Here’s an interview that was featured in Real skateboards’ 2007 catalog. They asked Devon to design a skateboard deck – the proceeds of which went to his medical bills…
Devon, for everyone who doesn’t know, can you tell us what happened to you last year?
I was shot in the head on July 12th at one in the morning, 2006 in east Oakland. I was tattooing and I rode my bike home to my now ex-girlfriends house and some guys broke in and I told her to get out the back window and she couldn’t because there are bars on it and they won’t budge. So I held the door closed and one of the guys came up to the door and he said “Oh Shit there are people in here” and he shot threw the door and I was shot in the head. I was in a coma for a month. When I woke up out of the coma my right side was atrophied, all my muscles and stuff. So I wasn’t able to draw or paint or tattoo with my right hand because I developed muscle tremors in my thumb and index fingers so every time I focused or wrote, painted, tattooed or anything with my right hand it would shake, like muscle spasms so I switched to my left. I trained myself how to be left-handed. Now I’m living in the city taking tattoo appointments in Oakland with my left hand.
When and where did you start skateboarding?
1987 I started skateboarding in Pacifica, which was pretty cool. Keith Cochrane from Think skateboards lived right down the street so we used to haggle him for free wheels and stuff, free boards. And Wade Speyer was always hanging at his house and my friend Rich had a half pipe up the street from Keith so we used to skate the half pipe in his backyard all the time and Mike Kemper from Think and Jeff Swindel, before he was arrested would hang out and skate and stuff. And once the street skating craze came about all crazy Rich cut his ramp down and built a street course, which we skated, in his driveway.
Those were the guys that got you hyped as a kid?
And also Eric J. He was the best skater in Pacifica. He would ollie bushes and stuff off of little kickers.
Tell me about San Francisco street skating in the early nineties?
I used to go to Embarcadero a lot as a kid when there was always a bunch of pros there, Sean Sheffey used to hang out, he was skating for Life skateboards and there was Javontae Turner, Henry Sanchez, and Mike Carroll and those guys would hang out every day. I remember when Jamie Thomas and Keith Hufnagel first came about and Jamie Thomas was skating for Invisible and I think Keith Hufnagel was too before he got on Real and there was a overhang that we used to sleep under in Embarcadero, I don’t know if you can do that anymore. We’d be hanging out past Bart time. It was actually nice in the early nineties to skate San Francisco. Skating in downtown on all the brick sidewalks and you can hear your wheels and stuff. Right up the street from EMB there was Goldie blocks that had a bank with the marble ledges and stuff that used to be in old videos.
Who were you favorites from that era?
Keith Hufnagel is one, cause he would ollie really, really high over everything in San Francisco, downhill and while he was going super fast over street gaps, he just didn’t care. And Jamie Thomas after he did the other thing that the kid broke his knees on. The leap of faith. And Gonz of coarse.
What about skateboard artists?
Pushead, Usugrow, Mike Giant was pretty cool. When I was growing up Jim Phillips was awesome. I saw a lot of his stuff. Mark Gonzales was pretty good, I like his stuff it was really goofy and simple looking. The guy that did Stereo Sounds boards, I think it was a SF based artist.
When did you get started as a tattoo artist/ what advise would you give to aspiring artists?
1996 I started tattooing. I stared drawing…my moms an artist so I always drew but I really took an interest in it in 1996. Just watercolor and draw a lot. I filled up a couple sketchbooks. Pretty much I was sitting in a coffee shop in Fremont and I would just like have a book and mimic all the old tattoos and stuff and one time a guy came up to me and he was like “ oh you want to learn how to tattoo.”
Did you practice on yourself?
No willing friends. And it was usually in a kitchen.
Is Devon Blood your real name?
Yes. I think it’s like a clan name. I think its Scottish, like originally it was Clan Blood. It’s the name I was born with. It’s my mom’s name. I was born at UCSF hospital.
You come from a big family. Give me the rundown.
Yeah, I have six sisters and one brother. One sister actually died when I was four. She died of SIDS.
