The leader of the Danish band – back with the album Rewind, Replay, Rebound is not so much a tattooed musician as a living symbol of tattoo art.

Michael, can yuou tell us what you have learned over all these years of faithful tattoo zealotry?
To be perfectly honest, I would hope that it was the tattoo artists, especially those that were new to the trade, who learned something from me…from looking at my body! (laughs) Ok, just kidding, but I do think I’ve done my fair share for the cause of tattoo, touring the world with Volbeat since 2001…

You’re never going to need to write your autobiography, are you? All of your tattoos can tell your life story for you, wouldn’t you say?
Yeah, every one of them has a story to tell about me. I’ll give you a couple of examples: if I’ve got a Traditional eagle on my hand, it’s because my father had the same one on his chest. I’ve celebrated my mother with the tattoo of a lovely swallow. I have the Danish words for “Father” and “Mother” tattooed on my knuckles, and so on.

All this ink basically stands for my story, my toots.

Michael Poulsen by Brittany Bowman
Michael Poulsen by Brittany Bowman

I know you’re a big fan of Spiritual Healing, one of the many excellent recordings left to posterity by Death. Once you even wrote the sleeve notes to a reissue of that album. Do you by any chance happen to have a tattoo dedicated to Chuck Schuldiner’s band?
No, but it does cross my mind from time to time. I don’t want their logo, just a nice realistic portrait of Chuck (who sadly passed away in 2002, ed.), all I have to do is find the right photo.

The tattoo I get will be a tribute to him but also to Death, one of the greatest death metal bands of all time.

Michael Poulsen by Brittany Bowman
Michael Poulsen by Brittany Bowman

I seem to remember you’ve got a Lettering somewhere that reads “Little E”. What is that all about?
That is the nickname James Hetfield from Metallica gave me. One day he just showed up in the Volbeat changing room and goes: “Hey guys, you know where Little E is?”. Then he caught sight of me and grinned from ear to ear. And I said, “Sorry James, but who the hell is this Little E?” And sharp as a whip, he came back with: “Little Elvis, pal! that’s you, isn’t it”. (laughs)

Can you tell me the name of your favourite tattooist?
The name’s Henning Jorgensen and he works at The Royal Tribute in Denmark. We’re talking about a truly great artist here and I admire the whole package: the drawings, line work, colours, details. The way he does Japanese tattoo. And then Henning is also a really nice guy: when he has the machine in his hand he can talk about just anything and put you completely at your ease.

Michael Poulsen by Brittany Bowman
Michael Poulsen by Brittany Bowman

Volbeat have given so much to rock music in the third millennium, just like you yourself have done so much for the revival of Traditional and Japanese tattoo. Just allow me to ask you one thing: would you consider yourself a symbol?
Rather than a symbol, I just hope that my style has never been taken for some sort of a fashion statement. And that it can provide some real inspiration for anyone who truly loves the ancient art of tattoo. At the same time, you have to give credit to all those great artists working in tattoo shops around the world.

If I could promote their hard work in every interview I give, like I’m doing here, I’d be really proud to do so.

One last question: you are the perfect band to associate with tattoo art just like the covers of your studio albums (seven so far, including the latest Rewind, Replay, Rebound) would be just right for a tattoo. What do you think?
Well, Volbeat are a group that gives great importance to both the music and the artwork that is able to contain it. We like to catch the attention of our listeners through their ears but also through their eyes…

Michael Poulsen by Brittany Bowman
Michael Poulsen by Brittany Bowman

Read the rest of the interview with Michael Poulsen of Volbeat on the new Tattoo Life issue.