It’s time for a contest!


BME Internship 2.0

It’s been almost 5 years since BME last had interns. I’ve decided that I’d like to do something similar to the internship contest that we had. You can read more about it here. This is a much shorter version of the intern ship and instead of relocating to beautiful La Paz, Mexico, we’ll be traveling around the world.

I’m currently planning a worldwide BME tour. This will probably mean being on the road for 2-3 months. My goal is to start the tour in time to be home for the middle of June. This means we’d be hitting the road in the beginning of April. I have approximately 6 weeks to plan the trip, get sponsors, figure out the winners and then buy everyone’s tickets and book accommodations. I will also be booking the interviews that we will have scheduled. We will have at least one day off each week. This trip is all business though so if you want to do it, be prepared to take photos, talk to people and video tape interviews while we work our way around the world.

The goal of the tour is to interview as many individuals from as many different cultures and locations as possible. In each city that we stop in, I want to interview at least 5 shops and collect copies of their portfolios to add to BME. In addition to interviewing Tattoo Artists, Piercers and Body Modification Artists, I want to talk to and photograph clients as well as random people that we meet on the streets. I want to see the sites that the various places we go to have to offer (yes this means playing tourist!) as well as compile video interviews along the way.  I’d like to bring 4 people besides myself. That means our group will consist of 5 people total. We can get away with 4, including me but we may go to 6 if I can’t make a decision between a couple great candidates.

Depending how the planning process goes, the trip may end up getting split into continents, obviously it’s always fun to think big but to make it so this really happens, we may need to scale it back and make it more affordable in terms of money, time and logistics. While I’m working on the contest and putting together the team, I’ll also be working on getting sponsorships as that will help make the tour that much more viable. I may also end up having a couple openings on the trip for multiple people to fill the various roles due to the length of the trip. I feel though that you should be able to commit at least two weeks. If you can only come out for a week, it’s not enough time to get into the groove with the rest of us. I will, however, make exceptions so please send in your audition and let me know that you’re the exception that I should make!

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No Superfluous Flummery: An Interview With Bob Roberts

Last month, while in Los Angeles for BME’s Tattoo Hollywood convention, I was given, above all else, one specific task: to interview Bob Roberts, the owner of L.A.’s Spotlight Tattoo, whose art gallery opening that week I wrote about here. There was, of course, an element of danger. “He can be very intimidating,” people cautioned me. “Be careful what you say around him.” Though ostensibly well-meaning, these warnings were unnecessary. When we sat down to talk on Sunday afternoon as the convention was winding down, Bob struck me as a cross between Jeff Bridges’s The Dude from The Big Lebowski and John Goodman’s Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski: an old hippie, content with his status and the life he’s lived…who occasionally gets very, very fired up about things. (Voice-wise, though? He’s The Dude.) Drawing from his nearly 40 years of experience, we talked about his humble beginnings, shitty artists he’s known, blow job etiquette in 1970s New York, various people who deserve to have their thumbs cut off and much more. Here’s our entire conversation, edited in parts only for clarity.

BME: OK, let’s start with some procedural questions and then once we’re warmed up I’ll try to make you cry.

Bob Roberts: Alright. Can you hear me? Test, test. Is the needle going on there?

BME: We’re ready to go. So where are you from originally?

BR: Los Angeles, California.

BME: And what brought you to tattooing in the first place?

BR: Well, it’s a long story. My dad had a store at Eighth and Broadway, and he used to take me with him to work on the weekends. When I got old enough to run around, first I would go by this pawn shop that had switchblade knives that would start at one inch and would go until they were maybe over six feet. Then, they had a lot of tattoo shops, so I used to go into all of them until I’d get thrown out, and I just always loved it, man. I saw all these people getting tattooed and from a young age it just nailed me to the wall.

Later on, I was in rock and roll bands for a long time—I played the saxophone—and I was painting a lot of flash and I wanted to find a job, and I thought I could be good at [tattooing]; I loved drawing the designs. So I went to a few shops and went, “Hey! Where can I get some ink and some guns?” And they just told me to get the fuck outta there.

