(Interview by Chad Koeplinger)
Chad Koeplinger: What about stylistically? The way that you tattoo is pretty fucking unique looking, I think. You can tell it's one of your tattoos. You have a certain look to them. I know the magazine does like to talk a little bit about technique so we can get into that. But first things first, is there or was there someone's tattooing that you saw that was maybe the light bulb that clicked for the way you've developed your style? Was there some influence with anyone, or was it just kind of something that happened and you went that way?
Matt Cunnington: I'd definitely say getting hold of the Horicho photo book, and the Horihide bodysuit book early on, especially the Horicho one. I realized that you don't have to actually be able to draw really well if your backgrounds rule. His subject matter is kind of clunky but his tattoos… you're just like, "Fuck, that's so good." And I'd put so much black into people doing tribal, that I sort of took that idea into Japanese as well.
In Horicho's tattoos the background's like 90 percent black and at the time everyone was doing Filip Leu-style stuff where it was 90 percent gray and 10 percent black in the background. I've worked with the two main people who have influenced me, being Bugs and Alex, where their tattoos are always recognizable whether or not they'd made that as a conscious decision or whether that's just part of their process. I think it's a way of trying to not dilute my influences by buying tattoo magazines, by checking the newsfeed on Facebook.
I don't look at magazines, I see enough stuff just in the shop. You want to keep your influences close to your chest. You want to find some obscure reference.
Oh, you don't want to rely on Google Image? (Laughs) That's what this era is — the Google Image Era.
Yes, and Google controls the information. It used to be that you had to fly to Japan and troll through the book district – and drop a shitload of money all at once because you weren't coming back. But now there are people doing it for you, and sticking it on the net. It's like Google Image for Japanese tattooers. Which is great – it's doing tattooing a service and I've not got a problem with it. But we can't all be drinking from the same pool, we've got to look further afield.
Alex said that to me early on, "Stop looking at tattoo magazines, it'll ruin you." Take graffiti, for example. You cannot tell one graffiti writer from another. There's like three guys that stick out and the rest looks like one guy is doing all the graffiti in the world. And tattooing is getting there too. Tattoo magazines are for the punters, they are a dangerous tool in the hands of a tattooer, especially one that's just starting out.
Do yourself a favor and stay off Facebook.
Matt can be found at Westside Tattoo in Brisbane, Australia.