INTERVIEW: My Dinner With Sarge (2004)

In the summer of 2004, modded people from all over the world gathered in Toronto, Ontario for BMEfest, an annual gathering of like-minded individuals. Some came to be social. Some came to drink. Some came to perform. Sarge came for all these reasons and more.

Sarge is a renowned piercer, and owner of the Metal Fatigue studio in Bournemouth, England. His real name has been lost to time (but is easily readable on his passport if you’re lucky enough to see it). This was his second trip to Canada, and I had the opportunity to speak with him at length, observe him performing an extremely exotic piercing, and get pierced by him myself.

Upon meeting him, it’s obvious that he fits no stereotype. On the hottest days of the summer Sarge was found wearing black leather pants, his trademark tophat, and aviator’s goggles. For a piercer, Sarge has relatively few piercings himself. The only visible ones are multiple gauged holes in his ears. I wondered about this.

“Blimey!” said Sarge with typical zeal. “Over the years I have had different piercings, but I was always into the tattooing side of body art.” Indeed, Sarge has a wonderful pair of wings on his back, and his sleeves covered. “Even though I never made it to that particular job (tattooing), I prefer the look. Body piercing to me is becoming more of a personal goal to strive at. I just pride myself on the job and quality of work the shop is producing. To me it’s more important to give good quality piercings than actually have them myself, plus I’m a big pussy when it comes to piercing pain.”

I got to wear the Sarge tophat.

Can this be true? We’ve all seen people who seem like they’re on the verge of tears when getting pierced. Could Sarge be like one of these people? Could Sarge even be worse than yours truly when it comes to pain? “No really!” he says. “Even worse than you!”

Although it’s impossible to guess by looking at him how old the Sarge might be, it’s clear from his stories that he’s been around for over 35 years. I was curious when he first encountered an “unusual” piercing, and what he thought of it at the time.

“The first unusual body art and modification I ever saw was in a re search book called Modern Primitives. That totally opened my eyes I can tell you! There was a whole world of piercing anthropology out there! I was 18 at the time and getting my first tattoo, which was pretty hardcore anyway at the time as it is a full arm of tribal. So I was pushing the boundaries then, because nobody had those types of tattoos then. Well so I thought! Then I read Modern Primitives and the rest as they say is history.”

From there, Sarge began exploring piercings himself. “My good friend Jenny was a mobile body piercer on the Isle of Wight. She taught me all she knew and pierced my navel, then got pregnant and gave the box of equipment to me. I sort of drifted about for a few years piercing my friends, then moved to Bournemouth UK and started working with various local cosmetic piercing studios. When I got fed up with their bad habits, I opened another. Then another. Then this one, which I called a clinic. I think it deserved it considering that’s a good 15 years of Metal Fatigue.”

Sarge’s first piercing was technically not his navel. He too experienced the dreaded piercing gun at an early age, before he knew any better. “I think my first piercing was when I was 14, I had my ear pierced with a really old piercing gun. It was a bit like a cross between a pair or pliers and a hole punch. I’m serious! And the freezing spray hurt more than the piercing!”

Eventually Sarge began doing piercings himself. His first was in 1989. “I cannot tell a lie, I totally screwed it up. It was a tongue piercing, and I got it off centre. It was on my friend Jenny.” Jenny had been teaching Sarge how to pierce, and continued to give him guidance. “She made me take it out and ‘Bloody well do it again!’ Suffice to say that was the first and last time I ever screwed up a tongue piercing!”

As time went on, the shop currently known as Metal Fatigue opened it doors to the public. The shop now enjoys an excellent reputation, but it was not always easy. “As an Aquarian, I have a total lack of a business mind. I am absolutely hopeless! So money has always been a problem. I have always thought it was always reputation over money anyway, so I’m lucky there, huh? I owned a tattoo studio called White Flame for three years with my ex-girlfriend, but left after we split up. I couldn’t really walk in there anymore after. It just gave me the fear. Although, my friend and housemate, Ana is a tattooist there and she just did a piece on my leg in the shop, so I’m getting better with it.”

