Pret-a-Reporter

#MusicMonday: How Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy Rocks Out at the Tattoo Shop

Courtesy of Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy
Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy

Here's what the tattoo artist to the stars listens to in between inking Rihanna and penning his first book.

What do Lebron James, Adele and Justin Bieber all have in common? They all sport ink by Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy, Hollywood’s go-to tattoo artist. What’s more, Bang Bang — whose eponymous shop in New York City's Lower East Side draws fans from around the world — also boasts tattoos by his clients like Katy Perry and Kylie Jenner, who have turned the tattoo gun on him.

The story behind his meteoric rise to fame is chronicled in his new book, Bang Bang: My Life in Ink, out Nov. 17 (Dey Street hardcover, $25.99), a photo-rich tome which runs the gamut from his early years tattooing bikers in Delaware to inking Katy Perry post Super Bowl. Here, the ink master reflects on everything from why he wants to tattoo Obama, to what he’s listening to while he creates his indelible masterpieces.

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Pret-a-Reporter: What was the impetus for the book?

Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy: At the time when I reached out to write it, I had a period where I didn’t have a ton to do. I was in search of store that I could call home base for rest of my career. That was a long difficult process, so I had a lot a free time. So, I thought, how can I further my career and work harder? This book was that. Plus, my friends and family always say the things that people ask them the most are things that I didn’t think people would be interested in. Things like what is he like, what’s it like being around him, how did he get here, etc. I’ve been told I have the American Dream, which I never thought I did. But I did want to give credit to my story because I am very proud of it/me. As much as I don’t like to think about it, I am proud of myself.

Which celeb living or dead would you love to tattoo and why?

I’ve been saying Obama for years and recently decided to include a woman, which would be Oprah. I try to think of the people that are influential to a generation, and [Obama] has been that and beyond. He is the leader of the world, or at the very least the leader of the greatest nation in the world. It’d be hard to think of a name that would top that.

As for why Oprah: This world is full of ugly people and Oprah is one of the few that make up for that. There aren’t a lot of opportunities in my industry to do good for the world. What I do isn’t going to change or save the world. If I had a choice, I would work on someone that has the opportunities to do good and things I wish my work could do. So, Oprah is that person for me. 

What music is usually playing in the shop?

Upbeat. It goes from '80s and Michael Jackson, to Adele, hip-hop, Nas, and Bob Marley. All types of music.

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What other projects are you working on currently, beyond the book?

Opening Bang Bang NYC has opened a lot of doors in just the year we’ve had it open, so I’m deciding what is next. I’m not thinking about money or what people expect of me. I want to do what inspires me and my team because I can’t do this without them. It’s not just me running this company. It’s the artists, managers, assistants, our PR firm, the people that clean and I need to decide what’s best for all of us. I am having a meeting about opening a shop in another city in a big venue, but I can’t say where.

Are you getting any tattoos to celebrate the book release?

That’s a really good idea. Now that I think about it, I have to. Not many people can say they have written a book and fewer can say the book was about themselves, and then even fewer can say they wrote it before 30. So this feels really special and I might have to get a tattoo to commemorate it.

Check out McCurdy's hip-hop playlist below.

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