In the Flesh: Houston Musicians Talk About Their Tattoos
'I've gotten all of these tattoos over the years," laughs Houston musician Bart Maloney. "Some of them I've added to; some of them I've changed -- like this one here? I added the steel guitar after her. She needed something more."
Photos by Jeff Myers Old Crow owner Jared Green (right) has helped steel guitarist Bart Maloney create a '40s motif for many of his tattoos.
Maloney's arms are covered in brightly colored ink, everything from a razor-sharp barber's edger to a traditional pinup girl drawn across the flesh of his arm. Another pictograph extends across the length of his arm and over his shoulder, ultimately making its way down his chest. Every one of these badges has a story behind it that he's happy to share.
"And this one?" Maloney excitedly points to his upper bicep, where lie the Alamo and some lyrics to Bob Wills' "San Antonio Rose."
"Well, it's for my love of Texas music."
Chris Navasatis, front man for local industrial-metal band ERASETHEVIRUS, is the severe and glaring opposite of the good-natured Maloney. But he tells an almost identical story about his tattoos.
"I mean, I've got a ton of tattoos up my body -- a full sleeve, and some on my chest," Navasatis says. "But this one right here? Right under my bicep? It's my ERASETHEVIRUS tattoo, my battery.
"It reminds me of why I do this some days," he laughs, his voice throaty and raw.
Musically, the two couldn't be more different. Maloney is a master of the steel guitar, playing with the likes of the Belmont Five and Nick Gaitan & the Umbrella Man. Navasatis has a distinct rock edge and snarls out his songs while fronting ETV. Even his laugh, compared to Maloney's good-natured chuckle, edges close to a growl.
Both men are inked up and down their bodies, not that it's especially surprising. Traditionally, musicians and tattoos have gone hand in hand -- just step into most local shows, and the amount of ink onstage will be proof enough. If you're curious, prices for all this body art vary considerably, from maybe $100 for a fly-by-night job to nearly $200 an hour for high-end work that can take months to complete. But where these musicians differ from other tattooed folk, with their sleeves, chest pieces and the like, is in the content of their ink.
You see, Navasatis and Maloney, as well as Saturn Will Not Sleep's Steven Trimble and Los Skarnales' Felipe Galvan, have one thing in common. Different as they may be musically, all four men sport tattoos that are indelibly linked to their musical identities. Meanwhile, artists Jared Green and "Big Gabe" Bayles have guided their needles around the skin of scores of Houston musicians.
Even big, bad industry rockers have to rely on their secret powers every once in a while.
Take Chris Navasatis, for example. The ERASETHEVIRUS front man is heavily inked, with a full sleeve peeking out from underneath his shirt and a trail of tattoos down his stomach.
On a body that decorated, it's hard to imagine one unique tattoo that might stand out from all the others. But dig hard enough and you'll find it -- and the key to his secret power -- buried within the swirling clouds of dark ink marking his body. Positioned right under Navasatis's bicep, in the fleshy part of the arm, sits his favorite piece: a small battery bearing the letters "ETV."
This is Navasatis's pièce de résistance. And while you can guess what the "ETV" stands for -- ERASETHEVIRUS, of course -- the story behind the battery takes a little more explaining.
"It's my go-go juice," laughs the singer. "If that makes any sense."
Even the tattoo's origins are a mark of Navasatis's devotion to music. It was inked on that notoriously touchy spot under the bicep at Clear Lake's Big Door Studios as ETV recorded an album back in 2005. Ox, their tattoo artist, came by just for that reason.
"I'm not the only guy with this tattooed on them, by the way," says Navasatis. "I've run into a couple of fans that have it tattooed on them, too. And ETV is on the inside of some chick's lip."
Apparently even those rowdy fans need a bit of ETV's go-go juice every now and again. And for a guy who's been fronting his band for a decade -- ETV celebrated its ten-year anniversary this past March -- Navasatis has probably needed that battery's energy boost more than once. After all, growling into the mike is hard work, and the crowds at Scout Bar, where ETV has become a Texas Buzz staple, have grown to expect such antics from the tattooed brute.
The band (Navasatis, Richie Haye, Mangy James and Jessica Perry) may have to pull even more of a jolt from that ink in the studio, where they're now recording their as-yet-unnamed third album. Navasatis seems pretty excited about it, but being in the back studio doesn't mean he'll be adding to that little battery. Not yet, anyway.
"That's it. That's my only band tattoo," he says. "That battery is just part of who I am."
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