Interview with legendary Steve Krusher Joule
Krusher first came to the public's attention in 1982 when he became Art Director of the then Bible of Heavy Metal magazine Kerrang!
Before that he was known as Stephen Joule who had worked as a freelance designer in the music industry since 1976, producing work for the likes of Motorhead, Sammy Hagar, Uriah Heep, Gamma, Girlschool, Blondie and The Sex Pistols.
He has designed album sleeves for Iron Maiden 'Live After Death', Ozzy Osbourne 'Diary of a Madman', 'Speak of the Devil' and 'Bark at the Moon', Hawkwind 'Live ’79', Gary Moore 'Dirty Fingers' and 'Live at the Marquee', Japan ‘Tin Drum’ and Black Sabbath 'Born Again' which apparently Ian Gillan, the then vocalist with the band, was quoted as saying; “I took one look at the cover and puked!”, whilst both Deicide’s Glenn Benton and Soulfly’s Max Cavalera have claimed it to be their favourite album sleeve of all time and it’s believed Kurt Cobain’s mother refused to buy it for his 16th birthday, solely because of the cover!
Also whilst still working for Kerrang! Krusher designed a series of official biography books including Iron Maiden’s 'Running Free', Motley Crue’s 'The First Five Years' and Twisted Sister’s 'The First Official Book' and not forgetting tour programmes for AC/DC, Deep Purple, Robert Plant, Anthrax, Accept and Europe, to name a few.
His work has also included designing and editing the official Donington 'Monsters of Rock' programmes between 1986 and 1996. He has also compered and DJ’ed the festival in 1994, ’95 and ’96.
In 1989 Krusher was offered his own radio rock show, 'Krusher’s Metal Mayhem' by the BBC which he presented on Greater London Radio. He was also approached to host and DJ the rock night at the Hippodrome club in the heart of London’s West End.
It was a club night that would regularly see eighteen hundred people crowd into the venue where they would be treated to impromptu live performances by the likes of Bon Jovi, Skid Row and Motorhead who all frequented the club on a regular basis as did Metallica, Motley Crue and Iron Maiden or whichever rock band was passing through town that week. Unfortunately like all good things both the radio show and the club came to an end, but not before becoming landmarks in the history of London rock.
In 1992 Krusher became co-presenter along with his Jack Russell terrier/Heavy Metal Hunting Hound Bullseye of 'Raw Power' the UK’s only terrestrial TV rock show and voted best TV show in the Kerrang! Readers poll in both 1992 and ’93.
In 1994 the show changed its name to 'Noisy Mothers' a name which Krusher hated, always believing it should have been called 'Watch With Motherfucker' but which again was voted best TV show by Kerrang! and Metal Hammer readers for the next two years. Sadly Christmas 1995 saw the last ever 'Noisy Mothers' broadcast, the powers that be, arsechickens in TV land deciding that rock was a dying industry and therefore warranted no place on our TV screens.
1992 also marked the end of ten gloriously debauched years working as Kerrang! Art Director as the magazine’s new publishers thought that Krusher's behaviour was detrimental to the workings of the office and he was politely told his services would no longer be required. More of which later in the interview.
Many people said that his days had been numbered after pinning the publisher's Managing Director to the wall after a small altercation on the first day in their new offices. Krusher left with no complaints as he could see the magazine was becoming more of an arselicking, corporate piece of shite compared to its glory days.
In 1995 he formed a band with Motorhead guitar hero Wurzel and Johnny Violent, hardcore techno wizard and brains behind the brain disturbing Ultraviolence.
Under the moniker WVKEAF, which stood for Wurzel, Violent, Krusher, Evil As Fuck they recorded and murdered a version of Van Halen’s 'Jump'. It was released in 1996 and is now a most sought after 12 inch piece of vinyl not only by rock DJs but also by dance DJs as it seems to cross the boundaries of both decency and taste as far as both camps are concerned. The band split in 1997 due to horticultural differences.
In 1998 Krusher compered and DJ'ed the UK Ozzfest which resulted in him being offered the whole Ozzfest tour of the US in 1999 with Black Sabbath headlining as well as including bands such as Rob Zombie, Deftones, Slayer, Godsmack, System of a Down, Slipknot and many more.
