Interview with cover artist Claudio Bergamin + Juuso Soinio, Battle Beast

Claudio Bergamin, the metal (he)art

Raskasta rokkia ei voisi kuvitella ilman kansitaidetta. Audiovideo jututti Claudio Bergaminia, uusimman Judas Priest albumin "Firepower" kansitaiteen tekijää. Taiteilijan töitä on nähty myös suomalaisen nousevan yhtyeen kansissa.

The cover art has always been a very important part of heavy rock. Audiovideo wanted to dig a bit deeper into a world of metal art, and interviewed a Chilean artist Claudio Bergamin. He has worked with a Finnish band Battle Beast and is now catapulted into metal olympus, after Judas Priest wanted him to make cover art for their latest album "Firepower".

Hello Claudio! As a long time metal fan, I was really blown away, like thousands of other metal fans when I saw your artwork for the new Judas Priest album Firepower. Respect!

Claudio Bergamin

Hi and thank you! It was done from a fan perspective. I knew from the beginning what I wanted to see on a Judas Priest cover. It had to be a creature of the same family of the classic 80s covers; - Hellion on “Screaming for Vengeance”, Metallian on “Defenders of the Faith and of course The Painkiller, but with a more lethal attitude and certainly with a modern look. I also incorporated some of the Art Deco style that we all know and love.

You must be a ”metalhead” also. Are you listening to heavy metal, when doing your art, if , which bands?

Sometimes I do. But I also listen to a lot of classical and contemporary orchestral music. I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks. John Williams, Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith and Hans Zimmer are my favorites. As far as bands, I listen to a lot of classic rock, that is my main thing. Queen, Iron Maiden, Rush, Judas Priest, Rainbow, Accept, Mercyful Fate, Europe, The Scorpions, Electric Light Orchestra, etc. But I do listen to a lot of newcomers as well. I love Battle Beast, I think they're the next big thing. Other new bands I listen to are Inglorious, The Night Flight Orchestra, Ghost and not so newcomers Nightwish.

How close the artwork have to be with the music, or do you go with the flow?

There is certainly a genre consideration everytime I take on a new project. I wouldn't propose a magic castle to a death metal band so I try to be aware of what kind of music each of my clients play. The cover is a sort of beacon that helps objective audiences to spot their kind of music; as a commercial tool it is essential, specially in this era of cyber-noise and over-saturation of new proposals. If you want to stand out in the current music market, you better propose something interesting and memorable to get that short-attention-span-audience to pick up your record from the avalanche of competition. In other words, on top of my artistic ideas I have to have a lot of commercial considerations in mind.

" You better propose
something interesting
and memorable."

I feel what you did with the Firepower artwork. The legacy is carried on. Did you consider on putting more details in it? Are there other versions, or was that your vision from the beginning on?

I put a lot of detail in it actually, you'll see it once you get the vinyl edition. There might be even some hidden messages. I proposed three sketches to the band, all variations of the same concept; they picked one of them.

You must have heard the new Priest album. Let me guess, it is going to be harder and faster than the previous one?

I can neither confirm or deny that assertion. I can only say that you won't be disappointed.

Paradoxal thing is, that vinyl/Lp boom is going on, and cover art is again more important, but many bands are saying that it is not worth to do an album anymore.

I am old enough to be in complete disagreement with that opinion. I love albums. I love the whole experience of getting a new vinyl; from the moment you unwrap the packaging to listening to the music from start to finish while you read lyrics and inner notes. I think the concept of an album will never go away. It's like saying feature films will disappear in favor of short films. It's ridiculous.

Luckily there are metal bands left to record albums, and of course cover art is very important in metal. Which are your all time favorite cover arts in rock & metal? Sorry, not the easiest question.

