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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Heavy Planet Interview - Rock and Roll Artist Extraordinaire Alex von Wieding

At the end of 2012 when making my list of Top 20 albums there was a characteristic of the list that stood out for me. Granted, as an amateur artist myself, in every sense of the word, I have always admired the great art on album covers and live show posters from such awesome ink slingers as Brian Mercer and Chris Hitchman, among others. One artist, though, who seemed to stand alone with his approach to technique, style, and imaginative storytelling has been Alex von Wieding. He has been incredibly prolific as well, which when combined with the quality of work he creates is quite impressive. Alex has painted album covers for a large number of stoner and doom albums and other genres of rock over the past several years. In 2012 he was as prolific as ever. Of my Top 20 albums no fewer than 5 of them had covers by Mr. von Wieding. Between my own artistic yearnings and appreciation, the prolific output by Alex, and his incredible creations I decided to name him artist of the year in my year end article as a small tribute.

As it turns out Alex does a lot of work for the artists aligned with a number of the record labels who focus on delivering quality stoner / doom / retro / psychedelic / retro rock to the yearning, fuzz loving masses. One of those record labels is Stargun Music who have just begun to get started in this underground rock and roll world, celebrating their first anniversary this week with Heavy Planet as you surely have noticed with the interview posted yesterday on this site. Since Alex does so much work for them, is an artistic force in this low tuned and heavy world, and is an interesting person of note full of passion for his work and for the music it represents, we are presenting an interview of him below, as conducted by Jeremy of Stargun Records.

Cover art for "Sonic Titans"

Jeremy: Hey Alex thanks for sparing the time to talk today on behalf of Heavy Planet as part of Stargun Music's one year anniversary.

Alex: Hey there.

Jeremy: I know you are very busy finishing album artwork for SADA and tons of other projects so lets cut to the chase - when you're not doing work for awesome bands like Karma To Burn, Enos, Wo Fat and the aforementioned SADA - what music do you normally listen to?

Alex:  Oh, that would most currently be the new Clutch record - "Earth Rocker", and I also just bought the new BRMC and Free Fall... apart from that, I've been listening to a bunch of electronika and soundtracks again as of late. Stuff like Tangerine Dream, Harald Grosskopf, Zombi, Majeure, Steve Moore... but also Endless Boogie (Long Island is awesome!), Camera, Barn Owl, Electric Orange, Imaad Wasif, It's Not Night- It's Space... oh, and while I'm at it: Organic Is Orgasmic. You guys should really check them out. Great stuff. As for the soundtracks, the current heavy rotation includes "The Hitcher" soundtrack (the original one, can never go wrong with that), "Tron Legacy", "Darksiders 2", and others.

 Jeremy: Any favourite or stand out albums from last year?:

 Alex:  Hm, hard to say. Apart from those I did the art for (I love each of them equally), let's see... I really listened the hell out of Camera's self titled debut, Majeure's "Solar Maximum", Steve Moore's "Light Echoes" and the latest Rival Sons album, "Head Down", which I also forgot above, since it's spinning in the car every few days... haha.

 Jeremy:  How did you get your start in doing album artwork? Were you approached or did you offer your services to a band or label?

 Alex:  Apart from the fact that I'd been toying with doing album artwork for a while, but never did it for any real bands up to that point, it in fact was the re-releases of Monster Magnet's "Spine Of God" and "25... TAB" around 2005, 2006. And it was also funny, because by that time, Monster Magnet were one of my favorite bands, and when I read somewhere that there would be re-issues coming out, and then never saw any artwork for them anywhere, I kept asking myself, "Well, what would my personal interpretation look like?". And I just simply started doing them. By the time I was done, and there was still no re-issue artwork showing up anywhere, I thought, why not publish them on the MM forum? And so I did. Not only did the folks there love them, a few days later, I got a call from SPV, the label that was doing the re-issues, and they were asking me if I would be into making them the official ones. It really was like a dream come true. Haha. After that, it's all of the above. I hit up bands I dig and find inspiring, and I would love to do art for, and the other way around.

 Jeremy:  As if creating awesome artwork wasn't enough, your own band Larman Clamor also has an album out on Small Stone Records. What's the story there?

 Alex:  Well, Larman Clamor started out as a two-piece with a buddy of mine who hit the road, getting busy with other things, after the first EP was finished. But still having so many ideas on the shelf, I kicked myself in the butt and continued on my own. I never wanted Larman Clamor to be "that band of that artwork guy" from the start though. I thought I had something cool going there, and wanted to have it stand on its own feet. So there soon was "Altars To Turn Blood" as a release via CDBaby, having my name only in tiny, tiny letters on there in the artwork, well hidden. Haha. When I had the second album, "Frogs", all wrapped up, and it sounded pretty legit, I thought, why not ask Scott (Hamilton, Small Stone Records) if he would be into putting it out? The worst thing that could've happened would've been a "Nope", and since Larman Clamor was (and is) a hobby of mine, I also wouldn't have had a problem with that. In fact, I was copping out of asking Scott for quite some time, haha. But when he was like "Sure, let's do it!", man, I was happy. So, that would be the story summed up, I guess.

