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WEBCounter by GOWEB    

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   MATTIAS NORÉN
Mattias at work ;) March 2004
http://www.progart.com

It's special to me to do an interview with one of my favorite coverartists instead of a musician for a change. Even though it's the music that really counts, the package has a lot to say about the product and effects the sales a lot I'm sure, so therefore is very important. I have a few favorites but the artist that inspires me the most is the symphathetic Swede Mattias Norén, probably best known for his work for Ayreon, Evergrey and Into Eternity.

Most things you've done so far are for progbands, is that because of your own musical taste or do you think your artwork only fits those kind of bands? Would you also do art for death or thrash covers if asked?

It's because of my musical taste. It's always more fun to work with a band you like the music of. But it would be a challenge to do artwork for other genres as well. Pop, hip-hop, jazz or whatever. I have actually done two thrash/death-metal covers already for Unholy Ghost and Throneaeon.

Into Eternity are half death metal, so you already had some death metal for a while :)

Yes, that's true. So I've done three and a half death covers then :)

Right! Hehe! Who are your heroes when it comes to artwork and who inspires you (artists, music)?

Alan Lennon © Mattias Norén Oh, there are so many great artists. If we talk artwork I have to mention Hugh Syme, Travis Smith, Niklas Sundin, Rodney Matthews, Thomas Ewerhard. Music? How much space do we have, haha. There are so many bands I would love to mention. To name a few.. Pain of Salvation, Saga, Journey, Wolverine, Porcupine Tree, Ayreon, IQ, Opeth, Evergrey, Into Eternity and Heaven's Cry.

Have you ever heard of Claudio Bergamin? I recently discovered that name because of the covers he did for Criminal (www.criminal1.com). I believe he's a photographer most of all.

No, never heard of neither him nor the band I'm afraid. Might be something for me to check out. (checks the Criminal cover) That's really good.

For those who are interested: his website is at http://bergamind.cjb.net.
How does it feel to inspire others with your work? Your work certainly inspires me to make websites and also in making my own graphics for sites!


I never think much about that. If I can inspire someone that's great. The main focus is to give the listener something nice to look at when he is listening to the music. If it inspires someone to create his or her own artwork, that's just a nice bonus. Sometimes I do the artwork before the bands record the music, and when they say that my artwork inspires them while recording that really makes me happy. Actually Vivien Lalu just created a song from the inspiration he got from one of my images. That felt great. It used to be the other way around.

That is really a big compliment for your work!

Indeed. I hope it will be released one day.

Is coverart your regular job? What kind of training did you have?

I lost my job as a web designer in a larger company recently, so I just started my own business and hopefully it will work out. CD artwork will be my main thing but I will also do some traditional advertising jobs and web jobs. Before I started to work I studied technical illustration and computer graphics.

And you've just re-designed and re-launched your website! Everyone should check it out at www.progart.com

Yes, actually this morning. I hope people will like it, and even more the content of it of course :)

How could they not love it....
Is your little son, André, already showing signs of creative talents besides in his diapers? ;)


Andromeda © Mattias Norén He likes pens and brushes, but he prefers to put them in his mouth instead of using them as he should :)

Have you been drawing your whole life, like probably most creative persons have? What kind of things did you draw as a kid?

I guess I have, more or less. As a kid I drew cars, cars and more cars. I have always been interested in cars and for a young boy that is for sure the coolest things to draw. Right?

Haha, for sure! I used to draw girls (mostly) with all sorts of clothing. My whole family was convinced I'd become a fashion designer ;) Do you still have some of your childhood drawings? I never remembered what had become of my countless books and leaflets with drawings, until I got married. Apparently I had thrown them away 15 or so years prior to that. My brother and sister-in-law got them out of the paperbin and saved them all those years to surprise me with it (and a surprise it was!!) :)

I think I have a bunch of them. It's fun to look at them now almost 30 years later.

Oh yeah! So you were smart enough NOT to throw them away at some point!

I don't think I was smart. It was my mother. I actually didn't get them until a few years ago. I will make sure to save some of André's first ones.

