THE ENIGMA
IS A HARD THING TO FIGURE OUT

by Jonathan Williams
Photos by Frank Mullen
From the April 2005 issue of Prick Magazine.



If you've never seen him perform before, you've probably at least heard about The Enigma. He's the guy with blue puzzle pieces tattooed all over his body who has made a name for himself performing stunts such as sword swallowing, pushing a moving power drill up his nose and swallowing various liquids, pumping them out of his stomach and swallowing them again. While he obviously helped reintroduce us to the amazing feats of the circus sideshow performer, what many people may not realize is that The Enigma is also an accomplished musician, both when he was a member of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow and with his current band the Human Marvels, which also features his feline companion Katzen the Tiger Lady.

"If you've seen the circus of old, you noticed that I was on keyboards making music the entire time," he says. "If you weren't aware, it's because we were so busy blowing out your eyeballs that you didn't get a chance to let your ears catch up. Every time I've ever been onstage, I've always played music."

And while he has expressed his creatively in a more visual way for most of his adult life, The Enigma says music has been a lifelong passion for him.

"I had piano lessons when I was six years old," he recalls. "Flute lessons, singing lessons, dancing lessons, the whole nine yards. I spent most of my life in the backseat of a car going back and forth to private lessons surviving basically on comic books and casseroles."




With the Human Marvels, The Enigma is constantly on tour performing songs from the band's self-released CD With It, a body of work he describes as "a soundtrack composer's attempt at rock 'n' roll." Sometimes a bit goth-industrial with some occasional surf guitar thrown in the mix, With It is a goofy collection of songs that pair up with the different stunts the Human Marvels perform onstage such as the human blockhead and the human pincushion.

"The music is kind of the 'why' of what we do," he says. "In a magic show you wonder how is it done, but in a sideshow you merely wonder why is it done. We try to provide that [through music]. It gives you more of an intellectual stimulus as well as kind of an emotional tug."

It should come as no surprise (well, maybe just a little) that The Enigma has been hired by the rotating cast musical collective known as Pigface, not for his sideshow stunts, but as a guitar player. He'll even be debuting a new guitar with 19 strings on the Pigface tour this month.

"I think I'm going to go ahead and do some stunts anyway," he says. "Because I know a bunch of people want it and they don't mind if I go ahead and do a little bit of stunts. Katzen's also going to be on the tour, at least for the first half, and she'll probably jump onstage once in a while and do a few stunts, but she'll kind of be in the background working merchandise as well."




Aside from his musical abilities being overlooked because of his physical alterations, another misconception about The Enigma is in regards to his tattoos. Sure, his body is a literal jigsaw puzzle of ink (done by Katzen in 1993), but he has actually been tattooed by more than 200 artists from around the world.

"From a distance you see a guy completely blue and as you get closer you notice the intricate strange artwork and patterns," he says of his ink. "It's really crazy goofy stuff whatever happened to be the inspiration at the time or sometimes what the tattoo artist could never tattoo on somebody else because nobody ever wanted to get it done."

The Enigma is not only the recipient of tattoos, he is also willing to do some tattooing himself as long as it's a blue puzzle piece you want.

"My first tattoo I got when I was 20 years old," he recalls. "It was a little dancing skeleton guy on my arm. Later, when I was 22 years old, I said, 'Hey, how can I improve my act? Well, I guess I could be completely blue.' Then I started working on that.

"I tattooed a bunch of people in the old circus and I've tattooed people all around the world with little blue puzzle pieces," he continues. "Sometimes, when I have time off, I'll go into a tattoo shop or I get invited in and they say, 'Hey, let us book some appointments for you. I want a blue puzzle piece as well.'"




So, what's next for a guy who is literally covered in tattoos (not to mention the horn implants, pierced nipples and who knows what else)? Well, The Enigma is a little reluctant to divulge such secrets.

"I thought of doing [the tongue splitting thing] a long time before anybody in Western culture started doing it. But as soon as the word got around about it, people started taking on that challenge," he says. "So if you're going to do it, do it and let people copy that instead of telling everybody and have them go ahead and do it while you sit around in the dust going, 'What happened to my idea?'

"I mentioned that I was going to get horns to The Amazing Mr. Lifto," he recalls. "And what do you think happens? He jumps in the chair ahead of me and puts some little bumps in his forehead. So, I can't really talk so much about my ideas. It's a constant process and I don't know if I'll ever see the end of it."

And for those who say tattoos and piercings hinder one's ability of getting ahead in the world, The Enigma is living proof that you can get tattooed anywhere on your body and still get some sort of work.

"Tattooing your face doesn't mean there's a bunch of things I can't do," he claims. "It basically means there are more things that I can do than you could even imagine. This is the impossible possible. It's going beyond what everybody else can do or would even dream of doing. If there's anything I ever wanted to do out there, I'd make sure to do it."




The Enigma will be on tour with Pigface in April and May. An action figure of his character from The X-Files was just released by Palisades Toys.

For more info, go to www.humanmarvels.com or www.undergroundinc.com.


The Enigma's tattoo info:
• Prince of Whales (whale with crown) and Dali Lama (lama head with a Dali mustache) by English Craig at Freaky Tiki Tattoos (formerly Electric Expressions) in New Orleans, La.
• Sword swallowing pinhead on ribcage by Ernie at Electric Ladyland in New Orleans, La. Ernie later opened a shop called Lucky Devil in Seattle, Wash.
• Blue portrait of The Amazing Mr. Lifto on leg and all puzzle lines by Katzen.
• Turkey on back by Richard Stell at Pair O' Dice Tattoos in Dallas, Texas.
• Oz on back of neck by James Brown and Rick Almond in Australia.
• New Zealand island tattoo on shoulder by Mike at Tattoo Gallery in Australia.
• Plaid pattern by Atomizer at Eight Ball Tattoo in Ohio. It was the pattern on Atomizer's pants that day.
• Lizard guy done at Screaming Mimi's Tattoos in Amarillo, Texas.
• Girl under right arm by Tom DePriest while the biomechanical pieces under left arm were done at the same time by Patrick Brabalm at Tattoo Emporium in Denver, Colo.
• The Enigma has also tattooed and been tattooed by Hanky Panky. Some of his other work was done at Purple Turtle Tattoos and Steel Works in South Africa and Primal State Tattoos in New Zealand.

This is a list of some of the people who have tattooed Enigma. He also wanted us to help him compile a list of everyone that has ever tattooed him by asking that anyone who has done work on him that wasn't mentioned get in touch either through us or through www.humanmarvels.com.


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