MIRP: First, thank you for this interview, and we are so excited to attend Headbangers Con this fall in Portland, Oregon.
Chris: You are welcome. I’m excited too!
MIRP: Headbanger Con, how long did it take from the initial thought to realizing it could actually happen?
Chris: About 10 minutes haha. It was my wife’s idea, and it was brilliant. Once I put my mind to something I am a fucking Pitbull, so I think she knew I would make it reality in no time at all. I never fuck around, what’s the point? I just do it and worry about the risks later.
MIRP: It seems that whatever you touch turns to gold, but I know it isn’t that easy. What do you say to those who have an idea but don’t believe they can make it happen?
Chris: Thanks for that! Gold takes a long time to make that’s for sure. The most important pieces of advice I can give is to have confidence and passion. Confidence in both yourself and your idea. Don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way. Believe in it so hard that nothing will stop you. Have such strong passion for it, that passion alone will fuel you. If you are motivated by money alone, you will never succeed because those motivated by love and passion have everything to fight for and won’t quit. Money comes and goes, but passion never dies.
MIRP: What are you most excited about Portland’s Headbangers Con?
Chris: To see everyone unite under their common love for all things Rock & Metal and have a killer time. No matter age or race, if they like Hair Metal or Nu Metal, I just want everyone to know that this is their con, made for the fans by a fan! That’s what is going to make it fuckin rock and succeed.
MIRP: Do you have dreams to eventually do it across the United States or will it always stay a limited event?
Chris: I already have plans to triple in size next year! I will always hold it in Portland because I am an Oregonian (and I live in Springfield), but I already have two other cities on my radar. In fact, I am doing location scouting in Orlando a month before the inaugural Portland show even happens; that’s how confident I am that Headbangers will be kick ass!
MIRP: I know your wife had a hand in encouraging you to go forward with this. Did you do something special for her? Will she have a presence at the event?
Chris: It was all her idea. I was tattooing Morgan at a Walker Stalker (Walking Dead) Con, and she saw the excitement on him. She had also never forgotten the excitement in Charlie Benante’s demeanor when I tattooed him at several cons too. She saw that the convention world transcended cultures and she is very smart! She told me on the flight home from that Atlanta show where I tattooed Morgan that with my connections in both the comic con and music (clients) industry and with my passion for Metal, I should put on a comic con just for that very thing. I literally started planning it the minute we got home. The greatest thing about my wife is that she knows when I get a project in my sights that there is no stopping me, nor does that leave a lot of attention for her…and yet she still encouraged it. She is that amazing. She will be there on site running the entire show with me.
MIRP: When you look at vendors, do you look local as much as national?
Chris: Local is the most important for me. I want to support the local community first, and I want their support in return. Unfortunately, once that well dries up (if they even give a new show they have never heard of a chance), then you have to go where more money is, and that is national companies. I will always keep my charities local. My wife and I actually toured the Ronald McDonald house in North Portland and were blown away. We decided to do as much as we possibly could to help those families!
MIRP: You are an entrepreneur, a musician, a husband, a coach, a writer, a celebrity guest at over 150 Comicons, a father, a tattoo artist, a reality star…what am I missing?
Chris: Haha, yeah, I like to stay busy and always be creative. I also own and operate the world’s largest tattoo tour that travels internationally to tattoo at comic cons; The Geeksterink Legends. I have self-published 5 books now and have 3 more completed and ready. I created, cast and manifested my first TV show, EPIC INK on A&E, but I wasn’t satisfied with just one season. So, I cast and created a new traveling road show about my Geeksterink Legends tour that we filmed all last year. About the only thing I do to relax is paint, and I don’t get to do that often.
MIRP: Removing the husband/father (because of course it’s the most important), if you could only pick one, which would you do?
Chris: Husband and father is def the most important. I pride myself on being the best at both. Without either, everything I do is for nothing! If I had to pick one hobby or job besides those it would be just creating nothing but Headbangers Conventions in every major city across the world. I love the convention world and being a part of something bigger than just myself, a passion that brings so many together; staff, musicians, families and fans.
