Exploring their new record (a concept album, no less!) we had a chat about ink with Ben Barlow, the friendly singer of the ever more popular Welsh band
Ben, when did the tattoo adventure begin for someone like yourself?
I suppose it was around the age of sixteen or seventeen when Neck Deep were already around in an embryonic form at least (this band from Wales took its first steps in 2012 though their first album “Wishful Thinking” didn’t come out for another two years, ed.). But now that I’m twenty-six I am desperately searching my body for space to add some more ink! (laughs)
So what was it that made you want to get tattooed in the first place?
Well, around the time I started, around ten years ago, all of my favourite musicians (starting with Blink-182) were covered in tattoos. Not to mention certain British footballers! At that age, when full of dreams and healthy rebellious ideals, it was practically impossible for me not to get the bug. Though of course, the older you get, the more you realise that there are many more elements to tattoo art: history, symbols, the art itself. But as a kid, it takes less, much less, to draw you in.
Among the input connected with your ink, hadn’t A Day to Remember got something to do with it too? I seem to remember that this Florida punk-pop outfit is one of your major reference points…
No. Let’s get this clear: I absolutely love ADTR, but I have never got a tattoo in their honour. The real fan there is our ex-bass player Fil (Thorpe-Evans; in the band up until 2018, ed.), who actually went so far as to get himself an A Day to Remember tattoo.
In terms of my ink I’m much more indebted to our rhythm guitarist Matt West.
Are you serious?
Absolutely. To be honest, it was Matt who got me into the Traditional style and recommended a great shop in Manchester where I got my first tattoo.
So apart from Manchester, where else have you got tattooed?
Well, playing in a group there is no shortage of opportunities. I’ve got tattooed in the United States, Australia, in the UK, Italy, to start with. I have fond memories of a shop in Rome where I got some of my pieces.
Then my girlfriend is a professional tattooist, so I am surrounded by the scene most of the time.
Have you any funny stories to tell me about you and tattoo art?
Look, more than about me, I can tell you about that time Matt – him again! – decided to get himself a tattoo on his shoulder of a man from the Victorian period. An eccentric kind of guy with the whiskers, elegant suit, proud expression, and all the rest of it. Traditional, so. The moral of the story is that the tattoo ended up looking like a portrait of Freddie Mercury, the legendary frontman of Queen! (laughs) You know, that was also around the time that Bohemian Rhapsody came out and everyone thought Matt’s tattoo was of Freddie!
So what did he do?
In the end he got a cover-up with a sort of alien from space! (sniggers) A great piece it turned out to be.
Let’s finally get down to talking about the music: why with last July’s “All Distortions Are Intentional” did Neck Deep come out with a whole concept album? Do you not think that is a bit much in the throwaway era of Spotify?
We wrote “All Distortions Are Intentional” because we want to be different every time we get down to work on a new record. This time we weren’t interested in just giving whoever was listening a collection of singles – I like this, I’ll skip that – but a work that was all one piece. A musical opera with its own story, its own particular mood, something that needs to be listened to right through. Take it or leave it!