What do the Swedish guitarist Nico Elgstrand and the soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic have in common? Simple: in the past they have both been tattooed by the same artist.
Nico, how did you get into tattoos?
Uh, it was such a long time ago! It goes back something like twenty-five years or maybe even longer since I got my first tattoo as soon as I was legal… (smiles)
How did it turn out that time?
I remember choosing a Biomech skull (a tattoo I have to this day) because back then I was really into symmetry.
Exactly. A bit like what happen with the best metal in the world: one guitar to the right of the stage playing one theme and one on the left playing something else.
That’s why my right arm is almost covered in tattoos while the other has stayed clean over the years. It’s a question of “aesthetic balance”.
How would you describe the subjects on your right sleeve?
There are different themes, some associated with horror, others with literary characters from the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings. I basically see each and every one of my tattoos as a piece that works. They’re really striking subjects without too many hidden meanings.
Is metal (or, to be more precise, death metal) the driving force that got you into ink?
You could say that metal has been the driving force in my life! (laughs) Oddly enough though, it was Fantasy literature that led me one day to tattoo art. I’ve never stopped since and it took years to compose my right sleeve; and the work there isn’t quite finished yet.
Which tattoo is your favourite?
A portrait of Gollum/Sméagol, the famous character from The Lord of the Rings. Anyone looking at it might think it was inspired by the part played by Andy Serkis (the British actor who brought Gollum to life in the film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, ed.) but I actually got that tattoo years earlier based on illustrations selected by Tolkien himself. It’s a book, by the way, that I must have read dozens of times throughout my life…
Who is your favourite tattooist?
You know, once I got this idea in my head that I would get a tattoo by Filip Leu seeing as how Entombed A.D. were doing a concert in Switzerland, but there was no way to arrange it since Leu was booked up for the next six months! (laughs)
So what’s your answer then?
I’ll play safe and name two artists who have worked on my tattoos in person. One is my great friend Tumppi, a highly respected Finnish tattooist who works at House of Pain in Stockholm. The other is Christian Wagner (a tattoo artist who became famous when he did a number of tattoos for the soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic (currently playing for Milan, ed.). Actually, I’ll take advantage of this opportunity to say hi to them both.
Do you think that the covers of your albums like Dead Dawn (2016) or the most recent Bowels Of Earth (2019) will end up some day on the skin of some of the fans of Entombed A.D.?
I don’t know what to say seeing as our fans are particularly fond of another tattoo subject, the skull that appears on the first demo of the band as well as the cover of Uprising (2000).
That’s a symbol they’ve never forgotten, even though in the meantime we’ve become Entombed A.D.!
What would you like to get tattooed in the future?
I’d like to finish my right sleeve once and for all and go straight to my back. Maybe a backpiece inspired by Axis: Bold as Love, the historic album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Or maybe other subjects which I find difficult right now to put into words. Though I’d need a nce long holiday to devote myself to a project like that. Never mind the neverending tours! (laughs)
What cover of the classic Entombed (before you added “A.D.” to the name) would you like to get tattooed?
Definitely Clandestine from 1991. That’s a brilliant record with artwork that passes the test of time, but I don’t think I’ll ever have the nerve to get it inked onto my skin…
And why would that be?
Because for years now I’ve been playing in Entombed A.D. after being both bass-player and guitarist in Entombed. If I got a tattoo of Clandestine I’m pretty sure fans would start asking me some strange and awkward questions. When it’s just an album that made death metal history, that’s all.