Mark – Unholy salutations, Naman! All is well on my side; I’ve been busy as usual.
2) So what have you been up to these days? We know that you’re always working on your artwork.
Mark – I’m preparing for the release of my new book, “Compendium of Death – The Art of Mark Riddick, 1991-2011,” which will be officially released on November 16th by Doomentia Records. After self-publishing three art books a few years ago it is finally my debut in hardcover, professional offset printed, book format. “Compendium of Death” covers twenty years of my illustrative history with 600 pages of visual intensity. As you can imagine, I’m very excited for its release. In the meantime, I’ve been working on illustrations for Tyrant Goatgaldrakona, Arsis, Loculus, Palkowski, Burialkult, Satanika, and Execution.
3) Tell me Mark, how did your journey with heavy metal start?
Mark – As mentioned above, my journey started a little over two decades ago in 1991, when I was first introduced to the worldwide underground death metal scene. I was already listening to thrash metal at the time (late 80s/early 90s), bands like Demolition Hammer, Malevolent Creation, Cryptic Slaughter, Sacred Reich, etc., but the underground death metal scene opened me up to so many more possibilities. I began making contact with underground fanzines, bands, and record labels and started to draw demo covers and filler art for ‘zines, etc.
4) When did you realize that you could sketch like this?
Mark – My interest in art began as early as age 6. Illustrating has always been an interest of mine but I never had an outlet for it until I started to listen to underground music. In my youth, the idea of being able to draw album covers seemed out of reach but the underground scene, which thrived on independent musicians and record labels, gave me the opportunity to make my fantasy a reality.
5) Never in my wildest nightmares could I ever imagine the stuff you sketch. Where do you get the inspiration to come up with these gruesome designs? Which artists have inspired you?
Mark – I really don’t think much about the subject matters of my work; it truly is something that is second nature for me. My inspiration really comes from my passion for heavy metal music. I also have a deep appreciation for other underground illustrators who have influenced my work like Chris Moyen, Daniel Corcuera, Matt Carr, Alfonso Ruiz, Halsey Swain, Toshihiro Egawa, etc.
6) Needless to say, your artwork is truly phenomenal. And one signature aspect of your artwork is the use of only black and white. Why don’t you use other colors and shades too? Is the B&W style gonna be permanent?
Mark – Thank you for your kind words. Yes, my approach to illustration will never change. I choose to work strictly in black and white because it is part of my visual brand as well as my way of staying true to the old underground way of doing things. When I was first introduced to the scene there was no such thing as the Internet, everything functioned on postal mail, photocopied fanzines, duplicated demo cassettes, etc. It was all very raw and do-it-yourself. I strive to maintain the raw nature of underground metal in my work. I want the viewer to witness something he/she would have witnessed when opening up an old underground ‘zine or seeing a flier from their favorite band. In addition, it’s important, as an artist, to keep my work consistent and easily recognizable. This sets the expectation for my clients as well as my fans.
7) You’ve been designing illustrations for album covers, posters and T-shirts for almost 2 decades now. WOW! That’s a lot of experience man. How come you never ran out of ideas or ended up repeating what you previously designed?
Mark – There are some elements that are repetitive in my work. Nothing that has been repeated verbatim but some reoccurring themes can be found within the body of my work. I do try to keep my artwork fresh and challenging by accepting unconventional projects. I also enjoy illustrating for other metal genres whose themes might vary, giving me an opportunity to draw different subject matters.
8) Could you please tell us about the various procedures before an artwork gets completed? How long do you usually take to finish an artwork/design?
Mark – The amount of time spent on a drawing can vary depending on the nature of it. Some pieces require more detail and less familiarity for me. It can range anywhere from two-to-eight hours depending on how ambitious the request is. I usually only draw in increments because I have a full-time day job, as a graphic artist, and a wife and two children. The only time I have to spend on my art is late at night. My lack of time means that it will usually take me about four weeks to complete an illustration from start to finish. My process is very simple. I create a sketch; once the sketch is approved I ink the drawing, scan it into Adobe Photoshop, take care of any final edits, and the completed artwork is sent to the client after their payment is made.
9) When you design artwork for bands, do you actually check out their music?
Mark – Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I usually like to work for bands that I’m a fan of; this pleases me the most. Due to the large amount of requests I get, I do have to pick and choose who I decide to work with. This process of elimination rests upon the nature of the request, whether or not I’m a fan of the band, what kind of format it will be released on, the label who is publishing it, and what kind of exposure it might bring to my work.
10) If I’m not mistaken, you are responsible for the sickening pictorials on Kryptos’ “The Coils Of Apollyon” and Gutslit’s “Skewered In The Sewer”. How was it working with these 2 bands? Are you familiar with any other Indian metal bands?
Mark – Thank you for your kind words on the Kryptos and Gutslit illustrations. These are the only two Indinian bands I’ve illustrated for thus far. I’m not familiar at all with the Indian metal scene but I think it’s amazing how metal music can connect with so many different cultures around the world. It was a real pleasure working with both of these bands.
11) When asked about my favorite graphic designers, apart from you, another name that comes to my mind is Vincent Locke. What do you think about him? Are there any other notable designers out there whose works interests you?
Mark – Yes, I am absolutely a fan of Vincent Locke’s work. I’m currently working on my second art collaboration with Vincent right now for a band called Loculus. Vincent and I collaborated last year on a record cover for one of my bands, Macabra. Vincent’s work is very distinct and recognizable to most metal fans; he is also a very professional person to work with, a real pleasure (and an honor) for sure. As I mentioned earlier, I do have a massive respect and appreciation for so many other heavy metal illustrators, both past and present.
12) If you were given the chance to design artwork for one band, which would it be? Any band of your choice!
Mark – This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many bands I’m into. Right now, I would love to do some artwork for bands like Witchtrap, Deathhammer, Cruel Force, Cruciamentum, Toxic Holocaust, etc.
13) Lot of your work has made its way to gallery exhibits throughout the world including places like Brooklyn, Tel Aviv, Genova, New York, Tokyo, etc. Ever considered India? I’m sure it would be a delight for metal maniacs and graphic designers here.
14) Mark, most people may not know this, but you’re also quite an active musician; a multi-instrumentalist if I should say so. You’re in many bands, namely Fetid Zombie, Grave Wax, Macabra, Moonroot, The Soil Bleeds Black and Unburied. How do you manage your time between designing and music? Doesn’t it become tiring?
Mark – Yes, it can be exhausting but when you’re passionate about something you do what it takes to get things done. While I do enjoy writing, recording, and publishing music, my artwork is my priority, aside from my family, which is of course my first priority.
15) Here’s another thing most people may not know. You have a twin brother, Michael, who also happens to be in many bands, including some of the above mentioned bands. And he too quite occasionally designs artwork for bands. So who followed whom, both in music and designing?
16) Hey Mark, thanks a ton for sparing your time for this interview. It’s been an honor having a talented person like you with us! Any last words for the readers and followers out here in India?
Mark – Thank you very much for your time and support, Naman. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be featured on Metalwani. Metal ‘til death!