Eliran Kantor has created artwork for numerous metal bands including Testament, Sigh & Gwar, just to name a few. This has been one of the interviews that people have asked about and MBA is excited to present…When you are done reading check out more of his work at: Eliran Kantor.com
How did you get your first paying art job?
When I was 5 I drew a puppy for my grandma, she paid me the equivalent of 5$ but insisted I will never sell anything before signing and dating it. At 15 I did a few murals on my bedroom walls with acrylics, then was asked to paint a couple of friends’ walls as well. They were mostly copies of album covers now that I think about it.
I drew a few logos and did my first batch of CD covers for friends’ metal bands in Israel – namely Solitary, Abed and Armilos. Then came Bishop of Hexen and To-Mera with my first shots at records with an international distribution.
Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
It changes all the time. I grew up using pencil and ink, when I did murals I was using acrylics, then started adding the computer for digital painting and photo editing. Sticking with a certain style or medium is limiting, and it wont make sense if bands as different as Sodom and Virus will end up with similar looking illustrations. You do what the album calls for.
For instance Aghora’s ‘Formless’ (the European version) cover was made out of clay, the last Detonation cover was also clay and photography, and the Anacrusis cover is almost pure old-fashioned photography : I bought a small frame from Ikea, covered it with shoe polish, burnt it and broke the glass, then stood above it holding the glass pieces glued to sawing threads.
Who are your artistic influences?
I was always into drawing and making pictures but to be honest was never a real art-enthusiast. I can last maybe 30 seconds talking to an art major about Salvador Dali before I bring up how Dali was a friend of Alice Cooper, shifting the conversation towards music.
So if I have to be honest about “artistic influences” I’d name John Kricfalusi, the Canadian animator who created Ren & Stimpy. As a kid I used to tape every episode, freeze my VCR at these detailed close-up shots of gore and slime, the ones with the bullhorn sound effect – then sit for hours re-drawing it on paper.
Years later Terry Gilliam’s animation work with Monty Python would have almost the same impact on me.
What words best describe your artistic style?
I guess I’ll go with ‘Uneducated’. I never went to art/design school but my girlfriend did, and sometimes when she catches a glimpse of me working she’ll starts laughing at her old school and how they teach students NEVER to do some of the things I do on a daily basis.
Tell us about your studio space?
It’s just a desk, really. Nothing fancy. Around my work equipment I keep cases of CD’s, a guitar I rarely play, a stereo and a big board on which I write my upcoming schedule and daily tasks.
When you create art for a band…Do you listen to their music during the process?
Almost always. I do album covers full time for a living and with growing demand over the years I was forced to start using a waiting list, with bands having to pre-book around 2-3 months in advance.
The advantage is that I have plenty of time to listen to their previous albums and new pre-production samples, as well as going through the lyrics. So by the time we start working on their record I have a very clear idea regarding where should we go with the artwork.
Take us through a typical day.
I wake up when I’m done sleeping. That’s the biggest upside to being self-employed. Make coffee, empty the dishwasher and read through emails. Work on album covers until it’s time for lunch or to go out and run some errands, back to work until I’m done with the tasks I’ve lined up for today. Then probably spend my evening either at home with my girlfriend making fresh pizza and watching a movie, out grocery shopping or getting with a friend for coffee. Occasionally we’d go out to see a gig, or catch any of the special festivities Berlin hosts every now and then. Since last month I’ve been going twice a week to language school to learn German – a birthday gift from my girlfriend, as I’ve been living here for a couple of years now and still haven’t picked that up.
How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
Once I have an idea that I’m happy with and feel it will work with the album I just move ahead and flesh it out. It’ll look from a far almost like the finished product but with the smaller details being really rough still, so I send the band a scaled-down preview where all these tiny bits are not visible just to get their initial approval before fine-tuning it. I’ll take the time to sit down and write a detailed explanation of everything I did and the reasons behind everything. I’ve found this method to be the most effective because a lot of the magic in an image comes from the colors and textures, two aspects you can’t feature on a pencil sketch.
Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
Concepts come from my head or from the client’s head, but reference material is used to get certain details right – like human anatomy, architectural elements etc.
Do the bands give you any direction?
It varies, some bands know exactly what they want, some have only a general direction in mind and some just send me sound samples and lyrics and leave it up to me.
Do you have an advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
Don’t religiously hang on to ‘professional’ advice like it’s some divine wisdom, main problem with standing on shoulders of giants is that they are often facing the wrong direction.
So as the tired cliché goes – do your own thing and be yourself.
Unless you’re an asshole. In that case fake it. Fake it well and have a successful career in marketing.
What are you currently working on?
Just finished the cover artwork for next year’s new Testament record – ‘Dark Roots of Earth’, and the new Sigh album is also ready. Hopefully at least one of these two covers will be revealed on-line in the coming weeks. Also in the works are new records from Dublin Death Patrol, Aghora, Fester, Hammercult – overall I have about 11 records pre-booked for the coming months and about 5 finished covers that are waiting to be revealed by the bands. Plus I’m making more and more of my previous works available as limited edition fine-art prints on my website.
Do you have any dream projects?
Sure, topping that list would probably have to be doing an album cover for King Diamond / Mercyful Fate or Megadeth.
What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
King Diamond / Mercyful Fate as just mentioned, the essentials – Maiden, Priest, Megadeth, Metallica, Alice Cooper, Sabbath etc.. Voivod, Thought Industry, Psychotic Waltz, Devil Doll, Anacrusis, Trouble, Arcturus, Confessor, Celtic Frost, The Gathering, Nevermore, Agalloch, Type O Negative, New Model Army and Pink Floyd among others.
As far as recent infatuations go I’d name Grotus, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Shaolin Death Sqaud, Abigor, Killing Joke, Slough Feg, Alchemist and Triptykon.
Loving the latest Enslaved, Candlemass and Anthrax records as well.
You are one of the people that a bunch of people have asked to see on MBA. What artists would you like to see profiled on the site?
Larry Carroll could be interesting, he’s the artist who did Slayer’s classic-era covers. Apparently he’s quite hard to track down for interviews so Google shows maybe a couple of results at best.
Should be an interesting read – I grew up on ‘Reign in Blood’ and prior to his recent interview with Decibel Magazine I’ve never noticed how half the characters on that cover are swaying around huge massive dicks, for instance.