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Welt - Interview with Italian Artist and Tattoo Legend

Updated: Jun 6

A couple months back, when in Italy, I've met up with Welt at his studio - Yama Tattoo. Published and awarded countless times artist, in his extremely busy schedule, between commissions for metal bands, exhibition pieces for galleries, and of course - tattooing every day in the heart of Rome, he found some time to share his story and insights on art.

Interview by Lariyah Perrin

ViaOmega - Yama Tattoo is established for almost 16 years now. Have you have any other shop around here?

Welt- No not really, I worked mostly from Rome and from London, but around 2006, I decided to open my own place. I have many friends in a tattoo scene and I love many shops and many tattoo artists but I was never fond of many tattoo shops around here, just never felt too much connected to them. There’s a lot of them that are playing hip-hop and hipster music and so on, which obviously was nothing that I enjoyed or was the mood I wanted to be around. I was looking for another  kind of inspirations. That’s why I thought that maybe I will open my own shop with all the connections I have around, the world and the scene as well. You know, Dark Fantasy art, Metal and Punk, Psych Doom, weird artistic attitude.

ViaOmega - Of course seeing everything around your shop and knowing of your spirituality and connection or rather fascination with death, including all the visual items around here I can see this is your comfort zone. Tell me more of why did you decide to call your shop Yama?

Welt - Yama of course is the Lord of death in Tibet. Goes without saying that I have a connection to that matter necessarily in the darkest way. In Oriental, especially like many cultures in Europe is a part of life. You can say that it’s something finished and something reborn after the end hence the idea of naming the shop this way. And of course, dark arts and darkness. Something that I am fascinated by. It’s a mystery in life and in art, especially as well. And the way artists  represent darkness and death.

However, I always find the dark/Grotesque aesthetic more fascinating than the classic one, it accentuates the different, therefore the particular outside the box

ViaOmega - And how come the focus, especially for the naming of your shop has been put towards Oriental subject, granted that there are so many different paths?

Welt - Of course there’s many different cultures to get inspired by but for me, in the early 2000s was a lot into oriental art, including Japanese and mix of tribal style cultures from Thailand to Tibet And I was into a lot of this artistic discovery, I’ve read a lot of books about Tibet and their the culture, a lot of Buddhist cultures really.

As you know, however, I start from a Western artistic background. I have found aesthetic and symbolic connections in ancient proto-historic, Etruscan and classical art with the East.

ViaOmega - So we can say that this is something that just simply captured your interest the most.

Welt - Of course , I before grew up with an American culture like comics and movies music and at some point, I decided to find something different and expand my knowledge.

ViaOmega - Knowing of your interest in Oriental arts I can see the connection to how your art is executed, but I can also plug-in that your line work looks extremely precise as it was a traditional school of tattooing. How did your “ Tattoo upbringing” look like before you have found your identity of art and would put your name on the board with your unique style?

Welt - OK, good point. I think that if you have a style, it is something to come from yourself. From within. I was a kid and I was drawing, I already had a very strong line and minimal shading. I loved comics, always loved “Conan the Barbarian”, and everything from the 70s had a very strong impact on me. I really liked the high contrast as well. When I just started, in the late 80s and early 90s, of course it was mostly tribal work and even that I did not do any American old-school style, it certainly was one of the influences as that’s what was around. So given all of that mixed together with some fantasy and horror that was the first step that made my athletic. Over the years with all the connection between my interest in the above said as well, as what I found myself attracted to spiritually, applied to the style I like the most which is strong line, minimal shading and high contrast as a said before with applied traditional technique, I think had a great connection. Till today canvas work around with, whenever I do freehand, I recognize areas where I can apply certain visuals that are having a strong connection to Tibet and Oriental arts.

ViaOmega - Going back to your very beginnings. You mentioned to be self taught of art but how did you begin tattooing overall? Did you go through apprenticeship or pretty much just picked up a machine and learned by yourself?

