WE ONLY SUPPORT LICENSED PROFESSIONALS. What you’re doing is permanent and without the proper training under a licensed professional, you can cause serious harm. We ask that anyone who is not working in a proper shop find information elsewhere. This is not a “how to” article and you will not find any on our site. This is to educate those who only wish to better understand the products that they work with every day. Remember – Work safe, work clean and work hard.
Al started out like most did. He was a customer with a passion for being tattooed. The process of becoming who he is today was started by Steve Gabriel, out of East Hartford, Connecticut, who pushed him into the direction of tattooing roughly 20 years ago by saying “You know, you come in here. You know how to draw. Why not check it out?”
It's a simple idea. Al was already spending time around tattoos and he possessed the drawing skill to really get somewhere in the industry and Steve saw that in him. After, a buddy of his, Tom, was just starting an apprenticeship, he too made the push for Al to start tattooing and shortly after speaking with him, Al uprooted his wife and himself to Chicago, where he immediately got an apprenticeship. Though at one point in his journey, about 2007, Al had to take a step away from tattooing due to a shoulder injury that prevented his use of the fine motor skills necessary for the art. That break ended up lasting a year or two and it was during this time he decided to start building electrical devices. Staying involved, and supporting, the industry that had already given him a lot in life.
When Al started building in 2009 the original goal was to be “the foot-switch guy”. About this time, he was operating under the name “Pain Factory.” It was a "horrible name", but it stuck. In the beginning he was fucking around with, and making, the “bear trap” style foot-switches for a while.
With foot-switches being a decided goal, he started his way into clip cords after dealing with “shitty ass clip cords” that needed to be replaced after a month or two and working out a design to improve quality. Once things started progressing, he was smart enough to send his stuff to 6 tattooers that he knew. One of which being Seth Ciferri, who loved it.
Seth began pushing the products and that was the necessary catalyst to really propel things forward. Even Seth got sick of the name “Pain Factory” though, and told him, “You just got to call yourself Al Bro.”
Al had already made stickers, cards and other promotional products with the Pain Factory name, so he was hesitant to change to “AL BRO”. Al decided to take Seth's suggestion and it has paid off.
Long days of tattooing in a street shop were a struggle. He needed to hustle. That can be fun, street shops have that sort of vibe to them, but he had to hustle all the time. That work ethic meshed well with building. He hustled while tattooing and has done the same while building.
Trying to stay on top of everything and everyone with 17 hour days, 7 days a week. More than time than most are willing to invest. Its been working out well for him over the years and after talking with him, he loves it. Only proving that you get out what you're willing to put into something. If you put in the effort and care, everything else will work out. That mentality is where his lifetime warranty stems from.
When he first started, he was charging only a little above cost on his clip cords. He knew they were long-lasting and well-made; however, he is humble in his knowledge. His designs are subtle and he knew back then that everything breaks or wears out.
“I knew that my design was pretty subtle and, you know, everything breaks. Everything breaks. Like, my foot switches will never break, its always the cord.”
Once Al had gotten to this point with his builds, he was charging enough for something that used to be thrown away regularly. So why not make them something that is only bought once and he takes care of as long as they need him to. For him, this just seems right and he is still standing behind that method to this day. The lifetime warranty is there because he wants to better the industry and that is what things have been about for him since the beginning. He isn't humble about the improvements he has made to the industry though. He knows that he has and its something very difficult to deny. After he started doing things this way, a lot of others tried to follow suit and get rich quick but without the heart and soul he puts into building. It has never been about the money for Al, his priority has always been to give back.
“It was never about the money for me, it was always about the improvement and that giving back is something that I love. You know, I live and breathe tattooing, always have, so I wanted to be an asset as opposed to a leech. There are enough leeches in this business. “
Priding himself on customer service, he considers this a small family. Even with his products being in 67 countries, he has remained true to his word. Something that is hard to come by in life. Especially in a world where word travels quickly if you're fucking people over. Throughout the years Al has managed to deliver quality in his builds, customer service, support and improvement. Doing right by an industry that has done right by him. Willing to put his face out there with his products while never being a “large company”. Simply a dude in a garage who is willing to get out to shows and meet people.
Building is a passion for him. Not just a job. Which means he is always looking for innovations and improvements he can make. Its the constant battle to keep up with trends and ahead of that curve, is what keeps him up at night. Thinking of ways to make something better, to make someone's job better, showing great ambition for his work.
The industry has become “easy” since he jumped into it back in the 90's. With places pushing apprentices out like factories. Owning a shop is easy. Buying equipment is easy.
What Al finds ridiculous is that there seems to be an overall lack of hard work in this nowadays. For him, its both a trade and a passion. Something you really have to build and earn your way into. When he was looking for a shop in 95', he had to grind and grind, knocking on 7 or 8 shop doors before someone was even willing to give the time of day. Then you'd do your apprenticeship and you go through hell for 18-24 months. It was normal. Expected.
He feels very similarly about suppliers, knowing that out of, maybe, thousands in the country, there are probably only 10 doing things right. Everything has become so corporate and those strong opinions about some of the bigger names out there carry over after dealing with them for so long. With products becoming “disposable” in the sense that you could hop on eBay and buy 30 clip cords for less than a coffee. Al feels this way has its place in the world, just like everything else, but there is no point in wasting the money on something that is less than quality or isn’t supporting the tattoo industry from the inside.
This doesn't exclude things like machines either. With people so quickly jumping on trends that are then infinitely re-branded over and over again calling themselves “new”. A color change, A change in brand name; Its become too easy. This has allowed the “Rockstars” of the industry to thrive. The ones “tattooing for bitches”. Their work lasting only 6 months before its gone. Coming into things very short sighted with their only concerns being how many Instagram followers they can get.
“That Bullshit. What happened to making a living? What happens when you get bored? You going to go back to video game design? Hahaha. Maybe I’m the angry old tattooer, but I’ve seen the trends. Like, I see people knocking tribal. Well you know what, I made a living doing tribal and It payed me well and you know it isn’t going anywhere. Unfortunately, maybe, you never know Hahaha”
Tattoo suppliers are all over the country, hell, the world. When Al is looking for a supplier, or if one approaches him, he has a few criteria but the overall message is simple. A supplier has to know who’s coming in and buying their stuff. “If they carry garbage products, I don’t want my name near that.” Even from that position as a vendor, he still is pushing the industry to carry quality products and be quality people with a quality business.
Falling in line with bigger names like Workhorse Irons and even the smaller guys that drive a truck from shop to shop and they both back his product as much as he does. This is not to say he hasn’t backed away from a few of them. Ones that got too big and were over charging for his products. For Al its working with professionals who are focussing on quality products and supporting the industry. Not coming into this with your focus being “I can make a quick buck.”
“The biggest thing for me is professionals. Ya know? If you’re selling to a scratcher, and I’ve gotten burned once; it does happen, but if you’re making the effort to make sure its professionals only. You’re selling a bunch of good products. You care about the trade, not just to make money, but because you want to put a good product out there. I’m going to back you. I’m going to let you sell my stuff and I’m going to talk you up. It's that simple.
Thank You Al for taking time out of your day to speak with us. We greatly appreciate the support you’ve shown us and what you’ve done for this industry throughout the years.