Tattoo King Mark Mahoney Tells Slayyyter All His Hollywood Secrets


Slayyyter and Mark Mahoney, photographed by Kait Muro.

Just off the Strip, there’s a church where the choir is the sound of tattoo guns and its high priest, Mark Mahoney, wears immaculately tailored Italian suits. The checker-tiled floors and wood-paneled walls are a testament to its ethos: old Hollywood. If those walls could talk, they would divulge the secrets of endless Rolodex of celebrity clientele: Adele, Rihanna, Lana Del Rey, and Angelina Jolie, to name a few. But the burgeoning pop star Slayyyter is the latest convert. Last month, just after the launch of Mahoney’s new fashion line, Shamrock Social Club Collective, the pop princess made the pilgrimage to his tattoo parlor in West Hollywood for a Mahoney specialty: Jesus Christ on her left bicep. “He made the washboard stomach popular,” Mahoney joked. “He made a lot of contributions to the world.” After Slayyyter rolled up her Shamrock Social tee sleeve and pressed “record,” Mahoney got to work and revealed his least-favorite former client, his longtime love of oil painting, and how he feels about tattoos becoming “trendy.”


SLAYYYTER: Should I sit right here?

MARK MAHONEY: Yeah. So show me about where it is?

SLAYYYTER: I was kinda thinking just like, here. Like, outside of the arm. Not super huge. But should I start with the questions?

MAHONEY: Whenever you’re ready.

SLAYYYTER: Alright. I read that when you were younger, tattoos were illegal in Boston. What drew you to your first tattoo?

MAHONEY: Just the first time I walked into a shop. I was probably 14 and drove to Rhode Island, to this guy Buddy Mott’s tattoo shop. He was the main man in New England and I walked in and I was a goner. I was like, “Oh yeah, this is my life’s work right here.” I always drew and I knew I was going to do something with that at some point.

SLAYYYTER: You told me that you’ve been working on paintings and stuff too.

MARK MAHONEY: I don’t have enough free time, but I love it. I wish I could do it more.

SLAYYYTER: What’s the last thing you painted?

MAHONEY: You know what? When I started painting I thought I would like to do paintings of my friends. They’re musicians, so I started a big one of Mike Ness from Social Distortion.

SLAYYYTER: Very cool. I feel like your work is so tied in with all kinds of musicians and a lot of iconic people. Is there anything, any stories or certain musicians, that really stand out to you? 

MAHONEY: The one that comes to mind was Ringo [Starr] from the Beatles. He was the only tattooed Beatle, and he’s only got a couple of them. So me and one other person in the world can say they tattooed a Beatle. But he was super sweet and he got a cool tattoo: an erupting volcano, and out of the eruption part was a crucifix, and then at the bottom of the hill were lotus flowers. And it was to symbolize that he was a Christian Buddhist that was coming out of his years of drug addiction. 

SLAYYYTER: That’s very cool. Are you a spiritual person?

MAHONEY: I guess you could say that.

SLAYYYTER: I feel like you’re known for a lot of religious iconography and that’s why I wanted to do Jesus especially. You grew up Irish Catholic, right?

MAHONEY: It’s always been a part of my life and I think that was definitely amongst my earliest art influences, the way that religious painters could add a little extra drama or something.

SLAYYYTER: You’ve probably watched a lot of changes with the tattoo industry and different trends, but I feel you kind of have fathered a very specific style. Is there anything with the new tattoo culture that you’re not into?

MAHONEY: Well you used that trend word, which is interesting, that tattoos have become trendy. I didn’t think that would ever be the day, and I think that one of the things that attracted me originally was that they weren’t. They were dark and dangerous and deeply countercultural. 

SLAYYYTER: Yeah I feel like tattoos are always something that was so rebellious, but now it’s like, everyone has one or at least thinks about getting one.

MAHONEY: I joke that it’s the rebel that doesn’t have a tattoo now, you know?

SLAYYYTER: Were you rebellious when you were younger?

MAHONEY: I was. I was a good kid, too. Puberty struck. In fact, I wanted to be a priest, Slayyyter.

SLAYYYTER: Really? What made you want to be a priest?

MAHONEY: I don’t know. I always liked it at church.

SLAYYYTER: It’s looking good, by the way. What were your favorite bands growing up?


MAHONEY: I was always around the punk stuff, but I don’t think I was ever really a punk myself. But I love the rebelliousness and the attitude of it.

