Allen Falkner: Punished and Forgiven – Interview in BME/News [Publisher’s Ring]

Photo: Ronnie Spencer

Allen Falkner (and TSD) is probably best known as, along with Fakir Musafar, the singularly most influential suspension artist in the modern world (see his site, — a vast majority of similarly influential artists credit him as their inspiration and how they were introduced to suspension. In addition, he’s an accomplished piercer and body modification artist, and until recently, the owner of the decade-and-a-half old and consistently successful Dallas piercing studio “Obscurities“. He’s now retired from performance suspension (although he still works behind the scenes and facilitates suspension for others) and in addition to his work as a photographer, he’s opened a new business, “Fade Fast“, which offers tattoo removal with the intention of helping people improve their artwork through cover-ups and touch-ups rather than eliminating tattooing from their lives. In this interview he reflects on his suspension career, studio ownership, and talks about his feelings about tattoo removal.

Note: If you haven’t already heard it, you may also want to download this older MP3 audio interview with Allen Falkner from May 2000, the tenth broadcast of BMEradio.


Allen Falkner in 1986 and Allen Falkner in 2008: Less hair, more axe.

suspension and performace

BME: How and when did you get started in suspension?

Strangely enough, the performances came before suspension. I was involved in performance art as far back as the mid to late eighties. My initial interest and involvement in suspension, which was far more ritualistic, didn’t actually happen until ’92. Even then, hanging didn’t become a part of my performances until ’95. For me, the first three years of suspension were purely experimental and soul searching. It wasn’t until I met several other like-minded people and formed TSD that suspension started playing such a crucial role in my public/performance life.

BME: How were you involved with performance art in the mid 80s?

Strangely enough my first experience with performance art was also my first business venture. Back 1987, my friend Damon Law and I started a graphic design company called Baffle Logic. I think the original idea was to promote Damon’s artistic ability and to generate business designing print ads. You see, this was before inexpensive desktop publishing programs were available and not many people were on the Internet. So, the flyers were simple photocopies of designs that were all drawn up and laid out by hand and our contact info was a PO Box.

At the time we were eighteen, couldn’t get into any bars, and I was straight edge anyway. So, passing out the flyers in the nightclub area was our entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. At first Damon designed flyers that were purely artistic, but soon they changed to pseudo propaganda leaflets that were riddled with bizarre disinformation. Our nights of distributing flyers turned from a simple PR plan to a strange sort of street performance where we started saying a number of different odd things to people so they would take the flyers. In the end, nothing ever became of Baffle Logic — Damon went on to become a musician and a graphic designer ( and and my experience not only peaked my interest in performance art, but it was the beginning of my career as an entrepreneur.

“Hurt” (photos: Christine Kessler)

BME: How many shows have you done — and how many people do you think you’ve brought into suspension? Nearly everyone in the intial suspension “boom” in the late nineties cites you as an influence.

I’ve actually lost track of how many suspensions I’ve done; private, public and performance. These days I like to look at it in terms of places. Without creating a list of states and countries, I can say I’ve hung on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. It is still my hope to hang in Africa, and crazy as it sounds, hanging at the South Pole is one of my goals to do before I die. There’s no good rhyme or reason, and there won’t be many people to see it, but as silly as sounds it’s just something I feel compelled to do one day.

As for bringing other people into the suspension, wow, no clue. It has always been my stance that suspension information should be available to everyone. Over the past fifteen years I’ve tried to help anyone that has asked for it. Not only does this make it difficult to give any kind of number, but I know for a fact that many people I have influenced have gone on and done the same thing. Directly or indirectly I know I’ve brought in more people than I can count.

BME: What made you decide to leave performance suspension? Is this just as a performer (ie. will you still be doing “production”), or are you completely leaving?

The decision to quit performing was very difficult, but it was time. Back in the day it was amazing just to see someone hang from hooks. Nowadays, you need to do something really impressive and unfortunately I made a niche for myself by doing cutaways and falling onto hooks. It’s a pretty impressive stunt, and it’s murder on my body, but it’s more than that. My final decision to quit actually came while performing in Greece last year. During my show, I pulled a muscle in my lower back. I was in pain for a week straight, sleeping on a friend’s couch in London and trying to recuperate for the show I had booked the following weekend. During that time I had plenty of time to think. The conclusion… my body just doesn’t heal like it used to and it’s better to just quit now while I’m at the top of my game.

