The price we pay; Yayo interview with Mattias Andersson.
As 2020 dawns one of the biggest problems facing tattooists is having their art ripped off. The internet has allowed tattooists to share their work far and wide yet the by-product of this inter-connectivity is unscrupulous scratchers stealing designs. Yayo sent out resident scribe Matt Haddon-Reichardt to meet tattooist Mattias Andersson and investigate the price artists pay for the theft of their art.
“Have I ever had people rip off my designs?” Mattias breaks out in to a deep belly laugh his face plastered with a huge grin.
“It’s happened too many times to count and every time it happens they look shit. What’s up with that, you tell me.”
Mattias Andersson is a Swedish tattoo artist operating out of Kungälv whose work is so good others have to resort to stealing it. While many of his designs have been stolen the one that really stands out is a tattoo of Snoopy. I ask him how he originally came up with his “No Money, Still Rich” tattoo.
“Well, actually it came to me in a dream, like talking to me, in some kind of “Jesus way”. Naaaah it’s not like that really but it would have been cool that way,” laughs Matt.
“It just came up in my head. I probably heard it somewhere, sometime; like we do with most stuff we think or draw. Our brain makes us think we invented it but really it came from someplace else. No money, still rich; I just fucking like that slogan a lot. For me at least the meaning is that it doesn’t matter if you are out of money or if you’re not a rich man in dollars. It doesn’t matter if your car is shit, or you don’t even own a car, etcetera, etcetera and etcetera. Only lost people, empty souls and unloved people value their life in dollars or things. People who actually think and feel knows this is true and that when death comes knocking on the door it’s not losing our money that will make us cry, but leaving our family. That’s the story behind the meaning.”
"No money, still rich; I just fucking like that slogan a lot."
For a moment Matt gets all deep and meaningful.
“I think sometimes that what is rich is to have someone you can love, and then have someone who loves you. For me that’s rich. So in one way I’m very wealthy.”
“I’ll sum up what that tattoo means in one word; family.”
Mine is an odd job at times. I’ve flown all the way over to Sweden to interview neo traditional tattoo legend Mattias Andersson, about having his designs ripped off and I end up having a moment of brotherly emotion. Tattooing can really hit the heart in ways we never imagined.
“I think your kids would rather have a mother and a father with them instead of a bigger house, a bad ass BMW and so on. We are here on borrowed time; chasing money, instead of spending time with the people that matters the most. Time and love should be priority the number one priority not cash, because one way or the other life will all end one day. That my friend is the only certainty for sure; no money still rich.”
I try and refocus asking Matt how many times he has tattooed his popular Snoopy flash design.
“I really don’t know I’ve done more than a couple now, maybe 25-30 or something. It could be more. I don’t know the exact amount. Not super many like 100’s but I haven’t drawn so much of them lately either and I try and put a twist on each design following the same theme. It’s a popular design for sure. Maybe people just love Snoopy but I think it goes deeper than that. People always respond well to them when I post pictures on social media. People giving me a like, share or comment or a verbal high five for them makes my job worthwhile. It seems like lots of people understand the meaning and like it, which I like.”
“I think your kids would rather have a mother and a father with them instead of a bigger house, a bad ass BMW."
As Matt breaks off to get us a drink my mind wanders. Tattooing is an ancient art form and may well predate painting or sculpture. At its core art is about communication of ideas, facts and perhaps most of all emotions. It is fascinating that a tattoo of a kids cartoon character with a battered hat and suitcase can embody the existential concept of love and family.
Matt returns with my coffee and I snap back into interview mode.
“The first one was actually done on Herman Canalla when he was a guest artist my shop over 3 years ago. He picked it out of a bunch of rough sketches and that’s how it all began. Many times what my tattoos are saying is a lot from my own way of looking at the world. When I think about my wife I’ll draw nudes and when I think of my kids I draw a lot of hearts and cute cartoons. When I’m pissed off with something I’ll draw a dagger and blood. Maybe when think of how difficult life can be I draw things like no money, still rich. It’s a way to be positive in the face of adversity.”
"When I think about my wife I’ll draw nudes and when I think of my kids I draw a lot of hearts and cute cartoons."
I ask him if it’s a kind of back handed compliment that people steal his most popular design.
“You could put it that way but it’s still taking bread off my families table. I guess if you’re not good enough to come up with your own ideas you have to rip other people off. That’s why people steal 100% of a design, they can’t draw or tattoo for shit. There are so many scratchers in the game now; sometimes it gets depressing.”
I ask if Matt takes any action on the people who rip him off.
“Well I used to write to them telling them that if they wanted to copy my design at least they could have asked first, but most times I don’t even care anymore. As tattoo artists we all steel ideas from other sources; or take inspiration as some call it. But to just rip off a design you have seen on the internet and copy it exactly, that is crossing a line.”
I put it to Matt that he has himself stolen the design as he didn’t create Snoopy. He nods in agreement.
“This is what happens but also just because of this that get better as artists. We learn all the time from those who have come before us. Good borrowed from good, and out came great. Great borrowed from great and out came amazing and so on. I admit I didn’t invent Snoopy; no I stole it without asking from Charles Schulz. Maybe he would write to me telling me not to rip off his work. But true people, true artists, care and we show respect to those who inspire us. Its one thing to reinterpret art it’s another to steal it. I’m more than happy for my work to inspire artists and influence their designs just as Charles Schulz influenced me but the difference is giving credit where credit is due and not passing it off as your own invention. I never claimed to have created Snoopy but these fuckers who rip off my designs claim they are their own.”
The theft of tattoo designs is clearly a subject that gets Matt pissed off, yet he is philosophical about the bigger picture.
“I have to remind myself to just fucking relax, have fun and sometimes leave that saddle on the horse. Getting my designs ripped off, it’s not the end of the world. Why waste mental and physical strength on losers. I try and save my energy and channel it into my tattooing and channel it into my family. I always have to remember that I’m still rich, regardless of what the world throws at me.”
Matt's original art on the right and the ripped off design on the left
A final thought from the author: "It might be easy to go on Google images and grab a picture of a tattoo and ask an artist to copy it but why bother? If your going to go to the expense, pain and effort of getting inked go for something unique; don't be a copy cat. When it comes to healing a unique tattoo you want to make sure you are using the best after care products on the market. Yayo are, in my humble opinion, by far the best of the best. Use the best forget the rest, use Yayo."
Yayo... its a family thing.