 Jeremy:  I was thrilled when Heavy Planet named you and your work for the Enos album "All Too Human" as the best artist and best album artwork of 2012 in their year review. Can you explain to a mere mortal like me how the process works and how your mind works from the stages of listening to an album to creating the final artwork?

 Alex:  Haha! Dude, was I speechless when I read that! I even failed to see it when I was reading that news for the first time, ha! The process is pretty easy - though also partly secret for myself, as I don't know what exactly happens at some point, when the images keep hitting me... Basically, when there's no "must have" concept for the art, or even a big "?", I'm just sitting back with the album on headphones in a darkened room, maybe having browsed through the lyrics before that, and then just enjoying the music with my eyes closed, my sketchbook beside me, seeing what happens on surfing the aether. So there's those concept sketches coming out, which can be both design-ideas or stuff for paintings / illustrations. Those I send to the band and the label, seeing if they make their arm hair stand up or not. Usually, I have a pretty nice hitting quota with this kind of method, as a lot of bands were like "Dude! That's perfect! We never even thought of this!" (Wo Fat's "Black Code" and Enos' "All Too Human" are among those, by the way). I guess I'm lucky (Nuclear Dog's note: Or simply damn good!) and thankful for that gift. But it also can be a conceptual idea or even a song from a band that's just 'tickling my tastebuds' so to speak - activating the vision-machine. So, after the sketches have been given a greenlight, I'm doing detailing on those ideas, see what works design-wise and such (do I want to do a wrap-around painting and such? If so, does it fit the subject?), then starting to paint. Sometimes I'm sending work-in-progress previews to the band and/or the label, but usually, once I'm on the right path, the artworks kind of paint themselves. Then, it's a little fine tuning here and there on the design-parts, logos etc., and voilà - done.  

Jeremy:  Do you have any personal favourite album covers from your work over the last few years? Anything that you are particularly proud of or any work that was the most fun to do?

 Alex:  Oh, there were so many, but let's see, Tia Carrera's "Cosmic Priestess" is one of my favorites, because not only did I do it for the band years before the album came out - they also named the album after the painting, which is awesome. ÖfÖ AM's "The Beast Within" is also one I keep fishing out of the shelf, just because I painted that one from scratch to finish on one day, and it's still having that "special feeling" to it. The artwork for Wo Fat's albums are always fun, as well as the ones for Karma To Burn (though those tend to be pretty rushy and stressful at times, due to overlooked deadlines... ahem... I'm looking at you, Rich! ), and though the portal-parts details on the Enos one were a pain in the ass at some point, I just loved the idea of a space portal made out of junk so much that the fun kind of kicked the stress out of the window. Aside from that, the painting for the vinyl edition of "Frogs" was a blast. Outsmarting my own mind, seeing if I could paint the little something that was hiding there beyond the lyrics and between the lines... that was fun. And I guess it turned out pretty well... and daaaark. Haha.

 Jeremy:  Lastly, Alex, you have been very kind in signing a copy of the All Too Human vinyl for Heavy Planet to give away in competition as part of Stargun Music's first year anniversary. Would you like to give a shout out or any thanks to anyone?

 Alex:  I think I'll have to be a little general here, since it's too many bands and people that I'd love to name, so: Thanks to all of you out there who keep doing that badass music that keeps inspiring the hell out of me! And of course, there's one to the labels that keep hitting me up with awesome stuff! By this, thanks to Scott at Small Stone Records, Steffen and Thorsten at High Roller Records and not to forget you, Jeremy, and Ross at Stargun Music! It's a pleasure to work with you! Thanks for digging what I do!

 Jeremy: Just keep up the good work! Thanks for your time!


So there you have it straight from the Maestro's lips. One point not touched upon in the interview that I have subsequently discovered in short discussions with Alex is that the medium he uses is a bitmap software such as PhotoShop, PhotoPaint, or GIMP. I don't know which product he uses, but his awesome paintings, that look as though they would smear if you touched one, was created on a computer. To me, an old school wannabe, that is quite impressive. To most of you, though, it may be what you would expect in a digital world. It's proof again that digital tools can enhance the world we live in, for in this case it allows a brilliant imagination such as Alex' to be quite prolific without wasted efforts from more organic mediums. To highlight his process, below is a jpg file of the steps he took when creating "All Too Human". All too cool.


As a salute to Alex' work and to Heavy Planets' loyal readers we are offering a special giveaway to commemorate this milestone. To the first person who can name the 5 albums in Nuclear Dog's Top 20 Albums of 2012 (here) that were painted by Alex von Wieding we will send to you a signed vinyl copy of Enos' "All Too Human", signed by the cover artist himself. For the next 5 who get the list correctly we will send to you a copy of Stargun Music's awesome compilation CD "Sonic Titans", which has an incredible cover by Alex as well.

Please send your responses along with your name and postal mailing address to the following email:



Please take the time to enjoy Larman Clamor's "Frogs", an incredible romp of stoner psychedelic fun and imagination. Is there anything Alex can't do artistically? And do it exceptionally well?

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