So, I was living in Laurel Canyon, and I was driving down the hill one day and I saw a friend of mine hitchhiking, and he had this girl with him named Truly, and she had a fringed leather jacket on with a really nice Japanese dragon done in Indian beads on there. So I inquired! I said, “Man, that’s a nice dragon, it looks like a tattoo design.” She said it was, so I asked if she did it herself. She said, “Yeah, and I’m a tattoo artist too.” This is 1973, by the way. I told her I was looking into getting some equipment and machine, and she told me she had a whole outfit she could sell me. So, I bought some machines and some flash (that I still have) and a power-pack, and that’s really how I got started.

Shortly after that, I started going down to The Pike and got my first three tattoos—my first shop tattoos—by Bob Shaw, and I told him I was interested in working there. I’d bring him stuff that I’d drawn and I’d get tattooed by him, so he gave me the ultimate challenge: bring some people in that’ll let you put a tattoo on them. Well, I was in a rock and roll band at the time and these guys knew I could draw, so I told them to come to The Pike with me to get some free tattoos—I was bringing two carloads of guys a week down there. And I did alright, you know? I guess they figured, “Well, I guess this means we have to give this asshole a job.” And they did!

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Losing Your Lobes: An Interview With David Kitts

A little while ago, we got an e-mail from a man named David Kitts. Having been around the body modification community for about a decade, he’d stretched his lobes to two inches, but recently underwent surgery to reconstruct them to their original state—the idea and process of which has left him conflicted at best. He felt like his story could be useful as a cautionary of sorts, and so we spoke to him. In our interview, he discusses why he went the surgery route, what the procedure itself entailed, the effects it’s had on him mentally and more—after the jump.

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Live From Oslo SusCon: Interview With Havve and Christiane

Alexander Trowell is a body piercer and student nurse from Southport, U.K. He’ll be filing reports for us from the Oslo SusCon. Keep checking ModBlog for updates!

To give a better insight into the 2009 Oslo SusCon, I thought an interview with organizers Christiane and Havve might be interesting.

Havve Fjell is a freak-show artist/fakir performing under the name Pain Solution both in Norway and internationally. He runs the Fakir Academy in Oslo. Christiane Lofblad is a body piercer in Oslo, running the successful Pinpoint Piercing studio. Together, they are responsible for the Wings of Desire organization, which arranges the Oslo SusCon and smaller suspension events throughout the year.

Alexander Trowell: This is the eighth incarnation of the Oslo suspension convention. Can you briefly tell BME readers how the convention has evolved over that time?

Wings of Desire: Well, the first year we aimed for too much. We were in a big warehouse with no sinks, and partied every night. There were performers and bands and things like that, and although the suspensions were supposed to be the main part of it, they weren’t. We soon learned that we needed to keep it more to the point, focusing less on the unimportant stuff. Then the second year, we had no crew and trained everyone who participated. What we didn’t think of was that some people didn’t want a workshop, they just wanted to hang, so from there we changed. The third year, we had our first lectures, courtesy of Allen Falkner. We have grown in that direction since, accommodating guest speakers, and having a dedicated crew to handle the action.

AT: The convention sees members from all over the world and seems to be widely recognized among much of the body modification community. I know from personal experience that this is due to hard work and good organizing skills, but has it come as a surprise at all how popular it has become?

WOD: It has been something of a surprise, but we’re good [laughs]. We both have friends, within both the body mod industry and among performers, so it has kind of grown from that. Plus, of course, Allen Falkner helped spread the word.

AT: I have a feeling this isn’t going to be the last Oslo SusCon. Do you feel that the level it’s at now is good, or do you want more/fewer people for future events?

WOD: From last year, we decided not to increase it much. There’s a really good atmosphere at the Oslo SusCons now, and we get a lot of positive remarks in that regard; we don’t want to lose that. The way the crew and team leader system works means all suspendees are followed by a set of crew members, which we have also been told is a nice way of doing it. That connection between crew and participant could be difficult to maintain if the convention grew too big.