Metal Fatigue itself runs on a fairly small staff. Aside from Sarge, “the shop runs two apprentices and two shop cleaner/desk personnel. All of them are friends, which sometimes doesn’t work: Mixing business and friendship is always a mistake. I think that pretty much sums up most piercing clinics, you definitely have to deal with the whole soap opera of this job somewhere along the line!” He must be doing something right despite this, as his shop has proven to be extremely popular.

Sarge is most definitely well versed in many topics. During a sushi dinner with him, pop culture was a topic that came up frequently. I recalled the first time I saw an unusual piercing myself. It was Axl Rose in a music magazine, and he had a ring in his left nipple. I had heard about Axl Rose’s unusual nipple adornment on a Canadian television music program, but seeing it changed a lot of things for me. I was wondering if, In England, there were any pop culture figures who might have had the same impact on people.

“The Spice Girls!” said Sarge with glee. Sporty Spice had her pierced nostril, Ginger had her navel done, and Scary had the most extreme piercing of the group, a barbell in her tongue. “They started the whole girly piercing craze. Before that it was all “alternative” people and middle aged swingers, I swear! It’s true! ” This trend has not changed, even if the pop culture faces have. “Even now, I’m getting people in who want piercings because some famous person or other has one!”

Having been in this business for the better part of 15 years, Sarge has seen a lot of different piercing techniques. When he came to Canada, he asked me how we did piercings here. I had to confess I was ignorant that there would be a difference in technique between the two countries. “I actually employ a cross between Standard American devised techniques and Standard English devised techniques. The difference is in the needles, but if you know what you’re doing you generally get the same result.”

What about attitudes? Are they the same in both countries? “With attitudes, I don’t honestly know, I tend not to get into big arguments about ethics. Lately I have had to really bite my tongue about certain issues. I’m quite happy that I did.”

I tried to pry his tongue loose on a few topics, and Sarge was willing to discuss common mistakes made in the piercing industry. “There are so many! Bad placement, wrong jewelry, trauma on areas caused by holding clamps too hard, the list is large. I personally have had to mop up after a large percentage of local piercers. I have just got used to it now. I learned a long time ago if you treat people with respect after they have been butchered by some backstreet piercer, instead of giving them attitude, they come back to you and tell all their friends. I do despair sometimes, and get downright angry about certain situations, but there’s nothing I can do about it. You can’t fight city hall, and any complaints that I make are deemed as ‘Professional jealousy’!”

Sarge does his best to keep his shop state of the art, and top of the line. In order to do this, he makes sure that he’s on top of sterility issues, and also provides excellent aftercare to his clients.

“Sterility in the studio is something that has evolved over the years. We buy better chemicals and better autoclaves each year, I update my techniques and basically do my homework. This has made the shop the way it is. We have this horrible super bug here called MRSA which seems to be ravaging the local hospitals, I don’t understand why they have it. All it takes is common sense and a proper cross contamination cleaning regime to work safely and efficiently. I swear sometimes I think that Technicare should pay me commission; on the amount of student nurses I have turned on to it!”

As far as aftercare goes, Sarge provides excellent service to his clients. “Metal Fatigue is twinned with a shop called Paradox which is just across the road; they are a jewelry shop, which is where I get all my ‘standard’ piercing jewelry. We have a policy: I use standard sensible pieces in all the different piercings that I pierce, in turn the piercees then come back to change their original piercings for an interesting piece of jewelry of their choice. I in turn change these for free. We’re pretty user-friendly like that!”

This makes Sarge a pretty popular guy. “I can’t move in my local rock nightclub for people the shop has pierced, the running joke is about the scrap value in titanium every Saturday night!”

When asked what his future plans for his studio were, Sarge’s love of Canada was evident. “Metal Fatigue Ontario, maybe? Any sponsors out there?”

Although he has yet to fulfill this cross-Atlantic dream, Sarge has pierced in Canada before. Sarge pierced my right nipple, and did a fantastic job. He made a piercing that, for me, was always extremely difficult and painful the exact opposite of that. It was quick, painless, and I did not even realize it was over until he told me that it was. Even more exciting than this was getting to watch Sarge perform was he calls his “trophy piercing”, the clavicle.

