For more than 25 years, the New Wave Tattoo Parlour in Muswell Hill has branded an array of famous people with their choice of body art. KAY MURRAY meets owner Lal Hardy, tattooist to the stars

"We've probably had more famous people in here than any other shop in Muswell Hill," says Lal Hardy, the 47-year-old owner of the New Wave tattoo parlour, in Sydney Road, Muswell Hill.

Since 1979, stars such as Marc Almond, Liam Gallagher, Patsy Kensit, Terence Trent D'arby, Jack Osbourne and Dermot O'Leary have decided to have their tattoo done by Hardy.

Over the years, the tattooist who was born and bred in Muswell Hill' has built up an impressive portfolio of famous clients and still they come.

But what is it about New Wave and Hardy that attracts them?

"It started when we used to get punk bands, which was because I was kind of in that scene and knew them on a one-to-one basis," explains Hardy.

"With the other people, I have been recommended or maybe their agent has told them about me."

Hardy remembers the media frenzy that followed in the late Nineties, when the Oasis frontman Liam Gallacher and his then partner, the actress Patsy Kensit, had one another's names tattooed onto their bodies. "The thing is when they came, I had to close the shop as someone had heard me speak to them and the press phoned up," says Hardy.

"One of the tabloids did a thing saying that I said Liam was a wimp and I didn't. I never talk in any detrimental terms about people being here. I did get a call, they were pretty annoyed with me and I spoke to Patsy and it was all resolved.

"They're in the music business and they know what it's like."

With so many celebrities visiting the parlour, it would be easy to think the studio has a ready-made VIP specialist package for Hardy's A-list appointments, but he thinks it is by taking the opposite approach that he has secured their custom.

"I think they like it because they don't get treated any differently from all the other customers," explains Hardy. "They have to endure the silly jokes and the banter. It puts them more on a reality level, you know."

It is unlikely anyone would just happen to stumble upon Hardy's studio, which is tucked away in the middle of a quiet suburban street.

Far away from the stereotype of tattooists' dark dingy basements blasting out heavy metal music, the studio is clean, spacious and bright.

Tottenham Hotspur stickers and signed photographs of stars share the reception's walls with the vast choice of tattoo designs displayed on huge white boards ranging from the clichd celtic designs, right through to evil satanic faces and skulls.

Inside the studio, two men are getting their backs tattooed, one by Hardy, another by his colleague, Adam.

Hardy's client, Nick Smith, 36, has travelled from Warwickshire just to get his tattoo done after seeing Hardy's work at a convention in Great Yarmouth.

He is having two old tattoos reworked on his back and joined up to make one huge Japanese theme. Hardy whose body is covered in tattoos thinks his own fascination with body art began when he was a child, as many of his family were in the services and had tattoos themselves.

"It was a fascination with the fact that you could put something onto your body that would stay there," says Hardy.

And back in the Seventies, there were no formal qualifications or training courses to embark on if you wanted to ply your trade tattooing people.

"Nowadays you pay someone money to train you to do it," he says. "When I was involved, I was self-taught so it was all trial and error. It was kind of a slow progress to do it but we got there."

Although it is tattoos that adorn Hardy's body, it is his beloved Tottenham Hotspur Football Club that is etched into his heart.

Yet the season ticket-holder is still happy to tattoo the famous Gunners badge on the many Arsenal fans who come knocking.

"We always do a good job and usually end up with lots of friendly rivalry banter," laughs Hardy.

"But if they win the Champions League on Wednesday night, I'm emigrating. I'll be out of red and white ink."

For more information on New Wave Tattoo parlour call 020 8444 8779 or visit the web site