Scott Shatsky may not be the most recognizable names in piercing, but his roots run deep – from being a young man hanging around the original Gauntlet, to apprenticing under Jim Ward and being part of the original Gauntlet San Fransisco crew, Scott offers some wonderful insight into that early pivotal time. Scott remains part of that quiet faction who was more enamored with piercing as an intimate movement, and gives us some new perspective on those Gauntlet years as a client, manager, and Master Piercer.
Ari – Where does piercing start for you, Scott?
Scott – I grew up in Los Angeles, and I always had a fascination with anything other than just being white, so tattoos and piercings fell into that. I was just always very interested, so in high school and even before I was a punk rock kid I was always sticking needles in me for piercings. I don’t even remember how I found Gauntlet, but it was in West Hollywood. I walked in and I became friends with Jim (Ward) and became pretty good friends with Cross, who I share a birthday with. I was a young kid. I wasn’t even in a place where I could get pierced there, age-wise. Cross was only a couple of years older than I was at the time. I have this picture of me sitting there with Jim and his beautiful silver and purple peacock wallpaper in the piercing studio when he was piercing my cartilage. So my identity in that world started years before I was piercing. Continue reading →
Blair, Dustin, Dave Vidra and Tom Brazda @ NIX. Photo courtesy of Dustin Sharrow.
How do you introduce Tom Brazda? Seriously, I’m asking you, how the fuck do you even begin to summarize a titan like him? If you pierce, you’ve at least heard his name mentioned. He’s a fucking legend. And next time you speak about him in the past tense, stop it – Tom never stopped kicking ass and taking names. He’s been gracious enough to wax intellectual with us, so y’all turn off your cell phones and read closely – Tom deserves your undivided attention.
Ari – Tom, give us a brief introduction
Tom – My name is Tom Brazda, I started piercing in an amateur way around 1989. I went professional in 1991, so 28 years of experience of watching things happen.
Ari – I would love to start earlier with some of the first experiences you had with piercing before you were a piercer. Were you getting pierced before you got into the business?Continue reading →
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 →
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.
Gregg, in my opinion, has always been a piercer worth watching – and not just in a creepy, webcam sort of way, but in the way that an eighteen year titan with a metric fuckton of creativity can’t help but captivate anyone actually interested in piercing. Even if they can’t pronounce his last name, piercers across the board universally appreciate his ingenuity, which in my opinion has not only influenced modern piercers but also modern jewelry. Amidst a sea of black arms and olive debates, people who can stand out on a technical and innovative level, and continue to push the momentum of this industry are always worth paying attention to. So I called Gregg to talk about his industrial work, working with other piercers, and why we’re all fucked once we get older.
Ok… tell me this… why were you dressed up like the easter bunny, driving me and a few other people around in a boat in one of my dreams last night?? You took us to a little island where you had hidden a bunch of rather large easter eggs for us to find… you didnt slow the boat down as it was coming into the beach.. just went full throttle and tipped the boat, flinging everyone aboard it out onto the sand. ~Wayde Dunn
I have stacks (ok. digital files that take up no physical space) of photos of cuttings and tattoos made by Australia’s Wayde Dunn; each one better than the next. I have some great procedural photos of him working at the second Scarwars event 1 that are probably much more in line with what people want out of a body modification blog. I even had a big piece written about the parallels I see between Wayde and Keith Alexander- both being people who never accepted being the best at something- when they’d achieved the goal of working towards perfection both gladly move on to something new and start back at the bottom; the thrill of knowing something new being much, much more important than the accolades for having done it.
But a photo of him looking cheeky and him telling me about a dream he had where I was the Easter Bunny is a much truer snapshot of our friendship, so I went with that.
Event: Scarwars 2.
Location: Los Angeles.
Year: February 2006.
Photographer: Rachel Larratt.
Subject: Dave Gillstrap.
My wife and I took a much needed week long roadtrip for Thanksgiving; Philadelphia to Asheville North Carolina, Asheville to Atlanta Georgia and back to Philly, checking out the sights, seeing family and just unwinding from all of our responsibilities. I had packed my laptop and had a few blog entries ready to go out, but you know how it goes with vacations…
I’ve been focusing a lot on the 1970s lately, so I figured a 2000s post may be a welcome change. This 2006 photo, by BME’s Rachel Larratt, features scarification artist Dave Gillstrap at the second Scarwars event in Los Angeles. For the event portraits I asked our photographers to go very simple, white backgrounds and neutral lighting to let the personality of the subject stand out.
My impression of Alan was of a rather private man who was a bit difficult to get to know. Not that he was particularly shy. He would casually disrobe and allow himself to be photographed, but there was always a reserved quality about his actions. He could converse with intelligence and ease, but to access the man behind the mask was a challenge. – Jim Ward, A visit to London.
Tattooist and body piercer Alan Oversby- better known in the modification world as Mr. Sebastian- photographing a client at his London studio. March 1978.
Scanned from a 3″x 5″ print originally from Sailor Sid Diller’s collection.
Alan is generally considered to be the godfather of the European body piercing revival, but he was also an accomplished and respected tattoo artist.
For more information about Sid, Alan and the roots of the western piercing scene, visit http://www.runningthegauntlet-book.com/ to pick up Jim Ward’s indispensable book Running the Gauntlet. It features the uncensored story of the piercing community and the creation of the piercing industry and is a must own.
In 1995, my spcOnline was a fledgling body modification site hosted on America Online. AOL. As an ISP, they seemingly had no problem with the body modification content I was posting but I was TOS’d and my site removed over a topless photo of adult film star Nina Hartley that was part of an article I had written on my personal diary page.
Shannon Larratt graciously offered unlimited server space on the BME servers, with no prohibition on content, where my site remained for a decade before I finally retired it in 2005. My time with BME, Shannon and his wife Rachel helped spawn BME/Extreme, ModCon, and Scarwars and directly influenced Occult Vibrations and Sacred Debris.
Fifteen years after first meeting her, I still rely on Rachel for an ear to bend when I’ve got a new idea for a project or just a funny, snarky story to tell at three in the morning. She’s been through a lot over the last few years and she still does her best to keep things going. Recently her home and the majority of her belongings were damaged in a natural disaster in South Carolina.
I keep meaning to write a more in-depth article on the relationship between the 1960s/70s Gay Leather culture and the roots of the Western Body Piercing revival; the two worlds often overlapped and it’s fair to say that without leather culture the piercing scene would have evolved much, much differently. You’d think that it would come naturally for me to write about- I’ve been going to leather bars since I was a teenager. I work at a leather bar. There are tons of resources out there for me to dig through, people to interview…
Instead I’ll be lazy- for now- and just add this photo of Sailor Sid Diller geared up. It’s been sitting in my queue for about two months waiting for me to get the lead out and get to researching the leather article… Sid deserves better than that.