The Tatted Rockstar

23 March 2016

Forever Young.

For model and musician Matt Roberts at D1 Models, time is not to be wasted. One day he's in London, the next he's on a spontaneous trip to Venice seeking out inspiration for his music. Take a look at his eighties style, listen to that confident voice, and observe all his tattoos in a non-creepy way. You would think he was the frontman of his own band 'Smashing Lights,' but that's not the case. As a self-confessed cat lover, a passionate writer and a rhythm and synth player, Matt prefers being in the background compared to standing out in the spotlight. At least for now.

He supports his band endlessly. The polar opposite of selfish, he is honest, completely unfiltered and uncensored, much to our delight. With his hair already acknowledged by the actual Rod Stewart, it's fair to say Matt is creating the right amount of volume in the world around him. To understand more of his world, we chat extensively to the proud East London boy about his 80's music playlist, figuring out the model world, record label meetings, and of course, Rod Stewart.

How were you get scouted?
Someone simply approached me on the street about nine months ago. I haven’t even modelled for a year yet, but my mate was a model before me. I was helping him make music and he said that I should try modelling. He linked the two worlds together really. The agency saw me, I went in, and that was it. I haven’t seen the kid for about a year now, so I don’t know if he’s still alive or not. Fingers crossed he’s still alive.
Do you enjoy modelling?
For now I definitely do. I've had catwalks where famous people have attended, and everyone there was staring at me walking. It can feel quite embarrassing, but you’ve got to start somewhere right? I haven’t even been a model for a year, so I’m still trying to learn everything and understand what’s going on. That’s another thing, I have no idea what’s going on sometimes, but I’m getting there slowly. I’ve learnt to be more confident, and not give a fuck.

Instant Analogue by Wanda Martin. Special thanks to IMPOSSIBLE.

