Interview with Ramon Martos
(author of the forthcoming book AND JUSTICE FOR ART)
How did you come up with the idea of doing this book?
Album covers and Heavy Metal visual imagery have been an obsession of mine for many decades. Back in the late 80s, early 90s, while I was growing up in Cuba, my friends and I didn’t have access to record stores, magazines, etc… So we didn’t know how the artworks of the albums we were listening to really looked like and usually ended up painting our own interpretation of the music to adorn a cassette’s case.
Many years later, I emigrated to U.S.A and finally had the opportunity to look at those artworks for the first time. Because of my interest on visual arts and Metal, I decided to create And Justice For Art’s online series and the Facebook community (www.facebook.com/pages/And-Justice-For-Art/123376774515018) to provide first-hand information about Metal artworks. One thing lead to another and eventually, I figured out that a book was a viable media to gather all these stories both chronologically and comprehensively for people to enjoy and read about.
How did you come up with the title?
I’m glad you asked this question. This is one of the titles that came up while I was brainstorming a name for the original “And Justice For Art” series on PureGrainAudio.com. My editor, Chris, liked it and we went for it. Contrary to what many people could think, the title is not just a nod to Metallica’s album “…And Justice For All.” Of course, there’s a little inspiration from that and from that cover art, which I think is a bold socio-political statement. But the real reason I chose that name was to pay respect and ‘make justice’ to all those iconic and magnificent graphics that have been adorning Metal album covers for decades. Most of these have enormous visual and conceptual quality and should be exhibited in museums and art galleries. However, people don’t know much about their creation their current whereabouts and real importance. This book aims to change that once and for all.
Tell us a bit about how it will look, size, shape etc.
Since this is a DIY venture, I wasn’t able to produce a super deluxe coffee-table book. That wasn’t the point, anyway. That would have been let vanity take over practicality. That said, the book will look sumptuous for sure. It has a thick, glossy cover. Its size is 8×11 inches and has 264 full color pages. It features about 100 interviews and interview excerpts with many bands and artists and more than 400 graphics. Some of those have never been seen before like the hyper-detailed sketches for Napalm Death’s “Utopia Banished”, Cradle Of Filth’s “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh,” and Sleep’s “Dopesmoker,” just to name a few.
It’s also important to point out that this is not one of those coffee-table books featuring plenty of graphics and poor written content. “And Justice For Art” proposes a nice balance between the graphics and the stories, there are plenty of each and both elements support each other very well. The graphics work as a support of the written content and vice versa. I think it will equally please those that want to look at the graphics and those who just want discover the stories behind their creation.
In your research did you find any virtually identical pieces of cover art?
Yes. You can find plenty of look-alike imagery (album covers included) if you’re looking for it. However, I tried not to make of that the focus of the book. In fact, I’m currently running a mini-series about look-alike covers in And Justice For Art’s Facebook community and even considering a book about the subject but that’s another story… But yes, definitely there are a lot of artworks that seem to be inspired by other. However, you can find artworks that are partly inspired by classic paintings or painters, like for example Cathedral’s “Carnival Bizarre” or Skid Row’s “Slave To The Grind”, At The Gates’ “Slaughter Of The Soul” , etc… All those stories are included as part of the book.
Was it hard to choose the pieces that would make the final cut? Do you have enough for a part 2?
It was hard, really hard. However, there were pieces that practically discarded themselves, like for example Iron Maiden’s “Somewhere In Time” which actually is one of my all-time favorite cover. However the band’s management wasn’t too keen on allowing me to use that artwork even after I got the record label’s approval. But that’s Ok because it gave another artwork the opportunity of being part of the book and now I’m offering the Iron Maiden chapter as one of the perks for the book’s crowd-funding campaign. It comes accompanied with an unseen photo of the unfinished artwork that was taken at Derek Riggs studio in 1986!
About a second part of the book, I can tell you that “And Justice For Art 2” is practically finished and I still have material left for a 3rd volume! Everything depends on the success of the current crowd-funding campaign for the first part of the book, but it’s definitely in the works and a real possibility.
Has the public been useful in pointing out other similarities? Via your Facebook community?
