By: Dawn Duncan
It’s late afternoon and Branson Hoog, lead singer of the rock act Shatterproof, is meeting me at The Music District to discuss his work. I have interviewed his band in the past, however, today we are focused on another topic and that is his art, including his job as a tattoo artist at the local shop Parabrahma Tattoo Collective. Today, I want to find out more about this work, as well as what I have watched become a more common occurrence in the Colorado music scene; musicians finding day jobs that they actually like and that intertwine with their music career. Branson exemplifies just that, and brings to mind a fresh and positive sense when it comes to the new breed of musician.
Certainly, there have been many musicians prior to this who have created jobs that map well to their music life. However, what is happening here in Colorado at present seems to showcase a rich and ripe community that encourages artistic and entrepreneurial endeavors and incorporation of talents, personality, and passion for the work that is done to fuel music pursuits. It’s no secret that music is an expensive endeavor. Album costs run the gamut from shoestring budgets under $1K to $20K, depending on studio fees, number of songs, and goals. Additionally, touring, merchandise costs, the reality of streaming and individual song downloads replacing full album sales, etc. all add up to a hefty bill. The work a musician does off stage often goes to pay for these in addition to their living expenses.
Branson Hoog has been an artist his entire life. He started drawing as a young child and pursued graphic design in college. His initial plan was to either go into this field or into architecture and, when younger, he thought these would be the only avenues for his visual art to be showcased and for him to earn a living with art. Eventually, during his senior year in high school and as Shatterproof was taking off, he got his first tattoo. Tribal Rites in Fort Collins did the piece and Branson soon figured out that his art could be made into tattoos. From there, he searched for an apprenticeship at the local shops. After failing to find the right opportunity and also being told multiple times that he would have to quit Shatterproof if he wanted to do tattooing, Branson ended up in a discussion with the father of one of Shatterproof’s fans. The man, Brian Barrett, happened to be a tattoo artist, and agreed to have a coffee meeting with Branson to talk about the industry.
From there, Branson ended up in an apprenticeship, shadowing Brian at Story of My Life Tattoo, and got introduced to his current place of employment, Parabrahma, where Brian had also worked. Brian told Branson that apprenticeships typically are 70+ hours a week of unpaid work and that he had been a part of bands back in NYC, so he understood the challenges around recording, touring, and also trying to work. He encouraged Branson to go into tattooing and find a place with flexibility so that he could still continue to actively pursue music. Parabrahma turned out to be the right fit, offering a “collective” environment where artists do booth rental. Housed in a 110-year-old brick home, the business occupies two of three levels and some of the artist booths are within the bedrooms of the house. Quaint, quirky, and located in Old Town, this place fit the bill.
Shatterproof’s lyrics, mainly written by Branson, as well as Branson’s original art, are on more than one fan of the band and also a few of his bandmates have “Fresh Pots,” a famous Dave Grohl saying, tattooed on them as a reminder of one of the band’s favorite conversation pieces. Branson commented about fans signing up for permanent reminders of songs by saying, “That’s a lot of faith to place in a local band. It’s crazy to see people with our lyrics tattooed on their bodies.”
He added comments regarding why he feels tattoos are now mainstream and the overall experience of working in the art of tattoo. “For me, I think of tattoos just like art for a home. First, you are attracted to the artist’s style, their way of presenting an idea. From there, you go deeper into themes and meanings. Yes, it’s decoration of the body, but it’s an artform that symbolizes a life story and what that person is about.” Recently, Branson was asked to speak at Fossil Ridge High School about the tattoo industry. He explained the field by offering comments about how the job cannot be outsourced, you cannot lose your job to a machine, and the industry will not end. Beyond this, tattooing is art that offers full creative freedom, something Branson has desired throughout his life and career.
“The whole reason art and music are special is so much of the self is in each piece. You get a glimpse into human emotion. Just like how songs evoke emotions, so do tattoos, so do paintings. It’s all about human connection,” Branson explained. “And, just like what makes good music which has a lot to do with contrast, the same holds true in tattoos. The dark versus the light, the focus going in and out, and the 3D experience; these make for great art, memorable art. I love being a part of so many people’s stories. People are searching for ways to make a difference in people’s lives and also to connect. I like knowing that what I do for work, whether it’s creating visual art or music, has the ability to connect us.”
Tattoo shop information:
Parabrahma Tattoo Collective, 325 E. Mulberry St.,
Fort Collins, CO 970.232.9637. Parabrahma.co
Follow Branson’s artwork: