Christophe Szpajdel Interview

 

Christophe Szpajdel is certainly an important person for many a fan in the metal underground. And his contribution totally impeccable and absolutely undeniable. These are the very reasons I decided to present this colorful person to you dear readers of Old School Metal Maniac. Lads and ladies, please welcome the master of ceremony, Lord of the Logos, Christophe Szpajdel himself.

 

In the interview done for 7 Gates Magazine you said your fascination with logos was started by KISS`s one. It is absolutely fascinating to me how many people have been inspired by this highly unique band. Gene Simmons is especially influential, I reckon. Spikes, body armour, chains, bloody vomit, fire breathing and make-up, yeah. Inspiration for many. Including VENOM and BATHORY. How about you in this context? Btw, which album from these New York four-piece band is your favourite? What extreme bands were the ones you started off with?

KISS and especially Gene Simmons were surely inspirational. And he certainly inspired King Diamond as to the latter`s make-up`s style. I`ve heard King was sued for plagiarism, not too sure if it is true or not (that’s correct, Gene sued King, ed). KISS, BLACK SABBATH and later VENOM, BATHORY, POSSESSED were my main inspirations in the 80s. VENOM and MERCYFUL FATE/KING DIAMOND inspired all the black metal bands in the 90s. I adore EMPEROR, MAYHEM, DARKTHRONE, MARDUK, and IMPALED NAZARENE among others. Before I got into extreme music, I listened a lot to hard rock, folk music from Greece, ex-USSR republics of the Caucasus and punk of course, too. Bands like RATTUS, TERVETT KADETT, GBH or THE EXPLOITED are perfect if you need a remedy for a previous night`s filth, so to speak. As for KISS, Dynasty is just a legendary album. Classic. This music is still on my mind.

 

You`ve made thousands of logos throughout the years, right? You must’ve gotten in touch with plenty of different bands in result. Which logos are your favourite?

My first efforts were MORBID DEATH, BLASPHEREION, HORACLE, SLANESH, ENTHRONED, SLAUGHTER MESSIAH, DAWN OF CRUCIFIXION – all Sabathan`s projects. Plus MORBID GOD/FILII NIGRANTIUM INFERNALIUM/ MOONSPELL from Portugal, MYSTIFIER from Brazil (an alternative logo to their classis one), ZOLTAR, MORTAL PROFECIA and LACONIST from Brazil too, CRYPTIC TALES from Poland. My favourite? WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, EMPEROR (this one shows 100% representative of my skills), DESASTER (a German band) very heavily influenced by the atmosphere of 80s and 90s. I think I have made like 10.000 logos so far and it is not over yet, oh no! I am still focused very much on working with logos; I don’t even think about it anymore. It all seems so easy and natural these days, indeed.

 

 

When we talked during our latest exhibition in Gdansk, you said that since your Lord of the Logos book, you`ve actually doubled the amount of your logos. And you`re getting the second volume of yore book ready. Please tell us some more about it.

I have actually visualized a concept of my new book for some time now. This time, beside logos, I’ll put some stories too. I would like to describe my field of art in detail – which is the concept of time (very old logos, which look almost primordial when compared to futuristic logotypes which are very sophisticated and seem ahead of time).  

Combination of simplicity and calmness (a very calm, fluent logo and very brutal, aggressive logo). Combination of simplicity and complexity (from very simple logograms, almost basic and easy do decipher/calm to very difficult to decipher, very complex).

And of course, the idea of three dimensions. Time, which is the transition from ancient, primordial logos to super-duper modern ones. Temperament, which is the transition from very tranquil, beauteous logos to totally brutal and rough logotypes. And finally geographical dimensions – from very clear, simple and easy to read to very sophisticated ones. All these are like XYZ, three dimensions and mathematical functions. Plus my experience with customers. From the moment I send some quick sketches and some pre-orders have been made to strenuous negotiations when having to convince my clientele that to draw a complete logo is very time-consuming.

