The Torch & Dagger Interview
I have known Jason Simonette for 20 years… He was probably the first person my age to get a tattoo. One thing about Jason: As much hell as we gave that dude growing up, he’s always had his finger on the pulse with shit. Jason has been getting tattooed for the entire time I’ve known him… Pretty much since he got those sweet Honda Civics tattooed on his arm in ’98 (which have since been removed and covered up).
Tattoos – and every aspect of tattooing – have been a huge part of this dude’s entire life. He started early with them, then eventually began apprenticing and working in a couple different shops. When he told me he wanted to open his own shop, I was stoked. I love seeing my friends turning stuff that they love into what they do. He first set up in Bellevue as Keystone Gallery and Tattoo next to Bayne skate park. Though he has loyal clientele, the foot traffic was not enough to bring in new clients. So, he spent some time looking all over Pittsburgh, and [eventually] landed in Lawrenceville, right down on Butler Street next to Eclipse (3703 Butler St. Pittsburgh, PA 15201).
Below is our interview with Jason; get to know him, learn about his endeavors, and find out when and where you can schedule your next tattoo appointment with him at his new shop, Torch and Dagger:
Dave: What was your first tattoo, who did that shit, and what made you get it? I guess I am asking: What got you into this shit?
Jason: I got my first tattoo in 1996 from my friend Sean. I didn’t know him at the time, but we were introduced by a mutual friend. My dude Greg called him and said that I was 18 years old with no ID, when I was really 16. This was the nineties, when no one cared about rules… Word of mouth was all you needed, ha ha. I got a small Kanji symbol on my arm with a wave around it. It was so stupid, but I thought I was awesome.
Dave: So when did you decide to open up your shop?
Jason: I went into business for myself in July of 2013. I was fed up with working for and with junkies and deadbeats. I knew that with my dedication to my craft and clientele, I could open a beautiful, clean shop myself. Cleanliness is my biggest pet peeve. I can’t believe some of the places that I worked in. So many shop owners only care about making a buck and not safety. Thus, Keystone Gallery Tattoo was born. After about a year and a half, I got sick of the ‘burbs and decided to open in the city. With this change of scenery, I decided it was time for a fresh name, as well. That’s how Torch & Dagger came to be.
Jason: I officially opened on January 1, 2015 in Lawrenceville. It is a totally different vibe than Bellevue, for sure. Bellevue has an older population, and I grew tired of it fast. Lawrenceville is young and happening. The new Lawrenceville is so fresh and bustling with new galleries and businesses… Not what I remembered from 90’s Lawrenceville at all!
Dave: How many Tattooers are at the shop?
Jason: There are two full time tattooers at the shop currently–Matt Wallenstein and myself. We also have two guest artists – Scott Rader and Brittany Lively – that come in every other month, usually for 7-10 days.
Dave: You had a Grand Opening party this past Saturday… Sorry I didn’t make it; the camp vibes were flowing strong, and I got stuck in the woods. How was that?
Jason: The opening was great! It was a lot of fun with clients, friends, and lots of new faces. The soundtrack from DJ Nugget was dope, and the food was on point, thanks to Cake Eaters PGH!
Dave: Do you have any other events lined up in the near future?
Jason: Going forward, we hope to do many gallery shows at the shop, for sure.
Dave: What is the space like? What can people expect when they are walking in?
Jason: The space is bright, clean, pleasant, and very non-intimidating. There are no egos or attitudes at this shop. We all love to tattoo, whether it’s a small name or a full back piece; no judgement here.
Dave: I am coming in to get a little zip-zap in the next couple weeks… How do I book that?
Jason: Booking can be done in person with a cash deposit, or via email and Paypal deposit. The deposits come off the price of the tattoo, they are not additional [charges].
Dave: Alright, I am signing off; what else would you like people to know about Torch and Dagger Tattoo?
Jason: We are open Tuesday-Saturday, 12PM-7PM, and closed on Sundays & Mondays. Other scheduling times can be made, if necessary. We are here to make your next tattoo timeless and perfect!