2000 saw Krusher return to America for that year's Ozzfest again as its compere and DJ, he also popped up doing the same thing at the UK Ozzfest.
Krusher then went on to presenting the drivetime show 'Krusher's Metal Mayhem' for Total Rock but due to unforeseen circumstances and unopened wallets he left and went into semi-retirement, occasionally dragging himself out from under his big, heavy rock to dip his hairy toes back into the media world.
In 2009 the hairy, old git then spent 6 months hosting his Klub Night at the infamous Embassy Club in London, which sadly was too posh for mosh!
June, 2011 was when Krusher, after 40 years of debauchery in London, decided it was time to move to the country where he now resides in a converted barn in the middle of nowhere in Worcestershire.
Verging on being a recluse he now creates art for his own pleasure and occasionally emerges into the real world to DJ at Hard Rock Hell, Hammerfest and Ibiza Road Trip.
HMAW: Hi Steve. Thanks for this interview with Heavy Music Artwork, promoting Heavy Metal as art & culture.
Steve Krusher Joule: No thank you for giving me the chance to be part of your magnificent site. A true honor.
HMAW: Your career has been really eccentric and I am sure you achieved a great deal of satisfaction having worked with some of the greatest artist in the industry. Is the “Devil’s work never done” in the life of Krusher?
Steve Krusher Joule: As an atheist I can’t honestly answer that question, but my work on Ozzy’s ‘Diary Of A Madman’ cover was once claimed to be the work of Satan’s hand!
For those that don’t know the story, for the inside cover I’d hand lettered the lyrics and in 1982 we didn’t have computers, everything was done by hand on sheets of board, with a series of instructions sent to the printer on overlays, however I’d hand lettered the lyrics about 3 times bigger than they would appear on the sleeve, it was much easier to do it that way and then get it reduced to a PMT (Photomechanical transfer) and paste it onto the board the right size for the printer.
What I hadn’t bargained on was when it was reduced the lettering being considerably smaller than the area I’d allowed it to go in (probably due to intoxication) so I found that I had a large area of space to fill. Whilst I’m contemplating this large white space the phone rings, its Ozzy’s manager Don Arden’s office calling me to tell me that a cab was about to leave their offices to pick up the artwork so it could be sent to the printers in America and it would be with me in about 20 minutes.
SHIT!! DON’T PANIC!!
It’s about a 10 mile drive through London for the cab and hopefully the traffic is as shite as it normally is. So in a moment of true inspiration and after a three finger slug of bad whiskey, I picked up a rotring pen and started scribbling in the white space, JUST scribbles, as fast as I could, the only message in it is ‘Pam 4 Mr S’ my girlfriends name at the time and what she used to dearly call me. It’s finished, the cab arrives and off to the US of Decay it goes!!
Many months later I get flown out to Los Angeles to start work on the ‘Speak Of The Devil’ sleeve (that’s a whole other story) and go to visit Sharon in her office which, at the time, was also part of the house that her and Ozzy were then living in.
She was very excited to show me a video, taped from one of the many evangelical TV shows that America is plagued with. It contains some arsechicken telling you to send in money for prayers and save yourself from the Satanic demons of rock music, whilst he’s doing all this nippledonkey shite he’s waving a copy of ‘Diary Of A Madman’ around, he then pulls out the inside sleeve, specifically points at my scribbles and bellows “AND THIS IS THE ACTUAL HAND OF SATAN!!” Laugh, I nearly lost a lung!
So I then hatched the plot to use runes on ‘Speak Of The Devil’.
Is the Devil’s work ever done? In my case… probably!!
HMAW: 10 years working for Kerrang! as art director is incredible… the magazine holds outstanding heritage during the early days… I personally haven’t bought a copy in nearly 20 years. I remember that back in 1993 they started moving away from their roots. What happened? What changed?
Steve Krusher Joule: WOW!! That’s going to bring up some twisted and bitter memories!!
But here goes, on the morning of the 21st of May 1992, almost as soon as I’d finished designing issue 394, Managing Editor, Geoff Barton invited me to join him at the office's local pub ‘The Old Coffee House’.
As it had only just gone eleven in the morning I thought it was a splendid idea and off we went. On our arrival he bought me a pint, and no sooner had I sat down and taken my first sip, he told me that my job position at Kerrang! was being advertised that week in various publications and that I shouldn’t bother applying for it.
My dismissal came as a total shock as in 1990 and 1991 I had been nominated for Designer Of The Year Award at the Professional Publishers Association awards for editorial and publishing excellence and outstanding achievements of the individuals, publications and brands in the British magazine sector. I didn’t win, but it meant that I was considered to be one of the top 5 magazine designers in the country.
To add insult to injury he informed me that as I had no contract with them, something that I’d never thought necessary, they were under no obligation to give me any redundancy pay, but as a gesture of goodwill they were going to give me three month’s pay.
So, after nine years and 359 issues I went back to the office, packed my bag and headed off to the Astoria, where I was on MC and DJ duties for what I believe was the first ever European KISS convention being held there that afternoon. By the end of the day I’d shook hands with KISS, was shattered, titanically pissed and had been offered the job of Art Director on Metal Hammer at almost twice the wages I was earning at Kerrapp!
The real villains of this dastardly act of removing me from the mag were in fact general manager, Dave Henderson and EMAP ex-Ubermeister/Managing Director Herr Tom Maloney, quite possibly the two greatest arsechicken’s to ever walk this planet.
But basically after I went they started a cull of long term Kerrang! Staff that they no longer wanted, replaced them with members of staff from their other rock/metal publication Raw and turned it into Smash Hits.
Tragic loss and one that STILL leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
To be honest there’s a lot more to be said on the downfall of Kerrang! But I’m going to save that for my book and a good set of lawyers!!!!
HMAW: Correct me if I am wrong… in your career you worked as a radio DJ, designer, art director, musician, and club promoter. You must have seen the industry as well as the music scene transforming like no other. Any specifics and advices you would like to share with us.
Steve Krusher Joule: YES! I did all those things and more and my words of advice are… DON’T GET INVOLVED!!
That’s not meant to sound contrived, but in all honesty the music industry is not a nice place to work, unless you’re a ruthless, lying, two faced, selfish bastard of the highest magnitude, then you’ll fit in like a pig in shit!!!
I have two favourite quotes about the music industry;
"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson - 1935 – 2004
“Music industry: A bit of music, a lot of booze, a lot of bullshit, a lot of drugs to combat the bullshit, a broken fist after dealing with the bullshitter. A shit load more booze. Now point me to the bar SCHEWDENTS.” Steve Danger – Wolfsbane
My last word on this subject is get the BEST lawyer you can afford!! I wish I had!!
HMAW: One question I am eager to ask… when we had no design applications like Photoshop, what kind of challenges did you have as designers as well as in art direction?
Steve Krusher Joule: Many, many moons ago when some of you were just a twinkle in your daddy’s eye, the process of making an album sleeve was a slow, ponderous and sometimes painful one.
First you go to the manager’s office were you’d be given the album title, a load of bullshit and if you were very lucky, a finished pre-release cassette of the album to inspire you.
Then you would go back to your pit listen, take drugs, drink copious amounts of alcohol, think and do a series of roughs, usually about two or three different ideas, a rough is an illustration of the basic idea for the cover but really presented as just a quick sketch, I used to use magic markers and black ink for mine, the hardest part of producing a rough for me was to find reference images which I could incorporate/steal, to get the final images floating around my head onto paper, I was never really good at drawing anything unless I could copy it.
A lot of my reference points came from quite a large collection of comics, books and magazines that I had in my studio, but often I had to traipse down to local libraries or second hand book stores to find the magical elements I was seeking.
You would then return to the manager’s office and present the rough ideas to them, usually NO band members present, management would then say which idea they liked, would undoubtedly throw in a couple of their own ridiculous ideas and feed you even more bullshit, you usually compromised between the three just to get out of their office.
Then if the cover was an illustration, back to the studio and bash the bugger out.
If it required a photo shoot a photographer would be taken onboard and then the two of us would go about planning a set or location, build it or find it, take the pics, which when processed the photographer would take to the management, they would eventually chose several pics, eventually I’d get a call that I could go over and see what they had chosen for me to work with and whilst listening to a lot more bullshit I would decide which one would become the cover.
Then back to the studio, get any copy, usually lyrics and credits that needed typesetting and when FINALLY you had all the pieces of the jigsaw you would start pasting, projecting, tracing and finally writing a series of instructions on overlays over the artwork for the printer to know exactly what colours you wanted, and you never knew if it was going to work until you got the first printers proof, then, if you were lucky, everything was good, but a few times changes had to be made, usually adding something in the credits or taking a picture out that management suddenly decided wasn’t quite right.
Really almost, if not, a forgotten art in this day and age.
HMAW: Since the widespread of these programs, digital artists have sprung from all directions… a downfall for creativity or a new renaissance?
Steve Krusher Joule: It definitely is creative but it means a lot more people can be creative with it, which isn’t a bad idea, except the bastards all seem to have good ideas.
A new renaissance, quite probably, it means people can communicate ideas at a much faster rate than thirty years ago.
I wish I had more than a basic understanding of photoshop because it’s such a fast medium to work in, what would have taken me days if not weeks can now be done in an afternoon or a day.
BUT as a lover of science, I bow before it and hope one day I’ll understand the beast.
HMAW: What would you say is your best artwork? The one that better defines an era, a style, a generation….
Steve Krusher Joule: To be honest the one that I’m probably known for best is Sabbath’s ‘Born Again’, which I bashed out in ONE night and at the time really thought ‘how the fooook did I get away with that?’ And got paid almost twice as much as any other cover I’d done, including Ozzy’s, which I NOW LOVE!!
But I guess the one I’m proudest of and really is the full package is Ozzy’s, 1981, ‘Diary Of A Madman’, the great set , brilliantly built by photographer Fin Costello’s work pixies, the ridiculous props, magic alphabets, the hand lettering, Ozzy being as drunk as a skunk at the shoot, Ozzy’s son Louis biting the head off the stuffed dove on the cover, just like daddy and of course becoming ‘THE HAND OF SATAN!!! Haaaaaaaargh!!! Yeah, I love that cover and it definitely sums up the early ’80’s.
Hawkwind’s ‘Live 79’ also has a soft spot in my heart as that was my first ever cover, completely done by hand on the finest acid money could buy! Happy daze!!
HMAW: Both Deicide’s Glenn Benton and Soulfly’s Max Cavalera have stated as their favorite “Black Sabbath – Born Again”. How did the concept developed?
Steve Krusher Joule: Now I’m sure if you’re a Black Sabbath fan, there’s a good chance you’ve read this on the Black Sabbath website www.black-sabbath.com however if you haven’t this is what you’d read.
OK let’s put this baby to rest once and for all. The Black Sabbath ‘Born Again’ album sleeve was designed under extraordinary circumstances; basically what had happened was that Sharon and Ozzy had split very acrimoniously from her fathers (Don Arden) management and record label. He subsequently decided that he would wreak his revenge by re-establishing Black Sabbath (whom he managed at the time) as the best heavy metal band in the world, which, of course they are, but back then in the early ’80’s they weren’t quite the International megastars that they had been in the ’70’s.
His plans included recruiting Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan, getting Bill Ward into rehab and then back in on drums and stealing as many of Sharon and Ozzy’s team as possible and as I was designing Ozzy’s sleeves at the time I of course got asked to submit some rough designs.
As I didn’t want to lose my gig with the Osbourne’s I thought the best thing to do would be to put some ridiculous and obvious designs down on paper, submit them and then get the beers in with the rejection fee, but oh no, life ain’t that easy.
In all I think there were four rough ideas that were given to the management and band to peruse (unfortunately, I no longer have the roughs as I would love to see just how bad the other three were, as sadly my booze and drug addled brain no longer remembers that far back), anyway one of the ideas was of course the baby and the first image of a baby that I found was from the front cover of a 1968 magazine called ‘Mind Alive’ that my parents has bought me as a child in order to further my education, so in reality I say blame my parents for the whole sorry mess. I then took some black and white photocopies of the image (the picture is credited to ‘Rizzoli Press’) that I overexposed, stuck the horns, nails, fangs into the equation, used the most outrageous colour combination that acid could buy, bastardised a bit of the ‘Olde English’ typeface and sat back, shook my head and chuckled.
The story goes that at the meeting Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler were present but no Ian Gillan or Bill Ward. Tony loved it and Geezer, so I’m reliably informed, looked at it and in his best Brummie accent said, “It’s shit… but it’s fucking great!” Don Arden not only loved it but had already decided that a Born Again baby costume was to be made for a suitable little person who was going to wear it and be part of the now infamous ‘Born Again Tour’. So suddenly I find myself having to do the bloody thing. I was also offered a ridiculous amount of money (about twice as much as I was being paid for an Ozzy sleeve design) if I could deliver finished artwork for front, back and inner sleeve by a certain date.
As the dreaded day drew nearer and nearer I kept putting off doing it again and again until finally the day before I sprang into action with the help of a neighbour, (Steve ‘Fingers’ Barrett) a bottle of Jack Daniels and the filthiest speed that money could buy on the streets of South East London and we bashed the whole thing out in a night, including hand lettering all the lyrics, delivered it the next day where upon I received my financial reward.
But that wasn’t the end of it oh no, when Gillan finally got to see a finished sleeve he hated it with a vengeance and hence the now famous quote “I looked at the cover and puked!” Not wanting to sound bitchy but over the years I’ve said the same thing about most of Gillan’s album sleeves. He also allegedly threw a box of 25 copies of the album out of his window. Gillan might have hated it but Max Cavelera (Sepultura, Soulfly) and Glen Benton (Deicide) have both gone on record saying that it is their favourite album sleeve.
Another story that I’ve heard told about the sleeve, and this might just be evil, malicious gossip, but as soon as the first set of printers proofs were delivered to Don Arden’s office, one was put on a bike and sent to Sharon to piss her off as she was in hospital having her and Ozzys first born, Aimee and ever since, the baby on the cover has been known as Aimee, fact or lie… you decide.
And that my friend’s is the story of the Black Sabbath ‘Born Again’ sleeve.
I actually would like to say here that I think it’s absolutely disgraceful the way Bill Ward has been treated by Black Sabbath, and for the FIRST TIME EVER! I first saw them 30th May, 1970, I will be not going to see them!!
Ozzy, Tony and Geezer should be ashamed of themselves for not standing up to management, lawyers and the usual music industry bullshite and INSISTED that Bill got a decent deal!!!
Probably one of the last chances to see one of the few bands from the 1960’s with all original band members, alive, functioning still capable of playing incredibly and what do they do? They turn it into Beige Sabbath!!
HMAW: Also Ozzy early records… very iconic and absolute classics both visually and musically. What would you say are the best creative elements to achieve this level of quality?
Steve Krusher Joule: Cheap whiskey, cheaper speed and lots of good cannabis resin!!! I’m not joking, that was what I used to create those covers.
I should point out that my lifestyle is a much quieter one than 30 years ago, even 2 years ago.
Years of substance abuse, alcohol and a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle took its toll on me and for many years I’ve suffered with depression, something that I hope anyone reading this never has to suffer, it’s an awful illness and if you do, my heart goes out to you, it’s only been the last few months for me that I’ve seen any light at the end of a big, black tunnel!!!
Another thing I used to do was seriously read and study as much information about any drug that I could get my hands on before I took it. Then you know the highs, the lows of the beast you are taking and also any subsequent damage that may occur.
To be perfectly honest, yes, I’ve tried them all!!
Heroin is the most evil drug next to nicotine that I’ve ever taken and THANKFULLY hated, but I’ve lost many friends to it!
Cocaine, well having been privileged to snort 100% pharmaceutical cocaine off the end of Keith Richards dagger, whenever I’ve taken cocaine since, which hasn’t been that often, you realize it’s true, street cocaine is absolutely shite rubbish, if you’re lucky maybe and I mean maybe 10% pure! Waste of money! Waste of time!!
Speed!! Having worked and known Motorhead since 1978 I’ve obviously sniffed, experienced and suffered the hideous come downs!! Fooooookin’ horrible stuff which I now steer clear of! How Lemmy still functions on it is beyond any science we have!!!
Acid, LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate 25). Never do it without a ground control!!
Magic mushrooms do exactly what they’re called but occasionally have a naughty twist to them. Have friends with you and again one whose straight, ground control!
Pot, dope, grass, mary-jane, marihuana I used to be an animal with, and I LOVED EVERY MINUTE! I now have the very odd smoke, usually when I see Philip Anselmo, DJ or on my birthday! They say smoking dope leads to harder drugs, well personally the only place it lead me was into the kitchen, then into the fridge!!!
Alcohol, beware!! Wonderful but so destructive! I was blessed with some abnormal gene because I could drink like a pirate and function, I believe the official term is ‘functioning alcoholic’, but eventually I had to admit it was killing me and cut down, I now drink a maximum of 4 pints of organic cider a week and that will be over 4 days.
One last word, moderation!
HMAW: Bands like Bathory, Angel Witch, Candlemass, Stormwitch, Cryptopsy, etc… have all used art masters from a different time in history. What is your opinion in this matter?
Steve Krusher Joule: I LIKE IT A LOT!!!
I wish more bands would use the classic masters, even better, some of the forgotten masters.
One of my favourite classics is ‘The Fairy Fellers’ Master-Stroke’ by Richard Dadd. This unfinished masterpiece, is generally considered to be Dadd's masterpiece. Painted for H.G. Haydon, an official at Bethlem Hospital, where Dadd was commited after he became insane and murdered his father in 1843. He was transferred to Broadmoor in July 1864, before being able to complete the painting, but he later wrote a long and rambling poem entitled 'Elimination of a Picture & its subject - called The Feller's Master Stroke', which attempts to explain some of the imagery. If you’re ever near the Tate gallery please go and see it. Stunning!
HMAW: In the movie “This is Spinal Tap” the band only sees the cover when the album is out. The movie off course is a parody… but was it really like that in those days?
Steve Krusher Joule: Most definitely, the band would probably be the very last in line to see the finished deal.
I never really had a problem with the album sleeves that I did, but twice I had nightmares with tour programmes.
Motorhead’s 1980 ‘Ace Of Spades’ tour programme. I was given a whole load of approved slides that could be used, and I went off I and did it.
I finally get to see a finished copy that’s been given the manager’s approval, I can’t see anything wrong with it, but sadly the band never got to see the finished programme until about a week before the tour was starting and ‘Fast’ Eddie took great umbridge, in fact he almost had a hairy baby when he saw I’d included a picture of him holding a catch of fish. Eddie was a great fisherman, he absolutely LOVED fishing and I honestly thought that a picture of him by the river bank in his full Motorhead finery, holding a half a dozen trout was a winner, showing a different side to him that perhaps the fans weren’t aware of, but oh no!! Eddie was having non of it and the 5,000 programmes that had been printed had to be pulped and the picture replaced with him ROCKING OUT MOTORHEADSTYLEEE!!!!
The other programme was for Black Sabbath’s 1980 tour with Ronnie James Dio, which remarkably was called ‘The Heaven & Hell Tour’. Again 5,000 programmes had been printed and the band hadn’t seen them!! With days before the tour starting Geezer was grumbling that he didn’t get mentioned enough in the copy and there was “no foooookin way that you’re selling them at the gigs!”
So this time a compromise was arranged, we’d got the writer to change the copy on one page and give Geezer his bloody mentions, then we’d get 5,000 stickers printed the size of that page, get a bunch of people together who loved staying up all night, snorting cocaine and especially loved sticking stickers in programmes!! GREAT NIGHT!!!
HMAW: Thanks so much for this interview.
Steve Krusher Joule: THANK YOU!! I honestly hope that this is ok and if you’ve heard the stories before, I apologise, if you haven’t, I sincerely hope that it might inspire at least one person who reads it and then I can rest easy.
ROCK HARD! ROCK HEAVY!! ROCK ANIMAAAAAAAAAAAAL!!!!
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