February 17, 2018

Artist Profile with Mark Riddick - Riddickart.

Last year I had the honour and pleasure of creating artist profiles with two of the underground's most talented, prolific and respected artists.
In May the first was created in conjunction with Alex MORKH Shadrin from Nether Temple Design who is also an active member of Vhorthax, Serpentrance and Sickrites. The second artist profile was published in July and featured Daniel Corcuera (Nekronikon) who, in addition to being an extremely talented artist and tattooist is also a member of Chilean band, Slaughtbbath.
Due to the popularity of these features I approached another exceptionally talented artist, Mark Riddick, who is one of the busiest and most respected artists around. In addition to his work as an artist Mark is also a past/present member of several bands, including Fetid Zombie, Macabra and Grave Wax. Mark's output as a musician is almost as prolific as his artwork so, to this end, this profile is also interspersed with active streams of his music.
It is with huge honour along and eternal thanks to Mark that I can now reveal our latest artist profile.
Read on for an in-depth profile featuring several examples of Mark's work as an artist, along with multiple music streams from his many bands.
I'd like to express huge thanks to Mark for his time, effort and keenness to participate along with the high volume of top quality artwork, music and answers he generously provided me with.
I (Trevor) and The Lair of Filth are also immensely proud to be displaying the Lair of Filth logo and artwork (above) that Mark created specifically for us - these, along with everything else, are HUGELY APPRECIATED.

By Trevor Proctor with Mark Riddick.

Hi Mark, I hope all’s well with you and thanks for agreeing to work with me on this Artist Profile for The Lair of Filth. As we’ll soon discover, you’re an extremely busy man who’s one of the underground’s leading and most talented artists as well as a musician in a number of extreme music groups, so the time taken to answer these questions is very much appreciated by myself.

Was it always an ambition of yours to become an artist and were you always interested in art as a child? Also, could you please share some details around what motivated you to become an artist and when you started pursuing a career in art?

To begin, thank you for the generous introduction and for your willingness to feature my artwork and musical endeavors through the Lair of Filth; your time and support is greatly appreciated.
In regard to my motivation to become an artist, it began in my youth around the age of six. I had an interest in being creative and drawing subjects like dinosaurs, spaceships, knights, and anything that captured my young imagination. I can recall visiting record stores with my parents and always being enamoured by heavy metal album covers from bands like Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, etc. Seeing those record covers for the first time on the stores shelves was an epiphany for me and from that point on I knew that I wanted to draw heavy metal album covers.
In addition to heavy metal album art, I was also enamoured by comic books, which was moreover nurtured by my aunt and uncle’s involvement in the industry. Both were instrumental in the genesis of independent and underground comic book publishing. My aunt and uncle worked on ground-breaking titles like Wimmin’s Comix and Star Reach, eventually moving on to working for more mainstream titles like Iron Man, Batman, Teen Titans, etc. This exposure opened me up to more creative possibilities but it wasn’t until 1991 that I began taking full advantage of my art abilities when I was introduced to the underground metal scene. I discovered the underground scene after I purchased a demo tape from the band Arghoslent at a local record store. The demo inlay had the band’s address on it so I began exchanging letters with their guitarist, Alex, who would enclose fliers advertising other underground bands, fanzines, and record labels from around the world. I began writing to other bands and fanzines, hence expanding my network and building opportunities to publish my artwork. I haven’t stopped since.

What were your hopes and ambitions when you started to pursue this career and do you feel you’ve achieved these over your many years as an artist?

In my youth, my hope and ambition was to see my work in print. I had an admiration for artists like Pushead, Ed Repka, Dan Seagrave, Vincent Locke, Chris Moyen, and others who were able to establish themselves as visual artists within the heavy metal music genre. I aspired to support the music I listened to by contributing to it in a visual way just as the aforementioned had done. I do feel as though I have achieved this ambition however it wouldn’t be possible without the inspiration from other artists coupled with my own work ethic and genuine passion for creativity.

You’ve been involved in the underground for a long time, both as an artist and musician—which came first, your love of art or your love for extreme music? Also, if you were ever forced to give up either being a musician or being an artist which would you select and why?

