The art of E-Kunst
Mostly known as the founder of the record label Season of Mist, Michael S. Berberian has been using metal festival for years as an alibi to visit the world and its museums. E-Kunst combines those passions.
HMA: How the idea developed in creating a store dedicated to metal related artwork? I believe you also had a change of brand from Graphic Noise?
Michael Berberian: The poster art format is very much alive and important in the US, especially in rock music. I decided to transpose that idea to extreme metal, where it was absent. Besides that, the extreme metal scene is by now mature enough for concepts like this, both artistically (the current quality of album covers has in my opinion improved a lot since the early 2000s) and as a cultural group. Metal used to be young people’s music with band posters, now it’s a young adult and more mature group, who can spend $50 on a real piece of well printed art, frame it, etc.
Concerning the change of brand name: when I started this project, I had the idea but not the IT knowledge, so I partnered up with a friend – who went through a rough patch with his work, mainly to try and help him up. Of course, in the end he used his IT knowledge to block me out of my own site and blackmail me for money. Sad story of a sad person. So I lost the brand and had to restart from zero. Thankfully this is a work of passion for me and not a financial necessity.
HMA: Considering your long standing in the industry with Season of Mist and now with E-Kunst, what is the market like? Are people conscious to metal visual creativity?
MB: It’s a slow process but they are starting to be. Most people can’t fathom spending 50€ on a hand-printed poster, but will spend 40€ on a hooded sweatshirt while they already have dozens of those, or on some limited edition live LP they’ll listen to once or twice. So, it’s about creating awareness. 90% of the metal people out there still don’t know this exist. Also, it’s surprising to see that bands bringing screen-prints on tour in the US would sell all quite fast, while in Europe they’ll find themselves stuck with leftovers at the end of the tour… So yeah, again, this is a work of passion and honestly not a money-making endeavor, as it’s going to take a long while to get people to notice that if you wear a metal shirt, you could replace the Aunt Irma landscape painting with an awesome screen print that actually represents you and your personal taste.
HMA: Do you get involved in the creative process in developing a new band?
MB: No, never. In the first place because I’m not an artist. We can at best advise bands on the business side of music (and hope that they’ll listen), but that’s it. Furthermore, if we would get involved, we’d turn into big cigar smoking capitalists trying to interfere with the art of “real” people and additionally compromise their integrity. Some bands are a bit cleverer and ask us for our opinion. After all, I have released more than 400 records and have been doing that for over 20 years, so it must count for something. But those are the exception.
HMA: I would imagine you have artists from all over the world, sending you their profile. Is there anything you like to advise?
MB: If you’re referring to poster artists, I don’t really have an advice to give to them as it’s completely arbitrary. I’ll feature them on E-Kunst if I like them. There’s no real other criteria to be honest. So just send me a link to your portfolio!
HMA: What kind of customer do you attract? I would imagine metal or art collectors… how about people outside the metal community, do you think there is awareness in the art community?
MB: Based on our experience with festival exhibitions, our main audience is part of the middle class, metal fan, older than 30 years and wants to frame a nice piece of art in his apartment or house. Usually our customers are a bit more refined. This is more Roadburn than Wacken, if you see what I mean.
HMA: Lastly, what your top five 5 Season of Mist album artworks?
MB: Couldn’t decide on 5, so here are 7.
One Zbigniew M. Bielak, for example Watain ‘Lawless Darkness’, or Zhrine’s ‘Unortheta’
Septic Flesh ‘Communion’ by Seth Anton Siro
‘Skuggsja’ by Costin Chioreanu
‘Menace’ by Adrien Bousson
Obsidian Kingdom ‘Mantiis’
Ken Mode ‘Success’
Imperium Decadenz “Procella Vadens”
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2017 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.