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Permanent Ink

Last year, Staind frontman Aaron Lewis got the most radical tattoo I’ve ever heard anyone getting in Las Vegas. On Oct. 1, the singer of “It’s Been A While” went to the Hard Rock Hotel’s Hart & Huntington and got “DON’T TREAD ON ME” inked across his neck.

This isn’t some little postage stamp-size tat.

“It’s earlobe to earlobe,” says Lewis, 37, who plays solo shows tonight at Aliante Station, then Saturday at Green Valley Ranch.

That wasn’t the only big ink he got stained on his skin that day.

He started by having a tattered American flag (with the words “PROUDLY MADE IN THE USA”) illustrated on an entire underarm and bicep, from armpit to elbow.

Then he walked outside, smoked a cigarette, and returned for “DON’T TREAD ON ME.”

“It was a long day,” Lewis says.

His reason for the tats was fundamental: “Well, I love this country,” says Lewis, a self-identified “conservative capitalist” who performs for U.S. troops fairly regularly.

My obvious question: How do fans and others react when seeing his throat tat?

“I don’t know,” he says. “Not many people approach me. If they’re a fan, they’ve heard me talk for 11 years as to how uncomfortable it makes me. And I’m told I’m a little intimidating. So it all works out. I don’t really like people sometimes, anyways.”

He says that and chuckles, and explains some more: “I’ve never been comfortable being approached. I guess I’m getting better about it as time goes.”

HUNTING WITH KIDS ON TV

Meanwhile, Lewis has signed up to co-star in a TV hunting and fishing show, “Dream Season Celebrity” on The Outdoor Channel, with UFC fighter Tim Silvia, bull rider JW Hart and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright.

Lewis already is being filmed on his own hunts. Later, he and other adult hunters will hunt-host terminally ill kids, and kids with illnesses that stump doctors.

On the face of it, obviously, that sounds like a Make-a-Wish hunting trip. Or Make-a-Death-Wish. Like: Hey Timmy, what’s the last thing you want to do before you die? Timmy: Kill.

Lewis — who grew up in a trailer park on a deer camp, and who’s a regular benefactor for children’s charities — sets me straight.

“It’s not so much their last dying wish, per se,” Lewis says. “It’s to get ’em out into nature. Let them go out and have a good time. And I assume there’s a fishing aspect to it as well.”

Lewis already has got “one really good deer” on camera, using a bow. He has three hunts to go.

“The main hunt that happens — where the actual kids come in and go out on the hunt — is coming up on the end of January. I actually haven’t really witnessed or seen what that is yet. I don’t know what shape the kids are in.”

I didn’t ask him if PETA is upset with the show. Other reporters have, and Lewis pointed out that he’s a real hunter: He eats what he kills. Always has. Always will.

Personally, I hate guns and hunting. But let’s be honest: Lewis’ way of putting meat on his plate is about 1,000 times more humane and organic than the slaughterhouse methods that put meat on my plate at home or in restaurants.

STAIND TO GO HEAVIER

Lewis keeps popping up as a solo act in Vegas. He does these solo tours when the band takes time off.

“It’s when I should be relaxing and chilling out. Instead I’m out working,” he says.

“My solo thing is going to go in a more mellow direction.”

The business future of Staind is unclear — but they’ll still be making music.

“This is our last record by contract. We’re gonna have to figure out how it’s gonna change things. I would assume it would allow the band to go back to being the heavier band we started out being.”

But he says what any honest musician says at this point in a band’s career: “I can’t really know” what happens next, after an already long run as a rock star.

“I’d never thought I’d be doing this 12 years!”

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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