Bound and Gagged

Interview with Bondage/BDSM Artist, Photographer, Rigger

Brian Tarsis


First of all, let’s just get the plug out of the way. Do you have your own website, blog, myspace page, yahoo group, etc? We'd like the URLs so we can go visit.

I do have a website, where I offer some of my books, art and graphic novels for sale by mail order. They’re all very naughty, of course. I mean, VERY naughty. Still, if you don’t mind blatant debauchery and inexcusable perversion, you can have a look. It’s at But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

We just might! So, Brian, you have been in the BDSM business for twenty years now. You have been a magazine editor, a bondage rigger and photographer, a bondage movie maker, a writer and an artist. You’ve also acted in videos. Does that about cover it?

Pretty much… don’t forget deviant-about-town! Of course I’ve pursued my kinky interests in my personal life, as well. When I moved to Seattle a few years ago, my wife and I explored the Seattle BDSM scene, but it was sadly deficient compared to what we were used to in Los Angeles. Then we started our own spanking club, called Chastenwood. You can read about it on if you’re interested. We’ve got a mailing list of almost 500 now!

That must keep you pretty busy. Have you switched from BDSM to spanking, then?

Nope! I’ve always liked spanking… well, since I discovered it back in the early nineties. I really like spankers, they’re a great bunch of people. But the things I like about spanking are the same things I like about BDSM. It’s like doing a BDSM scene, only without all the equipment. There’s just no downside to having a naked bottom in your hand and a squirming, squealing girl lying across your lap! Truth to tell, BDSM is still my favorite, and it’s where my deepest fantasies are. If I had to give up one or the other, I could live without spanking.

Your BDSM career is not only a long one, but extremely varied. How did you end up doing so many different things?

Actually, it’s just the way things worked out. One thing led to another. I started out in the bondage biz doing freelance illustrations for Harmony back in the early eighties. I also had a talent for writing, so one time I submitted a short bondage story to go with one of my drawings. That led to them hiring me to edit magazines, so I moved to L.A. to work for Harmony full time. While I was doing the magazines, I also made bondage videos for Harmony, so when HOM needed a video editor I already had the skill. They were willing to pay a little more than I was making, and I was running afoul of some philosophical differences with the owner of Harmony, so I started editing videos for HOM, and within 6 months I’d convinced them to let me shoot the videos as well. And build the sets. And write scripts. And direct. I was kind of a one-man band for a while there. At the same pay, of course. Never did get a raise from those guys.

You were also a photographer and bondage rigger for Harmony. What was your first bondage photography shoot like? Do any memories about it stand out?

I remember it very well! I was still learning to do ropework, and I didn’t even own my own ropes yet. Harmony had this big box of ropes, so I figured I was covered. I was also learning photography, so I wasn’t very confident there, either. So Robert Harmon, the boss, scheduled a shoot and hired Laurel Blake, one of the top models of the period. It was like a trial by fire! I’d never tied up anyone but my wife before, and that was only rudimentary bedroom bondage for fun at home. Was I nervous? Oh yeah. It worked out, though. Laurel wasn’t a top-notch model for nothing. She knew exactly what she was doing, and if I forgot to turn on the lights or take the lens cap off, she discretely reminded me. Turned out Harmony’s box of ropes was all odds and ends, and there wasn’t a piece in there longer than two feet. I tied her up anyway, and just tried to make it look good from the front. The back was all a mass of knots and dangling ends. She held her breath, stuck her chest out, put on a distressed expression, and made it look good.

Which bondage work did you like better -- still photos, or video production?

Hmmm… Both had their joys. Being an artist, I tend to picture static images in my mind, all framed and arranged, and still photography is like that. It was satisfying to create a photo that matched what I had in my mind.

But there’s a storyteller in me, too, and making videos is like telling stories. Shooting video is a lot more demanding, and I guess, ultimately, a lot more satisfying when it turns out right. I get a charge out of shooting a really good video.

There are so many variables in video, you never know how it’s going to turn out. You can have a great set, a terrific script, and be totally amped. Then your star shows up, and she’s hung over from partying all night, or she just got a tattoo on her butt, or it’s that time of the month and she’s cranky. Or sometimes you’ve got an uninspired script and last week’s leftover set, but the girls are hot, the chemistry is right, and the thing takes off on its own. You just never know. With a photo shoot you can control nearly everything, and fake what you can’t control, but video is wild. A lot more involving, emotionally.

What types of storylines or themes did you prefer to work on? Love bondage, damsel in distress, sexual girl/girl themes, high fetish, adventure, glamour bondage, or something else?

