Mark Longenecker came off as incredibly likable on season five of Spike TV's Ink Master. He seems to be even nicer in person. I see Mark at every tattoo convention I go to, but I'd never interviewed him until recently.
Dan Lorenzo: What age did you move out of New Jersey?
Mark Longenecker: I left Dirty Jerz the summer after high school to go to the Savannah College of Art And Design for a degree in Graphic Design. Savannah is an amazing town to live in and study art. I raged at every party and still got my degree!
If you didn't grow up on the Jersey shore, do you think you would have still drifted towards skateboarding and surfing?
I didn't exactly grow up "down the shore". I grew up in the middle of south Jersey in a town called Medford. I was about 40 minutes from Philly where I would skate around Love Park and all down town. I would hit up places like Margate, Ocean City, Atlantic City, and Long Beach Island when I would go to the Jersey shore and surf. I was a pretty good skater, but never was that good of a surfer back then. After high school, a bunch of friends and I got a shore house in Margate for the summer. I remember the beginning of the summer asking my one roommate how long it would take me to learn to do some turns on the wave like him. He said I would be shredding by the end of the summer. I surfed as much as I could that summer and could only ride the wave straight in with a kook stance the whole time.
I just got back from Key West. How long did you live there?
Key West is one of the best places in America. It's the closest that you can feel like you are on an island in the Caribbean and still be in America. In the 80s, they tried to succeed from the nation and actually be its own self governing community. It's where Jimmy Buffett got famous and he was the reason that I ended up down there.
My first job down there was doing design work for Jimmy. I ended up doing all sorts of different designs and one that is still being used today for his recording studio called Shrimp Boat Sound. I remember sitting at the bar and bragging to one of my roommates that I did the logo that was on the bartender's shirt. He told the bartender to pull up the sleeve and show off the tattoo that he did on his arm. He one upped me and it was that moment that I realized permanent art on people's bodies were way cooler than logos.
Looking back at your INK MASTER experience, do you have any regrets?
I regret being way too nice to the "canvases" as they call them... because they are sure not paying clients. I had a lot of people that were pretty hard to work with and my customer service skills always kicked in. I always found myself doing everything to make the canvas happy and not the judges. The whole experience was super stressful and way harder than I expected. I am proud of how far I made it, but if I could do it over again I would have a new approach to my canvases to try to secure more wins.
My wife and I love the fact that you always look so happy. Is it hard to maintain your happiness when the world has so many crazy negative aspects to it?
It was hard to stay positive on the show. There is a lot of head games, smack talking, and negative energy. I made a promise to myself to always handle myself with dignity and not have a break down, freak out, or cry on national television. I wanted to have a good "game face" while I was there. When I watch it I see a very tired, stressed out version of myself most of the time. But as far as staying happy in the real world, it all has to do with the environment and people you put yourself around. I love my girlfriend, my dogs, my friends/employees, my studio and I really love living in Cocoa Beach, Florida... so it's easy to stay happy.
I know you like to DJ and you love reggae, right? Did you ever like any heavy metal bands?
Metal was never really my vibe. When I was a little skate rat in high school, I loved punk and hardcore but never quite made that metal cross over. My high school was very "clicky" - you really couldn't be both a skate rat and a metal head. However, I can say I have loved reggae all my life. I have a huge vinyl collection of reggae at my house that I DJ with.
What brand machine do you use most often?
I collect a lot, I don't stick to one....but lately I've been using my Josh Ford, Infinite and Deluxe Irons.
What about ink?
I'm sponsored by Fusion.
Where do you envision yourself ten years from now?
I am just gonna keep pushing my shop and my name in the tattoo industry. If you lose focus on tattooing, it is easy to get forgotten about. I have been going strong for 22 years now and I am not slowing down anytime soon. In the future I want to have more of my designs on clothing, lots of award winning, large scale tattoos under my belt, and maybe even own a record store.
See more of Mark's work on his Instagram page @MarkLongenecker