Friday, 30 October 2015

INTERVIEW: Andrei Bouzikov

For longtime readers of this blog the name Andrei Bouzikov should be a familiar one by now. For the uninitiated, Andrei is a Belarusian-American graphic artist, renowned the world over for his lurid Ed Repka-style album covers. Although best known for his thrash metal covers, his art has also graced the LPs, shirts and posters of a long list of bands that span the gamut of metal genres (and some hardcore too). Among the horde of bands to get the Bouzikov treatment: Autopsy, Amebix, S.O.D., Toxic Holocaust, High on Fire, Municipal Waste, Skeletonwitch, Volture, Cannabis Corpse, Fucked Up, Nails, A.N.S. and Vöetsek. The man recently relented to an intense bout of interrogation for the EYE, and the results of that demonic inquisition are as follows...

EYE: Your work is often political and frequently depicts environmental destruction. Is this driven more by your connection to Belarus and what's happening there, or from your experience of living in the US? What's pissing you off at the moment?

AB: I am an '80s Soviet child, I was heavily influenced by Cold War scare and aftermath of nuclear fallout. Even though Soviet Union collapsed 25 years ago this post-apocalyptic theme is stronger than ever - pop culture is full of it. I don't feel very pissed off just because it's too exhausting! The pictures I make are influenced by both worlds, old and new, past and present. I hope the subject matter stays a fantasy, just trying to have fun with painting process and work.

EYE: Who are some other contemporary artists that you are into at the moment?

AB: Anything from cave art to modern art color field paintings! I love Scott Greenwalt's paintings, Skinner's art is fantastic, Mike Sutfin's illustrations blow my mind every day! Really enjoy Iggy Pop, Timothy Cummings' art, Ben Venom, Odd Nerdrum, Julie Heffernan, Vivienne Westwood. Many more of course.

EYE: What is your usual development process when designing album covers? Do bands supply the concept, or do you have free rein?

AB: Most of the time bands give me a concept and I have to stick to guidelines, but I think best cover art comes out when I can do my own thing. I was trained as an illustrator so I can take a concept and try to make it work, even though it can restrict your creativity. That's the mistake some bands make, their ideas are so specific that there is no room for interpretation left and what they get at the end is a skilled art laborer. Instead they need to unleash an art stallion and let it roam free around the canvas haha. It's the same with music, when you create a song you just kind of jam and wander off into deepest corners of your subconsciousness, then some tune catches your ear and you go along with it. The same with visual art, you just sit there at your table almost meditating, and then images start popping out one after another until, bingo!, you have yourself a basic shape and composition. Then you add details, reworking certain parts, add a few things here and there and bam! You got a nice little painting.

EYE: Is it hard to make a living doing what you do? Do you have to supplement your income with more commercial work?

AB: Very hard! Not knowing when your next paycheck is coming is always worrying. At some point to get by I had to take on every project, now I am a bit more selective and don't take the job if it's underpaid or the concept is strange. Sometimes I have non music related illustration projects, and I used to work for an interior muralist. We would paint rococo style 18th century paintings in different client's homes. That was a great gig, we would travel a lot and paint some cool stuff. If I hadn't had that at the time I wouldn't have been able to eat.

EYE: Do you ever scan your paintings and do some retouching in Photoshop?

AB: I mostly paint on illustration boards then scan it at Kinko's. After that I drop a file to Photoshop, trick out the levels a bit and maybe add some details, maybe prong out the lights and darken the shadows, that's it!

EYE: What's your favourite album cover that you've done?

AB: Really like one of my first paintings that end up being used by Voetsek Infernal Command LP. I just dropped out of art school (school loans ran out a few months before I graduated, which sucked and made no sense) and I was messing around with composition and colors. After the painting was complete my roommate/bandmate at the time Scotty from Tankcrimes noticed that piece in my room and asked if he can use it for his band. It was one of my first thrash related paintings, after that came Municipal Waste, Skeletonwitch and many more. Really like Ghoul/Cannabis Corpse painting.

EYE: How is the punk and metal scene in San Francisco in 2015?

AB: Metal scene is going ok, seems like most of the shows are happening in Oakland these days, don't know what's going on in punk scene. I try to get out once in a while but it's mostly to see friend's bands. There are mostly computer nerds that are left in SF, all metal and punk dudes live across the bay.

