For Marc Jackson, tattooing and music have always gone hand in hand.
“Music and tattoos have always been one thing as far as I’m concerned,” Jackson says. “You almost can’t have one without the other, at least for the heavier stuff. The super metal bands, hardcore music, punk rock, all those guys had tattoos.
“My dad had a couple tattoos, but I was a part of the MTV generation growing up,” Jackson continues. “I would say the start of my interest in getting heavily tattooed came from Mötley Crüe, because they had full sleeves and played the rock ‘n’ roll music. Tommy Lee was my influence, and those were the first dudes I saw who were heavily tattooed.”
As a high school kid just a couple of decades ago, Jackson wasn’t anywhere near a professional tattoo artist or rock star. Sure, he was interested in both, but neither seemed any more likely than becoming a rocket scientist or President. When a friend’s sister was dating the owner of a tattoo shop, it gave him the opportunity to hang out around tattooers and opened the only window he needed to start his new career.
“My friends and I started hanging out at that tattoo shop when we were like 15 or 16, and we just thought it was the coolest,” Jackson says. “Then one of my friends started working there, so they offered me a job as a shop helper. I was kind of still interested in doing something else – I went to junior college to do auto body stuff thinking I was going to paint cars – but I didn’t like getting dirty or being outside all day so after they offered to teach me to tattoo a few times, I took them up on it.”
From drawing as a kid to working as a shop helper, Jackson was slowly acquiring the skills he would need to work in SoCal’s competitive tattooing landscape. Of course, back in the late ‘90s, tattooing was an entirely different ballgame. Few people turned away much any work, and virtually no one specialized in any one style of tattooing – unlike many artists with reliable clienteles these days. That street shop mentality is still something Jackson keeps with him for each and every client.
“In my generation of tattooers, there were definitely some people who could focus on one thing, but at my shop you had to do what came in the door,” Jackson says. “I just got comfortable doing everything in all different styles. It’d be like eating burritos every day. Burritos are great, but sometimes you just want a hamburger. I love burritos, but I wouldn’t want to eat them every day.”
Beyond just tattooing, eating burritos playing drums at punk and hardcore shows around OC, 2016’s been a good year for Jackson. The Costa Mesa-based artist just added on to his longtime Harry Caray portrait in honor of his beloved Cubs’ World Series win. Tattooing gave him the freedom to take a spur of the moment trip to Chicago for the last few games, and it’s a lifestyle he can appreciate almost 20 years after laying down his first professional tattoo.
Aside from the freedom of schedule tattooing can provide, Jackson also enjoys the range of work he gets by sticking with his old school street shop mentality. By focusing primarily on walk-ins even after years and years of building a clientele, the burrito aficionado still gets the chance to do just about every imaginable style of tattoo on a regular basis. It’s a skill he believes is even more useful these days due to the number of tattooers available in any given area.
“I never want to be the guy who says ‘I don’t do that,’” Jackson says. “I want to be the guy who says ‘Come on back,’ particularly because there are so many people out there now who will do everything. The days of being able to pass stuff up are fading, and you’ve got to be able to handle whatever comes in the door. I’ve always been more of a street shop tattooer. I’m not one of these artistes who only do one style.”
Gold Rush Tattoo, 1779 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-7874. Instagram: @xmarcxiex