Phil Barbosa was the event photographer for all of the ModCon (and the first Scarwars) events; shooting on analog film he captured modified subjects in a studio atmosphere right in the heart of the chaos that was an underground surgical convention.
Occasionally he’d step in front of the camera in between documenting the goings on. Here he is alongside Blair at ModCon 4, 2003. Images from MC4 never appeared in the books or media associated with the events, so this is a rare glimpse inside the penultimate Toronto modification gathering.
Paul King is so handsome it takes a continued effort not to rip the skin off my own face.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s be frank; Paul is a motherfucking national treasure. I honestly don’t know if I can write a proper introduction without it slipping into something so masturbatory that becomes unreadable, so I’ll just say that he is one of the most revered and respected people in this industry, and deserving of every bit of that. We spoke about Paul’s introduction to body piercing, some of the Master Piercers, cultural appropriation, and the Body Piercing Archives. Don’t forget after all of this to reach out and thank Paul for being who he is, saying what he says, and doing what he does. Also, while you’re at it, thank him for being really, really hot.
Ari- I always have everyone do the standard introductions, so tell us your name and how long you’ve been piercing and where you’re currently at.
Paul- My name is Paul King and I’ve been a professional body piercer since 1991. I was inspired and trained at a company called the Gauntlet; it was the first piercing shop in the Western world. I served a one-and-a-half-year apprenticeship under Elayne Angel. I then went on to manage Gauntlet Los Angeles, worked in the San Francisco store, and also managed Gauntlet New York. Gauntlet closed in 1998. In 1999, Grant Dempsey and I (Dempsey of Cold Steel International in London), opened up two tattooing and piercing shops in San Francisco called Cold Steel America (www.coldsteelpiercing.com). One was in the old San Francisco Gauntlet location, the other was in the upper Haight. We briefly attempted to do wholesale and decided to open in 2001. You can imagine how well that went. Wholesale didn’t last so long. So after that we parted ways in 2008. He was moving to Australia with his family and I was heading back to school. We let go of the Market street location, and I now have one shop on Haight street in the old Haight-Ashbury district. Continue reading “BSTA: Paul King”→
Back in the mid 1990s, IN THE FLESH magazine ran a profile on a self amputee calling himself Stonehenge; using a chisel and rubber band tourniquets, Stonehenge was in the process of reshaping his hands and feet by removing fingers and toes at various joints. Interestingly, ITF chose not to share photos of his modifications. I immediately got in touch with him and started a correspondence; over the years I knew him as Stonehenge, Toecutter, Subtracting and R.K. (his real name) but apparently we can add Chop Off to the list. My spcOnline site was the first to publish pictures of his modifications.
R.K. is an interesting fellow, eccentric and energetic and always willing to discuss his unconventional hobby. Shannon Larratt filmed an interview with him in the 1990s that was sold on VHS through BMEShop, but I was surprised to discover he’d done an updated film appearance in 2008.
Red(head) in Tooth and Claw A night shmoozing with the sweetest hooker in the biz.
Dana and I actually talked about how nice Dana is. Renowned not just for his piercing and suspension work, but for being all around such a fucking nice guy. From his early come-ups in California to veering off into being one of the most notable suspension practitioners, taking his skills all over the world at suscons, Dana is truly one of those old heads that’s seen some dynamic shifts the industry has taken and rolled with the punches. We sat down to talk about his introduction to suspension, the ebb of ritual, and why age helps lock down the sweet spot of professionalism in the piercing room.
Ari – Let’s do the really generic usual intro, except I want you to do it for both piercing and suspension.
Dana – The beginning of my piercing career was pretty straightforward, I was able to start an apprenticeship and attend the Gauntlet beginning training seminars the second year I believe they were offered, 1993. I don’t remember if it was the second year or not. I took the Gauntlet seminars at 17. Sharrin was running the seminar, Sharrin from the NY Gauntlet, she was a real awesome old school Psychic TV head. I “never really finished my apprenticeship” according to Jerry Metzler (Shiva) but as far as all purposes were concerned I was piercing full time by myself, with Julian Ganesha in and out of the shop because he had another full time job to pay his bills. This was in Fresno at a shop called Spear of Shiva. In 1999 I made the move to San Diego to work at Superfly, and then got an offer to move up to Portland and I was there for a few years. My introduction to suspension started a little bit more in 1999/2000, when I got involved with the San Diego crew, and once I got to Portland it was really heavy, I moved to Portland, walked into doing performances once a month at Fetish Night for five or six years straight. Continue reading →
The Todfather: A night of gently touching tips with Tod Almighty
Tod Almighty is hands down one of the most magnetic personalities in piercing. Forthcoming, charming, hilarious – it’s easy to get lost in the seduction rather then realize that he’s been a force to be reckoned with for over two decades. Coming in under the tutelage of Allen Falkner, working his way through California, teaching with the Fakir intensives, being one of the mainstays at Anatometal -that’s some serious shit right there. So we got high and decided to talk about his roots in piercing, how multi-faceted our industry has become, and why one day we might all have to wear a suit and tie. Oh, and there’s a story in here that proves Tod’s balls are bigger then any of ours. Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself.
