LA Ink's Corey Miller Talks Old School LA Punk, Says "Circus" Of Show Will Be Back

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Watchers of LA Ink either loathe the guy or champion him, but Corey Miller -- who plays second fiddle to camera-magnet Kat Von D on the reality show -- describes himself as an old-school carny and folk artist, instead of a dramatic lightning rod. He also has an old-school surf-punk band (naturally) with skateboarding legend Steve Alba.

Miller will be in St. Louis this weekend for the Old School Tattoo Expo and talked about tattooing, punk and being a reality TV star. This interview was conducted while Miller was waiting in line for a ride at Knott's Berrry Farm amusement park outside LA, where he was celebrating his daughter's birthday. Guy is a trooper.

"TV is going to end, this shit is going to end eventually. I took the ride. The circus was in town and you do that," says Miller about his time on LA Ink. - PHOTO: TIM SUTTON
  • Photo: Tim Sutton
  • "TV is going to end, this shit is going to end eventually. I took the ride. The circus was in town and you do that," says Miller about his time on LA Ink.
What do you look for at these tattoo conventions?
I come not necessarily to look for work, but for me to see what's going on, what artists are doing, who's doing radical new stuff, that's what inspires me. I love going out and seeing guys getting creative and doing neat things. Especially for the fact that it's an old-school convention. I know Lyle (Tuttle), he's a great guy, to be invited by those guys it means a lot to me too. I've been around along time, but now I'm in the big limelight of the whole tattoo industry, and for those guys to appreciate me coming around, it's a good feeling.

At the convention this weekend, will you be tattooing? Will you judge any competitions?
I'm not going to tattoo, because I didn't want to get a license to tattoo in Missouri. They've invited me to meet people, and there are lot of fans of the show. I'm going to show off some tattoos and sell T-shirts, take pictures with people. It's something really strange. The whole TV thing -- three seasons deep into a TV show, there's a lot of people that want to meet you and buy a poster or T-shirt.

Do you make your own tattoo equipment?
I do. I have a couple machines with a friend. Dan Dringenberg. He's traveling to St. Louis with me. We worked the Lyle Tuttle show years and years ago. Definitely old blood.

What's it take to get an appointment with you?
We just finished the third season on November 6. I just kind of hit the ground running and came home and I'm back at my shop, Six Feet Under, opening in December. I'm not booked at all [now]. I try to just keep it basic: I go to work, tattoo and go home. I'm not booked for a year, like people would think. But when I open my books, they fill up really quick. I was booked for a year before I left for Hollywood to go do that show.

Now that you've been on the show, do you charge more for work?
Maybe just a little bit. I'm a little more inland from Hollywood. You don't want to undercut your competition -- you have to keep up with the Joneses. i kept it pretty moderate. If anybody knows me, they know I'm fairly inexpensive.

On Friday when you're here in St. Louis, Jeremy Swan of Silver Lake tattoo near Yosemite National Park will try to double the world record set by Kat on the LA Ink: He wants to tattoo 900 people within 24 hours. Do you have any comment on this guy's effort to beat the record set on LA Ink?
Good luck, man. I watched Kat that night, I wouldn't have wanted to try that. Good for him.

Like acid wash jeans, some trends are looked back on with embarrassment years down the line. What are some awful tattoo trends? Are there tattoos you won't do because of it?
I really don't know. I think as much as I may be on the inspiration [for a tattoo] end of it, there are also people who just jump into the business of it too fast. I'm not out there teaching people or trying to sell [tattooing].

A sad trend maybe, that [tattoo artists] will look at it as a trade, instead of the folk art like we know it. I don't think it is a [business] to me. I'm a grateful, old-school kind of carny.

TV is going to end, this shit is going to end eventually. I took the ride. The circus was in town and you do that. It's just not the tattoo artists either, its happening to all art. I might be a little blurred too. It might mean the world to [those new artists].

So, are you done with LA Ink?
That's all stuff that has be played out on the show. It gets crazy. Things get a little wilder. We have a whole news season in the can that's going to start in January. That's something to watch.

How does a reality show personality spend his time off, then?
I'm supposed to be back home. Played a couple gigs with my band, spend time with my family. The filming schedule is really imposing on your life. I'm glad to be out of that for a minute. They always leave me in the dark with the filming and producrs. I think that's just their way. It's not like we're saving the world [with the show].

What band are you in?
Powerflex 5. It's old school surf music. Steve Alba is in the band.

You have a family -- do your kids watch the show? I know it might not be precisely their demographic, but do they like to see their dad on TV?
They kind of grew up with it, so it's not a big deal to them. There was a couple times in the mall, they saw that people wanted autographs. It's pretty funny.

You are self-described fan of Black Flag to Black Sabbath, and a drummer. What were your favorite LA punk bands from back in the day? What was your playlist at age 15?
Oh you know, the staples: Circle Jerks, the Adolescents, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag.

Time to test your mettle. Who was your favorite Black Flag singer?
Ron Reyes. That was my first impression of them. His voice was so brutal.

What bands were you in? Can you remember any names? Please tell me. I will try to find the demo.
[Laughs] Oh God. I don't know. Even now with [Powerflex 5], we've only had a chance to record a demo. We played the other night at the Roxy. I'm 42, going out there, but the only difference is my buddy has good equipment now. And we have kids. And we don't get so fucked up anymore.

This one is from a friend who lives in LA --- Do you have any theories on why cars keep crashing next to High Voltage [the tattoo shop featured in LA Ink]? Is it a magnet of some sort? What was your reaction?
It's safer inside, but I have no idea. I didn't witness any of them. Some people got some pretty brutal pictures though, when they did happen. I guess it's Hollywood man. Stuff happens every minutes there.

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