TD: Firstly Joey, can you tell me about your connection to the ThruDark brand and what it means to collaborate on this new line?
JN: My connection to the ThruDark brand is through Louis and Staz with the two having worked with some of my military friends over the years. That realm of special forces operators is globally vast but very tight knit, very small in a sense. We also share friends outside that world of who we connect with a bond of likemindedness - one of them being close friend Tom Hardy. Tommy connected us all initially and since then we have often supported and collaborated on some personal projects until this latest line which I am super stoked about! I look forward to the launch and its reception as well as being extremely grateful to all involved in allowing the opportunity for ThruDark X Warpaint Actual to come about!
That realm of special forces operators is globally vast but very tight knit, very small in a sense.
TD: I thought we’d take a different approach to this interview and frame some stories around each design on the t-shirt, after all they say “life imitates art”. That way we can tell people a bit more about what each t-shirt stands for and what it means to you.
Up first is the worst or arguably not - whilst we might consider the ruler of the underworld to be a maleficent or “evil” figure, to the ancient Greeks Hades was rarely portrayed negatively. In fact his role was often portrayed as one of keeping balance. This personification makes me think of how we can reframe our own perceptions of adversity, as something that is inevitable and something we can learn from. “Balance” meaning “every input has an output” right?
And so, bearing this in mind, my question to you is - can you tell me about a time when you “went through hell” so to speak and the lesson(s) you learned from this difficult experience?
JN: Ah jheez. I got diagnosed with cancer 6 years ago. And I’d felt immortal up until then, that moment of mortality surprised me. Growing up in New York we were tenacious bastards, you learned how to take a beating well. And if you had a goal, if you wanted to achieve something you took whatever beating you needed to make sure you got there. Because nothing good ever comes easy right? I started tattooing when I was 13, inking bikers, junkies, criminals etc. the real dregs of society. Back then I was one of the few who knew how to draw. It was a time when if a design wasn’t on the wall it wouldn’t get done. So I came in and I could draw and I’d draw art and ink it and I’d get beaten for it. Because the dinosaurs saw their extinction in me. But then you got to the 90s and you started getting people coming out of art school, who knew how to draw, and that culture soon changed. But yeah I took my share of beatings to get me to where I wanted to be.
Growing up in New York we were tenacious bastards, you learned how to take a beating well.
The cancer diagnosis was scary. I was petrified. And yet it was never just about myself though but about my family, I thought of my wife and kids. I’ve spent most of my life tattooing guys from elite military units and most of this was a secret, even to my family. At the point I got diagnosed with cancer I realised that much of my life was a secret. I was concerned about my kids not even knowing a tenth of my life. I’ve got a son serving with the military currently and it’s only now that he’s starting to hear from others about some of the jobs I’ve worked. In all this time my wife was my biggest strength, “you’ve got no say in the matter” you know “we’d get through this” - together. She pushed me through it when I was ready to throw in the towel. It was finding that strength in my wife and my kids to forge forward. There must have been something in me to keep going, like my work isn’t done yet.
Courage means forging forward through the tough times. Finding that inner mettle, that grit to do what you have to do. That’s courage to me.
TD: And that actually takes us nicely to our next design. Ares we know was the Greek god of war and courage and the first thing I’d like to know is, what does “courage” mean to Joey Nobody?
JN: Courage means forging forward through the tough times. Finding that inner mettle, that grit to do what you have to do. That’s courage to me. Facing what you don’t know. I believe in a greater good and sometimes we have to do bad to do good and stand up for something.
TD: In terms of “war”, we’ve seen a special connection for centuries between warrior cultures and their ink whether it be in older fighting traditions like the Vikings or the Celts to modern day soldiers getting regimental insignia or mottos tattooed. What do you think is the reason for this close connection between warrior and warpaint and why do you think it has endured for so long?
JN: I’ve always said there’s a ritual to it. There is a therapy, definitely, to it. Before going to war, going into war and after war. That’s why we called it warpaint. One of the reasons I was designated as a target and had threats against me from overseas was because I gave our guys an intimidation factor. I once saw an ISR feed of our guys on a job and there was an intercepted comms from Al Qaeda, they were calling our guys “the painted devils”. And I was like, “I did that”, which was pretty cool.
...there was an intercepted comms from Al Qaeda, they were calling our guys “the painted devils”. And I was like, “I did that”, which was pretty cool.
I think it’s both an individual and a community ritual. Also a healthy competition between troops and squadrons, everyone wants to outdo each other. It can be a superstitious thing too, guys would get it done the day before going out on a job, every time the day before as if it was just what they needed to do to make sure they came back each time.
TD: Poseidon, many of us know as the lord of the sea with his trident and almighty beard, but to the Greeks he was more than that - presiding over storms, earthquakes and horses also. Perhaps we could make this one a quickfire word association, we’ll take each domain and you just give me the first word that comes to mind when I say:
TD: The sea...
JN: Calm, I live on the bay.
JN: Poop, ah, don’t know I mean beauty, they’re beautiful creatures.