My passion for art came before my passion for writing and recording music. I can recall enjoying art as early as age six. Although I had a curiosity about the music my parents listened to, it wasn’t until age 10 that I began listening to heavy metal; I didn’t pick up my first instrument until age 12. I would most certainly give up my musical abilities before my art abilities. Art comes easier to me, I spend more energy on it, I’ve found more success in it, and I gain more solace in it than my musical endeavors.

We’ll discuss your Morbid Visions book and other publications you’ve featured in later but I understand you have a twin brother named Mike who wrote the introduction for the book, does his writing the introduction mean he has similar tastes in music etc. to you, or are his tastes and hobbies completely different to yours?

Yes, my twin brother Mike and I were both active in the underground death metal scene at the same time. Although he listens to metal, he doesn’t have much time these days to fully embrace or seek out new bands the way that I do. He does run a record label and distribution service, Metalhit, wherein he represents several underground labels (Hell’s Headbangers, Dark Descent, Doomentia, Agonia, Drakkar, etc.) and gets their titles digitally distributed through all of the major retailers (iTunes, Amazon. Spotify, etc.), and handles physical product distribution to North American independent store fronts. 
He still has a hand in the metal music industry however it is more behind the scenes type work. We also played together in a few death metal bands: Unearthed, Excrescent, and Grave Wax in the past. He was also responsible for a solo black metal project in the early-mid 90s called Yamatu; his entire discography with this project will soon be published through Iron Bonehead Productions in 2018. 
It’s safe to say that we share a similar taste in music however our involvement in the music scene are held in different capacities.

What was the first art you ever created for use by a band and if you were to re-create it again today would it differ from the original piece? Also, which cover artwork are you most proud of, and why?

The first record cover I illustrated was for a Kentucky-based grindcore band called Son of Dog. The 7” EP was published in 1992 and the artwork was also printed on shirts to support the release. In retrospect, I would most certainly approach the artwork differently if I was asked to do the cover again today. I think most artists can find room for improvement in any past work, it’s the nature of the artist to continue on a path of improvement and to seek the impossible notion of perfection in one’s work. Regarding an artwork of which I’m most proud, I don’t have a specific piece that stands out above the rest. I do have some drawings I believe to be more successful in terms of execution than others but no absolute masterpiece has been realized.

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?

The main decisive factor when it comes to agreeing to work with a client is whether or not I have the time or flexibility within my production schedule to take work. I receive several requests per week so I have to carefully manage my intake. While my preference is to work with bands whose music I sincerely enjoy this isn’t always the case. Many of the bands I’ve worked with I’ve never listened to, just like any metal fan, I have specific tastes and preferences when it comes to purchasing and listening to music. 
The benefit of working with a variety of bands, regardless of whether or not I listen to their music, is the ability to extend my reach and marketability as an artist. I first and foremost enjoy the process of illustrating, metal music is the predominant vehicle for my work because I’m a rabid fan of the genre; this being said I’m always willing to work with clients outside of the metal music market on occasion as a way to challenge myself creatively, see my work reproduced in a different genre/format, or to expand my network and opportunities. 
Obviously the most exciting projects occur when I’m illustrating for a band I happen to be a fan of as well.

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

I don’t recall ever turning down a client based on my disapproval of their lyrical themes. Obviously there is always a risk to my brand and reputation as an artist if I choose to work with a client who endorses controversial themes. I don’t believe censorship has a place in creative output. Ethics plays no part in the creative process, it is simply the result of human engagement with the final creative output that it becomes a factor. In short, I try not to let a band’s self-expression deter me from working with them however I am mindful of the potential risk nonetheless. 

Could you describe a typical working day when you’re creating art, or is there such a thing in your life?

My time for working on art is fairly limited as my daytime obligations are focused on my wife, kids, and day job. I spend about an hour each weekday dealing with mundane tasks related to my freelance art such as answering email, updating social media, processing orders, getting started on sketches, etc. I spend a few hours each weekend on inking and completing work. If all goes well, I’m usually able to complete one job per week however it really depends on the demands on my time and the nature of each project.