As for my future, I’m sure I will stay involved in performance suspension on some level. I still have some ideas I would love to see happen. So, yes I may very well keep working on the production side. Another reason why I want to quit is that there are just too many jobs for one person to do. When I’m on tour, I have no crew. So, teaching local people to throw strange hooks and handle rigging can be a bit disconcerting. I think doing more behind the scenes work would be much less stressful and then I could truly be involved in the safety side suspension performance, an area that is always hard to manage when you’re the one hanging.

The six-man pyramid and the nine-man mobile.

BME: Looking back on your performance career, what shows are you most proud of?

That’s tough to answer because for the time, each performance was very cutting edge. For instance, the nine-man mobile — theatrically not a very interesting piece, but the engineering behind it was incredible, especially for a bunch of kids from Texas. I think my favorite performance is still the “Hurt” show, named for Johnny Cash’s rendition of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt” that I use. I have done several different versions of the piece but the song always plays an integral part and sets the stage for a cutaway drop onto another set of hooks. The reason I’m so proud of the piece is that it’s unique and still rarely duplicated.

BME: As a performer and artist, who have been your favorite people to work with? Who do you think is doing the most interesting suspension shows these days and why?

As life experience goes, the people I’ve met and worked with while suspending have been inspirational. I hate to make a list of people because I know I will leave out so many but the top of my list are definitely Ron Athey, Lucifire and even Fakir, even if we don’t see eye to eye on many levels. In suspension performance there are too many to name but I will definitely mention Samar. She has been my performance partner off and on for a couple of years now and hanging with her is always so much fun

As for suspension shows, I’m still a big fan of CoRE, but in all honesty, I rarely see other performance suspensions. I know the crew from Ascension performs regularly and I’m good friends with them, but I’ve never actually seen them on stage. For instance, I’ve seen Havve from Pain Solution perform a couple times, but I’ve yet to see a show that involves suspension, well, no live show. And I’ve seen Aesthetic Meat Foundation perform as well, but never any hanging. I have seen Operafication perform several times, but suspension is in my opinion a minor part of the act. The true focus is the singing not the hooks.

I think the future of suspension will be more aerial work. I believe the Flying Tigers Circus were the first to incorporate suspension and trapeze work, but unfortunately the have retired the hooks as well.

BME: Will you still do private suspensions for others?

Oh yes, my focus on suspension has turned to the community, especially in the arena of education. I want to help others that are interested in suspension. That’s always been my primary goal and in many ways I feel that I got a bit lost in the performance side. For me, the act of hanging others has always been an amazing experience. To see some else hang is just as, if not more gratifying than doing it myself. I doubt very seriously that I will ever stop suspending other people.

BME: Will you still do private suspensions yourself? Why or why not?

Yes, of course. I still love private suspensions. In fact, all these performances have actually diluted my experience. I need to get back to me roots and just hang. When you are on stage, you need to worry about timing and music cues. When you hang just for you, you can just relax and immerse yourself in the sensation.

BME: As one of the “fathers of the modern suspension movement”, and someone with a long history in both public and private suspension, what is suspension’s value?

Heh, what value does any act have? For me, suspension is one of the most important finds in my life. For others, who knows? I have never been a big fan of pushing my ideals or beliefs on others, and in the case of suspension, this is most definitely true. So, rather than answering your question directly, I will answer it indirectly with another comparison. Smoking tobacco is socially acceptable. Annoying to some, a vice to others, but for most it’s just viewed as an activity that has little to no value. However to certain Native American cultures, the smoking of tobacco is part of an important ritual that has been passed down for generations. So, what is the tobacco’s value?

BME: How is suspension different from self-harm?

This question is difficult to answer in that everyone’s view of self-harm is different. Do the hooks hurt going in? Sure. Is hanging from hooks painful? A bit. So why do people do it? Simple, the sensation is amazing. Plus, many people have an experience that is life changing. Is it just a biochemical response to pain mixed with a euphoric sensation of getting close to shock while hanging feeling almost weightless? Do people have out of body or religious experiences? Is it just the fact that someone has just overcome their fears and done something that seems impossible? I really can’t answer these questions. Everyone gets something different.

