That first shop was at 108 st. on Whyte Avenue. Before Whyte Ave. became an outdoor mall and bar crawl swarming with rude redneck bozos.
When Whyte Avenue still had the pioneer charm of a neighbourhood, and the artistic credentials that came with block after block housing real cultural gems like independent book stores, Euro cafes where the staff were actually European, independent craft and artisan retailers, several fortune tellers and occult shoppes, record stores, junk merchants, clothing designers, and a few very cool dive bars, yet untouched by the curse of "ladies night" or $2 Tuesday highballs.
Those bar venues still housed a lot of underground music, every night. And there was us tattooing away at the end of "the mile". Then our studio was called Pagan's Hammer Tattoos.
Remember when the Fringe festival still had soul? Old Strathcona before the fire? Well that was those times.
It was a beautiful chaos of creativity laid out in a row of blocks that could be strolled for no better a purpose than topping up your reserves of creative stimuli, and recharging your Funk.
We tattooed away, in a little ugly green shop (that we later painted half black) that was tucked away at the back of the building, behind a Celtic gift shop.
It had by virtue of being previously the home of a physician's office, an underlying creepy-ness that was undoubtedly reinforced by our choice of decor, mood and music. The corner store at 108th had about 7 racks of magazine porn of every description, and flanking our other side was a massive hemp/head shop. (who were total douches.....and never shared.)
Music played a big role in the running of our days there. In fact, for a time my thrash metal band Grimmstone rehearsed there on Wednesday nights, and I often had Joe's Drum kit stacked up in the corner of my booth.
There was also Edmonton's only truly Death/Black/Harsh/Punk cd & record store being run out of the basement suite of businesses beneath us.
We were having fun......mostly.......and things there were not so much like a real business or retail entity, but in fact more like a Satanic Tree House. We were pretty dark minded, brooding dudes at times, and the music that soundtracked life in the shop was a suitable accompaniment for the grey hours.
So as I look back on those days, with the purpose of giving you a "top 10" , I quickly succumb to the reality that 10 picks will be insufficient, and in order to describe the beast best, ....well here's 23, or 24 or 25 ish.......albums that were constantly in rotation on our Pioneer 6 disc player, 7 days a week, at a usually throttling volume of about "11".
I have tried to put them in an order of importance / frequency of play. If you were around us back then, your memory mileage may vary.
The stirring of these old memories has made it necessary to say hellos to Wendy, Heinze, Tingle, Hans, Shannon, Marty, Jenn, Troy, Rene, Rubiliak, and yes....even to BDSM Mike.
#24) Metallica, Ride the Lightning. 1984
Their first 3 albums changed heavy rock forever. Their first album was mostly a rip off of an obscure English band called Diamond Head.... It was a promising debut, but this 1984 release "Ride the Lightning" is one of the best pieces of honest hard rock ever made. It is still my fave Metallica.
#23) Chophouse Movie Soundtracks. 1992 - 96
A lot of the music on these discs seemed to appeal to a very wide range of clients, so they got heavy rotation almost by default.
#22) Schlocky New Jersey Goth-Rock. 1990 - 92 - 93
These 3 CDs, by Danzig, (who the Gods Kill and Lucifuge) and Type O Neg. (Bloody Kisses) were often worked into the daily playlist to appeal to cute bi-polar Goth girls who weren't ready for a steady diet of Slayer and Tool.
#21) Motörhead, The Ace of Spades. 1980
Many a spontaneous mid-day headbanging was had to the title track.
I can say no more about it, for I am not worthy.
#20) Suicidal Tendencies, Still Cyco after all these Years. 1993
I was given my first copy of this disc by an old time prison tattooer named Doug. He used to tattoo under the name Dugg Graves. Har Har.
This CD got played A LOT. In fact I remember having to buy it twice again, because earlier copies got scratched, chipped and eventually lost. I remember somebody chopping rails on the back of the case once.
Oddly, even though this was originally my disc, David developed a strange rapport with this CD. He played the ass off of it.
#19) Rush, Fly by Night. 1975
This record, like other early Rush offerings, is a staple of our internal coming of age soundtracks.
This is Rush at their youthful, boisterous best.
#18) Mazzy Star, So Tonight That I Might See. 1993
It is a really haunting slab of bluesy, morphine induced sadness that features a sweetly painful female vocalist.
This is music to cut yourself by. Or get tattooed for 5 hours to.....
Truthfully, I remember this getting a lot of play after hours, customers all gone, joint lit, etc.....repeat.
The sweet pain.
#17) the Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks. 1977
Whatever.....it's a great fucking rock 'n' roll record, that still holds up super well. Full of classic anti-establishment classics.
Get one from K-Tel now for the low price of $8.99.......But wait, there's more....
#16)The Real McKenzies, eponymous. 1995
I went to one of their shows with 2 of the super hot girls from the Celtic gift shop and bought this disc at the bar.
I never really loved this thing, really disliked parts of it, but like herpes, I couldn't get rid of it. It seemed to be in the player constantly.
Over and over and over. Fuck me if I know why.
I threw it out in 2003 I think.
#15) Bob Marley, LEGEND. 1984
This is the one they give you when you open your first tattoo shop. Every tattoo shop in North America has this reggae album somewhere.
Yep, this one right here, by default.
You are by Tattoo-Law expected to play it at least 2 days a week.
Thank God it's a spectacular collection of songs.
#14) Yes, Closer to the Edge. 1972
We both had a secret taste for this kind of bookish English prog-rock.
