Where’s BME? Where are the posts? Are you guys okay? Have you frittered away the budget in strip clubs across the world? Those are the sorts of questions I’ve been getting. While I’d love to be on the perfect schedule of making at least one video a day, it’s going to take us a couple weeks to get to that point. Now bear with me while I try to get you caught up to where we are in the world tour. First I want to take a moment and thank H2Ocean.com and Industrial Strength for being our main BME world tour sponsors. They’re making this trip possible and I, as well as the rest of the crew, appreciate it!
I have exactly 34 minutes of battery life on the flight between Sydney and Melbourne and I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish this post in that time. It simply isn’t possible to recount what we’ve done over such a short time. I’ll do my best to give you an over view and hopefully make you feel like you’re here with us. Some of you came out and showed us around town and for that I couldn’t be more grateful!
In order to get everyone up to speed without creating a massive tl;dr, I’ll try not to go over what Chez has already posted but it’s easy enough to say that the trip started off on a lame first step. We had one thing after another present itself, from drama to suitcases that wouldn’t zip shut, lost laptops to delayed flights, emptied pre-payed phones and more than I will waste any more time writing about. If it wasn’t complicated, it wouldn’t be fun and I wouldn’t trade it for the world on a silver platter.
Click through to read more of the story and what we’ve been up to since we arrived in the country of kangaroos!
After spending about two and a half days getting to know one another, we left Los Angeles on Wednesday April 7th, arriving in Sydney on Friday April 9th. We mastered time travel and now we’re a day ahead of most of the readers out there. As Chez mentioned, Nano was a great host and was fresh faced at 7am to meet us at the airport. We ate breakfast together in what has quickly become a tour tradition, got sorted out at our hostel and then headed out for a walk. We had one day to catch our breath before Chez took on the monstrous task of organizing our schedule for the week.
As you remember, we took suggestions from readers and went to almost every shop that was suggested to us that we were able to make time for. Due to having hosted the amazing Trevor McStay back in the states, I was lucky to have a great source for info on the Australian tattoo/piercing/body modification scene. Trevor sent us an email with contact information for Rhys Gordon and a suggestion that I ask him to show me around town. I also want to give a quick shout out to Timothy and thank him for the massive list of contact information that he sent us after his trip to the Sydney tattoo convention.
I made plans to have dinner with Rhys on Friday night but canceled after sitting down on my bed in the hostel and passing out around 7pm. The next day was much better after waking up shortly after 6am. I didn’t realize until later that I’d actually woken up around 2am local time on the flight here and that we’d put in a pretty long day just getting organized.
On Saturday we stopped over at Josh Roelink‘s TatuDarhma to check out the shop and what we’d need to do lighting/interview wise. We were expecting that to take a while but honestly after walking into the space and seeing floor to ceiling warehouse style windows, beautiful natural lighting and art everywhere, we knew we were off to a great start. TatuDharma set the tone for what the rest of our stay in Sydney would bring. One beautiful shop after the next as well as a population of tattooers, piercers and clients who were warm and welcoming.
Rhys showed up shortly after and picked us all up in his ’66 Dodge Coronet and we piled in. The team has gotten used to tight quarters in the back of one car after the next. We headed off towards Inner Vision Tattoo to meet the locals over there but not before dropping BME’s tour crew off at The Illustrated Man to chat with the Tony Cohen and Heather Gee (link to the first article). I met Cliffe Clayton, the owner, as well as several tattooers and guest artist Marcus Kuhn. From that point on I knew this was going to be an awesome trip.
After a whirlwind trip around Sydney on a perfectly guided tour, I met up with the Prince of Bondi, Dane, and his awesome Staffy dog named Indie. She’s apparently one of the most photographed dogs in Australia and after meeting her, I can definitely understand why. The people watching from the patio of The Flying Squirrel Tapas Parlour was spectacular, not to mention meeting Miss Australia, who happens to be a regular.
Sunday started off with a rushed morning after I cooked breakfast for the five of us. We took a cab to hang out with Rhys as he took us to Bondi Beach. It’s justifiably one of Australia’s most famous beaches and I’m sure that you can understand why. One thing they don’t put in the brochures about Australia is the lack of a proper ozone layer. We slathered on the sunscreen and laid out on our towels, soaking in the sun, splashing in the waves and generally getting to know each other better.
Our first interview of the trip belonged to Josh Roelink and took place in his studio TatuDharma. It was hard to peel off our bathing suits and dive in to “interview mode” but we were able to do it once the sun stroke wore off. Josh, having just had his first baby only 6 short weeks ago, was kind enough to come in on his day off so that we’d be able to speak with him. Josh is known around the world and has traveled doing guest spots and conventions. It was amazing to talk to each other and realize how many people that we both know. We exchanged stories about tattooing legends as well as conventions that we’ve both worked at, shops we’ve been to, being a new parent and so much more. While Josh and I got to know each other, Darah and Richard interviewed Alex and Megan shot photos of the whole thing.
