How Scab Shop and Deadfellaz are bringing tattoo culture into the metaverse
For the past quarter of a decade, Scott Campbell has been building his reputation as one of the world’s most celebrated tattoo artists. Recently, however, he’s been chewing over a question to which he initially had no answer: What place does his art form hold in the rapidly developing Web3 space?
The solution was the Scab Shop project. Founded alongside collaborator CTHDRL in 2022, the celebrated initiative saw the launch of 1/1 NFT artworks from a collective of celebrated artists, which also provided token holders with a real-world appointment to have their artwork inked on their skin.
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The initial root question that led Campbell to establish Scab Shop was also one that resided in the back of the mind of Betty, the co-founder of Deadfellaz, one of the Ethereum blockchain’s most heralded communities. The collision of these two leaders was as rapid as it was inevitable — leading to the official launch of the Deadfellaz x Scab Shop collaboration.
1 - DEADFELLAZ x Sean From Texas Alternative Press Magazine Issue #407.2
Kicking off with a launch event at the NFT.NYC conference June 21, where Scab Shop artists will be tattooing Deadfellaz-inspired designs on raffle ticket winners, in the coming months the partnership will release an official collaboration of 13 Deadfellaz characters interpreted by six Scab Shop artists in their own style, alongside flash sheets. Each Deadfellaz character interpretation comes with the ability to get that character rendered once on skin by the artist. Auction price will start at 1 ETH.
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Ahead of the collaboration’s launch, and to celebrate an exclusive Alternative Press cover image variant, which fronts our June issue, Campbell and Betty connected in conversation to discuss their respective projects’ origins, the white-knuckle-ride that is the ever-evolving Web3 space and the future possibilities of their collaboration…
SCOTT CAMPBELL: My world has traditionally been very analog. I knew as a visual artist that I would have to participate in this thing called the metaverse at some point. The internet for my whole life has been this thing that has made everything accessible to everyone. And what I pieced together is that with the invention or mechanism of NFT, the core of what it does is allow for there to be a unique thing in this landscape where everything is for everyone. With the possibility of uniqueness, there can now be singular editions, digital artworks that have collectible value.
But one thing that I didn’t anticipate that is undeniably the most powerful force within NFT culture is the token’s ability to build a community. I remember hearing about your project, hearing about the Deadfellaz and immediately being like, “I want to be in that club.” I was a little punk-rock skater kid, and any time I would travel to a new city, I’d first go to a skate park or a punk show and find a group of people that would take me in. That was where all the weirdos ended up, and that’s who I wanted be around. You made a community that I identified with and immediately felt at home in. I’m so curious as to how you got into it.
BETTY: You hit the nail on the head, and you are picking up exactly what I’m putting down and have done so intentionally. So, I see NFTs in the same way. It’s punk rock, it’s rebellion, it’s counterculture. I think that within those spaces, there are pockets and different communities that have naturally formed, just as they always do within any space with a group of people with shared interests. But what’s interesting to me is how some projects, Deadfellaz included, have managed to create an entire culture around what they’ve done. I think that when you see what’s happening and you pick out that vibe, you do automatically feel attracted to it. It’s what I wanted to see when I entered NFTs.
We started — and I refer to me and my husband, Psych, who is the artist for Deadfellaz — in January 2021. He’s always been a digital artist. I’ve always been in creative production. We’ve run agencies, we’ve done community organizing, all kinds of things throughout our life. Being introduced to NFTs was immediately like the clouds parting; a hallelujah moment. It was something new and innovative and fun and exciting. We immediately started. He started making one-of-one art, and I was just heavy into research. I noticed the PFP movement start to pop up and become adopted — generative art that people will use as their profile picture on social media to represent them and express that they’re in that community.