Welt - Ha! Well, I think that Rome in the very early 90s was one of the best places to grow up and grow in perhaps. But was in the meantime very difficult for be a tattoo artist, always been here too much closing mentality. For this reasons I left the city and went to London.

In 96 and 97 Tattoo art in Rome was not really developed and socially accepted, and so conservative mentality. So was art. My group of friends in the 90s were punks, metalheads, and artist as well, very good painters, and we had many collaboration exhibitions But also, nobody really cared for tattoos at that point so it was very hard to find people to share this passion with. For me personally I got my first tattoo from an artist in 94. I was around 16. Back in the day it was not so easy to get the equipment to Tattoo with, machine and needles, etc. And from then on You have to learn the skill but I made the magic nonetheless with difficulties here and there.

Welt with Candlemass

ViaOmega - was there anybody to help you out to get into the industry and taught you how to Tattoo or did you pretty much figure everything out by yourself?

Welt- pretty much by myself because it was really hard to get into the industry in Rome and the artists were not so helpful. And because of that, London was a great way for me to begin. This is what I managed to break through and had connections with other artists and friends and so on. I used to go to other artists to get tattoos from them so I can also learn of how they work. Also times without any Internet. Tattoo conventions were also very important back in the day. Over there you were able to look through other artists books, and learn their ways And meet with them and see overall how they work. Pretty much the way to break through. You just looked up the artist and go through this experience of learning. Now I’m waiting for the next experience.

Welt with Bobby Liebling of Pentagram

ViaOmega - I see on your walls a lot of awards, so from the standpoint of the season, old-school tattoo artist, what do you think of the competitions? A lot of tattoos think that is very unnecessary because they know they’re worth and nobody else needs to judge them for them to know that they are good.

Welt - honestly, honestly, I haven’t done conventions for many years and the only one that I do is here in Rome because I have my tattoo shop here and I’m really busy here. So I don’t even travel for conventions anymore. About 10 years ago I thought it was pretty boring. Also, Tattoo has changed. Contemporary world is good for some things and not so good for the others , you know? I just wanted something deeper and I wanted to put myself into what I do and focus on that. Nowadays, you can just go online and compare your work with others without anybody else telling you. That way I think it is a little less superficial. Till today, I compare myself to a lot of artists, including the ones that are very young because it allows me to see something new and I love to grow. I don’t like to be stuck in just one point of view. I know what I like and what I don’t, but I have a very opened mind. New generation and new techniques it makes me grow as well sometime. As a person too. I think artists are and should be sensitive to other art as well as human part of it.

I find it important to compare ourselves with others in reality, even if sometimes criticism doesn't sound good to us. but if they are constructive criticism it is the best way to grow in general and build a non-virtual network of contacts with which to build new things, this is how real artistic scenes were born. Less virtual narcissism and more learning to live together for cultural developments that leave an eternal mark and not the fashion of the moment.

ViaOmega - Not to put myself in your interview, but I have noticed that Tattoo world goes into trends of what people like to get tattooed, like Vikings or lions and owls, etc. Was it like that before as well or is it something that just started happening in the past decade?

Welt - Of course, trends were always happening even back in the day. Rome traditional has always been the biggest trend over the years and honestly it’s stayed as a trend till today. Of course there’s a lot of different styles in Rome like realism and color tattoos. Even that I do not like color on myself I really like how it looks. Trends come of course mostly now from social media a lot of bullshit is going on. That is also the artist fault. Our mission is to teach the customer what is the best way for the Tattoo. A lot of clients, in this "internet" era,  unfortunately are a bit disrespectful to the artist because they think they know the best. They say what they want and when they want the price they want so our job is to talk to them about it and tell them what is the best for them for their expectations because after all we are the tattoo artists. This is part of our job. Fortunately in Yama Tattoo studio i have a good team of tattoo artists with the same mentality, Silvia Akuma wich treat Mehndi/Ornamental style, Faith is the youngest but very talented,  Valerio Scissor for US old school and other ones as a guest.

Welt with Venom Inc.