This Yes album was probably the most routinely loaded up prog cd in the changer.
I came to actually despise the music of Yes after we moved out of the first shop.....largely because this had been so overplayed there.
These guys are musician's musicians.
#13) A bit of the ol' Ludwig Van......... (timeless)
Later on, I rediscovered the power of Ludwig in the setting of a tattoo shop. And from Ludwig, it was a short trip to Brother Motzart, Herr Bach and others.
Beethoven's 9th symphony, Motzart's requiem, and the soundtrack from Clockwork Orange all got heavy play in the shop. It may have saved our sanity.
#12) Rammstein, Herzeleid. 1995
As was typical of Steve, he had this tape like a year before anybody in North America had even heard of them. I played that tape until the deck finally ate it up.
I was surprised when I went to the music store to buy a replacement disc....and found these decidedly home-erotique looking fellows on the cover, posing like the dudes from a gay chat-line advert. (not that there's anything wrong with that...)
Because the music had seemed so heavy and...well....Germanic....I had pictured a much more traditionally outfitted long hair metal band. Too funny.
#11) the Exploited, Let's Start a War... 1983
This album is all about why Thatcher and Reagan sucked.
I used to like to spin this on Saturday afternoons to bring up the energy level to slog through the last walk-in tattoo of the day.
#10) Wolfe Tones, Greatest hits. 1986
This is very brutally political music. But it's some great rousing folk music too. (It's very "plinkety plinkety, how'd you do...)
I subjected Dave to lot's of this band. He came to like some of it quite well surprisingly.
#9) Slayer, South of Heaven. 1988
Those who know me, know that this was and still is one of my favourite bands of all time. Their first 5 albums are absolutely essential listening for a fan of the genre.
Frankly, putting them at #9 is probably a little low on the list.....but Slayer in the shop was almost a non-experience for me at that point. It was so frequently just part of the din of my background flow.....like getting coffee in the morning. Too obvious maybe?
This album, while not my favourite Slayer offering, was the one that for whatever reason got played the most often. It was left in it's spot in the CD changer for weeks at a time.
#8) Orange Goblin, Time Travelling Blues. 1998
#8b) Trouble, Psalm 9. 1984
What is that genre.....Stoner, Stoner Doom, Road Rock, Wizard Metal, Bong Rock.......call it what you will. These are two of the best post-Sabbath collections of weed friendly wah-wah grooves ever made.
We played them until they were ready to melt.
#7) Led Zeppelin, III. 1970
This was always my personal fave. Immigrant Song is awesome in the tattoo shop environment to lift up everybody's bad-ass level.
Own this record. Or be forever a dweeb.
#666) Cradle of Filth, Dusk and her Embrace. 1996
It was just sooooo fucking evil sounding, and obnoxious and it terrified the patrons of the shop.
We cranked it. We cranked it lots. For months on end. We knew the words.
We used it like a weapon. This CD was the perfect accent for the overall dark vibe we tried so hard to exude.
It was a lot fun while being a lot of wrong at the same time. An angel falls dead from heaven every time you play this record. No shit.
#5) Therion, Vovin. 1998
This is a great CD. It has top shelf production, writing, performances, and pacing. It entertains.
It gallops along like an epic quest to slay dragons and plunder fortunes. But it does it without being overly cheesy or moronic like other fantasy metal efforts.
This disc was played daily for probably about 6 months straight at one point. I own 3 copies of it for some reason.
#4) Ministry and Tool, especially these two....1989 - 1993
They have darkness in common. But for Dave and I they have some people and places in common. Holy Fuck, these two CDs got a lot of airtime in those first five years. Relentless.
#3) Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon / Wish you were Here. 1973 -1975
Dave at times, liked it too often and that made Sean a little surly. We played almost all of every Floyd album on a regular basis, but these two were often loaded together and played back to back for days on end. (often with Rush or Yes to follow)
I guess we had a little bit of smelly hippy in us after all.
#2) Kyuss, Blues for the Red Sun. 1992
We charged them nothing, or $50 bucks or maybe some weed.
We got high and tattooed skulls and demons on them. It was good.
The most cherished hold over from those Sundays is this Kyuss CD. Chuck brought it down.
It is the purest form of hard rock in it's most unpretentious form. It is heavier than a tonne of dead goats. It comes from the American dessert and is fueled by beer and mescaline tripping. One of the greatest, next to unknown rock albums of all time.
This disc really pissed off the neighbouring businesses, due to it's bass levels being recorded so loudly. It can make the walls rumble and the speaker cones rip. This is a disc that requires large scale proper stereo speakers to experience fully. Ear buds on the iPod won't do it any justice.
We played this disc until it ruined a set of speakers. It made the walls bleed. We painted cool shit. We did cool tattoos to this album. We still play the thing today.
#1) Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath. 1970 - ?
I won't say Sabbath is my favourite band of all time.....but they might be...?
I'm going to stop myself from going on a personalized ramble about Sabbath here, because for me it's like going down the rabbit hole.
The first 4 Black Sabbath records are awesome, and such a good fit for listening to in the tattoo studio. The odd flow between bluesy rocking, hammering molten sludge and folksy wierdness make each of those 4 records a little sonic journey that paces along a tattoo session nicely.
If I had to pick a single Sabbath album from those early playlists....I dunno....impossible, but I remember Sabbath 1 and Sabbath 3 getting the lion's share of the spins.
All Hail Sabbath!!