I thought that idea of digital identity was a really interesting one. I’ve always been quite fascinated with identity and how we choose to communicate that to other people. I didn’t see anything that I liked. Nothing represented me. There were no traits that represented any sort of spectrum of gender — it was all mostly male, and there were a few typically female traits, but they were borderline stereotype offensive, so I just wasn’t into it. Deadfellaz was a lightning-bolt moment. It was like a zap of inspiration; Everything came fully formed, and it was just so fun. I brought it to Psych, and he was immediately on board as he is with all of my harebrained ideas. And we just got to work. We sat for a really long time, traversing the landscape of all of our favorite things. We were listening to all of our favorite music, looking at old fashion that we love, ’90s animation, skate culture and queer culture.
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CAMPBELL: I always feel like the best-designed things are designed selfishly. You’re not creating something to accommodate an audience. You’re creating something that you want that doesn’t exist. And so you make it for yourself, and then you become a magnet for a whole like-minded community.
BETTY: That’s a piece of advice I give to anyone that asks me, “How do I know what I should create? Where do you find the inspiration?” And I always say, “Look within yourself, and where do you see a hole that you wish to be filled? Where do you see a niche that’s not being met?” Things get hard in this space, and if you’re not passionate about it and that’s not what’s driving you, you are gonna quit.
CAMPBELL: It can definitely be overwhelming. That’s when I found your project. I was like, “OK, this community is going to be my compass. This is real, and I trust this.”
BETTY: I felt the same way when I found Scab Shop. It was an answer to a question that I’ve been asking: “When are tattoos going to be in this space in a big way?” That was really cool to see that. I was so excited.
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CAMPBELL: I’m obsessed now with bringing tattoo culture into Web3. For 25 years, I’ve helped people change who they are in the physical world and help make their physical selves feel more true to who they are inside. And now in the metaverse, it’s natural that it would carry over to that context as well. There’re so many parallels between tattoos and NFTs and the way we use both those things to decide how we want to be seen to the world, digitally and physically. But it’s crazy to hear you talking about launching so recently. One thing I’m fascinated by is that this whole space is so young, and you’re already a pillar of the community. I think it’s a testimony to how contagious and exciting what you’ve built is.
BETTY: Thank you. I mean, we’ve only been around for less than nine months, but that’s ancient history in the NFT world right now, isn’t it? It’s breakneck. Launching a project is one thing, but running a project is an entirely different beast, and those skills just happen to be in our wheelhouse. It’s interesting being at the very forefront of something that’s completely new because we just don’t know what’s going to happen, and we have to be OK with that and adapt to that. It’s preempting a space that is at the very beginning of its life. We’re predicting the future. We’re innovating.
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CAMPBELL: I think about Tony Hawk a lot, you know? I love that he was so loyal to his love of skateboarding. He didn’t start skateboarding because he wanted to become rich and famous. He actually let go of all the traditional paths toward money and fame and just followed something he was passionate about. It’s like, “No, this is fucking powerful, and I have to go towards it,” and he ended up dragging the whole world with him.
I think for pioneers in this space, it’s a similar thing. There’s no roadmap, there’s no template, there’s no examples to follow. We’re defining what Web3 is. You’re obviously very loyal to your intuition and to your own curiosity. I think in any artist, when someone creates something and they have fun doing it, that fun and that curiosity is captured in that thing. If they make something out of stress and anxiety and pressure, you feel that stress and anxiety and pressure in the final product. When I see what you guys are doing, that just looks like a big punk-rock bouncy house that I want to get in and be a part of.
BETTY: That is the vibe. To me, it’s like being a teenager and listening to Nirvana and hanging out with my friends at the skate park or going to my friend’s house. You know that feeling when you hear a new track or a new album or a new band and it makes you feel so excited and joyful? That’s what I felt like when we found NFTs, and that’s the feeling that I want to convey to people when they find Deadfellaz.
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CAMPBELL: What’s interesting is that, on the internet, there’s a lot of assholes out there. The people being negative and criticizing everything end up being the loudest voices we hear. I started to see the internet as this whirlwind of criticism and self-doubt, and it felt gross to put anything I cared about on the internet. What’s amazing about these token-gated communities is that it’s only people that want to be there and choose to be there. There are no haters because you have to put in effort to participate. It’s so positive and supportive of each other. It really has made my internet experience more human.
