Dustin Treinen | Aperture Needle

by Eric Gonzalez

Aperture Needle exposes what lies beneath artists' skin. This week's subject is Dustin Treinen, whose projects include The Answer Team, Paria and Hello From Ghost Valley.

EG: Describe yourself, the band, and your thoughts on Ft. Calhoun, OPPD and the importance of CWS (you don't have to talk about Ft. Calhoun, or question OPPD because no one really should anyway).

DT: Describe myself, eh? Well I'm 28-year-old dude born and raised on the mean streets of Omaha, Nebraska. I enjoy giving people nicknames, sarcasm, Halloween, movies and television, creativity, hanging out with my cats, sushi and geeking out about music. I’ve been playing shows around town since I was 16 in bands such as The Answer Team, Paria, Hello From Ghost Valley, KMG, Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship and Analog. I haven't been to a CWS game since I was in 8th grade, but regardless, I think it's cool that we have something of that magnitude that attracts so many people into our city. It seems to give Omaha an excuse to spruce up once a year.

Dustin Treinen Smashing Pumpkins bass audition 1 from Dustin Treinen on Vimeo.

EG: Can you recall and describe your experience of that day you went in for your first tattoo?

DT: When I was about 16 or 17, I used to read a lot of guitar magazines. Cover to cover. There was an ad in every magazine for some company that made music-related decal stickers. In the first issue I read, there was a decal of Kurt Cobain that I really liked and from the first time I saw it, I knew I wanted it tattooed on me.

At that point in time, I kept telling myself that it would be the only tattoo I would ever want or need. As you can see, my thought on the subject has changed a bit since then. Each and every time I saw the decal though, it further reinforced how much I wanted the tattoo. A friend of mine who is nearly a year younger than me, also wanted a tattoo and decided to go to this hole in the wall place and hope that they didn't ID him. Out of curiosity, I tagged along.

We opened the door and were hit in the face with a gust of weed smoke so I had a strong feeling they weren't sticklers about obeying things like laws. Sure enough, they tattooed him, no questions asked. He described it to me as a hot razor-blade, which was pretty intimidating, but I figured since it's only a temporary pain, I could bear it. Shortly thereafter, another friend and I decided to try our luck as well. We both went in to have the vocalists from our favorite bands tattooed on us – Kurt Cobain for me and Zack de la Rocha for him. As you can see in the photos, I've added a lot of work around that tattoo since then. It started with just Kurt Cobain’s face. 

EG: What are some of the tattoos that are noticeable and also about the ones less visible – the ones we only get to see if we're lucky.

DT: The most noticeable one seems to be my Simpsons tattoo, which is probably because it’s the most exposed and the characters are so recognizable. It’s amazing to me that my dad and I would reference The Simpsons all the time when I was a kid and I still reference it with friends 20 years later.

I think every time we get out of the car in a large parking lot my dad says “Now remember, we’re in the Itchy lot,” and it never gets old because to me, the humor in seasons two through 10 is timeless.

One of my favorite Simpsons reference moments took place in Las Vegas. I was with my friend Herb and couple of new friends from Australia we had recently met. Of course, when I met them my first reaction was to quote the knifey-spoony guy from the episode when Bart goes to Australia, but that’s actually just a side note and not where I am going with this story.

Anyway, we are in the elevator in The Stratosphere to ride the rides on top of the 1,100-foot structure. The elevator doors open, immediately placing us in the gift shop already, and I see a rack of license mini-vanity license plates with people’s names on them so I picked one up and said “Bort?”

We were all pretty giggly from the altitude already, and I’m sure that the fact that all three people I was with knew what I was talking about contributed heavily to the hilarity, but it literally put us all in tears. 

That tattoo has actually been recognized much more than I had ever imaged when I made the decision to get it. If you Google search “simpsons tattoo” my leg is currently the second result, which actually grabbed the attention of the show’s producers. When they were putting together the 20th anniversary special a few years ago, which was an hour-long special about the impact The Simpsons have had over pop culture, they tracked me down and asked me to be on the show. Long story short, we kept rescheduling shooting time until they ran out of it. It was still pretty cool to be considered for it though. 

As for that tattoo most people don’t see, it’s definitely the moths on my side. This was inspired by Paria’s album artwork done by an incredibly talented local creative and friend of mine named Jon Tvrdik. As with every tattoo I have, I always know the subject matter, but never know what I actually want until I just see something and it clicks.

I knew I would get a Paria tattoo eventually and when he showed us the artwork for The Barnacle Cordious, I knew right away that I’d be tattooing those moths on my body in some shape or form. The actual album artwork looks like the moths are spewing from fountain, but that didn’t fit with the contour of my body so I had Jason (at Liquid Courage) modify it.

My life literally revolved around that band for a while. It was top priority and I cared very little about anything else. All of us really pushed each other on a technical level to constantly better our musicianship so I feel like I would not have developed my bass skills the way I did if it weren’t for Paria. Obviously, if you are actively involved in anything like this for nine years, you are going to have a lot awesome memories from it so that’s part of what inspired me to get the tattoo, but I also feel that many of my friendships and musical opportunities have in one way or another spawned from playing bass in Paria. 

EG: Most of your tattoos revolve around music. Most of them have been internationally successful, influential, but are also long gone. Do you think you'll ever get a tattoo of a Nebraska musician or band (excluding bands you're affiliated with)?

DT: Probably not to be honest. While I do feel that there is an abundance of talent here, I feel like my inspiration comes more from the music scene as a whole rather than a specific band or person. I’ve often contemplated a Cog Factory tattoo. I feel that getting to experience music constantly in a run-down dirty dump like that shaped the way I appreciate music. It brought music down to its most raw form.

I’d forget how uncomfortable I was from the air not working, the place smelling awful, or it sounding terrible in there because the essence of the music is all that really mattered. The Cog Factory was like having a clubhouse as a teenager, but it was big enough for bands to play in.

All your friends just went there almost any day there was a show so with everyone working together to support the touring bands and the venue it kind of felt like a community with a common goal: to keep the place alive so we could keep bringing bands through. This was also during a time where downloading music was brand new and hadn’t caught on yet so this was my main source for discovering new music. 

EG: From personal experience, what would you recommend to those thinking of getting a tattoo for the first time?

DT: I’d recommend getting something that you’ve thought about for a while and has some history in your life. Make sure you enjoy looking at it because it’s not going away anytime soon. Oh and go to a good tattoo shop. It’s worth the extra money to be in a sanitary environment and have a talented artist work on your tattoo rather than someone who doodled in high school then had no other options when they graduated, but to buy a tattoo gun. I’ve had all my work done at Liquid Courage and can’t imagine going elsewhere. 

EG: Update us on the Answer Team.

DT: The new album titled O Sad and Future Human is done! The release date is August 2. We are having a listening party at The Sydney on August 5 where we will have CDs for sale. On August 19, we will be holding our CD release show at the Slowdown with Back When and New Lungs.

Eric Gonzalez is moving back to Seattle, Washington in two weeks. He’s a fanatic of vintage cameras, stereography, photographers with a flair for composition, and artists who have the aptitude to create their own style. If you happen to see him having a chat with Spider in downtown Lincoln or loving on Thomas John Flaherty in Omaha, send him off with a shot of wild turkey. Suggest subjects for Aperture Needle in the comments below.