“My story is way too long and even if I told you about it you would not even believe me…”
Abey, tell us more about yourself, your childhood, your roots… Where did you grow up?
I was born in the General Hospital in East Los Angeles, California. Born to immigrants – illegal ones, that is… My father worked as a gardener and my mother was a stay home parent. I have three siblings, one brother and two sisters. We were raised in the city of Pomona (Ca). Nothing nice in this city growing. I had a great childhood I’d like to think, even though this city was plagued with Gang violence, drugs, but it has some of the best people in America… I recall being really young, I had to be no older than four years of age and we lived in a part of Pomona called “Cherryville”, which is a Gang in Pomona.
We lived in the Horseshoe, our neighbors were my nana Vera and my tata shorty. They are our dearest friends, closest thing to family, and they had kids who were much older and were from that neighbourhood. I recall one night hearing gunshots (a normal thing in those days), my Dad yelling to get down, and I remember a bullet came through the wall and grazing my older sister’s back… Man! We were out of there. We moved to another part of Pomona where we attended Lincoln Elementary. We were there a few years, then moved to Southside of Pomona where I call home. There is where I met all my Homies and they’re still friends. Fast forward to my late teens. We had a Barbershop on Philadelphia and Garey Avenue and this barber shop became a haven for us after hours. Man… We used to party and do a lot of drugs there into the morning hours. Everybody from the South would show: my homies from the Sur, homies from 12 St., PMR, taggers from TWK, and all my little homies from tenth and a lot of mutha fuckers from the south… man, I knew everyone and everyone knew me. it was a great time in my life and I thought I was badass.
Started growing weed in the Mid 90’s and stealing Gbodys all day with my Homies Tito and Tino. Fuck, just all bad, and I would cut hair. Then it all came to an end when I got caught for cultivating, sales, and a strap (gun). Went straight to La County Mens Central Jail. All bad, had to grow up real quick as a Southsider. Shit gets real real fast. I got out and a year later got caught in a stolen vehicle. Man, I didn’t learn, huh!… Well, this got me 3 years in the State Penitentiary Kern County State Prison… I had some time served so I was there for a little less than a year and that’s when the tattooing began! It all led to drug addiction incarceration… hurting my loved ones, meeting my wife, having kids, getting sober, moving, tattooing my ass off, Lowrider tattoo, family… and travelling to places I never would have thought possible.
Dealing with my brothers death, vertigo and health issues and owning “3 Foot Radius Tattoo”. My story is way too long and even if I told you about it you would not even believe me…
How could define your Art? Could you give me three adjectives to describe your Art?
Culture, Realistic, Black and Grey.
Do you think your roots influence your Art?
Yes, it has to. Tattooing is all about who you are and who we are and where we come from, from before we crossed the border: revolutions, religion, Mayan and Aztec roots, being Chicano, gang culture, being Cholos or just being a Mexican minority with a lot of pride about the struggle. What we’ve been through as a people or as a family or with your homies in the streets defending a street or block that’s not even your own…
There’s a lot of pride in our tattoo culture and I mean Mexicans have a lot of pride in everything we do, especially wearing tattoos and blasting them on your skin.
Where does your inspiration came from?
That’s a tough question. When I was young, I didn’t even think I had inspiration… but it was all around you, from my brother and sister pushing me… but mainly the streets, lowriding, stealing cars, prison life and just hanging on the block. There was no internet or social media. You had to go be it to make a name for yourself, not post some fake shit so the world can have this bullshit perception of you… Back then, it was like, “I don’t give a fuck who likes me” and it’s changed to trying to get all the Likes you can on Instagram! LOL, That’s some shit!