ViaOmega - In your tattoo shop I see a ton of books and some of them are my favorite artist as well such as Gustave Dore, Durer, Giger, etc. And from your Arts, I can tell that you are highly drawn to surrealism as well. Are there particular artists that he would say that influenced you and you are the most?

Welt - ha! Many! Giger of course, Symbolic art , Ancient esoteric art, John Buscema, Serpieri, Heavy Metal and Metal Hurlant magazine illustrators...really too many!

I love Romantic, visionary art as well because it’s very dreamy,  you know. Very near to surrealistic art, comic artists as well.

ViaOmega - I see that you are also a collector of not only art books, but also film, memorabilia and souvenirs. Are these collections something that you just randomly pick up or do you try to gather certain things that you were very passionate about?

Welt - I don’t really collect just one thing. I am a big fan of a lot of different things such as horror, movies, or LPs, VHS and so many more things. I took a little bit of everything all scenes I like. So music, movies, art.

ViaOmega - and are there any treasured things that have a great value to you that you were even saying to yourself, holy fuck I cannot believe I have it!

Welt - usually weird stuff haha. Some witchcraft magazines from the 70s from the UK and bunch of rare stuff. I have a big fetish of collecting things I suppose. I like to enjoy my place as a museum. Sometimes I will smoke a cigarette and think to myself, fuck this is awesome! It’s some sort of stimulation, like in the museum.

On the other hand, art, in all its forms, has the power to influence us. It passes on messages, lights sparks within those who are predisposed to visions or simply gives us a method of technical and stylistic research. My private collection isn't that big, but maybe one day it would be nice to open a small weird museum with the aim of influencing people with the cultures and subcultures we grew up with.

Welt with Dee Snider of Twisted Sister

ViaOmega - so how did it happen that Welt has become the person he is right now, meaning, an artist to whom a lot of musicians come for their tattoos? Was it because of connections through concerts or did somebody introduce you to somebody else and the word spread?

Welt - hmm, good question. When I was in London, I used to travel a lot. When I was in Vienna, I went to a Music shop, which was full of younger kids. Colored hair and so on. I thought to myself, well, it has a very good vibe. There was a meet and greet with a band. I thought to myself it was a good idea, and I also started to host meet and greet and to meet a lot of musicians that way. It was a great way of connections. We started with Satyricon and the Lamb of God who was touring with Metallica. So my contact has been given to the bands and they wanted tattoos from me as well, and rumor has been going around the scene. Also other bands came for the meet and greet with them, and then they some tattoos before the show, and I started like this pretty much. Everybody felt good in the shop and they liked how it looks and they liked the art and they kept coming more and more.  

The work with public relations done over the years has certainly also created professional bonds, it was a mix of artistic and professional quality in general that gave the impetus to various things. Even today, even as a fan of some artists, I am very happy with what I did. For example with Slayer, Saint Vitus, Goblin, Conan, Incantation, Venom, Candlemass, Autopsy, Pestilence and others.

Welt with Glenn Danzig of Misfits

ViaOmega - you as a tattoo artist, are you very particular of what are you getting or do you let the artist that you choose to create something for you on the spot?

Welt - the artist for their style because I like their work. I want a unique piece. and of course I tell them a reference of what I like but then they do what they want. That is special to me. Fuck the trends, I don’t want all the same that others get. No. I think the opposite way. You deserve your own Tattoo.

ViaOmega - Probably a silly question, but is there a tattoo on your body that you have the most sentiment to, or has a really cool story or something that treasure the most?

Welt - Ah! I have so many! Really haha ! There is one over here, there is white ink on black, which I think is one of the best ones I have, because is the autograph of Steve harris haha.

ViaOmega - Do you think you can ball park the amount of bands you’ve tattooed so far or is it just way too large amount to even think of?

Welt - Oh damn, Too many tattoos really. more collaborations and artworks. too many to give an estimate!

ViaOmega - That’s impressive haha! Ok, so! Did the scene in your Tattoo career started here in Rome, or was it beginning when you actually went to London?