 

 

In late 80s, you participated in Septicore Zine. Because of that zine, you were able to reach an even more extreme part of the underground and people interested in logos. How did it all start? Can you remember your first logo?

That’s correct. in early 1989, when I dwelt in Brussels, I used to frequent vinyl record stores (no cds at the time) such as Discomania or Music Mania (no longer in business I presume) looking for second hand stuff. And it was when I got a Septicore Zine flyer made by Thierry Prince, who lived in Limal, close to Ottignies Louvain-la-Neuve. I was lucky, as one of his friends was about to finish their cooperation (Marcel Van Meersche).

So, it was already the zine`s third issue in the making when I joined in. The reason was I had already a nice collection of tapes and I did feel like participating in the contemporary underground. You know, to support young bands – and I’ll tell you one thing man, there were plenty of cool bands back then. Groups like APPARITION from the USA didn’t have a proper logo and I did want to do logo designs for such bands, all right. It was the time when bands had a problem finding their real identity.

I also dealt with cover arts and inlays for zines and demos. However, everyone kept telling me I wasn’t too good at it. But as to logos, well I did awesome. So, throughout the years I kept hearing this: the way you draw is nothing special, especially anatomic details suck, but your typographical projects are awesome! My fist logograms were done for MORBID NOISE COMPILATION tape, MORBID DEATH (pre- BLASPHEREION who later became SABATHAN, CERNUNNOS, these first two bands members started off ENTHRONED).

As well as MORBID GOD, (pre- MOONSPELL), FILII NIGRANTIUM INFERNALIUM, as I was in touch with Tetragrammaton and Belathauzer. I was in touch with Samoth too at the time (EMBRYONIC`s awesome Land of the Lost Souls). In some letter he wrote how fed up he was with the contemporary underground, so suffused with death metal. It was when Roadrunner signed OBITUARY and DECIDE which, in result, led to a more commercial death metal, so to say. My logo proposal sent to EMPEROR was in fact a surprise for the band – Samoth wrote me he was about to start the bands with Faust, Ihshan and Mortiis.

 

 

The 80s is when people used to get in touch with each other through snail mail. Thanks to your zine, you were actively in touch with the contemporary underground, right? You used to do a lot tape trading as well. I am pretty sure your collection is huge!

When I was active with Septicore Zine, I used to write a lot of letters, send back stamps etc. Many bands wanted me to send so called IRC when writing first. Yes, I used to write to many bands from all over the world. To me, best was to write to Brazil. I learned Portuguese as very few in Brazil back then could understand/write in English. I also picked up Spanish to get in touch with the Chilean scene (ATOMIC AGGRESSOR, BLOODY CROSS, and SADISM), from Colombia (MASACRE, REENCARNACION, and PIROKINESIS), and Brazil (SARCOFAGO, GENOCIDIO, THARITHIMAS...). I tape-traded a lot with such guys as Gildo Morbid Ripper from Brazil, Juan Bascur and Fernando Barata Bustios from Ocultismo Zine from Chile. Tape-trading was the only way to get to know a particular scene and good bands. I tape and zine traded with all the extreme people back then!

 

 

How many issues were out? How about the featured bands?

There were six issues out. Those featured: VADER, MORBID ANGEL, SINISTER, ENTOMBED, OBITUARY, SODOM, SARCOFAGO, SCARECROW from Poland, NECROSCHIZMA, NUCTEMERON from Singapore and Poland, LEPER NECROSIS, LEWIATAN from Poland, LEVIAETHAN from brazil, SLASHING DEATH, UNBORN (Docent`s two other bands beside VADER). We had some stuff ready for #7: an interview with Samoth`s EMBRYONIC (his other band before he formed EMPEROR), w/ Demonaz and his AMPUTATION (before IMMORTAL), Cogumelo Records from Brazil, and REENCARNACION (Columbia). Sadly, all those interviews disappeared. Damn, I am pretty sure people would be delighted to read those now. Really exceptional stuff, for sure.

