Hot Press Interview: Ami James

21 10 2013

Haven’t posted in a while (hella busy), so figured to make up for my absence I’d stick up an interview for you all to read. Check it out (originally published in Hot Press a handful of issues ago).


Ahead of the opening of his new shop in Cork, Miami and NY Ink star Ami James opens up on the pro’s and con’s of modern day tattoo culture, reveals why fame took him by surprise and offers some advice to people getting their first bit of body art. Spoiler alert: Dont be that douchebag with the dodgy neck tattoo. Words: Edwin McFee


Eight years ago a TV show pretty much single-handedly transformed how the mainstream currently views tattoo culture today. Dubbed “Miami Ink,” the fly on the wall programme featured a handful of then unknown artists working in a small shop and it lifted the lid on a world that was, for many, shrouded in mystery and misinformation. Israeli-born tattooer Ami James co-founded the business alongside Chris Nunez, and when Hot Press caught up with him during his visit to Allstar Ink in Limerick recently, he tells us that he was initially surprised at how successful the show became.


“You know what? I actually thought Miami Ink would last a couple of episodes and then they’ll take it off the air,” laughs the affable artist. “I was like, ‘No-one is gonna wanna watch a bunch of degenerates in a tattoo shop’ and that’s how we thought about ourselves at that point. I think at the time it was curiosity that got it noticed. People were curious to find out what happens in a tattoo shop and they’re curious as to the reasoning why people get tattooed.”


Spawning multiple spin-offs and imitators in its wake, the show ran for six seasons and revolutionised the industry. As with any cultural upheaval though, there are of course pros and cons to the change and Ami, to his credit, is accepting of both sides. He also has some wise words for any students who are starting college this month and considering their first tattoo…


“The culture has changed immensely in the last five years,” says the artist who has been tattooing for 21 years and counting. “More artists are making a living when we used to starve and people can walk into tattoo shops without being scared or judged or thinking there’s a biker in there waiting to shoot them. This whole ‘myth’ is open and that’s a great thing we’ve managed to do, but there’s a downside too-like seeing dumbass kids getting their necks tattooed on their first tattoo coz it’s in fashion. Seriously-when you’re 40 you’ll wake up and think ‘What the fuck have I done to my neck?’


“Another problem is now everybody wants to be a tattoo artist and they don’t know anything about the culture,” he continues. “Unfortunately we live in an age where you can learn about tattooing on the internet and that was one thing we fought for on the shows-to never teach anybody to tattoo. The show just shows you what we create. If you want to learn to be a tattooer then go and seek out an apprenticeship and take the time to learn your craft.”


Another change that both Ami and this writer has noticed in the culture these days is the misconception that you need to tell you tattooer an hour long sob story before you get some work done.


“I know man…it’s funny because due to these shows people now think they have to come to me with a fucking huge story to get tattooed-but that’s not the point. Just get a tattoo because you wanna. If you want a dragon because you love dragons you don’t need to go into a fucking spiel for half an hour and tell me why. Of course you should have a reason to get a tattoo, but that reason can be personal, quirky or whatever.”


Currently in Ireland to both tattoo and promote his brand new shop in Cork (more on that in a bit), Ami is on our screens right now as the main man behind NY Ink. Now in it’s third season, the show is more about the art rather than the drama this time around and that’s a good thing as far as James in concerned.


“If it was up to me all you’d see is tattoos and hardly anything else, but at the end of the day you’re a slave to the network,” he offers. “Editing is god. All the drama and the bullshit is not something that I’ve ever had in my shops, it’s something that is pressed when you’re doing TV, but you just take it like a pill you know?”


By the time you read this, Ami will be getting ready to embark on his latest adventure-opening up a tattoo shop in Cork. Tentatively called Love Hate Social Club, the parlour is co-founded alongside his friend and colleague Ross Nagle and the artist tells us that he’s looking forward to getting started on the new project.


“The reason why I decided to open the shop is because I’ve a big Irish clientele and as the economy got a little rougher a lot of my fans and customers couldn’t afford to Miami or New York anyone,” says Ami. “Having less and less Irish people in started to bum me out, so I thought instead of them coming to me, I can go to them. For me, it’s so cool to be able to travel and absorb other cultures and we can do something great here and bring different artists into the country and have a shop that revolves around an open door of tattooers-who can come from New York to Miami-and we can rotate them around.”


Check out for updates on the new shop.