Interview by Mohsen Fayyazi
It’s very exciting, when we buy our favourite artist’s album. We just want to rip off the plastic wrapped around the box, and open it, then we will be lost in the images of cover artwork, booklet …. We maybe would be curious who created such great art or not, but they are invisible people. The fans and media would like to talk more about the bands, but it won’t change anything, if an album is great, it’s because of the work of everyone who was involved; producer, band members, managers and art designers.
My guest this time is one of those artists who are creating their magic in the background. Daniel Goldsworthy (A.K.A. Dan) is a multi-talented artist, he plays guitar, keyboards and also created several great artworks. His recent work was for the legendary ACCEPT ‘s upcoming “Blind Rage”, which probably will be the album of the year. Please take some time to read my interview with Dan below, it is worth it.
Hello Dan, How are you today?
Hi Mohsen, I’m very well thank you. I’ve just finished watching the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones which I’ve been pretty excited for, so I am in a particular good mood.
ACCEPT has recently revealed the title and artwork of their upcoming album. It was exciting news for many people and your name was mentioned as designer, would you tell me how did you feel about it?
I was delighted! ACCEPT are metal legends, so it’s something of an honour to be associated with a band that have released so many classic albums. They’re still writing great albums actually, so I can’t wait to hear ‘Blind Rage’.
I am curious to know the story of this co-operation, how ACCEPT or you found each other? By any coincidence was it Andy Sneap or Kev Bower who suggested ACCEPT to you or you to the band?
Well spotted! Yes, it was Andy Sneap that introduced me to the ACCEPT guys. It actually happened whilst he was recording their last album, ‘Stalingrad’ – they were desperate for some last minute CD outer packaging and tour t-shirt designs and Andy recommended me as we’d just finished working together on the first Hell album. I guess they were happy enough with my work last time round so asked me to help them out again.
Ok I would like to know more about your style and technique of designing artwork, but for now let’s focus on “Blind Rage.” The main and the first item which can be seen in this artwork is a raging bull which seems blind or has a pair of eyes of darkness. We can’t see much around the bull as it is filled by some red and black fog. So can you tell me why you chose that bull as a symbol of rage?
The title and the art actually came the other way round for this album. ACCEPT came to me towards the end of last year with the concept of a bull looking pretty powerful and angry, but they hadn’t got a final title at that stage. I produced a pretty quick rough painting which they seemed to be really into, and the final cover was actually very close to the demo. Along the way we decided to make it look a bit more human and evil than a ‘real’ bull – it started to look a little too realistic at one point, and this lost some of the menacing vibe. We also reduced the amount of lava in the foreground and some stuff going on behind the bull. Normally my art has a lot of detail or various things going on in the background, which can sometimes be distracting. This cover is quite stripped down however – it’s all about the bull as a sole focal point. Once ACCEPT were happy with how it was looking we considered a load of different titles and ‘Blind Rage’ was eventually chosen as it seemed the most fitting to the artwork and the overall vibe of the album.
So can you tell me more about your style and technique and how you normally create a piece of artwork for a heavy metal album? Do you listen to the band’s music first to form some images in your mind or do the band members suggest some ideas to you? Which artists influenced you in your work?
All my work these days is what you’d call ‘digital painting’, and hand drawn using my Wacom tablet. I usually start off with a pencil sketch, which is then scanned in to my computer before doing the rest of it in Photoshop. I used to use traditional media for my art, but working digitally is just so much more useful and efficient. Also I make loads of mistakes and bands regularly want changes to the art, which just wouldn’t be possible using paint on canvas etc.
As far as music goes, I pretty much always listen to the band I’m working with at some point whilst doing art for their album. I also find it helps to listen to bands in a similar genre as the band I’m working with as well, although for better or worse this did mean I had a huge power-metal phase when working on the Gloryhammer album a year or so ago, haha. Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and Tool’s ’10,000 Days’ seem to be my most-listened-to albums, especially when working at night. I do love a bit of prog rock whilst drawing.
As far as the art concept goes it varies from album to album. Some bands, like Sylosis for example, know exactly what they want and have a very specific concept in mind, whereas others just give me carte blanche to do whatever I want. Other times (such as both Hell albums) it’s a total collaboration where both the band and I have our input and work on ideas together.
As far as artists that have influenced me, Derek Riggs’ work with Iron Maiden is without doubt the most important. When I was 8 years old I saw the ‘Piece of Mind’ album cover and thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I bought Maiden’s ‘Killers’ a year or so later and that was me hooked on metal and cool metal album covers. Shortly after that I discovered Pushead’s work with Metallica, Michael Whelan’s art for Sepultura and Obituary, Dan Seagrave’s awesome death metal covers, and most importantly Ed Repka. Repka is the absolute master in my eyes – his covers for Megadeth and Death in particular were a massive influence on me and if I could be even half as talented as one guy, it would be him.
Just a personal question, what is your favourite ACCEPT track or album? How do you think “Blind Rage” will sound and what are you really looking forward to from the album?
I guess it’s quite an obvious choice, but it has to be ‘Fast as a Shark’. I’m a thrash guy at heart and that song was thrash before the term even existed. Those early to mid 80s albums were all great, although ‘Blood of the Nations’ was a brilliant return to form and I suppose it was the one that sparked ACCEPT’s revival.
I haven’t heard ‘Blind Rage’ yet but I have a feeling it will continue in much the same vein as the last two records i.e. big riffs with razor sharp production that you can stomp along to.
Now, let’s talk about your background, how and when did you started working as an artist creating artwork for metal bands?
Firstly I’d have my parents to thank for where I’ve ended up as they always encouraged me to pursue my musical and artistic endeavours, and also my dad brought me up on Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath etc so rock music has always been in my life. I took up guitar when I was 15 and immediately started to draw covers and logos for my and my friends’ bands. One of my bands got more serious around 2004 and once we started touring and releasing CDs I began meeting other bands in the underground UK metal scene. I did a t-shirt design for Sylosis when they were just starting to take off, and this ultimately led to doing their ‘Edge of the Earth’ album art a few years later, which was my first cover for a band on a big record label.
Around the same time I was contacted by Andy Sneap who needed an artist for the first Hell album. I’d been a huge fan of his production work for years and by chance he saw some of my art which I’d posted on his audio engineering forum, and from that he asked me to do the cover for ‘Human Remains’. On a professional, and more importantly a personal level, that was absolutely massive for me.
Is or has there ever been any band or particular album you would really like to design for?
As a kid it was definitely Maiden, Metallica and Megadeth (although obviously that’s never going to happen!) – I used to draw Eddie, Vic Rattlehead and Pushead style skulls all the time. I actually got an A grade for my A-level art in school by doing a Megadeth record cover for their song ‘99 Ways To Die’! Somewhat ironically it was a total rip-off of Metallica’s Creeping Death EP cover though, haha. These days I’d have to say I’d like to do a Megadeth cover, as most of their album covers after Rust In Peace have been pretty terrible. I wish I could go back in time and do something for their ‘Endgame’ album, because musically that was a real return to form but the cover sucked balls. I suppose a pipedream would be to do something like an Exodus or Testament cover – those are the kind of bands I love, and unlike a lot of the classic metal bands they are still writing great records. Something like a Havok album would be really cool.
You are a multi-talented artist, playing guitar and keyboards and also you created artwork for eleven albums. Can you tell me how do you view your situation in the industry? And what do you wish for the future?
Thanks very much! I think I’ve actually done nearer 25 album covers, but some of those are old or rubbish and a lot were for small or local bands. I don’t know where I’d place myself in the industry though…there are so many more talented artists (both musically and artistically) than I, so it’s just nice to be considered as part of the metal industry at all. Although I have done work for bands as far away as Australia, Germany, Holland and the USA so my name must be getting out there somehow.
As far as my own bands go, I don’t see myself doing the whole touring/recording thing seriously again, as I have too many other priorities in my life these days and simply can’t afford or justify the time and effort required to be in a ‘serious’ band. I actually started doing more and more record covers as a way of staying part of the metal scene once my own band split up so at the risk of sounding clichéd, the end of one chapter of my life was the start of another.
As far as the future goes, I’d ideally like to keep working with bands who I like musically – which I’ve been very lucky with so far – and also hopefully get a few more well-known bands to work with, as that will get my art out there to a greater audience. Oh, and I’d also like the chance to do some more thrash covers!
Would you like to tell me more about yourself as a metal musician, your band and your upcoming projects?
I was always into heavy, guitar-based music so taking up the guitar was a natural progression for me. I started playing just before I turned 16 and probably my biggest regret in life is not starting sooner. I was obsessed as a teenager and spent most of the next couple of years sat in my room learning everything from Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera guitar tablature books. I basically wanted to be James Hetfield…except get to play all the solos as well!
Between 2003 and 2010 I played in a progressive metalcore band called My Mind’s Weapon. We recorded a number of self-funded EPs before releasing an album on a great label called Basick Records who have since gone from strength to strength. I was lucky enough to share a stage with a load of my favourite bands (including Killswitch Engage, Misery Signals and Textures to name but a few) and had some incredibly fun tours with some really cool bands from the UK. It was pretty devastating when we eventually called it a day, but I had an amazing time in that band and it is without a doubt the main reason I am now involved in the music industry as an artist/designer.
Over the last few years I’ve continued to be involved in music. After My Mind’s Weapon split up I played in a really fast and fun melodic hardcore band with a few of my best friends but sadly that ended in 2012 when our drummer moved to Australia. I’m looking to start playing music again though and have just started writing riffs and demo-ing songs for a super-heavy band in a Mastodon/High On Fire mold. I’ll let you know if it ever comes to fruition!
Oh, and a while back I recorded a couple of parody songs that some of your readers may or may not have seen. Find the youtube links if you are interested below.
Thanks for giving me your time, feel free to leave a message to our readers
Thank you to anyone who took the time to read my ramblings or checked out my art/music, and please pick up a ‘Blind Rage’ when it comes out – and preferably a physical so you get full artwork rather than just a thumbnail JPEG! \m/