Jan Axel Blomberg, aka Hellhammer and drummer in the legendary Norwegian band, tells us about who it was that inspired him to discover the secrets of ink.

Jan, I can only imagine it was metal that got you into the tattoo scene, correct me if I’m wrong. Actually it was my grandfather who gave me my great love of tattoos. He was a sailor and his body was just covered in ink, so it was pretty much inevitable that I would get there following his example.

Who influenced you later on?
As as teenager, I was a big fan of Phil Taylor, the historic drummer of Motörhead (who died in 2015. ed.) and he was the first to turn me on to drums in a big way. But tattoos too!

Hellhammer Mayhem, photo by Stefan Raduta
Hellhammer Mayhem, photo by Stefan Raduta

What was it about Phillty that particularly impressed you?
The fact that he banged away so savagely on his toms, a technique that has been so useful to me all my life. And then Phil had this venomous cobra tattooed on his arm.

A tattoo that was so cool that as a kid I got one done that was exactly the same as his.

Then I decided later on to cover it up with another piece. But that’s another story.

Hellhammer tattoo
Hellhammer tattoo

What can you remember about the first tattoo you ever got?
That it was a quick experience; fifteen minutes tops and, even though they had warned me that it would hurt, I never felt a thing! (laughs) That was way back in 1985, I was just your normal sixteen year-old and I hadn’t started playing with Mayhem yet. I only joined the band later, in 1988.

Hellhammer tattoo
Hellhammer tattoo

Tell me something: is it true that the Baphomet you’ve got on your left bicep goes back to your brief stint with Dimmu Borgir while you were recording In Sorte Diaboli?
There is no truth whatsoever to that story. That tattoo was done by Tom Schmidt of Black Bullet Tattoo in Hagen, a town in the north of Germany. Both of us have always been great fans of the work of H.R. Giger, the Swiss artist who sadly passed away in 2014. The Baphomet was inspired by his work.

Mayhem, photo by Ester Segarra
Mayhem, photo by Ester Segarra

Will you ever get your legs tattooed?
I really don’t think so. Ok, maybe it’s a drummer thing, but I always play in leather pants and boots. Summer or winter, my look stays the same. I just don’t get those drummers who go onstage barefoot in basketball shorts just so they can show off the tattoos they’ve got on their legs and feet: it’s so uncomfortable! (laughs)

Hellhammer Mayhem, photo by Stefan Raduta
Hellhammer Mayhem, photo by Stefan Raduta

What are the most out there tattoos dedicated to Mayhem that you have ever set eyes on?
Oh, I see them all the time… What comes to mind right now is a Dutch guy who had got a tattoo in our honour that starts at the base of the throat and goes all around his neck. That looked pretty wild!

Mayhem are a really technical band, we always have been, so I’d say that there is a lot of ink out there about us.

The same with autographs turned into tattoos: it’s an honour when somebody asks me for my signature so they can turn it into something that will last their entire life.

Mayhem cover album
Mayhem cover album

Speaking of which, have you got any Mayhem tattoos yourself?
Yes, I’ve got a small logo on my arm, but that’s nothing compared to our bassist Nccrobutcher who has the name Mayhem in the same spiky letters tattooed from shoulder to shoulder! That deserves total respect.

Read the rest of the interview with Hellhammer in a future issue of Tattoo Life magazine