People and places: Roman Corkery
Tattoos, music, and social media
Planet Caravan tattoo artist Roman Corkery, who’s made a name for himself online with his pot-stirring Facebook posts, recently caught up with the Carillon to talk about his love of social media, his passion for tattooing, and his legacy.
What’s the most important thing you’d like people to know about you?
The most important thing I’d like people to know about me is as abrasive as I come across sometimes, I’m really a nice guy (laughs). When you’re kind of outspoken, some people tend to think that you’re rude. And I’m a pretty big guy, so some people think I’m mouthing off or just talking, but I’m not a violent person. They say, “Just because you’re big, you think you can say whatever you want.” I just want people to know I’m a regular, nice person. I just like to think for myself and share my stories with the world.
How happy are you to be able to take advantage of Facebook to reach a huge audience with your experiences and opinions?
I love Facebook. You hear people complain about it, but you don’t have to read my stories. I think it’s great. That’s the only one I’m on. I’m not on Twitter or anything else. I’m 42-years-old (laughs). But I like Facebook. And what I like about it is it’s a mixture of counter-culture people and those who are super-commercial, mainstream. Every time somebody posts some shitty mainstream rap video, it’s like, “Yeah, I already knew that existed,” so it’s not any more irritating than watching Much Music. But we’ve never had an avenue to actually post stuff back. You get exposed to things that you’ve never heard of. I think Facebook is great. I think this last election is a prime example of how it actually could be used. You always hear about stuff from other countries, like Syria with the civil war, and the truth is exposed through social media, while the newspapers can lie about it… I voted for the first time in ten years, basically because it was always in my face about how we should get Harper out and get someone in who’s a bit more friendly to the lifestyles of some of my friends. All social media, I don’t know. But I definitely enjoy Facebook — I think it’s great.
When did you know that you wanted to be a tattoo artist?
After I got my first one. I could always draw. But when I got my first one I was about 21, and I saw the effect it had on me and right around then is when tattooing got good in terms of art. I always liked the idea of it, but the execution… Like, I’d see an Iron Maiden tattoo, and it would be like, “Hey, it’s Eddie – but way shittier,” and I never wanted that (laughs). If I wanted an Iron Maiden tattoo, it would look exactly like the cover. I just found that the quality of artist wasn’t there, but then I saw some things that blew me away around that time, I thought, “Hey, I could do that.” It was hard to see myself doing anything else. I wasn’t a big rule-follower and passion for art always burned in me so much that I didn’t see it any other way. I’m not one for fate, necessarily, but it worked out. It was a blessing in disguise.
What’s the worst aspect of your job?
The worst aspect? Oh man, that’s a good question because I spend so much time focusing on how awesome it is. I guess you can’t have a shitty day (laughs). If I have a bad day at work, somebody’s wearing it, you know? We’re not robots, right, so not everything is going to be perfect. So the pressure, maybe? But I’ve gotten so used to it. That’s a tough one. You can’t have a bad day at your job… Even a pro athlete can hit a 10-game slump, but I can’t do ten shitty tattoos in a row.
How do you deal with the pressure?
I don’t know; you just sort of do, and you don’t get thrown. I dealt with the pressure by getting a proper apprenticeship, so I didn’t get to bite off more than I could chew. I always had someone at the reigns and I started off doing simple stuff – squeegee kids who were covered in shitty tattoos already, so one more bad one wasn’t the end of the world (laughs). You don’t start by doing little things next to these giant amazing pieces that someone else did. I didn’t really have to deal with the pressure; it was just introduced to me at a comfortable level. There’s still pressure – you don’t want to be horrible – but I just try to stay positive and put it first all the time. Not everybody has a great day every day. Another cool thing about my job is, if I’m tattooing and I’m just not feeling it, I can be like, “Look, man, I’m not having any fun. This is a struggle. Can we re-book?” And most people are happy with that. When you know you do your best all the time and the only way it can go bad is through the human element, it takes away some of the pressure, I suppose.
Is there anything else you’d rather be doing for a living?
No. Actually, I don’t know. I’m one of those people who will watch a snowboarding video and think that would be cool; I could do that (laughs)… But I consider myself super lucky and happy. I can see myself doing other things mixed with this. But if someone offered me a contract in the NFL tomorrow, I’d still be doing tattoos in the off-season (laughs). You’re putting something on someone that they’re going to have forever, and it usually means so much to them. People run up to you five years later, and that’s very rewarding. I can’t see myself doing anything else fully, where I say this is enough for me.
How do you want to be remembered?
Ah man, just a fair, fun person who stuck to his guns. I want to be remembered as an old-school gentleman who treats ladies with respect. I have respect for everyone – but will punch you in the head if you deserve it (laughs). Just a fair, loyal friend. Maybe a boundary-pusher, some kind of a philosopher for the time. Philosophy is a weird thing; it’s like you need 200 years of history behind it before you’re taken seriously (laughs). I just hope that some of the things that I’ve said can be something that people pass down to their kids, and other stuff will be dismissed as garbage.