Everyone loves a good tattoo story. Being the proud owner of some awesome body ink is one thing, but the details and circumstances of the art are what make it worth the pain and the price. It's a philosophy that Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge knows all too well. The punk legend and co-owner of 3rd St. Tattoo in Hermosa Beach has a body full of permanent markings ranging from creative to cringeworthy. He's been tattooed by professionals, drunk friends and occasionally turns the tattoo gun on himself. And every piece he's got seems to be inspired by something emotional or crazy that's happened to him.
"I've always thought of tattoos as markings of time I'm not one for just getting something off the wall," he says. "I usually get something that was important in my life then I got out and have too many beers and just decide to get 'em, drawn up on scraps of paper. Some tattoos aren't pretty by any means but when I look at them they bring back memories."
Before he and his band jump on stage today to headline Costa Mesa tattoo and music festival MusInk--in celebration of their 25th anniversary and reuniting with original front man Jim Lindberg--Dragge was good enough to let us peek at a a handful of his tattoos and explained the meanings and stories behind them.
I got this in memory of our original bass player, Jason Matthew Thirsk. I never thought I was gonna be a guy to get all tatted up below the sleeves. This the first one I got in that area. It was important to me because he was one of my best friends, the founder of Pennywise, and it's located on a place where I get to see it a lot. And some people ask me what the JMT stands for and I get to talk about him. Also on this wrist, I have initials for my dad and my brother, both of them have passed away also. So this arm is kind of a daily reminder of people who are special to me.
I made sure to have "Stay the Course" written above it. Isaiah at Shamrock Social Club did it on the year of our 20 year anniversary after a show in Hollywood. At the time, it donned on me that it had been 20 years so I just a got a tattoo that stood for what Pennywise has always been about: Never give up and never give in. That's how it's been. Sure, we had a little time without Jim [Lindberg] and now he's back. So it's another one that reminds me of where I've been.
Black Flag Logo
I don't know how many people have gotten this, but I'm guessing it s the most popular band tattoo of all time. I don't remember what year I got those bars. But Black Flag was always Pennywise's favorite party band growing up in Hermosa Beach.
Dog Pedro the Dog
A pro skateboarder friend and I ended up tattooing each other on our chests at the same time one night after one too many beers. He tattooed his dog Pedro on me and I tattooed the words "Born Free" on him because he was always kind of a hippie. So we both went home to crash with these freshly acquired bad tattoos. In the morning he took Pedro out for a walk, and that morning the dog, who he never put on his leash, ran into oncoming traffic and died. So literally five hours after getting the tattoo, he was gone.
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Line of Stitches (from the left middle finger to his chest)
After a night of about a dozen screwdrivers, it seemed like a good idea but not in the morning it was probably one of the dumbest things I've ever done.