AT: Obviously you guys travel to other conventions and body mod-related events around the world. How do you feel this has affected your own practices, and do you consider it reciprocal—do you find you get to influence other suspension groups’ practices?

WOD: Well, we do learn a lot of little tweaks from other people, and we are able to help others out too, so yes. There is a kind of social consensus to share good methods and technique, and the community seems good at that. Most people who run groups seem to do so for the love of it, as opposed to financial motivation, so most people want to expand and share their knowledge base.

AT: You guys appear to have excellent communication with local government, to the point where the local council provides you with some funding. I think it’s safe to say that this is quite rare in this subculture. How has this “partnership” formed, and what advice would you give to other suspension groups that want to function more dynamically with local government?

WOD: We are really lucky. We are really lucky, because legislation is quite relaxed and open in Norway. Scarification, subdermal implants and things like that aren’t banned, and it’s relatively easy to communicate with the council. We have the approval of the local council in Oslo to do this event, so that’s cool—they’ve inspected our protocol and are happy. In other countries, the situation is completely different, so if you don’t think you’ll get approval for suspension events, don’t ask [laughs]. Funding-wise, it’s very much intertwined with networking again. Havve has ties to cultural and art agencies, so that’s where the funding comes from.

AT: The Oslo SusCon sees well-established practitioners from Europe and America function as team leaders. It has piercers from all over the world that all seem to work very well together, and the convention no longer has the workshop feel it had in the beginning. Is this a result of wanting to include more people and suspensions, and do you feel this is the direction you want to keep moving in?

WOD: Well, from the beginning, we have communicated with piercers internationally because the “scene” was quite small to begin with and not that many people were available locally. The way it’s run now, with experienced team leaders in charge, is very good, and when we do workshops, we do smaller events. We still try to teach our crew continuously of course—it’s an evolving field. But yes, we do plan to continue in the same way forwards, since the recipe works well.

AT: Thank you very much for the time guys, I look forwards to coming back next year.

That’s all folks, now it’s time to start partying. Pictures will be on the way soon. Until then, I spy with my little eye, a branding iron…

- Alex

Tattoo Hollywood, BME’s first tattoo convention, is coming to Los Angeles from August 21-23, featuring contests, prizes and some of the best artists from around the world! Click here for more information.

Live From Oslo SusCon: Day Three, Plus A Roundtable Interview (Of Sorts)

Alexander Trowell is a body piercer and student nurse from Southport, U.K. He’ll be filing reports for us from the Oslo SusCon. Keep checking ModBlog for updates!

On this third (or fourth if you count Thursday) day of Oslo SusCon (OSC), the atmosphere is quite relaxed. The weather is good and the suspendees are still going strong. Here’s a list of the suspensions for Sunday:

Christiane (2 point resurrection), Norway
Bena (coma & 2 point suicide), Sweden
Oscar (superman), Sweden
Stein (angel), Norway
Sanny (suicide/spinning beam), Germany
Stephan (suicide/spinning beam), Germany
Martin (suicide), Norway
Lea (crucifix), Slovenia
Kristin (lotus), Norway
Ida (seated), Norway
Becky (superman), US
Angst (4 point suicide), Norway
Nancy (6 point angel), US
Tracie (chest), US
Alice (knee), UK
Havve (angel), Norway
Stine (knees), Norway
Tommy (knees), Norway
Oddbjorn (single point chest), Norway
Line-Therese (knees) Norway
Lucky (2 point resurrection), Finland
Jussi (metal), Finland
Andreas (Angel), Norway
Zumo (suicide/spinning beam), Italy
Enrico (suicide/spinning beam), Italy
Bastian (suicide w/rib hooks), Germany
Morten (knees and ribs), Norway
Alex (calf), UK/Norway
Michele (suicide/spinning beam), Italy
Daniel (suicide/spinning beam), Norway
Ana (crucifix), Croatia
Ninak (suicide), Norway

For those with a keen eye for details, you’ll notice a few of us were able to hang twice this time around—a nice byproduct of the efficient team effort of the crew. By the way, this list may be somewhat wrong in terms of nationalities and such, so sincere apologies to anyone who has been mislabeled in any way shape or form..

