Here is a classic interview that I did with Dennis Dread about 3 years ago (YES! CLASSIC! HAHHA!) This originally appeared on my friend’s blog THE WERKSHED. I figured that I would post it on here and spread the word of Dennis’ work to an even wider spread audience. Enjoy!
Dennis Dread has been blowing all of us away with his sick art the last decade or so! I became such a fan of his art, that I had to bug the shit out of him until he agreed to do some Gravehill art, and then I had to hit him up for a talk as well. Dennis is a very cool guy and it was awesome picking his brain. Check out his killer website as well: www.dennisdread.com
By : Mike Abominator
1. Hails Dennis, thank you for your time, how are things going for you these days? Tell about what you are currently working on.
DENNIS: Hey, Mike! Things are going great these days. The new Abscess CD Dawn Of Inhumanity just came out and the new Darkthrone record will be released this month in a special limited vinyl edition so my art is out in the world once again. We’re experiencing some unseasonably warm weather here in Portland this weekend so right now I’m sitting on my front porch with The Flesh Eaters blasting through the speakers. My neighbors don’t seem pleased.
2. So let’s go back to the start of your artwork. When did you start drawing seriously and what inspired you to get serious about it? Did you have any influences from other artists? And what made you decide to go with “ball point pen” art?
DENNIS: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember but I don’t know how seriously I take it. I’m not a commercial artist and I only move my pens when the spirit to create moves me. I’ve met a lot of career artists who have devoted their best years to slouching over a desk in silence. Many of them are miserable. That’s not me. I’ve had countless ever-evolving influences and inspirations over the years. Too many to name. A few of my favorite artists whose influences might not be so readily apparent are the Australian witch Rosaleen Norton, the Teutonic visionary Fidus and the atavistic conjurer Austin Osman Spare. I love the Symbolists too! My favorite artists are those who possess an eclectic personal vision and unique technical abilities. I would emphasize the word “unique” as opposed to, say, “talented.” In fact, the ability to actually draw or paint well does not necessarily have much bearing on whether or not a work of art will ultimately engage the eye. I like art that seems charged with passion and immediacy and is imbued with something of the creator’s essential nature. My relationship with music is very similar. You know that feeling you get when you hear a great Celtic Frost or Black Sabbath riff? It may not be the most complex or technical playing but you somehow feel immediately affected and connected to the musician. Art is much the same way for me. I initially gravitated to ballpoint pen because that’s what was available when I was younger and I’ve remained true to this humble medium long after most artists discover brushes and paint because I still resonate with those heavily shaded nuances. I like to call it Horror Noir. Why waste time perfecting fancy new styles when I’m perfectly content with my cheap little pens? Like the old Sore Throat song, I’m UNHINDERED BY TALENT!
3. You have done quite a bit of art for bands and record labels over the years. How did you get into working within the underground music scene?
DENNIS: That’s a good question. I’ve been lurking in the underground for so many years that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how or when I first got into this. It probably started way back in the 80′s when I was buying zines and records and constantly looking for heavier and more obscure music and art. Later I started working for an underground t-shirt company called Mutilation Graphics and that experience provided me with exposure to a lot of different stuff that continues to influence my work. I started working for Mutilation Graphics in 1990 just a couple weeks after I graduated from high school. I was working on my own artwork while silk-screening shirts and by the time I left to travel the country I was well entrenched in the underground. My first significant metal projects were with Engorged a few years later. The Engorged guys were some of the first friends I made when I landed in Portland more than a decade ago and they remain some of my closest friends to this day. They believed in my art from the day we met and that’s sometimes all it takes to propel an artist forward. If it weren’t for Engorged I would still be sitting in some moldy basement drawing zombies in total obscurity. Oh wait. I still am. Well, at least I’ve satisfied my quota of mentioning Engorged at least four times per interview.
4. What are a few of your favorite projects that you have done?
DENNIS: I’m really proud of my trinity of drawings for Darkthrone, beginning with F.O.A.D. and coming to fruition recently with the new album Circle The Wagons. Hail to DARKTHRONE!
5. Tell me about the Destroying Angels art zine that you have been doing for a while now?
DENNIS: I started Destroying Angels the year my daughter was born as a way to remain creative and disciplined since I realized that my time would become a very precious commodity as a father. If I remember correctly, the first issue came out in May 1998 and I kept a fairly consistent annual schedule until issue #9 which came out two years ago. I’ve actually been busy working on the new issue recently and will return with issue #10 in 2010! Print media is pretty much on its deathbed but I forge ahead with my humble xerox publication despite all odds. ONLY STAPLES AND PAPER CUTS ARE REAL!!!! The new issue will feature 3D cover art and come with 3D glasses! I don’t really keep deadlines but it should be ready by the spring and will be available through my website.
6. You also do Public Art Exhibitions in the Portland, Oregon area as well as across the nation and overseas, tell me about these.
DENNIS: Yeah, I initially started showing my drawings in local galleries just to see what would happen and eventually I started receiving invitations to exhibit in other cities. Public exhibits are a great way to get critical feedback and further develop as an artist. It’s interesting to see how strangers will react to your work. I also realized that galleries don’t have to be boring and can serve as an excellent way to expose work to a broader audience. In 2007 I organized my first annual group exhibit called ENTARTETE KUNTS, which is a play on the title of the old “degenerate art” exhibits in Nazi Germany. The basic premise is that this is a new era of Underground/Outsider art. The fine art world would like to effectively exile and exterminate this defiant breed of fantastic representational art. But we will continue to thrive in the shadows! The KUNTS shows have have been challenging to organize but immensely satisfying and modestly successful considering most metalheads don’t have disposable income for art. I’m currently compiling a beautiful hard bound book that celebrates the first three years of the ENTARTETE KUNTS shows. It will be released early next year through Ajna Bound, the new publishing division of the highly acclaimed underground label Ajna Offensive. I’m also organizing a book tour and traveling art exhibit to commemorate the book’s release. The KUNTS will be invading YOUR town soon!
