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Interview with Marc Pinto

For the longest time, I've been playing around with the idea of interviewing tattoo artists from around the world. I gave podcasting a go during the Singapore Tattoo Show convention but I didn't quite dig how it turned out.

Anyhow, I figured the best way to kick things off is to interview my good friend Marc Pinto. He's been extremely busy since the Perth Tattoo Carnival but I got a hold of him over the weekend. Ready? Read on...

Noel: Hey Marc! Thanks for doing this interview. I know you're busy and all so it means a lot!
Marc: My pleasure Noel!

Noel: Let's get this started. At what age did you start tattooing?
Marc: I started hanging at Johnny Two Thumbs when I was 17 years old, moved to Australia when I was 20 and only started tattooing in 1996/97. Did mainly hand tapping for the first 4 years, then progressed to machine tattooing.

Noel: Now that's an artform that's not widely practiced. What made you get into traditional tattooing?
Marc: I was inspired by my late grandfather's stories on his traditional hand tattoos and living around the natives of Borneo since a young age. Since 1997, this fascination has not stopped and I still visit the indigenous people in different areas of Borneo every year.

Later, I picked up the Japanese skill of hand tattooing which is a little different and that's what I mainly practice now.

Noel: Apart from the technique you use, what do you see as the biggest difference between traditional and conventional machine tattooing?
Marc: For starters, traditional tattoos normally have a spiritual significance so I always take an extra effort to study or get to know the customer before the session so I know how to personalize the tattoo with design elements unique to their lifestyle or personality.

Machine tattoos are for aesthetic purposes and would allow for more creativity of course. But you can still get a conventional design e.g. a rose done through traditional hand tattooing. More customers are requesting conventional designs done the traditional way for the unique experience. I currently perform both traditional hand tattooing and machine tattooing in Perth and Singapore.

Noel: How has your designs evolved throughout the years?
Marc: When I first started, I designed simple pieces but as with all skills, once you've practiced and perfected it, you become more confident to work on the bigger stuff. Many of my designs now include much more elaborate and intricate details and these actually have more significance and are also more attractive.

Noel: You mentioned personalizing a tattoo towards the personality of a customer. Where does the inspiration come from (in regards to the designs you implement)?
Marc: I have always been fascinated by the various types of tribal culture and artifacts – Iban (Borneo), Maori, Polynesian etc. So it was a natural inclination for me to study the art of traditional hand tattooing. It is due to my continued interest in these cultures that keep me inspired to conceptualize the designs.

Noel: What do you love about your job?
Marc: I love tattooing daily, the freedom and trust I get from clients, adorning people.

Noel: I get a good buzz just by looking at another person’s tattoo. It’s not just ink, there’s more to it. So what exactly excites you about tattoos?
Marc: The personality carrying the tattoo, the reason for that tattoo and the simplistic beauty of a quality TATTOO. That there is a story worth listening to.

Noel: I gotta ask you this. Being a father yourself, what would you say to your kids if they want a tattoo someday down the road?
Marc: If they are of legal age, no probs! I’ll ink them as long as they are sure of what they want.

Noel: Could you name a memorable client or an incident?
Marc: I have too many to list with good memorable moments. I guess I enjoy tattooing good communicative people that I can connect with.

Noel: Which countries have you tattooed in?
Marc: I have tattooed in Australia, Japan, Holland, Singapore, Malaysia and Germany.
Noel: Damn! That’s more countries I’ve been to on holiday!

Noel: Ok, what made you decide to tattoo in Australia and not just be based here in Singapore?
Marc: I love Western Australia, mainly the quality of life here and the people. Also because my family is here too. And most of all, I get the total freedom on 95% of my work to do whatever I want. I left Singapore long ago. I miss Singapore hence my regular trips back and my studio there. Who knows what the future holds.. If there is a demand, I may just come back to Singapore.

Noel: How different is the tattoo culture in Perth compared to Singapore. Or vice versa…
Marc: The tattoo culture here is UNBELIEVABLE! I can safely say every 1 in 3 or 4 people have tattoos, more than 1 each. It’s so accepted here, not like in Singapore.
Noel: Sure sounds like a place I should be at!

Noel: Why did you choose Singapore to open the next Primitive Tattoo?
Marc: Ironically, for a city well-known for its strict laws, there are actually many talented artists producing outstanding work there and the demand for unique pieces is growing. Also, I was born in Singapore so naturally, it was one of the first few markets I considered.

Noel: If you could change just one thing in the tattoo industry, what would it be?
Marc: Absolutely nothing. It is fine as it is now and rapidly growing. I just go with the flow.

Noel: I’m sure you get lots of people coming into the studio both in Perth and Singapore wanting to be an apprentice. What does a person need to do to become an apprentice?
Marc: They need to have a very good and well executed portfolio, personality, confidence and the right attitude.

Noel: Primitive Tattoo Perth was involved in the inaugural Perth Tattoo Carnival over the weekend, how was the convention?
Marc: The convention was very well accepted by the public although there was not much publicity. But the word of mouth got around very fast and the turnout was very good.

Noel: One more question before we wrap up the interview. Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road? I mean, do you still see yourself tattooing, branching out to other industries, having cold beers in the afternoon in semi-retired mode, etc…
Marc: As long as I can tattoo I will keep doing it. It is my life’s passion and I love it so much. I’m also into photography and online sales in Ethnographic art. I’d love to do something different soon in addition to tattooing.
Noel: Quick educate me. What’s Ethnographic art?
Marc: In summary, it’s art or artifacts created by indigenous people the world over.

Noel: Ahhh ok. I learnt something new today. Alright brotha, thank you for doing this.
Marc: Anytime!

* Marc will be in Singapore from 26th June to 30th June. If you would like to make an appointment with him for tattoos or branding, do drop him an email at

Primitive Tattoo Perth
149 Barrack Street
Perth 6000
Western Australia
t: +61-8-92218585
m: +61-411866227

Primitive Tattoo Singapore
#02-52 Far East Plaza
14 Scotts Road,
Singapore 228213
t: +65-68873990
m: +65-81899990

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