Owner/ArtistAsk premier tattoo artist Corey Miller how he got into the tattoo business, and he will probably tell you it was 'by hanging around the wrong people.' And if you have a sense of humor and you get it, he may tell you the real story.
In 1982, a fifteen-year-old Corey Miller was playing drums in a punk rock band and he decided he needed a tattoo. So he carved out his first tattoo on himself using a needle with thread wrapped around it. This inspired Corey to build his own tattooing machine, which consisted of a fish tank pump motor, a bent toothbrush, the tip of a Bic pen, and some guitar string as a needle. He used to carry his homemade contraption around in a Vans shoe box with a bottle of Pelican ink.
By 1983, Corey ventured out to Hollywood and found himself at the first real tattoo parlor he had ever set foot in, Spotlight Tattoo, run by the venerable Bob Roberts. Spotlight Tattoo was the hardest punk rock tattoo shop in Hollywood, and Corey was intrigued by the hand-drawn skulls and other aggressive designs on the walls. And the technology they used impressed him. He knew his days of slinging tattoos out of a shoe box were numbered and that he would soon be hammering out ink with one of the strong machines they were using at Spotlight.
A year later, Corey went to Franco's, the local tattoo parlor in Ontario, California. Franco was a 360-pound Sicilian with gold teeth, a Mohawk, and a .357 magnum slung in a shoulder harness. Corey and his buddies would go to Franco's after school to drink beers and do whatever else they wanted to do. By summertime, Corey was drawing designs and taking out the trash at the shop, and Franco and the boys started calling him the shop hand. Franco's soon closed after what Corey describes as some 'pretty insane nights of fights, drunkenness, gunfire, arrests, and tattooing,' but not before Franco sold Corey what he thought was a broken tattoo machine that turned out to work just fine.
Things changed for Corey in 1987 — on the night he met tattoo artist Mark Mahoney at a house party. Mahoney was performing his handiwork on some partygoers, and after watching him work, Corey realized there was a whole other level to the tattoo game. He started hanging out at the shop where Mahoney worked. The shop was called Fat George’s Tattoo Gallery, and it was located in a tough neighborhood in La Puente, California. Over time, Corey started hitting Fat George up for a job as a tattoo artist. At long last, Fat George gave Corey his big break. Mahoney was making plans to open a new shop out in Los Angeles, and that meant that a chair was opening up. All of a sudden, Corey Miller had his first real job inking tattoos.
Corey turned twenty-one at Fat George’s in 1987, and as a young man in a gang-related neighborhood, the busy tattoo parlor just may have saved his life. While his friends were getting busted for anything from drunk driving to serious felonies, Corey was busy in the safe haven of the shop inking up to ten tattoos a day. Then another turning point came for Corey Miller in 1989 on the day Dick Warsocki walked into the shop.
Warsocki was known for his beautiful Native American fine-line tattoos. When Warsocki walked into Fat George’s that day he saw Corey, who just happened to be hammering out an amazing Indian Head tattoo on a customer’s back. Warsocki complimented him on the design, told Corey he was headed to New Orleans for a tattoo convention, and asked if Corey wanted to go along and crash on his hotel floor. Corey took him up on the offer, and at the convention in New Orleans, Corey found a whole new realm of tattoo artistry.
He met famed artists such as Guy Atchison and Eddie Deutsche. They tattooed with a style that Corey says had 'absolutely no boundaries' and that was 'limited only to imagination.' Corey also met one of his closest friends at the convention, Suzanne Fauser. The trip was the beginning of his annual voyages to Ann Arbor, Michigan, over the next twelve years. In fact, his career would take Corey Miller all over the United States, from Los Angeles to New York to Hawaii, and to a host of worldwide destinations such as Canada, France, Amsterdam, and Japan. He would eventually become one of the most sought-after purveyors of ink in modern times.
But let’s get back to our story. It was 1989, and upon his return from that first tattoo convention in New Orleans, Corey got a break from the one and only Jack Rudy, who gave him a job at Good Time Charlie’s Tattooland in Anaheim, California. Good Time Charlie’s was an institution in the tattoo world. Artists such as Mark Mahoney, Freddy Negrete, and Dick Warsocki had previously worked at Good Time Charlie’s, and it was there that Corey got the chance to work with Jack Rudy and Mike Brown—artists whom Corey collectively refers to as 'the Kings of Black and Grey.' Corey considers himself fortunate to have learned some important technical skills from Brown and to have seen masterpieces created by the hand of Jack Rudy, his friend and mentor.
In 1991, Corey Miller and two business partners opened Optic Overdrive, the first tattoo shop in Upland, California. The shop lasted about two years and, in addition to drilling some amazing tattoos, also hosted an unforgettable shootout on the front porch. Unfortunately, Corey soon had to throw one of his partners out, and the other took an extended vacation as a guest of the State. Soon, Corey was back to traveling and, when at home, tattooing in his basement. It was in that dank, underground dungeon that the name 'Six Feet Under' was born. Within three years, and after tattooing out of the back of a barbershop, Corey opened his own tattoo parlor, complete with a staff of two artists—himself and Henry Powell. Then on April Fools Day in 1997, Corey Miller opened up shop in his own building in downtown Upland, and that is where the Six Feet Under Tattoo Parlor is today.
