Ross "Hell" Tanner | The Nine Lives of the Party

Photo by Neil Gavin


Where were you born and raised?

Born on June. 25, 1982 at Eastbourne District General Hospital and grew up in a nearby town in East Sussex, England called Hastings, known as 1066 Pirate Country.


What was it like growing up there as a kid and a teenager? 

I was drawn to its huge BMX/skate/punk scene and I just fell in love with it and stayed there until I left for London 20 years ago at the age of 21. I was wide eyed, bushy tailed and ready for London’s seedy night life and debauchery in all its glory. 

Hastings was awesome! It had a massive BMX community—one of the biggest in the UK. The punk scene was everything to me as a teen and I saw so many good shows at the one nightclub in the town called The Crypt. I was always in and out of trouble with the police before I found BMX, so I guess it kept me grounded and riding meant I wasn’t getting arrested for stupid shit. It was my saviour in some ways, I guess. I rode every day after work, it was my life and I did nothing other than ride BMX with pals. Always had a crew around us, ya know. I miss that a lot. 


What kind of teenager were you and what were you into? 

I was a fucking nightmare! Well, that’s what my mum would say (laughs). I basically loved punk from a young age, as my older brother had an amazing record collection and the skate videos we watched had punk rock soundtracks; Dead Boys, The Vibrators, The Modern Lovers, The Nipple Erectors, Crass and Sex Pistols. Instantly, the second I saw what they were about (Sex Pistols)… fuck everything mentality, massively anti- establishment, ACAB, 1312 (laughs). As you can imagine, I had many issues with police growing up. 



You were a BMX pro back in the early 2000s, right? How did you get into it, who did you ride for and for how long? 

Got into it in Hastings, which had a big BMX scene and the local bike/skate shop called Backyard, held BMX events in the UK called The Backyard Jam. I think the first one was around 1993. The first one I went to was the '95 Backyard Jam and I instantly fell in love with the sport. I rode for Seventies Distribution, Federal Bikes and then Metal Bikes, Primo Parts, Globe and Orchid Shoes, Shit Luck Clothing Company and then 4down Distribution, right at the end. I stopped due to an injury and the fact that I was old and had to work and pay rent. I still watch the odd vid I see online, but it’s changed so much, it’s all big tricks and as many as possible. It’s all too much now. 


Talk about some of the tours you went on? 

Went on a few in the USA. I flew to Louisville, drove to Vancouver, then from Canada, drove all the way to Mexico with 15 BMXers and a camera crew in one van and one car, for over 2 months. That was for Shitluck Clothing and Props BMX Video Magazine—that was wild! We camped out every night and filmed it all. It’s online somewhere. Also did Australia and Europe. Many wild nights, many stories and way too much to fit in here, but you can imagine the chaos. 


What was your first impression of the USA?

Everything is 3 times the size of everything in the UK. Roads are wider, cars are bigger—food even. Everything bro, I can’t explain it any other way but it’s just bigger. That make sense?



You used to write "Dead by 30" all over the place. Can you break down the significance of that? 

I lived a fast paced life and every one used to tell me if I kept going like that, I’d be “dead by thirty.” And so I tagged it everywhere. But yeah, it’s basically that “live fast, die” mentality. 


When and how did you get into tattooing?

Got into it early. Always loved that ghetto, DIY, skin head, punk aesthetic. Started stick ’n pokes, then my baby mum Lisa (@cosmicliz) bought me a tattoo machine for my birthday and it was that and nothing else. Tattooing was now me… I was obsessed.


How would you describe your tattoo style?

My style I guess I’d call it ignorant, bold, loud, kinda childish, very much punk as fuck, not so perfect but does hold its perfection within the chaos life creates, if that makes sense.  

"I was working in a pub called the Dragon Bar that Banksy had his first ever solo show above, way back before he was famous. From simply being around at the right time, I was asked to help with some of the building work needed for his street drops and future solo shows, like Santa’s Ghetto, Exit Through The Gift Shop and The Cans Festival. I couldn’t tell anyone who I was working for or what we were doing."


Favourite punk rock bands? 

