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Tattoo artist/rock star Corey Miller on music, ink and television

Last night, Tuaca brought Corey Miller (think L.A. Ink -- and if you've seen that show, then you know how talented he is) to Stoney's Bar and Grill to play with his band, Powerflex 5. We caught up with Miller before the show (while he placed the finishing touches on the drum seen above) to talk about his Tuaca bottle design, life post-L.A. Ink, traveling and tattooing.

Westword: Can you tell us about your relationship with Tuaca and what you'll be doing out here?

Corey Miller: We are out here on the seventh state of a nine-state tour for Tuaca, and the reason we're doing it is, I redesigned the label for Tuaca. It's a lion; when you chill it, it turns blue. They came to me to design the label, and from the beginning it was just really fun, it was cool, like I'm going to design a tattoo for a bottle. And I approached it that way. I did a little research on the alcohol: It's a vanilla-citrus, and its roots are old Italian. So I went with the old-school Renaissance block-cut art style, and just drew a picture like I would of a tattoo.

We started promoting the brand and we were doing some touring and doing some meet-and-greets. And at a couple of them they ended up having bands there, and I've been playing music forever, so I was like, "Hey, let me sit in with you guys." So the next thing I knew, they invited me and my band on the road, and I am just a very lucky guy: I get to leave town, pack my tattoo machine and my drumsticks. I must have been a horrible person in a past life. (laughs)

And I do one tattoo in town for someone who's won a contest. I did a tattoo at Celebrity Tattoo on Market and 16th, did a really cool tattoo on a local girl who had won a contest somewhere else. Didn't really know who she was before today, it was spontaneous, I did a nice piece.

What did she want?

A nice little tattoo commemorating her baby twins.

Had you done any other drawing for other alcohol brands?

Tuaca's definitely the first time I've ever done anything like this for an alcohol company. I've done some art over the years, but it's always been mainly the tattooing. I'm sure the fame of the L.A. Ink thing got me out there, and I got to show off what I can do as an artist and it opened the doors to opportunities like this. It's definitely a trip.

Did you watch the show at all?

I watched it. It's been over for a year, they're playing replays of it now. It would come out, and I'd watch it with my family, I'd go home and we'd sit around and watch it and just kind of hold my breath and go "Whoa, what was that?!" And to watch it four years later, it's pretty interesting and kind of funny. I'm actually really happy about it. It was fun, it was a trip.

I probably beat myself up mentally about going on TV more than anybody else really did. Tattooing is a somewhat sacred folk art, or it used to be. Now it's so open. But that's not a fault of anybody's; it's just what it is. It's just like everything, television has a place. People are like, "Wow, you're on TV!" Yeah, everybody's on TV!

But it was an incredibly cool opportunity to be able to go and show what I've dedicated my whole life to. Not knowing that it would turn into these things. I've always traveled though, I've traveled all over the United States, I've tattooed for years and years, and I"ve always played music. It's actually come full circle now: touring with a corporate alcohol company and playing music that I played when I was a kid, and tattooing like I did when I was a kid.

How is your shop doing?

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I've had my own shop, Six Feet Under, for twenty years, been at the location I've been at for fifteen years. It's going really good. I've got my guys who've been working with me for years. It's pretty down-home. I've got my family, my kids, and I work to stay home with them a lot, but to get to work and head out to do these little trips is kind of fun. We've been playing together in Powerflex 5 for a long time. We've got a CD coming out, and we've got a lot of stuff on the Internet. We've got some stuff that will eventually come out. The music thing has always been a love; it's never been a money-making thing. But when we come out here, it's really nice. We do old-school surf instrumentals and old '70s punk-rock, a little bit of rockabilly. It's really a gumbo style of music.

To keep up with what Miller's got going on, visit www.sixfeetunder.com.

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