Like a lot of us, I first saw a tattoo on a mate from school. He had gotten a skull by Dutchy. I was 16 at the time and living in Mudgee, where I grew up. Not long after, I made the trip to Dutchy’s small shop and got a horse head that cost me $6. That was all I could afford and that began my fascination with tattooing. I then went on to collect a few more from Dutchy and one from Max Chater in Kings Cross, on Darlinghurst Road.
I went to Kings Cross and got a small tattoo from Max, spending all the money in my pocket. I jumped the train back to Mudgee and on the long, hot trip I was looking through a disgraced newspaper. Like a lightning bolt hitting me, I saw an ad in the paper for a tattooist. In the early 1980s this was so rare. Once I got home, I rang the number and lined up an interview with Duke Brown.
After about a year of madness, I was offered a job at Kings Cross. I would regularly go the Cross with Spider, who I worked with at Night Action. We’d visit all the shops: Bob Hammond, by the taxi rank, and Max and Big Pete’s, looking for any job opportunity or knowledge to pick up. Back then, shops were small with two, maybe three artists maximum, so jobs were hard to come by.
Luck struck when John Masters offered me a job at Kings Cross, a new shop that he and his wife opened after leaving Wally Hammond’s Red Light Tattoo. Nick Tiliakos was also working there at the time and John was training Kenny Adams. John was an amazing artist and could really get the customers in the chair. He had a great way of drawing things freehand, quick and easy to tattoo. I learned a lot from John. Then, about a year into it, he decided to move home to New Zealand and I took over the shop.
Find the full conversation between Rhys Gordon and tattooist Greg Ardron in TTTism Issue 2, available for purchase online and at retailers worldwide.