The clavicle piercing, under the collarbone.

A young Kitchener, Ontario resident had seen Sarge’s clavicle piercing on the BME site and was interested. It’s a very unusual piercing that involves going underneath the collarbone. Sarge is one of very few people who do it. This young girl eventually emailed Sarge about getting one done, not realizing he lived across the ocean. However, with BMEfest just around the corner, Sarge was planning on coming and visiting his friends. The Canadian girl could have her clavicle piercing after all.

It was quite a sight to watch. “The clavicle piercing (under the collar bone) is probably my ‘trophy’ piercing now, its really dangerous,” says Sarge. “If I hit anything untoward, someone may die. I have had loads of criticism from various piercers for even thinking about doing one. Saying that, I have now done eight and they all love them so much! I have stopped doing them now, as we are into unknown territory, watching them heal, working around possible problems with them. So far everything has been hunky dory.”

As we were wrapping up our talk, I wanted to lighten the tone a bit. I know Sarge has met a few celebrities in the past. My favourite story involved a bar, a drunken Sarge, and a certain lead vocalist from a certain British heavy metal band called Motorhead. Although he had no way of knowing, Philip Lynott from Thin Lizzy had died that day, and the bar was playing his music in tribute to the fallen rock hero. Sarge, however, was not a fan. When he openly criticized the music of Thin Lizzy with some choice words, a large man with “bad teeth, long black hair and a low gruff voice,” told the young Sarge to fuck off. This was Sarge’s first and last meeting with Lemmy Kilmister. Not all his encounters were this scary. “I met Jon Anderson from the band Yes when I was working at a hotel once! Had a beer with him after work, he was doing some book signing thing, I think I still have his autograph somewhere, he signed a copy of a (Yes cover artist) Rodger Dean art book for me!”

Has Sarge ever pierced a celebrity? “I have, but I can’t tell you her name. She’s more a British music celebrity, quite young and has only just been in the charts here, I don’t honestly know how far reaching her music is. She’s definitely not one of these corporate girly types, she writes all her own tunes. Oh yeah and she’s really cute.”

We wrapped up our talk, half of our sushi still lying on the table. I very much enjoyed having the chance to speak with, and have some work done by the man known in Canada as the “Jedi Master of Piercings”. If you ever have a chance to visit Bournemouth, UK, be sure to drop in and say hello to the extremely talented and friendly Sarge.


More on Sarge:  


#934: What Now?


I sound like a broken record at the end of every summer.  It’s tough to keep the spirits up at this time of year.  It’s likely I’ve taken my last swim of 2021.  Next time we get to the lake, the sun will be down by the time we arrive.  And then will come the day it is covered with snow, and empty for the winter slumber.

Music helps – music always, always helps.  So does writing.  But it is an annual challenge.

When I was a kid, the end of August would signal the start of the “sad times”.  The back-to-school ads.   Reminders that I was going to have to spend another year with a bunch of bullies again.  Then the colder weather started to roll in.  Our family would take two weeks of vacation in August but back then, they were two cold, rainy weeks. (Not like today.)  You had to start dressing in long pants and sweat shirts.

Shopping for notebooks and new school clothes.  Realizing that a few weeks of warm freedom were about to be replaced by 10 months of misery.  I hated Labour Day weekend.  Back to the “hell hole” as my sister would say.  These feelings stick with me today.  I can’t flip the calendar from August to September without them.

Even though I’m not in school anymore, the heavy heart returns.  I now know that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and it’s something I need to fight every fall.

Last year was a success!  I avoided the seasonal depression.  I spent my summer making lots of videos, to take me back there in my mind when I needed it.  I also had the show, the LeBrain Train, to look forward to every weekend.  This year is different.  The videos and photos don’t have the same impact two years in a row, and since May the LeBrain Train has become more of a burden than a joy.  I need something new to keep my spirits up this winter, and I don’t yet know what that is.  It is true that we have a long September ahead, warm but shorter days.  I hope this mitigating factor helps.  I think what I really need is some new creative spark to keep me looking forward.  Last year it was the LeBrain Train but the burnout factor has ensured that I need something fresh that I can look forward to from September to May.

