From multiple musical projects to his work as a tattooist to just about anything that he can set his creative mind to, Jamie Christ isn’t a man who likes to do nothing. While lockdown gave him chance to work on his many ideas and projects, Jamie is now excited to be back with a tattoo gun in his hand and, under the CHRISTWVRKS moniker, his new album Messiah Complex out this past Friday.
Ahead of the release of the album, V13 sat down with Jamie and spoke to him about tattooing, CHRISTWVRKS and how he’s been keeping sane during lockdown.
Thanks for your time Jamie, now lockdown is easing, how is life changing for you?
Jamie: “Thanks for having me! I’m finally allowed to get back to tattooing, so it’s great to be hanging about with my pals and talking shit in the shop again. I didn’t realise how much I actually NEED to be around other people drawing and in a tattoo shop to feel inspiration. For a long time in lockdown I was barely drawing at all and just working on music, sculpture or basically anything else I could think of. Though maybe after doing it all day every day I needed a break from it.”
As a tattoo artist and a musician, how would you describe the last few months?
“When the lockdown was first implemented I was like ‘Yass now I can do all the projects I’ve really wanted to do but not had time for, because tattooing and drawing designs for tattooing is so time-consuming.’ So in the first three weeks I started to build my vision for what CHRISTWVRKS could become. Something to encompass all of my creative output including a Mutant-Wear clothing brand.
I then started doing sculpture for the first time and making clay masks and shit as well as making an unrelenting amount of custom clothes and all manner of arts and crafts shit. However, after a month or two I had completed my to do list. Suddenly the deafening silence overcame me.
Although when you meet me, I’m very friendly and pretty loud, I am definitely an introvert. I definitely require a lot of alone time to remain emotionally stable and feel recharged. I’ve always yearned for some sort of retreat to the country for a month where I can do nothing but art and music where I don’t have to talk to anyone and basically, I had finally got that. But it turns out although I need time to myself, I definitely need people as well.”
Given the type of music you create, how much has the effect of lockdown inspired your recent work?
“Thinking about it now, the music I have created during this time is much more completive which, I suppose, is quite reflective of the lockdown experience. There are many more dynamics and quiet sections and room to breathe. As opposed to most of the stuff which has come before it which is pretty unrelenting.
What I love about having my own studio set up, and making music by myself, is whatever is going on in my head at any moment, can be in the computer almost instantly. The songs I make really are like a photograph of the universe inside my mind. There is no writing a song on guitar, then having to wait to practice to teach everyone else it, then you develop it over multiple practices, then record it in the studio, then it’s mixed by someone else. The whole magic, creative spark of you sitting alone in your room writing the song is long, long lost.”
You’ve described “A New Corpse” as your anthem for pushing your life through self-betterment. What have you learned about yourself during the last few months and how have you changed?
“I’d say the biggest one is that I’m not nearly as self-sufficient as I thought. I knew I relied on my wife for emotional support a lot more than I would like. But I didn’t think I needed to hang out and shoot the shit with people in order to feel emotionally balanced. I thought as long as I had emotional support, a physical outlet (training) and a creative outlet (art/music) then I’d be fine. But ultimately I have to admit to myself that I am human and we are social animals.
If anything I realised that I need to not make my whole life about self-betterment. Being of a predisposition towards addiction it’s quite easy for me to become obsessive and to pursue something to the point that I’m being neglectful of important things in my life.”
How have you dealt with your own mental health over the last few months?
“After this sort of deafening silence incident I spoke of earlier, for the first time in years or maybe ever I actually took a complete break from work. When I was growing up, I was a hardcore gamer. Since starting my tattoo apprenticeship, however, I completely stopped so I could 100% focus on my craft. So since halfway through the lockdown I have completed 12-15 games [laughs]. The escapism and simply doing something totally vacuous without any career goal was great for me while I felt totally trapped, oppressed and overwhelmed by the world outside. I also then took up skateboarding for the first time in 15 years. Again, it was totally awesome to be really shit at something, but it didn’t matter, because I was doing it for no reason other than to have fun.”
Your new album Messiah Complex you’ve described as a deep delve into the analysis of your worst parts. What are those parts and how have you kept control of them during lockdown?
