What have bands like VADER, CARNAGE, ENTOMBED, MORBID ANGEL, NOCTURNUS, DISMEMBER, HYPOCRISY, MONSTROSITY, BENEDICTION, MALEVOLENT CREATION, PESTILENCE and EDGE OF SANITY in common, besides the fact that they all put out excellent Death Metal releases? You found it? All these bands had at least one release embraced by the brilliant and outstanding artwork of Dan Seagrave. In the early nineties, the work of this man was extremely popular but within the last couple of years you didn’t see that much cover-artwork of him around anymore. In fact, I didn’t see any of his work within the last years until the latest MORBID ANGEL album. Anyway, I got in touch with Dan and present you herewith this interview, maybe it’s the first one you ever read – because I never got to read an interview with him before this one either…

At what age did you start drawing? What were the first things you made paintings of?
"At least at the age of 4 or 5, I think. I started drawing aircraft spaceships and things like that. In school, I used to paint pictures on the other kids backpacks for money, which became quite lucrative at one point."

When you started drawing, which painters or comics would you say were a major influence?
"I grew up in England, near Nottingham, so there were many things in the country which have inspired the way I began painting, for example the nature and many styles of architecture within the landscape. As far as actual artists influencing my work, when I was much younger certainly M.C. Escher, John Martin and J.W. Turner, as well as my visits to the national gallery in London. I am more fascinated with architecture than art, I never wanted my work to be like someone else’s and that means looking elsewhere for that creative kick. I hardly use any reference material for my work either, because I find it can become stifling to the instinctive idea. I’m trying to convey. Films have also been a great influence for me, for example the analyzing set and the production design. I would wonder where I would make improvements if I would have worked on that particular movie."

In the beginning, did you just copy existing paintings or did you try to come up with own work as soon as possible? Was it hard for you to develop an own style ? Which materials do you use and which do you prefer?
"I don’t use airbrush, I use mostly acrylics these days, but all my old album art is done in gouache paint.There are pluses and minuses to each paint: gouache is a very dull paint and can be easily damaged by any moisture or greasy thumb prints, but the level of detail is incredible compared to the same time spent using acrylic."

When you draw a cover, how do you go to work?
"I simply get going on an idea based on the album-title and usually the first idea I get is the one I end up using. I personally have not sold a pre-existing painting for a cover, although some people may think I had recently with a certain old PESTILENCE cover, now to be seen on another album of a different title. This was because David Horn from SOD magazine actually sold a transparency without my permission to another record company. I got slammed for it in one magazine, it was Metal Maniacs I think, but it wasn’t me folks. I didn’t get a penny for it, only the grief."

Are you a big Metal fan yourself and when did you get interested in Metal? Do you like other music as well?
"I was a bit of a rocker with long hair guy in the eighties. I would go to a club called "Rock City" in Nottingham to see gigs of bands like ANTHRAX and PEARL JAM. It was the general hang out for anyone who wasn’t into cheesy dance clubs and wanted a bit more of an alternative outing. I wouldn’t say that I’m a Metal fan strictly speaking, I like all kinds of music including some heavy stuff."

What was actually the very first Metal cover you drew?
"I knew the band LAWNMOWER DEATH from my home-village and that "Rock City" place. When they landed a deal to do an extremely low budget album, I jumped at the opportunity of doing their album cover, even though they had already been sent a very professionally airbrushed piece of art to use. I basically told them to let me do a picture and then choose which one they would prefer.They went with my trashier, less professional, yet more fun design! This was a split album with METAL DUCK and an absolute classic, reaching number one in the Metal charts at the time. I also ended up doing METAL DUCK’s cover as well and then produced more art the RKT label over the next few years. All the other album art came solely as a result of it being passed on to the next record label. A domino effect took place. The first real Death Metal cover was the one I did for MORBID ANGEL, the famous "Altars Of Madness" album."

What are your memories concerning the creation of the covers of "Altars Of Madness" (MORBID ANGEL), and "Left Hand Path" (ENTOMBED)? Do you still have the original paintings?
"I still have all the original art. The only memories I have of these paintings is the fact that they took me so bloody long to paint! The first MORBID ANGEL record was funny because I remember taking in a half finished picture with most of the circle of faces missing, but still managing to sell them on the idea of what it was going to become in the next couple of weeks. It’s strange to look at some of my art, especially my more recent work, because some of them take months to complete and all these other things are going on in-between. But when you finally get to the end of the painting process, you don’t see all that time spent or where the picture began, it simply becomes an experience."

What do you personally think is the best cover for an album you ever made and which do you think is the worst and why? What do you think is the best album cover ever created (not your own) and why?
"Well, I think PESTILENCE’s "Testimony Of The Ancients" is the best, because it works well compositionally and retains its impact close up and far away. I recently had this one published again under its original title ("Centralobe"). The worst is MALEVOLENT CREATION’s "Retribution", because I only had 5 days to do it and I made the painting too large for all the details it required. The consequences were truly dire! Oh well! I’m not sure what my favorite album cover is, maybe the white album because it’s so universal and timeless but that’s a bit of a cop-out answer, sorry."

Are you personally very much in touch with the bands you create covers for?
"No, only when someone needs a cover."

What do you think of the work of other painters like for example Kristian Wahlin, Kris Verwimp, Andreas Marschall or Axel? Are you in touch with them?
"I don’t know any of them, I do remember a couple of Andreas Marschall covers for Roadrunner though."

Have you ever made a real comic or have you ever thought about creating a comic? What would the story of the comic be about?
"I have considered it but I don’t think it’s quite my thing. Comic art is another highly evolved realm of creativity unto itself and not to be trifled with as a mere hobby by my clumsy hands. However, I do have a story which is my art project, it’s called ‘Temple’."

