Presented by Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
Despite breaking a Guinness World Record for the number of tattoos given in a 24-hour period and hosting the Spike TV series Ink Master for eight seasons, somehow Oliver Peck doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. That doesn’t surprise us, though—it fits the tattoo artist’s reputation of breaking away from the norm.
Peck figured out how to hand-poke tattoos as a teenager just because he wanted one himself. A few years later, he ditched art school to tattoo at a piercing shop, and he’s never looked back. Along the way, he transformed an old tattooing style into a bold and vastly popular new one. To us, Peck is the embodiment of counter-culture.
In the ‘90s, Peck was one of the first artists to push the boundaries of traditional tattooing. He created a unique style of his own without losing the key elements of the traditional way, such as bold lines and classic imagery. This modern spin is known as neo-traditional, and Oliver is largely responsible for starting the wave. He did his thing and others followed.
In this exclusive conversation with the mustached badass, Oliver sheds some light on his unique style, forging the neo-traditional path and which indie-rock legend he’d most like to get tattooed by.
At what age did you start tattooing, and how did you get into it?
I first tattooed myself at the age of 16 with a needle and ink, with very limited instructions from older punk rock dudes.
Leaving art school takes balls. How did you know it was the right choice for you?
I only went to art school in the first place to appease my parents. Shortly after attending, I realized it was not the place for me.
Your style can be described as traditional and American, but it’s so much more than that. How do you give it your own badass spin?
When I first started tattooing, I did my own style of art. Then once I got introduced to American traditional style, I immersed myself in only American traditional tattooing for years. As the years went by my own style and influences started creeping in, and in the '90s I was one of the artists that started paving the way for the neo-traditional style of tattooing.
Tell us about your process when it comes to creating new designs. Besides the subject, where do you find your inspiration?
Nowadays I trace the spot that someone wants to get tattooed, and I take the ideas from the person and try to make a creative way to fit that specific spot. If the customer is open to what they want, I take inventory of what tattoos they already have, and I just start drawing and see what comes up.
What’s the craziest tattooing experience you’ve had?
To make a long story short, my buddy Omar Hassan [the pro skateboarder] asked me to tattoo him at a skateboarding event, and the next thing I knew I was tattooing while Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Jeff Grosso and Christian Hosoi were watching. For a skateboarding kid of the '80s, this was a big fucking deal!
If you could pick anyone in the world to tattoo right now, who would it be?
I will tattoo anybody that wants to get tattooed by me as long as they get the style that I do, because that’s what tattooers do! But if I could get tattooed by anyone, I would get tattooed by J. Mascis, lead singer of Dinosaur Jr. He’s my one of my favorite musicians of all time. I have already been tattooed by a lot of my other favorite musicians. I have probably been tattooed by at least 100 non-tattooers.
How did you discover Playboy?
When I was a teenage boy, Playboy was the forbidden fruit, so I took every chance to look at them when I could. That allure has stuck with me my entire life.
Last question: What does being a renegade mean to you?
I don’t know if I would consider myself a renegade or not. I was just always comfortable doing whatever the fuck I wanted to, no matter what anyone said or thought.