Six Feet Under’s Corey Miller Sits Down to Share His Life From Behind the Gun and on the Road
To the untrained eye, Corey Miller is only a TV star who refused to mold to the scripted reality of LA Ink. Scratch a little past the surface and you’ll quickly find a genuine, down-to-earth, cool guy who has used his talents and artistic abilities for more than 30 years to establish himself as one of the top artists in the country. On top of that, Corey has been a true to the red, white, and blue rider with his first bike being a rigid Shovelhead. We took some time to sit down with Corey to find out a little bit more than what was portrayed on TV.
HB: How long have you been riding motorcycles?
CM: I got my first motorcycle, a YZ80, when I was 10 years old. I used to go ripping around the hills as a kid. I got my first Harley when I was 20. It was a ’57 rigid frame with a ’73 Shovelhead in it. It was a Frankenstein with different color paints when I got it. I went to these guys who I knew built bikes out of their garage and tattooed them for it. It was a badass frame with a ’57 straight leg. At the time I was working at my first tattoo job at 20 years in El Monte [California] at George’s Tattoo Gallery. I had that bike for quite a few years until my first kid was on the way, and for some reason, I got nervous and got rid of it. I had my kid, moved forward, and got ahold of another bike, a ’79 FLH. I really missed my old chopper though.
HB: Most artists make their mark for certain tattoos. Which of yours comes up the most?
CM: In the late ’90s I met Jessie James and I ended up building one of the coolest things I have. I did a little bit more artwork for him for some paintings and we traded. I tattooed a $100 bill on Jessie’s back for a West Coast Chopper CFL frame before he was even putting the spider web gussets on the neck. He did the tanks and fenders and a bunch of custom stuff for it. It’s not a full-blown West Coast Chopper, but Jessie hand-pounded my tank and fenders. That bike turned out to be a project for about three years. I tattooed and painted for everything on it. I ended up doing shirt designs for Ron Simms, a bike builder from Northern California, who I traded for a lot of my Performance Machine stuff. I did a painting for the whole frontend from another friend of mine who did bike parts.
HB: Sounds like you’ve been on trading for quite some time …
CM: Tattooing has always been some sort of a barter system. Working out of the house if someone brought some beer over, I’d tattoo for it. I’ve also tattooed for a lot of bike parts. I tattooed for a bunch of stuff on that bike, like tuning up the motor. I even tattooed for a case of frozen chicken once. [Laughs]
HB: How did you bring your motorcycle experience to TV?
CM: When LA Ink was coming out, it had to do this thing with pinups. They didn’t know what to do with me, so I said, “Hey I got a motorcycle.” My ’79 FLH is actually in the intro of LA Ink. I did tell them “F-you,” when they told me to put on a Marlon Brando cap. That wasn’t happening. I wasn’t going to look like one of the village people. [Laughs]
HB: How has being on TV changed your life?
CM: The difference of becoming popular is like I recently did a deal with Bell Helmets. That right there is a repercussion of being on TV. What was really cool is when Bell Helmets talked to me about doing artwork, they already knew who I was, so that’s awesome. That’s what TV basically does. It’s a catalyst to more things. I’m a cool F-er on the show [laughs] and they know that I ride. That’s a tangle example of media and fame and knowing that you ride motorcycles.
HB: Tell us more about the Bell Helmets collaboration?
CM: A buddy of mine that I’ve tattooed for years works for a marketing agency that handles Bell and this new helmet they were getting ready to launch called the Rogue. When he approached me, and brought it up to the people at Bell, and I ended up doing some artwork for it. It’s really cool too. It looks like a SWAT helmet and should come with an assault rifle. [Laughs] It’s more like an open-face helmet, but at night if you want to keep your face cool or rob a bank or liquor store, you just click on the front of the mask. There goes my deal. [Laughs] If it were some big flashy space helmet, I wouldn’t have done it. It looks cool. Anybody that sees it will want it.
Luckily I didn’t have to pose on a motorcycle while being pulled behind a truck. They came to my shop and filmed me tattooing all day and had us go for a motorcycle ride. Then we came back to the shop and I jammed with my band. They made this cool little lifestyle video. That happened from being famous on TV and the fact that I ride motorcycles. I can’t imagine that going any better. There’s nothing fake. That is a day in my life. Except for riding in LA. I wouldn’t ride in LA for fun. [Laughs]
HB: Sounds like you’ve appreciated every door that’s been opened for you.
CM: Even this interview is out of my realm. I’ve been in tattoo publications for years and years and a little bit of music stuff. This will be my first time in a cool, reputable motorcycle magazine. My motorcycles have never been published. I’m stoked about that.
“Tattooing has always been some sort of a barter system. I’ve tattooed for a lot of bike parts.”
“I did tell them ‘F-you,’ when they told me to put on a Marlon Brando cap. That wasn’t happening. I wasn’t going to look like one of the village people.”