 

 

How about re-starting this zine?

Well, that`d be awesome for sure. It is not possible however. Just take a look at this interview. It took me ages to get back to you. Or more precisely two weeks. Thus, I would need at least ten years to release a single Septicore issue. I don’t think readers and bands would be happy about such a delay, wouldn’t they? And all the info and stuff would become pretty much outdated (or less relevant) by then, too.

Thierry had good contacts and was able to print new issues very cheaply. He actually had to cover the costs of paper and printing ink (at discount prices) only. I haven’t got such contacts, I am afraid. No such people to help me out. Right now, I have a manager who helps me with my business when I am away or very busy with other orders. This is pretty much why it`d so very hard for me to find some free time to work on a new issue. You see, it is a good thing to do interviews on a fairly regular basis, answer letters, review written content etc. Trust me on this: It would be too much for me. Really. To work with logos is very time consuming and almost a full time job plus I work at a store too. Sure, I could start off a webzine or something like that. Would be cheaper and easier but this is not my cup of tea, I am afraid. Why so? Because everyone can run a webzine these days, can’t they?

 

Many people deem you to be a walking encyclopedia of metal music. All one needs to do is to say a band name and you`ll be able to provide details about it. Bearing in mind how many logos you`ve been responsible for, it means a lot, indeed. Don’t you think it is a good idea to write it all down? What I mean is a book on all these bands, your works etc.…

Well, that’s what I would like to write about in my second book. Plus my experience with customers. Of course, I am not talking about all the customers, too many of them. I also think I ought to tell about my cooperation with bands as well. I mean the most prominent bands of course, since it aint possible to discuss all bands in one book, is it? I would like to focus on a number of categories, most like projects, least liked clients and bands that helped me with my career. I am talking about EMPEROR and ABIGAIL WILLIAMS. As well as customers who bailed out while half-done, so to speak, and the breakthrough as the result of my cooperation with Rihanna and METALLICA – which pushed me into new territories, so to say.

 

As I have observed, you`re never away from your drawing tools. You literally keep drawing all the time. Man, tell me how are you able to find new ideas as you`ve been doing a lot of projects! Spill the beans.

It works like this: when you come up with a good idea, you need to transform it into a real, palpable project. It’s like to catch a flying bird. When I am busy drawing, more and more ideas pop up in my head. The saying goes like this: L’appetit vient en mangeant (the more you eat the more hungry you are). I love art and music, I love cooking too, especially using fresh ingredients. To cook you must have a flair for it. You know, the talent and inspiration which come and go, like sea tides, so to say. You have to strike while the iron is hot.

 

 

Thanks to your art you can realize your passions and dreams in many contexts. And you meet new people and go see places. Tell me Chris, where would like to go with your art?

I would love most to go to Georgia, Dagestan, Chechenia and other Caucasian ex-USSR countries. I am obsessed with their culture. Beside metal I have always been fascinated with traditional Caucasian folk-dances such as Lezgi and Kabardinka among others. This year I am going to Canada, Greece (Drama Film festival) and Sighishoara in Rumania.

I hope I can exhibit in Albania (hopefully in Argyrokastro (Gjirokaster) and Tirana) as well as Hungary, Austria, Brazil, Mexico and Columbia. This is where most of my fans live. Damn, I ought to slow down, don’t you think! As they say: A dream you dream alone will always be a dream. A dream you dream together will be reality. My exhibition at Owakudani - The Valley of Hell (Japan) was a success. People in Japan are crazy about my book and art.

 

You exhibit a lot all over the world. Has it ever crossed your mind you can exhibit at some metal festivals such as Brutal Assault, Hell Fest, Bang Your Head or Metalmania where Zbigniew Bielak is going to exhibit this year? What do you think? Would people be interested into coming to see your art?

To exhibit at Metalmania would be an honor. I have gotten in touch with such fest managers as Hellfest, Brutal Assault, Bang Your Head, Wacken Open Air, Party San, but they`ve not gotten back to me. Kevin Eisenlord became my new manager in January 2017. Please get in touch with him as for orders etc. I have tried to contact Brutal Assault people regarding this year`s fest edition but to no avail.

