Tattoo You

Black Pistol Fire’s weird institution of ink

Black Pistol Fire flexing that what-the-hell-is-that ink.
Black Pistol Fire flexing that what-the-hell-is-that ink. (by Black Pistol Fire)

Dynamo local blues-rock duo Black Pistol Fire spent the better part of May at local track house 5th Street Studios putting serious work into a new LP for the fall. To hold fans over, the Toronto natives readied 100 copies of a five-song EP, Hush or Howl Vol. 1, which they plan to dish out Saturday at Red 7.

Black Pistol Fire shoots through Houston tonight before headlining locally, with support from the Sour Notes and Megafauna. To ready show attendees for the gig, we asked drummer Eric Owen to shed light on the one of the great mysteries in Austin: the backstory behind the pretty sweet looking, entirely non-sequiturial “G.A.N.S.” tattoo on his right shoulder. Owen was more than happy to oblige. Scope a sampling of the EP, then tune in to his tale:

Several years ago, my Black Pistol Fire bandmate Kevin McKeown and I played in a threepiece rock band in our native Canada. The band was called the Shenanigans, and boy did we think we were the bees knees. We had illusions of stardom and taking the Shenanigans to the top!

Kevin and I had planned on getting tattoos for some time, and it was in our 20th years that we decided to take things up a notch. There was a Grateful Dead skull that I wanted to get because it looked cool, while Kevin was going to design his own guitar fretboard to put on his forearm.

Our bass player at the time was this great guy and phenomenal musician. He was also much more conservative and less spontaneous than the two of us. He offered to drive us to the tattoo parlor in downtown Toronto.

On our way to the parlor, Kevin and I had a brilliant idea.

“Dude, let’s all get tattoos and have them spell out Shenanigans,” we told this bassist.

We thought it was genius. The plan was for one of us to get “S.H.E.N,” the next “A.N.I.,” and the third would get “G.A.N.S.” Kevin and I were so down, but our bass player was hesitant and wanted no part of it. We began to lay the peer pressure on pretty thick.

After a good amount of convincing, he caved and the plan was set. He’d get “S.H.E.N.,” Kev would have “Ani,” and I would get “G.A.N.S.” scribbled under that Grateful Dead skull.

We walked into the tattoo parlor and helped our bass player pick out his font. Then we went into our separate rooms, endured the pain, and emerged about an hour later to compare our ink.

It turned out that Kevin didn’t like the version of the design they had done for him and had aborted the mission. Mine hurt like hell, but it looked pretty cool. Our bass player’s tattoo had no pictures and no colors. It was simply “S.H.E.N.” in three-inch black letters across the width of his back. What a commitment this was! About six months later, we kicked him out of the band.

I know this makes us look like pricks, but I can assure you that we tried our very best. He was a good musician and friend, but was simply flaky and unreliable. He would show up two hours late to every practice and late to every gig. He wasn’t as committed as we were. We warned him for several months, but it only got worse.

When it came time to break the news, Kevin and I decided to be men and do it in person. It would take place in my parents’ basement where we normally rehearsed.

Of course he was late. To pass the time, Kevin and I started jamming. He showed up in the middle of the jam, plugged in, and joined us. To say it was hard to do an improvised jam with him – knowing what we had to do when it finished – would be an understatement.

After about 10 minutes, we wrapped it up and I said in a very somber tone that we had to talk. We told him that he was no longer in the band and gave our reasons. We told him we loved him and still wanted to hang. He said that would be unlikely. In his disappointment, he spoke his mind.

“What the fuck am I going to do with this giant tattoo on my back?”

We shrugged and made some awkward noises. We did not have any kind of answer for that one. He left the room and we sat in silence and listened to him walk up the stairs and out the front door.

We never did find out what he did with that giant tattoo.

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Black Pistol Fire, Eric Owen, Shenanigans, Kevin McKeown, Sour Notes, Megafauna

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