And now, as I’ve matured in life, my inspiration comes from my family, my people, my race, and a global recognition of how art has influenced the world ever since the Renaissance era. I’m also mostly influenced by a lot of my peers: Jose Lopez, Carlos Torres, Sergio Sanchez, Alan Padilla, Cartoon, Klown S, Chuey Quintanar, Antonio Mejia, Josh Duffy, Robert Hernandez, Robert Pho, Big Sleeps and my co-workers Kalm One, Eric Banales, Anthony Rivera. We think that it’s all about how the tattoo looks, but it’s also these people’s work ethic that impresses me. The most these people have is pride!
Most off all, my son who almost died three times when he was born. He fought for a life I was throwing away at the time!
Which is you fave style in the Art of tattooing? And the most inspirational for you?
My favourite is doing some ganster ass shit, half-naked bitches holding guns, lowriders and street shit, because you have to have lived it to understand it, having righteous homies and friends on the streets and in prision that are there in good and bad times. I came from an era where garage tattooers were frowned upon.
What project are you working on now?
The project I’m working on is a life-long project to be happy and have a great family, put my kids through college, build cars, and get old with my wife, enjoy life and travel without having to take my machines… Oh! And I have too many tattoo projects to mention…LOL! Slees, legs, backs, heads… Fuck, you name it, we’re there!
What are your fave things to do when you are not tattooing?
I love to be home with my loved ones. I enjoy my dogs a lot. And cooking. And I’m trying to build cars and shit. That’s fucking hard.
Who is “Abey Alvarez”?
“Who the fuck is Abey Alvarez?” Man… If you’d asked me this 20 years ago, I would have said “I’m a fucking fool! Drug addict to crack cocaine from the age of 16 to 27. Car thief, barber, ex-felon. Man! Just wanted to be out, fucking around all day and night, not caring who I hurt. Now I’ve been sober for 15 years, a business owner, international award-winning tattoo artist, family man and proud parent. But don’t get it wrong… I’m still that fucking fool, 3 foot radius mutha fuckers, Ptown on mine, all day!
Who are your mentors? And who do you admire – in Art, and in life?
I really didn’t have mentors, I came from an era where garage tattooers were frowned upon… but I admire Jose Lopez. He is a good friend of mine. His work ethic is like no other, man, he’s a beast! Thank you Jose! Also my mother. Here’s a woman who separated from my dad for being an alcoholic and he was the bread winner. Not knowing the language, having to support 4 kids, 2 in college and 2 at home, against all odds. She never gave up on any of us or herself. She learned the language, took a cosmetology course. In the meanwhile, we made tamales to sell (the best out there). She became a business owner, 2 college graduates, one tattoo artists, and stays the strongest woman after one of her son’s death – my brother, her first child. Loses half her foot and still pushing forward. That’s who I admire, want to be like in life. Oh, and she became a citizen of the US. And all the shit I put her through growing up. She never gave up on me. Mama te quiero con toda mi alma, perdoname a mi y a mi hermano por todo lo que te hicimos sufrir.
What dreams do you harbour for the future?
My dreams are to help my kids fulfill their dreams. I’m done dreaming, I’m doing fuck the dumb shit, I’m too far along to have time for that. Either I’m going to make something happen or I’m not…You can live a lifetime in a dream!
What are your values? In your life and work?
I only value life and I want to live as long as I can, see my great grandkids if God allows. There was a time when I didn’t even value myself, didn’t give a fuck if I made it or not. And as regards work, I value my friendships that I’ve made along this journey and some clients that are now friends.
If you had to pick some artists that inspires your work who would you mention and why?
A gang of homies like Chuey, Jose Lopez, Mr. Cartoon, Carlos, Alan, because they are so patient in their work and it shows, and their style I just like to admire.
Machines, coil or rotary? Company brand, and why?
Both have their advantages. It just depends how you work as an individual. I use the “wand” from Bishop Rotaries because it’s a great machine and I support my friend Franco Vescovi for what he’s done. I also want to thank Inkeeze, Big Sleepsink, Bishop Rotary, 3 Foot Radius Tattoo, Lowrider Tattoo.