In a recent interview with The Lair of Filth Tibor from Cryptworm, who you’ve created artwork for on a number of occasions, stated “The other thing that makes him better for me than the other artists is that he is insanely fast.” 
I appreciate time scales will differ between pieces but, on average, how long does it take to design and create a cover for an album?

Yes, fortunately I am fairly quick when it comes to inking. I can typically complete an illustration - once the sketch is approved - in about 4-5 hours depending on the complexity of the piece. I work on 8.5”x11” letter-size paper so my canvas area is rather manageable and requires less ink coverage. I’ve enjoyed working with Tibor, he is a dedicated underground metal maniac, it’s always a pleasure illustrating for his various bands, including Cryptworm.

I’m also aware the cover art you created for the Cryptworm demo, which is featured below, gained a lot of likes on your Instagram account; were you surprised with its popularity and I assume you’ll be happy to work with Cryptworm in the future?

I have difficulty knowing what illustrations will resonate with people. This is completely dependent upon taste and preference but some illustrations do receive more attention than others on social media. Unfortunately I have no way of gauging why some pieces are better received than others. My focus is on creating illustrations with a strong composition and a solid use of contrast, these elements are key in executing a successful piece.

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’m typically more productive in the early morning hours. I wake up at 5:00am on the weekends to focus on inking duties. I always keep my work-in-progress and drawing supplies nearby for ease of preparation. I always go to a local coffee shop to work on the weekend so as to not be distracted by other things at home. Working in an environment away from home allows me to concentrate and focus better on my work. All of the mundane tasks are achieved in my home studio on my computer (email, processing orders, etc.) so sometimes I’ll listen to cassettes or spin records to keep me motivated or inspired.

Has anyone ever approached you to design a tattoo for them & are you aware of many occasions where your art has been used for tattoos?

I frequently receive requests asking for custom tattoo illustrations; unfortunately I don’t have the time for this kind of work however I’ve seen my art reproduced as tattoos quite often.

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?

Yes, I’ve worked with clients in the past who ultimately decide to not use sketches, illustrations, or logos I’ve worked on. Although it’s not commonplace, it is certainly one of the trials of being an artist. I always do my best to meet the expectations of my customers regardless. One of the most vital aspects of being a freelance artist is understanding the value of customer service.

You’ve had a vast amount of your artwork featured in numerous books over the years, the first of which was Killustrations, which was published in 2007. Could you tell us a little about the book and am I right in saying it was self-published and it’s now out of print? If so, have you any plans to re-print it?

Yes, Killustrations was my first attempt at a compendium of my artwork. It was indeed self-published and is currently out of print; there are no plans to reprint the book. The quality of my self-published titles don’t compare to the standard of the titles I published in more recent years through Doomentia Press. It’s also much more economical working through Doomentia as the cover price is lower due to the mass print run versus print on demand fees; the customer essentially gets a better quality product at a more affordable price.

The follow up to Killustrations was Rotten Renderings, which was published in 2008 and featured over 100 pages of unpublished art along with artwork for numerous bands. Was this also self-published and could you give us some detail around this book?

Rotten Renderings was indeed another self-publishing endeavor. I’ve since discontinued the self-publishing process so it remains out of print. I discontinued this approach because the quality didn’t meet my standards, especially when considering the cost to self-publish.

The next book to feature your art was Logos from Hell, which featured logo illustrations from over thirty of the best artists within metal, compiled by yourself—was the first edition also self-published? The book was so successful Doomentia Press published a second edition, which was a huge publication with over 600 pages, how did it feel to compile such a monumental book and on first publishing it did you ever imagine it would be so successful a second edition would be printed?

I discontinued the first edition of the book for the same reason as the others. While it sold fairly well for a self-published title, it was a rudimentary effort showcasing the talent of heavy metal logo illustrators. I felt compelled to deliver a higher quality product so I worked with Doomentia Press to publish a more appropriate and expansive version of the book in 2015. 
The entire pressing sold out within 5-6 months and has remained out of print since. It’s possible I might revisit the theme for a third edition but as you can imagine, it’s a time-consuming process coordinating an effort like this. In retrospect, I could have expanded more on the chapters and showcased more talented artists - I hope to do so if I revisit the project again. Heavy metal logos, and the aesthetics related to it, have gained much publicity during the past few years that I believe it warrants further exploration; it’s certainly something on my radar.

