Shannon Perry, photographed in her shop, Valentine's Tattoo Co., on Capitol Hill. PHOTO BY KELLY O / QUESTIONS BY SEAN NELSON


Given all your creative pursuits, is there one you consider your main thing?

Music is my favorite. I'm lucky that I get to do my second favorite [tattoo artist] as a job. You wouldn't want to do your favorite for a job. It would ruin it.

There's no delicate way to ask this: Is it true that you use nail polish to blacken your tooth?

It used to be nail polish, but my mother was worried about the formaldehyde. And I also worried that it was causing gum decay. This is better—it's wax.

Your look has become increasingly elaborate and striking, but you also seem a bit anxious about being stared at when you're not onstage. Are all your tattoos and wild curls meant as a mask or a magnet?

Both, actually. I feel guilty for being a visual affront to people, especially if I'm in some other part of town. But I made myself look like this out of a need to express myself exactly how I need to express myself. I try to feel compassion and patience for people, save for when they try to touch you... I have to do these things because I feel uncomfortable on earth. I'm sort of screaming into the void. recommended