On a whistle-stop tour down-under, London Ink Lolita Nikole Lowe talks tattoos & telly. But first we thought we'd give her the Scientology Personality Test over a bevvy before we got into the interview proper.....
Nikole's Scientology Questions (with help from her mate Greg)
Do you browse through railway timetables, directories or dictionaries just for pleasure?
No. I do the crossword, Woman's Day - only when I'm in NZ I always do it – I'm very good at it.
[Greg: Don't be doing any of the clues when she goes to the toilet – she'll whip your fuckin' head off and shove it down your neck...]
That was years ago!
Don't you hate that? I hate that when people draw on your stuff when you're halfway through!
Yeah - get away from my crossword!
Do you get occasional twitches of your muscles when there is no logical reason for it?
You do? They reckon those are caused by the Thetans.
Who are they?
No, who are the Thetans?
Evil aliens from outer-space.
Are they the baddies?
Yeah,... but I reckon it's just a magnesium deficiency.
Sometimes it just happens, doesn't it?
Yeah, I don't think that's anything sinister.
Do you often sing or whistle just for the fun of it?
Yes. A lot. All the time.
Do you enjoy telling people the latest scandal about your associates?
No, not really.
Not a gossip?
Nooo.... not really. Unless I'm tellng Michaela.
[Greg: And then Michaela tells me.]
And then what do u do?
[G: I put it online.]
Do you consider the modern 'prisons without bars' system "doomed to failure"?
I'd never heard about it. I'm with him (Greg)
[Greg: What it is, you know how they have the tigers at the zoo.. & they just have a moat around & then high wall outside that? Yeah, one of those.]
People will get over that – they got out of Alcatraz. That was like a big moat with a wall. So yeah, I guess that scheme will fail.
Does emotional music have quite an effect on you?
Only if I'm feeling emotional.
We'll just cross that out & write 'emo' music – so does Emo music have quite an effect on you?
No, Emo music has no effect on me at all.
So you don't get into a bit of Jared Leto then?
[Greg: What about Fall Out Boy?]
Do you rarely suspect the actions of others?
Not usually no.
Do your past failures still worry you?
No. (laughs, sneakily) Greg worries me.
Do you make efforts to get others to laugh & smile?
[Greg: Do you suceed?]
Are you sometimes considered by others to be a "spoil-sport"?
Do you speedily recover from the effects of bad news?
Do you enjoy activities of your own choosing?
Do you often "sit & think" about death, sickness, pain & sorrow?
Do you often ponder on previous misfortunes?
No I don't - never.
Does the youth of today [sic] have more opportunity than that of a generation ago?
I guess so. Dunno..., maybe... I guess. Ask Greg – he's a generation ago.
Greg, whaddaya reckon?
[Greg: They've got a bit more opportunity... cos they've got cameras on their phones.
Do you sometimes wonder if anyones really cares about you?
All the time – No, of course not. Never. No, I don't care.
[Greg: I just wish a few people wouldn't love me so much. I have too many people loving me. I just want to go to a small corner and drink my beer by myself.]
Well I don't know how much that tells us about your personality
really. I'll give the Church a call later & ask them what they think.
I think I'm probably fukt.
According to them you probably are, but that's ok because if they reckon you are then you're probably fine.
Then are they gonna come around, the aliens, are they're gonna come get me?
Yeah they might. Apparently they live in a volcano.. That'd be hot...
I rang the Church of Scientology to see if Nikole had any Negative Engrams. I thought they'd tell me to piss off but actually they were polite & not at all wierd. A lovely chap called Mike gave me his insight over the phone & according to him the subject 'is a cheerfull person with high self-confidence. They have some empathy for others & are quite active in activities of their own choosing. They are purpose driven.' So there you go. Pretty accurate really.
After selling everything she owned & buying a one-way ticket to London, Nikole landed a job at a shop called Angelic Hell which is now known as Frith St. Tattoo. 'London really made me think about what I was doing, going to conventions, I went to Barcelona and that's when it really kicked in that there was so much more to learn, that I hadn't really been taught that well really. So I just basically forgot everything and re-taught myself. I changed how I thought about things & it all just clicked & fell into place.' Once known doing a lot of Maori & realistic tattoos, Nikole is mostly sought out these days for her large body work . 'I'm mostly doing Japanese now. I started doing lots of flowers, it sort of came from doing the flowers and the butterflies really and started to become bigger pieces. I just enjoy doing really big work, hanging out with clients more and really getting a rapport going.'