The beautiful thing about And Justice For Art’s Facebook community is that, it’s not just a personal but a group effort. Although I’m the moderator, many of its members are always pointing out the works of artists, images similarities, new album covers and more. This community has been a great vehicle to discover and connect people that love Heavy Metal artworks and care enough to keep fighting for it, especially in this so-called “digital age.”
Did you decide to include bands that both used the exact same cover art? Morbid Angel-Blessed Are The Sick and Hexenhaus-A Tribute to Insanity for example?
Well, in this particular case it was practically a no-brainer. The historic (and musical) importance of “Blessed Are The Sick” is superior than “A Tribute to Insanity” even if the latter came before, chronologically speaking. While Morbid Angel kept pushing the boundaries of Death Metal, Hexenhaus basically followed a path already explored by many Thrash/Heavy bands. But that’s just my opinion.
I think the most important thing is the symbiosis that creates Jean Delville’s painting “Satan’s Treasures” with the lyrical and musical content of Morbid Angel’s album; all that is explained in details in the book and ultimately, that’s why I decided to include that artwork on the book.
Speaking of Morbid Angel, how did you get David Vincent to contribute?
That was sort of a happy accident, an awesome happy accident I’m glad to say. I spent about two years researching and interviewing artists and bands for the book. The Morbid Angel guys proved to be one of the most elusive subjects. They were always on tour or unavailable. I guess it was a bad timing. So, after a year or so trying, I finally had the opportunity to speak with David. What was supposed to be a 20 minute interview became a two hour conversation about many subjects. Something really clicked and from there we stayed in touch.
Later on, I asked him about the possibility of writing the book’s foreword and he graciously accepted to do it. That foreword is a magnificent piece, extremely entertaining and very fitting as a book introduction. He recounts his experience with album covers since very early age until now. I think it demonstrates David’s immense intelligence and his capacity to write not only song lyrics but high quality prose. I cannot be more grateful for his contribution.
Was this the first time you used an Indiegogo/fundraising campaign? What was your experience with it?
Yes it is the first time, and believe me when I say I hesitated a lot before deciding to take that route. I’ve been a contributor to some campaigns, especially for Metal-related causes that I think could bring something new to the table. I’ve never done it for the perks or thinking what I’m going to receive in exchange for my donation but as a way to contribute with projects that deserve support because they will bring some benefit to the scene.
Of course, I cannot control how people think, but it would be nice if instead of focusing on what you can get materially-wise, you decide to donate because you really want to protect all these stories from potential oblivion and preserve them for the future generation of fans. Many of those future fans probably won’t be able to experience what it means to go to a record store and be surrounded by hundreds of physical albums and cover artworks. This book definitely works as a reminder and preserver of a time that it’s gone and I think it would be nice if people help to make it a reality.
Have you met your goals?
Amazingly, I reached the initial goal in just three days! I think that demonstrates that there’s interest in projects like “And Justice For Art.” People want to know more about the creation of album covers, their meaning, and importance. Now I’m striving for reaching the $13.000 mark in order to print more books to share with as many people as possible. I’m really grateful to everyone that has collaborated so far.
When is the expected publication/delivery date?
At this point, the book is going to be just a limited edition of 400 copies. There are some copies still available if you make a pledge via the Indiegogo campaign www.indiegogo.com/projects/let-s-print-and-justice-for-art/x/8492332 . Contributors will receive those copies by December. After that, it’s possible I’ll be selling some of the remaining copies (if there are any left) or I could enter on a deal with a publisher. But that’s not for sure.
How can people pre-order AND JUSTICE FOR ART?
The best way to secure a copy of “And Justice For Art” is pledging one via Indiegogo before the end of the campaign. There are still a few a available, but not too many. People seem to be really interested in the content of the book and I could not be happier. It gives some kind of validation to the three long years I spent putting this together.
I think it’s a great cause to get involved with. Even if you don’t want the book but are interested in collaborating with whatever amount you can, your support will be appreciated and your name will be included in the book’s THANK YOU credits. It’s the least I can do to showcase gratitude to those that have become part of this project. Without their help, this wouldn’t be possible.