About a month ago Urban Ink came in and interviewed us for our film "Under The Skin" The Issue just dropped and you can pick it up at local news stands today. Shout out to Paul and Lauren for making it happen.
Inked Producers Go Under The Skin
Photography by Ab Sesay
A barrage of flashes and shutter clicks of cameras invade the small movie theater on Second Avenue in New York City’s East Village. There is a fashionable street-come-rock-and-roll crowd that has come out for tonight’s event. They huddle under the marquee as the line grows and begins to snake around the corner. Standing at the nucleus of the buzz, Mario Barth and Billy Burke seem at ease as they pose for the press. They are the subjects of the evening’s festivities: the New York premiere of their acclaimed documentary Under The Skin. For Mario Barth, it’s another night in the lime-light, a stop on his whirlwind feast of life, enjoying the fruits and flavors accompanied by his A-list clientele. Later at the after-party I stopped Barth’s partner Billy Burke to say hello. Fresh off a summer tour with New York band The Lordz, Burke is the “Yin” to Barth’s “Yang.” Just by observation, one can easily guess that Burke may feel a bit more anxious in this setting than Barth, who is busy summoning two gigantic bottles of champagne with one raised arm while his other arm hangs around his master-piece wife Carol (she is covered in ink, Barth’s ink to be exact).
Mario Barth is the American Dream dressed in leather and ink. A true renaissance man: businessman, family man, entrepreneur, and inventor with a giant personality. He works hard in the name of tattoos and is highly respected among other tattoo artists around the world. Barth is the owner and creator of Intenze, the very first line of sterile ink that is sold in twenty-eight countries across six continents. He has a total of six tattoo shops in the U.S., including the busiest shop on the Las Vegas Strip, Starlight Tattoo at the Mandalay Bay. Barth is also founder and host of the World’s Largest Tattoo Show, its 8th annual to be held in Vegas later this year.
Born in Austria, in his teens and early adult years Barth could be found immersed in the street scene. He lived a rebel life filled with bikers, metal music and of course tattoos, which were illegal in Austria at the time. Barth was an integral part of a movement to have tattooing legalized in Austria, a legacy he left behind when he set his sights on the U.S. Eleven years ago Barth settled in Northern New Jersey, home of the original Starlight Tattoo and now home to his wife and young son as well. Little did Barth know at the time what a poetic role his geographic choice would play. Northern New Jersey was also home to Billy Burke, a kid barely eighteen years old at the time.
In 1998 Billy Burke had only just begun writing his story, one of his love affair with all things underground, street culture, and what he calls “outlaw art.” Burke majored in fine arts and political science in college while managing a constant stream of side projects that fed his passions. During college and beyond, Burke got involved in producing press junkets for major movie houses such as Paramount, New Line, Dream Works, and Miramax. Producing the junkets lit a spark in Burke and he continued on that path. A self-taught filmmaker, Billy went on to create, executive produce, and direct ten episodes of The Brooklyn Way for MSG network. He then executive produced a second season for the Fuse channel. This docu-series focused on the once popular Lordz of Brooklyn trying to regain the stardom and recognition they had over a decade ago.
As a highly respected New York City underground band, the Lordz provided a great underdog story for Burke to capture on film. The Brooklyn Way introduced the real and significant New York City street culture to a younger generation with a colorful cast comprised of a “who’s who” from the pioneers of the NYC street scene. Suddenly Mr. Kaves, his brother ADM, graffiti artists Stash, Futura, Haze, Lee Quinones and Joey Semz were in the collective frontal lobe of popular culture once again. It was Burke’s magnetism toward rebel culture (tattooing in particular) that would be the catalyst in his first meeting with Barth. Ten years ago Burke sought out Barth to get a tattoo, they hit it off, their paths kept crossing, and soon it became inevitable that they combine forces.
Photography by Pat Johnson
Under the Skin was Barth and Burke’s first collaboration. The documentary is a captivating look into the ancient Japanese technique of tattooing known as Tebori. In the film, Barth serves as a guide into the underground world of the Tebori masters trying to keep their art alive. (Tattooing is still banned in Japan today due to its underground ties.) Barth’s bond to the Horitoshi family
takes the viewer where no Westerner has gone before. Under The Skin took home four awards, including Best Documentary at the Independent New York Film Festival and Best Documentary
Director at the L.A. Independent Film Festival.
Barth and Burke were onto something. Barth’s celebrity clientele include Sylvester Stallone, Lenny Kravitz, Jason Kidd, Nikki Sixx, band members of KoRn, My Chemical Romance, Dave Navarro, and Tommy Lee (who was tattooed by Barth mid-air on a private plane from New York to Miami). With this kind of access and his everyday antics, along with Burke’s vision and
experience in film and event production, the Barth and Burke Production Company was born.
They have many new projects in the works including a new series called Marked that will premiere this year on the History Channel. Marked will bring the viewer into modern-
day tribes, subcultures, and street crews to get a look at the pride and tradition their members carry on their bodies. It is with this project and others that B and B Productions will continue to
reach a broad audience and offer a real look into the outer edges of society.
Written by Lauren Del Vecchio