I don’t know if there’s an easy way to write an intro for this interview. There’s a lot to say about Jakub Settgast–from the first time I saw his work, I knew I had to interview him. And boy am I glad we did, and hopefully he is too… despite some of his very candid answers.
Photo by Bjorn Lexius
TattooSnob: Let’s get the most generic portion of the interview out of the way… what would you like everyone reading this interview to know about you?
Jakub Settgast: My name is Jakub Settgast. I’m a tattooer, bike nerd, I love chihuahuas and worship Satan. I work in Hamburg and in Berlin. I’m a member of Esoteric Gentlemens Club and the Highest Wizard of Esoteric Gentlemens Club – Berlin Lodge. I was born in Poland, live in Berlin with my beautiful wife and daughter.
TS: When did everything “come together” for you as an artist? What about as a tattooer?
Jakub: I’m self-taught so that basically means that: I did tons of bad tattoos for the first couple of years, traveled the world, worked in loads of good and bad shops, moved to a different city/country every couple of months. Something like apprenticeship didn’t existed in Poland in the 90′s so if you wanted to learn something you had to travel.
Then I got an offer to work by side of Chriss Dettmer in Hamburg so I moved there, and everything that I can do now comes from him and all those awesome tattooers I got to know through him, he is my older German brother that I never had! Basically right after I started to work in that shop in Hamburg I had to step up in like 3 days, so I dumped my social life, got my shit together, drew a lot, tattooed a lot and slept not enough.
TS: You changed your last name after getting married – do you feel like that has had any effect on people finding you and your work online?
Jakub: Not really, it’s just easier for most of the people to remember my new name. And it looks better when I write it in runes.
TS: Describe your ideal tattoo client. Ever had the pleasure of tattooing a client like this?
Jakub: That video is not available anymore, but I guess it’s this thing with the screaming girl or something like that? Well as everybody I had some of fainters, couple of people cried, normal stuff, no YouTube potential. I just do what I have to do and when I have really hard customers that make my job impossible at the moment I just break the sitting and tell them to go home and chill. I’m the “outline nazi” so if they move too much I can get really mean! As for the perfect customer, it’s someone that comes to me cause she/he knows my work, someone open for lots of different ideas, and someone who sits like a trooper cause I like to pull my 20cm lines at once. I appreciate every single customer that I get, it doesn’t matter if it’s a whole back piece or a small tattoo, I’m happy that people are coming to me, that they recognize my work, it means a lot to me, even if it doesn’t for them.
TS: You do allow booking via internet: what are your requirements for that, and how well do you feel that works out on average?
Jakub: I’m doing probably something like 60-70% of my bookings over the internet. It works fine for me as I have lots of customers from different cities and couple of foreigners too. We exchange couple of emails regarding the design, if i don’t know them then I take deposit through pay-pal, it’s really easy.
TS: Did you have a favorite piece you did in 2010?
Jakub: A hand-poked heart on my wife.
TS: There’s more than a few tattoos of shoes in your portfolio. Is shoe-obsession contagious?
Jakub: Well it was all customers wish but I actually have a small shoe obsession, I’ll buy everything that catches my eye, I got shitloads of vans, sneakers, hipster shoes, even motorcycle boots.
TS: How much convincing will it take for us to get you to show us one of your own tattoos? C’mon, it’ll be fun!
Jakub: Oh man, I got lots of shitty tattoos that I made myself, that my friends did on me (and they were tattooing for the first time in their life or something like that) but I got couple of really good ones from great tattooers like Chriss Dettmer, Preston Chambers, Steven Burlton, Bill Falsetta, Mark Alter, KesOne, Uncle Allan, Eckel, Eric Michalovic gave me my precious C/S… I got couple of tattoos that my wife did on me, hand-poked and with a machine…
TS: Are there any artists out there you’d like to be tattooed by, space and time permitting of course?
Jakub: There are so many great tattooers over there and I don’t have so much space left… I’d love to get something done by Jeff Zuck cause he’s such a nice and great guy, it’s always like I meet some tattooers I hang out with them and if they’re cool and nice I’m getting tattooed by them.
