In the Flesh: Houston Musicians Talk About Their Tattoos

Categories: In Print

The Rudest Vato
Felipe Galvan, 
Los Skarnales

You can call Felipe Galvan, front man and co-founder of Los Skarnales, whatever you like, but just make sure it includes the words vato rudo.

That is, after all, what he has inked on his skin.

There's nothing mainstream about this rowdy character, from his '40s greaser vibe to his devout adoration of old-school punk and ska. But Galvan's tattoos still manage to one-up his own unique style.

From his eldest daughter's name across his chest -- he's got three kids but just one tattoo -- to the "Vatos Rudos" declaration on his upper shoulder, the guy is a walking canvas. Furthermore, Galvan sketched out most of his tattoos himself. He's a cartoonist on the side and liked enough of his drawings to have them etched permanently under his skin.

An authentic pachuco, complete with a fedora and oversize pants, twirls a gorgeous cartoon girl in a giant, swirling skirt across Galvan's forearm. He drew them a few years back as a testament to his love of the vatos who came before him.

Galvan also has a Texas tattoo on one shoulder and a "Clash City Rocker" encircling a star beneath it. He grew up on a diet of the Ramones and the Sex Pistols but says he'll never forget the day he heard the Clash's punk rock-reggae fusion explode from his speakers. That's what drove him to start Los Skarnales.

But within all that ink, there's one tattoo Galvan won't ever touch, no matter what. Ironically, it's what he calls his worst.

"I was in Mexico City for a Los Skarnales concert, and we were walking around downtown during a break," he explains. "We walked into this tattoo shop, and the artist asks us where we're from. I told him Houston, and he says, 'I only know one band from there. Los Skarnales -- have you ever heard of them?'

"I just laughed and told him who I was," Galvan chuckles. "He told me to pick out anything in you call it...portfolio, and gave it to me for free."

That may have been the spot where most people would have stopped, but not Galvan. He had a flyer in his pocket where he'd drawn a cartoon version of himself for a show earlier in the week, in Tintin/Mexican Cab Calloway style, complete with a microphone. He pulls down his sleeve to reveal the piece, by an artist known as Chacal, and laughs heartily.

"I had one of the worst tattoo artists in Mexico tattoo a cartoon of myself on my shoulder," Galvan says. "And it's terrible!

"I found out after it was done that the guy is known for being the worst," he continues. "It's a bad, bad tattoo. But I love it. Who else can say they've got a tattoo of themselves from the worst artist in the country?"

Phoenix Rising
Steven Trimble, 
Saturn Will Not Sleep

Calling Steven Trimble a musician would be pretty shortsighted.

He's the one-man madhouse behind Saturn Will Not Sleep, the electronic "project" that sprang to life only a few years ago. From the moment Trimble took Scout Bar's stage for his very first performance, his style was unlike anything the city had ever seen: Flashing lights, heavy beats, and live musicians or rappers came together to create a funhouse of sound that was completely dependent on the audience's mood.

While Trimble has certainly carved out his own musical niche, he has another role, too. First and foremost he's a visual artist, something that has been a part of him for as long as he can remember. The elements he uses to create his painted masterpieces -- spray paint, skewed graphics and bold statements all layered one upon another -- result in some of the most unique art in the Houston scene.

Visually, his music is equally stunning. A smattering of blinking lights casts shadows onto the crowd as Trimble takes the stage, faceless behind a mask or hood. Appearing as only a shadow, he creates beats, sounds and layers. And as one might expect, his signature tattoo speaks to the duality of his roles.

A phoenix spattered with spray paint rises up from Trimble's wrist and covers the entirety of his forearm. The paint that drips from the bird is reminiscent of his art, the earliest of which he created in his garage.

Rising from the ashes, it represents the music he makes as Saturn. While Trimble may rest from time to time, Saturn Will Not Sleep, nor does he. Instead, he just keeps making art in any form he can.

Story continues on the next page.

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