EYE: Boris Vallejo or Frank Frazetta?

AB: Definitely Frazetta! I love his color palette and energy in his paintings. I do like Boris' paintings but it's too polished and technical.

EYE: Your work is very cinematic. Are there any movies and or directors that you admire?

AB: Thank you for pointing this out! I love watching films immensely! When I was a teen in post-Soviet Belarus barely anyone had a VCR. If you wanted to watch an American film we had to go to Videoteka or Videoclub which was just a room with TV and VCR and a dozen or so chairs. We would pay a rubl and watch an amazing films, anything from The Terminator to Jackie Chan films. I love watching '80s to early '90s movies, they used to have big productions and would use very elaborate lighting. Just watch Blade Runner, it's a dark film, but there is a lot of reflecting lights going on in most of the scenes, it's somehow reminding me of metal shows with smoke machines and different colored lamps. Sometimes I would pause my Netflix film and study the scene, check out composition, perspective, lighting and colors. Love the old film directors - Andrei Tarkovsky, Jodorowsky, Hitchcock, Milius, James Cameron (very cinematic!), Spielberg.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

DECADES / FAILURES - February 14th

My third D / F post. Words like sublime can come off as eye-rollingly wanky when used to describe things that don't warrant them. This track earns that descriptor in spades, as well as other typically hyperbolic words like "transcendent". There's a lot of people out there fiddling with knobs and programming computers, but very few of them are making music with the depth of feeling that Adam and Alexis are (though I think "February 14th" was recorded before Alexis came aboard). DECADES / FAILURES aren't faking it. This is the real deal.

Saturday, 24 October 2015


Caustically cynical punk for mutants who know better than to take it all too seriously. Now, dance you scumfuck!

Horror Queens

Here's a trio of beautiful images from a recent exhibition of female horror icons as interpreted by three female artists from Canada. Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion by Suspiria (conveniently enough); Sissy Spacek as Carrie by Paige Reynolds; and Barbara Steele as Asa Vajda by Sara Deck.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The sounds of Astron-6's THE EDITOR

A couple of posts below this one I raved about Astron-6's The Editor, and now it's time to crank up the volume and dig into the film's gold mine of tasty giallo inspired synthwave. Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy obviously compiled The Editor's soundtrack with the same love and attention to detail afforded every other aspect of the film's production. The result is an assault of (literally) killer tracks from the likes of Carpenter Brut, Vercetti Technicolor, and Hook Lab.

The pick of the bunch is Carpenter Brut's "Le Perv", the French artist's best track by a long shot. The music video he released for it a while back (pictured above) is a stunner too, mashing the song up perfectly with clips from Lucio Fulci's Murder Rock. Although generally considered to be one of Fulci's lesser efforts and for completists only, I'm actually quite fond of it. A bizarre fusion of giallo with the previous year's box-office smash Flashdance, it makes up for its lack of gore with some stylish touches and acres of sensually gyrating, sweaty flesh.

So while we await the release of an official OST (Death Waltz? One Way Static? Waxwork? Giallo Disco?), here's the majority of The Editor's bangers (with a more atmospheric number thrown in at the end from Repeated Viewing) to stream in one handy spot. Enjoy, dance, and DIE.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Jason Edmiston

If there was a Church of Sci-Fi and Horror whose deities were the pantheon of monsters, Jason Edmiston's portraits would be the art surrounding the altar. There's a kind of religious reverence in the way that he depicts his subjects, and a kitschy quality to his style that strengthens that impression. Maybe there's a comment to be made here about the extent to which we worship our pop icons, but I'll leave that for you to decide.

My favourites: I love his Pazuzu, and that Texas Chain Saw poster of Marilyn Burns' eye is insane, but his portrait of Elsa Lanchester is the real showstopper here.

Thursday, 8 October 2015


The giallo is so intrinsically tied to the Italian cultural milieu of the 1960s, '70s and '80s that it's not surprising that almost all of the modern attempts to revive the genre have fizzled. Even recent attempts by some of the form's previous masters (Argento and De Palma) have flopped pretty miserably. These films were so much a product of time and place that to try and reproduce them now almost always comes off as cringingly artificial.

