The longer the way, the larger the pay. It’s a good thing then that Cycotic Youth has delivered big time with the release of their song “Cycofied,” the band’s first new single in over 30 years. Fortunately, the track finds the group picking up where they left off all of those decades ago, solidifying their punk/thrash metal sound, punctuated by its intense riffs and vintage angst.
The band members decided to give it another go for the mere fact that they felt a need to be heard again in a world that is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Formed in 1984 by brothers Jason and Jimmy Brown, the two have refurbished the group with a new lineup, ready to speak out against all of the undue pain, loss, and suffering that people are forced to endure. The Brown brothers don’t want you to think of this as some revival project, though; it’s a new band with new power, hunger, and resolve.
Like so many rockers, the members of Cycotic Youth are tattoo enthusiasts. In fact, Jason Brown is also the owner of the Venice-based tattoo shop S.T. Tattoo, which he started with Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies. So we recently spoke to Brown for our latest Tattoo Talk in which we discussed his favourite tattoos, how he got involved with S.T. Tattoo, and also touched on the band’s new music.
When, where and what was your first tattoo?
Jason Brown: “My first tattoo was done by Fip Buchanan at Avalon Tattoo in San Diego, California. I got a skeleton hanging in the jail cell and it was a version of a Dogtown skateboard that I got on my upper right arm.”
How did S.T. Tattoo come to be and how is the shop doing?
“S.T. opened up in 1998. Me and Mike Muir from the band Suicidal Tendencies had been friends for a long time. At the time, I had been tattooing a couple years at LA Tattoo in Hollywood and I was asked to go on tour with Suicidal and do tattoos. I was fortunate to travel the world with them, and as it became more of a thing and me leaving town a lot, the owner of LA Tattoo didn’t like that too much. So me and Mike decided to open up S.T. Tattoo in Venice so it would be a place where people could see a little history of the band, get some cool custom tattoos and buy some merchandise.
“Back in the early 1990s Mike in the band had a state shop called Streets of Venice. They used to carry Dogtown Skateboards and they had a bunch of vinyl in there and they had some surfboards so we kind of wanted to make it a knock off of that shop. Here we are 25 years later and the shop is doing very well, got some talented artists and we tattoo people from all over the globe.”
Is there a tattoo that you have that has the most meaning to you?
“The tattoo that means the most to me is my daughter’s name on my neck with the Virgin Mary. Mark Mahoney did it about 15 years ago; since then I’ve had it touched up a few times. Basically, I wanted the Virgin Mary to be watching over my daughter so that’s why I got that plus I am really fascinated with religious artwork.”
The Venice skate and punk scene over the decades is iconic. Do you feel a lot of the tattoo work done at S.T. Tattoo is still reflected in that?
“The Santa Monica and Venice skate punk scene has always been in my life for decades. Although it is iconic, I feel that it’s a reflection of the shop’s punk rock roots. Much of the work at the shop reflects Southern California, lots of cars, black and grey work, but my guys are trained in all styles. I would say 85 percent of our clientele is black and grey realism to bold realism. Although myself and some of the other guys do a lot of suicidal influence tattoos, I’m always proud that S.T. will be a place where they can come see some history on the band and get a Suicidal-influenced tattoo.
“Although my guys do a lot of Lowrider portrait work and a lot of traditional work we like to call it a walk-in shop, it’s not a private studio and we like to feel the vibes of the walking shop. There’s always something crazy going on every day. I think if it was private we wouldn’t see that crazy guy down on the corner or that guy that always comes in on Friday the 13th and gets that Friday the 13th tattoo. Our guys that work there are not only just tattooers, they are also artists, painters, sketchers, graffiti artists, and graphic designers.”
Congrats on bringing Cycotic Youth back to life, what’s next for the band?
“The next thing for Cycotic Youth is putting out our record this summer, doing a tour of the new record which is called Cyco Up, and then getting back in the studio and writing our second record. We love playing music. I’ve been doing it since I was 15 years old and some of the guys I’ve known for a long time. A few of the guys are from the neighbourhood I used to actually hang out in, I even knew their moms and dads, you know? It’s so good to see that the young crowd is still into Cycotic Youth and RMG is going to be excited when they hear how powerful and how heavy and how hardcore these new songs are.”
Tell us about “Cycofied” and the meaning behind the song and others on your upcoming album.
“The meaning behind ‘Cycofied’ is basically how we grew up, you know, getting crazy, going hard whether it’s skating BMX, Moto X, snowboarding, and we always push the envelope and the song was actually written about a good friend of ours, Jay Adams, who passed away some years ago he was original Z boy from Dogtown.
“The song is about him because he didn’t really care about fame or fortune he just wanted to skate and surf and show the meaning of being raised in Dogtown. Some of the footage that you see in the video is old footage of Jay that’s never been seen before and I think it’ll give a good idea of how it was back in those days for the youngsters out there.”
When does the new album drop and what can we expect?
“We are shooting for a July 15th release but plan on releasing a four-song sampler before that, I’m excited about this record, it is probably the best stuff I’ve done ever, and I’ve been playing music since I was 15.”
Ok, back to tattoos; what is the most popular style of art S.T. Tattoo works on compared to other shops around the West Side?
“I think the most popular stuff, like I said before that comes in, is some Lowrider style single needle black and grey, but like I said, my guys are trained in everything; a lot of people come to me for the Flipskull, the classic Ric Clayton drawing. Ric Clayton was responsible for all the hand-drawn shirts on the first album. He’s one of my favourite artists and he was one of my mentors. Also, I have clients that come in from all over the world that want all kinds of different stuff.
“I think we stick out for most of the west side shops because most of them are on the boardwalk and I don’t consider a lot of good tattooers working down there. There are a few good ones, but I think what makes us stand out is the core of S.T. being an authentic tattoo shop and it’s a lifestyle store as well, you know? We lived it, we grew up here, and we know how to bring someone’s imagination to the skin.”
If you were to get another tattoo, what would you get?
“My next tattoo is actually a portrait of me and my daughter walking to her first punk rock show and it was at Ink in iron probably eight years ago when Suicidal headlined. It’s a picture of us from behind and I am walking hand-in-hand with her with a mohawk and it’s just a really cool photo, and I’m going to have a buddy of mine named Monkey who works at Original Tattoo in San Pedro do it.”
As a tattoo artist, business owner and creative, how do you feel the tattoo scene is doing compared to decades past?
“As a tattooer and business owner, I think it’s lost a little or a lot of creativity now we got the iPads and these guys coming out of art school thinking they can just lay down a tattoo because they have some training in art. I’m not bashing the iPad because I know it works for a lot of people and I have tried it. I’m just kind of a hands-on dude though. I like to do everything so I’m aware of where I’m going and how I’m going to get to point A to point B, but don’t get me wrong, I am getting more experience with the iPad, but for now, it’s just sketching and everything being done by hand and I think that a lot of new artists… They’ve never had a proper apprenticeship where they had to make needles or scrub tubes or learn how to build machines they just pop out of art school get a rotary and then think they’re god’s gift to the tattoo world.
“Like I say, you’re learning every day and I don’t bash anybody’s work, there could be a guy out there who has been tattooing half the time that I have and I will sit there and watch them because if I can learn something I will.”
Thanks again for chatting it up with us. Anything you want to leave the readers with?
“Check out Cyco Up coming out July 15th on all platforms and also if you’re thinking about tattooing get into a real shop, draw your ass off and get an apprentice don’t just be a kitchen magician and try to scratch on people at home because you’re not only fucking it up for the client, but you’re messing it up for all the guys that gotta cover that bullshit.”