Andre is a body modification artist living in Berlin, Germany. He met Rogue founder Aiden at the Las Vegas APP conference in 2015 and they have been close friends ever since, travelling around Europe and guest at the same studios. Although not his first language, Andre speaks English amazingly and while guesting with us in Nottingham, he took the time to chat with Gemma about his experience as an artist. Andre is a wonderful person, piercer and all round sweetheart. We were very privileged to spend time with Andre this year, both at the studio and at the UKAPP conference in Manchester this year. You can find him on Instagram at @andrenalinbodyart
G: What was your first experience with piercing or body modification?
Andre: My first not professional experience with body piercing was in the late nineties, I would say 1999 when I got my eyebrow pierced, because that’s what we did. I think it might have been even the same year, I saw the music video for Fire Starter, The Prodigy. And that was the first time that something clicked in my head and I got my tongue pierced. I still say that The Prodigy did a very big thing of bringing me into body piercing. I’ve always wanted to be a body piercer, even in my first apprenticeship where I was a caretaker for disabled children. Whenever somebody asked me, what I was gonna do after the apprenticeship, I would always say that I’m gonna be a body piercer. I started to harass the body piercer that would do all my piercings to please gimme an apprenticeship.
When my apprenticeship as a caretaker was over and I took on a job where I was working in a school for disabled children, my workday ended at 2:00 PM so I went back to the studio and told her like, “Hey, I’m not joking, I really want to become a body piercer. I have a job, you don’t have to pay me, you just have to teach me.” And then she said “you’ve been annoying me now for two years or even longer and at some point I’m gonna need somebody.” So she gave me the chance and that was that was in the beginning of 2010.
G: Whereabouts did you grow up in Germany?
A: I’m from a small town called Schwäbisch Hall in South Germany. Like 40,000 people lived there and I lived there until around 2012. I would say for the size of the town, we have a very big alternative and left wing scene. There’s a sort of organised club which opened in 1966 and has been open ever since. Self organised. There was a small, independent cinema and we have an alternative radio station. So there is a lot of, I would say, punk rock stuff going on. I wouldn’t say that there was a particular piercing scene, but if you take the circle of piercing scene and punk rock, it is quite a big overlap. So that studio where I first worked was going really well. There was a lot of work to do, which gave me the chance to get a lot of experience within a really short time. We were super busy and also now when I go back there sometimes to do body modification guest spots, I’m surprised every time how many people are interested even in those small towns.
G: Was your journey into body modification a natural progression from piercing or did they happen simultaneously?
A: In the beginning, I was only interested in body piercing. But I always had a very big interest in medical procedures and I think if I wouldn’t have been that lazy in school, maybe I would be a surgeon today. I find cosmetic surgery especially interesting. When people in my small village got their nose done, some people would judge them and I would always be like “how did that work?” So, it came shortly after I started piercing, when I started doing research in magazines and online. There is a magazine in Germany called Expand. It was really cool because it’s the only magazine I’m aware of that was in the German language and was covering all sides of body modification. Piercing, tattoo, heavier body mods, performance art, suspension. And it was really nicely written. I think there was like 12 or 13 issues. BMEzine made me really curious about body modification as well. When the topic of body modification comes up, someone will always mention BME because it brought us all together. I wasn’t a part of the BME community, I have to say, I was just looking, reading and being fascinated, but I didn’t really talk to many people on there. Then when I dug deeper into the body mod world, I found copies of the book Mod Con: The Secret World of Extreme Body Modification by Shannon Larratt and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of body modification.
And then I think it must have been 2010 we went on a tattoo convention in Berlin and I had a seminar about Introduction to Body Modification by Lukas Zpira. Pretty quickly during that seminar of him, I realized I am not ready for that. Before attending, I thought “hey I’m a body modification artist now.” And he actually showed me like, no, you’re not. And I’m still thankful that I left that seminar with that knowledge that I am definitely not ready to offer body mods like implants, at that time. It’s a whole different game to piercing. And I’m very thankful that Lukas was very open. He didn’t promote it. He gave really good information and I had the same experience the year after at BMXnet. I had a scarification seminar with Ron Garza, one of my big heroes in the piercing and scarification world. And I had the same feeling, I wanted to do scarification. And after that seminar, I knew, okay no you are not ready. You have to increase your knowledge about hygiene and wound healing. Nowadays I offer both procedures. I started years after when I finally felt safe and found a mentor.
