Christof Kather: Altered State

I learn about artists in many different ways but this is the first time that I am interviewing an artist that came recommended from the MBA facebook page….This is a very good read so all other facebook recommendations have a lot to live up to…enjoy…

How did you get your first paying art job?
First of all I have to make clear that I don´t see myself as a pure visual artist. As a child I started drawing and painting like most other children. At the age of 15 I was given an old set of drums which was on its way to the scrapheap, and that was the beginning of my career as a musician. I started playing in bands for whom I also made artworks. Shortly afterwards I also began writing lyrics. So by combining these skills, interacting, and communicating with others, that has been my way of working up until today. As the lyricist and drummer in JAPANISCHE KAMPFHORSPIELE I wrote most of the arrangements by putting together words, grooves, and rhythmic patterns – they all interconnect. The cover artworks, the packaging, and the t-shirt-designs I usually did while a record was being created. So the visual things also had an influence on the songs since the songs weren´t finished when starting on the pictures – get it?

Besides this all-embracing way of work I also did some artworks just for the fun of it or for no particular reason at all. But as I never was truly interested in being a cover artist exclusively, I never tried to peddle my portfolio. The artworks I did for other bands were mostly already finished pieces and they would ask me if they could use them. For some of it I was paid, but mostly I got something in return. For example, the artwork and design for HATESPHERE´s “Sickness Within”, Jacob Bredahl mixed a JAKA-album.

Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
I don´t think I have a definite and complete style – I do, but I don’t, because being an artist is only my third-string job, and I rotate jobs a lot.  My style has always comprised of collecting and combining pieces. Ever since I can remember I was interested in putting things together. I collect drum-groove-ideas for the grind or metal-projects I’m in, I collect sounds for my electro-project ELEKTROKILL, I collect words out of which lyrics are nursed and created, I collect photos, drawings, scratched surfaces and I tinker with other works of art by dismantling them and combining them again in new ways. And I love to combine these with the rest of the stuff I’ve collected. But no matter what I do I never start from scratch – I’m always right in the middle and rarely with a concept or a sketch of an idea. I like it when things happen by accident. Maybe I’m less a creator but more a director of accidents.

Who are your artistic influences?
I can´t name any. That also goes for music. Definitely, there are plenty but I don´t adore or idolize specific artists, or try to do what they are doing. Keeping in mind that the accrued swarm creativity of thousands of years has now been scooped up in one place, namely within the internet, it may just happen that we go there to seek inspiration, intentionally or unintentionally. We all do it, we’ve all been there.

Tell us about your studio space?
I am used to work in a very small space with only the bare necessities. Since my parents always checked if I was doing homework, I had to work out of a desk drawer which I was able to close quickly if my mother should come in. On my desk where exercise books which I did not read, but in the drawer were two pencils, tape, glue, scissors and the sheet I was working on. This training was good, being efficient with little! Even today I don´t need too many things in order to work. I am married and have two children so I use every free minute to create something. Besides, I never lose track of what I’m doing even if I’m into several completely different projects simultaneously. My purist way of working also spills into handling IT-challenges on my computer. I only have one graphics software program, two programs to create or edit music, a web browser and an e-mail-client. I hate updating because this costs time and concentration. I primarily want to produce and publish; I don´t want to keep on learning new programs or updated versions. So back to the question: my studio consists of a drawer and a computer.

Take us through a typical day.
I wake up round half past five. My wife and I rotate in taking care of the kids. When it´s not my turn to do house chores I immediately start to play and tinker with whatever project I’m involved in at that time. Sometimes I have a concrete design job but I always try not to have one! I strictly separate doing art and making money. For me, it´s better when my artistic output remains a hobby – albeit a rewarding one. I earn a monthly wage working as a male nurse home-caring for a guy suffering from myatropy. As I mentioned I mostly barter trade my artworks and designs and I am able to save some money through this trading. In the afternoon I go to a local roundabout to look after the vegetables we grow there. After the kids are put to bed I get really creative by switching off the brain for a while, mixing drinks, and smoking some weed.

How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
As said, I just start and then let things happen. I once studied graphic design and after that worked in various advertising agencies for about 3 years. Back in those days I was forced to have concepts ready on the dot, be able to create one right off the bat. Leave me alone with concepts! haha.

What materials do you use? How much if any is done on the computer?
I think nowadays it´s 100% computer. I have a big collection of surfaces, color pallets, and stuff I’ve created by hand and then scanned. My aim is that everything always should look handcrafted. With the right samples you can achieve this completely through digitalization and without being at risk of things getting to look too synthetic. Most importantly, I can just turn off my computer if my mother is coming.

Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
I’m a sample worker and I work with accidents. Firstly, my mind works predominantly by just perceiving things and only then I decide which way this stimulated development takes me. Often I create the samples I work with myself. When I use bits, pieces, splinters, and leftovers from others I make sure that they are not recognizable in the end output … Sure, the Bert-character of Sesame Street fame on the last JAKA-cover is recognizable, but the artwork as a whole was a cooperation between me and a fan.

Do the bands give you any direction?
When I do job for a job I want to have directions – that´s typical for t-shirt-designs. The only commissioned artworks I did were book-illustrations for a publisher in Dusseldorf. These guys always gave me very concrete directions – and paid me with concrete cash.

Do you have an advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
I think my situation is atypical. I really don´t have any advice for artists who want to be cover-artists exclusively. Nor have I any for people who want to play drums, or want advice about drum kits. My very best advice could be to nurture many different playgrounds. With many fields of interest you won´t get bored. When I’m fed up with working on a t-shirt-design I begin to arrange the words and lines I’ve written down previously and create lyrics instead, or I go into my basement to record some drums. A good, general advice that I’ve benefitted from is to step away from time to time from what you’re working on, let it rest, let your mind rest. The outlook may be very different by the time you get back to it again. Children and roundabouts are rather helpful in that department.

What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m only into music. A new FAKE IDYLL album is in the making. The artwork for that is going to be done by fans. We sent out an invitation to everybody to start creating stuff and to send us something. The keyword is “horror”, so just do something horrible and send it to By the way, FAKE IDYLL is a project where Lenzig of CEPHALIC CARNAGE sings. Don´t check out – the new stuff sounds absolutely nothing like this.

Have you ever turned down a project?

Do you have any dream projects?

What are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
Right now I’m into 90s thrash metal. KREATORS’s ‘Coma of Souls, OVERKILLS´s ‘Horrorscope’, SEPULTURA´s ‘Arise’, but essentially, I rarely listen to metal anymore – except the stuff I produce myself. My favorite band does not exist. When I listen to older records that’s for the sentimental value. The greatest mash-up artist will always be Frank Zappa. That´s beyond debate.

Any advice for artists that want to work with bands?
For artists who want to make a living from it? Dream on! Ha-ha. No. Keep trying!! I don’t want to get into the whole keeping-your-pencils-sharpened tirade. That’s a given, and I don´t want to sound arrogant either, but in my case the bands wanted to work with me. However, one thing that could be emphasized is networking. And that’s networking outside your normal network, by opening up to different inputs and influences and nurture what comes in that way. If something is slightly interesting it may be worthwhile pursuing. Seriously.

Who would you like to see featured on MBA?
My daughter.

About Vertebrae33

Through hard work and dedication, Vertebrae33 has established himself as one of the most prolific and exciting illustrators on the scene today.  He has received much acclaim as of late for his innovative designs, attention to detail, and wholly unique, raw style.