This was posted on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 by Rodney Hofirstname.lastname@example.org, on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
The funny thing about reality competition shows: once they become a hit, they rarely go away. "Survivor" just wrapped season 34, "The Amazing Race" season 29. Even when a network drops one (e.g. "America's Next Top Model," "American Idol"), another one scoops them right up.
Spike TV's reality competition show driver is "Ink Master." Not counting the spin-off permutations, the tattoo artist showcase is now up to season nine.
It returns June 6 at 10 p.m. with a modest twist: nine teams of two compete on behalf of their respective tattoo shops. There will be two winners from a single shop who will split $200,000 instead of a single winner for $100,000. "You will succeed as a team," explained host Dave Navarro in the opening episode. "And you will fail as a team. Win, and you both win. Lose and you're both out."
Two of those teams are based in Atlanta, though through the magic of TV, one of the four tattoo artists is actually from Riverside, Calif.. I doubt that will be brought up during the show. (Why complicate story lines?)
I first met up with Chavonna "Bang" Rhodes and "Danger" Dave Morris of Tri-Cities Tattoo Company in College Park a couple of weeks ago. I also was supposed to do face-to-face interviews with both Mike Petroskie and Wes Hogan at All Saints tattoo shop next to Smith's Olde Bar yesterday. Only Wes showed up. Mike didn't respond to text or calls by either Wes or me during the time I was there. Wes theorized he was out partying too late the night before and was visibly annoyed.
And while Spike TV will imply on the show that Wes and Mike worked together at the same shop, that isn't true. They are just friends. Mike actually asked Wes to join the show despite the fact Wes resides in California. Wes,, 36, has a wife and two kids in Riverside. He grew up there. He's a well-established artist there and used to own a shop there himself. He comes to Atlanta maybe three times a year as a guest artist.
Weirder still, Mike is no longer working at The Marked Society Tattoo in McDonough, which is the shop he's representing on the show, which was shot a few months ago
Wes told me that Mike felt "disrespected" by the other owners of the original shop and left in a huff. He's now working at the new All Saints Social Club tattoo shop next to Smith's Olde Bar.
This sudden move jibes with the description Spike had about Mike on the website implying he had a thin skin:
Mike P describes himself as laid back and funny but warns others that he loses his charm the second anyone crosses him. The Georgia-based artist, who describes his work as well rounded, is confident that the judges will never find a messy line in any of his art.
As a tattoo artist, Wes has nothing but respect for Mike, who is 30. "Mike is amazing," Wes said. "He came out of nowhere." He started just a few years earlier but became proficient quickly. Wes described his work as "traditional illustrative realism with bold outlines, bright colors." Wes said Mike - with just six years experience - has collected a raft of awards for his fine work.
Wes, with 17 years experience, is big on photo-realism, with a specialty in black and grey.
Wes showed me some recent work he did of the late Lane Stayley of Alice in Chains on top of the late Chris Cornell of Soundgarden:
Bang and "Danger" Dave actually do work in a shop together called Tri-Cities Tattoo Company in East Point they are representing on the show. Dave, 32, got into the tattoo work before Bang and helped her when she showed interest. Both attended SCAD Atlanta.
On the first episode, which I screened, the two of them struggle a bit working together. Dave comes in a bit more laid back than Bang. Bang in fact comes across as a bit of a firebrand, willing to parry with the judges. But this doesn't stop Dave from standing up for himself as well when he needs to.
"I will do whatever it takes to win," he said. "If you got to play the game, you play the game. I'm super competitive. I don't like to lose. I'm not necessarily used to losing."
Danger Dave, a fan of "Ink Master" going in and a Buckhead resident who has been a tattoo artist for eight years, told me he's comfortable to doing large-scale black and gray realism. "I like to do tattoo work taht taps into deeper places for people," he said, "Where they come from, how they see themselves." He likes depth and drama in his work.
Bang, 26, only has four years of experience under her belt but is now doing enough business to support herself tattooing. "I am getting better at what I do every day," she said. "And doing this competition, I was able to learn a lot of new things."
And she respects Danger Dave. "He's my big bro," she said.
Experience does matter on this show because it requires a wide range of skill sets. But Bang said being young, she is flexible and open to fresh ideas. She, too, is a photo-realism specialist.
A Boston native who grew up in a rough neighborhood, she moved down here for school and never left. She said she was part of the "cool kid" crowd at SCAD.
"Ink Master," debuting Tuesday, June 6, 10 p.m., Spike TV