My personal view is that when we modify are bodies on any level we are putting ourselves back in touch with our tactile sensations. In western society we communicate with our outside world mostly through sight and sound. For some people, smell and taste play an important role as well, but what about touch? We, as a species, rarely use this sense. Other than sex, when is the last time you remember the sensation of what something actually feels like?

Yes, suspension could be viewed as self-harm, but so could that ringing in your ears from all those loud concerts you attended.

BME: You mentioned that it’s getting harder and harder to make an impact on a crowd with suspension. As a form of performance art, is suspension “done”?

Not buy a long shot. In fact, I think quite the opposite. Suspension is actually an accepted art form now. With all the media hype and exposure, hanging from hooks has come out of the closet and entered mainstream conversation. It’s actually difficult to find anyone that’s never heard of suspension. Some of the old timers disagree, but I think this is a very positive thing. People may not be as shocked as they used to, but now hanging from hooks can be seen as entertainment. What role will suspension play in performance art in the future? Who knows.

BME: I don’t suppose you could have imagined that suspension would be where it is now when you first started, and things have changed a lot in the last fifteen years. That said, do you think it will change much from where it is now, or has suspension hit a stable point socioculturally?

I think everyone is pretty surprised at how far suspension has come. Just like piercing, when I first got involved I never really thought it would be much more than an underground activity. However, unlike piercing that has hit its peak and is now either stable or on the slight decline, suspension will never really gain much acceptance. I realize that it might seem pretty mainstream, but I doubt hanging from hooks will ever become the new navel. You never know though. There might be a future of “suspension spas” just on the horizon, but I definitely wont be behind that venture — but I will happily take a paid position doing guest lectures.

obscurities and studio ownership

BME: Can you give me a really quick history of Obscurities?

I opened Obscurities as a piercing studio back in 1992, as hobby more than anything. In fact, the name came from only fifteen seconds of thought, and in some ways I regretted the decision because it’s difficult to spell and doesn’t really roll of the tongue. I was setting up the business, and didn’t even have a location yet, but I need a sales tax permit to be able to buy jewelry. I went to the county tax office to apply for it and realized I needed a company name for the document. I’ve always liked the word “obscure” because of its multiple meanings and how it can easily represent almost anything. So the word Obscur…ities just came out of my mouth when they asked for my business name. I planned to change it at some point, but a few months later I opened a piercing studio in a vintage clothing store. A year or so later the owners of that shop and I partnered to open the tattoo side, Trilogy Tattoo — there were three of us. A year later I sold my part to them. Then by 2000, the clothes were gone, it was one big tattoo and piercing shop, and I bought back Trilogy and combined it into one shop.

BME: Was it difficult choosing to sell your shop after having it for so long?

Difficult wasn’t even the right word. Gut wrenching is more like it. In all honesty I don’t think I would have ever sold it if the right person hadn’t come along and offered the right price — yes, money did play an important role. However, the sale was also based on the new owner’s character. If I thought for a minute he was going to tarnish the shop name or not take care of the employees it never would have happened.

BME: It must be hard seeing “your baby” under someone else’s control?

LOL, you don’t even know. Technically I only work as a consultant for Obscurities now, but I’m still in the shop every week. I know I haven’t really let go, and I’m not sure if I ever will. I am still emotional vested in that shop. I guess in a way it’s a good thing. What better than to have a former owner still supporting a shop that really gives him nothing? In a way it’s a huge compliment to everyone that works there. I still give praise to them all and consider it one of the best shops in the industry.

BME: How have your feelings about the industry changed in any way, now that you’re not longer doing it for a day job?

I’m not sure my feelings have changed, other than to say that I miss piercing a bit. I think the biggest difference now is that I can speak my mind, where before I was always afraid to bite the hand that feeds me. In all honesty, I think the biggest change is that no one is my competition anymore. When you work in any industry, especially if you own a business, there is a certain amount of “us against them” mentality. Now, I can walk into any tattoo or piercing shop and I feel welcome. Actually, even more than that, people now greet me differently. Now that I’m working in tattoo removal, artists are beginning to see me as an ally.