What used to cheer me up at this time of year?

As a kid I used to be excited for a new season of the Pepsi Power Hour which hasn’t existed in 30 years.  I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but fortunately Marvel has constant content forthcoming on Disney+.  We have a new Iron Maiden album to look forward to, but the idea of new music from my favourite bands doesn’t have the same excitement factor as when I was 15 years old.  Yes I’m happy there is a new Iron Maiden coming, but compared to the sheer expectation of Seventh Son coming out in ’88?  No chills.

It feels like…work?  Like I haven’t finished digesting The Book of Souls and here comes another one.  I can’t remember how half that album goes, and now we have a new one to get to know.  It’s not like in the old days when I felt literally starved of Iron Maiden because I’d played all their albums over and over and over.  Now, there are so many that you don’t necessarily even play them all in a year.

Back then, getting a new Iron Maiden album felt just as amazing as a new Star Wars or Marvel movie today.  Something you have been anticipating for a while.  Music videos were like movie trailers.  We’d watch repeatedly, we’d pause, and we’d slo-mo trying to glimpse details.  Costumes, instruments, stage sets, all of it.

When I was working at the Record Store, I still didn’t know that this seasonal depression thing was real and not just me.  It often came and went in spurts.  I used to call them a “big blue funk”.  2003 was a very “funky” year for me.  I’d been dumped (twice) by my Radio Station Girl, and even with a new Iron Maiden in my back pocket (Dance of Death, and also a new Deep Purple called Bananas) I still felt like I needed to do something to help me get through the winter.  And there was something I used to do to pick myself up back then, especially if I had my heart broke.  Yes, broken hearts are for assholes, but I chose to get new holes.  On September 3, I went to Stigmata in Guelph and got my nose pierced.

It was my third visit to the tattoo studio that year.  After Radio Station Girl dumped me, I got my lip pierced at Stigmata.  A couple months later I got my tragus pierced — that piece of cartilage at the opening of your ear.  A friend of mine named Lois Sarah had just started piercing there and if I remember the details correctly, I was a guinea pig.  It’s fun to go back and read my notes!

Lois asked if I was ready. I said yes, and she asked me to take a deep breath and exhale….

I said, “Wow, I didn’t feel a thing.”

Lois said, “That’s because it’s not through yet.”

I felt the needle go through at least 3 distinct layers of cartilage. Each one hurt more than the last. On the last layer, I said, “FUCK” and both my legs shot out. 

Lois did a great job and it’s the one piercing that I do still have.

But September 3 2003 was just my nose, nothing too painful.  It was Labour Day weekend once more, and I decided to go for it.  Normally I went to get a piercing with a “wingman” but this was my first time going alone.  I distinctly remember wearing my Iron Bitchface T-shirt.  An uber-cool looking guy with a massive afro shot me an approving glance, so I felt good from the get-go.

I was led to the back room, but not before washing up my hands with disinfectant gel. I sat down in the Very Big Chair, as I liked to call it, and Lois prepared the goods. She marked my nostril with a dot and got the position right where I wanted it. Then she applied some iodine to the area, both inside and out. She tested out the position of the receiving tube, and finally asked me to take a deep breath.  As I exhaled, the needle went in no problem. Almost no pain at all. I’ve been pinched harder.  (By your mom.)

The rest of the year still sucked, nose ring or not.  It was the year of working with the Dandy, a manchild that drove me slowly mad as he sucked up to the big-wigs.  Work was miserable and not getting any better.  But at least I was proactive, and did something that I thought would help.  Something that helped in the past.

I’ve been there and done that with piercings, and though I like the look of them, I don’t enjoy the upkeep.  I prefer to spend my money on something more permanent, like a tattoo.  That’s something to consider, but I think I need to look elsewhere for a bright spot this winter.  Maybe I will find my joy in the live show once again, but I can’t count on it.  Truth be told, I haven’t been feeling it as much since May.  I remember telling Deke that I was struggling and he suggested back then that I take a break.  But I didn’t feel like I could take that break until the end of the summer.  And here we are.

