Late night viewing on cable TV – I’m not sure if it is the cure or cause of my insomnia. Bikes and tattoos are always going to be a winning formula; easy on the eye and easy on the mind. But I’m not sure that the programmes are doing any favours to either the Custom Bike or Tattoo worlds.
We’ve had American Chopper and Biker Build-Off going for a while. Of course I always watch them but in reality they do little more than confirm that most Americans have no fucking taste. Over-the-top ‘theme bikes’ that are a tribute to something or other. And when the great American public get to cast their vote, they invariably choose some hideous monument to bad taste. Honourable exceptions would be the late Indian Larry or Russell Mitchell at Exile. To inject a frisson of ‘reality’ conflict - a deadline is always thrown in so that the guys can ‘kick some ass’ but by the end they can pat each other on the back and agree that results are ‘awesome – sick – rad’.
Now we have the tattoo equivalents Miami Ink – LA Ink and the home-grown London Ink . Again the same tired formulas are applied. Each tattoo has to have a poignant back-story – such as a memorial to the customers’ pet canary who tragically died of bird flu. Again there is some manufactured conflict – artistic differences or a wayward apprentice - and then a happy resolution that everything is ‘awesome – sick – rad’.
Just for a change it would be nice to see a custom project that started with a stock bike, maybe a crashed wreck, re-built with all the unnecessary shit taken off and taken back to basics in a stylish and classy way. Or someone could get a tattoo based on their own design just because they thought it looked good, without any sentimental crap or personal history.
Oh yes - and also showing the highly skilled and creative artists who do this work as articulate and capable of abstract thought. Now that would be 'keeping it real…'