(Cecilie looks through portfolio)
The photos have gotten better recently and finally I like these ones. I’m getting some magazine stuff now. Every time I go to a casting, people look at my folder and I’m always like: “oh here we go…” But I think I nailed my last casting actually, I took 4 photos out, the guy looked at them, looked at me, and finally said ‘God, you look so much like Rod Stewart.’ Then the whole team came in and started playing with my hair.
What is the most exciting thing you have done in modelling so far?
Having people call me Rod Stewart is a really big one; I love a bit of Rod Stewart. That’s mainly why I get booked. If I didn’t look like him, I probably wouldn’t book anything. One minute I’m wearing a suit for the catwalk, the next minute I’m covered in sequins. Tony & Guy have been casting me for a while now, they’re probably the biggest thing so far. Joshua Kane I've done as well.
Has there ever been something you didn’t want to do or wear whilst modelling?
It was the first catwalk I did actually, they made me look like a dustbin driver. Seriously, I had to carry bags of loafes of bread. I had these jeans on that were completely ripped, so much bulge was out. I thought: “if I’m going to do this, I’m just going to bulge it," you know, hanging out almost. I think it was five grands worth of clothes as well. I was walking down this thing and there were thousands of people looking at my bulge which was funny. It was great. I got paid for it, so it was fine. I’ve seen people go through worse. I’ve been lucky so far.
Have you thought about your future goals?
Not really. I have been travelling a lot with my band though. We are an eighties, slightly pop-rock band called Smashing Lights. We had a band interview recently where they asked me what my ‘thing' was, and I went, “well we’re a band, there's me and then there are the other three.” The other guys told me to shut up after that. We’ve been a band for around a year. This Saturday we’ve got someone coming in to meet us from a record label, so we might be getting signed in the next couple of days.
What kind of music do you normally listen to?
Roxy Music, Brian Eno, Bee Gees and Tears for Fears. Travis are my all time music inspiration. They were the best gig of my life, it was amazing. I saw them last year actually.
Do you like Rod Stewart’s music?
I actually met Rod Stewart! Ronny Wood was there as well, weirdly. I was collecting my new guitar somewhere in east London, I arrived and met this guy who worked for a rehearsing studio. I heard some noise coming from down the hall and wondered what the hell was going on. The guy working at the studio told me The Rolling Stones were rehearsing down the road. I was in shock! As I walked out, Ronny Wood was there on the curb having a fag, so I walked up to him and went, ‘you alright?’ He looked at me, and at that moment, Rod Stewart came outside. I was like ‘Jesus, the whole gang is here!’ I just chatted to them outside for a while and then went on with my life. I did go up to Rod to say hi. When he first saw me, he pointed at my hair and said: ‘I used to have this!’ Those were good times. I also remember randomly meeting Liam Gallagher as well, he was just walking, going mad for it as usual.
What is your earliest memory of music?
My dad was the first person who got me into music. He was into REM, Dayford Gray, Travis, Judas Priest and Stuffed T-Rex. My grandad loved Rod Stewart as well, so I really thank those two for my start and passion for music. I began playing the cello when I was 12, then I moved onto the piano and stuck with it for 4 years. I then picked up a guitar and started singing. Now, I'm the rhythmist, synth player and backing vocalist, all in one. I used to be the singer, but I'm not interested in being a frontman. Jack’s a really good singer, so we make him do that. Me and Jack write the lyrics. Standing on the sidelines for now is where I want to be.
How did you meet the members of your band?
I knew two of them from when I was six-teen. We all went off to uni and one of them got a masters. Me and the drummer were doing the same degree. During my degree, I met the singer, and me and the other boys have been waiting to create a band for years. I’ve worked with The Automatic and Bloc Party, I’ve also recorded for big people like the Gorillaz. I was in a band previously that got signed and played Reading, but then we broke up, which was annoying. For a year I was doing nothing, just teaching and being a pain in the arse. I said to my old mates that we should do something, and it progressed from there, so that’s how we started being a band in a nutshell. Sweaty roof, 5 hours a week rehearsing.
What do you write about?
I write about anything really. It just depends, most times the songs come out miserable and I don’t know why. I showed Jack something I wrote and he called me back saying, ‘mate, that was miserable.’ Truly, I’m not a miserable person. When I was going to Paris on a stupid eight hour coach journey - never again - a lyric popped into my head and all of a sudden I got my phone and wrote sheds of lyrics, which came in handy. It’s like my diary or journal really. We’ve got about nine songs done, solid.
Music or modelling?
I feel like I can do music confidently, but modelling is a different story. My issue with it - especially at test shoots - is when you meet the photographer. It’ll be going great, and then they have these ideas where I’ll stand there and think: 'what the hell is going on?' Apparently I’m massive in Poland. Photographers see me with this hair, they think I can pull of all this stripey stuff, next thing you know, I’ll be wearing flares. I wouldn’t mind that to be fair.
Flares, yay or nay?
I’m debating whether or not I should get a pair, proper Anchorman, seventies style. No, I’ll need a moustache I think. The thing is, I dress like this, but the band guys all dress very differently. We’ve got a record meeting soon and we’ve all got to change our fashion sense before Saturday. That should be fun.
If you could travel back in time, what era would you travel back to?
Definitely the end of the sixties to mid-seventies. It would have to be towards the end, where The Beatles released ‘Sergeant Pepper’ and the Rolling Stones just got massive. That would be the one for me. I miss polyester, just eighties' polyester. I remember my nan bought me a polyester coat and my dad had a lighter and it caught fire by mistake. He didn’t mean to do it, but I was only eight and I didn’t know what was going on. I was wearing it and I got the arm off quick whilst it was on fire. It sizzled and there was the only the zip left. I also had McDonalds that day; truly living the dream.
Do you have another story to share?
I was run over one time, and I was in a coma for two weeks. That was pretty bad. I was about 10 years old. Me and my friend were on the pavement and he pushed me onto the road thinking there were no cars going by. A car came round and knocked me under. My mate smacked his elbow on the curb, then I blacked out. When I woke up, I had scars, my leg was twisted, plastered up and my elbow was screwed up. It was the worst thing that had ever happened. I sued the woman who was driving.
You have cool tattoos, did you plan on getting them?
No not really. This one on the side says 'Love Life.’ I’ve stopped getting more tattoos now, the last time I went in was around two years ago. They did all my left arm in one day, it took 12 hours. I was eating Nandos with my right hand, whilst they were doing the left and watching crappy television. It was done by a guy in Essex called Jamie Benstock. He’s quite a big tattoo artist and I always liked his work. I just walked into his store and we became very good friends. He’s done everything on me and I aways go to him, because I can rely on him. I still talk to him all the time, I will always go back to him to get tatted. Certain tattoos need finishing, so I need to go back and get that done when I’m not busy.
Do you design your tattoos yourself?
Yeah, there was one time we were drawing for four hours, and we scrapped so many ideas. He’s an amazing artist, I just spoke and he drew whilst adding his own spin on everything I was describing. One time I went down to see Jamie and some guy was getting a quote tatted on him about their nan; it’s so common. When you keep repeating ‘Nan’ or ‘Mum’ in different fonts it must be so boring, but when someone goes 'I want a bear on my back', that’s exciting.
What’s your dream?
To have more cats, I have two and I used to have six back in the day. I really love cats. I've got a new cat called Emery, when I got him he was the size of this mug. Now he’s obese! Bless him, he’s an indoor cat, we’ve let him out sometimes, but as soon as the car comes out he runs back in.
(Cecilie Jumps in) Have you seen mine? Mine is indoor as well.
Fair enough, you should get her a little lead to walk her. I’ve seen someone walk a cat and I just thought it was impossible, since cats are so independent. Your cat has such cool eyes. My mate has a sister with eyes like that, one blue and one green, it’s really weird and so different. Besides from cats, I never dreamed of getting this far with the band. I’ve done gigs where after the show I go out and have a fag and people start asking me for my photos and stuff, that to me is a big thing. Once, a fifteen/sixteen year old guy came up to me after one of the gigs and said: ‘you’re the reason I started to play music, you’re my inspiration Matt.’ I signed his guitar and that definitely was a highlight in my career so far.
Could you describe each of the band members?
Naz would be motionless, Jack would be cocky, Shaid is timid, and me? A pain, I’m just a pain in the arse. These guys get me out of bed; I’m pretty lazy.
What do you feel when you’re on stage?
Excited. When you get on stage, you realize that people have paid to come and see us, so I always say that I’ve got to put on the best performance all the time. I take it too seriously for it to just be a hobby. Same with all the other boys, if you want to get somewhere, you’ve got to show professionalism and show that you give a crap. That's why on stage I’m a bit quieter, and make sure everything is working so the show goes well. It’s the best feeling though, I love the buzz you get out of it when you finish.

Interview by Saskia Pfeiffer.
Words by Nicole Chui.

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