popped into a favourite shop of ours which is always a danger to the pocket-book for all three of us. Casbah Records in Greenwich is a sweet record store conjoined with a vintage clothing shop. So while Natalie was looking at vintage frocks, Joe at vinyl and myself dashing in between the two stores, Joe found of copy of Anything, passing it over to me knowing I was a Damned fan.

Dave Vanian in 3D! Anything Popup DetailAnd so, the third copy of Anything was procured not only because it was a version with a gatefold but a pop up gatefold. 3D Dave Vanian action! Love, love, love it!

I’ve since sold the other two copies and am very thankful for discovering Discogs where you can organize your vinyl collection online.

There are also loads of great iPhone apps to connect with your Discogs account so you can check easily on the go your collection or want list. I currently use Crate Digger on my phone and highly recommend that app for the vinyl fiend on the go.


Chris Isaak – Heart Shaped World

Vinyl Finds - Chris Isaak Heart Shaped World

Artist: Chris Isaak
Album: Heart Shaped World
Cost: $10.00 USD
Found: Gimme Gimme Records, 325 E 5th St, New York City, NY, USA.

“Women like three things: Men in kilts, Southern Comfort, and Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game‘.”- Flight of the Conchords

This is fact. Period. Don’t start shaking your head, don’t deny it. Don’t fight it. CHRIS ISAAK. For reals. Yes, I don’t care what anyone says, or the number of coworkers making fun of me on the bus (for the record it was 5), I love Chris Isaak. And I LOVE this album. I massively regret missing him play last fall at Massey Hall in Toronto.

Chris IsaakThere’s something about Chris Isaak’s voice that absolutely melts me and makes me stop whatever I’m doing. I don’t know why or where this stems from, it’s just an immutable fact.

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Canada Day Mix Tape

Happy Canada Day! To celebrate (and because I’m totally feeling like Johnny Nostalgia today) here’s an 8tracks mix of 90’s alternative Canadian music inspired from zine days and all ages shows of yore. Featuring Sloan, Jale, Eric’s Trip, Moist, Thrush Hermit, Cub and a ton more.


Record Store Day 2013

Sonic Boom Toronto in Honest Ed's

Record Store Day 2013 is almost here!

Since it’s launch at Rasputin Music in San Francisco five years ago, Record Store Day events and participation around the world has grown significantly.

RSD 2013Every year on the third Saturday in April musicians, record stores, labels and music lovers a like get together to celebrate and spread the word about independent record stores. With in store performances, special discounts, and the heralded limited edition exclusive RSD vinyl releases it’s a highlight to my April every year.

And for the past several years despite knowing when Record Store Day fell, I would always inadvertently schedule a midday tattoo session. This year, work on my sleeve will have to wait as I plan to properly enjoy the day without being wrapped up in meat packing material and hepped up on painkillers.

Here are a few of the Canadian Record Store Day Releases I’ll be on the look out for:

Record Store Day 2013 ReleasesFirst Row

1. David Bowie – Drive-In Saturday 7″ Vinyl Picture Disc
2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Animal X, 7″ Vinyl
3. The Cure – Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, 2 LP Set Red Vinyl

Second Row

4. Blind Melon – Blind Melon + Sippin’ Time Sessions, 2LP
5. Pulp – After You, 12″ Vinyl
6. Rolling Stones – Five by Five, 7″ Vinyl EP

Third Row

7. Small Faces – There Are But Four Small Faces,
Limited edition 180g Vinyl edition of the Small Faces 1968 debut

8. Misfits/Lemonheads – Skulls, 7″ Vinyl Picture Disc
9. Porno For Pyros -Porno For Pyros, Tie Dye Swirled Vinyl, Remastered for vinyl on 180 gram vinyl

And really I’m rather excited about the Ultravox reissue in limited heavyweight white vinyl of Vienna. Oh my yes, I just wrote that and yes I am a huge, huge music geek.

Watch the video now instead and melt back into the 80’s…


Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel

Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel Vinyl

Artist: Depeche Mode
Album: Playing the Angel
Cost: $23.99 CDN
Found: HMV, 333 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, CANADA.

Depeche Mode are back on top form with yesterdays release of Delta Machine (check out a concert webcast from “Live on Letterman” of the new album here).

One of my favourite Depeche Mode albums is actually a much later one in the DM canon and also one a lot of DM fans would disagree with me on, but I argue that Playing the Angel is a solid album.

Playing the Angel LP sleeve detailReleased in 2005 it did meet with positive reviews and decent sales. I really got into the album during what seemed like a never ending winter in Eastern Europe. If ever there was a locale suited to listening to Depeche Mode in, I think Bratislava, Slovakia was made for it.

Bratislava reminds me very much of some Canadian cities in some regards, specifically with the life of the city during the winter months contrasted with how once Spring hits everyone and everything comes alive again. I was on an Erasmus placement at VŠMU – the Academy of Performing Arts Bratislava for several months, which started in the dead of winter.

The city seemed almost abandoned in those long, dark winter months and I spent a lot of my time in coffee shops reading, writing and on my lap top taking advantage of the cafes wi-fi. It was during those hours whiled away drinking some of the best mint tea I’ve ever had, that I listened to Playing the Angel ad nauseum.

Playing the Angel GatefoldIt would seem I wasn’t the only one, everywhere I went it felt like the album was following be it billboard ads plastered throughout the city, constant radio play, Depeche Mode nights, and of course the lead up to the massive stadium show in Bratislava. I wound up having several chances to see Depeche Mode during their tour in support of Playing the Angel and missed them each and every time in what seemed like a comedy of errors. When they were in London I was in Bratislava, when they were in Bratislava I was back in London, when they were in Vienna I was…well you get the point.

I did however manage to go to a Slovak Depeche Mode night, which turned out to be nothing like I had expected. My experience in the past with Depeche Mode club nights have usually been very small venues, normally of the alternative, 80’s, goth variety with people doing their best plucking-cobwebs-out-of-thin-air dancing. This was not to be the case in Bratislava however.

Depeche ModeAfter several snowbound weeks with the same routine of school, cafe, pub, then home, cabin fever was starting to set in for me. I came across flyers in one of the cafes for the Depeche Mode night and tried to convince my other UK classmates to go. No one was biting with the exception of my friend Joe who was pretty game for anything.

The night came and off we trotted to the club. When we got there I had to check twice as to whether it was the right place. The venue was huge. There was a lineup going around the block of people waiting to get in. And not an alternative/80s/goth type in sight either.

Once inside we saw the club was equally impressive with two floors with massive wall to wall screens with different projections of film footage from Depeche Mode concerts and music videos being played. The projections acted as a visual backdrop to the DJ who played literally nothing but Depeche Mode all night long.

Playing the Angel Inner Record SleevesIt was interesting to see just how mainstream Depeche Mode are out of the normal circles I ran in back in the UK and North America. The club was almost entirely men that night, many dressed in white trousers, slicked back hair, and a variety of expensive smelling colognes wafted through the space. Joe and I danced into the wee hours with lovely smelling Eastern European men in what was a a very welcoming and calm space.

When it was all over, everyone dispersed and as we walked away from the club I remember looking back in wonderment at the venue, which from the outside resembled an enormous, industrial, concrete cube.

Playing the Angel saw me through a long and often lonely winter. I’m really loving Delta Machine and can’t wait to actually see Depeche Mode play live finally when they come to Toronto later this year.

I like to think that somewhere, in Eastern Europe another Depeche Mode night to the same scale is being prepared. White trousers pressed and hung in anticipation, cologne and hair gel on a dressing table waiting for the right time to be used again.