MIRP: To do Headbangers Con you have to be a huge fan of music. We all have them…that defining moment when we know metal/rock is in our blood. What was that defining moment for you?
Chris: It all started by listening to my Dad’s Led Zeppelin records when I was maybe 4-5. But my whole world was blown in 1984. When Shout at the Devil, Stay Hungry, Out of the Cellar, Defenders of Faith all came out. Then my mind was melted and forever casted when I heard Among the Living, Kill Em All, Rust in Peace, and every single Iron Maiden song ever! There was no turning back from that.
MIRP: What was your first concert?
Chris: AC/DC Who Made Who tour. I was a pimply face 13-year-old and that show changed my life. How would anything ever compare to seeing ACDC in their prime as a first concert? It was like a drug.
MIRP: Who was the first famous musician you met?
Chris: Nikki Sixx, and he was the coolest and most humble guy ever. It’s crazy when you think about it because had that one meet and greet gone the other way and he was an asshole, I might have shunned being involved with famous musicians and there would be no Headbangers Con. That is why I always try and be as nice as possible to every fan I meet because you never know the impact you may have on them.
MIRP: Do you remember a time when you were starstruck? If yes, who and what were the circumstances?
Chris: I have tattooed everyone from Jon Bernthal (Punisher) to Norman Redus (Walking Dead) so it’s hard to get starstruck anymore. But I will admit that I was super nervous to meet Morgan Rose (my now Headbangers Con partner) the first time. Sevendust have always been one of my favorites. I had seen him live a dozen times and even had a 7D tattoo. So that shit was nerve racking haha.
MIRP: Top 5 favorite bands?
Chris: That’s such a hard one, depends on the mod you’re in doesn’t it? In general, of who I have always listened to most I would say; Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Sevendust, Everclear, Faith No More
MIRP: What do you say to people who don’t have a favorite band or genre of metal?
Chris: That’s okay. Just don’t judge a certain type of metal then. ALL METAL IS GOOD METAL. As long as you are listening and supporting Rock-n-roll music you are doing the right thing in my book. That’s exactly why I am trying to get a few musicians from each type of Rock & Metal to Headbangers Con.
MIRP: Does your wife share in your love of music?
Chris: She is slowly learning. She grew up a California beach girl, so with her friends was surrounded by a lot of shitty pop music. She met me and I put a sudden stop to that shit! Once I take her to a concert, then she falls in love with the band, but she usually needs to see them live first to understand my passion for them. Unless it’s Papa Roach or Everclear, they can do no wrong in her eyes…I tend to agree!
MIRP: Planning a massive event such as Headbangers Con and tattooing, how much time is devoted to each?
Chris: Right now, I am only doing one tattoo a day so I have more time to commit to the Con. I put in about 10 hours a day on administrative Headbangers work, and about 3-4 tattooing. Then off to coaching my boy’s football or baseball in between and maybe hitting the gym.
MIRP: As you were in the planning stages for Headbangers Con, what elements came first?
Chris: Like, you knew you had to have a meet and greet, Q&A, vendors? As an artist, the first thing I needed was a killer logo to inspire me. My own creations weren’t cutting it. So, I worked my way into Derek Riggs’s (the creator of Iron Maiden’s Eddie) heart. As for the rest, that’s easy. I have appeared and worked at almost 200 comic cons, so I know exactly how they work from the inside out. I wanted to mold my con similarly to the Walker Stalker Cons. I’m close friends with the owner James and his entire staff. He puts the fans first and treats his staff and celebrities as family. I knew that I needed emulate that exact formula and transform it to the music world.
MIRP: What would you love to have, but just wasn’t feasible?
Chris: More space for more celebrity guests and a second live stage for bands to play all throughout the whole day. But since I am self-funding this entire thing I just couldn’t afford to do that…yet! I have put every penny I own in to this. Taken out a second mortgage on my house even.
MIRP: What do you expect to be the most popular portion of the event?
Chris: Meeting the celebrity musicians, getting their autographs and photos with them. I have really tried to get a good mix. From some popular guys of old to hot new ones. Not just the famous lead singers either, I think it’s important to have an equal mix of all the musicians for the fans who will be both casual listeners there to meet the famous front men, and diehard musicians there to meet their counterparts.