Compendium of Death - The Art of Mark Riddick, 1991-2011 was published by Doomentia Press in 2012 and showcased hundreds of examples of your artwork; were you shocked to be approached by a publisher in the first place and how did it feel to have such a fantastic and detailed book published, solely around your work?

Lukas, who owns and operates Doomentia Records and Press, approached me about publishing a series of art books from various underground metal artists. He invited me to participate as the first in the series and I accepted his generous offer with much enthusiasm. I had worked with Lukas in the past, providing artwork for some of his releases. Having been familiar with Doomentia’s titles, I knew the final product would be high quality since Lukas pays a lot of attention to packaging, layout, and aesthetics. Although most of my drawings from the 90s are long lost, Compendium of Death was a great opportunity to document my history as a visual artist.

Compendium of Death seems to have sold out from most, if not all, suppliers—are there any plans for a re-print and were you surprised with how well it sold?

Compendium of Death is long sold out, copies moved quickly. I believe the pressing sold out within 4-6 months after its release. There are no plans to reprint the book at this time but yes, I was surprised by the demand. Again, Doomentia did a very nice job on the printing of the book, the quality turned out pristine!

As a follow up to Compendium of Death, the extremely lavish book entitled Morbid Visions was published by Doomentia Press in early 2017, showcasing hundreds of pieces of your artwork between 2012 and 2016. How happy are you with the final published version and how did it feel to be offered the chance to have a second book dedicated to your art published?

I proposed the idea of publishing a new book as a collaborative effort and Lukas agreed. I financed half of the manufacturing cost so we could do a larger press run. Since the previous books had sold so quickly, I wanted to make sure I could have enough copies in stock to last a year or more. I am indeed satisfied with the end result. I was able to get my twin brother, Mike, to draft the introduction; he knows my artwork better than anyone else so he was able to add greater insight into my background and approach to illustration.

The first 100 copies of Morbid Visions included a signed and numbered print, a woven "death metal" patch, and a large "Riddickart" tapestry, I understand this version of the book sold out very quickly from Doomentia Press, are you surprised with its success and are there any plans for future publications from Doomentia Press or even other publishers?

Yes, the Morbid Visions book has been selling quite well. The first 100 copies - with the signed print, patch, and tapestry - sold out in the first week of the book’s release. I’ve been selling one or more copies of the book every week since its release date. I’ve been very happy working with Doomentia and I plan to continue our relationship. I might look around for a publisher with a broader book distribution outlet in the future, maybe for another kind of publication, but for the time being I fully intend to continue working with Doomentia.

The book entitled The Art of Metal was published in November 2013 and featured some of your illustrations, another lengthy tome spanning 225 pages that covered five decades of heavy metal artwork; could you tell us about your art that was featured and how did the Profanatica piece come to be attributed to yourself? 

The artwork featured in The Art of Metal was a bit of an unexpected event. The publisher reached out to me and asked that I submit about five illustrations for a publication they were working on about heavy metal artwork; the details were limited but I promptly submitted nonetheless. A few months later the book was released and the publisher mailed a copy to me. I didn’t realize they were going to give me a full spread in the book, it was a pleasant surprise. I’m uncertain how the Profanatica artwork ended up being attributed to me; my guess is that the author or publisher assumed it was one of my illustrations and pulled it from the Internet; it’s especially unfortunate for the original artist of the Profanatica cover.

You were featured as the lead artist in the Darkadya Volume 2 book and associated t-shirt designs—the Darkadya books are now on their third publication and feature profiles with some of the best artists worldwide. How did it feel to be featured as the lead artist alongside what many would refer to as a “dream team” made up of some of the best artists from metal?

It’s always an honor to be featured in any kind of print or web publication; especially alongside so many other talented and creative individuals. Working with Darkadya has been a privilege, Lariyah Hayes, the editor-in-chief, is an extremely professional, hard-working, and a talented artist herself. I’m sincerely grateful for Darkadya’s dedication and support toward subversive art and underground music culture.

