Business & Entrepreneurs

“They used to be seen as dodgy – but we get all sorts now”: Meet the schoolfriends behind an Altrincham tattoo studio success story

By David Prior at

The surging popularity of tattoos is good news for former Altrincham schoolmates Dan Hancock and Sam Hadcock, who are now in business together at This Mortal Coil on Stamford New Road.

We caught up with tattoo artist Dan and shop manager Sam.

ALTRINCHAM TODAY: You’re tattoo artists now, but you went to school together?

DAN HANCOCK: We both went to school at BTH. I’m 33 and Sam’s 32.

AT: How did you get into tattooing?

DH: My uncle had a load of 80s punk tattoos – things like a spider’s web and swallow, and I always thought they were really, really cool. He tried his best to put me off them, but I was also fascinated. It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I realised you could actually get a job in tattoos, and that you didn’t have to be a biker and be mean! I really worked on my drawings, and thought I was good, but it wasn’t until I started tattooing that I realised how awful I was. So that’s when I started obsessing about it and really working hard at it and I’ve been doing it for 12 years now. It’s the sort of thing you just don’t stop learning.

Sam’s one of my best mates from school, so now it’s just like spending the day with my mate, listening to music and drawing!

Sam (left) and Dan inside This Mortal Coil on Stamford New Road in Altrincham

SAM HADCOCK: I used to be in the army, in the Royal Engineers. I travelled around Europe a bit, working in Italy, and was looking for a job. I was working in Italy, met my wife over in France, and was looking for a job. I’m quite a people person and knew Dan was going to open a studio about five years ago, so it just all came together.

AT: Tattooing has really exploded in recent years hasn’t it?

DH: I was doing my apprenticeship when David Beckham was getting his religious tattoos, so I was there when that exploded. When he started getting all his black and grey tattoos from Louis Malloy (a Manchester-based tattoo artist), it’s all that anybody ever wanted, so you had to get good at that style. I joke about how David Beckham’s paying my mortgage!

A selection of prosthetic tattooed hands inside This Mortal Coil

AT: It’s become much more acceptable and mainstream now, hasn’t it?

DH: We get all sorts in here. It used to be seen as a dodgy thing, but now you really do get people from all walks of life. We get doctors and all sorts.

AT: How do you actually learn in the first place?

DH: When you first start, you get better by convincing naive friends to have one! It’s just a case of doing it more and getting more and more confident.

AT: Can you get a tattoo removed if you change your mind?

DH: You can get black and grey tattoos lasered – not so much colour tattoos. It hurts! I started getting one of mine lasered but after one session I was like ‘it’s not so bad after all!’

SH: A lot of the time people want a tattoo lasering just so they can get it replaced with something better.

Inside This Mortal Coil, which has just extended its lease on Stamford New Road for another five years

AT: How popular have bee tattoos been since the bee became so associated with Manchester in the aftermath of the terrorist attack at the Arena?

SH: We’re still getting them in now, and do at least one or two a week. We did 160 in a week at the time.

AT: So for someone coming to you for the first time, what’s the process?

SH: Usually they’ll have some idea of what style of work they want doing, or what artist. They’ll email and introduce themselves and talk about why they want it and where, with any reference images. We’ll then book them in, get them to come in for a consultation and have a chat with the artist. We always like them to meet the artist and make sure it’s the right location.

DH: I’ll then do the drawing and send it over to the customer so that we’ve got enough time to mess with it. But you don’t want to overcomplicate – it will come to life on the day. But I want them to be happy and excited about the day, it’s part of the package.

Dan (left) and Sam have known each other since their schooldays at Blessed Thomas Holford

AT: You’re based here on Stamford New Road but you’re well hidden – do you like it that way?

DH: We have a few resident artists based here now who would like the passing trade but at first I liked the fact that not everybody knew we were there. Everybody who comes through our door has seen somebody with a tattoo by me or someone else at the shop and really likes it. I love the fact that it’s reputation mainly that brings people here.

AT: And you’re just signed the lease for another five years… how much has Altrincham changed in the time you’ve been here?

DH: It’s mad really. I’d always liked Altrincham because we went to school here, and thankfully about a year after we opened everything started booming.

We’ve put a bit of money into it and got it as nice as we could, so I’m quite eager to see how it’s going to be in five years.

This Mortal Coil, 17 Stamford New Rd, Altrincham WA14 1BN. Visit thismortalcoiltattoogallery.co.uk for more details.