Photography by Eric Isaac

Bang Bang

Tattoo Artist

| East Village

At only 29 years old, Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy is the most sought-after artist in the tattoo business— thanks, no doubt, to his work on the world’s most public canvases: celebrities. Famous limbs belonging to stars like Rihanna, Adele, Jourdan Dunn, Cara Delevingne and Justin Bieber (who Bang once tatted on a flight from Panama to NYC, 40,000 feet in the air) all bear a BB original (or several), whether it be a lion’s face (Delevigne’s finger) or a gun (RiRi’s rib cage). In fact, Bang’s art is likely the driving force behind tattoo artistry’s recent shift from “social pariah” to “designer clique” as a whole. That, and the fact that he lets his best-known clientele turn his pen right back on him— think ink originals like a crown-topped “K” by Kylie Jenner, a dove from Rita Ora and an umbrella from Rihanna (his personal favorite), all permanently emblazoned on his legs. But, just how did he prove himself the apple of Hollywood’s eye? Chronicled in his recent book My Life in Ink, the artist describes his rise from troubled childhood to store-bought tattoo kits to current fame. Here, Bang sits down with CITIPHILE to reveal his little black book on NYC.

NEIGHBORHOOD STANDBY: My go-to neighborhood spot is Mercer Kitchen (MAP IT, BOOK IT, x) because the manager of my shop used to manage the restaurant, they stay open late and I’ve tattooed there. My favorite thing to order is the crispy sushi.

COFFEE OR TEA: Tea in my kitchen because I don’t have to stand in line to wait for tea.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE RESTAURANT: It was WD-50, but it’s no longer in business— I loved it because they would do amazing takes on classic things like eggs Benedict. The chef, Wylie Dufresne is actually opening up a new restaurant so that will probably be my new favorite place.

COCKTAIL DE LA NUIT: A mezcal margarita. I crave warm weather so I think that’s [probably] why. I don’t have a bar loyalty; we are really into going out to restaurants so we usually just drink with dinner.

MUSIC PICK: I love hip-hop, but ‘90s-inspired versions— lyrical hip-hop, I guess.

BEST PEOPLE WATCHING: Downtown— [specifically] SoHo. I love sitting outside on a spring day with a drink in the neighborhood. That’s why we put our store here; it’s the area that we want to spend time in.

GUILTY PLEASURE: Empellon Cocina (*Location now closed) is awesome. My friend, Alex Stupak owns it. I’m all about loyalty. I don’t revisit the places I’m not loyal to.

FIRST THING I MISS WHEN I’M AWAY: My kids, but what I really miss about the city is that we are so spoiled here; we can get whatever we need or want at the drop of a hat.

REGULAR AT: We like to stay in and order food. My regular spot is like the corner deli by my house.

DATE NIGHT STANDBY: The strip club… just kidding. I don’t go on dates. I have daughters; I go home.

DELIVERY GO-TO: Fresh juice [like Pressed (MAP IT)].

TO GET INSPIRED: I like to drive around which isn’t normal in New York. The bridges give the best views of the city. I’ll take the long way home and that makes me the most inspired.

TO ESCAPE AND UNWIND: My shop manager, Matt has lived in the area for awhile so he leads the way to [various] L.E.S. bars.

GO-TO GETAWAY: I go to Orlando all the time. I’m taking the shop’s staff and some friends tomorrow to get drunk and ride the kid rides at Universal Studios.

CLOSET CHECK: The clothes that make me feel comfortable are most interesting to me. My favorite place to shop is Y-3 (MAP IT, x)— it’s a dope designer that collaborated with Adidas. I guess I could define it as urban sportswear; it’s definitely my favorite brand.

BEST HOME DÉCOR: The shop is modern minimalism. When we did our shopping, we went to a few places and bought a few things, but we actually built the shop from scratch. The only thing we really bought was two chairs at the front desk. Everything else we created. On the home side, mine is like a nine year-old’s bedroom. I don’t see much reason to grow up too quickly. I have a lot of trinkets and memorabilia. The art on my walls consists of a Super Bowl ticket signed by Katy Perry and a basketball from LeBron, then pictures of my kids and their accomplishments. The furniture is secondary to me. I decorate for nostalgia.

GROOMING BLACK BOOK: Yusef Williams (x) is one of my dear friends and a client. He doesn’t do my hair, but he does [do] Rihanna’s.

FIT PICK: I play basketball three to five times a-week with anyone from teenagers to old men. Sometimes, I play with a bunch of lawyers that rent out the court.

ULTIMATE NY MOMENT: Getting s*** on by a bird. I remember the first time it happened; I was not thrilled. By the third time, I was like, “Ok, that again.” They say it’s good luck though so I’ll take it. 

Clockwise from L to R;

Clockwise from L to R: First Row:  Y-3 Shoes; Crispy sushi from Mercer Kitchen; Margaritas at Empellon Cocina; Bang Bang Tattoo Parlor  Second Row: Fish tacos from Empellon Cocina; Tea at home; Streets of SoHo; Pressed Juicery



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