Your art also features on a myriad of merchandise from t-shirts to skateboards, what’s the weirdest merchandise your art has featured on and am I right in saying you’re also a skate boarder?

I am not a skater however I’ve long had an affinity for the artwork featured on skateboard decks since the 80s; I can recall being fixated on the Zorlak skateboard decks illustrated by Pushead, etc. The utility of publishing my artwork on skateboards is that it serves the dual purpose of being used for wall art or simply for the sport. 
I’ve been fortunate to see my artwork reproduced on many forms of media; probably the most gratifying is to see my work reproduced in large format such as on billboards. Other unconventional items featuring my work include a belt buckle, backpack, shoes, wallet, sweater, skirt, sweatpants, socks, mobile phone case, etc. It’s also surreal to be at a show or out in a public place and see someone wearing merchandise with my artwork on it. I’ve also seen my work in the media worn by celebrities or seen strangers with my art tattooed on them, which is rather surreal as well. You don’t realize your reach or impact as an artist until you have experiences like that.

You’re also the founding member of Virginian death metal band, Fetid Zombie, and are responsible for vocals and all instrumentation. You formed the band in 2007 and since then your musical output has been nearly as prolific as your artwork with six albums, one EP and twelve splits released since then, how the hell do you manage to strike a life/work balance and what do you do to unwind in any free time you do have?

Most of my time is spent with my wife and kids as well as at my day job as a graphic designer. In terms of spare time, it’s spent on my freelance artwork, I only work on writing and recording music when the inspiration is present. Outside of my familial, work, and freelance obligations much of my spare time, although limited, is spent watching television shows or films.

Being the sole contributor (aside from a session drummer) for all Fetid Zombie music must bring added pressure to you when you’re writing/recording new material, what do you feel are the benefits of working alone and have you ever had any other permanent members in the band?

I don’t feel much pressure assuming most of the responsibility for Fetid Zombie. I’ve only worked with a session drummer on one occasion, my second full-length, (available to stream below) the drums on all of my other releases are programmed. I rather enjoy working solo on music however I do collaborate with several guest musicians to help me achieve my musical vision for the band. With each new release I’ve grown more dependent on collaborators, I believe this helps keep Fetid Zombie fresh, relevant, and more diverse as a musical endeavor.
The benefits of working solo include having more control over the auditory and visual outcome as well as efficiency in productivity as I can write and record at my leisure in my home studio. The Internet, email, and home recording capabilities has also made things more convenient in terms of working with other collaborators. I’ve been fortunate to work with a plethora of talented musicians from reputable bands on each of my releases, it’s been a rewarding musical journey.

Has Fetid Zombie ever played live before—if so, which musicians assisted and if not if you were to do so would you have musicians in mind to perform with you on stage?

I have no intention of ever making Fetid Zombie a live act, it’s strictly a studio effort.

Your most recent release (streaming below) was a split with Svierg - I’m aware Svierg is also from Virginia, are you friends with the band members and were you happy with your final recordings for the split?

Yes, I am friends with the members of Svierg. Josh, who writes all of the material for Svierg, has also co-written some songs with me on behalf of Fetid Zombie; he is a regular guest collaborator. I also did a split with Svierg’s session drummer, who plays in Dispellment. In terms of the final recordings, yes, I’m content with the end product. The Fetid Zombie tracks were written and recorded in 2013 but the split was shelved for a little while due to other musical priorities.
I revisited the songs in 2017 and embellished them a bit - recruiting guest musicians Ralf (Revel In Flesh), Toby (Affliktor), and Dawn (ex-Rain Fell Within) - before the release went to press.

Your most recent full-length was “Epicedia,” which was released by Transcending Obscurity Records from India - am I right in saying this was your first release on that particular label and how did you come to be signed to them?

