Cleen Rock One is the only artist to have made it to two Ink Master finales. He is the owner of two shops in Las Vegas - Chrome Gypsy and Golden Skull. Known for his new school tattoos, Cleen originally hails from Chicago.
Dan Lorenzo: Before the Ink Master finale, you said Anthony was the favorite. The other night you texted me, "I called it [Anthony winning]". Does that mean you thought Anthony winning was rigged?
Cleen Rock One: [long pause] I don't know if I can answer that.
Are you hurt? How are you feeling right now?
Good man. I think the show has definitely opened a lot of doors and given me some celebrity status and I'm just trying to make some money and keep the ball rolling, you know.
Certainly the show has made you more well known, but I know how much you guys get paid to be on Ink Master and I have an idea as to how much money you can make if you were home at your shop working. Are you glad you went back for a 2nd season?
Well the 2nd run... we got paid more. I was busy before I ever got on the show. My hope was to be so busy to where... I could sell a lot of my merch. Here's the whole thing. I can only do so many tattoos a day. I can only make so much money doing tattoos. My take as a business man and an owner was to try and get some "house wife" popularity. I wanted to try and broaden my stature as far as fans. Now I sell a lot more t-shirts and I sell a lot more merchandise online and that's what I really wanted. That is unlimited. I'm sleeping, I wake up and I check my PayPal and I made $1,000 while I was sleeping. You know what I mean? That's what I really was hoping for out of the whole entire show was to make money, not just doing tattoos. What happens if I get in a car wreck tomorrow and I can't tattoo? If I can't tattoo I can't make fucking money. If I have some sort of fan base that still likes my art, I'm selling product that is not me physically doing it one at a time.
You branded yourself.
Yeah and I was already "branded", but I wanted to make it more mainstream. Whether I win or lose I couldn't see any downside to it. At first I did. After my first season my books dropped. I went from being busy to being slow. I was like, "What the fuck just happened?" I felt like I tarnished my career. But then, all of a sudden, it was like a light switch clicked. Just doing the finale I gained 20,000 more followers on Instagram within a day. I'm just trying to ride the wave.
Speaking of Instagram, after the finale you posted something to the effect that Spike TV picked your clothes for you for the whole season. Do you have any say in what you wore on the show?
No man. They told me to send them pictures of what I wear on a daily basis. As far as the "wife beater" goes, I have lots of tattoos and they wanted to showcase that as much as possible. Me and Mark Longenecker from Season Five, we were the most heavily tattooed people probably, but I was like, "Hey man. I'll wear a t-shirt or a cowboy shirt" and they were like, "No. You're going to be the tank-top guy." I'm like, "Whatever." It's funny seeing people on Twitter tweet, "Hey. Why don't you get a different shirt - all you wear is 'beaters' every day?" You think I really want to wear a wife beater every day? Look at my Instagram posts. When was the last time you saw me wear a wife beater on any of my own personal posts?
I've interviewed a lot of people. I think you're the only person who has drank less beer than I have. I've had a half a bottle in my lifetime. You've had even less?
Oh yeah. I mean, I made out with a pretty drunk girl last night. I don't think that counts.
No, that doesn't count, Cleen.
[laughs] She probably had enough alcohol in her to get me drunk, too.
What made you become straight edge?
My step-dad who raised me, he was never a big drinker. He kept me pretty occupied. It seemed like all my buddies who had dads that drank... we hated them. Growing up, there's the dad who sits and drinks in the garage and beats the fuck out of my buddy because he didn't like the way his shoes were tied. I was an athlete. I was always skateboarding and into BMX and it seems like I just started to hang out with straight-edge kids and I think I was fortunate that I hung out with kids that just wanted to skate and fight and go to punk rock shows. We just started this straight edge gang. Once I started tattooing when I was in high school, I went from hanging out with straight edge kids to my boss being a stoner and I hated everything about him. He was a stoner dumbass and I was eighteen. I was more of an adult than my boss. He was a stoner scumbag. I didn't look up to him. He didn't have shit. He wasted all of his money on drugs. You're a grown ass man and you don't have a car, I'm working at your shop making half of what you make and I have a brand new car and a Harley.
If you had to spend a weekend with either Dave Navarro, Oliver Peck, or Chris Nunez, who gets the call?
He skateboards and he's into motorcycles.
Tell me about your relationship with [former cast-mate] Megan Jean Morris.
Megan is a great girl. She definitely really likes me and I know that she wants to hang out and be my chick... and that's kind of hard for me because I was married for eleven years. It's hard for me to be like, "Yeah, this is my chick." She's cool. I think she's great, but I guess I'm a douche bag and I'm always on the hunt for something better. I don't know if it's because I get bored... I can't explain it, but I just hang out with whoever I want to hang out with and if there's bad days I'm out. Megan's great though. We always have fun.