Natalie meets with Mel Mo'Black, this month's cover artist. Mel is a tattoo artist, painter, songwriter, and vocalist. In addition to being featured in Samantha Wiley's portraits of Galveston musicians, Mel will also be playing with local band India Tigers in Texas on June 2nd and 4th. See our calendar for more details. Photo: Mel Mo'Black
Natalie: You’re one of the cover artists for Wake the Zine. How many have you done?
Mel: This is my third one.
Where did the inspiration for this cover come from?
I got really inspired at a Wake show. Which is super cool. When I do a Wake cover I like to incorporate music into them. I just had this idea of a little boy or a little kid who is developing. And when I think about Wake the Zine and what it’s about, it’s about being woke through music. So it’s like Wake is on his headphones and he’s listening to it and he’s blowing bubbles. And there’s growth around him, ya know, like there’s flowers...everything’s coming to life and the butterfly is there and that’s like a transformation and growth as well. So it’s just like being woke through music...just blowing bubbles. Enlightened through music.
You are one of the vocalists in the local band India Tigers in Texas. Can you tell us a little about how the band got started?
I had written a couple of songs and I was working with Matt [Mejia]. And I was at a Ganesha show at the Drunken Monkeyz for Monkey Palooza and I just got super inspired and I had run to the bathroom and pulled out my notes on my phone and was just like typing out this song. And I knew that I wanted to work with Kevin [Barnes, bass / vocals], because I knew Kevin would get it. He would get where I wanted to go. And then he had this idea to start up a band, and he had already been working with Mike Kaiser and Vic [Resendiz, drums], and he had already been working with Clark [Hauser, guitar]...so he was just like, “Let’s do this!” So we all got together and started the band.
What has been your favorite India Tigers in Texas show so far?
Probably the one at the Loft Walk. It was really fun. The space. The lights. And everybody was dancing and having fun. Like, feeling it. I think that was my favorite so far.
You also make a living as a tattoo artist. What are some of your inspirations in tattooing?
Other artists. Other tattooers.
Like local ones?
Kind of just everyone. The culture is really rich. Being a tattoo artist is like a lifestyle. You just go in head first. So, other artists, other tattooers, other tattooers I’ve worked with.
Do you keep up with them, like through Instagram and stuff?
Oh yeah. Like, I’ll go and get tattooed. The guy that’s been working on my arm has been working on it since he was one of my mentors. So I just keep going back.
When was your first apprenticeship?
I started apprenticing in Smyrna, Tennessee, at this kind of shit-hole shop. It sucked but sometimes you just gotta...it’s really hard to get in the business so if someone is willing to give you a try you just kind of got to do it. I kind of regret that now but it doesn’t really matter. Not everybody has the golden ticket, ya know what I mean? And then I moved here and I finished my apprenticeship here. I finished it in 2012.
I feel like you tattoo a lot of the people I know on this island. Who’s the person you’ve tattooed the most?
Out of the people we know? Probably Cory [Clark].
If you haven’t caught on to this yet, you are a huge inspiration to me. Not only are you an all-around beautiful lady, but you also have incredible talents. Which of your artistic endeavors do you find that you enjoy the most? And why?
Probably right now the band stuff. But I’ve been making art for the band stuff, too. So I’m doing it all. But it’s also the newest. It’s new and fresh to me so it’s really fun and I’m learning a lot of stuff that I don’t even know anything about. I’m ready to learn all about it. I’m ready to beat it all up, ya know?
Mel is a vocalist and songwriter for Galveston's India Tigers in Texas. Left to right, India Tigers in Texas features Michael Kaiser, Clark Hauser, Victhor Resendiz, Jaron Hall, Kevin Barnes, and Mel Mo'Black. Photo courtesy of the artist.
What are your favorite parts about being in a band?
I think the coolest part is like when we’re working on songs and we all think it’s badass, ya know? We’re all like super inspired and everybody’s so excited. And we think that it’s, like, great. Like I think the songs are great and they think it’s great, then our friends listen to it and our friends really like it...and it’s like wuhooooo, we’re freaking out, ya know?
Are there any unenjoyable parts of being in a band?
I hate dealing with the money side of things, it makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know what’s appropriate and whenever I have to deal with it I spearhead it like a crazy woman and I feel like I might be an asshole. I don’t think anybody takes it like that but it makes me uncomfortable, it makes me feel like I’m...I don’t know...being responsible for that is just like...I don’t want to have to talk to people. I don’t wanna have to be the one that figures it out, ‘cause it’s just like...I don’t know.
Where did the name India Tigers in Texas come from?
