Ink Master exclusive: Classic Trilogy Tattoo on elimination, regrets and nerds

Ink Master Season 9When we first saw Classic Trilogy tattoo show up on Ink Master season 9 we were so excited because these were two guys that were speaking our language: Nerd. We have never really seen personalities like theirs before on this show and we’ve been reviewing this show since season 1, so it was easy for us to want to root for them since they are one of us (one of us, one of us!).

Once we had a chance to speak to Thom Bulman and Derek Zielinski from Classic Trilogy our first instinct was to ask them about monster movies, comic books or if they think console games are superior to PC games – which is a debate we have on the regular over here. (For the record on where I stand – give me World of Warcraft or give me death!) Instead, we decided to be professionals and ask them about their time on the show, the elimination and whether or not they would ever return to play Ink Master a second time.

CarterMatt: What made you want to be a part of this season?

Thom Bulman: I know Derek and I both wanted to show the public what Classic Trilogy can do and to show what a good clean tattoo looks like, how to talk to people with respect and be professional (and of course we’re nerds so we had to have some nerdy elements in there too). I think people really related and connected to what we were doing and got it.

Derek Zielinski: I personally enjoy a good competition. Of all the competitive things I have done growing up, (soccer, baseball & bmx,) tattooing was something I had never entered into a competition setting. Pair that up with the idea of being nationally televised and the opportunity is amazing. Why not take a chance ya know?

It felt like there was a good debate as to who would be going home this week. How concerned were you when you were in the bottom three?

Thom: Honestly, when we were down in the bottom we didn’t think we were going home. We had been down to the bottom before and we felt like we were just placeholders because there’s always just two shops that were worse than us. We knew that our tattoos were a little bit different, but we also thought they were good tattoos whereas the other teams were just horrible alien kitty face baby and I don’t even know what the other thing was.

The thing that I regret most (and not saying when I was down there) was that the judges always said you couldn’t use report cards, because there’s always new people coming in, but this is the first time that it was three OG teams in the bottom, so report cards could have came into play and guess what… Allegory would have gone home since they had four times down there. That was our third, plus how many times have they been ripped apart for their application, shaky sketchy lines, blowouts and unfinished [work]. If you do the math –  if Oliver didn’t come back Allegory would have gone home, not us and I think a lot of people are really upset that Allegory stayed because that tattoo was inexcusable….and I agree.

Derek: Being in the bottom three wasn’t a complete surprise. Although I do not agree that we had the worst tattoos of the bottom teams, I knew we were definitely considered especially after the jury of peers that day.

How big of an imp­act did the “cool ki­ds alliance” ultimately have on the competition in your mind?

Derek: I think it played a factor in the jury of peers and out of shop conversations, but during tattoo time I don’t think it worked as well as they were hoping. Each time an alliance team won skull pick, they didn’t really hand them out with a great strategy, so it didn’t really phase us. We still were able to produce quality tattoos.

Do you think this episode would’ve be­en different if you guys had won the Fla­sh Challenge?

Derek: Had we won the skull pic that day, I would have chosen a different tattoo to create over the one we received. I think the gentleman tattoo that Empire State Tattoo created was the best option. It had a real clean reference and translated well to a tattoo. I don’t believe ours was the worst either. There were plenty of others that day I am happy I didn’t receive, especially in a competition setting.

What were the tattoos that you guys were the most proud of this season?

Thom: Honestly, every tattoo we did I’d be proud of if that tattoo came out of my shop even the unfinished one on the battle scene. I talked to that guy, he still loves it and is finishing it up soon. I’m happy with everything we did. We always did clean tattoos and our canvases were happy and that’s what we’re happy about.

Derek: Of all the tattoos we were able to create, I was the happiest with the Creation of Adam. It was the first time in the competition that I took the lead for the elimination tattoo. The piece turned out great and everyone was able to see us break away from the illustrative things we were kind of doing.

I also enjoyed the Flash Challenge tattoos for the Permanent Scars. Tattooing the Insulin Pump for our canvas was super fun and I was honored to be a part of that process for him. I do a lot of that type of tattooing outside of the show, so I felt right at home during that one.

Would you want to come back and compete on your own in the future?

Thom: I would totally come back. I felt there was a little bit of favoritism towards certain people, but now I kind of know how the games played. Now I’m the veteran, so I know what they need to see. I would come back and I would just crush it.

Derek: I would be happy to have another round at this competition. I believe if I was given the opportunity to return as a solo artist, I would be able to show much more versatility and quite possibly take it all the way to the finale. Working in teams was fun, but by myself, I only have to answer to me. Haha.

How can people reach out for a tattoo appointment?

Thom: People can email me at [email protected] and check out my work on Instagram at Bulman_tattoos and Classic Trilogy Tattoos on Instagram.

Derek: Anyone looking to get tattooed can check out my work and contact me online:, Facebook or Instagram. Or they can contact me at my shop: Glass Heart Tattoo, 30 E Carey St, Plains Pa 18705


It was a thrill for us to talk to Classic Trilogy tattoo, so we want to give them a special thanks for their time. It was a real disappointment to see them go and hope we get a chance to see them come back as veterans some day.

If you are looking for more scoop on Ink Master season 9 (including reviews, previews and interviews) then head on over to the link here and let us be your guide. (Photo: Spike)

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