Interview with Tattooist George ‘Astrix’

Originally Published in The Bite Magazine – Note – The TV show was never made and these artists no longer work together.

George ‘Astrix’ Wilkins the ‘Liquid Elite’ of tattoo artists catches up with Becky while sticking it to her!

‘Liquid Elite’ have a stand at Hammerfest so we thought we’d have a looksie. Having researched the boss George’s work I am very impressed with the quality and book myself in for a few hours under his needle. Well, it would be rude not to right?

George, often known as Astrix, heads up the team – a quiet, unassuming gent (but I later learn this is a just a front really, he’s just as badly behaved as the rest…he’s just more subtle!). He leads his crew and various guest artists around the country to festivals, conventions and events in a town near you. Look out for The Tattoo Tour Bus. He also has a private tattoo studio at his home in the South West of England. He has the place kitted out to make the experience as private as he can from the outside as he often tattoos celebrities who enjoy the anonymity as well as his artistry.

The guest artist this time is the easy on the eye Adam G from The Tattoo Boutique in Liverpool’s trendy Bold Street. He has a great style and inks another Bite Mag team member Steve whist we’re there. Keeping these inksters in check is their fabulous front of house master Jay. Always smiling and ably demonstrating his organisational skills by making sure everything runs smoothly.

The banter is great with all the guys and the hours I am there whizz by. They cope seamlessly with marathon tattooing days, one after another client with barely any time to rest. They are very adept at handling the drunken fools or curious bystanders that wonder in and try and chat to them while they work. I imagine that tattooing at a festival is a lot different from working in a studio, there is a lot of pressure, definite time constraints and of course you have to watch out for intoxicated persons. George says simply ‘it’s what we do, we’re used to it’. But admits he enjoys how its constantly different from one minute to the next.

I am extremely pleased with the tattoo I receive and how he has understood and even improved my vision. The end result looks fantastic and I can’t wait to go and see him again to finish it. I am hardly a tattoo virgin and I can safely say I hardly felt a thing! He is by far the gentlest tattooist I have been under! He has won literally hundreds of awards for his work and I can see why.

They tell me George and his crew are being featured on a tattoo reality TV programme being made by WestonSuper Television, also starring Dan Gold. I ask what he thinks about the two week ‘tattoo academy’ course that is being run in the UK. ‘What a load of shit’ he says ‘And you can quote me on that!’. We discuss how you cannot possible learn to be an ‘artist’ of any kind in two weeks. He tells me of various ‘scratchers’ that he has open shop over the years, producing terrible work and putting people’s lives at risk. Most of them don’t even know what an Autoclave is and if they do they can’t afford one so they don’t use them. For the uninitiated the autoclave is the sterilising machine used by artists…pretty essential. George explains how there is no real regulation system for tattooists so practically anyone can buy equipment off ebay and set up shop. This is of course dangerous and stupid and we both agreed a regulation system ought to be put in place. The best way to become a tattoo artist, in George’s eyes, is to get in with a good artist and start at the bottom. Learn the trade and earn your stars and stripes. Most front of house bods are tattoo apprentices earning their place.

I ask what the stupidest tattoo he has ever been asked to do is, he says he once tattooed a portrait of a baked beans can on someone. But asserts it’s subjective, like all art. ‘To me it’s strange, but to others it’s not. Nowadays there are no limits to tattoo’s and styles’ He explains how in the tattoo world there are different fashions just as in any other form of culture. ‘Tribal used to be big now it’s a joke to some, day of the dead skulls are everywhere at the moment but then it’ll be something else’. He goes on to explain how he personally won’t tattoo faces as he feels it’s too much of a commitment. He also tells me it’s actually illegal to tattoo hands and faces but that he has never heard of this law being enforced anywhere.


Hammerfest IV 2011 – My Blog

My Personal Hammerfest Blog – originally published online at The Bite Mag’s website.

Well I’m back in one piece after my first Hammerfest experience…which is more than can probably be said for a few people haha! Hammerfest IV was held at Pontin’s in Prestatyn, an ingenious use for this holiday camp out of season…Hard Rock Hell is also here every year. It is a strange but not unwelcome experience to have regular access to a bed, shower and toilet at a festival. The fact it’s mostly indoors helps significantly with weather issues and this in turn means lots of people wearing fabulously weird and wacky clothing (not covered head to foot in plastic waterproofs!). On a personal note it was also nice not to have a sea of people wearing those awful printed ‘festival wellie’s that are so fashionable these days! I’m all for having your own sense of style, but as a girl who grew up on farms I think I care less whether I have pink skulls on my wellies and more about whether my feet are dry and comfortable…perhaps I’m just getting old.

Infact Hammerfest is probably a festival that appeals to a more mature crowd anyway due to its amenities and atmosphere, there were young people but not in the quantities you get at other music festivals. Of course being an 18+ festival has something to do with that too. Overall everyone we spoke to from bands, staff, festival goers agreed that there was a very warm, welcoming, partying atmosphere. I didn’t worry about people trying to half inch my purse and thought nothing, as a lone female, of wondering around the stages on my own. I met tons of lovely people, all willing to chat, mosh and drink with me. It was a great festival and I will definitely go back.

The Bite Magazine Staff arrived laden with our equipment, cowboy hats and a suitcase full of booze. We shared a chalet and I was the only female member of the team. Yes, I can confirm boys smell. But then according to them so do I! A huge amount of alcohol was consumed, in between hard working of course, but it was in no way equal to the legends staying near us who lined up their bottles and cans in their windows. It was impressive and my liver hurt just looking at it.

