Friday, 13 April 2012

INTERVIEW - Dan Seagrave

Dan Seagrave is a British artist, who has created many record covers for a number of high profile death metal bands, especially in the early 1990s. He grew up in Ravenshead, near Nottingham but currently lives in Toronto, Canada. His paintings are well known for their high levels of detail. Dan was kind enough to answer some questions for Chamber Of Ages regarding his work and career so far.

COA: How did you get started doing album covers? The first one you did was for Lawnmower Deth, is that correct?

DS: That's right – I knew them from my home town, ‘Ravenshead, near Nottingham’. They mentioned they’d got a record deal, and I asked if they had a cover, which they had, but I told them I was going to do one anyway, which took a few weeks, and they ended up using it – an unlikely start which led to more work over the course of time.

COA: How long does it usually take you to complete a piece of work?

DS: 1-3 weeks. Inspiration depends again on the concept; if there is an idea and they want 10 specific things to be represented in an illustration, then it comes down to building composition and shapes to drop those preordained ideas into. If the client has just a title and a vauge idea, then I can get more imaginative. I don’t have too many scrapped paintings, though more recently I have been abandoning work if I don’t like the way it’s going, and those will be destroyed.

COA: Do you have a particular favourite out of all your paintings?

DS: There is not one I feel close to, as such. I was a teenager when I started doing album art, so you can imagine that I was not at an advanced skill level then, so I can forgive myself for any poor early work.

COA: Are there any paintings you weren’t happy with that still ended up as an album cover? Do you remember any covers that had particularly tight deadlines?

DS: Yeah there have been a few I wasn’t happy with, but no one really cares about some bad painting I did – least of all me. Deadlines… it depends if you have enough time to do the job the way it needs to be done – that is important to pay attention to.

COA: Are you able to make a decent living being an artist? I'm aware that you did some early work for free, so have you gained any royalties since?

DS: I’ve been very lucky and branched out into other rewarding artistic areas over the years. With band art, I have encountered a few problems where I should have made money from royalties on T-shirts and other merchandised products. Earache Records blatantly ripped me off with illegal products for the Morbid Angel “Gateways..” album. They actually licensed the print to other companies without my agreement. I got a lawyer involved, but realised it would not be worthwile doing anything from a financial perspective – to me that’s just petty and deceitful, not to mention disrespectful. I prefer not to say what I charge, as it varies on many levels, and because of those additional fees where alternative products are concerned.

COA: Do you use any modern technology when creating or is it still all paint and canvas? Were you ever into any other mediums?

DS: Around 1994 there was an upcoming cheaper option to do photoshop covers everyone was doing. I went to the States and Toronto to do other art. I got into mural design, and just experimenting with other ideas. To me the DM era is like the punk movement. It had it’s time, yet punk is still around, and so is death metal. I just followed my own path, I was never tied to the music biz; it came and went, and I wasn’t hung up on it. I suppose I also had enough of the same kind of requests. I was also looking to work with other artists and have a less insular life.

COA: Do you actually like Death Metal?

DS: I have not claimed to be into Death Metal, but then I never considered myself to be really into any scene or elitst group. I’m basicly an outsider who neither conforms to one group or another, whether it be music, art or whatever – I keep an open mind about most things and appreaciate the talent or the craftsmanship that I see within and edit out the stuff I don’t like.

COA: Have you met up with any of the bands you did covers for?

DS: I met Dismember a few years ago in London, a nice bunch. To be honest I haven’t listened to their CDs for ages, so I wouldn’t be able to judge. I've also met Morbid Angel , Entombed,  Napalm Death to name a few...

COA: Are you signed to any labels at present or are you a free agent?

DS: I am a free agent –nobody has me under contract, so either a band or a label will contact me if that’s what I’m doing, or someone looking for a private commission. –Work comes via e-mail through my web site or word of mouth, I never advertised myself.

COA: On a final note, do you still find enjoyment in painting?

DS: It is much better than sitting at a computer, and it’s easy to forget that. I like the idea that I will have some things to leave behind, some physical evidence that I did something. Art is one of the best things to have as a legacy, as it does tend to find a home and be appreciated in times to come, and generally doesn’t devalue. But I would say I’m still at a very early stage as an artist.

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