Yes, “Epicedia” was Fetid Zombie’s first release through Transcending Obscurity.
After publishing several releases on various record labels I decided it was time to find a more consistent label to release my full-length efforts through. After the release of “Grotesque Creation,” my fifth full-length, I published a two-song demo tape, “Lowered Beneath,” and shopped it around to several record labels with very little response.
Soon after, I unexpectedly received an email from Kunal, at Transcending Obscurity, inviting me to sign with his label. Since I had worked with Kunal previously on promotional efforts for “Grotesque Creation” it seemed appropriate to accept his generous offer, hence signing on with Transcending Obscurity. I’m very grateful to have found a consistent home for Fetid Zombie; Kunal is a real pleasure to work with; he’s very self-motivated and hard-working, and above all he has a sincere passion for underground metal music.

Have you any plans for future Fetid Zombie releases?

I’m currently working on material for the seventh Fetid Zombie full-length and I have three split releases and an EP in progress.
One split release features three other bands: Birth A.D., Charged Minds, and Wulfskol; another will include my participation on Unspeakable Axe’s next “4 Doors to Death” installment alongside Nucleus, Chthe’ilist, and Temple of Void; and the third is a tentative split 7” with Cosmic Void Ritual.
The first release for 2018 will be a three song CD EP titled “Remnants of Life,” which features special guest appearances by Dan (Horrified), Toby (Affliktor), James (Arsis), and Ralf (Revel In Flesh).

You’ve also been involved with a number of other bands such as Grave Wax, Hexentanz, Moonroot, The Soil Bleeds Black and Unburied - are you still an active member and have any of these bands any plans for future releases or shows?

All of the bands mentioned above are no longer active so there are no plans for future releases or shows. The most recent release from any of these bands was a CD release, simply titled “Medieval,” in 2017 from The Soil Bleeds Black, published by Twilight Records. The CD was comprised of recordings made about five or more years ago that never made it to press. Grave Wax also released a discography compilation tape, “Dead and Buried,” and split 7” EP in 2017.

You perform alongside the legend that is Kam Lee in Grave Wax, have you known him long and how does it feel to perform with such a legendary figure from the world of metal?

I’ve been in touch with Kam for almost a decade; although Grave Wax is defunct it was an absolute pleasure and honor to work with him. I can recall listening to Massacre’s “From Beyond” repeatedly when I was a teenager, I never fathomed playing in a band with Kam. In addition, our final release—the “Grave of Souls” split 7” EP with Soulskinner—also featured Michael Smith, formerly of Suffocation, on drum duties. If someone told me twenty five years ago that I’d be recording a song with these two guys I wouldn’t have believed them. The entire experience was a distinct milestone and I’m very grateful for it.

Which 5 bands, past or present do you feel have influenced you most over the years and are there any bands you’d like to create artwork for that you haven’t yet had the chance to do so?

It’s difficult to narrow down five specific influences for my musical endeavors as I listen to and discover so many new bands on a regular basis.

I’ve always had a fixation on the early 90s Greek black metal scene; demo tapes from bands like Varathron, Rotting Christ, and Necromantia were among the first in my collection. I think you can hear nods to the early Greek black metal style on several Fetid Zombie releases; I even did a cover song of Zemial’s “Full Moon Necrophilia.”
If I have to narrow down a five specific bands who influence me musically, and whose albums I frequently revisit, I would say early Rotting Christ, Mortuary Drape, early Pestilence, early Death, and Horrendous.
Regarding bands I would eventually love to illustrate for, the list would be lengthy but to be brief: Toxic Holocaust, Deathhammer, Witchtrap, Slaegt, Immolation, Ripper, Ataraxy, Howls of Ebb, The Wakedead Gathering, Morbid Flesh, Khthoniik Cerviiks, and the list goes on...

Mark, thank you very much for your time and answers, any closing comments are all yours…

Thank you very much for the feature in Lair of Filth, I’m extremely grateful for your time and support. For those interested in learning more about my artwork, please visit the links below.
Metal ‘til death.

Website: www.riddickart.com
Online Store: http://riddickart.bigcartel.com
Instagram: @riddickart
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/riddickartillustration
Twitter: https://twitter.com/riddickart

New Album, Epicedia: https://fetidzombiedm.bandcamp.com/
Bandcamp: http://fetidzombie.bandcamp.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fetidzombie

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/macabradeathmetal

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