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Ari – Let’s start this off with your introduction to Fakir.
Blake – I got a hold of the ReSearch book in 1989 and it blew me away. Obviously it was the only cultural document at the time for an emerging subculture. There’s a lot of stuff in the book I was “meh” on but Fakir’s chapter really grabbed me. I was already piercing my friends in San Diego; people would go up to LA Gauntlet and buy a needle and barbell and I’d do them up in the park under a tree. My band had finally gotten signed and I came to this crossroad where I really wanted to do something meaningful and I knew I had a lot of learning to do so I quit the band and rolled up to San Francisco. The first time I went up there there was Body Manipulations – they were the first piercing studio in the area, they opened before Gauntlet. I went up and peeked at Body M and didn’t really know who they were but I recognized that the handsome guy out front leaning on his motorcycle having a cigarette was Vaughn. I knew he was the guy from the ReSearch book. I ended up making a couple of trips to San Francisco. My folks took me to the Gauntlet in the Castro and I went in, walked upstairs, and it was the first piercing shop I had ever been in. The term “piercer” didn’t exist yet – you were just a guy who did piercings at this time. I walked up and I said, “hey, my name is Blake and I am looking for Fakir and maybe some earrings!” I got the biggest attitude from the guy behind the counter. He didn’t even have visible piercings! He says “well we don’t have any jewelry in your size, honey.” I was like, “alright, fuck you,” and I started to walk out when I hear Fakir say “excuse me young man, I can help you!” I turn around and there he is with a porcupine quill in his septum. I just looked at him and told him he was the reason I came – but that I felt like this wasn’t a very welcoming place for me. At the time this was either summer or late 1990. Fakir took me to lunch. He put his arm around me and said, “well I have never seen the likes of you, young man., Tell me your story!” At the time I had 2” earlobes with huge dreadlocks- just a jungle kid from Southern California. How weird to walk into my first piercing shop to have some guy with no visible piercings be a dick to me. I was put off from the beginning. I didn’t consider myself professional at this time – I had only done genital and septum work. I had never done a nostril or navel. The stuff I was doing on my friends was all “Genesis P-Orridge” genitalia aesthetic. Fakir and I had an immediate connection and I told him I wanted to be a piercer. The first thing he said was, “well you sure don’t want to work at the Gauntlet, trust me.” I think we ate at Cafe Du Nord and it felt like I was coming home so to speak; he was just so welcoming. This is twenty-nine years ago. He literally says, “I think you’re doing something completely unique.” I didn’t understand his historical importance yet, I just intuitively knew he was the Granddaddy and if I was going to start a career I was going to go to the source. That’s a value that doesn’t exist anymore. There is a tattoo school is Vegas that cost $40,000 and guarantees you an internet following by the time you graduate, and you’ve only done like one tattoo. It shows you how ass backwards this culture is. The thing Fakir instilled in me in our first meeting – there were no personalities then, all I was was just a jungle kid, there was Gauntlet and Body M, that’s it for the whole US; there was no measure of what other people were doing. My experience at Gauntlet was very telling- Im sure they all had 00g PAs but they didn’t have the look I wanted to be a part of or was already doing, the things my grandmother introduced me to on her world travels. Continue reading
I was chatting with Blake Perlingieri about Fakir and his impact on the body modification community; Blake is someone who very much embodies the spirit of Fakir’s Modern Primitives and we’re excited that he’s going to be spending some time with Ari for a BSTA interview soon. With that in mind, to celebrate what would have been Fakir’s 88th birthday, I thought this photo of the two of them, borrowed from Nomad’s Instagram account, would be a nice way to remember him.
We tried to do a lot of cleaning up on this video that a friend of Blake’s shot at the APP Conference in Las Vegas a few years back, but the sound just didn’t want to cooperate. Still, it’s worth checking out for those of us who want to soak up as much of our history as possible.
Enjoy, and happy birthday, Fakir.
When Blake Perlingieri opened the original NOMAD location in San Francisco in the Summer of 1993 it became the go-to shop for large gauge tribal inspired body piercing. The shop’s aesthetic- from it’s decor, organic jewelry options and young piercers and the experimental work they were doing- was an explosive 180° from the established piercing culture that came before it and along with Blake’s early appearances in Body Play helped refine the Modern Primitive look.
“Speaking of nodal points in history, of some emerging pattern in the texture of things. Of everything changing.”- William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, piercer Blake Perlingieri was instrumental in the shift from the prevailing aesthetic of body piercing (leather and levis) back to it’s primal roots; an evangelist who’s message was organic, freehand and raw. The logical heir to the Modern Primitive movement started by Fakir Musafar, Blake opened NOMAD twenty-four years ago and has been one of the industry’s true mavericks ever since.
This video features Blake performing large gauge conch piercings- part of what became known as the ‘Nomad look’- circa 1990s. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that without his influence, ear lobe stretching (and everything that came after) wouldn’t have taken hold so quickly in the piercing community. About the needles used: “Ranfac Corp made it. Single bevel. I think it was 5 or 6″ long and they were 72.00 each!!!”
