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Derek Riggs Interview
Andy Lee: Joining us now on Cable Radio Milton Keynes 89.8FM is the man who has probably sold half a million records without ever singing or picking up a guitar. It is Derek Riggs ! The man who designs the covers for the Iron Maiden CDs ! Derek, nice to talk to you and thanks for joining us on Solid Rock.
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Derek Riggs: Yeah, hello. Nice to be here.
Andy Lee: Is this really the very first radio interview you have ever done?
Derek Riggs: Yeah, the very first one.
Andy: Another first for CRMK ! Now Derek the Iron Maiden album covers, are they inspired by my Mother-In Law ?
Riggs: No, not directly...
Andy: How do you get these images in your mind ?
Riggs: I'm sick and twisted inside...
Andy: Well, where did the idea for Eddie who is on the front of the Iron Maiden covers come from ?
Riggs: Well years and years and years ago, in fact two years before I ever met the band (Iron Maiden), and before they had a recording contract..erm...I was sitting alone in my shed trying to get my painting together..I was doing a lot of work on Symbolism. Reading a lot of books (about Symbolism), trying to..erm...work out what it was all about...reading a lot of horror books too, because I'm sick and twisted inside...(both laugh) There was an idea that H.P. Lovecraft came up with that you can make things more horrible by putting them up in your own environment, rather than sticking it out in Transylvania, or somewhere. It was in the late 1970's and punk was big, There was this 'wasted youth' concept going around...you know...we've all been thrown on the dustbin...help, we're dying now...(both laugh) ...So I designed this character with punky hair, and I thought I'll put a corpse in a T-shirt, because I had a picture from the 1960's of this dead American's head stuck on a Vietnamese tank...that's what they said it was...but it may not be true...anyway, I painted this head with punk hair on...and stuck it up where I used to live. I used to walk a lot at night and I came upon this wall which was all yellow because it had street lights above it, and the moon was out too... which was kind of blueish looking. It was quite a stunning contrast...So used it ! So, I finished this picture and gave it to an agent who kept it for a few weeks and then gave it me back telling me 'it wasn't very commercial'... (both laugh) You get a feeling when something is right. I knew Eddie was right. He just had that look. He wasn't called Eddie then in fact, he was called Electric Matthew. It was called 'Electric Matthew Says Hello'. I used give my pictures stupid names. If you went round to Sci-Fi conventions you would see pictures called, 'The Last Of The Few' and 'The Few Of The Many'. Silly titles...you know...
Andy: So when did Iron Maiden get involved with your art work ?
Riggs: Well I was painting all sorts of things. Disco covers, jazz, selling the odd portrait... and...I did some jazz covers at EMI...erm... they started up a new label called Harvest Fusion, which lasted for about two albums before they knocked it on the head...I did the covers for those. Kind of weird surreal things that weren't painted very well... because they wouldn't give me enough time to do it. Story of my life... (both laugh) Anyway, Iron Maidens Manager saw them...one of the guys I used to work for liked them and still had these Harvest Fusion covers on his wall a year later. So he saw them (Iron Maidens Manager) and he wanted to see my portfolio...Heavy Metal had been the most unpopular from of entertainment in the universe for about five years and it was just starting to make a comeback. He had this band and he knew he wanted illustrated covers. I went down to Wessex Recording Studios where they were making lots of noise and they were all there...I had put lots of things in there and Steve Harris (Iron Maiden bassist) said 'well I don't want pictures of metal women'...I had this weird comic book science fiction stuff in there..I was always playing around with different styles...every painting seems to have a slightly different style...I wish I had a style it would make life so much easier...(both laugh)...Anyway, they liked it (Eddie/Electric Matthew), and they said. 'give it some more hair and we'll have that'.
Andy: Wow ! You sent Lucy my Springer Spaniel a bone...Thank-you for the skull, however, we find that she does prefer leg bones... Lucy does actually paint. She sort of puts her foot in the paint pot and walks around the carpet...We are thinking of entering her work for the Turner Prize...but how do you paint ?
Riggs: I think your dog will probably win the Turner Prize ! (both laugh) I kind of make it up as I go along...erm...well they (Iron Maiden) kind of write a song... come up with some sort of direction...it's about World War II, or something science fiction...and then I go off and invent it really. The actual painting I do these days is on a computer. I used to paint with water colours. It was too difficult to work with in the time I had...You make a mistake and you can't correct it effectively. My deadlines are very tight, most of the Iron Maiden stuff was done over a weekend. They would phone me on a Thursday and tell me they needed it for Monday...so I wouldn't get any sleep for three days. That's why most of them are a bit dodgy around the edges...I started working in acrylics which is hell to work with. They dry on the brush. They dry as soon as you put them down, which is a benefit if you can work out a technique. Then the paint goes lumpy, it's not the best paint really...
I tried oil but it just doesn't dry. I've got three days to get it right and it won't dry...You do a bit of sky and three weeks later it's not dry, pathetic.
Andy: What sort of art do you like looking at ?
Riggs: I don't look at any anymore. I used to like a bit of Savador Dali, but he was never a great influence. I used quite like comic artists like Jack Kirby, and a couple of people like that. I used to draw a lot when I was about fourteen. I didn't used to do a lot of painting, I had to teach myself to paint when I got to about eighteen. I suddenly realised you couldn't just do the drawing thing, and that you have to actually paint stuff. It took a while to dawn. I fancied being a comic artist when I was younger until I realised I couldn't bare to paint the same thing day in and day out...then I ended up painting Eddie for twenty years...
Andy: You've got your own website www.derekriggs.com. You don't just do Maiden do you ?
Riggs: You have too do something else or you'd get crap at painting...
Andy: Is there anything we see that is your work, which we might not realise ?
Riggs:...er...I'm not doing a lot at the moment...I stopped for a while I got fed up with it. I've
just been doing the odd bit. I was in a long term contract with Maiden which I had to extricate myself from...I didn't want to be in that anymore...and I've been doing the odd album cover and a few bits of artwork. I did some stuff recently for an American theme park. They did a sort of scary weekend over Halloween. That was quite fun a sort of skeleton called 'Boney Malonie'...I came out of the Iron Maiden contract because I hadn't worked for anyone else for a while, which was part of the contractual agreement...erm...and I did a kind of portfolio for book covers only to find that no-one in England really publishes books anymore. The guys who are in it can't make a living anymore...so that was out...(Then) I went to have a look at album covers but things have changed a lot. There are a lot of 'independent' record labels, who are not really independent...but they have their own people who do
the art editing...so all of a sudden I've got a list of about a thousand record companies. I thought I could never cover all these people...so it just seemed to be a complete non starter...People have been tracking me down on the internet so things are picking up a bit.
Andy: So the internet works for you...what do you think of the future of e-commerce ?
Riggs: I think there are a lot of ideas that will work, and a lot that won't. I have been involved in trying to set up a poster site. There are quite a few around, mostly selling the same stuff...We started one up with the idea being that we would give illustraters the chance to paint what they want to. They get a forty per cent royalty, which is quite a lot...incredibly high really...we wanted to make it fifty per cent...but that wouldn't have worked...it would have made a loss...It's called www.wolfeyesposters.com there is a link from www.derekriggs.com
Andy: Derek, we've run out of time today. Thanks for coming on the show. It would be great if you could come back and chat some more on another show. Cheers !
Riggs: Ok, Thanks. Bye !