Someone gave me a pig heart in a mason jar. It was in the context of art, I believe. It was chained to a gourd and spattered with the expected colors of paint. And it was indeed, really and truly, a pig’s heart. I’m vegan and so it was kind of upsetting and pretty ironic, really, because it was the type of person I would want to guess was infatuated or obsessed. So in that context it made it even more shocking. They handed it to me at a show. That was around the same time that I saw for the first time a portrait tattoo of myself. And that was kind of a bittersweet experience. I love that, I’m not going to pretend. It’s cool and touching, really, to see someone who has gotten a portrait of me tattooed on their body although, of course, it is a little surreal, especially the first time.
There was the expected shock of being like, “Wow, there is a portrait of me tattooed on another person, this is the first time I’ve ever seen that, that is really wild, it is totally an honor, and it is interesting and cool.” Immediately all the images of portrait tattoos of artists that I’d seen in the past rushed through my head and I considered who I would get a portrait tattoo of, and all this pointed to what I had created and the extent to which it had affected that person to cause them to do something like that.
However, all that aside, the first one I saw—the portrait the girl got of me was a photograph of myself that I never wanted to be released. It was a photograph that I really didn’t like. I had done a project with the Samhain guys called Son of Sam. We had done a photo shoot and then right after I went to Europe with AFI. I didn’t really know the other guys in Son of Sam that well. At the photo shoot, one of the members of the band suggested we take a shot with all of us standing in a row with our arms folded across our chests like corpses in coffins. I didn’t want to do that but I was the young kid in the band and I wanted to be a team player. So I did it thinking it would never be used because we’re all going to pick which photos get used for this album when the time comes.
Then while I was in Europe, not only did they not use the artwork I had arranged, made by Linas Garsys, which was totally awesome but all of a sudden the record comes out with a picture of a girl in a graveyard on the cover and then on the inside there’s each of us in that awful “groundbreaking” position. It was certainly the only promo photo that I’ve ever done that I would have definitely disapproved of. The circumstance was what had allowed it to happen. If it had been my own band, we would have never have allowed. On a photo shoot when the photographer wants you to all stick your tongues out or do something silly or jump or, you know, he says, “We brought in this wolf for you to sit on and pose with”—we can say no. We know even if we would never use that picture it will somehow get used.
So the girl who had this as a tattoo, she rolled up her sleeve and I was polite and said, “I’m really honored, that’s great.” While the whole time I’m thing about how I really, really wish it wasn’t that picture.
Conversely, since then, of the portrait tattoos I’ve seen of myself [laughing that there are enough that he can pick favorites], one of my many favorite tattoos I’ve seen of myself is from a photo shoot I did for the cover of a compilation called Punk Fiction that came out in the 90s. And my friend who was putting it together asked me to re-create the movie poster for Pulp Fiction with me in place of Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace on the bed smoking a cigarette with the wig on and everything. So I went in and did that and it was the cover of the record and posters were made. Since then I’ve seen a portrait tattoo of me as Mia Wallace. That’s my favorite. And that was years before I was publicly dressing as a woman, which I’ve been doing for years now onstage and off. I think Mia Wallace was just one of my earlier excuses to strut around in women’s clothing.
Davey Havok, vocalist
Illustration by Christian Gordy