You can’t love metal and art and not know who Travis Smith is. He is the hand behind the covers of many great albums by many great bands. Having worked on over a 100 album covers, Travis is definitely one of the most sought after graphic designers in the metal music industry today. Smith has done work for many established rock and metal bands, including Death, Opeth, Devin Townsend, Katatonia, Anathema, King Diamond, Avenged Sevenfold, Strapping Young Lad, Soilwork and many more to attain his tag as the most renowned and talented graphic artist in metal music by many large music publications.
Recently, Srishti Das of Metal Wani got a chance to interview him and talk about his upcoming projects, his style and what it is to be Travis Smith. He also speaks about his life and how he became the man he is today. Give it a read to know more.
Hello Travis, greetings from India. Over a 100 album arts done, hundreds of more to come. You have been considered to be one of the most legendary graphic artists in the field of metal, how are you amidst all the work and play?
Not too bad. Although there’s a lot more work than play. Trying to keep busy.
What’s going on in the Travis Smith workstation? What are you currently working on? Can you briefly explain the project?
I have a few projects on my plate at the moment. Today as I write this I’m working on some things for a Katatonia Live Album and some ideas for the new Barren Earth record. A few other things as well but they are things that have not yet been officially announced.
Your first paid art project was one with your friends from ‘Psychotic Waltz’. However, when did actually begin to turn into an artist? Could you share a memory related to your art from before turning into a graphic designer?
Well, I’ve been drawing since as long as i can remember. When I was younger I seem to remember the subjects mainly being race cars, KISS, or cartoon rats.
The mood mostly set in your work is Dark and Introspective. What inspired you to set this
mood to your work? Did you always want your work to be associated to metal?
It’s not always a conscious decision. Usually that is dictated by what the subject or concept calls for, or the feeling the tone or sound of the music conveys, but I also find it tends to be a little more dramatic or appealing in telling a story.
What software and stationary do you use majorly to work on your projects? What does the Travis Smith workstation look like and comprise of?
Software is primarily Photoshop and Painter for Illustrations, In Design for layouts, Illustrator when needed.
Do you sit down to introspect all the work you have done so far and how does it feel like to look at a list of so many bands you have worked with? What is your favorite artwork so far?
Some of my personal favorites so far include Opeth’s Ghost Reveries and Heritage, catatonia’s Dead End Kings and Night is the New Day (new Version), The remastered version of Death’s Sound of perseverance, Bloodbath: Bloodbath over Bloodstock, Ziltoid the Omniscient, and Amorphis’ Beginning of Times. Honorable mentions to Avenged Sevenfold, and Overkill Immortalis.
How difficult is it to keep a unique image for every band that you have worked with? To not mix the ideas, concepts or moods of any two bands?
It has been a small issue in the past once or twice. There’s been a few times where a band might (intentionally or otherwise) request or have an idea for some elements or a color scheme that is similar to something else I might have done in the past. I try to be conscious about it and if something comes up I feel is too close or a direct copy, in that case will suggest an alternative or refuse the project. I understand somethings are universal and ideas can sometimes cross, so if it’s something like that I tend to let it go and be a little more flexible.
Overall however, it’s not really all that difficult and has only come up on a few occasions, at least to where I noticed a potential similarity in something beforehand. But it’s usually pretty easily avoided and many bands, if not already too stuck on a certain idea, bring enough potential ideas with them to easily find the options somewhere.
The roster of bands you have worked with goes down to a huge list. If you had to name a few albums you had the biggest challenge working on, which would they be and why?
Well, a lot of them have presented some kind of challenge, in some way, big or small, for better or worse. To recall one where that challenge was welcome, and fun and inspiring to undertake it, with results that surpassed my personal hopes for it, Opeth’s heritage immediately comes to mind.
What is your work procedure? If you had to step by step list out the process of a band approaching you to you finishing the work, what would it be like?
There’s really no set procedure; it really depends on what’s required for the process for each project or how I’m in the mood to tackle it at the time. Each is different according to what’s involved with making the idea happen, or any other variables due to other projects or things in the schedule.
What is your most favorite thing about being a graphic designer in the metal music industry?
To only pick one, I’d say being a part of some of, and having the opportunity to represent the vision of some of my favorite bands and albums.
There are many budding graphic designers in the industry now. Have you seen any of their work? Who are the ones that grabbed your attention?
I see a lot of it all the time, as it’s hard not to. With the internet, I’ve seen a lot of things I like, and a lot of things I don’t and a number of things in the middle of those and throughout, I’ve seen a lot of trends of the same thing when one thing becomes popular for awhile until the next. There’s a few very popular covers I don’t really care for and vice versa. There’s so much information it’s almost hard to keep up. I’ve seen several recently that I’ve really liked, but at the moment I’m hard pressed recall any of them specifically, or the artist attached to them.
If we had to live one day in the shoes of Travis, what would it be like?
Wake up, drink coffee, answer emails, work, chores, and errands, haha.
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