Nikole has just wrapped filming on the newest tattoo reality baby known as London Ink. I ask for the lowdown on the whole shebang. 'The crew source all the clients beforehand. When it all started, like the first day, I was a real cunt. I was like "No, I'm not fukin doing this – I'm not gonna do that ". I had to do this – I'm gonna sound like a real wanker - I had to do this heiroglyphic thing on this girl and I just didn't wanna do shit like that on telly because ..... 'It's not really indicative of what you do? I offer diplomatically. 'Yeah – I've been tattoing for 16 years and it was just like, I've worked hard to get to where I am and the last thing I wanna do now is spoil it by doing some shitty little piece on television – I'm not saying that it was a shitty little piece but, y'know, I didn't wanna do shit that I don't wanna do 'cos what you do on television people expect you to do.... and so I don't wanna be doin' that. I don't want to do that stuff anymore.' Fair enough. 'It was interesting, it was hard because my best mate, it was her last month in London the same time we were filming, the whole month of filming we were going out every night, hanging out, so every day I was hung-over. It was really tiring 'cos they wanted to start at nine in the morning and I'm not good with mornings – every day I was at least an hour late.' (laughs) 'They started sending cars to get me in the morning. Everyday I was hung-over and it was so hot in there – it was like a sauna. It was in the middle of summer and there was a heat-wave.' So your best mate's going away & you're filming & it's a heat-wave- 'I was hung-over every day and there's no air-con or fans because of the filming. But it was fun – it was more fun after it was done than doing it.'
I ask Nikole who would be her pick for a desert island 'Top 5 Tattooists'? 'What about their personalities?' You can choose them based on personality.' Well I'd take five of my friends then wouldn't I?' I'd take Jamie Ruth...'
[Greg: Greg ..]
'I'd take Marnie. I'd take Phil Kyle... oooh 2 more... 2 more funners....oh, I'd take Fred Corbin.... one more, who's it gonna be? I'd have to say Drew Horner 'cos we're supposed to plug each other.' That's the deal?' Yeah, me & Drew Horner we made a pact.' 'I'll plug you, you plug me'? 'Yeah... but if I had to take one more.. I could just go on and on...' Everyone always has to slip an extra one in! They do their five & then they're like 'oh and..." 'Yeah. Jason McAffee aye?– he's fun.' You got a party going on! 'Yay! These are my party pals.'
You may have gathered by now Miss Lowe is known for getting up to a bit of mischief. With this in mind I touch on the topic of the Total Tattoo calendar. I haven't actually seen it yet but I hear...
(laughs) 'What did you hear?' You're in the buff.
[Greg: Thank God there were ropes!]
You haven't seen it! Have you seen it?
[G: I googled it]
(more laughter) 'I was so fuckin' drunk I don't even remember that pose!' You were drunk doing it? 'Oh yeah. I was so nervous that I had to get really drunk and we did it in my gym where I box - after-hours... it was pretty funny.' So they just rang you up & went ' do you want to get your kit off for charity? 'Yeah, 'cos I know Sally from Total Tattoo.. I asked who else was doing it, she told me... I thought 'oh sweet, if they're doing it I have to do it' .. now I'm Miss July. It's the hottest month innit?' Is that why you had to get your kit off – 'cos it was hot? 'It was for charity! It was for charity and everyone else was doin' it and it was fun. And I like playing pornstars, so the calendar was fun. Very drunk and funny.' Probably the best way to do those things. 'I couldn't do it sober.'
So more travelling? Any places you wanna go you haven't been yet? 'I've never been to Japan and I really want to go there. I wanted to go this trip but I've been away so long - six or seven weeks then I'm back to work for a day then I go straight to Milan so it ends up being eight weeks away. Conventions are good, I get to see all my mates and we get to party. But I don't go to many, I only do Milan, London, last year I went to San Jose. Stockholm was good. It was great, I went with Rose Hardy and Aureole. We had a great time, she's fun – we can take her to our island as well if there's room on the boat.' There's room. You're gonna have a good time on the island. 'I know!'
I ask Nikole what's been her weirdest tattoo request? 'Ever? In my whole life? When I'd just started tattooing, I had this Asian man come in and he had one nostril bigger than the other. I didn't notice – but he did. He would put eyeliner in it every day to make like, a shadow, so he wanted me to tattoo it.' Right.'Inside his nostril.' Right. Did you do it? 'Yeah.' How?! 'A little bit at a time... imagine pulling a nose hair out – it would hurt like fuk man - he cried. So that was weird. Back when I started I also practised on a lot of animals. I used to go to the vets - they thought that if u tattooed white cats and dogs ears black they wouldn't get skin cancer. It was good practise.' What did you do first, animal or person? 'I think I did a person first then an animal – yeah, the first thing I did was a comedy and tragedy mask but in skulls – that was the first tattoo I ever did.'
Now working at In2U and booked months ahead Nikole has left the animals and nasal tatts far behind. I ask if she can share a favourite recipe with us and she gives me her two coctails of the summer;
3 1⁄4 Vodka (nice Vodka like 42 Below or Grey Goose)
1 1⁄4 Chambard
A splash of Pineapple juice
Shaken on ice & strained into a chilled Martini glass – delicious!
Shot & 1⁄2 Vodka
Cranberry juice, or...Orange/Mango