Interview: Matthew James – Tattoo Artist

The Old Truman Brewery hosts the second Tattoo Collective on March 17th and 18th in London’s Brick Lane, the home of curry houses and 24-hour bagel shops. Get yourself a curry and visit the Tattoo Collective – tickets here. Visit Matthew James, one of the top artists around and who has agreed to answer a few questions about Tattoos and music.

What made you get into tattooing?

It was just an extension of experimenting with mediums, I’ve always been attracted to anything ‘hands on’ which is a decent mix of ‘craft ‘and ‘creation’. So, tattooing, with the obvious improvements in tattoo equipment in recent years, was an obvious expansion of the creative for myself.

When did you know being an artist was what you wanted to do full time?

Doing artwork isn’t something I really want to do, I just have to, it’s hard to explain. I’ve always just been creative. I’ve never tattooed full time, it’s always been an (un)healthy mix of sculpture, oil paint, charcoal etc. Whatever I want to do. I don’t treat tattooing like a job.

What were you doing before you decided to become a tattooist? 

I did my first tattoo when I was 18 so I didn’t do anything beforehand other than cruising my skateboard and being a kid. But I’ve had plenty of time away from tattooing; travelling mostly.

What was the first tattoo you had done on yourself and by whom?

I tattooed my friend’s band name on my leg when I was just old enough. It’s obviously not my greatest artistic endeavour but there’s no point regretting it.

What’s the first tattoo you did on someone?

Other then one of my leg, I tattooed an old hardcore punk band logo on my friend, Luke, they were called Fig 4.0 and from Leeds I think, this was probably in 2004-ish. Awesome band, terrible tattoo!

If there was a UK version of Ink Master, would you take part and who would be the judges and presenter?

I’ve not watched Ink Master, I know what it’s about and I couldn’t treat tattooing more differently than people like that. I don’t care about slagging it off, it’s just not for me – sorry, no comment!

What was the first band/musician you felt a connection with?

I grew up near Bristol and it had an awesome hardcore punk scene when I was growing up. I was lucky enough to hang out and meet a lot of great musicians and bands when I was a teenager and luckily still hang out with most of them. Bristol has a great scene for music/art etc.

Is there a record you play and never get tired of?

I get tired of most things but I’ve always been a big fan of math-rock, I find it easy to zone out to. My record collection is kinda varied though from pop punk bands to metalcore.

You’re in charge of booking five bands for an all-day festival. Who would be the five bands and in what order would they perform?

You should have stated if they had to be current bands!  Current bands…maybe, Modern Life is War, Converge, Russian Circles, Year of No Light and then the London Symphony Orchestra playing each of the bands on. That would be awesome.

If you had to get a lyric tattooed on you, what lyric would it be and why?

I would never do that. I remember walking into a tattoo shop as a kid and wanting some Refused lyrics tattooed on me. Thankfully the person talked me out of it. Thank you whoever you were! “A picture is worth a thousand words!”

Is there a band and tattoo artists you would recommend the readers to check out and why?

My housemates play in band called Woahnows, and it would be rude not to give them a shout out. Regarding tattoo artists, maybe Steve Moore, Jeff Gogue, Carlos Torres, Boris, Filip Leu.

What advice would you give someone who is going to get their first tattoo?

Just check out their portfolio, make sure you feel 100% comfortable with the artist, if he or she is a douchebag, just walk away – you won’t regret it.

How can people get in touch with you?

I work in the Mendip Hills near Bristol.

Matthew James: official | facebookinstagram

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