In Conversation with Andrea Daniel

Posted by Prarthana Nandini Venunathan on

Andrea Daniel

Andrea Daniel is a woman of many talents; truly. From art, and being a drummer to acting and working a full-time job, there is much that she is passionate about. With both her career as a tattoo artist and a drummer beginning almost 25 years ago, the experiences she’s had and the knowledge she possesses are incredible. I was fortunate to be able to sit down and have a wonderful conversation with her about her work, her inspirations and her journey. 

2020 has been a trying time for many but Andrea has focused on keeping herself busy even during lockdown. 

“It has been kind of up and down as it has with everyone really.  I’ve just been doing what I can to stay sane but my tattooing work has had to stop. So I’ve been drumming a lot more now, not with the band but I try to keep that up. I’ve also just started working for Direct Merch which has been really, really good to keep me busy. Getting out and going for walks has been helpful as well.”

An extremely talented and popular tattoo artist based in Melbourne, she has dedicated close to 20 years to the art. Andrea talked about where her journey as a tattoo artist began. 

“Thank you so much! I’ve been tattooing for about twenty years now, so a little while. I started piercing first, in a tattoo shop, and working for a piercing supply company where I was also doing mail order. After that, one of the tattooists left and my boss asked if I wanted to do an apprenticeship tattooing and that's where it began. I did do a bit of drawing but I was kind of more into the music side of things back then. When this came up, I decided to take a different path and went back to art school. I used to play drums before I started tattooing and unfortunately I kind of took a break from that for many many years. I wish I had kept playing but tattooing just took too much of my time and energy.” 

Andrea Daniel

As she talked about this shift, I also asked her what challenges she faced along the way having made this decision. 

“It was hard at first because I couldn’t play drums as much as I was before; tattooing took up all of my time. But I also  think one of the biggest things was, when I started out, there weren’t really a lot of women in the tattoo industry, and quite often I would just get mistaken  as the receptionist or the shop girl which was kind of annoying. After a point though, you just learn to ignore it.  There were a lot of changes over the years after that, the most obvious one being social media which has been a huge influence and tool to post your work and show people what you can do. We didn’t have that when I first started but it’s been great to see the growth and popularity increase in that time.”

With a very distinct tattooing approach using bold lines and colours, we also talked about her influences and some of the styles that she enjoys incorporating into her own pieces. 

“There are always changes in what’s popular at a certain time. There was a big tribal phase back in the 90’s , Japanese style work has always been very popular and I think that it is a very timeless style which is cool. I’ve done a lot of that style of work but one of my favourite styles to do is the American traditional sort of stuff but with a bit of a quirky edge; very bold lines and colours, a lot of black. I went through a bit of a geometric phase too as I like to incorporate a lot of geometric shapes into my designs. I love doing flowers and birds too but with a bit of a geometric element in there. 

However, the silver lining in having time off from tattooing is that she has been spending more time on the kit, her passion for drums beginning almost 25 years ago with a few gigs, lessons and the desire to jam! 

“I’ve been out of tattoo work since about March due to Covid, and I think my time and energy has sort of moved to music now that I haven't been able to tattoo. I've just been playing a lot more drums and that’s kind of taken the focus for me at the moment.  I started playing  roughly 25 years ago. The friends I was hanging out with at the time and I were into music and seeing bands etc. One of them played guitar and the other played bass and they needed a drummer so we could jam. So I started taking lessons and I was playing for a few years but when I started tattooing I stopped playing, So about 5 years ago, I started again. I wish I had never stopped but you know, kind of trying to make up for it now!  I’m playing in three bands which is awesome. You’ve just got to look at the positives, I guess!” 

After what was quite a long gap between playing, Andrea joined sludge metal band Burn The Hostages a few years ago which was a great dive back into her drumming career, one that also led to her having the opportunity to open for none other than doom lords Eyehategod. 

Burn The Hostages

“We play predominantly sludge metal. I first joined Burn the Hostages with Jason Fuller from Blood Duster, Aaron Osbourne and Rowan from Extortion. It's just sludgey doom mainly inspired  by bands like Eyehategod; all of us love Eyehategod, they are such a great band. We actually got to support them when they came out here last year so that was definitely the highlight of my drumming career. It was definitely very nerve racking - but after a few shows you start to kind of get a hold on the nerves and the fun just takes over,it's so addictive. I love playing live, I miss it.” 

She also joined Religious Observance not too long ago, as well as began working on some new projects which we’ll hopefully hear more about in the near future.

Religious Observance

“I had been playing in that band for a while when a friend’s band Religious Observance, who I really like as well said they were looking for a drummer. When the vocalist asked me if I’d be interested in playing with them, I jumped at the chance because they’re awesome! Then I started jamming with other guys in new bands so hopefully we can jam soon once the restrictions ease.  At the moment, we’ve been working on some new music. I’ve got a couple of new songs for Burn The Hostages that I've been working on as well as with the new bands.”

I’m always curious as to what sort of rituals and practices artists have in place for themselves and how they keep themselves motivated. Andrea delved deeper into her love for percussion and how she keeps focused on her practice. 

“It’s not always easy. Sometimes I might sit at the kit and get stuck on what to play but if that happens, I just put on some music and jam along with that and it can spark some ideas and then I kind of just go from there. If Dave (Haley) is around, he’s also my drum teacher - I’d just ask him for something to practice! I draw inspiration from different people; there’s just too many to mention! Bryan Fajardo from Noisear, George Kollias from Nile, Sheela E are all amazing. Recently I had my attention drawn to a sixteen year old drummer, and oh my god man, she is incredible. Like for sixteen? She’s amazing! She plays metal! Check her out, her name is Delaney and her Instagram handle is @del_jay123. Super inspiring.”