Metalmania is my dream. If only he were able to convince them I am an important artist in the underground to take part in their enterprise. That’s my dream, unfulfilled as of now, alas. Kevin Eisenlord is of opinion that one needs to know right people – which he doesn’t and thus needs to find some really precious contacts. If there is anyone interested in inviting me, please email to Adres poczty elektronicznej jest chroniony przed robotami spamującymi. W przeglądarce musi być włączona obsługa JavaScript, żeby go zobaczyć. . I am sure that if invited, my exhibition would be a great success. Well, plenty must be done to convince gig organizers I am the right person to come over and exhibit at their festivals. Or maybe my art will be exhibited after I die? You know, like Van Gogh`s…his works are now very expensive and sell like hot cakes.

 

 

 

Don’t you think that EMPEROR’S logo was kind of a breakthrough? This band became internationally famous pretty fast and promoted your art in result. Hadn’t it been for EMPEROR, you`d not be that popular as you are now, right?

You`re totally right. No doubt, but for EMPEROR, I would be just a mere underground artist right now. I must stress that EMPEROR`s logo is still the most important one I have ever done. It is not only good for the underground black scene but in a broader context too (both rock and metal). EMPEROR`s logo is good because it is simple and specific. As the saying goes: the right place at the right time. Because it was done at a proper time, at a proper place and the state of my mind was proper to do so. The year of 1991 was when I made the logo. In 1994 EMPEROR released their In the Nightside Eclipse, the most anticipated and most renowned album of theirs. Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk is great too, but In the Nightside is still much better, methinks. Some other important bands: ABIGAIL WILLIAMS, ENTHRONED, MOONSPELL, DESASTER, WOLVES

 

IN THE THRONE ROOM; good but less important, all right. To me, EMPEROR is the band that holds all the cards.

 

An album which is most important to you? Your favourite album? Best cover art ever? Favourite band/artist?

Hard to say but I think these IMPERATOR Eternal Might and NECROVORE Mutilated Death. Favourite albums: POSSESSED Seven Churches, SARCOFAGO INRI, MX Simoniacal. Favourite cover art: DEADLY BLESSING Ascend from the Cauldron, HEADHUNTER DC: Born, Suffer, Die. And my favourite artists are: Zdzisław Beksiński, Jerzy Kurczak, Michael Di Tizio, Kelson Frost (Brazil).

 

Chris, what do you want me to wish you most of all?

Well, I would love to live off my art entirely, and be in touch with people who can help me do so (artistically and financially speaking). I think I deserve this, I really do. I have still a long way to go, a lot of work to do and improvements to make. I would also be happy if any person (involved in metal music or not) were able to associate my name with such things as typography, logo and brand awareness. And to be able to exhibit my works which would attract many people. Well, to do so, I`d have to be knowing right people, but it is hard to find them and convince to come over and see what I deal with. I would also like to exhibit at some metal fests in such a way these exhibitions weren’t just mere exhibitions but unforgettable artistic events.

 

 

Time to wrap up, methinks. Feel free to have your say. Thank you very much.

First off, thank you very much for your amazing questions. This is the best interview ever. An amazing interaction between you and me. I am really sorry I didn’t have much more time on my hands to polish off my answers. Typing is pretty difficult for me. I prefer to draw and paint. These are my two obsessions. To draw is like drugs to me. I got addicted and won’t free myself from this drug until I die. It is my whole life. Dear readers – if you are interested in a logo, please get in touch with my manager Kevin Eisenlord ( Adres poczty elektronicznej jest chroniony przed robotami spamującymi. W przeglądarce musi być włączona obsługa JavaScript, żeby go zobaczyć. or www.lordofthelogos.com).

 

 Leszek Wojnicz-Sianożęcki

Poprawiony (niedziela, 16 lipca 2017 20:55)