A year ago, MBA interviewed the legendary Derek Riggs in a two part interview (part1; part 2) and since then we have kept in contact with him. I spoke to him about another interview and he was up to it…but this time I took some questions from some of the artists that have been interviewed on MBA. Having just seen Iron Maiden two days ago, it felt like the right time to post the interview…when you are done reading please go check out Derek’s site and click the banner at the bottom of the page to buy his book….
What have you been up to since last we spoke?
I have been trying to do a cover for a guy called Noodle who make a kind of ambient rock guitar. it’s been a very hard picture to do. I just couldn’t make any headway at all for ages, everything I did was wrong and didn’t work right. I did about six version of the floor, I couldn’t get it the way I originally saw it at all, then I tried to make the sky, well, nope, couldn’t do the sky. then I tried the figure… that wouldn’t work either. nothing was looking the way I wanted it to. In the end I got something good (after about a month of real headbanging) but it still wasn’t what I originally thought of. luckily he liked it, also it got some great reactions from all the women who saw it. The CD wont be out for a while though, I think he is having similar trouble with the mastering of the music.
Some days stuff is just hard to do.
In your early years, what was the reaction like to your work like from your family and friends?
They all thought I was just really fucking weird. they all still do.
Can you any tricks or secret that you can tell other artists?
There aren’t really any “tricks” except learning to paint. you just have to get on and teach yourself how to paint. as far as secrets go, you have to put more work into it. the more work goes into it the better it will look.
Where you under contract to only work for Iron Maiden?
Yes, for about ten years. that’s why there are no other covers by me during that time.
Do you have any ownership rights as it relates to the Eddie image?
I sold Maiden all the rights to the paintings that I had done for them. I did not sell the rights to the character Eddie that I had created. I don’t do anything with it because I don’t really want to. I don’t mind if Maiden want to continue using it for their CD covers. However, if they made movies or something they will have to pay me more money for the right to do it.
What does it feel like to have created one of the most iconic images in all of metal?
It doesn’t feel like anything really, I don’t have a lot of contact with the fans so I never got much feedback about any of it. some of the people I know think it’s cool, but it was all thirty years ago for me, and I don’t think about it much unless someone asks me something about it. I am mostly preoccupied with working out the next picture or whatever it is that I have to do to keep the money coming in.
You’ve previously said that most of what you do these days is done on the computer. Is there anything process-wise that you miss from traditional media that you would like to see incorporated into tomorrow’s design programs?
Yes, there are a lot of ways that things could be improved. But the people who make the programs are not interested in listening to real artists, they think that they have got it all right first time out. I have tried to talk to those people but I never get any kind of an intelligent response. it’s always a version of “well we don’t do it like that…” they all come out with the stupid by line “made for artists by artists” but that’s really just crap, they are computer programmers who make things for other computer programmers, actual artists never really get a look in. I tried to get some response for a couple of years and then I just got bored trying. I will probably go back to painting in the end. It’s just that computers are ( or could be) better for doing illustration work.
Will you ever go back to traditional painting?
Yes (see above) I have been thinking about doing some colorful abstract pictures. it would be a bit less stressful than full on paintings. which can take ages and ages to do.
Have you ever taught an art class?
No I haven’t
Do you have any interest in doing art for metal bands again?
I am still doing art for metal bands sometimes, but nobody wants to pay me to do it any more, they think I should do it all for nothing. I get people who email me and say they want a picture like “somewhere in time” and they want it for three hundred dollars. Now, that picture took two months to do, can you work for two months for three hundred dollars? I can’t. so they don’t get a cover because they don’t live in the real world at all. Actually a band making their first album really shouldn’t be doing covers like “Somewhere in time” because it’s too complicated, they should be doing something much more simple and striking, like the first maiden cover. they have to make an impact and get attention with their first album, not fade out into a haze of hyper-complex artwork.
Do you pay attention to current visual artists who create art for bands? If so, whose work do you like?
No, I dont look at them at all. I don’t make artwork to play “keep up with the Jones’ ” I make it to express some idea that I had. my style varies from picture to picture according to the ideas (or the weather or something…) I don’t look to metal art for inspiration, I look out into the real world. If metal artists only look to other metal artists for their inspiration then it will get very introspective and repetitive and it will go right up it’s own arse very quickly.
Will there be 2nd book of your art or did the first one pretty much cover it all?
I have an idea for a second book. The first one really did not cover much at all. It may be a while coming, I have other things to do before I can begin work on such a big project.