Tat Chat With Matthew Marcus From Three Kings

Have you ever wanted to embrace the temporal quality of youth and just get a tattoo right then and there? Well, if you’re at the Montauk Beach House on Saturday, July 11th, then you can act on your spontaneous urge! A staple in the Brooklyn and NYC based tattoo artistry community, Three Kings will be setting up a poolside shop offering complimentary ink and I sat down with one of the owners for a little tat chat:

Tell me the story of Three Kings’ start and how it got its name.

Three Kings got its name from there being three owners originally. Since there were three of us and Brooklyn is Kings County, it made sense to come up with Three Kings. It’s also a well known holiday so we thought it had a good ring to it and didn’t fall under traditional or your usual tattoo shop names.

What is it about Three Kings that makes it one of the most well respected tattoo parlors in the area? How has it become a staple in the community?

There are so many things that make Three Kings special to me. First off, the way we cater to walk-ins is different than other shops. The scheduling system we use means you rarely have to wait and there is always someone available. Our guys work in shorter shifts so they don’t get burnt out and the quality of the work is always top notch. We have Mondays where we can do 30-40 walk-ins. Then on top of that, we do amazing custom tattooing. Between the two shops there are almost 20 tattooers which is pretty unheard of. But all of these guys/girls are working 4-5 days a week busting their asses. The other thing I attribute our success to is our willingness to educate. Since the shop opened, one of our biggest philosophies was to educate our customers and spend time with them explaining why things work or don’t work and what the components of a good tattoo are and how you can spot them so that you don’t get burned going to a bad tattoo shop. To me, creating a smarter customer makes them a better customer because there is so little education out there on tattooing for the mainstream population. We are always friendly and polite and we never make people feel stupid for their ideas.

What was your first tattoo and was it something you spent time thinking about or was it born out of spontaneity?

My first tattoo is of a skull, anchor and banner that says YIPPEE on it on my arm. It was for my grandfather who had passed and was like a second father to me. So my first one meant a lot to me…it was all downhill from there.

Are there any tattoos on your body you like more than the others? And if so, do you tend to like the ones that resulted from a spontaneous decision or the ones that have creatively marinated in your brain before putting them on your body?

I would say the tattoos that mean the most for me fall under two catagories. They are either from someone I respect and admire like my tattoo from Horiyoshi. The other category are those spontaneous late night tattoos you get when it’s all about the immediate idea or the moment you are spending with people. Those tell the best stories to me and act as a really fun timeline.

Have you ever tried to talk someone out of a tattoo? Like, if I walked in and wanted BROOKS BROTHERS tattooed on my inner lip what would you say?

Every tattoo artist has his/her own politics and code of ethics they live by. A lot of customers don’t think it’s our place to not do a tattoo on them when we think it’s a bad idea but each tattoo artist makes that decision for themselves. I have never been one to talk people out of tattoos. What I will do is educate them and give them all sides to the situation. I will explain that maybe this is too small and fall apart over time, or getting that neck tattoo when you aren’t covered in tattoos could keep you from a job or cause you to be judged by people in a certain way. I try to show people all angles of their decision and I feel like that is where my responsibility ends. It would be intrusive for me to try to convince someone I don’t know to not do something they want to do. And from a business stand point, most people who are dead set on getting what they want and the way they want it and refuse the advice of a professional are going to do what they want to do no matter what. So why would I send them to possibly get that tattoo from someone who is going to mess it up or not care about the job, because there are more tattooers out there like that still than guys who genuinely care. I know myself or my crew is going to give them the best version of what they want so even if I think it’s a bad idea, I know they are in better hands with us.

The other day a friend of mine said she doesn’t get tattoos in the summer because the healing process is a bitch because of the heat. Is this true? Is it okay to get tattoos in the summer and if so, how is the regimen of taking care of freshly inked flesh different?

It’s ok to get tattoos in the summer, but the regimen for care is tougher in the warmer weather. We always tell people for two weeks no sun, pool, ocean or extreme sweating. I just described summer’s biggest characteristics. So you just have to know yourself and your plans. We get people who have appointments and tell us they are leaving for a tropical vacation two days after their tattoo and we have to reschedule. You really want to give your tattoo the proper care and attention it deserves. The aftercare procedure is just as important as the application and the majority of the time when a tattoo has issues, it is due to poor aftercare. Why would you spend all that time getting something painful and permanent on your body just to mess it up?

Right now there’s an entire conversation being had about “tatcalling”—which some argue is a form of harassment by virtue of someone using someone else’s tattoos in an attempt to achieve what catcalling has never succeeded to do. What are your thoughts on it?

I usually try to stay out of conversations like this, but here we go: any kind of sexual advance that is unwanted is wrong. For me that is where the conversation starts and that is where the conversation ends. You just don’t do it and if you see someone do it you speak up and advocate for yourself or for someone else. That being said, when you decide to get heavily tattooed, you should accept responsibility that your public image changes. Being covered in tattoos opens a door for people in all sorts of ways. Most of the time it’s the first or the only thing people feel they can talk to me about. They forget that ultimatly I am just like them and the fact that I am covered in tattoos is really the only difference. I listen to the same music, watch the same movies, eat the same food, enjoy the same activities as everyone else. I accept the fact that I look out of the norm, and I am even more covered than most, so I really feel it sometimes. But even from the start, I accepted responsibility for my decision to look this way and I understood that people would make judgement calls on who I am because of it. Humanity will always judge a book by its cover but it’s a great defense mechanism against idiots. It makes people have to really get to know me and it’s a nice filter. I take looking the way I do very seriously and for myself and I know many others, we conduct ourselves in a certain way to help break the stereotypes that exist around heavily tattooed people. For men we can be seen as thugs, bikers, criminals and scum. For women they can be seen as whores, too masculine and gross looking. I have witnessed men saying so many terrible things to heavily tattooed women that a man would never have the nerve to say to me. So it is a sad statement on society but if it isn’t one thing, it would be another. You will always have people who don’t respect themselves and in turn outwardly disrespect all those around them. Learning to remain unaffected, composed and dignified is the best way to keep people like that from feeling like their actions are successful. When something doesn’t work, people will eventually stop doing it.

Let’s talk about Montauk! What do you want to see while you’re here besides flesh?

The beach. Oysters. A lobster roll. Beer.

You’re setting up shop poolside at the Montauk Beach House. Have you ever done something like this before? What are you excited for the most? 

I’ve never tattooed poolside before so I am excited. I know working events like these isn’t for most tattoo artists but I like it. I love the people side of my industry so going to new places and meeting new people is fun for me. I do a lot of event tattooing but I have never done it in a tent poolside so we will see how it goes!!! I am hoping to tattoo around 10 people in the 5 hour window.

Any possibility of a Montauk-inspired tattoo? If not, what do you want to get done next?

Hahaha I don’t see that in my future but who knows. Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh!


Guest Written by Greg Mania.