7. So you did a “Heavy Metal Vomit Party” on the radio recently. What did you play on there? And can we expect more of this madness?
DENNIS: Yeah, some friends invited me down to Portland’s local radio station to spin records with them and we had a great time! We blasted classics like Autopsy, Pungent Stench, Cryptic Slaughter, No Mercy, Pentagram, Sodom, Razor, Broken Bones and more recent favorites like Ghoul and The Devil’s Blood. They’ve asked me to come back so it looks like I’ll be doing it again very soon! When I was very young I got exposed to tons of great bands through the radio stations around New York so getting to play records on the radio is very special. I hope some lonely misfit kid in the suburbs accidentally tunes in and becomes infected with the curse of the headbanger!
8. Tell me about the Lucifer Rising project. And who is Bobby BeauSoleil?
DENNIS: It’s a long story so I’m gonna be lame and suggest everyone stop reading now and go buy The Lucifer Rising Suite box set from the Ajna Offensive. The liner notes are very extensive and explain the whole story from several unique perspectives. The first pressing sold out much quicker than we imagined but the re-press is available now. It’s an amazing 4 LP collection and one of my proudest accomplishments as an artist. I actually just visited Bobby in prison last week and he’s doing well, staying healthy and strong despite the soul-crushing environment in which he has lived for the past 41 years. His next parole hearing is coming up in December 2010 so we’ll see what happens. I’m of the personal opinion that Bobby has paid his debt to society and should be released to enjoy his elder years in the company of his wife and friends. Of course when you murder someone, all bets are off. Only time will tell.
9. What bands and albums have you been blowing the speakers out with and pissing off the neighbors with lately?
DENNIS: I’ve been blasting the second Flesh Eaters LP, A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die (1981), all afternoon. Great slice of early L.A. death punk! Probably too jagged and weird for most metalheads but the diehards might recognize their song from the Return Of The Living Dead soundtrack. What else have I been blasting lately? I’ve practically worn out my Weapon LP! Ten years from now Drakonian Paradigm will be as revered as Storm Of The Lights Bane or some other violent but melodic classic. It’s a special record. I really like the new Saturnalia Temple. Also been blasting Cloven Hoof a lot lately. ”The House of God has been violated!!!!”
10. What are some of the best live bands that you have seen in your life of going to shows?
DENNIS: The strange thing about live shows is that they have everything to do with ephemeral environmental factors that are largely out of the control of the participants. You can see your favorite band perform but if the club is lame or the crowd has no energy or the sound is bad it can be very disappointing. One of the most memorable live shows I ever witnessed was actually a free Death In June performance at this little record shop here in Portland in 2005. There were like 15 people present and when Douglas Pierce asked for requests my daughter, who was 7 years old at the time, surprised us all by yelling out “Black Angel!” He was standing right in front of us and immediately launched into the most stirring acoustic version of that song that I’ll ever hear. It nearly brought me to tears. That’s what a live performance is all about. Historically, it was very cool to see Anthrax and Anvil Bitch at L’amour in Brooklyn on the Among The Living tour. I saw the Cro Mags around the same time at The Ritz in New York City and it was a very hostile and exhilarating event. Oddly enough, Watain is a band that engages the senses in a similarly violent manner. Watain is a live experience not to be missed. Eyehategod at the Dixie bar in New Orleans on Fat Tuesday in 1995 was very memorable despite the vast amounts of alcohol consumed. Bolt Thrower at Party San Fest 2008 in Germany was definitely an experience I will never forget. They played at night under an expanse of stars with fog machines casting smoke throughout the crowd and at one point a sheet of light rain fell and transformed the otherwise modest cow pasture into some sort of primeval battlefield! I had the good fortune of witnessing Iron Maiden at Wacken Fest that same summer and managed to secure a place directly front row with some very good people from all around the world. We were literally against the barrier with 70,000 rabid headbangers pressing at our backs. That experience alone made up for missing Maiden during the 80′s! Amebix in Seattle on their first reunion tour in January 2009 was absolutely epic in every way imaginable. Roky Erickson a few years ago was another event that left me speechless. The best shows are probably still to come!
11. Do you remember the first heavy metal album that you bought?
DENNIS: I have to admit that the first record I ever bought with my own money was the Heavy Metal soundtrack. I wish I could say it was Sad Wings Of Destiny or something but, no, it was that very mediocre cartoon soundtrack that still haunts me in the discount bins at record stores. At least it had Black Sabbath ‘Mob Rules’ on it. That was actually my first exposure to Dio so I suppose I shouldn’t complain.
12. OK Dennis, keep up the killer work. Can’t wait for the Gravehill / Dennis Dread Collaboration! haha. Any last words?
DENNIS: Thanks for the great interview and for taking an interest in my artwork, Mike. I look forward to a bloody Dread/Gravehill collaboration in the future! We’ve talked about it long enough. See you in Hell!
March 4th, 2010