G: Did you have any body modifications when you started learning to perform them?
A: I had tattoos and piercings before for sure. I think in like 2003 I did a small branding on my own hand, which faded because it was too shallow. In 2012 I moved to Berlin and in 2013 I started to work at Naked Steel. Naked Steel at that time was a dedicated body piercing Studio. So we didn’t have any tattoo artists and it was one of the top addresses in Germany for heavier body modifications. I’m not sure how much they do nowadays, but in those days, that was the studio to go to. I started assisting on several kinds of body modifications. I was actually assisting on implants procedures before I got my implants on my hand. I was assisting on scarifications before I got my own, so I think I learned about body mods before any.
G: What was the first scarification you had done?
A: It was a skin peeling on my chest. It’s my logo, well a version of my logo. We changed it to a needle blade, back in the day as it was a cannula needle. It’s an anarchy sign made from a circular barbell, a barbell, a scalpel blade, and a needle. I had that logo way before I was planning on opening a studio or becoming a traveling artist, but that logo was in my head for a really long time and that was the first scarification I got on my chest.
G: Was your experience learning to perform body modifications, in terms of scarification and implants, similar to your apprentiship as a piercer?
A: Well I have to be honest, my piercing apprenticeship was different. I grabbed the needle before I knew the theory. Back in those days I was happy that I could do piercings really fast. I didn’t have to wait months or even years until I could do piercings. When I look back at it now, I would do it different. But with body modification, I did it the proper way. I learned about the do’s and dont’s before I started doing it. At Naked Steel we did many ear reconstructions, making lobes larger or smaller. We would do like cartilage punches, tongue splits. I did magnet implants, which was also the first procedure I ever did on my own. My first one is not there anymore, it rejected really quick. It was my best friend and he knew that this was my first procedure. I put in a second magnet in the same finger after the first came out and that is still in there today. Must be like 9 or 10 years ago now. We didn’t do any ear pointing because I think ear pointing is a top of the art procedure. I’m only aware of one artist in the world that I would trust to point my ears, and that’s also the only person I would recommend clients to and that’s Samppa von Cyborg. Most other ear pointings I see either I don’t like the aesthetic of it, or you mainly see ones where there’s so much tension on the ear that I’m doubting that they will heal nice. Samppa’s work is very impressive. He would come to Naked Steel back in the day, like once a year he would guest with us. I didn’t learn from Samppa, but still he helped me a lot during my career. Especially in the first years because when We met in person, I knew I could ask him all the questions and he would always take time to answer it. So he didn’t teach me, but he was a big supporter to me.
G: Your hand implants are awesome, and your coin slot too! What other modifications do you have and how has that changed over the years?
A: To be honest, I’m scared of getting a piercing. I freak out on a regular basis when I get pierced. And I have the same with all kinds of body modifications. So if somebody would’ve told me 15 years ago that I was going to have implants on my hand, I would definitely not have believed that person. For me, curiosity kills the cat, and for me it was the deeper I got into a topic, reading about it, talking with people and seeing the procedure, the less scared I became. So I got a magnet implant and scarification pretty early on, then I got the implants in my hands. I have a huge question mark and exclamation mark on my hands. I dunno why, but I wanted to get them tattooed for a really long time. And when I then saw that silicon implants were an option, I decided to get them as implants.
Any modifications that I offer to clients, I usually try to get them done first on myself. It’s important to know what I’m actually doing to those people and to have the theory knowledge as well as the practical experience on how things feel, how things heal. The coin slot is pretty much the last thing I got done. I had it done, but I had genuine keloid, not an irritation bump, a keloid that I had to have removed about one and a half years after I got the coin slot. I think that must be like 4 years old by now. And since then, I had a couple suspensions but haven’t had much more modifications done.