Looking back on his formative years, Corey feels lucky to have experienced the best and the worst of the tattoo business. He never had a formal apprenticeship, as many tattoo artists do, but instead got his education by 'going on my own and falling on my face and doing it all again on my own terms.'
His career has run the gamut from the street shop of Fat George’s to the 'Kustom Klass' of Good Time Charlie’s Tattooland, and everywhere in between.
For Corey, a couple of the highlights of his career include being sought out by two incredible artists. The first was when he tattooed James Hetfield of Metallica and designed a dragon for Hetfield’s Gibson Les Paul guitar. The second highlight was when custom motorcycle artist Jesse James asked him to tattoo the $100 bill on James’s back.
But every tattoo Corey Miller designs, whether for customers famous or unknown, is itself a unique and timeless work of art. In addition, he continues to break new ground by engineering cutting-edge tattooing tools. He has seen a lot of changes during his more than thirty years’ experience in the business, and looking into the next millennium, the sky is the limit for Corey Miller and his house of original tattoo design, the Six Feet Under Tattoo Parlor.
Henry Powell has been tattooing since 1989 and has done just about everything you can think of. That includes original pieces, classics, religious, portraits, cover-ups, and original characters. The love for tattoos started for Henry when he was just 15 when he would stay up and watch a friend do tattoos out of his garage with a home-made machine. Henry was instantly hooked and could not wait to get his first tattoo. This is when Henry first ran into Corey Miller at the young ripe age of 16 at Fat George’s. Corey unknowingly tattooed a minor and started a new lifestyle for Henry. After this tattoo, Henry spent countless hours hanging around TattooLand, after Corey moved there, so he could study the artists who worked there. Once Henry knew this was the life-style he wanted he decided to try things out for himself.
It all started back in a small room that he called home with a handmade rotary machine. Innocent bystanders volunteered their skin in return for artwork. After a little more experience and much better equipment, Henry ventured into Hollywood and started working at a famous street shop. This is when Henry gradually grew into his own style that specializes in bright colors and black and gray. After a while, Henry wanted to further expand his career and around the same time was offered the opportunity to work with his friend and mentor Corey Miller at Optic Overdrive. Corey took him under his wing and showed him the dark side. This is the time in his career that he picked up all of his technical skills once he was working side by side with Corey. After closing the doors there after an unmentionable mishap, Henry had the opportunity to relocate to Hollywood. This is the same time that Corey was building Six Feet Under. While in Hollywood he worked for Gil Montie at Tattoo Mania. Henry had the opportunity to work along side some of the best artist which included Mark Mahoney and Gil Montie. Henry has truly grown as an artist because of these various experiences with such talented artists.
Once Six Feet Under opened it doors back in 1997, Henry joined up with Corey again and has been collaborating on pieces with Corey ever since. With the freedom any artist would want, Henry has been able to fully explore all styles of tattooing and painting. He is known for his Asian stylized tattoos and religious pieces. If you visit the Shop you can experience Henry’s other artistic talents including paintings in oil, acrylic, and water colors.
Neil Wilson started tattooing in 1999 under Steve Schultz at Costa Mesa Tattoo. Then moved to their sister shop in Newport Beach, Ca., Balboa Tattoo.
Although the weather was nice, he didn’t like the trouble of parking, the fact that people would either jump in the ocean, or lay out in the sun with their new tattoos!
In 2003, he moved to Claremont, Ca., working at Classic Tattoo for six years, before moving to Six Feet Under Tattoo Parlor.
Neil has taken a handful of art classes and enjoys painting. Being a family man, he is inspired by his wife and daughter. Truly enjoying Tattoo, for that is what has given him everything.
Obed Comparan started tattooing in 2007, he started his apprenticeship at Ink Pagoda in Fontana California learning under Rudy Martinez. After completing his apprenticeship, he worked at Ink Pagoda for a three years, then worked at a couple other shops learning techniques along the way. As an artist he is always learning and growing in his craft. Obed loves color realism, black and grey realism with a dark contrast, also a bit of everything else, including script, traditional, neo-traditional, religious art, portraits, japanese art and custom tattoos. His heart and soul is put into every tattoo he does no matter how big or how small. Now here at Six Feet Under he is grateful and honored to have the opportunity to work along side Corey Miller and the awesome crew here at Six Feet Under.
Kevin Childs’ fascination with comic book illustration was a primary inspiration toward his pursuing a career in the arts. A professional tattoo artist since 2008, he has focused his work at Six Feet Under, on providing his customers with high quality, safe tattoos in both black and gray and in color. His notable influences include his own observations of life, favorite music and the work of other artists.