Interviews

MIKE HRUBOVCAK: THE VOICE OF MONSTROSITY, METAL ALBUM COVER ARTISTE

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It might only be the beginning of 2010, but artist and Monstrosity vocalist Mike Hrubovcak is already stoked to know that the metal-minded artwork he’s done for the likes of Decrepit Birth, Braindrill, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, Aurora Borealis, and Azure Emote (another criminally underrated, Hrubovcak-fronted band) will be featured in an upcoming Hollywood production with plenty of star power to go around.

Dream House, a Universal/Morgan Creek film helmed by Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts, will hit theaters in 2011 and has a plot that’s fitting enough for Hrubovcak’s artwork: a family (Weisz and Craig) move into a new home to find out about a brutal slaying there earlier in its history, while the neighbor (Watts) is the only person able to lend any hint that the husband who allegedly killed his wife and children there may not be dead. Not only is it great exposure for Hrubovcak — who works as a graphic designer for an “adult novelty” company by day, as an artist using oil, airbrush, and photo manipulation for some of metal’s most brutal bands (with cover art to match) by night, and still finds time to participate in Monstrosity, Vile, and a host of other projects — but it’s great for metal. Where else can metalheads hope to see artwork from gruesome metal bands at the movies?

Hrubovcak’s VisualDarkness website has a ton of samples of his past works in his portfolio to check out, but for the uninitiated, the man’s done artwork for bands like Chainsaw Dissection, Fecal God, and XXX Maniak – so you should pretty much know what to expect.

Hrubovcak took some time to talk with MetalSucks about an upcoming showcasing of some of his works, how he deals with having so much on his plate, and zombies. Oh, come on, you knew that was coming.

Hey, Mike. Congrats on getting involved with the Dream House movie. That’s got to be pretty awesome for a death metal guy like yourself, right? It’s not exactly post-impressionism or typical snobby art show material. Chalk one up on the board for the metalheads.

Thanks man – appreciate it! Yes, I agree it’s always good to see something “tr00” and metal-related in a commercial or mainstream outlet, like a movie or TV show, ‘cause it’s rare, and when you do actually see it, you’re like, “Hell yeah!” Have you ever seen the movie The Butterfly Effect? There’s a scene in that movie when this big, fat goth kid is wearing an S.O.D. Magazine t-shirt [S.O.D. is of the few, super glossy underground metal magazines that’s still left. Check them out here. – Ed.]  and has Wes Benscoter [Cattle Decapitation, Torture Killer, Mortician] posters all over the walls of his room. When I saw that, I was like, “Hell yeah!” I even remember watching Full House when I was a little kid and seeing some dude wearing a Cynic t-shirt on the show and being like, “YES!!!” [laughs] So I can see how it will be cool if some fellow metalheads watch this movie and see a surprise glimpse of a Decrepit Birth poster or something. It’s always a cool thing to see.

How did all that come about? Was somebody in the production of the film a fan, or a metalhead, or was it one of those “right place, right time” things?

I wish I had a cooler answer for you, but it’s pretty much that the art director of the production, I think, did a search on the internet for death metal posters and stumbled across my website. I mean, if you type “death metal” into any search engine, I’m bound to pop up somewhere. They were impressed with my portfolio and wanted that authentic feel for the set they were creating. All my illustrations are done for real, underground metal bands in the scene, so they wanted something that can show that the characters are “true” death metal fans, and are really “into the real shit,” so to say.

Are you big into movies yourself? A lot of metalheads associate with the horror or gore-type horror movies, and Dream House sounds kind of like thriller-meets-horror stuff.

Yeah, I have quite the DVD collection – I even collect tons of old VHS tapes as well. Most of the movies I watch are old-school 80s, 90s horror or monster movies, but I do enjoy a good thriller or drama every once in a while. Nowadays, everyone’s catching up with the whole digital downloads thing and everything, but I still love hunting down the mom ‘n pop shops that sell bargain bin VHS tapes or old DVDs. Sometimes you can find some rare shit that just makes your day. I just found the movie Burial Ground the other day in a bargain bin and was like, “Fuck yes! It’s mine!” [laughs]

Anything you’re a big fan of, in general, that might not be on MetalSuckers’ radar?