What I really like, what really gets my juices going, is a combination of elements. The scenario is sexual, or has the possibility of becoming sexual, and the arousal of the submissive is of ultimate importance. There needs to be a strong domination/submission theme, with a female submissive. The dominant can be of either sex. And I like walking the line between consensual and non-consensual. If it’s all totally consensual it can be fun, but there’s no tension. And I get creeped out if the scenario is totally non-consensual. But in the borderlands between, that’s where the fun stuff happens. My heroines are always innocent, and are always aroused by their own submission. And I love it when they get in over their head and have to submit to more than they bargained for. Anyone who’s read my stories will know what I’m talking about.

Where did you get the ideas for your bondage shoots? Movies, TV shows, detective magazine covers, other websites...?

Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. When I have a story or script to write, I’m in a mode where everything I see, hear or think about gets considered, sifted for ideas. I’ll pull a plot element from here, another from there. Sometimes there’ll just be a feeling. For instance, something on TV will create a vaguely erotic feeling, and I’ll try to pin down the interaction that caused that feeling, and then invent a scenario that will generate it to a stronger degree.

Describe one of your best or favorite bondage shoots that you can remember.

I think my favorite shoot was a video I wrote, directed and shot for HOM, called Dracula's Dungeon. Alexis Paine played Dracula’s daughter, and she used her powers to enslave a pretty young girl. Then the girl’s sister came to rescue her, and ended up captured too. The vampire tortured them in her dungeon, and made them do naughty, incestuous things to each other, and then ultimately they destroyed her, vaporized her with a shaft of morning sunlight. The girls could act, and they really got into their roles, and of course Alexis was awesome as always. The cast was so into it that they didn’t mind staying until 11:00 that night to finish it up and get it just right. That was my personal favorite. I love vampire movies.

But for sheer eroticism, there were many moments during video shoots that got me going. Whenever the action got hot and the arousal of the actresses became real, a tension would build on the set. Everyone could feel it, and when I’d stop the shot to move the camera, there would be silence. The crew, the actresses who weren’t performing in that scene, everyone would hold their breath. I remember many moments like that, though I can’t recall which videos they were in.

What models did you work with? Can you name some and then give us a few little memories about each?

Wow, I could go on for days with this one! Okay, let’s see, I’ll try to be selective here:

Laurel Blake: There was one smart girl. When I started using her in video as a dominant, a director was superfluous. She’d go into character when the camera started rolling, and just take off. She’d make up the plot as she went along, come up with bondages and novel ways to interact with the tied-up girls, and just generally keep the action, and the dialog, going non-stop until you made her stop.

Kiri Kelly: That girl LOVED bondage! And spanking. Most enthusiastic model I ever worked with. She was game for just about anything. We once took her out to Griffith Park Observatory at five in the morning and tied her, topless, to various parts of the building. She was amazing. And tireless. We’d hire her for a 4-hour shoot, and just keep tying her up long into the night. Sometimes we’d even remember to take pictures.

Ashley Renee: A beautiful and sexy girl. I filmed her in her first bondage shoot, and over the next few years watched her progress from stiff, nervous newbie to first-class supermodel. I shot an HOM video with her in which Ariana strapped her down and dove tongue-first into her snookie, and wouldn’t come up for air until poor Ashley was exhausted and bleary-eyed from coming.

Alexis Paine: Tall, strikingly beautiful, cool, elegant, graceful, classy, intelligent, and hands down THE best domme ever. Unlike most dommes, Alexis was a natural. Her true predilection was to be sexually dominant, and she had the skills, talents and instincts to do it well. She was also a brilliant actress with great stage presence, and made a perfect video dominant. She was also a really nice person, and a good friend.

Star Chandler: When it came to being adventurous, she was right up there with Kiri. Star set the record for upside-down suspension. In one video she was offered a choice between having a huge dildo stuffed into her or pretending to have one, and she chose the real thing, even though the camera would never see it. Ya gotta like that in a girl. I once built a double suspension frame, a rectangular thing that would both spin around and tumble end-over-end at the same time, with a girl spread-eagled in the center, supported only by her wrists and ankles. Star was the only girl who would ride it.

Alex Jordan: Another amazing girl. Alex was hot, sexy, beautiful and willing to try just about anything. She didn’t quite beat Star for duration in an upside-down suspension, but she did come close, and she let us make her come while she was hanging there, so that counts for something. She could also make herself come without even touching herself, just using the muscles in her coochie. She was talented in other ways, too, of course, and she loved BDSM.

Sharon Kane: Beautiful, devastatingly sexy, and scary smart as well. She was the best actress in the biz. We used her as a domme in videos, because she had the rare ability to carry a scene with her amazing stage presence and keep it going with her wit and cool confidence. She also wielded a damn fine whip, though if you wanted her to push a sub’s tolerance, you had to keep pushing her to whip harder. She was such a softie! I loved working with Sharon.

