Vous avez tous un CD illustré par Ed Repka ... Ou alors vous n'avez aucun des premiers albums de Megadeth, Death, Massacre, Atheist - et vous n'êtes donc pas dignes de cet auguste webzine, vil mécréants !! Dehors, allez ouste! A force de supplications et autres compromissions avilissantes - :) - nous avons réussi à convaincre Ed de nous consacrer un peu de son temps pour revenir sur son parcours et son travail. La suite ci-dessous ... Hi Ed, and thanks for having accepted the interview! You seem to be very busy these days, so I very appreciate it. When the idea came to us on Thrashocore webzine to do a report on metal most famous illustrators, you've immediately been one of the very first to come to my mind. Do you realize how far you have become an icon that is fully part of the "metal mythology"?
Only recently have I seen the full extent of my impact. Its a little scary but, very gratifying to know my work is enjoyed by so many people.
When I was working in the 80's I really didn't give much thought to becoming a legend. I just set out to make the kind of images I like. Images with compositional impact, bright colors and aggressive content.
I have heard from people who were inspired by my work to become artist themselves. Its the same as when I was inspired by certain arts to do what I do.
How did you come to illustration, and when did you begin to earn enough money to live from this activity?
It seems I have always been drawing or making something. As a kid I used to draw all types of crazy monsters in little booklets. Soon I discovered real comics and began to draw my own horror stories. When in Junior High, I had to start thinking about a career choice, I naturally gravitated towards art. After High School, I was accepted to Parsons School Of Design and graduated with a BFA in illustration. I had no idea Heavy Metal covers would be in my future.
After graduating from Parsons I set out to get freelance illustration work in the science fiction book cover market, with little success. A friend from Parsons had done some freelance design work for Relativity Records in NY and told me I would be perfect for them. She actually set up a meeting for me with the label. I showed them my portfolio, they liked my work and a week later they gave me an assignment for the "Here Lies Venom" boxed set. I did the design and illustrations for the front, back, and inside tray.
My next job was the cover for "Peace Sells" which was the cover that put me on the metal map. The album was ultimately released thru Capital Records and the exposure I received with the "Peace Sells" album introduced my style to the world and hinted at what I could do. Subsequently, I did a lot more work for Relativity: record label designs, posters, logos, layout and paste-up of record jackets, and illustrations. After a while they offered me the position of art director, which I had to turn down as I was already employed as a computer graphic artist and really wanted to do illustration work. I continued to freelance for Relativity and accepted cover assignments from other indi and major labels while maintaining my full time job. Freelancing at art, especially in the music field is too unstable to be a sole source of income.
Is there any artist that have influenced your work through the years ?
Frazetta, the Hildabrandt Brothers, comic artist like Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Jack Kirby and John Romitta, illustrators like Boris, Michael Whelan, Basil Gogos, H.R. Geiger, James Bama, movie posters by Reynold Brown and Robert McGinnis, Really anyone who was painting the type of subjects I enjoyed. I didn't copy their styles but I would analyze what they were doing and see if I could apply some of it to what I wanted to do.
As far as metal is concerned, you mainly provide artworks for bands from Thrash metal (Megadeth, Evil Dead, Vio-lence ...) to Death metal (Death, Massacre, Atheist ...): is that a personal choice not to work for more Black, Hardcore or Heavy metal bands ? Maybe you only like thrash and death and you can afford to work only for bands you like to listen to ? ... But the least would be to know if you do listen to metal music for your own pleasure ?
I work for any band that approaches me and don't discriminate between styles. I've created covers for all types of extreme music. I feel if they approach me, they want my style and thinking because it fits the look they are after. I really don't listen to too much metal. What attracts me to thise area is the imagery, attitude, and freedom to paint some crazy images.
How do you approach illustration for a new CD ? Do you need to like the music on offer ? Do you only work from a concept or from the lyrics ? How far do you accept to be directed and constrained by musicians point of view ?
Firstly, I hope I'm being hired because the band wants my point of view because it already fits with theirs. If they just want a human paint brush to crank out their vision, please look somewhere else.
When I get an assignment, most of the time I get a title or some vague concept from the band and try to come up with something visually interesting that makes scene with the title. Some times their ideas are just bad and I need to steer them onto something interesting. Really they are better off if they just let me do what I want. I never listen to the music or read the lyrics, I'm not that literal. I really like to do my take on a subject and kind of improvise. Album cover art is perhaps the last area in illustration where an artist is allowed creative freedom. I think we need to fight to keep this alive because isin't that what its all about? Freedom.
Have you become a close relation to some of the famous artists you have worked with / for ?
I have made a lot of friends and have enjoyed discussing concepts with people like Dave Mustain, Chuck Schuldiner, Jerry Only etc. However, I think it is best to keep business relationships on a professional level.
How much time do you usually spend on metal album artworks ?
Because I always have several thing going on at once, I need about four week to finish a painting and I try put in as much time as possible on it.
painting is a very time consuming endeavor.
Just like Derek Riggs and Iron Maiden's Eddie, you have given birth to one of the most famous metal character: Megadeth's Vic Rattlehead. How do you see him: as a child of your own, or as a constraint you have to cope with when working on Megadeth covers ?
I totally own Vic and always did what I wanted with him. Dave loved what I was doing and never put any restrictions on me. The character is a total extension of myself down to the body language.
Have you an idea / can you tell us why you're not working with Megadeth any more ?
Its very simple. I own the copyright on all my Vic images. Dave's unauthorized use of my art is a copyright infringement. I don't work with a person who is infringing my rights. Why would I want to give him any more content to exploit.
Also, I did so much of that work, I became known as the Megadeth artist. I would rather be known as an artist in my own right. The music business changed in the 90's and Vic was no longer wanted on the covers. Now that thrash is back in style, so is Vic. I recently did a new Vic painting to illustrate an article in Revolver magazine.
What are your limits, what are the things / subjects you wouldn't accept to do artwork about ? Politic stuff ? Explicit gore things ? Porn art ? Poppy Walt Disney stuff ?
I don't limit myself but, stay away from tacky stupid imagery. Explicit gore is tacky and more effective when used in moderation. The same goes for sexually charged imagery. However, Politics, gore, Porn, poppy imagery, can all be used to serve the concept. There needs to be a deeper meaning behind the imagery. in the end the subject matter doesn't matter that much. No matter what it is I will make my version of it and make it cool.
Are there any musicians / bands you would like to do cover art for ? Maybe there are some albums that have already an artwork that you would have liked to do yourself ?
I would love to work with Rob Zombie and Electric Frankenstein because they are into the same kind of 60's pop culture monster images as I am.
Are there any CDs whose cover is not really what you would have wanted it to be ? Some disappointments to tell us about ?
No, they are all fabulous. Actually some could be painted better in a few areas but, I always gave my best effort considering the time I had, amount of money I was paid and concept I had to work with.
I can imagine that you express yourself through other topics / mediums than metal album cover artworks ... Can you please tell us about the other Ed Repka that readers (myself included) might not know about ?
I love and collect figure model kits. in the early 90's I discovered the world of garage kits. Fans who remembered the plastic figure kits of their youth were now selling resin cast versions of their favorite characters. I became obsessed and started designing kits and sculpting in my spare time. Eventually I created a series of "Monstrous Magnets" and sold them mail order. I discovered I enjoyed not only product design but, the whole process of conceiving an idea and bringing it to market. This passion led me to a job at a giftware company to get some practical experience, then to Mcfarlane toys to learn the process of action figures, then NECA where as creative director, I now develop special projects and provide creative concept work for the development of action figures and collectibles. I'm currently working on a line of super articulated kung-fu action figures.
Some of my favorite things I have designed and help create at NECA are The "Kill Bill" action figure series. I has a figure with removable arms and blood squirting action., The Cenobite Lair which is a diorama base holding four figures, The four Pirates of The Caribbean action figure series which had bases which connected to form one large diorama. And the Halloween boxed set with Dr. Lomis and Michael Myers on a Myers house diorama.
As far as I know, you still work with "classical tools" (be it pencils, paintbrush, ...). Have you ever tried to work with computers ?
Actually I am one of the pioneers in using computers to create art. I did an album cover in 1989 for Napalm. The album cover for "Zero to Black" is totally created using computer graphics.
Over the years I have gone from painting loosely to using the airbrush to help out the blending of colors, to using airbrush totally and now back to painting without much airbrush. Now I'm starting to "Paint" totally with the computer. I use what ever I need to to get the job done.
Thank you very much for the interview Ed. The last words are yours: you can say whatever matters to you hereafter !
I would like to thank all my fans who have let me know they enjoy my work. An artist always like to know his work is having some impact.