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Tattoo Talk: Sabaton Drummer Hannes Van Dahl Dives Deep into His Passion for Ink

Sabaton drummer Hannes Van Dahl joins us for a Tattoo Talk interview wherein he discusses his first tattoo, cover-ups, and friendship with Markus Körling of Let’s Live Galleries.



Currently on tour across North America, Sabaton has enjoyed an eventful resurgence in 2022 after the delays and false starts brought about by the various 2020 and 2021 lockdowns. Earlier this year, the power metal juggernauts released their tenth studio album, The War to End All Wars, which was itself a sequel to 2019’s The Great War. As the album titles suggest, both are concept albums that focused on the horrors of the First World War.

They have followed those albums up with the release of the Weapons Of The Modern Age EP, which was issued on September 30th via Nuclear Blast Records. This EP builds on the perspective of those records, with six songs about the close link that develops between since and war in times of conflict. During these times, the attributes of the greatest scientists in the world are used to help develop and create some of the fiercest, most devastating weapons to help their country win the war. This EP tells the story of World War I’s most deadly weapons and how the war negatively contributed to some of the largest advances in scientific evolution.

These are all big ideas certainly worthy of investigation and reflection, but we wiped the slate clean today for our latest edition of Tattoo Talk with Sabaton drummer Hannes Van Dahl. We asked him about his first tattoo, his close relationship with his tattoo artist, and the teenage tattoos he’s looking to get covered up.

When, where and what was your first tattoo?

Hannes Van Dahl: “I got my first tattoo pretty much on the day of my 18th birthday, actually together with my mother, I got the ‘Bonzo’ sign, the three rings from John Bonham of Led Zeppelin on my right wrist. Dude, I was so excited! The piece took two hours to do, and after that, all endorphins were gone… I remember I felt like shit, fever and all of it. I guess it was the combination between getting too excited and the pain! My mom did a piece on her leg with my name on it! Her first tattoo as well! Supermom!”

Do any of your tattoos have a particularly special meaning behind them? If so, do share, man!

“I have the text ‘It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’ on my chest; it’s a song from Duke Ellington/Ella Fitzgerald that my grandmother used to play on vinyl; it was always a song that got me in a good mood! And it’s a true saying for a drummer… I also have my wife’s and daughter’s letters on my finger. I’d say those are the tattoos that have the most meaning to me personally; the majority of the rest are just designs I like.”

Do you have a specific shop or artist that you frequent (insert shameless plug time!)?

“Oh yes, I exclusively go to my old friend Markus Körling, whose studio is called Let’s Live Galleries, and Funny Farm Tattoo on Instagram. He’s the man! Check out his work! He did my back, both arms, and now a cover-up on my leg.”

We know you have one… tell us about that stoned/drunken joke tattoo you once got…

“I tattooed a pentagram on my friend’s leg, did a terrible job, and we were not sober for sure. Would recommend it!”

Have you had anything covered up? If yes, what was it and why… we need details!

“I sacrificed my left leg to a friend when we were 16 years old, he wanted to start tattooing, and I let him go wild on my leg. I figured I would never become a leg model anyways. There’s all kinds of shit on there, some weird owl, a really ugly wolf, and just a lot of mess that’s hard to see what it is! I wouldn’t say that I regret it because it was a consequence of that time (laughs) and a 16-year-old brain! But I for sure don’t intend on keeping it! So cover up it is.”

Artwork for the album ‘The War to End All Wars’ by Sabaton

If you HAD to get someone’s face tattooed on you, whose would it be and why?

“I’d get our singer’s face tattooed, but a crossbreed between him and Mr. T! They have a weird resemblance; perhaps also put a Viking helmet and thongs on him, perhaps in a pink mankini, just really to see his face when I show it to him.”

When do you get work done? Is it something planned and more regimented, or whenever the mood strikes?

“I know my tattoo artist so well; I love his style, I know how he works, and for me, it’s quite important that he gets into the creative vibe and is into what he’s working on. So we usually discuss the day before on text whatever piece I want to get. Sometimes, with reference photos, but most of the time, he gets the vibe and what I’m looking for. Then, the next day, he already drew some cool stuff and presented it to me!”

Do you have a crazy, weird, or super-memorable tattoo experience you’d care to share?

“Once our guitar player tattooed a Van Halen logo on my leg, but I thought it took forever, and that was because he also signed it, the bastard! So I have his signature on my body, forever.”

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?

“Well, he’s my best friend, so we talk about everything, and I think, just like the question is phrased, it’s only between bartenders and tattoo artists.”

Where do you feel the biggest tech advances are coming from in tattooing? Say, compared to ten or even 20 years ago.

“I’d say in the ink itself and the actual machines. They’re getting smoother, more reliable, and wireless.”

Do you feel more people these days are seeking custom, unique created art compared to using, say, flash art from books and web/social media?

“Yeah, for sure! There are so many talented artists out there, and also online access to all kinds of art is a huge difference from just a few years ago. And with the speed tattoo artists develop their skills, it’s a cool evolution.”

Getting a tattoo is a deeply personal experience. Do you feel people choose a tattoo artist in the same way they choose the actual tattoo design?

“Hmm, I don’t know; I can only hope that people make sure they get an artist who is highly aware of hygiene, does stuff that you’re into and listens to you. Then you’ll for sure not end up disappointed.”

Tattoo pain: love It, hate it, indifferent to it. Or, maybe, is pain mental?

“Pain is mental, for sure. Do I like it? Nope. Do I like tattoos? Yes! That’s the price.”

What is your absolute favourite part of getting fresh ink?

“Hanging out with my best friend, seeing the art come to life, and being proud of the result.”

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