In the beginning of the nineties, let’s say from 1989 – 1992, your work was used very much. For several years, I haven’t seen any cover art of yours until the release of the latest MORBID ANGEL album. Why do you think nobody asked you within those years and what have you mainly been doing within those years?
"From 1988 – 1994, I was creating a lot of cover art. Afterwards, it seemed to dry up, probably because of over-saturation of the market. I did around 40 covers, computer graphics were cheaper alternatives, but I think paintings are far more interesting to look at. And people realize that computer art is as different to painting as photography, it’s simply another medium which is why things are beginning to level off again. Having said that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of cover commissions worth doing out there, which is why I’m concentrating on producing my own art to sell as prints and posters, thus keeping the quality of work and the subject matter in top form. Since 1994, I’ve spent a lot of time in Canada doing commissions here in the States and in England, and concentrating on the ‘Temple’ series."

Can you make a living of your drawings? Is painting your main profession?
"All I do is paint and design but it’s not all just album covers. Some of the work I do is large-scale Mural art on canvas, including a 20 x 20 foot square ceiling mural for the Hard Rock café in Ottawa."

Are you expensive? Do you charge a lot to design a cover?
"Well, that all depends on who is paying. I charge around 1000 pound for cover art, which sends a lot of people in the Metal industry reaching for the vomit bag! But 1000 pounds isn’t a lot of money when you consider the amount of time I put into a piece (about 3 weeks) and they get to sell albums and T-shirts with the design. But somehow, people don’t want to part with the cash when it comes down to art."

Is there still a band that you would really love to make a cover for and why?
"I don’t know, something weird and different, no band comes to mind."

What do you mostly do from morning till evening?
"I’m up around 9 A.M., I either stay at home and paint or I’m off to the studio and paint something bigger. If I’m not doing that, I might be wondering around the streets or jetting off to a wonderfully tropical location like Canada or England!"

Is Dan Seagrave actually your real name?
"Daniel Seagrave is my full name but it is my real name, merely abbreviated slightly for theatrical effect."

I was quite surprised to see that you live in Canada, since I thought you were from America. Have you been living in Canada all your life?
"I’m British and still base myself there, although I have spent a lot of time in Toronto over the last few years. I love Canada and the States, but I don’t know if I’m going to live here forever. There are so many things about Europe that I love, so I’ll see."

Is your work ever used for other things as well, I’m thinking of for example the cover of a movie?
"Not a movie, but I have some album covers in a book (the encyclopedia of scifi and fantasy art techniques) and as posters."

The albums you made covers for were always Death or Thrash Metal bands. Would you like to create covers for other Metal styles as well?
"Providing the job sounds interesting then. Yes, I’m selective these days with what work I take on, because it is time spent away from my personal art."

Are there any covers you are currently working on? What are your current future plans?
"I’ve had a lot of cover art inquiries. I’m sure there will be more art out there to see soon. I’m currently putting together the next additions to my ‘Temple’ series, which is very time consuming because of the level of perfection that I want to achieve with these works. It’s way beyond that of any album cover previously seen, it is really almost like I’m saying ‘this is what I’m capable of’."

Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?
"Yes, I’d really like everyone to be on the lookout for the ‘Temple’ series for the reasons I’ve mentioned, and because this is my personal art. They can be seen on my website, www.danseagrave.com and they are in shops all over the world. These paintings are going to be a part of a bigger series, which will eventually be linked by story boards on my website, I am also working on a screenplay for these works with the idea of creating a film version of ‘Temple’, it’s a big project in its infancy, but the idea is moving along. I hope people like this new stuff because it is a bit different. For more information or if you have any questions, people can always contact me via e-mail."


HYDRAVEIN – "After The Dream" 1989
DESECRATOR – "Subconscious Release" 1989
METAL DUCK – "Auto Ducko Destructo Mondo" 1990
WARFARE – "Live LP" 1991

MORBID ANGEL – " Altars of Madness" 1989
ENTOMBED – "Left Hand Path " 1990
LAWNMOWER DETH – " Flying Killer Cobs From The Planet Bob " 1990
NOCTURNUS – " The Key " 1990
CARNAGE – " Dark Recollections " 1990
ENTOMBED – " Clandestine " 1991
VADER – " The Ultimate Incantation " 1992
LAWNMOWER DETH – " Return of the Fabulous Metal Bozo Clowns" 1992

DISMEMBER – "Like an Ever Flowing Stream" 1991
RESURRECTION -"Embalmed Existence" 1992
HYPOCRISY – "Penetralia" 1992
DEATH IS JUST THE BEGINNING – "Compilation Album and Video" 1992
MONSTROSITY – "Imperial Doom" 1991
BENEDICTION – "Transcend the Rubicon" 1993

AT DEATH’S DOOR – "Compilation L.P." 1990
MALEVOLENT CREATION – "The Ten Commandments" 1990
PESTILENCE – "Testimony of the Ancients" 1991
SUFFOCATION – "Effigy of the Forgotten" 1991
GORGUTS – Considered Death" 1991
MALEVOLENT CREATION – "Retribution 1992
GORGUTS – "The Erosion of Sanity" 1992
SUFFOCATION – "Breeding the Spawn" 1993
PESTILENCE – "Spheres" 1993
MALEVOLENT CREATION – "Stillborn" 1993
PESTILENCE – "Compilation" 1994

BLACK SABBATH TRIBUTE ALBUM – "Masters of Misery" 1992
SEANCE – "Forever Laid to Rest" 1992
INVOCATOR – "Weave the Apocalypse" 1993
EDGE OF SANITY – "The Spectral Sorrows" 1993

Steven Willems

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