Mark Riddick has been illustrating for the extreme heavy metal music scene since 1991. Riddick's gory and horrifically cannibalistic drawing style has led his artwork to become featured in many underground and newsstand metal publications and become incorporated into illustrations for shirts, LP/CD covers, and other merchandise for major label and independent metal bands alike. In 2006 Riddick published his first art book, Killustration, and in 2008 published a second art book, entitled Rotten Renderings, and Logos from Hell;a book about death/black metal logos featuring other prolific artists in the underground metal scene. Since 2007, Riddick’s artwork has been solicited for display at respectable art galleries in New York City, Portland, Santa Ana, Tokyo, and more. Riddick currently resides in the northern Virginia area with his wife, son, and two cats. The following interview includes images of a graphic nature that some readers may find offensive. When did you first realize that illustrating could become a full time career for yourself? Illustrating is actually a part-time career for me as I’m a full-time graphic designer by day. All of the time I spend on my freelance illustration is completed outside of my day job and time spent with my family. I decided to take my ability to illustrate more seriously at the ripe age of 14 when I was introduced to underground death and black metal music. It was at this time I realized my potential to become successful in this area and I’ve been passionate about it ever since. How long have you been designing for bands? I’ve been illustrating for bands, magazines, and record labels since 1991; almost 20 years! The first time I was published was in 1991 when an underground metal fanzine from the state of Washington published a couple of my illustrations as filler artwork. My art appeared alongside interviews with now legendary bands like Cannibal Corpse and Profanatica! Have you ever considered doing your own comic book or working as a comic book illustrator? My Aunt, Lee Marrs, is a fairly well-known independent comic book and graphic novel writer/illustrator. She did several titles during the 70s and 80s based around strong but humorous feminist characters she created. She is no longer as active as she used to be in this field as her focus is now on instruction and animation/digital comics these days. I’m not very well versed in the art of sequence drawing, nor telling stories so I’ve never pursued this career path. However, in 1998, I did ink a comic book called “Dark Deceit,” which was penciled by a Canadian artist named Trent Khelm. Everything turned out great but the publisher, Gothic Studios, went out of business before the comic book was published so it never saw the light of day. What is the key to keeping your work and ideas fresh and not getting mentally or physically burnt out by what you do? The key is to stay passionate about my craft. I’m always looking for new ways to challenge myself or to develop my knowledge-base by taking on interesting projects that help push my skill level. I’d hate to sound cliché but practice really does make perfect. One of the ways I manage to stay fresh is by remaining open to inspiration, be it finding solace in another artists work or researching human anatomy. I’ve found it increasingly difficult to stay creative as I’ve gotten older and so I have to make time to open myself up to new possibilities rather than become bored by routine. Predominantly your art work is done in black and white. What is your reason for this? In my opinion, black and white is the boldest form of contrast that can be achieved in art or graphic design. There is also something intriguing to me about the simplicity of the tools I use, Bic Stic pens and 65lb cover stock paper, and what I’m able to achieve with them. Illustrating with a pen is a very rudimentary process and I absolutely enjoy the raw experience it yields. One of the other reasons why I prefer to work in black and white is because of my fondness for the old underground metal fanzines I collected in the early 90s. These fanzines were usually short run, do-it-yourself, photocopied publications which featured interviews with underground death and black metal bands and included intricate page-border illustrations and gruesome filler art. This style of art was also very popular with band demo covers, which were often photocopied as well. I try to carry this theme and old-school atmosphere into my art today; it’s so amazing to me how this style appeals to the new generation of metalheads and underground veterans alike. A lot of your artwork consists of skulls, skeletons, zombies and other various demonic looking characters. Is death something that is constantly on your mind and therefore showing through in your artwork? Death should be on everyone’s mind at some point in their lives. Death is without a doubt the central focus in my work as it serves as a reminder of my own mortality. One of my favorite life lessons, if you will, is from a story that is thought to have originated in medieval France wherein three corpses confront three living prosperous young men (a duke, a count, and a prince); the corpses warn, “Such as I was you are, and such as I am you will be. Wealth, honor, and power are of no value in your hour of death.” This story is commonly referred to as ‘Three living, three dead.’ Being an atheist, reinforces my temporary existence but also acts as a motivator, hence forcing me to embrace life and to pursue my bliss. One of the many purposes art serves is to act as a platform for self expression, free from the bounds of ethics, and to entice a reaction from its viewer. If my art can beg an emotional reaction, on some human level, from my audience then it has achieved one of its purpose—a blatant display of death will sometimes achieve this mean. Where or from whom does your inspiration come from? The subject matter of my work is clearly inspired by the one known—death, but other themes such as disease, depravity, and my distaste for religion all play a role in my art. There are many artists, particularly underground metal illustrators, who influence my work as well; such as Chris Moyen, Matt ‘Putrid’ Carr, Daniel Desecrator, Bernie Wrightson, Tim Vigil, Jeff Zornow, Mike Majewski, Aaron Crawford, Tony Koehl, Tom Denney, and many others. How did you come about working with artist Aaron Crawford? What do you think of his art work? Aaron and I have been in touch for a few years now; we met through MySpace, where I do most of my networking. We collaborated on a few illustrations for Etheric Plague and Devour Thy Sins. Aaron’s artwork is fantastically unique and he has a very keen sense of color. If time permits, I would like to collaborate with him more in the future. I’ve participated in a few other collaborations in the past as well. I did a piece with Matt ‘Putrid’ Carr in 2008 and about ten years ago I collaborated with Andy ‘Tapeworm’ Knerr, who used to do all of the early Nile merchandise artwork before they signed with Relapse. What is the American art scene like right now and how has your artwork been received over there? Well, it depends on how you define the ‘art scene.’ If you mean the American fine art scene, I’ve barely skimmed the surface as my work has only been making gallery appearances in the last two years. In terms of the ‘art scene’ in the underground metal community I’d say it’s fairly prolific. My work is very well-received in the metal scene; it’s been so busy I’ve been rejecting requests almost daily. However, there are several talented illustrators in the American metal scene like Mike Majewski, Tony Khoel, Jon Zig, Putrid, Tom Denney, Haleycaust, Aaron Crawford, Dennis Dread, Steve Crow, Lou Rusconi, and many others. If you had to choose one piece of work you've done so far in your career as your favorite, what would it be? I’m incredibly satisfied with a recent album cover I illustrated for my own band, Fetid Zombie. The album is entitled, “Vomiting in the Baptismal Pool.” However, my true artistic masterpiece is my son. The ability to create human life yields satisfaction like no other act of creation. What was the last horror film that you watched and thought was good/bad. I haven’t watched a horror film in a very long time so I’m unable to comment. I’m not a very big fan of horror movies as I prefer drama and comedy the most; particularly movies that have deep messages or are emotionally moving, much like Good Will Hunting, Saint Ralph, Rory O’Shea Was Here, Chrystal, or The Notebook. What have you been listening to on your ipod/mp3player/stereo a lot recently? I rarely use my iPod as I listen to most of my music on vinyl or CD. I’ve recently been indulging some folk metal bands like Skyforger, Manegarm, Arkona, Crom, and Asmegin. Other bands I’ve been spinning recently include Exodus, Bestial Mockery, Anal Vomit, Speirling, Agolloch, Doom VS, Mythological Cold Towers, Nocturnal Graves, Goreaphobia, Church Bizarre, Nifelheim, Hour of Penance, Viral Load, and Witchtrap. Finally, where do you see yourself 5 years from now, in regards to your work, new projects and any other personal aspirations you have in life. My wife and I plan to have a second child soon so that is my greatest personal aspiration. Family aside, I’m currently working on an extended version of the “Logos from Hell” book I recently published. This time I will be coauthoring the book with Ian Christe, author of “Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal.” The extended version will feature more logo artists and more in-depth text about the history and visual impact of heavy metal logos, with emphasis on death and black metal logos. I also plan to release a few more albums with my various bands in 2009 so it should be a very busy but rewarding year ahead. Thanks so much for your time and support, Aaron! Best of luck with 405! Be sure to check out more of Marks work by visiting his Official Website here and MySpace here A special thanks to Mark for making this interview possible. - Aaron Hunt