May 2, 2017

Artist Profile With Alex MORKH Shadrin From Nether Temple Design.

Artists play a pivotal role in the underground, from the creation and design of artwork and layout for music, to designing merchandise. As such the artist is responsible for creating a vital first impression of any album, EP or 7". Due to this I felt it would be good to catch up with some of the underground's finest artists to gain some insight into their work, their taste in music and their views on the current state of extreme music. I will be posting more of these profiles in the future, but for now here's the first...Read on for the an in-depth and fascinating profile of one of the underground's busiest and most talented artists, Alex MORKH Shadrin from Nether Temple Design.

By Trevor Proctor with Alex MORKH Shadrin.

Hi Alex, thank you very much for agreeing to work with me on a profile of your art for The Lair of Filth, your time taken to answer these questions is greatly appreciated as is your contribution to our underground, it will be great for our readers to get an insight into you and your work.
Could you possibly tell us a little about Nether Temple Design, its history, work etc.?

Nether Temple Design was established in 2015, the name embodies the essence of my art. All my pieces are but passages to my inner temple of dark worship. A viewer may either take a particular passage or turn away to cling to the comforting, if fragile, facade of reality. There's no real history as such to Nether Temple Design, just me building this temple in the pits of my obscure thoughts and soul to separate the visual art for the chosen ones - it's halls exist in the other, most darkened planes and my art creates the portals to it's darkness.

Were you always interested in art as a child and was it your always an ambition to work as an artist?

To tell the truth, the thought of being an extreme metal artist had never occurred to me at the time. When I was a kid, like most boys, I used to draw tanks and planes, that kind of stuff.  In my teenage years as I got into metal I used to replicate the iconic album covers of Manowar, Iron Maiden, and Kreator, but nothing serious came out of that back then.  However, I do remember the very first metal artwork that ignited that spark for the future - it was the cover of  the “Death Metal” compilation by Noise Records.  Those red and bluish drawings silently spoke to the metal artist in me who one day would awaken from slumber.
(The artwork featured below is the only art featured in this article that isn't the creation of Nether Temple Design.)

Which came first – your love for art, or your love for underground music and which bands and styles of music do you listen to the most?

To me underground music and the art accompanying this music form a single piece of Art.  Yes, I know a lot of people couldn't care less about the artwork as long as the music is great but to me the visual essence is nearly just as vital. It creates a certain atmosphere, and sets a certain stage as you’re listening to the record.  I can make a 90% correct guess about the style and QUALITY of music on an album just by looking at the artwork.   
The only time I am not listening to music is when I'm sleeping, and sometimes  I may be listening to something even then. I'm a total maniac when it comes to music. For the most part it's black/death stuff like TeitanbloodArchgoat, Blasphemy, Qrixkuor, Antediluvian, Wargoat, Mefitic, Bestial Raids, Beherit, Cruciamentum, Grave Miasma, Sonne Adam etc.  
I also like some  classic heavy metal, speed and thrash like old Kreator, Sodom, Rigor Mortis, Poison (Germany), Sacrifice, Infernal Majesty, Razor, early Manowar, old Judas Priest, Sentinel Beast, the first Blind Guardian… 
However, I feel I should list a few more bands, as I myself enjoy reading what my favorite artists listen to -  Abigor, Cultes des Ghoules, Master’s Hammer, Dead Can Dance, Thy Darkened Shade, old Paradise Lost, Enforcer, Eternal Champion, Gravebreaker… the list could be never-ending…

What were your original hopes and ambitions when you established your studio and do you feel you have achieved these over the past number of years?

I had neither hopes nor expectations, I just reckoned it would be easier to present my art on a separate Facebook page rather than on my personal page so that He-Who-Seeks finds it.  To quote a certain band “this is more to me than just a job." That is, I create art for my own pleasure and just let the things unfold naturally with no far-reaching plans.  

What was the first album cover art you ever created, and if you were to create it again today would it differ from the original piece? Also, which design(s) are you most proud of and why?

It was the cover art for “Disease to Divide” album by the US death metal band Thevetat. Of course today being more experienced I would do things differently but it still holds a special place in my heart, it reminds me of the artwork of early demos of my favorite death bands. It just reeks of that primal sincerity and rawness. 
As for the artwork I’m most proud of… I put a piece of me into each piece by me (now how’s that for Communion) so all of my work is my own flesh and blood. I guess “The Funeral Mysteries” thus far is a thinnest-veiled portal to the Beyond - both are featured below:


If a band you’re not familiar with approaches you to create art for them do you give their music a listen before deciding whether, or not, to work with them and do you have a selection process to help you decide which band(s) to work with?