G: How was suspension for you? What was that experience like?
A: I always struggled to explain how it is for me. Everybody will have different experience of it. I can only talk about my experience and for me, I have some issues focusing on things, especially focusing on myself and on things that are important to me. I always forget to take care of me. And body suspension, I would always say for me, it’s like a reset button. During the suspension, everything is on mute. It’s just about me. Having a suspension usually feels like restarting the system. And I have to say I love the adrenaline, the serotonin that you get afterwards. After my first suspension, I was totally high for another 24 hours , in a very good way. It was Easter Friday, when Jesus got pierced, me and my best friend in that time had our first suspension and I had to work the day after. I just remember it being one of the best days I’ve ever had at work. I was so cantered. I was just super happy. And I remember that in the evening I had the last client of the day and my co-workers were already finished sitting in front of the studio, having a cigarette, having a beer and I went out just like smiling and said “Wow! That was such an amazing day!” And I will never forget the faces of my ex-boss and my co-worker. They were looking at me and like, are you kidding us? So they obviously had like a really stressful day, but for me there was no stress at all. It really balances me but I have had some suspensions and times where I didn’t feel good. That’s where that idea of my reset button comes from. When my feet hit the ground again, it always feels like, “okay, I’ll start over again and get my shit together”. I think I’ve done 5 or 6 suspensions in my life and all of them were just two hooks in the back, the so-called “suicide suspension” position. I keep thinking about trying something else, but that position gives me so much so I know that it’s very good for me. When I’m suspended I like to swing around and jump around and be like a little kid on hooks. And so the two points in the back just gives me all the freedom to move and jump.
G: Germany has a bit of a global reputation for having quite a hardcore kink and fetish scene, do you see that expressed in body mods?
A: I would not necessarily say in body modes, but we can definitely see that in genital piercings. I was working in a studio in Berlin. And that area is a very rainbow pride, very open, very kinky area. And we could see that reflected in our clients. Heavy genital piercing projects are not very common, but it’s definitely around. So I would not say no to that question, but I don’t get to see heavy like Mod Con style genital work. Which is probably out there, but I think especially those people that have that experience with their own body, they’re so very often not so outgoing about it. You might see an old guy wearing a proper business outfit and you never know what body mods they have.
But that’s where body mod comes from. Back when Jim Ward opened the first piercing studio, Gauntlet, it was a different time. It was the seventies and body piercing was not very common. And especially on men, it was even less common. So they would start piercing their nipples and their genitals and you wouldn’t see that if you see pictures of them. And I find that fascinating.
G: The stigma around body modification has started to get better, but we still see the remnants of it. Especially when it comes to men and piercings.
A: It depends on where in the world you are. I was traveling quite a bit the last 15 years and I had really weird conversations about my piercings with people. In Zambia, when I was traveling through East Africa in 2011, I was looking different than today. I didn’t have my hand implants, I had less tattoos, I had still all of my facial piercings. And I got into situations like, “what about you remove your piercings and start becoming a real man”, and then I’d tell them to go fuck themselves. That’s the end of the conversation. But the last few years, I have been working for a very fancy jewellery company, a piercing company and I see that people are way more open towards modified people than like 10 or 15 years ago. And I really like to play with that as well. I really like to show that I can be super professional, that I can be super compassionate and a nice person still looking the way I’m looking and I really enjoy when I’m sitting in a packed underground train in Berlin and I’m the first one to get up if there’s an older person. And I enjoy their faces when when you see that, they just learnt something about making assumptions.
G: Can you tell us more about your travels?
A: What was really impressive to me was when I was traveling to countries where several kinds of body modifications are not a modern thing. Meaning in Germany a hundred years ago, I’m not aware that people would do scarification, for example. But when you travel to countries like Zambia where scarification has been practiced for many thousands of years, it’s really interesting. I tried to get in touch with someone offering scarification or someone who could tell me a little bit more, which I couldn’t manage when I was last in Zambia. It was easier in Tanzania, for example, I met a young boy from the Maasai tribe and he would tell me about stretched ears. He loved that I have my ears stretched. He didn’t have his stretched and we were talking about it and he told me “that’s something my grandmother would do.” And that was cool for me to hear. It’s very different in the western world.
