Ink Master interview: Jimmy Snaz on his season 13 return, pre-game mindset

Jimmy Snaz

Ink Master season 13 is returning on the Paramount Network Tuesday, January 6, and this season’s got epic potential from the get-go. The subtitle is Turf War, and you’re going to see artists compete based on what region of the country they’re from. Each team also has a returning artist, and for the East Coast team, that just so happens to be Jimmy Snaz. He appeared on season 11 alongside his brother Kyle Mackenzie, and left at a point where it felt like there was more to give.

Luckily, Jimmy’s now back to give this show another go, and to showcase everything that he’s learned since that initial elimination. For him, entering this season was a chance to show how far he’s come, how hard he’s worked, and also fight for glory and, in his words, redemption. Check out his story courtesy of the interview below, alongside how he perceives the competition and how he plans to play this go-around.

CarterMatt – Back when you were eliminated during season 11, was coming back something that was on your mind?

Jimmy Snaz – When I got eliminated the first time, I was going through a mix of emotions. I never saw something like Ink Master happening to someone like me. I was kind of blown away that I got to be a part of the process, so I definitely absorbed all of that.

At the same time, it was really, really hard. It was probably the hardest thing I ever put myself through other than overcoming personal stuff like addiction. I definitely learned a lot about himself, and I wasn’t even thinking about getting another shot. I didn’t think like that initially.

But I definitely went home and honed my craft. Before Ink Master, I spent a lot of years tattooing where I didn’t really have a proper mentor. I learned so much about tattooing from being a part of the competition. I was open to [returning], but was just happy that I had the chance in the first place.

The first time you were on, it was one of the most emotional runs out there. You were there with your brother, and you had to sort of balance that relationship with also trying to do well on the show. Did you feel like this time you could just go in and focus on yourself, without any of the personal stuff from outside the show?

I can definitely say going back into it this time, I had more expectations of myself as a competitor. That was my main focus. The first time I was like ‘I can’t believe I’m here’ — it was almost like a tattoo summer camp, you know? You were being judged on the work you’re putting out and I took that home and got better.

This time, I had the stress that I put on myself. The first time, I was just trying to navigate the competition and see where it took me.

The first few minutes of the season are online and in that, it actually feels like you are the big brother to some of the newcomers on your ‘team’. Did you feel yourself being pushed into a leadership position?

For sure. I think [how it impacts you] depends on how the returning artist takes it. Some may look at that and let their ego get the best of them — ‘I’m the team leader so everyone must listen to me.’ I chose this season to not really take that role. I’m also the type of person where if I see someone struggling, I do what I can to help them. I think that comes from my experience of overcoming obstacles in my life — it made me the type of person I am. I want to see everyone succeed, especially if you’re on my team.

Growing up, my friends were my family. Once you’re put on a team with me, I’m going to be loyal and I’m going to try to help you. I’m going to help to get you the best experience possible.

That’s a kind way to look at it, especially when this show has gotten more and more strategy-based over time. Do you focus on gameplay, or just put that part of the show to the side and focus on yourself and these relationships?

I’m loyal and diehard for my friends — that’s what it comes down to. But, if you’re coming after my friends or you’re trying to get my friends eliminated, I’m gonna do what I have to do to get you gone. It’s not like I take that role with everyone in the competition. I’m just going to look after my own.

How do you prepare for a show like this? I’m no tattooer, but I imagine it’s hard to study for a show like this when you don’t know what’s being thrown at you. 

It comes down to confidence. This will be 13th year of tattooing and really, a lot of people just put me in a box. I hate boxes (laughs). Every time someone has put me in a box, I’ve broken out and done something different. When I first started tattooing I was really into black-and-gray and realism, and I did that in a lot of my early years. I think it’s safe to say that I have a lot of experience with a bunch of different styles.

This time around I know what the judges are looking for, and I’m going to spread that information around throughout my team and try to help them. But, at the same time, I’ve been able to reflect on myself and my career. I know what I’m good at doing. I’m trying to rely on that, and rely on my strengths regardless of the style.

I think once you figure out what the judges are looking for when it comes to how to apply a tattoo the right way, it comes down to giving them what they need while meeting the challenge but also putting out work that you like. There’s definitely preparation with different styles you should do before going on a show like Ink Master, but what it comes down to, for me, is knowing yourself and what you can produce. It’s like when a customer comes into a shop and has some crazy idea — it’s not about telling them ‘I can’t do that.’ It’s about telling them what you can do that is similar to what they want.

There are two things that strike me as big challenges on this show — the time restraints and trying to deal with a difficult canvas, someone who’s saying they want some really difficult design in a tough spot like the ribs.

Typically at home I’m a pretty fast tattooer, but when you put yourself in a competition like Ink Master, you need to know how to manage your time well. That doesn’t necessarily mean going fast; it means working efficiently. [With the canvas,] it’s confidence. They don’t want a bad tattoo! I’m trying to help you, so let’s do something we both agree on. But, you do need to get out of your element sometimes because that’s where greatness comes from.

With tough requests, sometimes it’s important to not get in your own head and make a mountain out of it. You can’t just think ‘this is something I can’t do.’ It’s like a puzzle and you need to figure out how to overcome it. How do I make this work? That’s your job in your everyday home life, so it’s no different on a show like Ink Master.

Let’s talk big-picture for a moment. For people who liked you the first time around, and without giving anything away, what can they expect from you here?

I’m a different tattooer than the first time around. I appreciate that people are rooting for me, but I don’t look back at season 11 with any regrets. I don’t think it was my time. I think it was more of a learning experience and I took everything from that. This time, I have more confidence and more knowledge — I was studying to make myself a better artist. I’ve only grown as a person and an artist [since the first time], and hopefully this is my time. I’ve put everything I have into this.

If you know of me and my backstory, this is the ultimate example of redemption. I hope people can take away from it that if you persevere, no matter how many times you get knocked down, you can overcome those obstacles. You can be the person you want to be. For this season, my goal is to persevere and overcome who I used to be. Everyone deserves a second chance, you know?

Are you rooting for Jimmy Snaz on Ink Master season 13?

Be sure to share now in the comments! Stick around, as we’ll have more coverage all season. (Photo: Paramount Network.)

This article was written by Jessica Carter. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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