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chenbalbus introI am happy to present you our guest today: Chen Balbus is guitar player and composer of ORPHANED LAND, from my point of view the most successful Metal band from Israel during the last years. I have seen this band first time as a guest on the BLIND GUARDIAN tour and was impressed. The other project of Chen is THE SECRET SAINTS, a new Israeli Rock’n’Roll band. The band was chosen to open for the legendary Rock’n’Roll band of all times, GUNS N’ ROSES, on their “Not In This Lifetime” reunion tour. Additionally, to his musical success, Chen has a few tattoo stories to tell...

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: When did you get your first tattoo and what was it? Did it take much time until you decided to get it done?
Chen: I was 16 years old. It was really just a moment of just doing it without thinking too much. The music saved me from pure depression and thus there’s a life sign going through the word “Music”.

RoD: How many tattoos do you have? Could you please tell us their story?
Chen: I’ve got only two (for now). The first one was just my rebellious 16th tattoo. Didn’t have too much ideas on what to do but knew that music saved my life. The second one was the symbol of the first album I ever took part in (ORPHANED LAND - ‘All Is One’) and the peaceful meaning and concept on the album just fitted the way I see life thanks to ORPHANED LAND.

RoD: Have you already got all the tattoos that you wanted or will you get some new ones in the future?
Chen:Not even close.) The thing is I never find the time or pure will to sit for a lot of time to get myself tattooed.

RoD: Have all your tattoos been done by one tattoo artist or by different ones? How do you choose the tattoo artist? In addition, who draws your sketches?
Chen: Two different artist - the first one was just a random one who did it on the spot and the second one did the rest of the guys in the band. So figured out he could pull it off.

chenbalbus 1

RoD: Getting tattooed hurts, how do you cope with the pain during the sessions?
Chen: Simple, I faint at some point! lol. Well, not because of the pain. Some high-pitched frequencies have that effect on me such as the tattoo machine. Other than that - fairly easy.

RoD: Do you regret getting tattooed sometimes?
Chen: Not at all. I was never a fan of my body as is, so at least getting it covered with things I like that I actually choose for myself.

RoD: What is your taboo in terms of tattoos? What kind of tattoo would you never get done and don’t like to see on other people?
Chen: Chest tattoos, facial tattoos, neck tattoos. I don’t find that appealing in any way.

RoD: Some people say that the drive to acquire body art is addictive while others say it fails to meet the true definition of an addiction, simply calling it a passion. Is it really impossible to stop?
Chen: I never really felt any addiction to getting tattooed even though I don’t have many tattoos. I’d guess people sometimes are just very excited from that freedom to modify your body and express yourself that way. Thinking “Yeah, it’s there because I choose it”.

RoD: Currently tattoos are a new trend; many people do not care about the meaning, they just want to have something coloured on the skin, to be in trend. Those people often just go into a tattoo salon and ask which drafts they have. Tattoo artists are not artists any more, they produce consumer goods. Not all of them, of course. How do you feel about this situation?
Chen: You could say the same about the music business, when you’re forced to release an album JUST to release an album by the deadline and disregard the creativity process. It’s natural - even your hobby at some point becomes a job. It’s up to us to choose eventually which project we want to take part in or not.

chenbalbus 2

RoD: I would like to talk about the social aspect of tattoos, too. Previously, many people believed that if you have a tattoo, you will be never be successful and will not find a “good” job. Have this state of mind and people’s perceptions changed or are these prejudices still alive?
Chen: I still think it holds up somewhere if religion still does. We’re talking about hundreds of years of prejudice. It won’t be fixed in a day. So better take the time and be patient and do our thing. It doesn’t really matter eventually what others think unless it is against your human rights.

RoD: Which advice would you give to people who are going to get their first tattoo? How to choose a tattoo artist? Colour or black and white? Any practical advice?
Chen: Nothing too special, just make sure the guy has lots of recommendations, do at least a lot of homework for what you’re going for and have in mind. You want to enjoy that years later.

Project by Daria Tessa and Daniela Vorndran, Interview by Daria Tessa
Title picture by Dango Productions, second picture by Eyal Pe’er, third picture by Joana Marçal Carriço