Andrea Daniel

An avid listener of underground music, she also shared some of the bands that she’s been spinning recently. 

“So I’ve been listening to a heap of sludge metal and a little bit of grind. Just recently, I’ve started working on my record collection again, buying a bunch of records, sitting at home bored with a credit card is like a bad combination. It’s nice when they arrive in the mail. Some bands I’ve been listening to at the moment are Eyehategod of course, then there’s Dystopia who is one of my favourite bands. Seven Foot Spleen, Fistula, Corrupted are a few other really great bands. I do enjoy a bit of stoner/doom stuff too like Sleep and Om is one of my favourite bands as well. Om is one of the bands that I really need to see live one day; them and Electric Wizard. If I miss out on seeing them live , I will  be shattered. I was actually in the UK when they came to Tassie which is funny because they’re from the UK and I thought I might get to see them when I was there.”

That sparked a new direction in conversation as I learnt that Andrea has travelled extensively, bringing together her love of seeing the world,  tattooing and for some of the best music festivals. 

“I have a friend who has a tattoo shop in Wales so I was working there for about a month a couple of years ago. After that  I did a bit of travelling and went to see a few different festivals over there. I went to Desertfest in London and then Hellfest for the second time. I love travelling, it’s one of my favourite things to do. I always incorporate a festival into my travel plans. Vegas was pretty awesome mainly for the Psycho Las Vegas Festival; it’s definitely one of the best festivals I’ve been to!”

“I didn’t get to go around there too much in France, but I would like to go back though. Switzerland was really cool too and I found that it was pretty laidback - the German part was a little more welcoming than the French part; it’s so beautiful . I went to Zurich, Lucerne and Lausanne. Then we went to the mountains - I have a tattooist friend there so we went to visit him and it’s literally like a postcard everywhere you look. There’s cows with bells around their necks - it really is like a  fairytale. I ate so much chocolate - it was the best!”

Exchanging travel stories, we stumbled upon an unusual thing that we both had a fascination for: abandoned amusement parks. With the park I visited in Myanmar being one of my favourite travel experiences as well as one of the creepiest, Andrea excitedly told me about her abandoned park adventure in Germany. 

“That’s crazy! When I was in Germany, we went to explore this abandoned amusement Park and I loved it. It was a really interesting place and definitely one of the highlights. I love finding stuff like that; places that are a little bit different. We got to climb a roller coaster too. I think we spent a good couple of hours wandering around until we got caught by security because we managed to sneak our way in through a hole in the fence. They let us go but we did manage to get some photos! There’s actually a German Vampire movie ‘Wir Sind Die Nacht’  that was filmed in this amusement park and a couple of the rides are featured in that movie.” 

Speaking of movies, this wonderfully talented woman is also very quietly an actress, another creative path she has been walking down for the last decade, her primary role being that of an inmate on television show ‘Wentworth’. 

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that haha! I first got into that because a friend of mine was working for the art department of ‘City Homicide’ and they needed some artwork done for an episode. So she asked if I could do a portrait so I did that for her and then she asked if I wanted to be an extra on the episode. I thought I’d give it a go; I did it and it was heaps of fun. After that, I just found an agent and started doing ‘extra’ work. It's a heap of fun and very interesting. The biggest job that I’ve had is a role on ‘Wentworth’ a prison show. I’ve been on that since Season 1. We’re on Season 9  now and we’re just about to wrap it up, this is the final season. Nine years I’ve been doing that show and it’s been so much fun. I’m an inmate on the show so there’s a lot of fight scenes, getting into trouble, a lot of yelling!”

As she spoke to me in a very calm demeanour, I wondered out loud to her as to whether playing the role of an inmate was ever challenging at times or more therapeutic, given the sheer intensity of the character. 

“It’s actually been great. I am like that on the surface but it’s always great when we get to do a scene where we just have to yell abuse, hurl abuse at another inmate - it’s just like a release and any pent up anger and aggression just comes out! It’s a healthy way of getting it all out and you’re adopting a character anyway so it’s not actually me - it’s someone else. I direct all that energy into the character.”

Is acting destined to be part of her future? Possibly!

“I wouldn’t say no but I’ve never really thought about it to be honest. I haven’t really ever actively pursued an acting career - I’ve just done it for some fun and it has been interesting because I got some set dressing work out of it which is in the art department of a show. They have to make a set look a certain way. I tattooed the set dresser of Wentworth and he ended up getting me some work on a couple of other shows which was really cool, because you get to see another side of the television industry. But maybe!” 

As the saying goes - Jack of all trades, Master of none but Andrea is certainly a Master of many different skills. I have great respect for those that follow their heart, choosing the paths that bring them challenges, joy and contentment. She reflected on the different parts of her journey, sharing the challenges that are always present but how it is worth it in the end.

“I guess for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been creative in one way or another. It’s what drives me and makes me happy. As long as I’m creating something, be it music, visual arts, acting or something like that, it’s my passion. “I’ve never really liked the whole gender specification thing. I’m a drummer, I’m an artist. Sometimes I think people feel the need to say female drummer or female artist, female tattooer and I don’t really see how that matters. I don’t want to be judged on that, I want to be judged on my skills and abilities or how good I am at something. I guess I just try and focus on doing the best that I can on what I do.”

Andrea Daniel
Check out Andrea's bands Burn The Hostages here and Religious Observance here.

Follow Andrea on Instagram here to check out her incredible tattoo work!

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