MIRP: What are you most looking forward to?
Chris: Meeting all the famous musicians I haven’t met yet. I am also hosting the Derek Riggs panel, which will only be his second one ever. As an artist, it is a special moment to meet and interview the legend who inspired you to pick up paper and pencil in the first place.
MIRP: Being new, and nothing out there really like it, how do you go about pricing? Do you look at what people can afford, or more about return?
Chris: I would be happy to break even honestly and know that I provided a lasting memorable experience for Rock fans. My rates are about half of most comic cons. The whole point of coming to a con like Headbangers is being able to meet all your favorite rock stars in one place without paying to travel all over the country to expensive festivals paying expensive VIP meet and greet prices.
MIRP: What are you hoping will be the first words out of your mouth as the last guest and fan leave the event?
Chris: I’m ready for Headbangers Con #2!
MIRP: If you could look 5 years in the future, what do you wish for Headbangers Con?
Chris: I can tell you exactly what will happen. Pop culture always recycles itself in a different from. The time for Metal music to be popular again is almost here, but not how it use to be, the world has changed too much for that. I want to help make that happen by exposing a new generation to it in the way and on the platform that they understand and appreciate. I will be doing over a dozen Headbangers Cons per year in several different countries by then.
MIRP: Have you met all of your musician heroes?
Chris: Not by any means! I need to meet Dave Mustaine most of all still.
MIRP: What do you make of the number of genres in heavy music today? Is it necessary? Overkill?
Chris: Not at all. I say the more the better. The worst genre of Metal is better than the best of top 40 pop music! As long as musicians are playing guitars and drums, loud and heavy, then we are on the right path!
MIRP: Good music is good music, but there are particular genres that we like as individuals. What are your favorite genres/sub genres of music?
Chris: Old school thrash metal (Megadeth, Anthrax), hair metal (Crue, Ratt) and Iron Maiden (Its own damn genre!) are my faves.
MIRP: Are there any that you don’t like?
Chris: I fuckin hate country. I will get some lash back from this (don’t care), but I am also not a fan of blues, jazz, classical, most top 40, and most new hip hop. I am a fucking Metalhead through and through.
MIRP: What musician would you have loved to meet that is now deceased?
Chris: Kurt Cobain. Imagine being responsible for changing music as we know it and creating an entire genre of music. Dimebag is right behind, and that needs no explanation.
MIRP: Put the ultimate band together, using only one member from a particular band.
Chris: Mike Patton is my singer 10000% without a doubt. Steve Harris is on bass. Charlie Benante (John Busch era) and Tommy Lee are on drums, and I need several guitarists to get a sound from several genres. Dimebag, Kerry King, Dave Mustaine and Phil Demmel for heavy riffs and Randy Rhodes and Warren Demartini for solos and Steve Vai for some fitness. I would probably need Chris Cornell and Lane Staley for background harmonies and writing too.
MIRP: I know you collect musician action figures and Simpson memorabilia, is there anything else you collect?
Chris: I collect so many action figures. Right now, I am at 79 original Star Wars/Empire original mint on card figures. I have arguably the biggest TMNT vintage mint on card collection on the west coast. I have a good assortment of Thundercats, GI Joe, WWF and more all mint in package. But Simpsons is my baby. After Headbangers Con has run its course and I’m old and senile, I will open a Simpsons museum here in Springfield and just paint Simpsons and watch and talk Simpsons all day with fans.
MIRP: What do you make of the mainstream acceptance of tattoos in today’s culture? Is it a good thing or a not so good thing?
Chris: It’s not a good thing, it’s a great thing. It has allowed us (who work our asses off) to make a good life for ourselves and see the world while doing it. Anyone who denies they have benefitted from it are a bunch of old school, street shop, stuck-in the-past traditionalists that are just grumpy and negative about everything all the time anyway. I know a lot of those fools. I don’t like them or talk to them.
MIRP: Do you see a lot of people who just want a “sleeve” for instance, but don’t have a purpose or vision behind it?
Chris: All the time. You have to educate people, that is part of the job. If they don’t like to hear it they can go elsewhere for somebody to fuck them over just for the love of money, not the love of the art.