Ari – Alright Tod, give us a little introduction
Tod – I’m Tod Almighty, and I’ve been with Anatometal for 14 years now. I started piercing in 1992 after I apprenticed under Allen Falkner in Dallas, Texas. I’ve worked out of Santa Barbara, LA, San Jose, and Dallas, a lot of places I suppose. I’ve been an instructor with the Fakir Intensives since 1997, so twenty years now – I do both basic and advanced courses with them. I took them in 1992 as well. I like long walks on the beach, I’m a dog person not a cat person, I prefer length to girth, and I have no gag reflex! Continue reading →
King of the Hiller: A night reprocessing good memories with Warren Hiller.
Warren is undoubtedly one of the most positive people I’ve spoken with. His idealism is pretty refreshing in a field where most of us are grumpy as fuck. His insight into the community, not just in the early Toronto piercing scene but as well as the early information share boom occurring on BME, should sate any piercing geeks curiosity on the subjects. We spoke at length about what it was like to babysit 400+ piercers, the teachings of Tom Brazda, and why we all deserve our day in the sun. Continue reading →
The night before the third and final Scarwars event- October of 2007- we booked a local South Philly restaurant to host a pre-party for the attending artists and special guest. The venue told me we’d be responsible for having a doorman, so I put the word out that we needed someone who would have no problem telling folks who weren’t on the guest list that they need to hit the road.
Victor was kind enough to take the assignment, gleefully telling an increasingly agitated stream of locals that they weren’t allowed in until after 10pm.
On the second day of the event he had Australia’s Wayde Dunn and Canada’s Jesse Villemaire collaborate on a flesh removal project on the backs of his legs.
Vic passed away in 2014 at far too young an age. Today when I was out running errands I saw a young man who’s resemblance to him was so strong that it took my breath away; I headed home, plugged in the SCARWARS hard drive and dug out some photos to share. Rest easy, Vic Vile.
Tell your MOM I said ‘Hey’- A backyard BBQ with Sean Philips.
Sean Philips is a bad motherfucker with a voice that sounds like an angel orgasming at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. For the last two decades he’s been helping shape the industry we have today – there’s hardly a major event or forum he hasn’t participated in. If you’ve ever asked a piercing question online, there’s a good chance he was on the other side answering it. From humble beginnings inside a piercing pagoda to running his own studio with his wife, Sean has seen and done it all. We got up early in the morning to talk about the pre-BME days, history, and why getting your heroes drunk will make your dreams come true.
Ari – Sean, go ahead and give us an introduction.
Sean – My name is Sean Philips and I’ve been piercing 20 years. I started in 1996, so my career will be of legal drinking age in October. I am currently in Round Rock, Texas, right outside Austin where I own and pierce out of Golden Goat Tattoo Company. Continue reading “Better Safe than Ari: Sean Philips”→
Jim Sens is one of the genuinely sweetest guys you’ll ever meet. Like almost too sweet. Suspiciously sweet. Like, “Who the fuck is this guy? Why is he so nice? Who told him he could be so nice?” Jim has been a notable figure on the scene for quite some time now, being a big proponent of the early surface bar movement, and also for his breakneck speed with a needle. Jim has essentially taken the High Priestess Campus location to one of the most high volume shops in the country with his personality and skills. We recently sat down to talk about the midwest, the surface bar, and picking glue out of his penis.Ari- Ok bud, so give ahead, give it a whirl, do the introduction.
Jim Sens- Hi, I’m Jim, I’ve been piercing for a bit over 18 years, and I’ve been working at High Priestess for the last 10. I’ve worked at a variety of big name studios before that. I started out piercing at a studio in St Cloud, Minnesota, called Cloud 9 Tattoo. Before that I worked counter at a studio that isn’t around anymore called The Dark Side in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Trying to write anything aobut Pat Tidwell without resorting to superlatives is proving impossible. Respected body piercer is a given; when I asked a few mutual friends to describe Tid in one word I got back legend and iconic a few times- but I think I’m going to go with psychedelic sherpa and leave it at that.
This photo was taken in 2006 at the Southern California SCARWARS2 event- either by Atom Moore or Rachel Larratt. (It was in a folder labeled ‘lost disc’ so…)