Interview with Ramon Oscuro Marto, creator of …And Justice For Art Part 3

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Interview with Ramon Oscuro Marto, creator of …And Justice For Art Part 3

by  JP


..And Justice For Art has become a bit of an institution with the third in the series about to be released.  Does this surprise you?

It’s surprising and rewarding to know that there’s people that really care about Metal album covers and about the genre’s visual history. The “…And Justice For Art” books pays tribute to Metal art and help to preserve it for current and future generations. I believe people have identified with the project (both the books and the online community) because they feel this is something done with honesty and passion by a Metal fan who wants to share his research and knowledge with other fans. That’s what keeps the project going.

How do you decide on who makes the book’s cover art?  It is a big honor.

I always have a clear concept of what I want to portray on the cover. The idea has always been showing the evolution of a skull interacting with brushes, pencils, paint, etc. So, it’s basically a mix of Metal iconography and visual arts. I’ve been lucky to work with very gifted artists. The last two books (including the new Vol.3) feature cover artworks by the talented Costin Chioreanu, who has collaborated with bands like Emperor, Enslaved, Ghost, Arch Enemy, Leprous, etc. He’s a true visionary and the images he created for the books are a clear example of that.

I recall you said that for Volume 2, 50% of the material was left-over from Volume 1.  Despite having thousands of amazing pieces of art to choose from, do you find it getting harder to choose which piece you want to write about?

Not really. There are so many interesting Metal album covers out there that it becomes difficult to select which ones will be included in a book like “…And Justice For Art.” I’ve done three books so far, but I feel I could have done 100. The subject of Metal album covers is truly fascinating and continues growing every day with every new album that is released. For example, for this new book, I did a preliminary selection of about 200 covers (both Heavy Rock and Heavy Metal) but in the end I could not include them all because of the space limitations and because sometimes, finding firsthand information about an artwork is really difficult. Sometimes, neither the bands nor the artists are interested in talking about the subject or sometimes the people involved are unavailable, etc. But the point is: The topic of Metal album covers is very rich and I could write about it for decades.

While researching each book you have been told many amazing stories and anecdotes about the creation of this art.  What was the craziest story in Part 3 about an album cover?

There are always interesting stories around the making of an “…And Justice For Art” book and Volume 3 could not be the exception. For example, the interview with ex-Morbid Angel David Vincent featured in the book was a done a few years back. At the time, I was having a hard time trying to interview someone from the band. In a last-ditch effort, I contacted David’s personal manager and I was able to get in touch with him. During our interview we got along so well that he ended up visiting my house and jamming a little bit with me. Eventually, he even wrote the foreword for the first “And Justice For Art” book and gave me enough material to be used in futures volumes.

The book also includes an interesting interview with Iced Earth’s leader, Jon Schaffer. As everyone knows, Jon was part of the events that happened in the USA’s Capitol a few weeks ago and he’s facing legal problems because of it. Although my interview with him happened more than a year ago, he provided a few opinions about his political ideas and aspirations. I think it’s crazy that this will come to light right after what happened. For many people, it will be an interesting window into Jon’s political views.

I understand that you had some significant production challenges this time with the pandemic. Can you tell us about them?

In these pandemic times everything runs slower and challenges multiply. A book like “…And Justice For Art” (done by a single person taking care of everything) could not be the exception. Since I print the books in China, that was a big issue because of all the limitations and because of the current trade war between USA and that country. That caused delays and generated extra charges. Thankfully, that’s in the past now.

The fan-funded model seems to be a continued success for you.  Did you increase your print run this time around?

Yes, many supporters of the “And Justice For Art” project helped to finance the making of this book like they did before with previous volumes. But this time it was more challenging because of the pandemic and the economic situation the world is going through. I knew from the beginning that most people were not going to be able to donate and that it was going to be difficult for the bands and artists to donate goodies to be used as perks. So, I had to become creative and offer perks that didn’t require a big investment. I just asked for small donations that could be reasonable for people. In the end, I raised a little bit more than expected, but I had to put money of my own pocket to cover extra charges, etc. That said, I’m really grateful to all the fans who contributed to this project. In appreciation, I placed their names are in book’s Thank You credits.

What is the one album cover you want to do but still is elusive?

I think I’ve been able to research about most of the Metal album covers I wanted to know more about. There are exceptions like for example, the cover for Macabre’s “Sinister Slaughter” (which is a twisted homage to the cover for the Beatles’ “Stg. Peppers”) and the artwork for The Dillinger Escape Plan’s “Miss Machine.” In both cases, I established contact with the bands/artists, they agreed to be interviewed but it never happened. That kind of things happen all the time when you’re working in a project like this. It’s ok.

In a previous interview with us you said you had another career (or two).  Do you foresee this becoming your pull time occupation? Do you maybe wish to expand into publishing other types of Metal related art books?

I’m a classically trained professional musician and also work in advertising/design. That’s what brings food to the table. I spent a lot of time doing “…And Justice For Art” but I do it for the love I have for Metal and Metal arts. I don’t make money out of it. I actually invest money in it without expecting anything in return. This is my passion and I just try to offer something to the music genre that I love.

I’ve noticed many posts/threads/conversations on social media about the worst Heavy Metal album covers.  Have you ever thought about doing a title on the worst of the worst?

Not really. I know this could be a ‘cash-grabber’ subject for somebody else but not for me. I never liked the ‘Best/Worst of…’ lists because most of the times, that can be subjective and depends on the personal appreciation of the viewer. Something that looks bad to you could look good to me and vice versa. Also, if you’re really open-minded, I believe you can always find at least one redeeming attribute even in the worst cover artwork. Instead of having a laugh at the expense of a poorly done image, I prefer to offer some constructive criticism about it.

How can people order/buy AJFA 3?

The new “And Justice For Art” book is now available at I printed approximately 700 books and right now there are about 300 copies still available. If you’re a fan of Metal music and Metal art, this is the book for you. What is really awesome about it is that you don’t need to see or read Vol.1 or 2 to understand or enjoy Vol.3 or vice versa. They’re totally independent from each other. Check it out. You’ll love it.

Thank you! 

“…And Justice For Art: Stories About Hard Rock & Heavy Metal Album Covers”

Author: Ramon Oscuro Martos

Publisher: Dark Canvas/Ramon Oscuro Martos

Specifications: 260 Pages – 8×12 Inches – Full Color

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