SLAYYYTER: I feel like you’ve built a really cool kind of community and everything around yourself with Shamrock Social Club. When I came to your St. Patrick’s Day party, I thought it was really touching to see all these different people and your family and everyone around you. It’s been many years and I feel like it’s cool that you’re still just as passionate about the art. Is that what you were hoping for with starting a shop in Hollywood, having that sense of community and all of that?

MAHONEY: That’s the social club groove, you know. I wanted it to be a community. I still like doing that. I put my friends together. Last week in New York, I introduced my old friend Nan Goldin and this photographer to Angelina Jolie and they started talking about working on a project. I love doing that.

SLAYYYTER: What inspires your style?


SLAYYYTER: Pimps? Hell yeah. That’s good.

MAHONEY: My dad was a clothes horse. I think maybe that’s where it originated from. He would go to a trade show in New York once a year and he would have new suits made. I think my dad, like myself, was kind of a wannabe gangster

SLAYYYTER: Those are great classic gangster interests, though. Classic cars, shoes. Are you a jewelry guy?

MAHONEY: Not as much as I would like to be. But yeah, I definitely like jewelry.  Watches have become such a big thing for tattoo artist guys, but they essentially wear the same fucking watch. I mean, they all wear the black face stainless Rolex. And I’m like, I would rather have five fucking wild-looking ones than one square-looking Rolex.

SLAYYYTER: You’ve probably done many Jesuses. But this is a special Slayyyter Jesus. It’s funny that you said you wanted to be a priest when you were younger because your aura is very comforting. I feel like getting a tattoo from you is almost its own kind of spiritual moment. You said how people get tattoos when they get divorced or when they get married or when they have babies and I feel like it’s a cool thing that people come to you when they want something special to signify pieces of their life.

MAHONEY: That’s funny. Lady Gaga, I tattoo’d her and then she got a few other tattoos. And I always get a little butt hurt when someone goes to somebody else. And she tells me, “Mark, everybody knows people and they go to Mark Mahoney for the important ones.” I thought that was cool.

SLAYYYTER: That’s very true. Did you ever expect to have such a crazy Rolodex of celebrity clientele? 

MAHONEY: Fuck no. None of this shit. It’s insane to me. When I got to L.A., the old-timer I worked for in Long Beach told me he estimated that there were a thousand real tattooers working in America at that time. It’s crazy. I’m sure there’s a thousand in fucking West Hollywood now.

SLAYYYTER: Anyone can tattoo, anyone can make music. Anyone can kind of do anything. Wow, ot’s already so cool. I better start lifting weights so he can get a more cut jawline. Mr. Jesus.

MAHONEY: Slayyyter, you are perfect just the way you are. Jesus says so. But you’re right. We are so fucking hard on ourselves. I always hated drawing on paper since I started tattooing because like you say, I’m never fucking happy. But doing the clothing line was actually good for me because I had to draw so fucking much that I kind of got over it. I was like, “Okay, I do the best I can do, see what happens.” I drew more in this last year than I did probably in the last 20 put together.

SLAYYYTER: I think the clothing line is so cool because it’s kind of all of your most iconic tattoos and styles. And it’s cool to kind of see it on clothing rather than on human flesh.

MAHONEY: Mark Mahoney’s greatest hits.

SLAYYYTER: Everything looks amazing. I’m obsessed.

MAHONEY: Oh, that means a lot, Slayyyter. I have a question. Do you like performing?

SLAYYYTER: I do. I think performing is my favorite piece of making music. Making it is kind of, like you said, you want to tear it up and start all over. And then when you’re on stage and people are responding in real time, that’s the most magical piece of it all.

MAHONEY: That’s why we do this shit, you know.

SLAYYYTER: It’s crazy for me, actually. I have fans that will come up to me and they’ll be like, “Oh, I got a Slayyyter tattoo.”

MAHONEY: That’s cool, right?

SLAYYYTER: It’s cool. But at the same time I was like, “Oh my god, where’s your mom?”

MAHONEY: As long as they get the good portraits, though. You had such a career before even being in Lana’s videos and stuff, but I feel like there’s a whole younger crowd that really kind of discovered and become a fan of you and your work because of her. Is it funny to have young kids that might not know much about the West Coast influence of your work, but they just love that it’s tied to Lana Del Rey? 