BME: Having now gone through the full cycle in this industry, would you do it over again if you could rewind to being, say, sixteen?

Would I do it again? Of course! The last two decades have really shaped who I am. I can’t imagine what I would be like if I had finished my engineering degree. Yes, there are numerous things I would change if I knew then what I know now, but my general direction would have been the same.

BME: You went to school for engineering?

Prior to piercing I was a full time student and in my spare time I worked on several projects. I started a company doing a specialized form of tax filing. Yes, I come from a family of accountants. I worked in a movie theater, an art gallery, and even partnered with a guy to open an all ages club called the Discowtech one night a week at the gallery. It was actually my involvement in the club/gallery that led me to my first meeting with Fakir Musafar. He came to speak one day, took a shining to me, and I guess the rest is history.

My education has always been a bit spotty. I was an exceptional student when I wanted to be, but more often than not I didn’t. In elementary and junior high I was an honor student, but high school was boring. So, I dropped out and got a GED. I became interested in computers so I went to college to get a degree in computer science engineering, but I discovered body piercing and chose to drop out. My father almost killed me. He put me through school and I quit to put holes in people. In the end, he was actually impressed by my accomplishments. He never liked my mods or the suspensions, but he was my accountant and did my taxes. He saw that I was a successful businessman and for that he was proud.

BME: Did you ever consider going and finishing that degree?

I think about it a lot, but it’s not the degree per say I want — it’s the learning and gaining of knowledge I crave. At this point in my life, a degree has little to no value to me. It’s simply a piece of paper. If I really wanted to get a degree I think an MBA would do me the most good, but I don’t really care enough to pursue it. Although I’m an entrepreneur at heart, the business classes I’ve taken just weren’t interesting enough and never seemed to apply to my businesses. I would rather sit in on lectures about quantum mechanics or human physiology. Oddly enough, I think most piercers, especially the old school ones, have a similar mentality. We just can’t conform enough to deal with the politics of the educational system, but on the other hand we are obsessed with self-improvement and learning.

BME: Looking back, what moments do you most treasure in your experiences as a shop owner and piercer/body modification artist?

I think I could write a novel answering this question. Off the top of my head, one my oldest memories is sitting in my shop, after closing. I was alone and it was dark except for the neon in the windows and the lights from the clubs outside. I remember sitting there thinking, “This is mine… I built this and I am proud.” As for experiences with clients, there are just too many to name. I constantly think I’m done, I’m retired, I’m through, but I have so many positive memories of piercings that I think about taking it up again. I really don’t think the answer to this question would be complete without a suspension experience. Again, there are so many things I could name, first tandem, first knee, first suspension, Night of 1000 Scars, but the nine man mobile really takes the cake. Besides pulling off an amazing engineering feat, the whole trip with I think 20 or 22 people, the largest membership of TSD ever, was an experience I will never forget.

BME: Is there any advice you’d offer to a piercer or tattoo artist that wants to also become a studio owner? What are some things you did right, and some things you did wrong?

I could write a book about the dos and don’ts of being a studio owner, so I will try to pick a few highlights. As with any business it’s location, location, location. You can have the greatest shop in the world but you will never succeed if you are in the wrong area. If the studio is difficult to find, there’s no parking, or in an area that won’t attract your clientele, you will never make it. Stability is key as well. If your artists switch every few months you’ll never be able to keep a decent client base. People like a certain amount of change, but they want reliability too. Also, customer service seems to be a big problem for many studios. It doesn’t matter how good you are, people want to be treated with respect. Why some shops think it’s ok to grunt at and ignore customers I will never know. Last but not least, quality. If you offer shitty jewelry, your shop is dirty and your tattoo artists suck, you won’t be very successful. Strangely enough, the average customer cares more about everything I have listed above, over price, but people still feel the need to offer discounts and slash prices. This might be a good way to get people in the door, but if you offer a cut-rate price, people perceive you to be a low quality service.

