Lionel Fahy: On Melodies and Rotaries

By guest writer Jen The Ripper, based in France.
October 19, 2014, 12:47PM

"I didn’t want to reproduce what was considered 'cool' or 'politically correct'."

Lionel Fahy spends most of his time in France, but you won't find him residing in a tattoo shop.
For Lionel is a traveler, almost refusing to settle down.

"I’ve spent my life moving. I’ve reached the point that I don’t have particular ties. I think this is
my 19th or 20th official home." A bit of a paradox for a self-proclaimed noncommittal person to
practice such a permanent craft? Lionel doesn’t think so. "Tattoo is an identification to a clan, a
group, a tribe, a place. Indeed, it is permanent, but a landmark in your life too! A tattoo allows
you to remember where you come from, especially when you are far away. A tattoo lives with
the person and has no border."
A conversation with Lionel without a reference to music is probably impossible. He started his
career with rock band Portobello Bones, and was introduced to tattooing while on tour.
"In a way, music taught me to tattoo. I come from the punk/hardcore scene. A scene which, at
the time, was very underground, with a "Do It Yourself" motto. If you want something, don’t
expect it from someone else, just do it! With music, we changed our lives, traveled a lot, created
our own albums, completely produced without external help, and we believed in some utopian
ideals. Tattoo was a part of this life. I wanted to belong to this world, which was very exclusive
at the time."

These two universes, two disciplines, are very easily mixed, which allows Lionel to devote himself
to two passions at the same time. "Tattooing is a job where you can listen to a lot of music. In my
life, I’ve only genuinely known these two things: drawing and music. It was necessary for me to
be truly pro-active, immersing myself in these two disciplines. And for both, I didn’t want to
reproduce what was considered 'cool' or 'politically correct'.
"When I tattoo, the music I put on in the background often depends on the person with me.
But growing older, I tend to listen to softer and more relaxing things… It should be said that a
tattoo shop is everything except relaxing! There are people, noise, and in the middle of all this
activity, you have to succeed in creating a kind of intimacy with the person who is coming to
be tattooed. So the music is extremely important!"
Either a question of age or of evolution, Lionel has swapped the punk riffs of Portobello Road
for the soft melodies of his new band, COPENHAGEN. For their first album, the band released
a postcard to their audience, to express the idea that music is a mode of communication.
Just like a tattoo.

COPENHAGEN: Lionel Fahy and Stephanie Cabdevila.
"It is a genuine way of communication as there is an exchange between the tattooist and the
tattooed. But [tattooing] is way more intimate, versus the music of COPENHAGEN which can be
shared with many people! The tattoo is made for one specific person. It reflects a moment of
this person's life. If the rest of the planet will love it or loathe it, that's the last of our worries!"
When it comes to communication, tattooing is almost a magical act, liberating the person to be emotionally open. "I had these very special moments when tattooing. I was told secrets, buried
stories. Each moment is unique! I am grateful that these people trust me enough to go that far,
and I try to respect them as much I can!"
The conception of a tattoo design is intimate in and of itself, a process of osmosis between the
people involved. "The basis is trust! It is a relationship that will (probably) cease to exist once the
tattoo is finished. The most important thing is the feeling of a great bond between the person
and me. What I mean is, now, I’ve got people who are coming from the four corners of the earth.
The day of the appointment, I need to be receptive, ready to understand what the person wants,
to be able to draw and make the tattoo in the same day. A real challenge! Spontaneity is difficult
to work on, as artwork usually needs time! That’s why it's extremely important to draw every day,
to search for new ideas, and to make breaks to catch your breath… "

Lionel works internationally. But his tattoo style, inspiration and choice of colors can vary
depending on the location. "In France, I do a lot of dark and thick tattoos. In Germany, Czech
Republic, North America or Asia, people want more colors, more lightness. Differences are
really clear!"
When he's not tattooing or playing with his band, Lionel likes to spend his time with people who
stimulate him. "First of all, there are my children, who remind me every day where I am now, and
why I’m so rooted in their universe… Then, there are the people I love, those who are really close
to me and are intransigent with my work. People who help me to evolve in a good way. There are
also all the people I know in the tattoo world, who send me their feedback. And of course, to
finish, my clients who help me always look for a way to graphically translate their wishes!"

Further, always further. This creative mind is always focused on a new project. "I would really
enjoy turning my illustrations into animated images. I’ve started working on it with a friend.
I hope it will be good, but if it doesn't go anywhere, it is for lack of time! I would like to tell a
beautiful love story, with many people in love … and lots of beer!"
And regarding his own life and future, Lionel's plot is very simple: "Live long, continue to be
happy, and thank the sky for this fantastic life I’ve got!"


JEN THE RIPPER is a writer and tattoo art lover based in France. She works for Inked Magazine
France, and various online cultural media outlets. Fascinated by artistic minds, she enjoys
traveling and meeting people with out-of-the-box ideas.
All custom tattoos © Lionel Fahy.