Hm, good question. I mean, it’s obvious I’m into horror movies, and that I’m inspired by fantasy artists like Dan Seagrave, Wes Benscoter, but something different? I’m really into sharks, sea creatures, space and science… if that counts? [laughs] Aliens, too. I have two great whites tattooed on my back, an octopus with an alien brain in it — since cephalopods are the most likely to have evolved into higher species if man never existed — and I’m into nature documentaries on ancient sea creatures, space and quantum physics.

Now let’s talk about your art in general. We know you don’t make the cover art and layouts a full-time gig, but how much of the time would you say you involve yourself in that?

I really wish that I could make it a full time gig. I mean, I probably could make it happen and may try it one day, but I did the math, and I wouldn’t really be making enough to make me comfortable. Plus, I’d end up doing album covers just for money and shooting things out just to get them done and taking any and every job even if I wasn’t into it. It would take all the fun out of doing covers, since I’d be doing it to put food in my mouth, and not just a pure artistic outlet. I mean right now pretty much all of my free time is devoted to doing visualdarkness.com (When I’m not busy touring or doing band things, that is.)

And you like to utilize a couple different mediums for most of your stuff, right? Do you think that lends itself well to death metal-type stuff specifically, or is that more just your feel for your artistic style? It certainly gives you that look that tells people it’s your work.

Well, I’m glad that I’ve developed a style that’s recognizable, that’s great. I started with oil painting, airbrushing and pen & ink when I was younger. Then I moved into computer graphics and airbrushing with the Wacom tablet and stuff as I got older. It was never something I consciously decided to do, it kind of just happened over time. I like experimenting and improvising to make things work. In death metal, there are no boundaries, and I like that. The same goes with art. I just try to make things work, in which ever way I can. Artists are problem solvers. We figure out ways to make our visions physical. In the end — to me — it doesn’t really matter what tools you use, just that you make it happen.

Speaking of work, is it possible to pick out a few of your favorite pieces, or is that like picking out a favorite child? I mean, we know it’s not fair to the kids, but we all know the parents have a favorite or two, so can you pick out a couple that turned out really well from their inception  to construction and completion?

[laughs] That’s true. There are always favorites. Hm, that’s a hard one. I think my favorite pieces are the really surreal or fantasy based ones, not so much the gore. I really like the No Souls Lost cover with the cthulhu creature in the temple [for Hostis Humani Generis]. Although I do really like the Mortician and Being Killed covers, since I’m obsessed with zombies, and I think those two came out really dark and horror-filled.

Are there any times that something really doesn’t turn out the right way? Or something that a band ends up loving, but you end up thinking about something that could have been done differently, manipulated another way, or didn’t pan out to the vision in your head when you started?

Yeah, there were a slim few. If I was frustrated with it for some reason, it was probably a job that I was just doing ‘cause I needed money or wasn’t really into the concept that the band suggested. It’s frustrating when a band is too specific about what they want, especially if it’s something generic with nothing new or creative in it. It gets frustrating with some of the gore-grind projects, ‘cause there’s only so much you can do with a mutilated corpse before you start repeating yourself.

What’s coming down the pipeline for you?

I’m working on the next Sinister album, entitled Legacy of Ashes. I’m pumped about this one, ‘cause it’s a really cool concept and is gonna come out super dark. Also, I’m working on a cool fantasy-orientated temple/landscape design for this band called Grand Sermon out of Germany that is some really good old-school death metal. I’m also working with David Horn from S.O.D magazine on some layout stuff, so I’m always busy doing something, and getting ready for a few upcoming tours with Monstrosity and Abraxas.

At this point in your career can you be selective on taking projects on, or do you try to do whatever you have time for?

Well, if a band emails me up, normally I’ll work on whatever I have time for, but these days things are so busy that making time for new art really is an art  itself. So, I do have to pick and choose the bands that I’m really into musically or concept-wise.

And what if there’s someone reading this right now that really digs your artwork and thinks, “Hey that would be great for my band!”, what’s your advice to them?

Just e-mail me [at mike AT visualdarkness DOT com] and we’ll see what’s up! My schedule is always fluctuating, so it could be a hit or miss if I’m able to get started on something right away. I would also recommend getting in touch a few months before the record is scheduled to be released. Sometimes I can start right away and have it to you within a couple weeks, and then sometimes I have to wait a month or two before I can even start on it.

-BC

Check out a bunch of samples of Mike Hrubovcak’s works at his website, VisualDarkness.com, and keep an eye out for Dream House, due to be released sometime in 2011. And don’t forget that Monstrosity is a pretty good band, too.

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