In other news, we had our first fall today when Obbe did a one-point chest suspension. A tear occurred within a minute of his going up, and as Christiane noticed the formation of the tear and started lowering the rig, it was already too late. Being that he was on his way down anyways, Obbe managed to land solidly on both feet, and was repaired promptly with sutures by flesh-seamstress Christiane.

Aside from this, the convention has been very incident-free. Well, incident-free, but not event free. So many beautiful suspensions, so many beautiful people. A friend of mine pulled me aside a little while back with a little secret to share, which I had no choice but to include here, purely for the sake of comedy. Integral to the story is that OSC opened its doors to the general public for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday. It was during this time our friend was doing a suspension of some variety. She really enjoyed going up…like, really enjoyed it. At some point, mid-air, she ended up climaxing—in my opinion, a hell of an advertisement for suspensions…

I guess the bar is set for how much fun it’s possible to have while suspending, but I hope you all go forth and try to top it, although I struggle to see how that would go down.

It’s Monday, and my intention of interviewing Havve and Christiane came to a halt last night due to them being extremely busy all day. Nevertheless, I am sat with Ben & Alice from the UK, Muffe from Denmark and Bena from Sweden, so why not do an impromptu interview with them, right?

Alexander Trowell: Guys, you all have a lot of experience with suspensions, and are all part of the standard OSC inventory at this point—how do you think this one has compared to previous versions?

Bena: Since 2002, the convention has improved hugely. This time we have water running and stuff, you know? [Laughs]

Alice: It’s been really accident-free. There are usually a few hiccups, but this one has been really good.

AT: Have you got any particular memories from the SusCon, either from this year or previous ones?

Bena: [Laughis] You remember being tea-bagged, right Alex?

Alice: Yeah, and you remember me biting your ass so hard it left a huge mark?

AT: I think it was pretty great watching Allen Falkner swing hard one year from a two-point suicide and his hook failing. He landed quite miraculously, and seemed quite unaffected by it.

Alice: I think the tea-bagging effort has been really poor this year, so we all need to sharpen up for tonight!

AT: There was no ass-suspensions this year. What happened, Bena?

Bena: Ah, that’s so 2005, you know? Plus, my hemorrhoids… There were a lot of knee-suspensions this year, and a lot of angels. That seemed to be the theme this year.

Alice: The two Italians on the spinning beam was a highlight though.

Ben: Yeah, 20-kg weight difference and crazy spinning! [Laughs]

AT: I am the worst reporter in the world, I can’t even think of any more questions to ask.

Bena: I’m worse. I went to a tattoo convention with a press pass, and ended up taking 10 photos over a span of three days.

Alice: Muffe, you haven’t said anything in this interview, how about some words?

Muffe: Bollocks.

I think that caps it off nicely. Now, it’s just a waiting game for the proper interview with Havve and Christiane, and, of course, the gang-bang.

- Alex

Tattoo Hollywood, BME’s first tattoo convention, is coming to Los Angeles from August 21-23, featuring contests, prizes and some of the best artists from around the world! Click here for more information.

Live From Oslo Suscon 2009: Day Two

Rolf doing a coma suspension.

Alexander Trowell is a body piercer and student nurse from Southport, U.K. He’ll be filing reports all weekend from the Oslo SusCon. Keep checking ModBlog for updates!

It’s a slightly wet Saturday. There’s a bit of Norwegian press here currently covering Ben and Ronnie who have just gone up on a spinning beam, and are pushing it harder than dead or alive. Meanwhile, Ron Garza is doing another seminar in the chill-out area, passing around a huge-ass skewer he brought.