Blake Perlingieri’s long out of print A Brief History of the Evolution of Body Adornment in Western Culture: Ancient Origins and Today should be in every body art fan’s library. A best seller on Shannon Larratt’s BMESHOP.COM and called a “Must have” by Fakir Musafar, a case of A Brief History has recently resurfaced and Blake will be making 200 copies available in a signed/numbered run. As Fakir said- it’s a must have; a true gem for anyone interested in the evolution of body modification. You can contact him for more information:
Blake Perlingieri c/o Nomad Piercing Studio 4827 SE DIVISION STREET, PORTLAND OREGON 97206
PIERCERS AND ENTHUSIASTS! Due to the number of inquiries I received after my lectures at APP 2015 and LBP 2016, my out of print book from 2003 will ONCE AGAIN be available in a VERY LIMITED EDITION of 200 copies. Printed on recycled paper in the United States with vegetable based ink (none of that cheap “made in China” printing), each book will be numbered, signed (custom autographed)and come with vintage Nomad memorabilia– flyers/stickers.
You don’t need 2″ ears and a full black bodysuit to do that. The origins of our art form is tribal so that really only need exist in your heart. And you have to honor the traditions of our collective human mythology by incorporating tribal consciousness as well as aesthetics into what we do. – Blake Perlingieri, 2004
When I first saw a photo of Blake Perlingieri in Fakir Musafar’s BODY PLAY in 1991 the majority of people I knew in the piercing scene were decades older than me. My piercing elders would gently caution me against stretching my earlobes (despite me having 1/2″ nipple piercings and a meatotomy) for fear of public exposure and most of the clients of Jack Yount I was introduced to assumed I was his grandson not his friend and mentee. Aside from my brother, Brian Skellie and a few others the idea of a young, heavily tattooed and pierced person was generally considered a novelty in my community. Blake was only a few years older than me. He had 2″ earlobes (at that point mine were probably a humble 1/2″ or so) and tattoos that weren’t off-the-wall flash jobs that were there to prove you could be tattooed while saying nothing about the person wearing them. His photos assured me that the cultural shift that Jack had been telling me about- the old guard making room for the new generation- was coming.
Another APP Conference and Expo has come and gone; after a long week in Vegas my Wife and I are finally home and trying to collect our thoughts about all of the good, the bad and the ugly that is the APP experience.
This being the 20th Anniversary of the APP there was an amazing focus on history this year with Fakir Musafar, Jim Ward, Blake Perlingieri and Paul King offering comprehensive presentations on the history of the western body piercing movement and guest docents offering interactive walkthroughs of the APP 20th Anniversary timeline exhibit.
I volunteered in the Mentor program, helping acclimate a group of first year attendees to the chaos of Conference and was able to introduce my Wife to some of my oldest friends. A few snags and slags aside, we had a great time.
One of the highlights for me was the ELDERLORE class hosted by Blake Perlingieri- It was absolutely not what I was expecting with Blake going with a stream of consciousness presentation filled with saltiness and some great old school bitching.
I recorded a short excerpt of Blake discussing the roots of freehand piercing technique. It was shot on a cellphone, so the quality is so-so, but it gives you a hint of the zingers Blake was unleashing. As someone who does their best to provide literally one of a kind content to SD readers without much feedback I could absolutely relate to Blake’s frustration that his youtube video of he and Fakir doing a walkthrough of the Nomad (Jewelry) Collection at the Portland Art Museum had only been viewed (as of this writing) 335 times in four years versus the 20k+ views on videos of hack piercers doing hack work on uneducated piercing clients.
I think I’m taking a few years off from Conference, so this was the perfect year to close that book for a while. New friends were made, old friends were hugged and stories were told. Can’t do much better than that!
If you would like to know more about the Association of Professional Piercers, visit http://www.safepiercing.org
We’re only a few months away from the 2015 APP Conference and Exposition.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first APP expo and they’re going to be offering some amazing history/anthro classes that we’ll be highlighting on SD over the next few weeks. First up is a class that only has 80 spots still available as of today- so if you’re interested in attending make sure you get in before it’s sold out.
For more information about registering for this year’s APP Conference, visit www.safepiercing.org‘s registration portal.
Concepts and Trends in the Early Industry Days by Blake Perlingieri
Blake will discuss EARLY revolutionary piercing procedures and techniques including “large gauge” and “freehand” and narrate their pre-Nomad origins, as well their incorporation into the early industry. Also discussed will be the development of the “NOMAD tribal aesthetic”, which raised the bar for what piercers could do with their own bodies as well as clients. Detailed and narration/power point will include archival, never before seen photos dating back 25 years
Blake began his professional career in San Francisco in 1990 at Body Manipulations. In 1993, Blake and his former partner, Kristian founded Nomad, the first tribal studio in the industry. In 1994 Nomad, Gauntlet, Body M and a few others formed the APP. In 2004, Blake presented the APP keynote/anthropology lecture, and simultaneously released his book “A Brief History of the Evolution of Body Adornment” with Fakir and his book, “Spirit and Flesh.” In 2005 Blake released his double DVD of freehand technique and genital procedures which was a BME bestseller. In 2006 Blake presented the “anthropology lecture” to the FIRST Mexico/APP. In 2010, Blake was the assistant curator at the Portland Art Museum for a major exhibit of Pre-Colombian and antique jewelry, and donated much of his collection to the museum and presented a series of lectures there. Blake has three children of his own and continues to preach the “tribal gospel” at Nomad. Nomad is the oldest continuously owner operated piercing studio in the industry at 22 years.