Bebe Lebadd: Bebe stood less than five feet tall, but she had enough stage presence to dominate a scene and drive a video. She was smart, sexy and a talented actress, and we nearly always cast her as a domme, because there are so few actresses who can pull that off, and Bebe’s skills at wielding a whip and judging a sub’s state during a scene were phenomenal. We turned her loose on Darla Crane in a video, and she had the time of her life!

Darla Crane: Beyond doubt the most spectacularly beautiful actress I ever filmed. She was a tall, voluptuous redhead, sweet as apple pie. She was shy and insecure, but she’d decided to do videos only as a domme (a really unfortunate decision). Because we were friends, she agreed to do just one video for me in a mostly sub role, and trusted me to make it a positive experience for her. The video was The Other End of the Whip, and Bebe Lebadd did a truly smoking scene with her. Darla took one of the hottest, hardest pussy-whippings I’ve ever seen (Bebe was a damn good domme, and read her like a book), and loved every second of it.

Let’s talk about your BDSM artwork. Did you study art and drawing formally, or were you self-taught?

Yes, and yes. I took art classes in college, and took some more in commercial art school, but I was always way ahead of those classes. I actually taught myself to draw, by studying comic books. After that, whenever I wanted to learn a new medium or style, I would just study examples that impressed me, then plunge in and figure out how to do it by trial and error. I learned to do everything from watercolor to clay sculpture that way.

When did you start doing bondage and fetish drawings?

I did my first bondage drawings in High School, for my own enjoyment. I took it up again after I got out of the military, again for my own, er, uses.

How did you happen to get into doing fetish art professionally?

It was in 1983 when I had the bright idea of doing bondage drawings for publishers. I sent submissions to all the kinky publishers I could find, and I got responses from all of them! When I started corresponding with them, though, I found out what they wanted me to draw for them. Some of it was too hard and brutal for my own sensibilities, some too weird, and some just too far away from what I liked. Most of the publishers in those days were publishing magazines that were just plain ugly, with bad pictures of women badly and unflatteringly tied up. They were depicting scenarios of kidnap, torture and rape, described in the most crude and brutal terms. I pictured my artwork between those pages, and I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do. After re-thinking seriously about the sort of stuff I wanted to draw for money, I ruled out most of them. I decided to draw for Harmony, even though they required exclusivity. Their professed philosophy of “Love Bondage” was the closest to what I liked myself, and I liked their intelligent, understanding approach to bondage. I drew for Harmony for years before I started branching out later in my career, and when I did do work for other publishers it was on my terms, and I didn’t have to draw anything that offended me.

Could you give us an overview of the path your bondage & fetish career took?

Well, let’s see, I’ve just described how I got into illustration, and I think I mentioned earlier how I started making BDSM movies for HOM and its parent company, London Video. I made videos, two of them a month, for about six years.

Then my friend Ernest Greene gave me a call. He was working as the production manager at B&D Pleasures, and wanted me to come over there and be the art director. B&D Pleasures had a poor reputation in the business, and I had never liked their stuff, so I was a little reluctant to work for them. But Ernest had settled some of the company’s problems, and he was hoping he could change the flavor and quality of their products with my help, and I knew him to be a man of taste and intelligence.

So I finally agreed to work for B&D Pleasures. While I don’t regret that move, things didn’t really work out as I’d hoped. Earnest and I were able to change and upgrade some aspects of their magazines and other print materials. I pushed for, and got, better covers, printed on slick paper. I discarded several titles that I didn’t like, titles like STALKED! and KIDNAPPED!  I was able to choose better photos and write better copy and do better layouts for the magazines. What I couldn’t change was the cheap newsprint the magazine pages were printed on, the cheap, low-quality printing, and the poor quality of the photos themselves. Ernest was having a tough time with the owner of the company, and left after only a few months. Things went back to the short-sighted, chaotic management style that had reigned before his arrival.

A few months later I left Los Angeles to move back to Seattle, my old hometown, but B&D Pleasures offered to keep me on full time, telecommuting from Seattle, and I accepted. It was the ideal way to work for B&D Pleasures! I put together magazines, drew comics and edited and illustrated books, well away from the turmoil that reigned within the company. That lasted for five years. Now I’m starting my own publishing company, Chastenwood Press. I’m having a little trouble getting it off the ground, but I have high hopes. I want to publish the kind of attractive, intelligent kinky erotica that I always envisioned, but was never able to do working for other people.

Of all the bondage & fetish material you've created, which projects are you most happy with?

I think my favorites are my graphic novels, City of Dreams, Wormwood, and Valeria. Oh, and Opal, which is practically finished now, but running into difficulties in the publishing phase. They are all very different from each other, both in style and in how they deal with BDSM, but I’m very proud of all four of them.

Anything else you would like to say?

Yes… It’s pronounced NUCLEAR, Mr. President! Noo-Clee-err, for god’s sake!

Oh, and thanks, everyone, for caring enough to read all this stuff. Good night!


The work of Brian Tarsis can be seen at