I don’t really care about the names and stuff, there are some really great tattooers with huge names that I would never get tattoos from, cause they’re huge cunts and douche-bags. It’s like the connection between me and my tattooer is more important for me than their status and name “in the game”.
TS: What are some of your favorite tattoo conventions to attend/work at? Do you have any you specifically like to work, or any new ones you’ll be checking out this year?
Jakub: I don’t really like working at conventions, i just like them ’cause i can hang out with lots of people that i haven’t seen for ages, meet new people, trade knowledge. Working at a convention is a must cause I’m not a fucking Kat Von D or Mario Barth that give autographs or promote their new lipstick or shit like that at conventions instead of working, so i gotta somehow pay for the flight, for the hotel and stuff. But then from time to time you get to tattoo some crazy kids that didn’t have enough money to come to Germany, and you’re doing this awesome tattoo and forgetting about all those pricks around you that stress you out. I’m half Jewish so I like to complain I guess.
TS: You’ve been splitting your time Lowbrow Tattoo Parlour in Berlin and Immer un Ewig Tattooing in Hamburg. What’s it like to base yourself out of two shops that are roughly 3hrs apart? Have you noticed any difference in the tattoo “scene” (for lack of a better term) between the two places?
Jakub: Well I work Mon-Wed in Immer und Ewig, Hamburg. I’m friends with the guys at Lowbrow and they just lend me their space from time to time if i have someone to tattoo in Berlin on the other days. But since I have more and more people asking me for tattoos in Berlin, I decided to open my own private shop called Esoteric Gentlemens Club. No walk-ins, closed to public, appointments only, custom and fancy – you can call it egocentric and selfish, but I was working street shops for the last 6 years–I need something else now, why not try it?
TS: You’re opening Esoteric Gentlemen’s Club with Simon Erl this month – let’s talk about that a bit. What’s the story? I heard rumors of plans for secret locations worldwide… surely everyone’s curiosity is piqued by the name alone!
Jakub: If I would tell you I would have to kill you! No, not really. Well I wanted to open something different, something where customers and tattooers would feel really comfortable, and that means no walk-ins, appointments only, only custom work, cool chilled out location, nothing new I guess, ’cause shops like that are already running but I wanted something that would be totally mine. Customers contact me through email, Facebook… then we do a consultation date to talk about the design in person, and they get the shop’s address. I’m friends with Simon, I asked him if he would ever want to do some regular guest spots if I ever opened a shop, he was into it so he’s gonna be over here regularly.
I did not want a normal, typical tattoo shop, so it’s gonna look like… well you will see… if you will ever be let in! Simon is the founding member and the highest priest of the club. The Clubhouse will be a tattoo shop during the day and an Esoteric Gentlemens Lodge during the night where all the members can gather and plan world domination through black magic and practice kult life. All I can say is that we have members all over the world and the fact that there will be more lodges worldwide is only a matter of time.
TS: What are you involved with aside from tattooing?
Jakub: Well most of the time I’m working and taking care of my wife and my newborn daughter. When I have some spare time I’m building and riding fixed gear bicycles, track and trick ones. I just quit my band Grey cause I couldn’t afford to go on tour (self-employed blues…) after we signed a contract with a good German label. I do some computer graphics for friends in bands and some clothing labels from time to time, but not too often. Most of the time I hang out with my wife and draw for my customers waiting for a bit holidays so I can paint something. I was in a couple of pretty unknown and unsuccessful bands, I painted couple of crappy pictures for some art shows of friends of mine ’cause they made me do it, I take photos with my iPhone hating all those hipster kids running around with their fancy SLRs making “art”, so what I’m trying to tell you is that I’m kinda low profiled, and I like it that way, its like I don’t mind a bit of publicity, but I’m not greedy, I’m happy cause I’m booked out for couple of months, I’m doing guest spots in cool shops and I’m not hoping for my 15 minutes of fame cause I don’t really crave anything more that I have now. The only thing I really crave is more knowledge!
Find Jakub Settgast online…
His blog: www.iwillruinyourlife.com
Esoteric Gentlemens Club website: www.esotericgentlemensclub.de