The Nipple Erectors, Operation Ivy, Modern Lovers, The Only Ones, Dead Boys, Crim3s, Rancid, Misfits, New York Dolls, Crass. Oh man, sooo many…


How has skinhead culture been a part of your life? 

Mum and dad were original skinheads—’69. 



You and the infamously elusive Bansky have some history. Can you elaborate on your relationship with him and how you were involved with his street art? 

I was working in a pub called the Dragon Bar that Banksy had his first ever solo show above, way back before he was famous. From simply being around at the right time, I was asked to help with some of the building work needed for his street drops and future solo shows, like Santa’s Ghetto, Exit Through The Gift Shop and The Cans Festival. I couldn’t tell anyone who I was working for or what we were doing. 

Funny enough, one afternoon at the show in Bristol, as I smoked a cigarette out the back of the place we were working in, I was approached by a woman who handed me an envelope. She said, “I know it’s you,” meaning she thought I was Banksy. It was hilarious. To be honest, it was quite flattering (laughs). In the envelope was a picture of me and some of the other workers outside smoking, a few days before.


Did you and Bansky ever have any close calls or get caught? 

Never. The guy is a genius at disguise and distractions. 


You lived some wild and crazy times in London, England. Can you give me a sneak peak into living the fast life back then?

Basically partying 24/7. Hotels, hookers, drugs and taxis. Indie London, The Libertines were the band of the time. Hackney and Shoreditch before it got ruined by hipsters and coffee shops. We literally woke up and instantly started consuming drugs and alcohol. I weighed about a pound and a half (laughs). Skinny jeans and a leather jacket was a standard. Really bro, thinking ‘bout it, I’m lucky to be alive. 


Photo by Neil Gavin


Can you talk about the struggles you've been through over the years, as well as what you've been dealing with over the past year or so? 

I’m a recovering heroin and crack addict and I’ve been clean for around a year. Started using 20 odd years ago. I was friends with Blake Fielder and obviously we used together and I’ve struggled with drug abuse since then. Sadly, it took me to some very dark places. I tried committing suicide three times. Twice were OD’s and the third, I jumped from a five story window and shattered my heels, broke my spine in 5 places, my hip, my sternum and both wrists. As I’m talking about it, I hope it may help others to talk about their mental health, and by doing so, stop them from causing themselves any harm. 


Do you have a message or advice for others who are struggling with mental health issues? 

Please talk. This is the best thing anyone can do if you’re struggling. I promise you that silence is what’s hurting you the most. The moment you share your pain by talking to someone, you no longer have all that on your shoulders. Please know that talking really is the answer and if you’re unable to talk to anyone, just know that you can always talk to me. Please, I mean it. Message me or email me and I’ll reply. I promise you this, help is out there. Just seek it and you will find it.

Like I said, I’m happy to chat to anyone that feels like suicide is the only answer. It’s not, there’s hope—believe me. I’ve been there and had to learn the hard way. I’m only now able to walk without pain, but I do have some life changing injuries that sadly means I’m now classified as a disabled man. This I see as just another thing I add to my life story. I see it as light, not darkness. I see it as power. It’s made me wanna live, ya know. Being so close to death you appreciate all the small things, and honestly, it has made me such a humble man and I’m sincerely lucky to have the mornings to wake up to. Suicide is not the answer. I cannot express this enough.  


Photo by Neil Gavin


What inspires and fires you up to create these days?

Absolutely everything and anything, seriously. A song, an advert, a dog, a spider web—literally anything. I could be reading the paper and some combination of colour and design I see… and BAM, it hits me and right then I make a voice note of the idea I just had in that very moment. It’s trying to decipher the voice note later on, that’s the hard part.


What projects are you currently working on and what’s in store for 2023?

Obviously I’ve been working with you, RAW CULT. I designed the new “Hell Rat” for you, as well as another design entitled, “Ninth Death of the Cult.” I’m also working on my own clothing drop for spring/summer, but with a new name “3DÜM (FREEDOM).” I’m gonna be tattooing again from a home studio, so very busy, lots to be done and I’m very positive and staying strong!