Tattooing was once thought of as a taboo subject but, now, tattoo artists are in demand as the craze for inked skin has gripped people all over the world.
Reporter KATIE BOWLER and photographer NEIL BARKER went to meet a tattooist and hear about his hectic lifestyle inking some of the country’s top celebrities and how he juggles it all with his family life.
KEVIN Paul was born in Leeds in 1978 and lived there until he was eight years old, before moving to Swadlincote.
The former Pingle School student said he hated school life and knew from an early age that all he wanted to be was a tattooist.
“I used to nick Indian ink from school and tattoo people when I was 13. I also started designing tattoos and my passion for the industry grew from there”, he said.
Kevin, 34, built his own tattoo machine using an Allen key, a pen and the motor from a Scalextric pistol in an attempt to kick-start his career.
When he was 18 he bought his first proper tattoo machine and inked people as a hobby while working full-time in various factories.
It was in 2006 when he opened his first studio, Monsterz Ink, in Burton, where he stayed for eight months before moving to Seventh Day, in Derby, for three years.
The multi-award winning tattooist is now based in Great Northern Road, Derby, trading under the name of Kevin Paul Tattoo.
The demand for his skilful work sees his time split between working in his studio and in London where he inks celebrities.
(Throughout the interview Kevin was being texted by big names wanting to know if they could be squeezed onto his waiting list.) Kevin, who is one of the few tattooists in the country who specialises in horror, realism and 3D, made his name four years ago when he was approached by the organisers of the Bloodstock Festival who invited him backstage to ink members of headlining bands.
Dani Filth from Cradle of Filth was the first of many high-profile celebrities to get inked by Kevin.
Others he has inked are Frederick Anderson from Amon Amorth, RnB duo Rizzle Kicks — with whom he has become good friends — Winshill-born Hollywood actor Paddy Considine and X-Factor reject Frankie Cocozza.
He has also been invited to Ed Sheeran’s house for several inking sessions and the star was so impressed by his work that he gave him his gold disk.
Some of the other celebrities Kevin has worked on include Aston from JLS, Derry from The Risk, drummer Naystar who plays for Justin Beiber, Tinnie Tempah and Dappy, X Factor’s Paige Richardson, Wizzy Wizzy, the producer for Wretch 32 and Chipmonk, as well as tattooing Wretch 32’s keyboard player Kola-Bello.
The list goes on and on.
Plans are also in the pipeline to tattoo members of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, up-and-coming singer Josh Cumrah, Duncan from Blue, X Factor winner Matt Cardle and contestant Aiden Grimshaw.
Notorious prisoner, Charles Bronson, got wind of Kevin’s work and rang to congratulate him. A few days later, Bronson sent him a signed picture of his prison which he had drawn in his cell. It now hangs proudly in his studio along with his many awards and celebrity memorabilia he’s collected over the years.
Kevin, who has featured in tattoo industry magazines and books all over the globe, said: “I had no idea the celeb tattoos would escalate like they have. It is really cool hanging out with them and backstage at festivals and gigs.
“One of the highlights of my career was meeting the magician Dynamo backstage where he performed tricks for me and my son, who is his biggest fan — his face was a picture.
“Another special moment was seeing Europe playing Final Countdown from backstage — it was something else.”
Kevin, who says he was inspired by American tattooist Paul Booth at a young age, has also been signed to the country’s biggest entertainment agency — Entertainment Industry — which runs shows such as the X Factor, The Only Way is Essex and Britain’s Got Talent.
Since being signed, he has been asked to ink cast members from Geordie Shaw on the show, attend premiers such as The Dark Knight and Keith Lemmon, as well as being asked to star in pop star music videos.
He is currently in talks over hosting a reality show about his career working with celebrities, his family and social life.
Other future plans include him creating an outlaw gangster-style design for a new clothing range with Firetrap. He has also launched his own clothing range called Est 78.
As well as working anything from nine to 12-hour days, Kevin is a married father-of-three.
In January, he married Tara, 21, — his partner of three years — in Las Vegas.
The couple, who live in Derby, have two children — Rocco, who is nearly two and Revan, who is six weeks old.
Kevin also has a 13-year-old son, Dennon, from a previous relationship.
“My biggest priority in life is my family and kids”, he said.
“I live a hectic lifestyle, always on the road, going somewhere new and doing different things. I don’t get much free time. If I’m not in London, I’m in my studio. The only holiday I get all year is in January. People think tattooing is a glamorous and easy job but it isn’t at all. I work hard, very hard.
“I can’t wait until my children are a bit older so I can bring them to cool places with me and meet the people I’ve met.”
Kevin, who is covered from head-to-toe in tattoos, says that over the years he has tattooed some very strange designs and on every area of the body you can imagine.
He wants to raise awareness about getting tattoos done safely and for the right reasons.
He said: “People should have tattoos for personal reasons — not for what looks good at the time.
“They should also research where and what they are having done and take time to really think about it before going ahead with a tattoo. Once it’s done there’s no going back.
“One of the biggest problems the industry faces now is people buying cheap kits off the internet and tattooing privately in houses.
“These people aren’t qualified and don’t have the proper equipment and we often see tattoos which have gone wrong or hear about serious infections because they don’t have thousands of pounds to pay for proper sterilising kits. It really is quite scary.
“I’d also advise people to look into what studio they are going to and always ask to see portfolios of a tattooist’s work before getting inked.”
Kevin can be found on Facebook under Kevin Paul Tattoo, on Twitter @Kevinp666 and can be emailed at email@example.com