"That's where my name came from," Keith McCurdy says, describing the hyper-detailed gun tattooed on his neck, with "Bang" inked beneath it. McCurdy mustered up the courage to get the neck tat at 18 years old, the same age he bought his first tattoo gun. It wasn't long before McCurdy was known as Bang Bang, quickly becoming one of the biggest names in the tattoo world today.
Rihanna was Bang Bang's first celebrity client, with other big names like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Rita Ora and Cara Delevigne following suit. If you want proof of Bang Bang's star-studded client list just check out his leg; the brazen artist allows his high profile patrons to tattoo his appendage, making his body a living autograph book. Bieber tattooed a "Swaggy mouse" while Perry went with a classic depiction of hard candy.
We reached out to Bang Bang to learn the stories behind his most loved and loathed tattoos. He was up for the challenge, responding: "It's ironic, I'm being tattooed right now!" Scroll down for a slideshow of his own ink.
HP: What tattoo are you getting right now?
BB: I am getting a tiger on my hand from a very famous tattoo artist named Little Dragon from Beijing. I'm euphoric right now.
HP: What was your first tattoo?
BB: Oh, man. My first tattoo is so awful. When I was 15 I got a Superman tattoo on my arm. Man, I was so proud of it when I had it. Then I grew up and realized it's not too sexy. I got that one in Pennsylvania. My mom took me and signed the forms for me. I was getting bad grades at the time and my parents said if I got the honor roll I could get a tattoo. I kept my end of the bargain and so did they.
HP: Did you already want to be a tattoo artist at that time?
BB: Not quite. I started tattooing because I couldn't afford to get tattoos as much as I wanted to, so I started looking on the internet. I bought myself a kit online when I was 18 years old and set myself up in my mother's kitchen. I really never stopped. The first three days I barely slept; I tattooed for like 8 hours a day.
What's your favorite tattoo?
BB: My favorite tattoo is a portrait of my daughter on my right inner forearm. It took about 22 hours and I did it over the course of a couple days. I had really never had any tattoos that were so meaningful to me before.
HP: Have you ever had a tattoo removed?
BB: I had some lasering done on my hand a couple years ago; the tiger one I am getting on top of the laser. It was a fairy in a bunch of leaves, kind of like a nature fairy. I liked it a lot, it just didn't fit with my sleeve so I had to get rid of it. I want to get another fairy again. [Ed note: We're confused...]
HP: Your celebrity tattoo leg is incredible. Which of them do you hold most dear?
BB: I love the one I got from Rihanna. [See the "R" beneath the umbrella-ella-ella? below] She is the one client who is one of my really good friends. I've tattooed a lot of celebrities and I don't know anyone I'm as close to as her. She has done so much for me and I am so grateful. I've done over 10 or 12 on her. It's tricky to learn how to handle attention and criticism and she handles it so gracefully. I learn life stuff from her. It's amazing because she's younger than me but she's wise beyond her years.
HP: Alright, what's your weirdest tattoo?
BB: I have some funny ones. I don't know if I'd call them weird. The ones on my neck are very defining -- people probably think they're weird because they're on my neck.
HP: How would you define your tattoo style?
BB: My style is multi-dimensional. I try to do many, many different things. I try to never be a one trick pony. I learn from different artists, different styles, Japanese and photorealistic tattoos, black and white, and color. I like to soak up as much as I can. I'm always trying to do the best thing I've ever done.
HP: Do you look to the art world for inspiration?
BB: I do now. I am most into things from the past. Renaissance art amazes me. Realistic art really blows my mind. And Surrealism too. I learn from the greats.
See Bang Bang's tattoos in more detail in the slideshow below and visit his website to see more: