Heavy Music Artwork speaks to a prolific Metal Artist Marcelo Vasco
Marcelo Vasco is a cover artist from Carlos Barbosa/RS - Brazil, involved in creating cover arts since the middle of 90’s. Marcelo’s work is primarily focused on projects for the printed media, especially published as digital illustrations, CD/LP/DVD/BLURAY/BOOK covering, merchandise & apparel, promotional design and campaigns for the metal music industry. He works as a freelancer from small to major worldwide bands and labels, and since 2007 he is on board as the in-house designer for the biggest Norwegian label and distribution Indie Recordings. He has worked for bands like Soulfly (Max Cavalera), Dimmu Borgir, Dark Funeral, Obituary, Borknagar, Vader, Belphegor, Enslaved, Satyricon, Gorgoroth, Keep of Kalessin, Vital Remains, Chrome Division, among many others. He his recognized by the media as one of the greatest graphic artists of his generation in his category and had his work published in books dedicated to Heavy Metal art. The most recent release “The Art of Metal”, from the renowned music journalists Malcolm Dome and Martin Popoff, with the foreword by Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead). Titles also include “Metal & Hardcore Graphics” and “Pandemonium” app for iPad, iPhone and Android, both edited by Cristian Campos.
HMA: Great to have you and welcome to our site.
Marcelo Vasco: Really cool, Alex! My pleasure! Thanks for the invitation and interest on my artwork.
HMA: How did you get into Heavy Metal art?
Marcelo Vasco: I think I became an art fan before start to listen Heavy Metal music. I remember when I was young at school… I was simply fanatic for drawing monsters and that kind of things, probably due my passion for horror and sci-fi movies that I have ever since I was a kid. Then at some point a colleague brought me a cassette with an awesome monster on the cover. This album was “Killers” from Iron Maiden. Then I started to draw many “Eddies” (…laughter) and instantly came my interest in Heavy Metal. It was pretty early, around 85’ or 86’ if I remember well. After that I started to buy Heavy Metal vinyls with those amazing big covers and my life changed! My first LP was “Creatures of the Night” from Kiss that I still have to date. Of course there’s a long long history since then but that was the very first step. At that time drawing was just a hobby, I was just a kid and I wasn’t very good to be honest (…laughter). So in the middle of 90’s with my first personal computer came the main interest for the graphics and design in general. I did some raw shit for my own bands and friends but only by 99’ I started to dedicate myself more seriously and take it more professionally.
HMA: Do you have art related training or education?
Marcelo Vasco: Yes, I’m graduated in Graphic Design and it was important to me, considering it as a general overview for my job and to get a proper vision of the big picture, although almost everything I do in my artwork I didn’t learn in the University I must confess.
HMA: What was it like to grow up in Carlos Barbosa, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil?
Marcelo Vasco: Actually I was born in Rio de Janeiro and I lived there up until 2008. I came to Carlos Barbosa still in 2008 to have a more peaceful and quiet life, after that I decided to work as Heavy Metal artist in full time. It’s a small city in the mountains of the extreme south region of Brazil, surrounded by a stunning nature and landscapes. Here I can get inspired and produce much more. Rio de Janeiro is great, a big city, beautiful in parts and there’s also other positive points, but I’m really not into that big cities chaotic life, you know… I prefer to keep the chaos only in my art, symbolically. And at last but not least, I’m not a fan of hot weather, beaches or carnival (…laughter) although my childhood was amazing there.
HMA: Did your surrounding influence your art and personality?
Marcelo Vasco: Yes, I think so… But not completely! Sometimes I just try to catch the feeling from the band and the concept of the music. My job is always to find the best way to represent an idea in the best visual approach and effective way! As the result comes out from my mind, of course there’s my personal vision inserted on it somehow. But as I mentioned in the question before, I consider myself a quiet and sober person and I don’t like so much chaos surrounding me. I try to express my chaos and excitement in my art. The result is not necessarily part of my personality but surely part of how I can understand that environment.
HMA: What aspect of your art do you feel are 100% your own and not so much from the music? In other words what type of elements are distinctively yours?
Marcelo Vasco: I think I have my own style or at least I’m marching forward to improve this day by day, so this personal touch will be present in each piece of my work, being for a hard rock or a death metal band. I’m always trying to learn and develop my own identity and “trace”. The music is a very important part in this process but I don’t think it’s really primal. I create an illustration before listen one single riff from a band. Sometimes it happens! The artwork is done based on ideas and conceptions, not necessarily based on the musical style. Although when the art is transmitting the right feeling of the album conception and also fits perfectly the music is the best.
HMA: Are bands usually involved in your designs?