This last point leads to a good story. I know this tattoo artist that is such a good salesman. People would ask about a tattoo and he’d say something like, “You know the tattoo you want would look best with this ink.” Pulling out a random bottle he would say, “This ink comes from Tahiti and the color will really pop in your skin tone.” All along it was just regular bottle of ink. It didn’t really matter what kind of ink it was or where it came from, but he made his clients feel like he was giving them special attention. Even if this practice might not be the most ethical, people came back and loved him.

Now, all that said, honestly, opening a new shop, with all the competition and the sluggish US economy, may not be the best decision. At the very least, a new shop needs to have some serious funding behind it… But good luck to anyone that tries. If you are looking for a consultant I am definitely available.

fade fast and tattoo removal

BME: How do you approach tattoo removal differently than someone who’s coming into this starting as a tattoo removal person, rather than someone who started with decades of pro-tattoo experience?

I always encourage people to lighten tattoos and recover them. Many tattoo removal clinics push total removal with the angle that getting a tattoo is a mistake. I feel very differently. It’s not that people hate tattoos — they are just unhappy with they have. As I try to explain to people, doing a few treatments and covering the old tattoo is usually the best option. Yes, total removal is sometimes necessary for certain career moves, but total removal is a big commitment. Using a laser to lighten existing work is cheaper, faster, and is better for the tattoo industry. I see it as a win-win situation for everyone.

BME: What is your goal with Fade Fast?

As I mentioned, using a laser to lighten tattoos is the perfect pretreatment to getting better artwork. Yes, I founded the business to help my clients, but it’s more than that. I am working directly with tattoo artists to fix, rework, and completely change their client’s tattoos. I know that some removal clinics are becoming more and more tattoo friendly. However, other than Fade Fast, I only know of one other company that works directly with artist to laser edit tattoos, Rethink Your Ink in Marion Illinois.

BME: Realistically, what percentage of people eventually regret their tattoos?

Regret? Well I don’t think anyone should regret any decision, but that’s not how most people see things. I think that people’s decisions to alter or remove tattoos have more to do with how their lives or ideas have changed. What was once a good idea may not be a good idea now. I would say that most people with multiple tattoos want to change them, whether it’s to remove, cover, or even add to them. As for true regret, it’s hard to say. Most people I work on say they regret their tattoo, but once I get them talking, more often than not, they don’t regret getting it, they just aren’t happy with what they have now. To me, this is more about perception. So with that said, 90? 95? 99? percent of people with multiple tattoos want something about their designs altered. True regret? Well, maybe tattoos that hinder their lives or remind them of an ex… but then again, aren’t those the things that have actually shaped their lives and made them who they are?

Left: in progress, Right: before, and after two sessions.

BME: As someone doing removal, what advice would you give to someone thinking about getting their first tattoo?

Now that’s a loaded question. Should my answer be, go crazy and pay me to remove them in the future? As funny as that it is, it’s really not the answer. Yes, the technology is getting there, but removal is not a quick, simple process. Lasers are great tools for providing more options, but you can’t expect miracles. My real answer, “Think before you ink. How will this tattoo affect your future? Will it interfere with any future decisions? Make a plan. At eighteen you might not be thinking body suit, but at thirty will that tiny piece affect the flow of a half sleeve?”

If there are any life lessons best learned early on, it’s that we all change. The more you plan and the better you prepare, the happier you will be. From a very early age I wanted hand and neck tattoos, but I got 3/4 sleeves and tried to be patient. At thirty-six, I had created a life and a career that allowed for my mods, so now my hands and neck are tattooed. Did I make mistakes? Sure, my back piece is a huge mess. I rushed into it, and now I’m a stuck with it. Will I remove it? Maybe… Who knows?

BME: What kinds of tattoos are easiest and hardest to remove? Are different parts of the body different to do removal on?

The technology of laser tattoo removal is based on light absorption. The darker the color, the more energy it will absorb and the easier it is to remove. Simple answer, but the problem is bit more complex. Different inks react to different wavelengths. Skin types and skin color also play an important role in laser removal. Plus, the quality of the tattoo is a key component as well as your immune system. The body’s lymphatic system does most of the work so each person varies dramatically. Generally poor quality, dark tattoos on high blood flow areas on light skinned people with strong immune systems are easiest to remove. Conversely, well-done, light-colored tattoos on people of darker skin in low blood flow areas of the body that might have slower healing are much more difficult.

