Viral Graphics is a duet of illustrators from Athens, Greece who first joined forces in 2006. Since then, their works have graced many albums and their posters have turned many gigs into celebrations.
In 2012, Viral Graphics published the first issue of Bacteria, a ‘zine that is a collection of works from illustrators from all around the world. Bacteria’s second installment is now in print. Viral Graphics were consequently summoned at ZT headquarters to help us brute metalheads understand what’s going on with them.
(note: click on the images for high-quality full sizes!)
…But first, a quick word on what it is that brings Konstantinos and Alexandros together under the Viral Graphics banner.
-What is the driving force behind Viral Graphics? What is your motivation to do what you’re doing?
A desire to create something of our own. Sticking to our guns in a rapidly decaying yet rapidly self-sterilizing world. Something like that.
-Which artists have inspired/influenced your work most?
The list is ever expanding and long. Bernie Wrightson, Richard Corben, Ian Miller, Austin Osman Spare, Moebius, Aaron Horkey, Glenn Fabry, John Buscema to name bout a few. Apart from other artists and illustrators, we are also influenced by film, music, literature and the ugliness of the world and of course never seek to ape anyone’s style or ideas. We always want to digest our influences.
-You now have the second instalment of Bacteria ready. How do you feel?
A desire to showcase and create a sort of time-capsule for what we think is only a fraction of the best artists out there right now. An initial factor that led us to the creation of Bacteria was the general state of artwork used for music related projects, which ranged from awful to even worse: mediocre. This definitely pushed us to ‘set things right’ in a way. If you’re a death metal band you need Matt Putrid for your artwork, not a jumble of bad stock photos, plain and simple. It’s not about being stuck up, elitist and close-minded by the way…Completely digital stuff is fine as long as it’s used correctly, although overwhelmingly, it’s just not. We just wanted to show that there is a very high standard out there and people in the underground at the very least, should be aware of it. Finally, we started Bacteria because we both love ‘zines and have always wanted to start one.
-How do you pick your artists?
Purely personal taste. Whatever blows our mind. That’s why we feature artists who create hand-drawn art. We don’t pretend to hold the keys to all that is awesome of course. But ‘zines have always taken a more personal stance on what they cover and that is usually why they are forced into existence. We always make it clear that this is who WE think is really good and who we think you should really be paying attention to. It’s not a general interest magazine trying to cater for all tastes. If in 10 years time someone finds a completely torn to shreds copy of Bacteria and considers it his bible when it comes to hand-drawn illustration, then we have absolutely succeeded in capturing what we should have from these times.
-What does participation in Bacteria involve for them (and what for you)?
Initially we had interviews with the artists, but for issue #2 even though we had interviewed all the artists on board via e-mail, we decided that we would cut those out in order for the art to speak for itself. So the artists need only provide us with printable work and their contact details. We ask for any sort of image they would like to have featured, as long as it’s in black and white and is hand-drawn. Hopefully they share our views on why we make this and their participation proves that. We also try to mix well known with lesser known artists to expose them to each other’s audiences, which we feel is useful. For us it involves a lot of work on how to lay things out properly, printing and generally putting the whole thing together, plus a million other details which would bore you to tears yet have plagued us for the duration of its creation. The end result justifies everything though, so we won’t complain – not too much.
-What is the worst and what the best aspect of carrying out such a mission?
The best aspect is seeing it take form, from when the artists send us their submissions to when we have the final printed ‘zine in our hands. The worst is all the stuff that has nothing to do with the creative process. Ordering 300 mailers and receiving 120. Other peoples’ mistakes. Stuff like that and all that leads to the endless and needless wait to get this thing out there.
-What do you hope to achieve with Bacteria?
As mentioned above, we hope it to be a successful time-capsule or snapshot of what we think is awesome art. Even if it blows just one person’s mind in 20 years time, then I’d say we succeeded in what we wanted to achieve. On a shorter time-frame, we hope to expose the artists inside to different audiences than what they are normally accustomed to.
-Will we see a new instalment in the future?
The answer is most definitely Yes. However, ask us when this will happen and all you will get right now is cries of rage and insanity. After all the time it took to put issue #2 out, rest assured that #3 will not see the light of day before 2016. At least.
