Interview d'Eliran KANTOR (english)
FB - Hello Eliran. If all heavy metal fans know some of your work, few know the man behind it. What we know from the information found on the net is that you were born on September 13, 1984, Israeli living in Germany. What path led the little Eliran to become one of the most talented illustrators of heavy metal?
EK - I got into drawing as a kid. My father Zeev Kantor painted and drew, so his work was my introduction to art as a toddler. He painted my bedroom walls with Disney characters, and his own walls with characters from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’.
The years following were mainly pen and pencil, with some occasional experiments with chalk and acrylics. I did cartoons mostly - mimicking Uri Fink - and imaginary Ninja Turtles 'screenshots' from an imaginary video game that didn't exist. At fifteen I did a few murals on my bedroom walls with acrylics, then was asked to paint a couple of friends’ walls as well. A few local metal bands saw these and asked me to design album covers for them
FB - What motivated you in this very specific career choice ?
EK - It wasn’t a conscious choice. Even while doing cover at age 17, I was thinking on getting into sound engineering and recording bands. But even with that, I never looked forward in terms of “career” or “future”, I just kept on doing what I loved doing and with the time one of them faded (audio recording) and the other turned into a career but without me planning it. I always had this very juvenile approach, and I think I owe a lot to that worldview, because it was rough in the first few years, and someone who “thinks forward” might have quit since the chances were slim that this would ever turn into a proper career you can have a family and a future in.
FB - Do you remember your "first time" ? Can you tell us about it ?
EK - The timeline is a bit fuzzy there, it was either Solitary or Armilos, whose line-up included future Orphaned Land members Matan and Idan.
As a 17 year old teen and a massive CD collector at the time, I was just so thrilled when I got these CDs. I have a really vivid picture of those moments in my mind. I got both outside of a local gig and I’ve probably stayed outside checking every panel and part of them, that I probably missed a couple of the opening acts. Both bands heard about me because we had friends in common, and I used to paint murals on the walls of my friends' bedrooms.
FB - Can you tell us about the process of creation between the moment you are asked and the finalization of an artwork ?
EK - Ideas usually come to me when I lie in bed trying to fall asleep. I usually sketch it out the next day, and wait for an opportunity to flesh it out one day when it can be made into a commission, since most of the time bands come to me with very general themes, and some might work well with the ideas I’ve already set aside.
If it’s a commission for an album cover, I start off going through the lyrics or just analysing the album title, and keep that in the back of my mind for some time, until I come up with a story I feel can result in a powerful image.
I then sketch it out in black and white, no real details or colors, but the composition is there - the characters and positions, light direction, weight and balance, eye flow and storytelling etc - all is set in the first sketch. Once I have the band's approval on that, I move forward with a rough color pallet, get that approved, and then move on to detailing.
FB - And what is your relationship with the artists you work with ?
EK - It’s pretty intense during the process itself, since you momentarily become a fifth member of the band, or at least a crew member: you discuss with the band their lyrics, their lives, what drove their creative process, and what kind of imagery would benefit all of you and above everything benefit the album. So you get pretty personally and emotionally invoiced and invested.
Once the work is done, we usually stay in touch until the next record by social media, but with some bands, you actually make friends and meet up every once in a while or at least talk often about your life and personal stuff.
FB - You also make exhibitions, like during the W.O.A. 2019. What is your relationship with the public?
EK - I’m really looking forward to doing these again. Especially following the response the previous exhibitions got, seeing how many festival goers and music fans find it special and exciting, since they never get to see their favourite album covers so big and up-close.
They hang around for hours, come back again and again, ask questions, take pictures, get their albums and prints signed. It’s fantastic and the amount of joy it brings others while relatively no stress on your end (well, once the pieces are finally up and hanging at least) makes it really enjoyable.
The response has been overwhelming, and by that I mean I’m truly amazed to hear how passionate people get when they tell you what the artwork means to them. The stories they tell make it a very special event.
FB - Going through your work from 2003 to now, I noticed that if you work with heavy, power and death metal bands, we find few collaborations with black metal bands. Is it a personal choice ?
EK - Actually I’ve worked with more Black Metal bands than Power Metal bands. From the top of my head I can think of Abigail Williams, Gaerea, Bishop of Hexen, Apokathilosis, Sigh, Horns & Hooves, Craven Idol, Pandemonium & Fester. I tend to work with bands I like, regardless of genre.
FB - A little bit delicate question... Among all these covers, I am going to ask you to choose the one you prefer and the one you like the least. Which reasons justify your choices ?
EK - I guess I like the newer pieces more than the old ones, since you get technically better with the years. I tend to focus on my new works, and so even on my website and exhibition, you will most like see only the latest work from the last few years.
FB - Your inspiration is diverse but essentially "classical". Which painters inspire you the most ?
EK - I do admire a lot of VERY different artists spanning all the way back to the old masters and to modern times, even cartoon animators from the 70′-90’s and modern day 3D animators.
So that list would be as diverse as any list going from Arnold Böcklin to Odd Nerdrum, Rubens to Beksinski, Goya to John K, Frank Frazetta to Terry Gilliam and Hipgnosis to Jesse Kanda.
I do try not to do straight-up neo-classical work, but instead use that aesthetic as a tool in order to create something different. The inspiration for that came from the animation Terry Gilliam did for Monty Python, were he would hack and animate classical art in a way that looked grotesque and bizarre.
FB - Your personal works, such as The Human Condition, Burn or America II, are very dark. Does it correspond to your vision of the world ?
EK - None of my work is preaching anyone to take up my political views, and that’s because while I do have political positions on many topics, I find them less interesting and original than the stories I came up with.
While I might one day come up with political ideas I think would be worth sharing, anything I can tell you about politics so far, you’ve probably heard before. So it will do nothing but please the already agreeing side, and not convince the other side. There is enough of that.
FB - Your last realization is the superb cover of the album Bionic Swarm of the group Cryptosis, rather different from what you did until now. Can you tell us a little more about its conception ?
EK – Thank you. The band wanted me to create a vision of a world were human download the knowledge, memories, personality and abilities of people from the past, like relatives or notable famous people. So I looked at it like a body that is accepting a parasite and willingly becoming a host. That’s why I designed that mind-altering headgear you see on the cover based on various shapes of parasites.
FB - You are featured in the beautiful book And Justice for Art vol. 3. Will the fans be able one day to browse a book entirely dedicated to you ?
EK - Yes, my plan is to begin working on it this year. With everything I do, I take a long time planning it first, because I want to have something that I myself would have liked and found interesting. That’s why I’m still working on the format of it, and deciding what I want to include in it and how.
FB - You are 37 years old now. How do you project yourself in the future ?
EK - When it’s safe and logistically possible again, I’d love to return to booking more exhibitions, just like in Wacken/Copenhell/Bloodstock, since I love traveling and I really love the job it brings people to see these pieces up close.
FB - I thank you very much for having taken the time to answer this interview which allows us to know you better.
EK - Thank you for inviting me!
Interview collected by email by Funeral Bitch on March 31, 2021