BME: How have your friends in the industry responded to your new business?

For the most part I have been greeted very positively by most of my peers. However, I have had some very close friends react very negatively. I chalk it up to a misunderstanding and after a small discussion most people come around when they realize I’m in it to help the field of tattooing not hurt it. There are of course a few exceptions. I think laser tattoo removal and tattooing are complementary services and work great in the same location. However, one tattooer that is an old friend of mine still thinks the two do not belong in the same location. I guess we will just agree to disagree.

BME: What would you say to people who believe that tattoo removal is fundamentally wrong or a betrayal to the tattoo industry? Not that I can imagine anyone with any sense or objectivity actually believes this?

You would be surprised. I have found it to be a first reaction by some tattoo artists — not many, but it has happened. Usually I just explain who I am, my work in the industry, and how I see the laser as the perfect pretreatment for cover-ups. Nine times out of ten I get a very positive response, but there is always someone that thinks I’m Judas. In the beginning I was got very defensive, but now I just smile, shake their hand, and give them some promotional materials.

BME: What do you think about the “easy to remove” tattoo ink that’s been in the media lately? Good idea or bad idea? How do you think that “easy” removal would change the tattoo industry and culture?

I used to have mixed emotions about the Freedom-2 ink, but now I’m starting to think it’s a good idea and here’s why. No matter what ink you use, tattooing is still a long and painful process. I can see the modified culture not liking the fact that people can get a tiny tattoo and remove it a year later, but think about it this way. You sat under the needle to get it done. As far as I’m concerned you still “earned” the piece. So, yes, perception about small tattoos might change, but what about big work? What if you could spend ten, twenty, thirty plus hours on a piece and then remove all or part of it a few years later and start over? The impact on tattooing would be incredible. More work for artists, more modified people walking the earth, more social acceptance. “Oh that, I will get it removed later if I have to.” In the beginning there might be some disgruntled heavily modified people, but once the ink starts being used on a large scale, no one will complain. There will still be people that love tattoos and people that hate them.

BME: Do you think tattoo artists should tattoo with removal in mind?

Well, I don’t think my opinion matters, but I have never thought people should get tattoos done with the idea of removing them. Even if the ink is easier to remove, there is a permanence that is inherent with tattooing. I’ve always tried to consider the future in every decision, so in a sense, yes I’m sure some will tattoo with removal in mind. My guess though is it will be a small percentage. Tattoo artists are proud of their work and I can’t imagine many of them want their clients to remove their artwork.

I do think there is one huge application that people are overlooking. Tattoo apprentices have to work on people. If they could work on clients with less worry of mistakes, wouldn’t inks like Freedom-2 be a huge asset? Plus, wouldn’t artists feel a bit less guilty about tattooing a piece of flash or name if they knew it could be removed later?

BME: What sorts of changes have you observed in people via removal? That is, what sort of things do people usually get removed, and why?

My business is different than most in that I work with heavily tattooed people. Many of many clients are clearing way for new work, so I spend a good portion of my time simply lightening dark areas. When it comes to the realm of total removal, you guessed it — the number one request is to remove names. Other removals have to do with placement. For instance I am removing a wrist tattoo on a woman that needs to hide it for work. Technically my job is tattoo removal, but I always try to encourage people to lighten and recover. In the grand scheme of things it means less treatments, faster results, and it helps people keep a positive attitude about their tattoos and the modified community at large.

BME: Do you think this will in time become the norm?

I can’t say if it will become the norm, but I do believe it’s the wave of the future. Complete removal is great and for some people it’s the best alternative, but for the modified community, laser removal will no doubt become a companion service to tattooing. So far most of my clients want entire pieces faded for complete cover-ups. However, I have been working with people to target specific areas just for the sake of editing the piece.

BME: What equipment do you use, and what training was involved?

