Steeped in the dark realities of cyberpunk anime dystopias and 90's raver aesthetics comes the illustrative stylings of tattoo artist DSMT. Although many people mistake manga for lighthearted escapades through distant futures, DSMT's artwork taps into the deep undertones of psychological warfare within films like the original Ghost in the Shell, Alita: Battle Angel, and Perfect Blue. In this interview he talks about the pros and cons of our current virtual reality, guerrilla tattooing and his hopes for the future.
First off, can you tell us a bit about yourself like your background, what you love to do, and what you’re all about?
My name is Denis, born and living in Kiev, I’m tattooing since 2013, before tattooing i was working in lawyer company with feeling that I’m have no future and will be sitting in office till i die. My passion to draw can be connected with my graffiti addiction between 2003-2007. I love to travel, chill with my family and playing video games.
Can you talk about what drew you to the tattoo industry? What was your experience like becoming a tattooer?
I was working in office and it was a really boring job. My good friend was a tattooer and opened a shop close to my office. During lunch time I was hanging with people in the studio, and fell in love with all what was happening around. Then I tried to tattoo myself a few times, and after that I just started to tattoo other people. There was no classic apprenticeship, tattooers just showed me how to set up machines and all the other stuff and after gave me some advise from time to time. First year was really hard. Tattooing (from the technical part) was hard to learn for me. I was stressed during sessions and felt really anxious after any tattoo I did, because the quality was low. During the first 1 or 2 years I was just tattooing classic traditional stuff, but after sometime I discovered instagram, and understood that I can do any type of tattoos and I can create my own style of tattooing, my vision. After realizing this I changed studios to another with 7 really open minded collective of tatters that have no borders and are really open to experimental stuff.
Your aesthetic is very specific, but you seem to constantly be evolving with every piece that you do. How has your style developed over the years? Who are your artistic heroes?
I find my stuff randomly. I was just doing different stuff again and again, using different visual solutions till I find joy of what I see as tattoo. I realize that my vision of tattooing come from my love of some cyberpunk movies/posters/music in childhood. My parents were «ravers» when they were young and when I was a kid I was listening to a lot of electronic music with them that also has had a big impact on me and my style. I don’t have any heroes that inspire me for what I’m doing. I always get inspired with some different people, not from tattooing world, who have a «workaholic» vibe but at the same time don’t waste a lot of time doing their job. I’m doing my designs very fast, like one evening and boom, flash sheet is ready. It's always a spontaneous meditative experience, but I’m thinking a lot about it beforehand, thinking about the visual components. My stuff is a response to the present, to what I see and feel in the moment.
How do you feel about the rapid evolution of the tattoo industry now that social media is a huge part of it? Are there positives/negatives to tattoos being mainstream?
I think its 50/50. A lot of positive stuff is happening because of internet/social media. Like now I can make a tattoo and after I post it on the internet thousands of people will see it in an hour or something and afterwards I will have more attention on my work. Before you needed to tattoo a lot of the time, make pictures on film cameras, then send them to some magazine and after a lot of time you can see your work published in some tattoo magazines. Everything was slow before, but I think because things have become faster, the quality of everything has become low. Also now you can have a strong personality, be some kind of «character» and have a lot of customers, even if you're tattooing shit. Because of social media now people are more interested in the personalities that stay behind tattoos. It can work good for tattooers, but not good for tattoo culture in general. Now tattooing has become real business, now if you're just doing good quality tattoos, it's not enough to have a lot of work, now you need to work more with introducing yourself and your stuff to your audience, make posts, explore more things around tattooing to be noticed. I think internet ruined classic tattoo culture, but its an irreversible process and we all just need to accept it.
Beyond tattooing what do you really love? What do you wish you had more time for?
I wish I could spend more time with my son. I travel a lot because I have more work outside my county and I'm going to guest spots to other countries every month mostly. I also wish I could spend more time to study something else instead of tattooing. I want learn 3D programs and make more 3D art in future.
If you could only listen to one record, read one book, play with one toy, and watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
For music I would choose any record of «Boards of Canada»
For a book I will choose a compilation of short stories by Anton Chekhov
For toy I will a choose ball
For movie I choose Bladerunner (the new one)
Do you have any projects, collabs, travel plans, etc. planned for 2020 that you’d like to share? Any bus depots you plan on breaking into? Guerilla tattooing we can look forward to?
I'll try to collaborate a lot this year, will see how it goes. For guerrilla tattooing I have a lot of plans in 2020. I have a lot of weird places that I want to visit, now it's in the organization stage. I have all winter till the weather become more warm and them I will hit some weird illegal spots and tattoo there. More guerrilla tattooing is the main goal for me as a tattooer for 2020.