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Ramon Martos

Ramon Martos
Metal Album Covers Guidebook, Continued

05.05.2019

Архив интервью | Русская версия

Now and again musicians complain that their albums do not get a proper spin, and only selected tracks are added to fans’ playlists. Let alone album covers – nobody really pays attention, they say. Such complaints are not quite groundless, especially when it comes to our home country. Back in the times when music was mostly circulating on tapes, their design was homemade and often didn’t have much to do with the original artwork. I do remember how I first got hold of Slayer’s “Divine Intervention” – the circle in the middle of the original cover was stretched over the entire tape, and the color palette was shifted to pink-blue… Only after several years I saw the original cover on the Internet, and boy, was I impressed by its beauty! However, the times of the Internet have their own drawback – most of the music is stored in hard drive folders with only microscopic album covers, if any. Still there are metal fans who not only pay attention to the artwork of their favorite albums, but write books on this topic. One of them is Ramon Martos, who has already published two mammoth volumes under the title of “And Justice For Art”, fully devoted to analysis of metal artworks. This work covers several decades and numerous bands and genres. In the development process, Ramon interviewed not only musicians, artists, photographers, etc., but also various experts whose opinion may influence readers/listeners. The first volume was published in 2015 with a circulation of 300 copies and sold out shortly thereafter. The same fate awaits “And Justice For Art – Vol. 2”, but at the moment it’s still available. Meanwhile, we have reached out to the author…

By tradition, please introduce yourself to ouy readers.


My name is Ramon ‘Oscuro’ Martos. I am a Cuban-American writer, musician and longtime metal fan. My work has been published in many publications around the world. I have also played and recorded with a few underground bands. Undoubtedly, metal runs through my veins.

Your biography also mentions that you are a musician. In which groups have you been, and what instruments do you play? Have you managed to release anything?

Well, I’m a professional classically-trained musician. My main instrument is the piano and I work directing choirs and music ensembles for private institutions. But of course, being a metal fan, I have also played, recorded and released some metal music with a few underground bands in the past, including bands like Necro RD, Divinis Invocat and Archaios.

Your new book “And Justice For Art – Volume 2” continues exploring the stories behind the cover artworks of many metal albums. What motivated you to write this new book?

After I finished the first “And Justice For Art” book in 2015, I had about 500 pages worth of material. I knew I could not include everything in one volume. So, I decided to keep part of that material for a second part and later, added new information, images and interviews. That’s how the second book was created.
“And Justice For Art – Volume 2” is, in my humble opinion, much better than the first book. It’s better written, edited and designed. The amount of research that I put into this second book is tremendous. And the best part is that Volume 2 is a 100% standalone book: you don’t need to read the first volume to understand or enjoy the new one.  If you never find out about the first part, that’s ok. That won’t prevent you from understanding or enjoying the new book. It’s totally independent.

In the process of preparing the books, you met many interesting people, visual artists and musicians. Do you keep in touch with any of them? Has anyone become a fellow or close friend to you?

Yes, I became good friends with some of the people I interviewed for both books, especially visual artists. I’ve been in touch with some of them for many years now. Although we usually talk about art or music, in some cases we have also talked about life and have helped each other with personal stuff. My only regret is that many of these people live far from me, so we cannot have a more personal relationship, hang out, etc… I don’t want to mention names, but some of them are wonderful human beings and I really care for them. That’s one of the rewards of having created the “And Justice For Art” books.

I know that one of your favorite artists is Edvard Munch. But there are other artists whose work you like, but you couldn’t add them to the book just because they don’t do cover art. Can you name them and your Top 5 favorite bands, albums, album covers, and cover artists?

I love many “classic” and contemporary visual artists. Besides Munch, I’m a big fan of the works of J.M.W Turner, Jean Delville, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Nikolai Astrup, Eleomar Puente, Salvador Dali, etc… About the “Top 5” lists, I never enjoy doing those because it’s too difficult to comprise in a short list the many things I like, but I will give it a try:

Metal Albums:
* Amorphis “Elegy”,
* Death “Symbolic”,
* Sepultura “Chaos A.D.”,
* Amorphis “Tales From The Thousand Lakes”,
* Pestilence “Spheres”.

Album Covers:
* Sepultura’s “Chaos A.D” by Michael Whelan,
* Death’s “Symbolic” by Rene Miville,
* Skid Row’s “Slave To The Grind” by David Bierk,
* Iron Maiden’s “Somewhere In Time” by Derek Riggs,
* Metallica’s “…And Justice For All” by Stephen Gorman.

Bands:
* Queen,
* Amorphis,
* Slayer,
* Archaios,
* Emperor.

Cover Artists:
* Costin Chioreanu,
* Eliran Kantor,
* Dan Seagrave,
* Valnoir,
* Storm Thorgerson.

Were there any visual artists who refused to communicate with you or could not get into the book for any other reason?


