On Tuesday April 10th the new Demon Hunter record, True Defiance is released….MBA caught up with the band’s frontman Ryan Clark, a Grammy-nominated graphic designer. Along with his brother Don, Ryan started a prolific design studio known as Invisible Creature after they moved on from Asterik Studio.
How did you get your first paying art job?
The first professional design job I ever I had was in the Tooth & Nail Records art department- which I started in 2001. I don’t think I had any paying gigs before then. I knew the art director at the time, and I thought I’d be a great fit.
Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
I’ve always done some sort of visual art, as far back as I can remember, but I didn’t start designing on a computer until the year 2000. Before that I did a lot of pen and ink illustration, and I did graffiti for about 10 years. The styles that comprise my current design work vary quite a bit. They might change a little from year to year, but I like to work with an array or different styles and mediums- and I still like to illustrate by hand whenever I get the chance.
Who are your artistic influences?
My favorites would be Pushead, Paul Brown, Storm Thorgesron, Jim Phillips, Vaughan Oliver, Chris Ware, Barry McGee, Aaron Horkey, David Carson, Mike Giant, Dirk Rudolph, Bill Waterson, Richard Scarry, Stefan Sagmeister, Paul Rand, Peter Saville, Dan Seagrave, the list goes on and on…
Tell us about your studio space?
My office is inside the Tooth & Nail Records building. It’s small and extremely cluttered with stuff. I collect too many things- music (CDs, vinyl, box sets), antique goods (dolls, skulls, anatomical pieces), toys (most by Pushead, Kaws, Super 7, Pete Fowler, James Jarvis, etc), lots of magazines (Juxtapoz, Lürzer’s Int’l Archive, Decibel, Revolver), lots of Pushead illustration clippings, a ton of Demon Hunter stuff (records, merch, tour passes, letters, etc.).
How do you balance Demon Hunter with your art career?
It’s very difficult, but I find the time… I usually try to get way ahead of schedule with my design work, so that I can comfortably settle into DH time. There’s the inevitable catchup, when we return from tour or the studio, but that’s to be expected. I’ve been fortunate enough to have interns or assistants that help me out when I’m gone as well.
How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
Usually we’ll pitch a handful of concepts, based on the album title, theme, overall idea… and narrow it down to one idea that everyone feels good about. At this point, the process depends on the style/direction. If it’s photo-based, we’ll sketch it up, hire a photographer, and edit the photos once we have them. If it’s illustrated, I’ll do a master sketch, make sure the client is cool with it, the flesh it out the illustration with ink and color. If it’s something graphic, most of the time that will begin and end on the computer, maybe just occasional scanning if anything. After we nail down a cover, we tackle the rest of the package.
What materials do you use? How much if any is done on the computer?
Again, it all depends on the direction. If it’s an illustration, I’ll usually do it all by hand and scan it in… and I’ll most likely color it in Photoshop, but I like to use scans of real watercolor or other paint textures. If it’s photographic or photo-realistic, I’ll work heavily in Photoshop. If it’s graphic, I usually use a combination of Illustrator and Photoshop. And whenever possible, I like to use InDesign for my layout files. I would say with the average project 95% is done on the computer. However, in the case of an illustrated piece, it’s more like 50%.
Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
Each job is unique. Usually the bigger clients want to see references… or sometimes the style that you’re trying to convey is so specific, it just makes sense to reference something, so the client really understands.
Do the bands give you any direction?
I’ve had bands give me no direction and have full trust in my creativity, I’ve had bands give me no direction and no trust… lots of direction, but plenty of trust in my personal views… and I’ve had bands that know exactly what they want, and literally use me as a pair of hands… at the end of the day, anyone could’ve done those jobs.
Do you listen the band’s music when you work on their project?
Sometimes. A lot of the time we’re working so far ahead of schedule, I don’t yet have access to the music. Other times, I have the music, but I’m not a fan… which makes it hard to listen to over and over… but ideally, I do like to be able to listen to the record when I’m designing.
Do you have any advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
If you wish to make a true living at it, don’t narrow your scope to the music industry alone.
What are you currently working on?
Odds and ends for P.O.D., The Amity Affliction, Gojira, Active Child, Abandoned Pools, and tons of other random stuff…
Have you ever turned down a project?
All the time. Sometimes I’m not into the product, client, or artist… other times I’m just too busy.
Do you have any dream projects?
I’d like to work for Metallica, Soilwork, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails… but I don’t know. Sometimes it’s better not to have a working relationship with your favorite artists… you learn to dislike them very quickly if they end up being difficult. Trust me.
What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
All time: Depeche Mode, Pantera, At The Gates, Elbow, Doves, Soilwork, Scar Symmetry, Machine Head, Shudder To Think, HIM, Alice In Chains
Right now: Scar Symmetry, Young Galaxy, Miike Snow, Biffy Clyro, White Lies, Chapel Club, Active Child, Hurts, Graveyard, Kvelertak, Black Breath
Who would you like to see featured on MBA?
If they haven’t been already- Pushead, Horkey, Seagrave
Here is the Cover for the new Demon Hunter record…check out the kick ass art by MBA favorite…Angryblue