“I think I pretty much have the same worst bits as everyone else, I can be vengeful, unempathetic, I lie, I can be a hypocrite, I lose my temper, I revel in others suffering, I can be undisciplined… the list goes on forever. But I try very hard to notice and acknowledge those things if not at the time then in hindsight. Most importantly ADMIT WHEN I’M WRONG. Then try to work out what made me behave that way and try to figure out a way to not repeat the same mistakes.”
How does it help you to write and perform about some of your bad points?
“The reason many people self-harm is because it provides some sort of comfort to see the pain inside them manifested as something real and physical rather than being tortured by an abstract thing within themselves. (Obviously, I am not condoning self-harm, I suffered from it in many guises over the years which is where this insight has come from) I think being driven to be creative is basically that same idea. You’re manifesting something real from the abstract ideas within yourself. So you can sit and look/listen at this thing you’ve created and go, ‘Yeah. That’s that thing within me that’s torturing me’ Then once you understand it more fully from an outside perspective, you can hopefully move on.”
Going forward has the forced lockdown given you time to create any new projects that you can tell us about?
“I was lucky enough to get invited into a group of guys along with Luke Kenny of the Berzerker (Luke named me Master Of Distortion for the project haha) to make some lockdown music which is a mix of deathgrind-speedcore-noise-techno. We have a few tracks finished but I’m intrigued to see what happens with it going forward.
The reason I could jump straight into fully producing my own stuff is because I used to make breakcore when I was growing up. The extra time allowed me to blast out a bunch of PASSENGEROFSHIT splattercore style tracks using grind samples and gabber kicks. I will release this sometime soon and in amongst the original tracks there will be some remixes of some pretty well-known grind bands.”
Music is a big part of your life, what was the album/artist who had the first major impact on your life?
“Considering these days I’m probably what you’d call a solo artist, the musician who has had the biggest influence on what I’m doing now would be Tom Waits. What I love about his music is that although its all completely different, you still always know it’s him. His personality is the one unifying force throughout the music. That idea is something I have really tried to implement in my own work, especially when it comes to making my art LOOK like how my music SOUNDS. It’s all come from me so I want it to just be different parts of the same creative universe.”
If you could collaborate with a musician who would it be and why?
“If I could be ANYONE it would probably be Tom Waits, he loves a bit of noise and dissonance so I’m sure he could learn to love blast-beats too [laughs].”
Away from music, tattooing is another major part of your life, how would you describe your style and do you like to put your own twist on people’s ideas?
“On my convention banner it says JAMIE CHRIST – HORRIBLE TATTOOS. That’s normally what I say when people ask me this question. Tattoos to make your mum sad. I want to make tattoos that look like what my mind’s eye saw when I was a little kid and saw a guy with a wolf tattoo. Just the most extreme, threatening visual punch to the face I can make. However, I want to balance that with a tragic beauty.”
From your own designs, what has been your favourite piece to create?
“I have a new one every week because I am always pushing myself forward and trying to develop and improve my tattooing technique and drawing skills. If I was forced to pick one I’d say the huge wolf-headed, bat-winged, snake tailed demon I did on a guys whole front. I think that one pretty encompasses everything I’m about as a tattooer.”
Can you remember the first time you picked up a pencil or an instrument and realised creating art, be it drawings or music, was something you wanted to devote your life to?
“It has never not been my goal I don’t think… I’ve been drawing and creating since before I can access my memory. My mum is very creative and hugely encouraging which I’m very grateful for. She really made me believe if there is something you want to do or achieve, you’re the only person stopping you from doing it.”
How do you combine the visual side of tattooing into the live performance of CHRISTWVRKS? What are your live shows like?
“The live performance is very much a visual spectacle. Because a lot of the music isn’t being done live, it frees us up to be much more theatrical with the performance. There is a lot of use of barbed wire baseball bats, oil drums, tangling myself up with flashing lights, disorientating lighting, smoke machines, screaming in people’s faces with megaphones.
I have a lot of plans to develop this much further in the future. I actually had a performance booked that has been cancelled due to lockdown. But the plan was to tattoo someone to a half-hour long composition I made which perfectly follows the arch of a tattoo being performed. To create the ultimate ritual of rebirth through tattooing.”
Finally, what can we expect from Jamie Christ in the coming months?
“The new album Messiah Complex will be out on Apocalyptic Witchcraft in early August with the accompanying hardback book of more than 100 pages of brutal collaged tattoo art and photography. I am more proud of this book than anything I have ever done. It’s the first time I have really felt that I have fully achieved what I set out to do.”