No surprise then that the two best 21st century gialli - Amer and The Editor - both succeed because they take the familiar tropes, imagery and music of the genre and reshape the formula to create something fresh. As for Amer, although it has all the trappings, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's film isn't really a giallo in the traditional sense at all. Rather, it's an art film that takes the genre's tendency towards style over substance to its extreme, using its visuals and music to create an experience that's more sensory and emotive than it is thrilling and titillating. It was a daring gamble, and Amer is all the more interesting for it*.

With The Editor, Astron-6's approach is (of course) the polar opposite. Rather than high-minded art wankery, Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy go the unabashedly lowbrow route, upping the ante on the sex, gore and music to the nth degree. The result is pure exploitation bliss: a glorious explosion of sweaty flesh, gushing blood, creaking leather, flashing steel and pumping synth beats. The Editor is the real deal, the most entertaining giallo sleaze-fest in 20 years.

It may seem unlikely that the best giallo in decades is an all out spoof of the genre, but its success lies in the way that Brooks and Kennedy treat the material. They don't pander to mainstream audiences whose previous exposure may begin and end at a casual TV viewing of Dressed to Kill (although many of the gags are very broad, a lot of the film's humour would fly well over the heads of the uninitiated). This is a love letter by and for the hardcore fans, a perfect balance of parody tempered with genuine love and respect for the films it's sending up. As ridiculous as things get in The Editor, there are moments throughout that could easily pass as believable clips from a real giallo. One of the things that lends it such an air of respectful authenticity is the way the convoluted narrative follows the same nonsensical dream logic that's such a cornerstone of many of the original movies. By the end of the film you have that same trippy feeling of having woken out of a dream (albeit one that you laughed your ass off through).

As impressive as the blood-letting is here, the thing that really stands out is the sheer amount of sleazy nudity and sex. The Editor rides the thin line between spoofing misogyny and being guilty of it itself pretty precariously, but personally I thought it was all hilariously funny and tastefully done. The women who disrobed for this movie are all great sports**, and it's all in the service of laughing at how idiotically stupid the machismo and sexism of '60s and '70s cinema could be.

As to the actual performances beyond the physical requirements, the whole cast does a great job of acting terribly, getting it just right so as to not overdo it. Everyone's bad line reading and emoting is just underplayed enough to be funny instead of hammy, and the dubbed dialogue is spot on, again, not too hammy. Udo Kier turns up in characteristically creepy form, and Paz de la Huerta is just deliciously weird in every second of her screen time. Most impressive though is Human Centipede veteran Laurence R. Harvey, showing real chops and charisma here.

However, where The Editor truly soars is in its visuals and score. It looks amazing, far more impressive than what you'd expect from a budget of aprox 150,000. The prerequisite splashes of primary colour really pop off the screen; the set dressing is great; and the handsomely framed 2.35:1 cinematography is often beautiful (if sometimes obviously making fun of the hyper stylised nature of giallo aesthetics). Most impressive of all are some vfx sequences that are real eye openers. The score is a killer orgy of synthwave bangers from the likes of Carpenter Brut ("Le Perv" provides one of the film's most pulse-pounding moments), Vercetti Technicolor and Hook Lab (I think Claudio Simonetti may have contributed something as well).

Brooks and Kennedy fill the movie with an avalanche of fun references and homages. As well as all the expected giallo references, there are nods to Videodrome (a little on the nose that one maybe?); Argento's Three Mothers trilogy; and a subtle reference to Stuart Gordon's From Beyond. The big surprise is that in the end The Editor is much a loving homage to Fulci's The Beyond as it is to gialli. There are three major nods to it throughout the movie, and one in particular had me grinning from ear to ear. There's also a pleasing little meta touch during the end credits, when the editor's name is revealed to be Rey Ciso (the film's fictional Editor, its actual editor is Brooks), timed to coincide with a sinister music cue. Very nicely done.

Every aspect of the production is top notch, not least of which is the gorgeous promotional art provided by some of today's hottest poster artists, including Akiko Stehrenberger, Gary Pullin, Justin Erickson and Graham Humphreys (who also painted a trio of killer faux posters for the film). Feast your eyes below.

Astron-6 really nailed this one. The Editor is a funny, gory, sleazy and stylish good time that I just can't recommend highly enough. Get it from Shout! Factory here.

*Cattet and Forzani's followup - The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears - didn't live up to the promise of Amer. Still beautiful to look at, but a bit of a chore to sit through.

**Surprisingly, the usually perpetually naked Paz de la Huerta reveals the least flesh here.