Sometimes I ask myself: What would a record be without its cover artwork? What would music be without its concert posters and flyers? What would it all be without the wonderful work of some artists? Well, I think that there would be still much left over, because the most important aspect of music is the music itself. But there is no getting around the fact that the visual aspect plays a role that is not to be underestimated in the history of music whether it is punk rock, heavy metal, psychedelic rock, hard rock or rock 'n' roll to name but a few. Some artworks and band symbols have reached an iconic status such as MotÃ¶rhead's Snaggletooth or the four bars of Black Flag. All this has become an integral part of pop culture. It becomes evident that visuals are a part in our sonic world that we can no longer do without.
One of these highly gifted artists is Alexander von Wieding. I discovered his work a couple of years ago with the help of Small Stone Records, because he has done a lot of artworks for Detroit's heaviest record label. His drawings are really inspired and inspirational and continuously surprise me with a wide variety of styles. Added to this is a good flair for the music. While some artists keep repeating themselves, Alexander von Wieding tells a story with his paintings. And it's always a different story. Our talk gives an insight into his fascinating world, his philosophy and working methods. So, be prepared for an in-depth interview.
Hello Alexander! What brought you to drawing in the beginning? Please, give me a simple biography.
Hi Klaus. Nice to meet you. I was born in Heidelberg, grew up in a small town in Lueneburg Heath and studied communication design, where I tried to bring in my drawing skills whereever I could. Been living with my wife and kids in Hamburg now for about eleven years, and working as a freelance illustrator for the ad industry â€“ and doing album artworks for about 6 years. Oh, honestly, I can't remember the exact beginning of it anymore. That must've been in earliest years.
What I do remember is, that I started to re-draw Disney characters when I was about 4 or 5 years old. From what I remember, people were impressed by what I did, so it must've been quite okay scribblings. Haha. Well, Disney stuff was soon replaced by superhero stuff (Spider-Man, Batman... like the usual suspects; and the Masters Of The Universe), and then Heavy Metal Magazine alongside some mangas made quite an impression on me and to what I drew.
Oh yeah, the good old Marvel stuff. Your covers always feel like they coming right out of a page of the story. Do you agree and if so, what's your process for making this happen?
Thanks! That's about what I always try to achieve with my album covers. Not only make it an eyecatcher, but make it stand out on its own. The theme of an album cover is always ruled by the substance of the music that it represents of course. My approach differs on if the band/artist already have/has some ideas for the visual appeal of the artwork or not. The rest is just me trying to interpret the substance of the album. For that, I love to work directly "on" the music. That means, I get some rough mixes or pre-listening tracks, and then I basically put that on headphones, switch off the light, and see what images the music makes appear in my mind. So, basically, it's some sort of "spiritual channelling"... haha. It's a hit-and-miss game, but my strike rate is quite good.
Usually, the essential theme of an album, even if it's hidden sometimes, is in that way transferred into visuals/illustrations. One of those "hits" is the double-cover artwork for Ironweed's 'Your World Of Tomorrow'. It took some time before I had the exact cover envisioned, but then it directly hit the spot. Like you do with your album reviews, I need to give the music some time to breathe and unfold in my mind before it creates THE image for itself. But then sometimes, the first song strikes, splashed out the idea and there you go. That's usually what I love most. There's of course also people coming to me with a very certain idea.
The basic idea for the 'Dronolith' (by Blackwolfgoat) cover for example, was brought to me by Darryl (the man, the guitar wizard, behind Blackwolfgoat) himself. He had the vision of a white roses-bouquet before a white background, so that you only could see the thorns and the green of the stems. I thought that was a badass idea, not only because the visual concept I could work this into was so contrary to the doom/drone tunes of the album, but also because it was of such pure simplicity and beauty - reduced to the essence. Since that was SO representing the music (Darryl "only" layers guitar over guitar and makes a song out of it; which he turned into an artform if you ask me), we had a goer. Yeah, and then there's also the cases, where the band comes to me with an idea for an artwork... but I simply can't get it to work... until I realize that it might NOT be the artwork to the album â€“ at all.
By that time, I go back to "channelling" mode, trying to see what the music itself tells me, and trying to forget "version 1.0". That's, for example, how the artwork for Mangoo's 'Neverland' came together. I'm the one responsible for the shroom. Guilty as charged. I'm sorry (I guess). Haha. But those tunes were SO screaming for an oldschool 70s prog-era visual, and the lyrics gave the hints to it... it just had to be this way.