(KevinP brings us another installment in his ongoing series of short interviews, talking this time with one of our favorite metal artists, Italy’s Paolo Girardi.)
K: So how did you get your start being one of the “go to” guys for metal album covers?
P: I already had done some local metal demo and CD covers here in my small town and villages around the ’90s and early 2000s. But then my friends Blasphemophagher wanted something for their first album, then second, then third and the most recent one. This gave me more popularity in metal. After that I did Diocletian, Tyrants Blood, In League with Satan, etc.
Three years ago (almost four maybe), I reached the point when I could live by painting alone, working all over the world. No more need to work in country, as frescos restorer, carpenter, or other occasional work. I was so glad ’cause I’ve never quit painting, even when I had to work 11 hours per day. After that, my daily wrestling training, then painting ’til after midnight. I’ve always believed at every cost. Obsession, passion, love, stubbornness, madness. Now, I still work hard to do my best for my respectful clients, bands, and labels.
K: When you get a request for an album cover, what do you normally get from the band? Music, just general ideas, very specific direction, etc.?
P: Well, they obviously share their music with me. This is basic. After that I always ask for some suggestions, some subjects, images, or visions from their lyrics (from the bands’ imaginations) or from their fantasy. That could be the skeleton, the main concept of the album. I always have my own visions , maybe too much! So my fertile fantasy must be brought back to reality. ‘Cause I paint yes, but they have to approve. I don’t want to disappoint my clients in any way! So I paint according to who they are, where they live, which kind of metal they play, which imagery they have, which culture they have grown up in. I try to imagine their behavior, their real thoughts through their words.
It has happened several times that I haven’t painted obeying strictly to what they wanted. I’ve painted with other colors, with other imagery and atmosphere, while they requested from me different things. It even happened with well-known bands! I can’t reveal more, but I often understand what they really want! Uncertainties, doubts, self-illusions. I can notice them and I can dig deeper, seeing the truth, what they really want!
K: Your art is instantly recognizable. Out of all your works, Blasphemophager’s The III Command of the Absolute Chaos is one of my favorites. Since you use a lot of “browns” most of the time, the change of pace is different. It’s also bit more detailed than what you normally do.
P: Yes, they wanted these ancient demons, so I had to give them identity and character through details. I always put first atmosphere and feeling, but this artwork needed more details. It’s also known that Blasphemophagher ‘s singer/bassist is a chemist.
K: Do you ever get requests to do something very different than what you normally do (different colors, more hyper-realism, different environment, etc.)? And if so, is that something you are comfortable with or do you prefer to stay in your wheelhouse?
P: I accept only metal commissions, but yes, every person, band, genre of metal, every story is a world, so what I have to do always changes. I naturally have my own style , my own colors, but commissions are very different. I always prefer atmosphere, feeling, and empathy to mere details. I’ve reached a condition where I can put details (not that much, to avoid making the painting cold and kinda scientific) to complete an atmospheric, warm, captivating vision. Metal is always romantic and passionate to me, even in its most extreme branches. I don’t ever forget it. I am extremely romantic too.
K: Speaking of romantic, I’m sure the ladies go wild over your unique sense of fashion: tight denim shorts, tube socks, sandals, and (my favorite) a FANNY PACK. How did you develop such an ensemble?
P: Haha, I’ve never changed my “style” since the late ’80s/early ’90s. That’s all. I am a bit out of date, some people call me a dinosaur, stubborn huge brick wall, or Neanderthal man, actually. Well, Italian ladies hate my old style. That is not old for me, it’s normal. But yes, they all admit that I’m a character, haha. I’ve never changed since those years, I still listen to the same music, same albums, same bands.
K: So what album cover that you’ve done is your favorite and which one was the most difficult?
P: It could seem strange, but I don’t have a favorite. They are all sons to me, so I don’t see differences. Every one of them is a unique creation, an adventure, a trip. But if I should choose a couple or three, well one of the two artworks I made for the last Blasphemophagher album (the blue one with cocks) for sentimental reasons. The new Manilla Road, The Blessed Curse, ’cause they have been one of my favorite bands.
When Bryan Patrick and Mark Shelton asked me if I could do a cover for their upcoming album, I ran to the restroom to make lots of diarrhea. I was very emotional about it! I was about to shit my pajama that time.
I also remember with affection the last Inquisition album. The label asked me to paint all the other five reissued albums after that. A long, amazing adventure in hell. Difficult? No, this process of creating is always natural, I try to keep it natural. Like a child playing a serious game. Serious yes, but always a game. I paint, that’s all. The really difficult thing in life for me would be going to an office everyday with a boss to whom I must say “Yes” all the time and who doesn’t care if I should die. That would be difficult.