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.

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