Welt - Actually, here. I don’t know why it started here. This was my test of coming to Italy. At one point in London i was really busy and and I started hanging out more and more with the artists of Into you, which was magnificent.

But I was missing my roots and I wanted to win in such a difficult country as Italy.

I knew that if I’m coming back to Rome, I have to do something completely different from reality of Rome. First of all I wanted international customers and not just Italians. That made me more rich inside. Secondly, Starting to make connections. Back in the day I also had a Metal DJ set in the club at least three times in a month (Neurot Night) and I started to collaborate with friends. At that time, I was also doing a lot of art collaboration within the scene. I was very happy to share with friends from the scene, we were doing tattoos and talking about music and movies and so on. That’s how it all started and then I wanted something bigger. That’s how it really started it all.

Welt's work for a show poster

ViaOmega - Now, you live in the most majestic city in the world. What made you even want to move to London?

Welt - to me, Rome is also the most amazing city on earth, but I was not really happy with the mentality of Romans and it was just lacking something. Was missing metal or dark art and things I liked. It was not open-minded. It seemed like they left evolution in the back of their mind.

ViaOmega - So you just wanted to escape this small world of the area for something that is bigger and more open pretty much? I guess ideas and creativity then.

Welt - yeah yeah. I guess that was my goal. And base where I can combine passions and contacts and the place where I can work with people from all around the world. Of course, Rome is full of tourists so it is the right place to Tattoo in. So indeed, it is beautiful, but it just was too small for me.

with Hellbutcher of Nifelheim at Yama Tattoo

ViaOmega - And yet you still came back.

Welt- Yeah , after all, this is still my city and I just simply wanted to expand and create something that hasn’t yet been done as it was a little bit too far from my point of view.

ViaOmega - Focusing once again on your city, from what I have heard Rome has that stigma that people are extremely proud of their heritage and don’t see beyond that. Is that true that you think or is it just something fully made up?

Welt - Yes, it’s still is like that. Of course, I don’t think that way. it can have benefits of that as well as the negative side. Sometimes too much of egocentrism can be very ignorant. We are not in ancient Rome now. The city has its bad points, and the mentality of Romans doesn’t do much to change it most of the time. There’s positives of course. There’s a grave archeology of Etruscan and it was one of my favorite areas, to give a good point of it haha, however the main thing about Rome in particular is that it is full of incredible ancient sites, pretty much everywhere that breathes art. it's very inspiring.

Welt, Paolo Girardi, Eagle Booking

ViaOmega - If you were to describe, how would you say the metal scene is here in Rome? Is it comparable to the rest of Europe?

Welt - It really depends on the year. Rome is a very expensive city because it’s far to take a band to. Many bands that to Europe, they will go to Turin or Milan or Bologna because they’re closer to the border and to Rome is another 5 hour drive. But we also have a pretty good scene and a lot of underground bands that are playing all the time so it really depends on the agency and how much they want to risk. In Italy overall we have a lot of metal heads, but they are just not connected here in Rome. Back in the day there was a place called Neurot Night and it created a lot of great connections between the music and Tattoo world, connected to grind core, they started to go a bit more out and connect a bit more also. After it split, the connections have been really lost and there is not much of hanging around together or was not much collaborations.  one thing I believe is that in the metal scene and in the artistic ones, every where in the world,  that are truly different from commercial and common things, there must be more unity, or there is a risk that what we like could disappear, and this should not be allowed as I see it.

ViaOmega - Speaking of collaborations, you do a lot of them, including your upcoming gallery exposition in monster Park. Do you still often do collaborations like this or is it something very specific what you are particular about, and is it something that people reach out to you or you offer something that you are interested in only?

Welt - Sometimes they reach out to me but very often. I am very engaged in something that I like and would like to collaborate with. In a right way of course and it’s all about connections and public relations. As far as it is something that I’ve always liked even as a kid, and I’m loyal to it. From this year, I started to collaborate more with the archaeological sites more. Especially the Darkest ones, Fairy, Esoteric and Grotesque.

