I met Matt when he was in this band THOUGHT CRIME in NYC. He was friends of friends and was a snarky punk, so we got along great! I’ve watched his career over the past couple of years and I’m glad he’s finally settled down at Troy Denning’s Invisible NYC shop in the Lower East Side. There’s a good crew of guys at that shop and you can’t listen to better music while getting inked. Here’s Matt Van Cura…
What was your first punk show?
RIOT SQUAD from Dallas, it was their LP release show around ’94? I’m not very old…
What was your first punk record?
THE MISFITS Walk Among Us and THE EXPLOITED and Let’s Start a War on cassettes on the same day. I was eleven. Before that, my friends and I copied each other’s music. My first vinyl record was THE MISFITS Die Die My Darling 12″ EP. My friend’s older brother traded it to me for a LED ZEPPLIN t-shirt because he was over punk.
What was the last band you listened to?
How old were you when you started drawing?
I’m not sure. Before I could read or write. I was always interested in drawing.
How did punk influence your art?
As far as “punk art” goes, definitely Pushead, Marc Rude, Nick Lant’s art for the SUBHUMANS, and Nick Blinko (RUDIMENTARY PENI). They were the main visual influences. While the album artwork was a huge part of what attracted me into the underground punk world, it was also the flyers and the things people painted and drew on their clothes as well all the tattoos people had. It all seemed to be exactly what I wanted to be a part of. Punk rock music influenced me to be a strong and independent individual and be who and what I wanted to be despite the “norm.” I didn’t want to be a wage slave and abandon the things that came most natural to me. Whether that be expressing myself through visual art or music.
How does punk still influence you?
Punk rock was something I grew up on. It was an eye opener. It gave me the sense that I wasn’t alone in the feeling that things were somehow not what they should or could be. It’s a part of me. It’s a foundation of influence. I’m not really concerned with the scene or whatever. It’s my natural state if mind. I like to think that individuals influence subcultures rather than being influenced by them and the subculture is a vehicle.
What do you draw most?
A lot of what I draw is for the customer’s tattoo. Which could be damn near anything! Other than that, I really enjoy drawing aggressive “fuck off!!” imagery like skulls bones, daggers, snakes, devils, and reapers are never boring.
Last tattoo I got was from you with a dagger, duh! What kinds of jobs did you do before tattooing?
I did construction/demo, car washer, dishwasher, telemarketer…I toured with MDC for a while around the time I was starting to tattoo.
How hard was it to become a tattooer?
Very. It still is.
Did you apprentice?
No, not officially. I went about it the hard way. I got a hold of a couple machines through my friend. He and a couple of other guys who guided me through some things. They made sure I was going about it all in clean and safe way. It was tough and a little dangerous trying it out on my own, but I was determined. Eventually, I found a place that took me on and broke me in. A bit like a trial by fire situation with all the hazing you’d expect from an apprenticeship. Still, after that I was fortunate enough to meet people willing to share more knowledge with me.
Where was the first place you worked?
Slinging Ink Tattoo in Long Island, NY, was where I had my first real full time tattoo job.
Where do you work now?
I’m proud to say I work at Troy Denning’s Invisible NYC.
Is music a big part of the solidarity at Invisible NYC ?
We all have a common bond in tattooing. Having a punk and hardcore background is an added bonus. I can’t really picture tattooing without music.
What’s your advice to young punks who want to tattoo for a livin’?
I’m not really in the habit of giving advice, especially if someone’s looking to get into tattooing. However, I can say that whatever it is a person wants to do in life, if they believe in themselves and work hard, they can do it.
Do you feel lucky, punk?
Lucky? No, I feel like I work very hard for what I have and want!
How can we get in touch with you?
You can contact me and see more of my artwork at www.mattvancuratattoo.com, Instagram @mattvancura, or stop by Invisible NYC if you’re in town!