We Talk To Dallas Tattoo Icon Oliver Peck About His New Reality Show, Ink Master
Last month, Dallas tattoo icon Oliver Peck and a relatively small collection of his closest friends — oh, just about 50 people or so — gathered not far from his Elm Street Tattoo parlor, just across the street at La Grange, to watch a little television on a Tuesday night.
There was, of course, a reason behind the gathering. This night brought with it the premiere of the first episode of InkMaster, the new tattoo-focused reality competition series on Spike for which Peck, along with rock ‘n’ roller Dave Navarro and Miami-based tattooer Chris Nunez, serves as a judge.
It was a unique experience, to say the least. Though filming on the show had wrapped a full five months prior, Peck had still yet to see a single edit of the show. As he got his first look at the new series to which he’s loaned his quite marketable name, so too did all of his friends — and, with them, the rest of the country.
Fortunately, Peck and his cohorts at La Grange on this night seemed to enjoy the show’s debut. Peck, in particular, especially got a kick out of it, cackling in the back of the room and happily laughing at each of his on-screen appearances.
As the first hour-long episode of the show concluded, the room, perhaps placating somewhat to their fellow attendee, erupted into applause.
Meanwhile, Peck sheepishly checked his phone — and just in time to receive a text from Navarro.
“Say goodbye to our street cred, dude,” the text read. “But say hello to lots of cash.”
Peck, as he does frequently, laughed again.
Then he was kind enough to talk to us about his immediate thoughts on his new show.
Was this really the first time you’d seen the show? You were going in completely cold today?
Yeah! Anything that happened when I wasn’t there, I had no clue what it was. Like the stuff with the contestants in the house, I didn’t have any clue. I didn’t have any idea what any of that shit was.
What’s your immediate reaction?
Man, I was really pleased! It came out really well. I was a little weary about how it was gonna look, but it looked good! I mean, if nothing else, it wasn’t bad!
You’ve had a lot of connections to other tattoo artists who’ve had their moment in the reality TV sun — most notably your ex-wife, Kat Von D and her LA Ink show — but this is your first foray. Was that a worry at all?
Well, I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t going to just be myself. If it’s going to be a reality show, then it’s really gonna be me. I’m not going to pretend to say something I wouldn’t otherwise or whatever.
How’d it even come to pass?
They just hit me up and asked me if I wanted to be a judge. And I said, “Maybe.” And then it just ended up happening.
What put you over the top?
Yeah, of course! I mean, it’s a job. But, honestly, if I’m gonna be a part of a project, I’d rather it be a project like this than just a dramatic show. At least this is a competition with real tattooers with real tattoos. I mean, sure, maybe some of them are good and maybe some of them are bad, but that’s the way you’ve gotta have it. You’ve gotta have some good and some bad. I mean, it’s probably gonna be more fun to watch the bad ones! [Laughs.]
I noticed you laughing at some of your competitors’ work during this first episode. Especially B-Tat, the first guy to get cut from the competition.
Oh, man. I mean, it was funny. And, hey, I was happy that the show had a lot of funny moments in it. I guess I was pretty sad to see B-Tat go. I thought he was gonna win it. [Laughs.] I thought he was gonna win the whole thing!
You don’t strike me as a huge TV watcher.
I don’t even have a TV.
I’d say this is show is formulated after Top Chef…
Exactly. That’s what it is. I did see one episode of that. But I couldn’t stand it. I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen, like, “Who would watch this?” Then I find out that everybody loves it.
There’s certainly something more dramatic about this show, though. A bad meal, you can just spit out…
Yeah. I just didn’t get Top Chef, personally. I never understood it. It surprised me that so many people cared about watching people cook or whatever.
Were you surprised, then, to be approached with an idea like this?
Not really. It’d been discussed for a couple of years. It was in the making for a while, then it kind of got put on the backburner. It takes a while for something like this to see the light of day.
Had you known your co-hosts, Dave Navarro and Chris Nunez, at all before taping?
I didn’t know Dave. But me and Chris had been friends for about 15 years, which was another helpful deciding factor in me doing the show, since I knew he was going to be in.
How long is the season? How long did it take to film?
It’s eight episodes. We filmed it in New York in August. It took us about a month. And it was the most fun you could’ve asked for. It was great. There’s a lot of good and a lot of bad in every episode.
You really seemed to enjoy watching this first episode.
Yeah, I really did. I was kind of anxious. I was worried that it was gonna be a bummer to watch it, but it was actually a lot of fun. And I looked good! I got to wear my own wardrobe and everything. I’m kind of just as happy to see my yellow, plaid 1950s shirt make it to air as I was myself.
You have no idea at this point if this is going to be a one-year thing or more than that, do you?
No, you never know. If it does well, there will be more. If it does badly, it won’t.
But you’re down for more?
Oh yeah. If they decide to do more, I’ll deal with that when it comes. Now, I’m just focused on tattooing. I’m leaving for Europe in a couple of days. Just working, man. A couple of tattoo conventions in a couple of different countries. It’s what I do.
You’re spread pretty thin as is. You’ve got tons of obligations. But this is something you want to have on your plate, it sounds like.
I mean, why not? It’s awesome. Anything that helps me get more motorcycles, I’m into it.