I thought I’d include a list of suspensions today, so as not to exclude anyone, and here it is, in typical Microsoft suspension template style, i.e. name, type of suspension and nationality. My biggest apologies if I miss anyone out – feel free to teabag me later as punishment. (I can tell you that teabagging is one of those dark secret rites that always seem to take place once the Jager and various other liquids have been broken into at the after-party, which itself seems to have gotten the nickname “The Gangbang” (for reasons I would be neutered and lobotomized for exposing). Come to Oslo SusCon—it’s a scene, man!)

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Live From Oslo SusCon 2009: Day One

Alexander Trowell is a body piercer and student nurse from Southport, U.K. He’ll be filing reports all weekend from the Oslo SusCon. Keep checking ModBlog for updates!

So, after a morning of paying extortionate amounts of money for a boarding pass, arguing with airport security about the importance of sticking my toothpaste in a see through plastic-bag and then finally arriving on Norwegian soil (only to sit next to a person who was clearly intent on waging gaseous warfare on my tender nostrils for a couple of hours), I finally arrived at Oslo SusCon.

I was very pleased to see that I was not alone in having made the trip an annual tradition. Familiar face after familiar face kept popping up in front of me as I made my way into the solid epicenter that was the eating quarters. After getting some much-needed grub and a hasty cigarette/coffee, it was time for the official introduction to the weekend. I say “official” because I know many of the crew, volunteers and participants have been busy making all the cogs fit together since Thursday—big thanks to you all! In fact, word on the proverbial streets of the SusCon is they already managed to fit in five suspensions yesterday; my suspicion is they’re planning to gradually make it an all-year event, stretching the time-frame and participant numbers just a touch every year. Havve started the introduction in his usual informal comedic fashion: Warning us to watch out for whatever may be worth watching out for, to be nice to each other, and to treat the venue with respect. A sort of support group round of introductions to crew and participants alike was quickly ventured, and I’m sure I remember at least five per cent of who’s hanging when and from what part of their lovely inked bodies. (Not a bad job at all if you ask me.) Next, it was time for Ron Garza to present an interesting lecture on suspension culture before the action was set to kick off. I don’t even know where to begin quoting and paraphrasing it—though, to be fair, I couldn’t do it justice, so I won’t even go there.

I realize I’m not a very good reporter so far, because frankly I am not 100 per cent on whether it was six or eight people that went up today—hell, it could have been 12 and I’d be none the wiser. But the people all seemed to enjoy them and there were even one or two first-timers, at least one of which seemed to enjoy it lots!

An awesome new rig was tested out by a couple of folks, and it made for some pretty pictures that I’ll try to submit tomorrow. So all in all, a smashing start to a weekend that carries great potential which I’m sure it will smash!

It’s bedtime now—need to be bright and shiny and whatnot for the morning. Please pardon the tongue-in-cheek approach to this first entry; tomorrow I’ll take it a bit more seriously and get my facts right…

- Alex

Tattoo Hollywood, BME’s first tattoo convention, is coming to Los Angeles from August 21-23, featuring contests, prizes and some of the best artists from around the world! Click here for more information.

And Here Is Your 2009 BME Scholarship Winner

Initially founded by Darrin Fowler and now run under the supervision of Mark Anstrom, the 2009 BME Scholarship winner has been decided. Here’s Mark’s write-up, followed by the winning essay. Huge thanks to all involved, and congratulations to the winner on an excellent essay!

Each year, the IAM community comes together to award $1,000 USD college scholarship to a deserving member of our community. Available to all IAM members worldwide, this year marks the fourth year we’ve been able to help a promising student cover the costs of college.

Donations to the BME Scholarship Fund can be made through our website:

The IAM College Scholarship is scored each year based on a variety of factors, ranging from school grades, community involvement, and the individual’s role in our community. Candidates each year are also asked to write an essay on a selected topic related to body modification.

The last several years have seen a marked change in the acceptance of body modification in the workplace. As members of the WWII generation are retiring from the workplace, members of Generation Y are stepping up to replace them. For this generation, piercings and tattoos are mainstream; however, for their Baby Boomer coworkers, they are not. Especially in this tough job market, being modified presents challenges and risks to people in the workplace that unmodified people do not have to face.