Hearing a band’s music and reading some lyrics is a prerequisite. I try to cooperate with bands whose material I personally like. So far I’ve been both lucky and privileged to have great bands as my customers so there hasn’t been a case yet when I've had to politely tell a band to fuck off.

Have you, or would you, ever decline working with a band based on their beliefs and/or lyrical topics?

I have yet to see a Christian band or whatever requesting artwork from me, haha. On the other hand, gore-themed art is not my bag (of bones) either. I’m just not interested in that, having said that, I love old Carcass.  

The extreme metal underground is experiencing a particularly productive period at present, has this boost in popularity also boosted requests from bands and labels for your work and do you think extreme metal will have the same audience in five years’ time?

Rock’n’Roll in general and extreme music in particular have many times been buried, exhumed, reburied and re-exhumed again. What we observe now is a quite lively, if rotten, corpse. 
Re-animator’s immortal words “looks like rigor mortis is setting in” do not apply to the state of extreme metal as yet.  Shallow shell bands crack, and fashion comes and goes. However, those who are in it for real, they always endure. New talented bands appear and dig the graveyard soil to reach their listeners - that’s unfortunately how it’s always going to be, I think.  

Could you describe a typical working day, or is there such a thing in your life?

Besides rendering the metal art I also have a regular job five days a week, from 9am to 5pm. Therefore I can only start creating something once I get home. However, often visions from the dark side appear in my mind while daydreaming at work, haha.  In general, I think it's impossible to come up with a “schedule” for inspiration and imagination. 

Obviously time scales differ between pieces but, on average, how long does it take to you to design and create a cover for an album?

It usually takes two weeks to two months on average.  I can do things faster, sure, but this is the time frame I feel comfortable with in terms of coming up with a concept, making sketches etc. 
It’s in everybody’s best interest that I’m not disturbed by my impatient (if passionate) customers during this time frame. I may wander around a blank canvas, piece of paper, or PC screen for days as desperate as Moses must have been in that biblical desert and then suddenly an idea makes its dark descent upon my mind.   

Have you any sort of preparation to get yourself in the right frame of mind for creating your art and is there a particular time of day when you work best?

I need solitude and the right kind of music to draw or paint to. When I start with a basic concept I always use the band’s music. But at later stages I often turn on Lux OccultaKołysanki.” It evokes that special aura of estrangement and helps me concentrate. 

What’s your favourite medium to use when creating art, do you prefer working with paint, pencils etc.?

Since I don’t come from professional circles I am devoid of any limitations in terms of what technique or what medium I can or cannot use for such and such purpose.  I try everything that I have at hand which serves my purpose. Every medium can become THE MEDIUM at the right moment. 

What’s the most exciting project you’re currently working on?

Right now I am designing a new album cover for a good friend of mine, Ludo Evil of the mighty Melek-Tha. Also work is in progress for Funeral Rites, Wargoat, Darkreverie, Veter Daemonaz, Persecutory

Have you ever designed artwork for a band, only for them not to like it or not use it? If so, what happens then, do you have to start over?

It did happen once but I only learned about it when I saw that the band used different artwork.  I don’t sweat on it, though, it is but a “working moment”, as we say here in Russia.  

One of your most recent pieces of art is the fantastic ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony,’ which you unveiled on Facebook a few weeks ago, was this created for a specific band?

Thank you for your kind words, Trevor! No, it was not done for a specific band. However, it’s available on Nether Temple Design Facebook page should a specific band wish to claim it as their own.  

Have you ever created artwork for non-metal bands, and if so, could you tell us about the design(s)?

I have, a few times, those were mostly Photoshop collages. I also contributed some design ideas for a great fun punk/crossover band from Russia called Socks for Cocks (which incidentally features Raattent, a former guitarist/vocalist of my old band Morbid Lust) who recently recorded an album with guests from such cult 80's bands as Lawnmower Deth and Rumble Militia.  

Which three bands, past or present, would you most like to design an album cover for?

I already had one such opportunity, I recently created the artwork for the new Father Befouled album, as pictured below. My own views and those of Justin Stubbs on art aesthetics have so much in common. 
I would also love to do something for Abigor and some band in the vein of Teitanblood.

Have you ever been asked to design a tattoo for someone and if not would you ever consider doing so?