There were only a few artists that I could not get into the book for different reasons. For example, I interviewed Derek Riggs (the mastermind behind Iron Maiden’s Eddie and their classic 80s artworks) but Iron Maiden’s management refused to showcase the band’s artworks in the book. But that’s Ok. I interviewed many new artists for this new book, like Vince Locke (Cannibal Corpse), Hugh Syme (Megadeth), Costin Chioreanu (At The Gates) as well as bands like Judas Priest, Sodom, Bloodbath, Borknagar, Emperor, Carcass, Overkill, Testament, etc.

When the first book came out, there were drawings and sketches on the Internet showing how the cover of the book was developed. Some of them were made by you. What’s the level of your drawing skills? Do you use your drawings anywhere?

When I was a little kid I was always drawing or painting but then I started to study music and totally focused on that. However, I always kept interest for visual arts and started developing some skills again when I decided to study Advertising/Graphic Design as a second career during my 20s. I never went too far but the skills I developed have certainly helped me in my professional career, including the making of this new book “And Justice For Art – Volume 2.”

Like the first volume, “And Justice For Art – Vol.2” is a self-published book. Why did you use crowdfunding again to finance this new book?

The only way to be 100% faithful to your creation (whether is a song, a painting or a book) is having total control over the creative and distribution processes. That way, you don’t have to do compromises with third parties that are just about the business (labels, publishers, etc.). That’s the main reason why I decided to self-publish both books via a crowdfunding campaign.
People that donate to the crowdfunding campaigns don’t demand any commercial or creative compromises. They just believe in the work and supported it with their donations. The campaign for “And Justice For Art – Volume 2” was quite successful and allowed me to print more copies than anticipated. Many fans, artists and bands featured in the book participated and supported the project and really believed in it. I feel grateful for their support.

You have said that you are the only person working on the distribution of the books and that your wife sometimes helps you. Do you really do all the work yourself, without workers or helpers? How do you manage to do this amount of work and combine the activities of a simple worker with many others?

“And Justice For Art” is 100% a labor of love. Believe it or not, I’m pretty much the only person in charge of everything related to the book, from researching, writing, editing, designing to shipping every copy. Since I don’t have a financial backing, I don’t have the resources to hire assistants or helpers. My only real collaborator has been my wife. Sometimes she gives me her valuable opinions about certain things, helps me with transcriptions and the shipping. In fact, her packaging methods are much better than mine!
How do I manage to do everything without having much help? I can give you the answer using three words: patience, planning and knowledge. Since I have two jobs and a family, I need to be patient and understand that my time is limited and that a book like this will take a few years to finish. That will require a lot of planning for each phase of the process and taking advantage of each available opportunity to work on the book. And course, deep knowledge of the subject (in this case, metal album covers and the process of putting a book together) is also crucial.  

Is there a chance for “And Justice For Art - Volume 3”? If yes, do you already have any albums/artists/bands in mind?

I cannot reveal any names but I started working on a potential third volume last year and pretty much finished about 50 pages. However, I had to stop because the new “And Justice For Art – Volume 2” books arrived from the printer and I had to start shipping copies. Since my time is limited, I cannot do both things at the same time.
Also, you need to be in the right creative mindset to write a book. You cannot force the process. If you force things, the result will be one of those badly made books about album covers that have been published in the last few years. Most of those books look good, but in most cases, the content is really bad. That happens because the authors haven’t dedicated the right amount of time to do the work properly.   

Would you like to publish any other kind of book, maybe about music, a band, or any other subject?

I have many ideas for many kinds of books. The problem is finding the time to make those projects a reality. Also, I would like record some of my music in the next few years and maybe finish the third “And Justice For Art” book. But right now, I’m not sure 100% what’s going to happen. If I win the lottery and I don’t have to work anymore, I will have more time to work on all those projects. Let’s keep fingers crossed!

How do you feel about other areas of art, like tattoo, graffiti, airbrushing, etc.? Do you have a tattoo yourself?

I do like graffiti and street art, especially if done with finesse and purpose. I strongly believe that street art should have decorative and social purposes… I don’t have any tattoos. I can appreciate the craft. I respect and admire the artists and the people that commit their bodies to that kind of art. When done well, body art can be truly arresting. But tattoos and body modification are not for me. It is as simple as that.  

Well, that's it! Thank you very much, Ramon, I was very happy to chat! A few words to wrap this up, please.

Thank you and your readers for giving me the opportunity to talk about the new book. I would like to invite everyone to check “And Justice For Art – Volume 2.” As I mentioned before, this is a 100% true labor of love. A book done by a metal fan for other metal fans. You can read it and enjoy it without previous knowledge of the first book. It’s totally a standalone piece of metal history and it helps to save all these stories for future generations. Check it out at www.andjusticeforart.bigcartel.com and… keep it metal!

Official Ramon Martos store: https://andjusticeforart.bigcartel.com/product/and-justice-for-art-stories-about-heavy-metal-album-covers-volume-2

Teaser video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_eah8XwA9A&t=35s

And Justice For Art on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andjusticeforart/

Interview by Victor Kaichkin
All images used courtesy of Ramon Martos
April 2019
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