After we finished up at TatuDharma, we split ways and I headed down to Inner Vision to get to know the staff over there. There is something to be said about walking into a tattoo shop in a country that you’ve never been to before. No matter where you are, there are comforting smells and sounds that will always make you feel like home. At Inner Vision I was made to feel incredibly welcome. I also tried to download as much email as I possibly could! The only downside to our trip so far has been one technical problem after the next. As I sit here writing (at our hostel in Melbourne) I’m unable to connect to the internet. When you’re trying to write for an online magazine, that can be a problem!
We made plans to go to Sydney’s tourist restaurant known as “360” which is at the top of the Sydney Tower. If you haven’t guessed already, it is one of those spinning restaurants which can make you very nauseous. Darah elected to sit that dinner out and I don’t blame her one bit. As Marcus was here, he decided to indulge in a little tourism and joined us. We have hours of video with him, going through his impressions and stories of his tattoo related travels. As someone who has seen the inside of Rikers Island several times to having tattooed with legends from all around the world, it was amazing to be fortunate enough to hear stories and meet someone with as much history and experience as he has. I look forward to getting a chance to interview him in the future.
Rhys, Marcus, Chez, Richard, Megan and I basically closed down the restaurant. Marcus wanted to see “King’s Cross”, which is Sydney’s “Red Light District”. He spent an hour or so trying to solicit hookers to take their photo with him for $10 dollars but none of them would. Shortly after that we made our way into one of the fine establishments in the King’s Cross. I can’t remember what the name was but after negotiating down the entrance fee, we all had a bunch of “dancing bucks” and proceeded to have some fun. Unfortunately you can’t take photos in a strip club but that doesn’t mean we didn’t try!
L-R: Megan, Chez, Rhys Gordon, Richard, Rachel and Marcus
Marcus and Rhys tried to work the “birthday” angle, which as we were 3 girls and 3 guys, seemed to go over pretty well. At one point a stripper approached me and pulled off my top! As there wasn’t a single exotic dancer with a tattoo, I find it hard to believe that she confused me for one of the dancers! We were smart enough to cash in a set amount of money for the pre-purchased fake bills so that we didn’t blow our entire budget on strippers. It can happen when you’re in a new city and having a great time.
L-R: Marcus, Chez, Megan and Richard (PS. We’ve gotten very used to squeezing way too many people into one tiny car after the next!)
The next morning saw most of the crew sleeping in. I’m not sure if it was exhaustion from all the excitement, the many many rounds of drinks, jet lag or a combination of both but I let everyone sleep in as I still woke up around 7am. I went down and cooked breakfast for all of us again and we began to organize our day.
We tried to utilize public transportation but that wasn’t working as well as we’d hoped but we got ourselves to Kaleidoscope Tattoo in Bondi. Our main attraction there, aside from the owner Luciano, was Stevie Edge. Stevie has been on BME/IAM since at least 2001. He met his girlfriend via IAM some 8 years ago and she’s moved here from the USA. I always love meeting people who have met their significant others through BME because it shows that not only are we able to document a love affair with body modification but that we can also facilitate members of our community with finding love itself.
I’m not sure how many tattooers we ended up interviewing at Kaleidoscope but we also grabbed a quick interview with Kaleidoscope’s piercer, Brady. I stepped out throughout the day to buy massive amounts of candy and gorge myself silly. We all had a good laugh at my expense as my belly finally decided to object to the influx of sugar coated goodness. We wrapped up at Kaleidoscope and headed back to the hostel to decompress.
On Tuesday, the crew made their way to Industrial Strength Australia and met with Rob, the piercer there. I spent the day online working on my day to day work that I have to do for BME to keep things running smoothly. I was bummed that I didn’t get to make it back over there but I had work to do!
Throughout the week and time spent with Marcus, he continually brought up “Mr. Shuffles”, the miracle elephant newborn at the Taronga Zoo. We decided to switch our day off and make our way to the zoo on Wednesday. While waiting for the crew to catch up, Marcus and I met Pauly Shore by the ferry. It was a very bizarre meeting but a fun one at that. All work and no play makes the tour a dull one so we had a great time checking out the animals. By the end of the day we were beat.
L-R: Pauly Shore, Rachel and Marcus. The Sydney Opera House. Mr. Shuffles!
On Thursday, it was time to meet with Polymorph and work the interviewing magic that we’ve been developing at a sure and steady pace. While the crew spent the morning over there, I was at Inner Vision. I got the first of what I hope are many new tattoos while on this tour. Rhys drew up a skull and tattooed me for a few hours. I have almost all of the time lapse done. It took 2 hours but I’ve got the footage down to 8 minutes. I need to refine it a bit more so that it’s only about 5 minutes. I didn’t end up having enough time to interview Rhys but he was gracious enough to interview the other tattooers who wouldn’t be returning from Japan until after we were already departed.
L-R: Rhys Gordon. Rachel’s new skull tattoo by Rhys. Rachel getting tattooed.
The next morning we left from Sydney to fly to Melbourne, which is when I started writing this post. Work, sun and jet lag caught up with Richard, Darah and Chez who caught some sleep on the plane. Meanwhile Megan and I got some work done.