Yes I have.  When it comes to tattoos, I‘d rather do something of my own instead of following someone else’s strict brief though.

You’ve created art for some of the underground’s finest releases of recent years, featuring amongst many others, Infernal Curse, Sacrocurse, Tetragrammacide, Voidnaga and Serpents Athirst – is this choice of band to work with a reflection of your own taste in music?

Yes it is indeed. I feel most comfortable working for bands whose taste in music reflects my own. Pure evil, cavernous and raw.

You designed the phenomenal art work for the triple gatefold vinyl edition of the Lord of Depression, Tetragrammacide and Infernal Sacrament split – are you happy with how the art for this turned out and was it your first time working with Larval Productions?

This was my first working experience with Larval Productions and I have to say I’m very pleased with how the overall process came out. Rudo (Larval Productions boss) gave me complete creative freedom and only made technical suggestions, he is totally cool to work with. 

You recently designed the latest Iron Bonehead Productions hoodie, how happy are you with the final product and have you created art for clothing, patches etc. much in the past?

T-shirt designs are a big part my work, I’ve never designed patches specifically though a few designs of mine later were used in patches. As for the Iron Bonehead hoodie – it has turned out better than I had ever expected, just great! 
I should mention here that working with Patrick is really rewarding. He doesn’t pester you or set limits on your artistic expression but his suggestions are always spot on.  Besides, he’s a great person to speak with and he shows some good taste in music, I am really looking to working with him again. 

You also designed the new frame for the Eldritch Lunar Miasma website, do you also enjoy this type of work and is site design something you’ll pursue much in the future?

I am totally lame when it comes to web-design. But as you can see with Eldritch Lunar Miasma, art-wise I’m able to come up with something worthwhile if a customer knows exactly what they want. 

You’re also heavily involved as vocalist for two excellent bands, Serpentrance and Sickrites – could you tell us about both and have you any releases or gigs planned for either and did you design the art for these bands’ releases?

I manage the design matters of all these bands except Sickrites, where all the artwork is under command of my friend & colleague Horth (also Goatpsalm and Jyotiṣavedāṅga.) Also, right now I’m involved in four bands:
1 - Sickrites – an entity spawned forth by three individuals, new offerings are slowly but surely being prepared at the altar.  Sickrites is purely a studio project due to vast expanses of land, and sometimes water, separating the three of us.    
2) Serpentrance – a pitch black spirit, a cacophony  heard in the chasms of hell. Unlike Sickrites, Serpentrance gigs are not impossible, but still damn hard to arrange due to great distances between the band members. 
The other two bands are from my hometown: 
3) Abyssfire  - currently recording a mini album.
4) Vhorthax – my own project with Abyssfire members. Primitive cavernous black/death metal – four tracks have been recorded for a mini album.  Ludo Evil from Melek-Tha contributed to the Intro and Outro, there’s also some session work but it’s too early to make any announcements.   

Between performing for these bands and working in Nether Temple Design you have an extremely busy schedule, what do you do to relax, and am I right in saying spare time is rare for you?

You wouldn’t believe how lazy I am at times, but once I realize how much I need to do (again), I get shell-shocked. My relaxation is listening to music and… drawing.

Perhaps an unfair question to answer but if you were ever forced to make a choice between performing for these bands or creating and designing art for Nether Temple Design which would you select and why? 

That’s an impossible choice indeed. I guess I’d make a false promise that I’d go on with either of the two but then I’d just keep doing both.

How strong is the Russian underground presently and are there many bands, aside from Sickrites and Serpentrance, which we should be aware of?

I don’t follow the Russian underground that closely. But there are a lot of great bands over here who have yet to carve their path to the worldwide audience.  You seldom find such perseverance and determination as with bands like Pseudogod. If I start listing the bands I’ll sure forget some, but off top of my head I would say that Ulvdalir, Blackdeath, Old Wainds, SS-18, Grey Heaven Fall, Deathmoor, Merknet, Veter Daemonaz, Teitanfyre, Orthank, and Storming Darkness deserve a mention.

Alex, thank you very, very much for taking the time to answer these questions – any closing comments are all yours…..

Let me bid you farewell with the words of Voltaire: You must have the Devil in you to succeed in the arts.

I'd like to take this opportunity to express my thanks and appreciation to Alex Shadrin for working on this article with me over the past few weeks - a lot of time was spent creating this, for which I'm extremely grateful. Please go to the Nether Temple Design Facebook page to see a lot more work from this remarkably talented artist and musician.

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