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Meet The Local Tattoo Artist & Former Rockstar Who’s Inking His Way To The Top

Rockstar turned-local tattoo artist Tony Campbell has always had a flair for the creative side of life.

Even as a kid, he would show off his artistic abilities by drawing designs on his friends’ book covers in exchange for their lunch money.

Flash forward a few years, Campbell was living life as a drummer for his 80s rock band, Kikki Blast!, and touring the country with notable artists like Poison, FireHouse, and Alice Cooper. His rockstar career lasted nine years until the turn of the decade brought his time on stage to a close.

“90s grunge killed my career,” Campbell said. “But it was in that transitional period that I learned how to tattoo. I came to State College in 1996, and I’ve been tattooing ever since.”

Campbell opened his first tattoo shop, Good and Evil, on Beaver Ave., where he stayed for 19 years. After an unexpected rent increase, Campbell moved to his current location on Calder Way and renamed the shop to 814 Tattoo after the State College area code.

The unique thing about Campbell’s shop is that it’s just him working there. There are no employees nor apprentices by his side. Instead, there’s just a man doing what he loves, and he prefers it that way.

“I realized that I can’t work around young people with their huge egos, so I just like being by myself,” Campbell said. “The younger tattooers, their egos are enormous. They grew up watching ‘Ink Master’ and they think they’re rockstars. They may be good at what they do, but for every person that’s good, there’s 25 that are way better.”

Since Campbell works alone, he’s the one person who waits on every client that walks through the door. He fills out all the paperwork and prepares every photocopy. When the shop gets busy, Campbell has learned to stay cool under pressure.

“There’s no having a bad day in tattooing,” Campbell said. “I mean, if you have a bad day, that tattoo is [on someone’s body] forever. I’ve been doing this long enough that when I feel myself getting stressed out, which happens a lot in this industry, I just take a couple of days off.”

What sets 814 Tattoo apart from the rest is that it’s the only walk-in shop in State College. According to Campbell, tattoo shops are similar to street shops in that you can just walk in and get a tattoo or piercing no matter the time. That’s a stark contrast from most studios.

“With studios, you have to make appointments and they’re booked out three or four months,” Campbell said. “That’s fine and dandy if that’s what you want to do, but you’re turning work away every single day. You want that turnaround. So that’s what I do.”

Campbell says that working in a college town is “insane” thanks to all the crazy people he meets. But this high-spirited town is also why he loves his job.

“I like meeting all sorts of people, and I’ve always been a people person,” Campbell said. “You have to be in this industry. Customer service is number one.”

Campbell has tattooed countless customers throughout his career, but his favorite tattoos to give are on fellow rockstars.

Whenever a rock band visits the Bryce Jordan Center, they’ll often stop by 814 Tattoo to add a few more designs to their collections. According to Campbell, it’s “pretty cool” to ink a design onto someone that will be there forever.

814 Tattoo Shop is located at 411 E. Calder Way. You can contact Tony Campbell at [email protected] or visit him on Facebook.

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About the Author

Ava Brendgord

Ava is a junior from Houston, TX majoring in Broadcast Journalism. She loves coffee and bagels, traveling, and keeping a healthy balance between watching the news and reality television. Follow her at @avabrendgord on Instagram or email her at [email protected]

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