MAHONEY: It is kind of funny. But I think it’s a good sign that young people are listening to her music. Because it’s not like regular pop music, you know? It’s a little deeper.

SLAYYYTER: Yeah, she’s one of the greats to me. I love her music. We were all going to go to Coachella, but last minute decided to stay here.

MAHONEY:  It wasn’t the best year.

SLAYYYTER: Honestly, I would agree. Have you ever been to Coachella?



MAHONEY: It’s probably my personal nightmare. But I do like Palm Springs.

SLAYYYTER: Oh, I love it. He’s looking good. I feel like Jesus is the most famous man that ever lived, which kind of draws me to it as well.

MAHONEY: He is the original rock star.

SLAYYYTER: It’s true. You could talk about Jesus in the same way people talk about Elvis.

MAHONEY: It’s so crazy to me that that place down the street, they’ll put you under anesthesia and tattoo you, right?


MAHONEY: It’s so wrong. You don’t know about that?

SLAYYYTER: No. That’s crazy.

MAHONEY: Yeah. They knock you out and have maybe four people working on you at the same time.

SLAYYYTER: That’s nutty.

MAHONEY: And Post Malone’s done it. And professional basketball players. I don’t know why you would want to go up there.

SLAYYYTER: That’s crazy. I feel like one of the best parts of tattoos is just chatting and being there. Talking, connecting, all that. To be unconscious and waking up, that’s pretty crazy.

MAHONEY: Right. And I think when you get it, you’re kind of proud of yourself for dealing with the pain, right? Part of the good feeling, when you’re constantly getting tattoos is walking through fire a little bit.

SLAYYYTER: Did you ever live in New York?

MAHONEY: Yeah, I did. Went there in like ’78. A couple years before I came out here.

SLAYYYTER: I saw something about you setting up at the Chelsea Hotel, you were supposed to do tattoos for Sid Vicious.

MAHONEY: Yeah, a couple of times.

SLAYYYTER: Did you ever actually do it?

MAHONEY: No, no.


MAHONEY: They looked at the design book I drew for them and when he finally figured out something he wanted, he would show it to Nancy and she would fucking say, “Oh, no. You aren’t getting that.” 


MAHONEY: But I knew her from before she went to England. She went to England and left her cat at my next-door neighbor’s house. And she told us that she was going to London to bring back Johnny Rotten. But she brought back Sid, much better-looking. In person, he was so handsome. You don’t really get that from his pictures, because he’s trying so hard to make a mean punk mug. But he’s super handsome.

SLAYYYTER: That’s crazy. You’re such a treasure trove of wild stories. I tried to do my research as best as I could but I feel like I’m learning so much just from sitting in the shop with you.

MAHONEY: Are you always this well-behaved?

SLAYYYTER: No. Just kidding. It looks good as shit. Gotta start going to Mass now more.

MAHONEY: You can just pop in on Sundays.

SLAYYYTER: We were talking about movies earlier. Have you seen anything recently that you’ve enjoyed?

MAHONEY: You know what, I love film noir. That’s my thing. Any kind of films in black and white, gangsters. Otherwise I have my friends’ classic movies. What about you and acting, Slayyyter? 

SLAYYYTER: I actually just started talking to an acting agent. I love movies but I feel like it has to be the right thing. I don’t ever really like to force myself into things. Making music can kind of lead into acting. It kind of has to be an actual transition.

MAHONEY: Yeah. I tattoo Adele, right? And we were talking about that.

SLAYYYTER: Some people just do it to do it. I think they should have a filter on what they like.

MAHONEY: Well, me and you can be a little more choosy. Eight or nine fucking old guys at my age go out for a part and they get this look of desperation on them. And I feel like, “Shit, if they don’t get the part, maybe they don’t make their house payments.” It’s tricky stuff.

SLAYYYTER: The dark underbellies to this whole industry.

MAHONEY: What are your favorite movies?

SLAYYYTER: My favorite movies? I don’t know. I love a good coming-of-age movie. My artist name is from the movie Dazed & Confused

MAHONEY: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s so cool.

SLAYYYTER: So that’s probably one of my favorite like, stoner comedy type movie. But I love David Lynch movies. I really love Blue Velvet

MAHONEY: I’ve got a story about that.