MIRP: Do you think tattoo removal will be a big industry soon?
Chris: It already is. My wife does it at our shop, and she is busier than me haha. But, it’s mostly to lighten old memories so I can cover them better with new ones.
MIRP: If you had to pick one or two things that have made society allow tattoos and piercings to become normal…what would you say those items were?
Chris: TV and TV. And I was a part of that movement and I thank God every day for it.
MIRP: What is your favorite tattoo that you’ve done?
Chris: It was a Star Wars Totem Pole about a decade ago. I was the first one at the convention working and the last one done. I didn’t go out and party with everyone the night before, I just stayed in and fine-tuned my art for the piece. I won Best in Show for it and beat out some of the industry’s best to get it. It taught me that hard work and sacrifice could beat talent and reputation any day. It forever changed the way that I both tattooed and lived my life.
MIRP: Are there tattoo artists that you want to be tattooed by? Who?
Chris: No. Tattoos to me now aren’t about that anymore. I have run out of room too haha. To me it’s all about the experience and loving/knowing the person tattooing you, because their memory stays just as strong as the ink. My bestie (and Headbangers Con VP) Kyler Shinn does most of mine these days (or fixes a lot of my old shit.)
MIRP: I see you along with Jerry Patton Jr. are opening a GeeksterInk in Vancouver. What made you pick Vancouver, and should we expect anything exciting for the grand opening?
Chris: I more picked Jerry than the location. It’s all about whom you trust as a good person and who will represent your brand with the most pride, dedication and professionalism. That is Jerry Patton. It is his baby. I can’t think of anyone more deserving to own the first official Geeksterink storefront than Jerry and his wife Lauren. I love them and trust them with all my heart.
MIRP: Do you ever become a “fan” when you are tattooing a famous musician?
Chris: Always haha. I feel like I am annoying them when asking questions about old albums or tours. I am giddy! But in the end, they ask just as many about tattooing or my reality TV experience so I think it’s just human nature all around.
MIRP: Who should attend Headbangers Con?
Chris: Everyone who is in to Rock and Metal. There will literally be something fun for everyone. It is based on a fan experience, not the all mighty dollar. It is privately owned by me and not some bossy and rule-abiding corporation, so I can do whatever the fuck I want to please the fans and have a good metal time!
MIRP: What behavior will not be tolerated at the convention?
Chris: We can all be metal but stay civilized at the same time…well mostly haha. One thing I won’t tolerate is racism, bigotry, homophobia or judgment. All types of Rock and metal are accepted and I don’t want to hear people saying a certain kind sucks. We are all fans or Rock-N-Roll and have to support each other. Rock and Metal is a symbiotic circle. When one genre succeeds, they all do.
MIRP: Headbangers Con is a somewhat kid friendly event. What caveat do you want to give parents as they make their choice?
Chris: It is definitely kid fun and kids are absolutely welcome. In fact, kids under 10 are free. BUT, it is metal, so there will be talk of sex, drugs and Rock and Roll I’m sure. There will be scantily-clad people I’m sure. If you are a prude parent or one that is afraid of your kid seeing a little culture then don’t bother. If you want to educate your kids about music and let them see a little controlled real-world fun, then bring those kids. Mine will be there, and they are 8, 12, and 14. There will be a kid craft area with a coloring contest and a guitar pick scavenger hunt! Every kid under 10 gets a plastic collectors page, which holds their picks. Every celebrity has been instructed to bring picks from their band to the con and the kids can go up to them, staff and vendors to collect them and keep them entertained.
MIRP: Is there anything else that you want to talk about?
Chris: We also will have Pinball ally, which is a row of music-themed pinball machines all set to free play. There will be a legit Air Guitar contest on the main stage with serious costumes for serious prizes. And don’t forget the Geeksterink Legends will be there tattooing live. Get your fave band logo or album cover tattooed by some of the best in the industry.
From all of us at MIRP, we are very excited for the event. Thank you for taking the time to interview with us.
Chris: Thanks so much. Sorry if I rambled. I am just so passionate and excited about all this I can’t shut up haha.