Hehehe, kind of a same story then? Only I really didn't remember at all what had happened to them.... when they popped up at my wedding I knew haha!
Photography is a big part of your art. Do you make photos esp. for a project or do you often pick photos from a collection I'm sure you've built up over the years?


It's different for each project, but yes, many times I take new pictures when I know what the project looks like. Sometimes I even have to buy images if I can't take them myself. But naturally it feels better to use my own pictures, so I do that as much as possible. I should be getting a new digital SLR camera really soon, so I guess my image bank will grow furiously this summer :)

What more can you tell about the way you work, techniques you use and what hardware/software you use to create it?

I work almost entirely in Photoshop with the images. Illustrator and InDesign sometimes for logos and text. I have a digital drawing board which is very useful. Sometimes I draw things with pencil and create textures in water color and scan them. It gives the images a more artistic feeling and sometimes that works good. Sometimes not.

Yeah, I was wondering if you wouldn't feel like painting and drawing more to use that instead of pics? Guess that's just not your thing then?

Right now I prefer to work with photos most of the time, but who knows. It might change. After seeing Jef Bertels fantastic paintings for the Ayreon albums I wish I really could use a brush the way he can. If I can find the time I will start to practice, I can promise you that.

Sonic Debris © Mattias Norén I know what you mean..... so much to do/learn, so little time ;)
Who do you use as your models? Professionals or just people you know?


To use professional models I would need a much bigger budget than usual, and I don't think that many bands and labels in the prog genre are willing to pay that. So most of the time I use friends… or myself. Or buy photos if I find something that I like.

Is your son already ending up in a lot of artwork? All proud daddies make tons of pics of their offspring (grin)

To be honest he hasn't been in a single artwork yet. I guess I have to change that soon, or I'm a bad daddy, right? :)

Hehehe little André would hold it against you in 18 years if you didn't use him :P

Or if I use him he will probably ask for royalties, haha!

Hahaha!
How did you get in touch with the music business as an artist? Did you look for it, or did it happen by chance?


Well, I had a website where I showed some of my work, and one day the right person stepped into it. I'm talking about René Janssen who now runs DVS records, and he is also the organizer of ProgPower Europe. He gave me the chance to do my first real jobs, and when you have some real albums to show it's much easier to get more jobs.

When you create something for a certain artist, does their style have much effect on the style you use? Do certain kind of bands (like all heavier bands, or all softer ones) get a certain similar feel that you think of before you start?

Indeed. One of the most important jobs for a cover artist is to give the cover that specific look that might help potential fans to discover the disc. Of course there are exceptions from the rule. Sometimes a really heavy band wants something that looks more like a pop album and then you just have to follow their wishes.

Or they just adapt their music to your artwork ;)

Haha, well, I don't think that will happen.

But you already did say that some bands got inspired when writing by your artwork...

True. It was one artist and one song, and as far as I could tell the style of the music was the style you could expect from Vivien.

Into Eternity © Mattias Norén I know there has been some (in my opinion) way too far-fetched criticism about the previous Into Eternity artwork (Dead Or Dreaming), that happens to include a few high buildings and tombstones and the CD was released about a month after the Sept. 11th tragedy. How do you feel about that criticism? Do you think the artwork should've been adapted (I certainly don't - it wasn't anything like the eerie thing with the Dream Theater cover e.g.)?

I actually didn't make the connection until I read a review of the CD where someone thought the cover was very inappropriate. The artwork was created long before September 11th. I probably wouldn't have created it afterwards to avoid all problems, but hey, it only shows a city with crosses in front of it. No planes. No destroyed towers. Not even Usama Bin Ladin's beard *laughs*. Well, everyone can have their own opinion, but I'm still proud of the image and to me it has no connection to the terrible attack in USA. The only problem is that it was released at a time when people didn't have anything else on their minds, which is understandable of course.

Hahaha!! Are you SURE that guy in the artwork isn't Bin Laden?!