For this year’s scholarship essay, we asked applicants their thoughts on career management and navigating the workplace as members of the modified community. This year’s scholarship question:

“Many kinds of visible body modifications have yet to gain general acceptance within society. What things should visibly modded people keep in mind when starting a professional career? Do visible modifications necessarily exclude people from any careers? Feel free to discuss any aspect of this question, including choosing a profession, handling interviews, dealing with co-workers and management, the expression of personal identity in the workplace, or any other aspect.”

This year’s slate of candidates was particularly strong. While all candidates this year were well qualified, and each showed unique strengths, in the end there can be only one winner of the BME Scholarship. So here it is…

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Running Diary: Tattoo Highway, Episode 1

The truth is, until I interviewed L.A. Ink’s Kim Saigh a while back, I had never watched any of the tattoo-based reality shows. Whoops. I wasn’t boycotting them or anything—it just came down to the fact that I plain didn’t have the time in my day. I mean, really, between six hours every morning of SportsCenter, the mandatory Coronation Street marathon and praying five times daily to my DVDs of The Wire, where was I supposed to squeeze in the exploits of Kat Von D or whoever?

When I finally got around to watching some episodes, however, for work, my verdict was…they were mostly harmless. As Saigh and I discussed (and which has come up several times since then), my main gripe with this kind of programming is the message, whether intentional or not, is that not only must every tattoo have a particularly “deep” meaning, but that certain events or situations must be commemorated with a tattoo. Someone dies? Get a tattoo. Your boyfriend leaves you for, I don’t know, a grizzly bear? Get a tattoo. You quit drinking booze, only to have a meteorite fall to earth and lodge itself in your brain? Oh, you better believe that’s a tattoo.

With all that said, A&E just premiered a brand new tattoo reality show, Tattoo Highway starring Thomas Pendleton (formerly of Inked), which we poked a little fun at when it was first announced:

The bus angle worked wonders for Bret Michaels and his skank-banging, so it should really come as no surprise that others are picking up on this as the next big thing. I see big, big things for the future of reality television—big, bus-related things.


[The network is] shamelessly hyping what is by far the worst part of these tattoos shows—namely, that great tattoos must have some big and important story behind them—but man, how exciting does he think a husband and wife going on a road trip is going to be, vocation notwithstanding? Are they going to be chased by land pirates? Did Dennis Hopper plant a bomb on the bottom of the bus that’ll explode if the speed falls below 50 mph?

Me-ow, right? Well, I decided that if I’m going to be a dick about it, I may as well give the damn thing a shot. We’re a week behind, so let’s get caught up with a good old-fashioned running diary of the premiere! (The third and fourth episodes aired last night, so we’ll try to cover those on the weekend so we’re all on the same page for next week.) Will it be funny? Will we cry? Who knows! We can guarantee one thing, though: Get ready for a whole lot of words.

00:30 — I’m trying to come into this free of expectations and prejudices, but in the 30 seconds it’s taken to go over the introduction to the episode (the series premiere, keep in mind), Thomas has been called a flirt, has been seen cursing out his old high school and told an old man he can mix the man’s wife’s ashes into tattoo ink. A&E! REAL LIFE. DRAMA.

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Elayne Angel Podcast and Book Review

Elayne Angel admits she’s more conservative about piercing than many others, and as far as her new book, The Piercing Bible, is concerned, that probably works to her advantage. Over five years in the making, the book is billed as “the definitive guide to safe body piercing,” which ostensibly seems like a dicey proposition; there could be some (understandable) apprehension to an actual guide to piercing for public consumption. Angel cuts this off at the head, though, in an early section in which she states that “piercing (is) not a do-it-yourself hobby,” and that this is not meant to be a handbook for hacks or people who think they can blow off an apprenticeship. On piercing kits sold in some shops, for example, she writes, “These are no safer than a home root canal kit and must be avoided.”

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