AN INTERVIEW WITH SADSTAB
As a fan of music, we’re constantly trying to find ways to live through the music that we love and share unique experiences with these artists whose music has had an impact on our lives. Whether it just be by going to a show or taking photos of them. We live for those moments where we get a chance to get closer with our favourites and share a memory with them, even if it means giving them a tattoo.
Say hello to Fion Liu aka Sad Stab, is a Toronto born visual artist who is moving away from the canvas and putting her art onto people's bodies, but not just anybody. She’s on a quest to ‘poke’ some of her favs and has already left her mark on bands like Waxahatchee, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Whitney and more.
Without a single tattoo on her body (due to a skin condition) and no formal teachings, sadstab has seamlessly breathed new life into her illustrations and has allowed herself to not be constrained to one medium. What started off as a simple venture into the world of tattooing has now led her to giving over 600 ‘pokes’ to fans of her work and various different artists that have made their way through Toronto.
We got a chance to visit her studio/apartment to sit down and talk about how she got started and her highlights so far.
STARTING FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU WERE INTRODUCED TO TATTOOS?
I think it really all started with painting. Every tattoo artist started with some sort of medium first and for me it started with painting, where my chaotic mind would create ideas on canvas. But then I arrived at a breakthrough where I realized that I didn’t have any money to buy painting materials. So I figured I’d go as simple as I could, I’ll just do black and white drawings. After that I created my first alter ego named “altpaca” which is just an instagram account, but to me it’s more of an alter ego project where everyday I’ll create drawings and illustrations that give an illusion of who I am. Now it was because of this project that I first realized that my drawings would look good as tattoos. A guy who I believe lives in Belgium hit me up and asked me if he could use my drawings and I said yeah. After that I figured I’d just start doing it myself.
WHEN DID YOU GIVE YOUR FIRST TATTOO?
My first tattoo was very unexpected, it was through a tinder date. He asked me to do it and then I did it. It was really fun, but then the first “proper” one I did was given to another stick-and-poke artist. She actually taught me how to do it properly. Before it was just a very sketchy/DIY way with a pencil and sewing needle. But now I know how to properly do it thanks to her. After that I realized that I actually wanted to start rolling with it and doing it. From there it started with friends wanting to get one to random people just hitting me up because they had seen the ones that I did on others.
WHY THE NAME “SADSTAB?”
At the time I was going through a lot of depression and I literally couldn’t stop thinking of the word “sad.” So I thought, why not go as “Sadstab.” I also really like the word “stab” because I wanted to think of a word that no one uses much. I like to create something that pushes me to create. Within my depressed mind I was trying to find something to make myself out of the way. I just needed to try something new.
AFTER THAT, HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT GIVING TATTOOS TO BANDS LIKE UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA, WHITNEY, DUNE RATS AND OTHERS?
I remember it was June 4, 2015. This was the day that I started actually meeting and making friends with some of these bands. It was amazing. Unknown Mortal Orchestra was the first band that I befriended. My friends and I had waited outside the venue, after their show here in Toronto and I was super nervous about it. They started packing their stuff up and I went up to Jake and asked him if he could sign some of the records that I had brought with me. He said ya and then took us backstage with him! So obviously I did and that’s when I met Reuben. I was so shy but I gave him stickers that I made under my alter ego “altpaca” and he really liked them. We became friends on Facebook and they followed me on Instagram. It all started from there.
WERE THEY THE FIRST BAND THAT YOU TATTOOED?
They were actually. Them and Joe McMurray who was the drummer for Mac Demarco. I did it at Wayhome Music Festival in 2016. How I ended up giving a tattoo to Joe is kind of a long story, but to keep it short we were all just chilling in the same trailer backstage at the festival. Mac Demarco and his band just happened to have been there as well. I asked if anyone wanted one and he said yeah! I tattooed a peace sign on him and Mac took my marker to write “piece,” so I also tattooed the handwritten version on his leg. After that it just went up from there. Bands started messaging me and finding my work through Instagram.
DID MOST OF THE BANDS CONTACT YOU FIRST OR DID YOU REACH OUT TO THEM?
Most of time I’m the one contacting them. You honestly just got to be shameless about it and hit them up, that’s all. You never know what could happen! That’s how I got to tattoo one of my favourite bands as a teen, The Horrors.
WAS THAT ONE OF THE BIGGEST HIGHLIGHTS SO FAR?
Every band has been such a highlight because I’ve religiously listened to all of them and that’s why I wanted to meet them and tattoo them in the first place. There’s even bands that I didn’t know who they are, who would contact me and I’d listen to their music afterwards and fall in love them. It’s amazing. Back in the day this was all just an art project and was all just about me doing drawings but now it’s transforming into a music project where I want to contact as many musicians/bands as possible.