Haha, yes, it's my friend Joakim. I took the picture myself. But who knows.. with a longer beard… :)

Hehehe! And with the new Into Eternity cover (Buried In Obliveon) people have whined about the crow and the shovel... you'll never make them all happy I guess (nor should you).

Hehe, well, the discussions show that there's a big interest in the cover anyway. And everyone can't like everything when it comes to art and music.

I think you outdid yourself with that cover! Those gargoyles are awesome, as well as the colors (once again....)

It was just a project I did for the fun of it. It's often those images that end up to be the best. Where you have no guides you have to follow. I knew Into Eternity had a new album in the making and somehow I felt that this one could work for them. With some smaller modifications it did.

What are your favorite covers of those you have done? Mine are Into Eternity, Ion Vein, Andromeda, Evergrey.. The last Evergrey one is again awesome.

I often get this question, and the answer is always the same. Sonic Debris - "Velvet thorns". "Buried in Oblivion", "II=I", "Cathedral of Emotions" and "Power Games" are others I'm happy with.

Into Eternity © Mattias Norén Do you like how the print of BIO has turned out? I only have the US pressing here and I thought it was a little pale compared to what you've posted (the booklet matches pretty much).

I just got it, and it was printed slightly darker than expected, but not that far from what I had in mind, so I'm pretty happy with the result.

Did you get the European print? I plan to get that too, and then I can see if there is much difference ;)

I only have the US version so far. I hope there won't be a big difference.

Ya never know...... What are your favorite covers done by others?

Hugh Syme's cover for "Roll the bones" by Rush is a favourite. Rodney Matthew's work is also amazing. Asia's "Aqua" might be the most impressive one.

To be honest I don't know any of those, but I'll look for them to see how they are :)

You don't know Rush? Shame on you! :)

Of course I know Rush, or at least some songs, but not many of their covers. I'll go stand in the corner now ;)
I'm pretty sure (from my own experience) that you'll pick a CD from the shelves to check it out, because of the cover. Did you ever buy a CD because of its cover without listening to it first?


Hmm. No I can't say I have. But I discovered Pendragon only because of the cover. And I think I only listened to the CD half a minute before I bought it.

Close enough!
I also love the kind of logos you do, esp. since they usually have more then just the name. What does the icon in the Into Eternity logo mean BTW? Is it some kind of angel?


I just played around with some shapes and finally I had a strong icon. It wasn't meant to be anything except a shape that would get stuck in peoples minds when they see it, and something that could be used for t-shirts and stuff like that. But it's really fun how people see different things in the logo.

And for tattoos ;) What do other people see in it then, as far as you know?

Yes, tattoos of course :) Do you know if anyone has it as a tattoo yet? I know someone's got the Wolverine icon. An angel is probably the most common thing. I think someone saw some insect or a bird. And a crayfish :)

Rob Kachluba with his Into Eternity tattoo I only know their long time fan/supporter Rob Kachluba has one, there is a pic of it in the tourreport here on Morrigan's Pit :) A bird ok, but a crayfish? Hehehe.... I guess you can see endless things in it if only you have enough imagination ;)

Yes, with a little imagination you can go far :)

What are your plans for the near future?

Work hard to see if I can make a living out of this. I will give it a year or so. So if you know a band who is desperately seeking for someone to create an artwork for them, just point them this way, haha. No, seriously, If I can continue to create interesting stuff and develop my skills I think this will work out. It will be an interesting year anyway, that's for sure.

I'll eat my hat if you can't make that work with all of your talents (just not my Evergrey hat hehe)!

Haha, I hope you don't have to do that. I'll do my best... even if it would have been fun seeing you eat that hat :)

Evergrey © Mattias Norén Hehehe... you'd make me do that in your presence at the next ProgPower too, won't you? ;) I wish you all the best this upcoming year (if only for the reason that the hat thing isn't too appealing) and once again I advise everybody to check out your beautiful website at www.progart.com! Do you have anything to add for our readers?

Stay Metal, and see you at ProgPower Europe!


submitted by Marlies 08.03.2004

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