I use two pieces of equipment. First is the Palomar Q-switched YAG laser. There are lots of lasers available and they all have their pros and cons. I decided to purchase this unit because it’s designed to work best on blacks and reds. Being that I focus heavily on lightening dark tattoos for re-cover, this laser is perfectly suited for my needs. Plus, it has a unique wave-blending feature that gives it enormous flexibility that no other system offers.

Second, I use a Zimmer Cryo unit, which blows negative 22 degree air to keep the area cooled during the procedure. Blowing cold air on the skin isn’t necessary, but after polling multiple people that have experienced constant cooling during a removal treatment, I determined it was a good investment. Plus, when it’s used in conjunction with pre-icing the area, many people say the pain is comparable or even less than getting the initial tattoo.

As for training, my initial education came from the National Laser Institute in Arizona. The school is definitely geared toward estheticians, but they also offered a course on laser tattoo removal. Then upon purchasing the laser, Palomar provided further training on the use of the unit. In all actuality, my biggest learning curve came from doing treatments on myself. I not only worked within the standard parameters of the laser, but I have and still continue to do tests to determine better methods to speed removal and to reduce the number of treatments.

Allen gets tattooed for the purpose of removal.

BME: What “test” have you done and why?

The main thing I have done is to tattoo nine black rectangles on the inside of my right arm, specifically to remove them. The first was not treated, the second treated once, the third twice and so on. I wanted a physical example of how the process works. Plus I wanted to show my commitment to the trade. How better to earn a client’s trust than to perform laser removal on myself first? I actually liked the image so much — I use it as my company logo.

I now have four other tests in the works that I plan to start in the near future. Once I get each of them rolling, I plan to blog each of them step by step.

BME: Are there any people you turn away?

Actually, there are far more to turn away in this field than in a tattoo or piercing studio. As with any modification, I will not perform any laser treatment on clients that are on drugs or intoxicated. Plus, certain people either are not good candidates or simply cannot safely have laser treatments done. For instance, if the person has taken Accutane in the last year or are on any photo reactive medications there can be serious complications associated with the procedure. Also, there are numerous other factors to take into account. Were you aware that laser treatments can cause herpes flare-ups? The treatment area would have to be where the viral outbreak appears, but still, removing lip liner is a request I do get… bet you were thinking about different area, weren’t you?

BME: How do you promote or market Fade Fast? I know that a lot of tattooing marketing involves word of mouth and handing out business cards, but I don’t imagine you walk up to people and are, like, “hey, your tattoo sucks — I can help you with that!”

Funny that you say that, I see bad tattoos all the time, and yes I want to walk up and hand them a card, but how do you that? I think I’m pretty creative, and I’ve tried to think of a funny and non-insulting approach, but I have yet to figure it out. I do several things to market the business; print advertising, keeping a laser removal blog, bugging an old friend to do an article for BME, but my main marketing has been through local tattoo shops.

I’ve been in the business so long that I know a good chunk of the artists that work in Dallas. So, my first plan of action was to go door-to-door, hand out promotional packs and simply tell everyone more about what I doing and why. It has actually been a very cool and educational experience. Back when I owned my studio I’d only been by a handful of local shops. Now I’ve seen the insides, artist stations, and even bio areas of eighty shops. Well, truth be told, only a handful of shops gave me the full tour, but still it was great seeing all those places.

Although I do get business from all my PR work, my main referrals still come from tattoo shops.

Shannon Larratt

3 thoughts on “Allen Falkner: Punished and Forgiven – Interview in BME/News [Publisher’s Ring]

  1. You seem to a fan of Freedom Ink (I agree, although most in the industry don’t seem to like it, and it appears to be vanishing). Can you share your experience in removing Freedom Ink? Does it really only take 2-3 treatments and does it completely erase, or is it not that much different?

  2. You seem to a fan of Freedom Ink (I agree, although most in the industry don’t seem to like it, and it appears to be vanishing). Can you share your experience in removing Freedom Ink? Does it really only take 2-3 treatments and does it completely erase, or is it not that much different?

  3. You seem to a fan of Freedom Ink (I agree, although most in the industry don’t seem to like it, and it appears to be vanishing). Can you share your experience in removing Freedom Ink? Does it really only take 2-3 treatments and does it completely erase, or is it not that much different?

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