We grabbed our luggage and headed to get a “maxi taxi” to the Lord’s Lodge, where the crew is currently staying. I’m staying with Trevor and his family as I’ve hosted Trevor at my place in LA. Trevor not only opened up his home to me but also helped give us the keys to the city by calling around to the local shops and helping us set up interviews.
On Saturday I got the majority of the background on my right leg from knee to shin colored in. I’ll be getting one more sitting done to finish the back of my calf before we head out to Darwin for the weekend. That meant that we spent Saturday at Dynamic Tattoo and interviewed Trevor again as well as his daughter Tarlyn. Tarlyn started tattooing at the ripe old age of 12 and I hope that some day we can interview her again as she becomes a second generation tattooer. While we were there we also interviewed Matty and Rob who I would say that they are lucky enough to work with Trevor but because they do work at Dynamic, it just shows that they have incredible talent to be able to work with a great Australian tattooer and can pull their own weight.
While I was getting tattooed, the crew headed off to Third Eye Tattoo and I believe they interviewed somewhere around 8 or 9 tattooers. I stayed behind so that I could endure a couple of grueling hours of tattooing and then have dinner with Josh Roelink who was in town for a wedding. We had a great dinner with everyone from Dynamic and exchanged body art and tattoo related travel stories. By the time it was 10pm, I was ready to head home. Luckily so was everyone else.
I woke up Sunday morning and logged online to realize that it was that time. I had turned 30 years old! As I came out of the guest bedroom I started receiving the first of many “Happy Birthday!” wishes. It was a great way to start the day. Rhys had decided to fly in from Sydney to hang out and he arrived shortly after we’d all gotten ready to start the day. I headed out from the suburbs with Rhys to meet up with the crew. They had Sunday off which was hopefully a good break for them. Rhys and I tried to head over to the beach and Luna Park but I wasn’t up for walking as my calf was pretty swollen. We ended up coming back out to Trevor’s house and relaxing. We spent a few hours looking through various books, tracings, artwork drawn by tattooers from around the world that grace Trevor’s home and generally having a pretty chill day. Once a couple other people showed up, we headed out for a birthday dinner.
When a McStay fills your glass, you can’t say no. I believe they were trying to get me inebriated but after one drink I’d had enough! What can I say? I’m a light weight! The McStay’s surprised me with a beautiful birthday cake and they all sang “Happy Birthday” to me. I think that it was one of the best birthdays that I can remember having.
As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t had time to interview Rhys so I decided to mix things up a bit and interview him while we drove from the ‘burbs back into the city. We talked about tattooing, traveling, learning more about your career and developing as an artist and what it truly means to live by the motto of “be kind to tattooing and it will be kind to you”.
Rhys dropped me off at Chapel Tattoo where I met up with the rest of the crew and we got started on our day. We interviewed Dave McAleese, Dez (the shop manager) and were supposed to interview Shane Gallager but we had to reschedule that for tomorrow.
I’ve tried to get caught up on recapping our trip so far but it hasn’t been easy. Trying to find the time has been one thing as well as just being able to get online. I hope this isn’t too disjointed as it was written on an airplane, on the patio of a hostel while french reggae is blasting and hippies are playing some form of dodgeball that looks both hilarious and painful and finally the last page or so written from the McStay’s porch.
The first 11 days on the road have been amazing. I’ve never felt so welcomed and met so many bright and talented individuals in such a short amount of time. The few IAM members that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have been hospitable and caring as well as just great people. It reminds me why I love what I do and why I hope to continue doing it until the end of my days.
As I finish wrapping up this post, I’m happy to say that we’ve overcome our Final Cut Pro hurdle (apparently our camera won’t work with FCP 6!) and we should finally be able to move on and start editing video. The last technical hurdle we have is getting the lost but recovered laptop out to us here in Australia without having to pay $400 in ridiculous fedex charges so that Megan can start editing photos. We had to spend close to that to ship back our lighting kits because after they set themselves on fire, we decided that we didn’t want to drag the now useless but probably repairable gear around the rest of the world with us. Nothing says professional like turning on the lights and having a giant ball of smoke rise up in the middle of a busy tattoo studio!
I hope that you guys enjoyed the photos and feel like you’ve been caught up on what’s going on in the world of the BME tour. Thank you again to our sponsors H2Ocean.com and Industrial Strength. Without them, we would have already spent all our money on strippers and booze! An additional extra special thank you goes out to Nano, HotBrad, Rhys Gordon, Marcus Kuhn and Trevor and Deb McStay. These six people have made the beginning of the tour as stress free as possible. From opening up their hearts and their homes as well as showing us around town, I can’t thank them all enough. We’ve already met hundreds of people in the past 11 days and I can’t wait to meet even more. Remember, we’re totally into having BBQ’s or meet ups if anyone wants to organize one locally!
I’m off to bed now that it’s almost 3am my time and I have to be up in 6 hours but I wanted to finish this post and get it online while I still had a halfway decent internet connection!