What was it like growing up with Larry Hanks for a father?
It was great! My dad is a great man; he was larger than life in an era that was like the Wild West. The kind of guy that people would talk about in whispers, or like you would read about in a book. I’ve always been proud to be his son. I didn’t always think life was so cool though; we had hardships at times that seemed like they were out of a movie…but no matter what, my father was always there to take care of me. He provided food for me, taught me things, rescued me from bad situations, and even laid the boots to people who fucked with me when I was little. I always knew my dad was a bad mofo, and that’s how I wanted to be when I grew up. I can’t elaborate on the things I knew and saw growing up because my father taught me to keep my mouth shut. He told me never write anything down, never tell on someone, and never talk about things. I can say though that the times I shared with him I hold very close to my heart; any chance I get to see him is special. There will never be another Larry Hanks!
Who did you get to meet and hangout with growing up?
In my lifetime, I have met such a large number of artists that I honestly couldn’t name them all. The old school artists are the ones who really influenced my ethics and morals; they taught me to love the fine line black and grey, and taught me to work hard and have respect. I have always tried to learn a little from everyone I meet, taking the things that worked for me and leaving the rest. Growing up I was drawn to the art of Andrew Deaton who worked with my dad in the mid 80’s at Skin Deep in Waikiki. I was fortunate enough to tattoo with Andy at other shops when I grew up. It was cool because I used to draw on his flash and punch his balls when I was 4 years old and then I got to make art alongside him when I was grown!
Some of the guys who came around when I was young and who have stuck with me are OG’s like Jack Rudy, Gill Montie, Gary Hoag, Steve Smith, Johnny Anderson, Andy Deaton, Mike Hatfield, Kelly Miller, and so many others that my father had worked with.
Many artists have skill sets we can pick up on and now that the world of tattooing is more accessible, and portfolios are just a click away, we can research styles and techniques to better develop ourselves as artists with diversity. I want my style of tattooing to be a hybrid of all styles and this is the era for it.
Tell us about the Hanks Family Tattoo Company.
Well, after my father sold the original Aloha Tattoo Studios that he had built with his brother (Leonard), The Hanks Family Tattoo Company seemed to be the next logical step. I wanted people to recognize the family name and realize that we are still around. I didn’t want to call it something trendy, I wanted to honour my family name and rack up accolades under that banner. When my dad and I work shows together that’s the name we use.
Where do you work out of?
I tattoo out of a studio in The Dalles, Oregon. It’s somewhat hidden from normal foot traffic which is great because we book by appointment only. I feel that anyone who travells that far and has waited that long for a spot really appreciates the art and we’re likely to have a more meaningful experience.
When did you first get tattooed? What was it?
In the early 90’s…I think I was 12! I really wanted a skull from the Cypress Hill album cover. I just really wanted a tattoo so I begged my Dad for the skull but he said “no”. I kept asking and he said “Fuck no”. I was big into Japanese language studies at the time so finally we settled on some writing but as I got older and more tattooed, we ended up covering over it!
Did you always know you would be a tattoo artist? Did you ever consider doing something else?
I always believed I would be a tattoo artist; for as long as I can remember I wanted to be like my dad. I loved to hang out at the various shops with him and his brother; tattoos were just something I was born into. I have seen tattoos since birth on my dad, mom, and uncles, so it was never a question to me. My dad always drew really cool pictures and created those little flip books that made the drawings look animated; I just wanted to be able to do what he did. Cartoons, comic books, art, and video games were all I was into. When I was really young, people would ask me, “are you going to tattoo like your daddy?” I would always say yes, but my father said, “Nah, he’s gonna be a lawyer!” As I got older though I thought to myself, there’s no way I’m going to be a lawyer, I struggled too much in school! I always had a really rough time; with jobs too. There was always something happening that made me think “fuck this!” I’d work my ass off and I’d be thinking to myself “why am I doing this?” I mean, I wasn’t creating anything, I wasn’t changing any lives, and I sure as hell wasn’t making good money. So yeah, I always knew I’d be a tattoo artist; I just had to prove it to everyone else!