I was traveling to Borneo aswell where tattooing is a really old practice and they would pierce apadravyas for a really, really long time. So that was really interesting getting in conversations with people, learning the history of it. I’ve not travelled too much outside of Europe but I think the piercing and body mod scene, especially the last couple years, it’s getting more together. In Germany, for example, 6, 7, 8 years ago, hygiene was a very big topic. Also with all the different associations, in Germany, in England, Poland, Benelux etc, I think the piercing community is getting closer together.
G: You’re a founding member of the Verband Professioneller Piercer How did that come to be?
A: I’m a co-founder and I have to be honest, it wasn’t my idea. I have a very close friend, Loreia from Stuttgart and also my friend Tom who’s not offering piercing anymore and we had a Whatsapp group where we would just have an exchange and talking about piercings. One day, we were thinking that we should start something similar to the Ask A Professional Body Piercer forum on Facebook. Then the idea just became bigger and bigger and we were like, this needs to be more than just a Facebook group, we are starting an association now. That was in 2015. The most important thing with starting the association was bringing back my experience from the APP conference in Las Vegas the year prior. I wanted to help people come together, it doesn’t matter which standards you are working to right now, the only thing that matters is do you want to get better standards? Do you want to become better? And just trying to bring people together and sharing knowledge. In general, it’s not easy to get good information online. There is a shit ton of good information out there, but especially when you’re a newbie, it’s really hard to to know what is good information and what is bad information. And many people wouldn’t know all this information. I don’t blame people for not knowing things. I would blame people for knowing things and still not doing it better. Then we came up with the piercer round tables. So every three months, we would have piercer meetups. We would meet in a random city, or a coffee place and get some piercers in. We usually had like a 20 minute seminar, some topic just to break the ice and then we would have piercing conversations afterwards. Couple years ago, we set up a hygiene seminar for body piercers with Dr. Helge Hanitzsch. It was a five day, seminar and you got a European wide certification so you can prove all over Europe that you learned those things and then you can apply them.
Then Covid hit. During Covid, our board changed. Elected positions were changed. I was vice president for two years, then I was president for two years and I left the board around 2020. I did it for five or six years and sometimes it’s just time to step aside and let somebody else do the job. So at the moment there is not so much happening with the VPP. We’re still getting new members and we’re planning on going back to offering the round table talks. I see many body piercers in Germany growing their standards. So I think maybe in the next year or in two years, there might be a ton of applications.
Many things are changing at the moment. I mean, we all know about the jewellery ordering situation from the US for example. It’s hard, especially when you first ordered high quality jewellery and then maybe the first batch doesn’t sell so quick and that’s scary. A few months ago I started to work as a sales representative for NeoMetal and we opened the warehouse within the EU. So jewellery will be shipped from the Netherlands and it’s gonna be shipping in 2 to 4 days in Europe. I think that can make a huge, huge impact in the European industry because now we have Anatometal, Industrial Strength and now NeoMetal in Europe. I think in 2014, I started to work with NeoMetal, fell in love with that company, with Mark and then John immediately and I’m promoting that company ever since. But now it’s just official. I’m really excited to work and to see like a whole different field in body piercing and to work for a company that I really admire.
G: Whats in the future for Andrenalin Body Arts?
A: At the moment I want to focus on traveling a bit more. Because I love to be working, traveling and hanging out with friends. So whenever I’m in Nottingham, it’s like amazing. I wanna focus a bit on that. But the idea is to open my own little studio in East Germany, towards spring. And finally do it before I’m too old to. I don’t want a huge studio, I want to have a small, nice studio where everybody feels welcome. And I Need a place where I can finally showcase all the artefacts I have collected over the years from the industry. At the moment they’re just in my apartment so it would be nice for people to see my collection.
Check out Andre’s work at @andrenalinebodyart
Once again, big thank you to Andre for his time and for all he has done for our industry over his career so far. A true talent, kind soul and a good friend. We hope to see you soon! – Love, The Rogues x