MAHONEY: That was an audition. And I go to work with him and I’m like, “Oh, David, we’ve got something in common.” And he’s like, “What’s that?” I’m like, “The same art school.” And we both, at the same time, go, “I hated it.” I go, “Oh, well I was only there for three months.” He’s like, “I got you beat. I got thrown out in six months.”


MAHONEY: But he was so cool. He lights up a cigarette and the lady of the house is hovering around. “Oh, no, no, no, no. We don’t smoke here. No one smokes here.” And he’s like, “Oh, I totally understand. But put your hand out.” So she puts her hand out and he takes a wad of cash out of his fucking pocket and he starts putting hundreds in her hand and goes, “You tell me when you’re feeling.” Probably $4,000 dollars later and she’s like, “Okay, I’m feeling a little better. Have a cigarette.”

SLAYYYTER: That’s so funny.

MAHONEY: That’s problem-solving right there.

SLAYYYTER: That’s crazy. I feel like that’s one habit I need to kick.

MAHONEY: Oh, you smoke? Good for you. Smoking’s awesome.

SLAYYYTER: Not for a singer, though.

MAHONEY: Oh, sure. But it looks so fucking cool.

SLAYYYTER: It really does, doesn’t it?

MAHONEY: What kind of cigarettes do you smoke?

SLAYYYTER: I love Marlboro Golds.

MAHONEY: Mm-hmm, they’re good.

SLAYYYTER: They’re just classic. I feel like I’ve used up all my hard questions and now I’m like, “What kind of ice cream do you like?”

MARK MAHONEY: I like me some soft serve, baby. That’s one of my favorite things in life.

SLAYYYTER: I’m loving this tattoo. I feel like my next album has a lot of Catholic imagery. I was raised super Catholic so I don’t know, who better than Jesus?

MAHONEY: Yeah, he made the washboard stomach popular. He made a lot of contributions to the world.


MAHONEY: That narrow little rockstar physique.

SLAYYYTER: What’s next for you? 

MAHONEY: I’ve got an audition for a cool part, but you know, paint more, act more.

SLAYYYTER: I can’t wait to see these paintings.

MAHONEY: This tattooing isn’t so forgiving. With oil painting, you’ve got a little more room to go over it, you know? You fuck up the nose, put a little bit more paint on it, you’ve got a new nose. 

OTHER: Was there ever a celebrity that after you tattooed, you never wanted to tattoo them again?

SLAYYYTER: You’re asking the good questions I’m too afraid to ask.

MAHONEY: I pretty much like everybody I ever tattooed, you know? Because I like people, except for P. Diddy. Such a fucking douche bag. And you know, I tattooed him a bunch of times over the years andI kept trying to find something to connect with him about. But Diddy’s just the fucking worst. You know, the first time I knew that he was a dick was when I was getting ready to tattoo Mary J. Blige. I had drawn up this rose for her and put the stencil on and Diddy comes in and he’s like, “What you getting, Mary?” And she shows him and he’s like, “You ain’t getting that. That’s that dyke shit.”

SLAYYYTER: Oh my god.

MAHONEY: And she goes, “You know, Mark drew this up and it’s exactly how I wanted it.” And he keeps fucking hammering at her until she starts crying. So I stand up and tell him like, “She’s a fucking grown woman,” you know what I mean? She gets what she wants. But yeah, I knew he was no fucking good then because she is about the sweetest person in the world. I really love Mary J. But anyway, I was tattooing her one day and I went to use the restroom and someone else had gotten me a cake, so I come out and the candles are lit, and she sings me Happy Birthday.

SLAYYYTER: There was a video of Paris Hilton doing that rendition to Hugh Hefner, it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life. She’s like, “Happy birthday, Mr. Hefner.” It’s so good.

MAHONEY: I was getting ready to tattoo her on her butt, you know? And she’s going to sit on this chair and she’s got like, a little tiny skirt on. And she lifts it up and she goes, “Oh, I forgot I have Kelly Ripa’s underpants on.” I’m like, “How the fuck did that happen?” She said, “Oh, I was on the Kelly Ripa Morning Show and I was going to sit on the high stool and I didn’t have any underwear on, so she gave me hers.” Paris is hysterical.

SLAYYYTER: That is so good.

MAHONEY: Class act. There you go. 

SLAYYYTER: Thank you, thank you. I love it, I love it, I love it! You’re such an artist, an artiste

MAHONEY: And you have very nice skin.