So now I search for some new slant on my creative outlet to revitalize me.  Something to look forward to regularly.  I was very lucky during the winter of 2020-2021.  I hope I can pull it off again!


#822: Record Store Daze – Gallery #6

As time goes on, old photos are more and more fun to dig up.

This batch dates back to 2004-2005.

First up, I have a feeling a marillion.com order came in!  I was one of thousands who pre-ordered the double Marbles album and got my name in the credits.  In the following picture it’s the singles for “You’re Gone”!  Two CDs and a (UK) DVD.  I had to have them all even though I couldn’t play the DVD back in 2004.


Ahh, this is a good one.  Sarge from Metal Fatigue in Bournemouth, England was visiting his friends The Legendary Klopeks in Canada.  That’s Josh “Sweet Pepper” Klopek holding my hand.  Hey man, I’ll take any support I can get when a bald British dude is shoving a needle through my flesh.  Sarge did the piercing in my home, the first and only time I have had such a comfortable piercing experience!  Josh has a black eye because of the onstage punishment he took nightly.

These two photos were taken with cardboard standees with webcams, but for the time, they looked pretty good.

Just some goofing around.  I was doing some live streaming, it looks like.  And the Wheaties box may have been done by Sarge!



Finally, these last two pictures are really special.  They were taken the day before I met Jen.  It’s strange that they are the only ones timestamped.  But I would have known the date regardless.  The Bob Marley and Slash shirts are obviously new (you can see the tag) and I bought those shirts the day before I met my wife.  I bought them at St. Jacob’s farmer’s market, on a date with another girl.  It was memorable because it didn’t go well.  She was really hurrying me along when I was looking at shirts.  I knew it wasn’t going to work out.  The next day I met Jen.  She wrote about her side of it in Getting More Tale #434:  The Man in the Bob Marley Shirt.  If I had chosen the other shirt to wear that day, maybe the story would have been called The Man in the Slash Shirt!



RECORD STORE TALES Part 171:  Record Store Gallery
RECORD STORE TALES Part 279:  Record Store Gallery Deux
RECORD STORE TALES Part 280:  Record Store Gallery III – Furry Friends
RECORD STORE TALES Part 311:  Record Store Gallery IV (Shite Photies)
GETTING MORE TALE #607:  Every Picture Tells a Story

Sunday Chuckle: Get Pierced!

I found this crate, pictured below, at work amongst a pile of old tools.  I thought I worked in a steel mill?!  What the heck kind of work do we do around here anyway?!

Part 311: Record Store Gallery IV (Shite Photies)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 311: Record Store Gallery IV (Shite Photies)

This is what it’s come to in this crap-fest known as Record Store Tales:  Another batch of semi-embarrassing photos of a much younger and thinner LeBrain.  These are from a party circa 2003 or so.  I can’t remember the names of anybody in these photos except one, which is Jesse Villemaire (last photo), the owner of Thrive tattoo studios in Cambridge.  I can’t remember a single other name!

Long time LeBrain readers will recall that vintage Marillion tour shirt (that I don’t fit into anymore) from Part 126:  The Marillion Shirt.

Part 273: Purp Ate My Balls Redux: Special Edition

Purp Ate My Balls Redux: Special Edition

I am thrilled to have discovered all the missing pictures of the infamous “Purp Ate My Balls” gallery.  This isn’t everyone who owned the shirt, just the ones who took pictures.

What’s the “Purp Ate My Balls” shirt?  Well, to quote the original story, Part 227:

10 years ago my online handle was “Purpendicular.”  (Gee, where did I get that name from?)  ”Purp” made a good short-form nickname.  For whatever reason…and believe me I wish I could remember…Sarge decided to make and give out 40 or 50 “Purp Ate My Balls” shirts!  He gave them to all his shop employees (Metal Fatigue in Bournemouth) and I’m pretty sure all the Klopeks ended up with them too.

