You’re in Good Company today with Tennyson King and his brand new album. The full-length, just released on January 21st, is something of a reflection on the nomadic singer-songwriter’s own life. The songs as a whole explore the shared experiences that come from traveling with another person, and the nature of connection with others and the world around you. It’s both an organic and vulnerable release, a true labour of love into which Tennyson poured his heart and soul over the course of an entire year. The songs on Good Company are inspired by experiences that took place in a wide range of locations, from beaches in the coastal town of Forster, New South Wales, to travels through Thailand, China, and Vietnam.
Tennyson decided to title the album “Good Company” because the songs are designed and intended to be good company to its listeners. There’s a campfire theme to this record, something that you can put on and it mimics a friend telling you stories about life and living. Tennyson’s love of storytelling is perfectly aligned with his love of music, as he thrives on sharing his life with people through songs, born of the many experiences he has had travelling to far-off lands that many don’t ever get the opportunity to visit.
We recently caught up with Tennyson and shifted the focus away from music for a moment to discuss body art in our latest Tattoo Talk. He goes in-depth with us on some of his most highly valued tattoos, new tattoo plans, his go-to artist, and that unique, personal connection you can have with a tattoo artist.
When, where and what was your first tattoo?
Tennyson King: “I got my first tattoo when I was 17 years old at a Tattoo shop in Toronto, Ontario. I don’t actually remember the name of the shop. My first tattoo was a ‘dead’ tree with a face on it. The inspiration was from the trees in Wizard of Oz and a Marilyn Manson tattoo. It was also something I saw the first time I tried psychedelics up north at the cottage. We were wandering in nature in the forest and many of the trees came alive with what looked like faces, and it was then that I really bonded me with nature. The tattoo at the time was really marking that new connection in my life.”
Do any of your tattoos have a particularly special meaning behind them? If so, do share, man!
“I feel like all my tattoos have some type of special meaning behind them, at least to me. I explained my first one. I have a tattoo on my chest. It is an ox and a tombstone. The tombstone says ‘爸爸’ which means dad in Cantonese, along with his birth and death dates. He is the year of the Ox. The tattoo is just my way of not only remembering the dates but just my way of keeping him close to my heart.
“I’ve got a big full leg piece from my knee down to my ankle on my left leg. It’s all based of ancient Greek pottery designs. I studied Ancient Greek history when I was in university and during the classes as I studied the meaning behind each pottery design and art period I would be planning this tattoo. It features patterns from all the periods (geometric, archaic, classical), different significant images of Heracles and Achilles playing chess, a funeral procession known as Ululation, the first image from the first piece of pottery ever found, etc… So many meanings behind every little detail but for me, the biggest thing is really about history, and the importance of learning from our past.
“The tattoo on my arms is special because it was designed by one of my closest friends. It is a snake, which is my mom’s zodiac sign wrapped around a bamboo tree. It’s actually a treble clef symbol. I wanted a tattoo to represent my passion for music, but I didn’t just want your typical cheesy music notes or symbols.”
Do you have a specific shop or artist that you frequent (insert shameless plug time!)?
“Yes, my last two tattoos were done by Xris Kukiel from www.xmarkstattoos.com. He’s my go-to person and I’m hoping to go back to him very soon for my next tattoo!”
Do you have any new tattoos planned or underway? Give us the dirt, dude!
“The next tattoo I’m hoping to get is on the back of my neck. It’s going to be an image of a gorgon. A gorgon is a mythical creature that was placed on the pediments of ancient Greek temples to ward off evil spirits from entering the temple. I want one always watching my back keeping an eye out for me and keeping the bad vibes away. I’m also looking to get the Chinese Tritones somewhere, but haven’t decided where yet. Those are the eight elements surrounding the yin and yang in Tao philosophy. They represent wind, fire, earth, marsh, heaven, water, mountain, and thunder. Beyond that, I haven’t really thought of any new ones yet!”
Do you have any tattoos that you now hate, want to replace, or have covered up, and why?
“I don’t have any tattoos that I hate, but I do want the one on my chest with the ox and tombstone touched up or re-done. I had it done so long ago that it’s starting to fade a bit because of the amount of sun exposure I get on my chest. It’s also realism style, which means lots of shading in black, which tends to fade quickly as well. My plan is to get it either touched up or have the ox re-imagined but it will overall be the same concept.”
Have any tattoos that were painful? Like made you cry, see white light, and regret being born?
“None of my tattoos were really that painful… the annoying tattoo I have was my full leg one simply because it was spaced out in four sessions with two weeks in between to heal. The healing part is the worst for me because it’s itchy, you can’t touch it, etc… So I had to go through that process four times which was not the most fun. But if we are talking about body modifications, I have a branding and that is the most painful, and I got that early in my teens, so after that, I compare all tattoo pain to, ‘well at least it’s not as bad as my branding”…”
If you HAD to get someone’s face tattooed on you, who’s would it be and why?
“If I had to get someone’s face tattooed…. tough call. I don’t know if I would actually do it, but a couple of people would be Buffy The Vampire Slayer… I was in love with her as a pre-teen and teen…and maybe even as an adult… I was in the Sarah Michelle Gellar fan club when I was young and just thought she was the coolest ever.
The other person would probably be Keanu Reeves. There is something about that dude. I’ve never met him or anything, but he is so Zen and one with everything… maybe it’s the Matrix talking. But he’s definitely someone I think is pretty cool and wouldn’t be ashamed of having his face on my tattoo. Though I would push for the ‘sad Keanu’ meme tattooed.”
When do you get work done? Is it something planned and more regimented, or whenever the mood strikes?
“I usually try to plan my tattoos, because I’m not as into getting random things. Also, most of the tattoo artists I want to get tattoos from generally have like a one or two-month waitlist because they are high demand because they are just so good. It’s also a money thing… they are expensive and I need to make a conscious effort to save up for a tattoo. Plus, I don’t want to get them in the summer/sunny months because I love being out in the sun and having a fresh tattoo means no sun or swimming which is a major bummer for me.”
Tattoo artists are similar to bartenders in the sense that people confide in them. What’s the most personal story you’ve shared (or been told) while getting work done.
“To be honest, I definitely connected with my current tattoo artist, we chat, and I’m pretty open to him, but I wouldn’t say any more open to a friend or good acquaintance. We connect on an artistic level in terms of sharing a creative vision for tattoos and we connect with the stories for the tattoos. During the actually tattooing though, I’m pretty quiet… It’s a bit of a personal introspective thing for me where I like to Zen out, be in the moment, really be in the moment of feeling the needle and the pain. It’s not really a situation where I want to talk to be distracted from the feeling. I actually really dig the feeling of it all. Pain is pleasure I guess is the saying.”