BETTY: It’s given us a platform to bring all of the best parts of the internet together. Everything comes back to us wanting to be a part of something and wanting to belong to something and to matter and to have an impact and to be seen and heard by other people. I honestly believe that is at the core of what we all need. And it gives us that space to do so, but it brings in the silly and the joyful and the playful. We’re all trying to communicate with each other: who we are, what we want, what we like.
CAMPBELL: I don’t know how much you share about future projects or what’s coming down the line, but I feel like no Web3 article is complete without the phrase: “So what do you see as the future of NFTs?” Is there anything exciting that you see Deadfellaz, the community, evolving towards?
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BETTY: We use the word interoperability a lot in the Web3 space. So far we don’t actually see that really at all. Deadfellaz is going to play a big part in introducing that to the space with what we’re building through meta apps and allowing people to shift and change into these various metaverse platforms, navigating where they’re going with the same digital identity, no matter what space they’re in. I really just want to see it progressing. I don’t want to see it stagnating or sitting still for too long. I don’t know where I see this space in however many years, but I think that the cultures that are being born right now will be pivotal as we move forward. Personally, I’m honestly just building to what I want to see in the world and to where I see Deadfellaz fitting into it, creating its own little pocket. I think it’s easy to look at the leaders of this space and think, “That’s how it should be done.” But the issue with that is there’s nothing before that. So if we stick to this path that’s so new, how do we know what else is possible? Having the guts to experiment and to really lean into creativity and innovation is how we’re going to move forward.
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CAMPBELL: You talk about interoperability, and I feel you on that with Scab Shop and bringing tattoos into the equation and exploring what that means — aside from just physical tattoos being represented as NFTs and people being able to own their tattoos in a new context. I want to see all that — I want to see whatever Scab Shop tattoos you have in your wallet on the avatars that you walk around in. Any manifestation of yourself digitally I want to see decorated with the same ideas that people would carve into their arms. I’ve had to take deep breaths and just be like, “I can’t build that technology.” Web3 is expanding in two directions: There’s the creative side and the community builders, and then there’s the tech side. I have to pace myself and wait for the nerds to build the road so that we can go down it.
BETTY: God bless the nerds!
CAMPBELL: I love the nerds! Whoever coined the phrase “The meek shall inherit the earth,” they were talking about Web3. It’s as if they prophesized a whole sea of underappreciated digital talent all of a sudden creating this new world for us.
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BETTY: We saw you guys and immediately wanted to work together. Tattoos are beloved in our household in real life, but also by our community. The tattoo traits are some of the most popular; people love them, and for good reason. To me, every time I get a tattoo, no matter how random — in the moment or planned — I always feel more myself and more at home in my own body. I think that giving people that feeling when it comes to their avatars or to something that they use to represent themselves in the metaverse was something that I wanted to do. So that’s what I wanted to do with you guys.
CAMPBELL: I’ve definitely seen a lot of your Deadfellaz PFPs interpreted as tattoos, and it makes total sense — it becomes a character that you identify with, and you put your foot forward in the world as a representation of yourself. It’s really powerful. I’m excited to give people interpretations of those characters from the best tattoo artist in the world, doing their interpretations of Deadfellaz and seeing the world through the lens of their artwork. I’m excited to draw my versions of it and try to take what you’ve started and add my little magic sparkle dust onto it for the next chapter.
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BETTY: Like you said, some of the artists in Scab Shop are people that I have personally followed for many years. To be able to do something in collaboration with you guys as a whole is honestly an honor. Collaboration is a very big part of the NFT space; to be able to work in that way creatively, to have that mutual admiration for each other’s work, and then bring that to something that everyone else can enjoy, is very cool. So I’m really excited to see that project come to life and then move into the next part, which is bringing that into the physical world.
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