I won’t lie, we knew we’d have to do a lot of work, but I think we also all felt we’d have a bit of a jolly too! Late nights, early mornings (for some anyway!), long days on our feet and running from stage to stage actually was a little harder than we’d imagined. The key is more staff we think, we started small but we’ll have to expand as we do more of this kind of thing. It became apparent how a few people can’t be everywhere at once! And so I spent the majority of the festival on my own getting my jobs done, as did the other staff as we had little time to socialise with each other. This did mean I got to chat to lots of people and enjoyed a different kind of experience all round. And at night of course we had a few cheeky pints together and let off steam. Thankfully the camera went home at that point so there’s little photographic evidence of this!

Naturally the staff team did their research before they came and lined up interviews with some promising, up and coming bands. We will be writing a small feature for the next issue, including interviews, with my top tips of the festival …the bands to keep your eye on in the next twelve months. These include Fury, Inferno, A Thousand Enemies, Raven Face and AR. All our interviews will feature in the next issue of the mag and reviews and photos will be posted on the blog in the coming weeks.

As a huge Anthrax fan they were always going to my highlight, and boy did they bring it! I have seen Paradise Lost and Skindred before and both are great bands so I looked forward to their sets. I missed Skindred as I was getting a tattoo at the same time. Paradise Lost were a little disappointing, I’ve seen them do better. Another band I was really looking forward to was Senser, as I was a huge fan in the 90’s. I wasn’t disappointed, they were brilliant. I also enjoyed Evile, first time I’ve seen them, and Lawnmower Deth! Evil Scarecrow really stole the show, lots of people talked about how great they were and they won a lot of new fans at Hammerfest. On the third stage Kyrbgrinder and Trucker Diablo tore it up with crowd pleasing gigs. Of the up and coming bands Fury, Inferno and A Thousand Enemies excited me personally the most. For very different reasons I loved these bands and will be watching their future careers with great interest. I was very sad to have missed Falling Red’s set and I shook my ass to AC/DC tribute Dirty DC.

Don’t forget to check out our June issue which will feature a full Hammerfest review, interviews with lots of the bands, an interview with award winning tattooist George Astrix, fan comments, reviews and pictures.

To Chic Festivals, Metal Hammer, Pontins, The Bands, The Crazy Fans, Staff and all those involved…Thanks for a memorable weekend , and we’ll see you next year! x

Fury at Hammerfest – Orginally published in The Bite Mag

Fury, yes that’s the band I have been going on and on about since Hammerfest in March. They are a 4 piece thrash/speed metal band with a clear NWBHM influence. They are also a small band with big plans, playing the media game really well and understanding and appreciating the role of the press. Connecting with their fans very effectively through their social networks and putting huge effort into it (which has been rewarded, check out their ‘likes’ on facebook!) and with a great selection of merchandise available, they are like a powerhouse of marketing before they even begin.

However all of this is going to get a band only so far. Surprisingly enough you do need talent, even in this day and age, and believe me…they have it in bucket loads. I caught up with Julian, Joel, Alisdair and Martin before they went on stage at Hammerfest for a quick chat at their chalet. They are tuning up their equipment and cracking open the rider when I arrive. Having been added late to the lineup they unfortunately can’t stick around for the festival and will have to rush off to play the final of a Battle of The Bands. ‘We only entered it as favour’ they tell me ‘because a band had to pull out last minute’. They didn’t expect much to come of it but they ended up being voted through to the final.

Fury are a Worcester based band and through a few lucky connections are beginning to get the credit they deserve. Don’t get me wrong they do work hard. When I asked them what they had coming up they bombard me with gig info. Including some key events in London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Leicester. They also tell me they hope for a mini UK tour in July, possibly a German tour and hopefully Greece in October. They were also booked to play the Hard Rock Roadtrip to Ibiza. So basically, world domination right?! ‘Hopefully’ laughs lead singer Julian Jenkins. He comes across as a very shy, sensitive man. Not at all the kind of ego fuelled front man I usually meet! But he transforms on stage into something quite ferocious and powerful to watch.

This is their first timing playing the festival and we chat about how nice it is having proper toilets. One of the band (I’ll name no names!) tells a story about a bathroom emergency at a festival once where he was forced to use a loaf of bread as they’d run out of bog roll. Why bread I ask through tears of laughter? ‘It’s more absorbent’ he says. I’m guessing nights out with this lot could get messy!

I ask them about whether they hope to get signed; they have chosen an independent route so far. They tell me that this way there’s ‘more control for the band, but you have to be prepared to work’ and so far everything I’ve seen tells me these guys are. Alasdair Davies, the drummer, and Joel Peters, guitarist, are the two who seem to put a lot into the organisational aspects and talk most animatedly about the bands future plans. This is the kind of drive that’s needed.

Martin Trail, the very smiley bassist, tells me with great glee how he wishes they could stay to see Evile and Anthrax. The rest of the band chime in with bands they’d like to see, such as Skindred, Savage Messiah, Amon Amarth, and you can just tell how much they really love music. I love bands at this point in their careers, hungry and eager and all about the sound…before they get cynical or bored or too media savvy. I wish the guys the best of luck and head off to enjoy their set. Which I do. I even spy Benji Webb moshing along in the crowd.

When I asked them to describe the band in 3 words they gave me energy, power and epic. The set really lived up to that and I have their album on a constant loop when I get home. I urge you, go and see this band, you will not be disappointed. They are indeed, epic!