Welt's commission work

ViaOmega - To me it is extremely impressive to see that sculptures from the monster park can be translated into your own art and your own way. So the question I have is where do you get inspired and what helps you to create your art? Do you prefer to lock yourself in your own room or do you often go to the nature? You are a very busy man so I would assume that you don’t have much time for yourself.

Welt - I think the forest is my perfect place. I like to hike a lot and discover ancient graves in the middle of the woods. I’m in the woods all the time. It Is very mystical inspiration. I generally take three days of the week for myself. Not always, but I’m at least trying to.

ViaOmega - We know that your upcoming exhibition is going to be soon soon in monster Park, but what else is coming in the future for you ?

Welt - Yes, I work for the exhibition in monster Park in June, but I also have some artworks to do for some bands very soon, which I am focusing on as well. For the merchandise mostly. I cannot really say for whom because sometimes it takes time before it’s released. Sometimes it takes even a couple of years or so. It is for big bands but sometimes it can take a couple of weeks and sometimes years until it is being shown.

ViaOmega - Ok, then I will not bother you to know what to expect, but can you share some of your most recent work that you have done for other bands perhaps?

Welt - I did a lot of artwork for a band Goblin, and I am very proud of this I truly enjoy their music and they are my really good friends. I love their style. I designed their shirts as well and a lot of things.

Art fo Exciter, Nucturnus ad but also for Horror movies stuff like Dawn of the dead, The thing...

I did a poster for Incantation recently as well, I did another poster for a  Rome date of Candlemass, Carcass.  And some new things are coming, but I cannot speak about it too much.

Welt with Slayer

ViaOmega - And as an artist that has a very specific taste in music, do you prefer to work with bands that you like only or do you take commissions from those that are just interested in your work and would like to have a piece of you?

Welt - Well, I started to take commissions from different bands, including the underground ones as well. I like that too. It gives me a chance to escape from the city and go to my atelier away from here and paint something in my style for metal bands. My atelier is a living atelier in Tuscia area, out of the city,  a place different from Yama tattoo, less busy.

ViaOmega - To wrap up, if you were to share a big vision of where you would like to take your art, or what is your dream dream, or who you’d like to work with, what would you say it would be?

Welt - Another hard question, haha. Hmmmm. Difficult to respond. Sometimes in my head have some crazy ideas which are not easy to make, of course. After the pandemic everything has changed a bit. I suppose I would say that sometimes I really miss the closer connection to the nature and I would like to have my atelier closer to the nature, of course it gives a good escape and for this reason, I’m a little bit slow to make plans for the big future. Recently I started to feel more inspired so for now it’s going to be a secret. Sometimes I listen to what the dream says. Maybe I’m just waiting for the dream to tell me what is the best thing to do now. Because I love connections with bands and I started to make live paintings with bands, so maybe it will be more psychedelic bands painted live. So with life painting, I paint directly from the live show. I did it already with Goblin before and more recently with Conan, a large band from the UK. The feedback was really good. During the show people were getting very into it because it is psychedelic and doom but it also gave them something else to look at during the show, a painter painting very quick. Maybe soon I will be painting directly on stage with the band but it’s in progress because not only I have to wanted, but also you have to find a right band who wants to do it with you. It’s not so easy. I hope this project develops, it's another thing that comes naturally to me except that now I also have more maturity as a basis.

ViaOmega - I suppose I have to also ask, have you had a desire to be a musician yourself?

Welt - To me painting on stage is pretty much a similar thing, because you work with music and move and paint in the same time. Music of course is different but the feeling is the same. We had a band call Sangue, it was a Black Death Metal produced by Nuclear War now. The problem is that you have to spend time on music and we did not have time. I am very busy, I love drawing and painting but it was a great time. I started with bass and after  guitar.

In the past I also studied ancient music for a few years. never say never anyway, I have some ideas for a new musical project. Let's see if it materializes.


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