What’s the worst tattoo you were ever asked to do?
This girl in Oakland wanted a panther perched on a branch with some script under it that said “Sweet pussy underneath.”
Did you do it?
Yeah I did.
What do you think about tattoo artists designing Camel cigarette boxes?
I’ not down with it cause it doesn’t go to anything good. Camel tried to tackle that and I was pissed. People started doing artwork for Camel and I was like are you kidding me.
What about all the TV shows?
Oh fuck, TV shows are kind of like a double-edged sword. In a lot of ways they help and in a lot of ways they destroy. Now there are a bunch of people that wouldn’t have gotten tattooed before that because of TV shows would get tattooed now but now all the tattoos that they want all have to have meaning. It couldn’t just be a simple Jim Phillips screaming hand or something. It has to be like the screaming hand is symbolic of long life or I had my hand ripped off as a kid or something.
Things can’t just look cool anymore?
Right, exactly, and people can’t just get tattooed.
shows want to portray a story to every tattoo and they do a lot of first timers.
Right and they interview everybody and that’s not the way tattoos work, man. You see a shop and you walk into it cause you want to get tattooed. In these TV shows you wait in this long line outside this tattoo show that has a stage and get interviewed and if you get accepted then you get on the TV show to get your stupid little tattoo. Pus there’s what really ruining it. Like these TV shows are counting a bunch of money and buying stuff. We don’t have that kind of money. They’re pretty much displaying that we have money or something so its causing tattoo shops to get robbed and to get audited. It’s totally fake.
Could you ever live in Oakland again?
Yeah, it was dumb of me to hang out in east Oakland. I’ve always known not to hang out there. Even when I was a little kid and I grew up in Pacifica I always knew to stay away from east Oakland, to just not go there. I knew that place was hard. Even when I lived in Berkeley people would tag ESO and it was cause they were representing east Oakland. Where I got shot is called the murder dubs on 21st and International. Never again will I live in East Oakland. I lived in Oakland for 10 years and I was totally fine and I lived in 10 different ghettos.
Tell us the story with the new Real graphic; what’s this one all about?
It’s pretty cool, before Real used a right-handed design from before I was shot. And this time they wanted a left handed design so I drew and painted something, there gonna put that on a board so that’s pretty cool to me that they’re willing to do that. Its called The Left Hand Path, it’s supposed to be the gate of hell with a goat hoof coming out of it and a left hand with wings coming out of the clouds and the goat hoof is pulling it into the gates. The way it’s balanced the hoof and the hand are in the center so it’s kinda like a struggle. The left hands trying not to get pulled into the gate and the hoof is trying not to get pulled into the clouds.
Doesn’t the left hand have biblical reference as well?
Originally, in the late 1800s and early 1900s left handers were changed to right handers in school because of some bible verse ‘the left hand path is the path of the devil.” Bible thumpers got scared of left-handers and changed them to right-handers. That still happens nowadays, I still meet left-handers that were changed to right-handers in school. If you look at buttons, everything is made for right hands. Desks, old desks anyways, were always right hand desks. Just everything, total right hand world and it was built off of this bible verse. In the 80’s public enemy had a song and the chorus was “be afraid of the hand that coming from the left because the hand that’s coming from the left belongs to the devil.”
What are your plans for the future?
I just want to get married and settle down, start skating again, get my balance back and keep tattooing.
Cardiel is skating again.
I actually want to meet his doctor that said he should try herbal medicine. That’s amazing. I remember hearing about him a couple years ago, like are you kidding me Cardiel’s paralyzed from the neck down. Then my friend sent me a comment on MySpace showing that he was dropping in on ramps and stuff. Wow. Inspiring.
Anyone you’d like to thank?
Katie Rose, Lynda Blood, Dave from Alternative Tentacles, Alex Turan, Jim Thiebaud, Fairmont hospital in San Leandro, Highland hospital in Oakland for saving my life, the neurosurgeon, Doctor Chris Patel.