All images by Aleyna Martinez.

In Photos: New Zealand Musicians on Tattoos and the Creative Process

"I get bored of this human life sometimes so I often tend to colour my skin to show how I feel inside."

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01 May 2017, 5:36am

All images by Aleyna Martinez.

Today marks the start of New Zealand music month, that often-tragic 31 days of government-funded showcases and dragging The Feelers onstage one more time. But there's something about these up-and-coming musicians that speaks to what's happening in Auckland's underground scene right now—a love and respect for music, passion for community, and desire to represent what's real to them and the sections of New Zealand they stem from. Another understanding they share is the art of self expression on their bodies: tattoos. For some it's about memories and for others, the intention behind it is wrapped up in a creative desire to contribute to making a positive difference in the world.

Blaze The Emperor

What's your most significant tattoo?
My last name on my forearm given to me by my father

What is tattooing all about for you?
Tattoos to me are time markers, they tell a story of where and what you have been through.

Why do you make music today?
I create music because it makes me feel free and unbound by society's chains.

What do you like about making music here in New Zealand?
Its special due to the fact that we are so small and the setting is different from most big countries so it gives me creative space to explore different ideas and concepts.

Franko, Omni Potent

What are some of your most significant tattoos?
Definitely my chest piece and my left ribs. On my chest I've got symmetrical statues of Athena, a Greek goddess, of purposeful activity, arts and literature, which is for me planning, music, performing and writing. I have an obsession with Greek and Ancient Roman culture. On my left ribs is a character I made up and have been drawing in class since year eight. Both mean heaps cause one correlates where I've been and the other more where I'm going.

Why do you get tattooed?
I always wanted them. My parents had always both been against tats and piercings, and I guess I always wanted to prove to them I could do it tastefully. And cause I love art. You can be creative with what you get and abstract and all that. No rules.

Why do you make music?
I make music for anything that can be felt by you and me. For happy times, sad times, confused times. All that. I create cause it's my own form of personal expression. I also rap cause I want to be the best. Like I want to be thrown in when the topic of best rappers happens. But also I think I make music because I want my current lifestyle forever—just floating in the breeze, chilling, smoking cones. I think what I mean is, with the money you can get from rap, I'd just use it to be a big kid forever.

What is it like making music in New Zealand?
Its challenging, but it needs to be in order to be something of significance. All the artists I'm out here working with and plan to work with are ahead of the curve, highly skilled, very intelligent and best of all, unpredictable. It makes making music hard and competitive and, of course, good. In saying that, If an American wanted to play rugby seriously, he'd have to come here. As I take rap seriously, I think I will have to leave sometime very soon.

Bryan Anderson

Tell us about your most significant tattoo?
That would be the spider Murphy piece on my inner right arm. I was immediately drawn to this piece the first time I saw it. A beautiful being looking into a grand mirror and a blank skull looking back. To me it was the first thing I can remember that really reminded me to take a step back sometimes and realise that everything is really not as bad as it can seem when you're stuck in your own head.

Why do you get tattooed?
I was never brought up on stereotypes and to think that tattoos are bad or for criminals and when my parents started getting tattooed just before I was 16 the idea was always in my mind. The tattoo artist I found—Benjamin McClay—ended up becoming a really good friend of mine so I spent a lot of time in the tattoo shop emerged In the culture as a teenager. I fell in love with the traditional American tattoo style, the stories it came with and the smell and sounds of tattooing.

What does tattooing mean to you?
I think it means a different thing to each individual and everyone does it for different reasons. It can mark a memory, be a form of self-expression, or a piece can really just speak to you. It is a really hard thing to explain, but then again art alway is right?

Why do you make music?
Making music is really the same for me, It's the best most organic and honest way I have found to express myself freely, and again I think every musician is in it for different reasons. But number one for me is it is fun and I have always just gravitated towards music, another one of those hard to explain phenomenons.

What is it like making music in New Zealand?
At times it can be frustrating, and at other times super refreshing. It really depends who you are creating with, the scene you want to be in, and what you want out of your music. Hip-hop will naturally always be more competitive than other genres, especially in a place with two degrees of separation, I think It pays to remember that over here.

MELODOWNZ

What does tattooing mean to you?
To me it's a personal thing, like I'm not so into the actual tattoo culture itself, but the tattoos I have or get, each mean something significant and have a thought out reason behind them.

Why do you make music?
To keep calm, express, and to live, hopefully to help others that can relate.

What is it like making music in New Zealand?
I love it, but I get frustrated because our beautiful little country is too small, and we are at the bottom of the globe, so it is hard to get discovered globally. Maybe I just need to travel more. Apart from that, the scene right now is thriving, unique, refreshing and I'm glad to be a part of it.

Ti-maya, Omni Potent

What would you say was your most significant tattoo?
My Omni tattoo on my stomach, my koi fish on my arm represents my strongest relationship with my best friend/soul mate Bandraoi. And the Japanese phoenix done by Ryota from Two Hands is a classic brother has always had to rise from the ashes. If I slip again the only way is up.

Why do you get your first tattoo?
I got my first tattoo—a dragon head—when I was 16 on my hand to really lock in the fact that I ain't going to do what society expects. In no shape or form do I want to fit in.

What does tattooing mean to you?
Tattoo is therapeutic for me. The controlled pain helps me move on from life's BS. I get bored of this human life sometimes so I often tend to colour my skin to show how I feel inside. For me tattoos is just one of many ways to express myself. Art is my life and that is the path I chose four years ago. Fuck a desk job.

Why do you make music?
Simply to give back. When I was younger and didn't understand how the world worked, artists like Biggie, Erykah Badu and old Eminem etc blessed me with knowledge. That same knowledge and raw emotion planted a seed in me that is forever growing. Music showed me a way to make up for the lack of communication in my everyday life and with it I will use it to bridge gaps.

What is it like making music in New Zealand?
Making music in New Zealand is the fucking shit. We have so many producers and lyricists that easily compete with the industry's overseas. New Zealand is land of the humble. It's all love and that shows when we work together. Age is just a number. I'm creating with cats aged 15 to 31 and it couldn't get any better. We blessed. Big ups Slow:Wave, YGB, The Grow Room, Ammo and Omni Potent.

Soltree

What are some of your most significant tattoos?
Balaclava Bae and Mother Mary baby Jesus, accompanied by hi how are you alien.

Why do you get tattooed?
I sort of fell into it when friends of mine got into tattooing then met Tom Hinton a man with a stick and poke gift, I wanted to wear his art.

What does tattooing mean to you?
Drinking with friends and making erratic decisions.

Why do you make music?
I consider music a universal language and a vortex of expression. Being able to channel feelings through my experiences and outlooks then direct it into a piece of art is a beautiful thing.

Jane Deezy

What are some of your most significant tattoos?
My Thug Life tattoo and my Mental Alchemy one.

What does tattooing mean to you?
They're reminders of things that I otherwise may forget.

Why do you make music?
Cause that's what I know.

What is it like making music in New Zealand?
So far so good.

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