Tell us about your awards and experiences…
I could write a book about all of the experiences I’ve had, but the awards are a different story. To date I’ve received 34 awards in competition. I have only been competing since 2011 so I think I have many more awards to win as I develop my skills and try even harder. In February of 2014, my father and I were presented with the RJ Rosini award for positive contributions to the world of tattooing. This was the tenth year that award has been given out but the first year it had been given to more than one person. I only got it because of my dad; normally it goes to veterans like Lyle Tuttle, Philadelphia Eddie, and others of that status. A similar thing happened last year when a tattoo museum honoured us as father/son tattooers on the wall of fame! Aside from those, I have been interviewed for various newspaper stories and magazine articles, and I was featured in a Schiffer book called Tattoo Roadtrip: The Best of Oregon. I am always stoked when opportunities like these arise and I really appreciate it when someone wants to hear from me.
Who have you tattooed?
You know, I’ve tattooed them all…from Playboy girls, strippers, killers and gang members, to military personnel, sheriffs, police officers, prison guards, teachers, doctors, and nurses. They are all important to me because without them I wouldn’t be in business. You’ll find some artists with big ego’s who act like they’re doing the clients a favour by tattooing them; but in actual fact it’s the other way around! We should never forget that.
Have you tattooed anyone famous?
It depends who you perceive as famous…I’ve tattooed a large number of other tattoo artists in my life. That means something to me because I’m judged by my peers who know a good tattoo from a bad one.
Do you specialize in a specific style of tattoo? What style do you like?
I am equipped with the skills to do any tattoo that walks through the door, really; but yeah, I seem to excel with black work and designs that are symmetrical or geometrical. Most of the awards I win are for Polynesian influenced pieces. I really like black and grey and I often shade my black work tattoos to give them dimension. I like to see pieces accentuate the part of the body being tattooed. I freehand all of my pieces so that the work forms well with the musculature; It’s pretty difficult to achieve that with a stencil.
What’s in the future for you and your career? Where will you be 5/10/15 years from now?
Honestly, I never thought I would live this long so I’m just taking life a day at a time and appreciate my good fortune. In the future, I hope to just keep getting better at my craft and pass it on to my children. Whatever I’m doing, it will be done with honesty, pride, and integrity, so I’m not too worried about it. If things keep going the way they have been these past few years I can’t imagine what 5-10 years out will look like…but I’m ready to seize any opportunity and kick ass when it counts the most!
You mentioned you are sponsored by Sullen Clothing; can you tell us more about that?
Yeah, the Sullen brand is a collective of artists, musicians, and athletes. It’s the real deal because if we all have a hand in it then it’s not some parasite company trying to cash in on tattooing. If you follow any tattoo related TV shows or watch movie’s it’s hard not to see a Sullen artist or somebody wearing the gear.
How did you get involved with them?
The people at Sullen are good human beings. I worked a show with Ruthless from L.A. Ink and did some photo shoot stuff for a magazine interview with Ink Junkie. Shortly after that, at a convention, I met the co-owner of Sullen, Jeremy Hannah; he recognized me from the magazine, we got to chatting and then he introduced me to the other owner, Ryan Smith. They have treated me with the utmost respect and have taken good care of me. I do my best to represent Sullen as I tattoo at these conventions and win these awards.
Do you work with any other big brands/companies?
I have worked with a few other companies but one of the big names you might recognize is H2Ocean. They’re a good bunch of people, but most importantly, their products are great! I use their stuff every day, from the aquatat ointment and blue green foam soap, to the numbing soap called nothing. I feel like I am doing something right to be part of these teams which consist of some of the top artists in the industry; I feel that with all the support I receive from H2Ocean and Sullen, my people, and my family, I cannot fail!