The Used’s bassist Jepha Howard is covered in ink from tip to toe, Katie Parsons asked about his quickly-spreading, stretchy skin art. Portrait: Sam Scott Hunter
Q: Which was the first tattoo that you ever got done?
A: The first one I got, I am getting covered up. It’s really, really bad and I will never tell what it is and you will never know! Ha ha!
Q: How old were you when you got the first one done?
A: I was 17, and I am now 26 so it’s nearly 10-years-old and I reckon it probably is time to get it covered up.
Q: OK, so starting on your limbs what does it say on your wrist?
A: Unity. Branden [Steineckert, The Used’s drummer] got it too; there was a lot of old friends of ours that all got it together. It has the November 27 next to it because that’s the most epic and craziest number on Earth and it appears randomly all over the place. And ‘Unity’ is an old Operation Ivy song and we were all into that.
Q: And on the back of your hand?
A: That’s a Medusa head that isn’t properly finished yet. Vic Bark did that, he’s working on the piece on my back too. I also have a lightning bolt on my finger. I got that three years ago and it wasn’t even meant to look that good. That’s the only bit of my body as well that isn’t really that stretchy…
Q: Eh? What do you mean?
A: I have really, really stretchy skin and my whole body is covered in it. You can’t tell normally. Tattooists have to pull my skin a lot tighter than usual, stretch it a lot more.
Q: So what about the skulls on your lower arm?
A: That’s part of a whole ‘end of the world’ concept that I have, a whole regeneration, re-growth thing. After the world ends and everything is over, it’s a full cycle. These things here are supposed to be buildings and skyscrapers that have decayed. Then there is a creepy statue thing there that is kind of a new kind of life, it’s kind of gay. It’s like a ‘starting over’ thing
Q: Further up, there seems to be some sort of landscape…
A: Yeah, this blends up into water and we have The life Aquatic thing. Mostly I got the guy here and the ideas from the Sealab 2021 TV show. The guy’s mask has popped open and the air is rushing out, it’s negative space air which is nice. Then there’s a zombie shark with a gold tooth.
Q: Where do you get these ideas?
A: I just randomly do stuff, it’s permanent but it doesn’t really matter.
Q: Back to the arm…
A: Yeah there is a pirate ship and a treasure chest and skills and crossbones. Then there is a squidy octopussy thing further up my arm. There are tentacles and things. I think that undersea life intrigues me. We know nearly everything about Earth by we know shit about the sea. There is so much that can kill you down there. Have you watched videos of all the stuff down there? They are amazing. There are rainbow jellyfish and things that shoot and light and stuff explodes.
Q: Cool stuff. What’s on your neck?
A: On the sides are two girls, they are my conscience, they look over me, one on each side. Then lower down is my ‘batackle’. A bat with octopus tentacles. I think that it’s cool. I think that bats are amazing.
Q: And on your chest?
A: This is my hate girls thing. I was in a hating girls mode for a couple of years. There is Eve’s apple and a golden spike going through it. Then there are some music notes with ears attached.
Q: What else do you have?
A: There is a little green zombie behind my ear. Tea, because I like tea on my lip. I have a typewriter on my stomach and a skull and cross bones on my elbows, like a big stamp with the eyes as ‘X’s.
Q: And down your leg?
A: I have a squirrel reaching for my nuts. Then on my left leg I have a zombie that has sacrificed his head and stuffed it down an old gramophone. Then there is a vampire Elvis with vampire notes, with blue suede shoes and he’s eating a moldy peanut butter sandwich. Then there is some holy water and stuff.
Q: So what advice do you have for tattoo virgins?
A: Biggest advice I’d say, know what you want to get and, this is really important, make sure that the guy that you are getting it from can draw the sort of thing that you want. Make sure they are the right artist for that piece.
look me in the eye and tell me they didn’t make out at least once
Gives me chills