Here’s a whole lotta pictures of English people wearing me on their shirts!

I also found the original photo that started it all!


Part 245: Metal in my Ears

RECORD STORE TALES Part 245:  Metal in my Ears

and bonus “Shit LeBrain’s Dad Says”

Even though ear piercings on men at the record store were against our backwards “body piercing policy”, I thought for years about getting my ears pierced.  Thought about it, never really did anything about it.  This inaction went way back, even in highschool I just never got my ears pieced.  I came close on summer holidays after graduation.  Today, My Favourite Aunt still blames me for the day my cousin came home with his ear pierced.  It happened like this…

Bob, myself, cousin

Bob, myself, cousin – 1991

Summer holidays ’91, my cousin was visiting from Calgary, Alberta.  By coincidence, my friend Bob had decided to spend a few days at our cottage with the whole family, which was cool by me.   Bob was like family.  My cousin liked to be active.  He was never the type to sit quietly.  Or do anything quietly.

He kept telling us that wanted to get his ear pierced.  We decided, “Hey, why don’t we all drive into town, and the three of us get our ears pierced?”  We found a hair salon on Queen Street in Kincardine, Ontario called The Clan that did ears (gun-style).  Somehow, on the way there, Bob chickened out.  He said, “You know, I’m starting my new job next week.  I don’t think I want to go in there with an earring on my first day.”

“Are you…what are you saying?” I asked.

“I’m not getting it done.  You can get yours, but I can’t go to a new job like that.”  Bob was standing firm.

Feeling my backbone melt away, I said, “I’m not doing it either.”

“WHAT?!” Bob and my cousin both said in unison.  “You’re chickening out?”

“I’m not chickening out!” I protested.  “We all agreed to do it.  If Bob’s not doing it I don’t have to either.”

My resilient cousin said, “I’m still doing it.”  True to his word, he did.  The crap hit the fan when we got back to the cottage.  Why was he the only one with his ear pierced?  The questions came fast and furious.  I was accused of  “tricking him” and “suckering him in”.  But I didn’t trick anyone.

I simply chickened out.

I still thought about getting an ear piercing, on and off, but the point was moot since the record store did not allow piercings on men.  Obviously this policy couldn’t stand forever or they’d never be able to hire anybody.  Finally after much petitioning and complaining by many, the day came when they changed their policies regarding earrings on men.

I knew the only person who would still give me a hard time about an earring would be my dad.  Sometimes people would ask me, “Why don’t you get an ear piercing?” and I’d usually respond, “Because my dad’s retired and I don’t want to give him a heart attack.”

My friend Shannon promised to help me to soften the blow.  She accompanied me to Tora Tattoo in Waterloo, where the young lady there (Shelley) pierced both lobes with 10 gauge rings.  I was pretty happy with the results.  My dad was not.  Upon entering the house, his only words to me were:

“I sure hope those things come out!”

No dad, I had them solder them in.  Jesus Murphy!

Part 227: Purp Ate My Balls

RECORD STORE TALES Part 227:  Purp Ate My Balls

10 years ago my online handle was “Purpendicular.”  (Gee, where did I get that name from?)  “Purp” made a good short-form nickname.  For whatever reason…and believe me I wish I could remember…Sarge decided to make and give out 40 or 50 “Purp Ate My Balls” shirts!  He gave them to all his shop employees (Metal Fatigue in Bournemouth) and I’m pretty sure all the Klopeks ended up with them too.

I wish I had the photo gallery, but Sarge used to have pictures of all those people wearing my face on their shirts and doing the “Purp” face.  It was a mini-phenomenon at the time, but all I have left is Sarge.

For obvious reasons, I was not allowed to wear this shirt to work.  I do still have mine though, packed away in storage.  I wonder how many more are still out there?  I often wonder if people in Bournemouth, Brighton, Niagara Falls and beyond still wear their “Purp”?


Part 171: VIDEO – Record Store Gallery

RECORD STORE TALES Part 171:  Record Store Gallery