It was Election Day and I had gotten shit-faced like really early. Me and Clark and Cory went and had whiskeys and then we went and had like three tall sakes each. We were just so drunk before it even started. And Michael Allison was having a viewing party thing at his house so I went to swing in there and said “hi” to everybody and had a beer. [Then,] we went to Brews and watched the election and it was like 10 o’clock and a bunch of people showed up at the end of it and I was so drunk I had to go home. [After] I went home, I went back to Michael Allison’s house and like brought [my dog] Salad down there and I was so wasted...all I remember is I had written in my notes in my phone that it was gonna be like India tigers in Texas. I remembered what it was from, but I couldn’t figure out who had said it. There’s more tigers in captivity in Texas then there are wild in the whole world. What we were talking about when this came up was if shit were to go down...like say America went to war here and it got fucked up and all the tigers got loose they would thrive in this environment. They would thrive in Texas and just live here and it would be like India tigers in Texas. I found out it was Michael Allison who had said that. It took me like a month to figure out who had said that, though. We were going to be called Ghost Clinic but I brought India Tigers in Texas up and everybody was like, “That’s the name! That’s it!” Freaking out.
I love your style. It’s very unique. What inspires it?
You just got to do whatever you want. Wear whatever you want, do whatever you want. Fuck everybody else. Fuck everyone. Hahaha! Tattooing is so weird because you meet all kinds of people. So many people are insecure about stupid, stupid things like their clothes, their hair, where they go. It just blows my mind. Like your ego is tremendous. So I wear whatever makes me feel good. If I feel like I’m looking ok then that makes me feel good but I’m not scared to mix and match, wear stripes and polkadots. I’m just like, fuck it. Whatever. They’re clothes, ya know what I mean?
One of my favorites things is the name that you gave your dog. Can you tell everyone what his name is and how you decided on it?
Captain Salad from Outer Space. Before I got Salad I was looking into different breeds of animals. You know, different kinds of cats, different kinds of dogs. And what would be cohesive to my lifestyle, I guess. I was working all the time. So I’m looking at all these things and all I knew was that I wanted my next pet to be named ambrosia salad. I was like looking at hairless cats and all sorts of things where it would make more sense, and then I met little baby Salad. And his name can’t be ambrosia salad because he’s a big ham. I don’t know, he’s a big potato. He was just Salad for a long time. He has to have a title, ya know, ‘cause all the other dogs from his pedigree—because when I got him it had all the lineage—were like, “such-and-such, blah blah, duh-duh-duh.” Like, so many names.
The one and only Captain Salad from Outer Space. Photo: Mel Mo'Black
What are some of your favorite ways to pass the time in Galveston?
Drink beer. Hahahaha! I don’t know. I’m really busy. I feel like I try to keep really busy. When I’m not busy, I feel like I go nuts.
I know that you like to ride your bicycle a lot, right?
I love riding my bike. I’m so glad that it’s warm outside. You already know, because we went riding bikes.
What are some of your favorite bands right now?
The Night Beats. Can’t stop seeing them whenever they come around. I had a dream about them the other night. Can’t stop thinking about how great they are. Black Angels. They’ve been one of my favorite bands for years and years and years. They’re fucking crazy good. Black Mountain. They just came out with a new album last year. I listen to it a lot. I’ve been listening to a lot of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. They put out this spaghetti western album. I cannot stop listening to the spaghetti western. It’s called Eyes Like the Sky and I can’t stop listening to it. Those are probably my faves right now.
Are your vocals inspired by anyone in particular?
I think so. Like, I listened to a lot of Danzig for a really long time and I feel like it’s real bluesy. I know that it’s an influence on me when I hear the way that I write songs and sing them and stuff. But I know that a lot of people are so unfamiliar with it that they’d never know. It’s like metal. Doom. Good. But it’s like real bluesy. Like if you were to listen to all his albums you’d be like, “Oh, yeah,” and then you start listening to our stuff you’d be like, “Oh, yeah.” I don’t realize I’m doing it but I know that I am doing it. And when I listen to it I’m like, “Oh yeah, it’s from listening to the bands that I loved for so long.”
Who writes the lyrics for the songs?
Me and Jaron [Hall] and Kevin. But then on one of our songs Clark and Sarah helped me write some stuff, too.
Nice. What song is that?
When will y’all be playing next?
We’re having a show on June 2nd at the Drunken Monkeyz with Ganesha and Space Rhino. Space Rhino is from Galveston and Ganesha is from Houston. I’m really pumped to play with Ganesha because they’re so badass. They’re the ones that inspired me to write our first song for India Tigers. And now we get to play with them. They’re all jazzed. We’re jazzed.
6/2 at Drunken Monkeyz with Ganesha (Houston) and Space Rhino (Galveston)
Portrait of Mel Mo'Black by Samantha Wiley, courtesy of the artist.