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Writer for Inkspired Magazine

Vanessa Heart interviews Mike Roche of TSOL
InkSpired Magazine TSOL Mike Roche Vanessa-Heart

Mike Roche of T.S.O.L
By Vanessa Heart (

T.S.O.L (True Sounds Of Liberty) is one of Southern California’s original punk bands emerging from Huntington Beach and Long Beach in 1978. Mike Roche is the band’s longest running original member and when he’s not ripping up the bass for T.S.O.L, he is tattooing the masses in Las Vegas at Hart & Huntington’s Tattoo.

Mike has been tattooing for about 12 years now, he contributes his start in the industry to his tattoo mentor and dear friend Mark Mahoney whom is a world famous black & gray artist. 

His passion for the arts extends into all aspects of his lifestyle ranging from inked artwork to musical contributions. He considers himself a very blessed man to do two of the things he loves for a living. His enthusiasm for the inked arts lies in a very spiritual sort of philosophy of appreciating the permanence of tattoos.He considers his style to be bold; mixed with traditional line qualities and tattoo sensibilities whether it is Asian or American. He bides his time in between two of America’s infamous cities. He resides in Los Angeles and makes the weekly commute to Sin City to create artwork in the flesh of fans.

One of the aspects I love would be the permanence of it that modern society lacks. Ya know, how somebody if they have their word, their word is their word. I mean those kinds of things are farther and fewer in between. I mean you used to get married and in theory you were married for a long time. Everything is disposable in our modern society. Ya know, when you saw somebody tattooed when I was young you were like, ‘WOW! He is full sleeved! That’s crazy.’ Because it was such a commitment and that appealed to me.”

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Mike has watched tattoo culture change quite a bit through his early punk days to the modern world of social tattoo acceptance. As Mike put it, “A lot of us didn’t get into it cause it was so popular and I was not one of the first ones by any means back then. There were all the old guys who were tattooed. And it was even harder then. You know back then you were either a gangster, a prostitute or a sailor if you had tattoos to my understanding.”

Things have changed quite a bit since the early tattoo pioneers. Now tattoos are a widely accepted symbol of beauty and sex appeal. In our conversation, Mike had some prolific opinions on women and tattoos. As a woman, we are used to pain at the price of beauty and Mike eloquently related this to tattoos. As Mike stated, “It’s just everywhere, it’s really blowing up and girls are really hip to it. I mean, women understand pain for beauty. It’s not a foreign concept. Plucking, waxing, lasering… ‘I mean it hurts a little but that’s crazy good, it’s beautiful’. I mean you’ve been through it already. So something hurting to look prettier is not a stretch. Girls have been going through it for so long.”

Mike makes his living through his physical artwork but he considers his musical contributions to be what nourishes his soul. He’s been playing music for the majority of his life. He has been through two different versions of T.S.O.L. spanning from 1978-1990 which were two separate bands with different musical styles but the name may have confused some of the fan base.

As Mike puts it, The heavier rock form of the band was separate from the punk form of the band. There were two separate sets of members. So the early band(punk) ended after the album ‘Beneath the Shadows’ which was in 1983. We had done an EP, LP, a 7-inch, ‘Beneath the Shadows’ and then we were recording another record when we broke up and disbanded.

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Then Ron and I kept writing and playing but we didn’t know what to do, so we found a new drummer and singer and we decided to continue and keep the name. Now, hindsight being 20/20 that was probably a mistake cause it confused our fan base. The punkers thought we were rock and the rockers thought we were punk. So that would have been 1985 or ’86 and so that would have been two completely different bands with completely different members, vocalists, totally different sounds and the music was completely different even though it had the same name. We may have played a few of the same songs sometimes but mostly it was brand new stuff. Later it was  thought of as hard rock or a post-punk type thing.”

After several tumultuous years, the original members of T.S.O.L (the punk rock line up) Mike, Ron and Jack reunited in the late 90s. They hit the stage again in a commemorative art exhibit honoring the legendary punk rock bands of Los Angeles. Soon after they were offered a headlining tour and they have been making albums and playing shows for the past decade and a half. With a new album under way and a show this summer at BYO Records Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas, T.S.O.L. is still a throbbing heartbeat for their punk rock fans all around the world.

When weaving through art and music you start to wonder which are truly transient and which are permanent. Sound is transient but will live on in the recordings long after we do and our tattoos being a permanent piece of our structure will go with us. In this, I encourage you to tattoo your soul with the sounds of T.S.O.L. and write your story in your skin.

Check out this article at Inkspired Magazine, Page 100InkSpired Magazine Mike Roche Vanessa-Heart 4 TSOL

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