Q&A with 'Best Ink' Judge Joe Capobianco: "This Season is Action-Packed!"

By Oxygen

Known as the harshest critic of the Best Ink 3 judges, 20-year veteran tattooer Joe Capobianco with the "Blood Puddin" signature style is bringing the punches once again to Season 3. Read the Q&A to learn about his harsh approach, about the hard decision between Teresa and DJ in Season 2, and all about the suspenseful Season 3, premiering December 4 at 10/9c! 

What about this season is different from previous seasons?

The majority of the artists this season are young. They don’t have as much exposure as the first two seasons, as far as their time in the business and how much travel they’ve done. But, doing this for 20 years doesn’t make me the best tattooer in the world. You’ve got guys tattooing 2-4 years who are just blowing people away with their ideas.  

The season is also action-packed! There is a lot more in the way of action going on. I think the biggest thing, though, is that you’ve got some real talented young people, and viewers are going to be really surprised what the artists are capable of doing. I was definitely blown away. 

Tattooing in the Best Ink environment is totally different than real life. What lessons should a tattooer take from being on the show?

At Best Ink, it’s tattoo bootcamp! You have to do it, with a time limit! There are definitely repercussions if you don’t pull it off, and not to mention, I’m the worst boss you could imagine. I’m looking over your shoulder, and I’m gonna tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong -- and you could go home because of it.

Listening to your client about what has to get done, working with that individual, building a rapport with the skin (which is what a lot of tattooers are lacking), getting the opinion and the critiques from Hannah and myself – all of that is pretty important. As lot of people tend to focus what they’re good at, and they won’t open their eyes to what they can be doing or what direction they could have taken the tattoo. Best Ink is giving them that  schooling in a sense. It’s teaching them to roll with the pnches! They have to perform under tremendous pressure.  

Are you still in touch with Teresa and DJ?

Yes! Teresa and DJ did a guest spot in my shop, she worked here for about a week. I was super happy to see them at the finale. In all honesty, it was an incredibly difficult decision because they are both such tremendously talented individuals. I still talk to them occasionally via text and e-mail and such. I see Teresa on the convention trail. It’s just nice to know such young creative artists. They keep me on the edge of my seat the entire time. They light a fire under my ass.

You’re a straight shooter when it comes to judging. Have you always been that way, and what makes it so effective?

I’ve always been that way! I’ve always felt like, if you’re gonna say something, say it to their face. Don’t wait until they leave the room. Don’t get me wrong I do my fair share of sh**-talking, but if I have issues, I treat people the way I want to be treated. I don’t want be coddled. I feel that, if you’re a good artist, you want to learn and get better.

This comes from years of being around people who are very similar. Some of my best friends are my harshest critics. It’s easy to give it to people when you’ve been getting it your whole life. I think it’s a character builder. We’re not telling people they suck and have to walk away, we’re being constructive. Maybe they’ll be a little angry, but hopefully they’ll be able to step back and say, “Well, he’s right.” 

Do you feel like Hannah and Sabina balance you out, or bring something different to the table than you do?

Most certainly. I think between Hannah and I, we have a different take on tastes on what we like and dislike but we have a strong knowledge and appreciation for skills. I think Sabina brings a little bit of the client into the mix. She brings the regular person, the individual who isn’t looking at the skills it took to do something but how it appeals to her as an individual, and these things are just as important.

What advice would you give to an up-and-coming tattooer?

My biggest piece is to keep an open mind. Learn everything there is to know about this business. Don’t think you know it all. The day you think you know it all is when you stop learning. You never stop learning. Every day is a challenge. Don’t try to be good at one thing, try to be good at everything. I’m known for my own style [Blood Puddin’], but that’s a luxury that comes with time in, it’s not something you aspire to. If you’re that good at it, the people will come to you.   

Check out Joe's tattoo portfolio!

Tune into the 'Best Ink 3' premiere Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 10/9c!

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