Stoneghost frontman Jason James Smith takes us inside his tattoo studio

Jason James Smith in his tattoo studio

So Jason, what got you interested in tattooing?

“My mum was fed up of me moping about the house. She knew I could draw and I was into metal so she told me to go and try tattooing. Obviously, she regretted it instantly because I ended up covered in tattoos. When I came home with my first tattoo, something big on my arm, she couldn’t believe what she’d done. But now she’s getting tattoos herself, she can’t say anything.”

Any horror stories from your time doing it for work?

“I learned how to deal with difficult customers very early on. My first tattoo was on this huge guy who looked like he’d just been beaten up and had no front teeth. I was shitting myself when he came in because he’s the last person you’d want to do your first tattoo on. He wanted a name on his chest and I did his tattoo at arm’s length because I was sure he was going to punch me any minute! One shop I worked in had a waiting area like a medieval castle, then the back area had surgical tools over the walls and animal skulls everywhere. They even had fake blood splattered up the walls!”

Jason loves creating work he can be proud of

Jason loves creating work he can be proud of (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

How did you find setting up your own studio?

“A lot of people I worked with before told me that I would regret it and that it would be too hard, but it only took two weeks to set up and start work because I set up with a friend at first. Every tattooist is self-employed so the only rules you abide by are those of your studio. I was worried at first because there’s a lot of big personalities in this business and they’d be working for me; I wanted to make the rules clear on how I want my studio to be respected.”

What’s behind the name, Moth & Flame Tattoo?

“I’d had that name set in my mind for ages because I can make nice imagery out of it. At first I wanted it to sound like a ritualistic cult but I figured that’s a bit much when the shop’s right next door to a church.”

Do you miss the less hectic days?

“Back in the day I’d be doing one name on the wrist and taking home £30 a week, so I don’t miss the early days at all. Now I’ve got a family to look after so it’s nice being busy because even if I’ve not got a tattoo booked, I’m still in the shop. It’s a big part of my life but a part that’ll be worth it in the long run.”

Let’s face it, there had to be at least one guitar in the joint…

Let’s face it, there had to be at least one guitar in the joint…

How does your studio compare to your music career?

“It’s so similar to music, it’s unreal. You start off in a band quite clueless so you do whatever you can, and at the beginning of tattooing I had to work because it was a paying job. The band eventually moulded itself into music that I wanted to play, in the same way tattooing eventually became more than an income. Every time I work on a tattoo, I want to be so proud of it that I can’t wait to take a photo of it at the end and show it off.”

On a scale of 1-10, how metal is owning your own tattoo studio?

“It’s 10 out of 10 – stabbing people is the most metal thing you can do! We’ve got a body modification artist who does skin removal and all the crazy extremes – you can get your ears reshaped! We have it all going on in the studio – there’s no stopping people these days.”


Get involved

The training

You can start by showing an interest in becoming an apprentice to your favourite tattoo artist with spare time on their hands, or you can attend a course at the UK Tattoo Academy. For course dates and costs, visit

The photos

To help you decide on your own style, search the internet for established trends in tattoo artistry such as Jason’s favourite, neo-traditional. Head to Instagram to keep up to date on the tattooing world through hashtags such as #uktattoo.

The shop

To see Jason’s work in action and discover the expertise of the artists in his studio, head to or follow him on Instagram @mothandflametattoo

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