Even though their interests and endeavors reach beyond music (I’m referring to cloth designs for CVLT Nation and movie-poster designs/re-imaginings), Viral Graphics have built a reputation on their designs for bands (album covers, concert posters etc.) and they are music fans. SO…
-Is there a definitive metal album cover for you?
More than just one. Good metal artwork is an influence that definitely creeps into our work, sometimes more overtly and others a bit more discreetly. It’s unfortunate that a very large percentage of metal bands decide to go with half-assed digital amateurish tomfoolery, leading to something uninspiring that ends up looking dated very fast and more like a stock footage wasteland with a pinch of extremely bad lens flare. Once again, this is not a viewpoint just for purism’s sake and we definitely don’t pretend to be cult defenders of the old – use whatever tools you want. Just use them well or at least with passion. Use a computer for something good, not Monstrosity’s “In Dark Purity”. Create your own stock photos, don’t steal from other people. Saying that, even when stealing stuff, in the past the result seemed to have more inventiveness and charm – “Bathory” (1984) and “Hell Awaits” (1985) are prime examples of this and they are both certainly definitive metal covers. Anyway, here are some other covers we think are definitive – Celtic Frost “Morbid Tales”, Voivod “Dimension Hatröss”, Judas Priest “Screaming for Vengeance”, Black Sabbath “Black Sabbath”, Death “Leprosy”, the Michael Whelan stuff for Obituary, Sepultura and Demolition Hammer. And of course just the simple black and white stuff like the Nihilist “Premature Autopsy” demo.
-A definitive punk cover?
The punks seem to be doing better with their overall approach to artwork these days, sticking to black and white illustrations or photograph/photocopy/cut and paste aesthetics. It’s good to keep things pure and to the point. Some punk/hardcore covers : Poison Idea “Feel the Darkness”, Misfits “Earth AD/Wolf’s Blood”, Rudimentary Peni “Death Church”, Bobby Soxx “Learn to hate in the 80s”…as with metal covers, it is more about feel than anything else. Although we always like to expand and make our technique more detailed, there is a neanderthal inside of us always reminding us that simplicity leads to efficiency and we tend to heed that call to regression.
-How important is the artwork in ‘clicking’ with an album?
This used to be a no-brainer to answer, but with how music is mostly listened to these days we’re not entirely sure on its importance for most people. For us, growing up and being used to having the packaging along with the music (even a dubbed tape had some form of doodle or photocopy on it), it’s definitely important. The music is always the most prominent aspect of course, but if the artwork suits it perfectly, the whole thing transcends into something more timeless. The experience seems to become multifaceted and all-enveloping and on a personal level it leads us to believe that there is a strong vision behind that music. Furthermore, nothing beats being able to stare into an LP cover while listening to the sounds and having all your senses captivated. So, it can certainly add a level to the music, sometimes maybe even unlock it entirely for the listener. The potential is there and if it coexists properly and naturally, the result will be good. Saying that, we wouldn’t judge the music by a bad choice of art and vice-versa.
-What do you think the future of the artwork is in this age of digital releases?
We’d like to think record covers will never become obsolete just because music is losing its physical form for the vast majority of people. Hopefully the so-called vinyl renaissance might help reinforce this point, as people seem to be getting back into the idea of ‘The Object’. In any case, even if it all disappears from the mainstream, it’s pretty certain there will always be people lurking in the underground craving music complete with packaging and artwork.
-Is there any artist (musician or illustrator) who you are dying to work with?
Most of our influences mentioned above of course. Apart from that, we’re fortunate to have done collaborations with bands like Swans and the Melvins which rank amongst some of our very favorites. As for artists, we’re happy to have a lot of our influences and personal favorites in Bacteria and that is definitely a type of collaboration we are proud of. Apart from that, Darkthrone, Circle, Neurosis and Brainbombs please get in touch with us, we need to provide you with artwork. Putting that out there, just in case.
We don’t want to go into specifics but what the future certainly holds for us is the destruction of micron pens, the annihilation of brushes and the obliteration of paper. We can’t plan for too much, apart from working hard to get better at what we do. Provided everything doesn’t go up in smoke.
-Anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for the interview!
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