That is not such a difficult question. My favorite covers are obviously the the ones that showcase amazing fantasy illustrations; they take you on a journey of imagination that cannot be beaten.
Some of my favorite are Iron Maiden's ”Powerslave” and ”Somewhere in Time” by Derek Riggs, but that's kind of expected right? Other awesome unforgettable covers are the two Ken Kelly created for KISS, “Destroyer” and “Love Gun”. I love Priest’s “Screaming for Vengeance” (Doug Johnson) and “British Steel” (Roslaw Szaybo). Queen’s “News of the World” (Frank Kelly Freas) and “A kind of Magic” (Roger Chiasson) are great covers, very different from each other, like Queen’s music itself. All the Pink Floyd’s covers by Storm Thorgerson are mind-blowing and were of great impact on me. In that same style, the work of Hugh Syme for Rush is iconical. Of the newcomers, I love the Ghost’s cover art by Zbigniew Bielak, very imaginative and detailed.

Have you had enough of skulls and other ”basic” metal images? I`m personally avoiding skulls in all my metal projects.

" I try to avoid clichés,
but I am not opposed to use
them if it’s in an interesting way."

As a general rule I try to avoid clichés, but I am not opposed to use them if it’s in an interesting way. For example, I create the album art for a band named Iron Spell and their concept is exactly that; a very cheesy 80s style horror theme, which I love to play around with. In other words, anything can be interesting if you make it with a twist. Just have fun with it!

How much you allow musicians to tell you what to do, or are you a real artist in that way, that you know how the artwork should be, and you know when the painting is ready? Take it or leave it! ; ).

It’s a collaboration. I would never impose my vision to anybody, I can only suggest and propose. My art is a means to an end. It fulfills a purpose; to make an album attractive enough for people to notice it and give it a listen. That being said, I always advice clients whenever I think they are not going in the right direction but I always propose solutions and alternatives. Most of them are willing to compromise in favor of a better product. I try to pay attention and understand what they want and, they for the most part take my advice and incorporate it in their concept.

Why on earth so many metal albums, especially 1980`s speed metal and thrash metal has so horrendous cover art. What the hell painters, musicians, management and record labels have been thinking back in the days. Have you ever had the feeling, when you see an ugly metal album cover, that it needs to be painted again, and you could do it so much better?

Battle Beast, Unholy Savior

To answer that question I would have to see which covers are you talking about. I think nowadays we have the same balance of bad and good cover art (and maybe even larger quantities of bad cover art than the 80s), in fact I absolutely prefer a bad traditional illustration than a bad photoshop mishmash. Sometimes I see some of the new art that comes out and I think exactly the same thing, “what were they thinking?”. It’s all a matter of perception and taste.

Finland. You have worked with Battle Beast, are there any other Finnish bands you are interested about?

I listen to a lot of Finnish bands, in fact I think some of the best newcomers are from Finland. Like I said before, I love Battle Beast and Nightwish. I also listen to The 69 Eyes and Apocalyptica. I recently discovered Brother Firetribe, great band!

You must come to Finland some day. Our nature would give you so much inspiration, you`d be mesmerized here!

I’d love to! Nobody has invited me yet.

Do you have other special bands, that you ”have” to work with in the future, dreams I mean?

I’d love to work with King Diamond. He’s one of my favorites.

Any ”final words” for the Finnish metalheads?

You guys are crazy, you managed to make metal the most popular music in your country. That is absolutely insane and I love it! Everybody around the world should take notes.

Audiovideo wishes you all the best and thank you for answering!

My pleasure. Take care.

Juuso Soinio, Battle Beast
Juuso Soinio / Battle Beast

How did your collaboration with Claudio start?

We found him by accident, when we were looking for a artist to do the cover art for the second Battle Beast album.

Any plans to continue with him?

Well he did the album covers for the 2. and 3. album and the single covers, for the latest album we used other artist, but it is very likely, that we`ll ask Claudio again in the future.

Did you gave him ”carte blanche” to create the cover art?

The concept for the previous albums was very strict, but next time he´ll get to do more his own stuff. Just to get the whole potential out of what he do best.

Claudio Bergamin