Marcelo Vasco: Sure, it’s always great to have the bands giving directions, ideas and references. It helps a lot but also not to spend time in a wrong draft or something like that. But I don’t let it be an intervention in my work… If I consider the band feedback not to be valid or helpful I surely skip that. I don’t like to be used as a mechanical tool, if you know what I mean. Usually my best works happen when the band gives me the freedom to brainstorm the basic idea and create my own landscape around the concept.
HMA: Do you have a creative routine or pretty much the freestyle type of process?
Marcelo Vasco: Definitely the freestyle process is the best and the one I adopt when I can. Sometimes I just can’t do it due the daily rush and tiny deadlines, of course. In fact that’s the main “problem” for this kind of job. We’re not always inspired and creative, then sometimes it’s too hard and takes time until we complete an artwork. I don’t like at all to be pushed when I’m going through a not inspired moment… I normally hate my job and the results when I’m facing bad periods like this. Occupational hazard!!!
HMA: A lot of your pieces are beautifully chaotic and rich with many symbols. You surely don't go by the cliche motto “less is more”, but more like “more is more”. How do you know when to stop adding new elements?
Marcelo Vasco: Haha interesting question! You’re right… My arts are usually the most infernal representation of chaos, always very detailed and bringing a strong conception. I think this is part of the Heavy Metal aura and cames from my natural “school”… I grew up amazed with Iron Maiden vinyl covers, so colorful and rich in details. It’s funny because I can discover new details in these covers all the time. But believe it or not, in my mind I do have this cliche quote “less is more”. I really appreciate clean and simple ways of art and design and I try to apply it to my chaotic art. I mean, even in chaos must be order. Usually I need to look a new illustration for days until get what shouldn’t be there or get the feeling to add a new element or adjust something.
HMA: How best would you describe your methods of work?
Marcelo Vasco: I’m not sure how to describe this to be honest… Let’s try… 99% of my work are made in front of my computer I would say. I rather hand-draw in paper or anything like that. I’m not so good on drawings by freehand, and then I only get a pencil and paper when I have to draft a necessary rough etc. That’s my last option I must say. Other than that I prefer already sit in my desk and start to rough in Photoshop. When I reach a draft good enough to show to my client. Once approved, I work hard on this making everything better… adjusting details, adding textures, improving colors and finally finishing it.
It’s important to say that my work is different from a drawer or painter process. Many people don’t understand it very well (…laughter) I work with mixed media, especially photo manipulation. I’m not saying my work is harder than others, but it’s different and some ideas in practice just can’t fit or can take an impracticable time to be completed. Usually it takes from a week to a month or two, to complete a cover, for example. It’s not a fast and simple task as some people think (…laughter). There are no huge mysteries and there isn’t a formula to be followed. It’s not a mechanical process or something that goes in a chronological order. Ah, and sometimes I also have to photograph models or even my own stock photos to get a specific texture or element that I eventually need.
HMA: Most of your work is music related. Why have you picked up this medium to express your artistic qualities?
Marcelo Vasco: Well, despite my music taste have been forged from the art interest as I said at the beginning of this interview, I must admit that my real passion during my all life until today is the music. Everything related to that fascinates me and the visual approach really catches me… I risk saying that I can live without doing my job, but I can’t fucking live at all without music! Weird to think and say that, but that’s the true… At the end one thing is part of other and it’s all art in a general conception.
HMA: Have you done work outside the music business?
Marcelo Vasco: Yes, I did many jobs like this in the past. Nowadays is rare but I still do when I have enough free time or when I really like the artistic purpose. Generally when it happens it’s something related to movies/books, clothing or sports. Sometimes is good to do different things and develop my other perspective on art.
HMA: I believe you are the in house designer for Norwegian label Indie Recordings. Many designers/artists would kill or sacrifice a virgin for that type of job. What type of challenges and benefits would you say are part of your role?
Marcelo Vasco: Yes, I have been working for Indie Recordings since 2007. They’re a big European label/distribution and the biggest one in the Scandinavian dedicated to Metal. They do a great job and it’s a pleasure to be part of a professional and extremely qualified staff. I learned a lot during these last 6 years, I made fantastic friends and I love to work for them. That’s the benefit! I hope I can continue this partnership for a long time. For me Norway is already as my second home. The challenges are the same in any kind of job. It’s not easy when we face rush periods with tiny deadlines and tons of projects on the table. It’s a lot stress. But we have to be intensely focused, dedicated, working as hell, being fast and reaching the best result and solution possible.
HMA: Thanks for being part of Heavy Music Artwork
Marcelo Vasco: Thank you, Alex!!! Cheersss!!!
Interview by Alex Milazzo - Copyright 2013 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.