He used to be called Valnoir Mortasogne, now he informs me that it’s just Valnoir. Valnoir is a French artist who runs the graphic arts studio Metastazis.
“Metastazis does not obey its clients (…) does not add more blue when the client does not like red. Metastazis is always right(…).”
This is part of the welcome message from his website and some of those customers were metal bands such as Morbid Angel, Amorphis, Orphaned Land, Behemoth… This artist moves between groups from different styles, having in common all of them one thing: they make a dark music in one way or another.
His distinct style, based primarily on geometric shapes and a strong contrast between colors. Among other feats, they have the honor of having made a poster for Watain whose ink was made of blood. For the folk group King Dude they preferred grinded human bones.
Recently, as we have already advanced here, a book collecting some of his best work have seen the light. It’s name is Fire Work With Me. On the occasion of this release we speak with an author who has experienced the rise of extreme metal from within.
You can explain about your book to the Spanish readership
FIRE WORK WITH ME is a 300 pages retrospective book about the 15 first years of my career as a designer.
Have you ever give in to a client’s request?
I could have tons of pathetic stories, but that’s just a total waste of energy. ANY designer on Earth have suffered from the bad taste and lack of culture and intelligence of some clients, it’s neither constructive nor original.
Under the Red Cloud, by Amorphis, has been one of the most successful records of the year, what did you want to transmit with that sleeve? Is it related to Suomi’s culture?
This album cover and artwork are indeed deeply inspired by finnish art from the late XIXth and early XXth century. Artists who were themselves inspired but the old finnish folk tales and culture. The initial meaning of this cover is hidden under a few stratums of reinterpretations. The band let me the opportunity to play a lot with the original concept.
Another sleeve whose story especially interests me is All is One‘s by Orphaned Land
This is a paradoxical project for me, I’m the first enemy of the religions of the book. Since November, when some islamic pigs killed my friend Claire during the Paris massacre, my hatred toward Islam became monumental and still is. However, I accepted to work on this “anti-me” project by taste for exploration. I wanted to experiment to work on a project that was carrying values that I deeply dislike, to see if I could challenge myself to evolve in this filth. If that was to happen today, I would probably just refuse to do it. I must add that I don’t have anything against the people involved in this band who are kind and that I know are motivated by good will. But the illusion of God must be destroyed once for all, and Allah must go first.
Tell me what were you doing in North Korea, very little foreigners can go into the country
Since 2012 I work as a visual artist with the Norwegian director Morten Traavik. Morten develloped an art program in North Korea, in cooperation with the local cultural authorities. Some of the projects I worked on were collaborations with Korean artists in Europe (Norway mostly), some others happened in North Korea. I joined Morten twice in this country. The first time was to shoot a music video, the second time was for the historical Laibach concert in Pyongyang last summer. Next project, of which the date is still to be precisely determined, will be a visual art symposium in Pyongyang called the DMZ Academy. This art program is, as far as I know, unique in the world.
Is there any kind of hidden political criticism behind the video from Pyongyang Goldstars to evade censorship?
Any substantial piece of art, to my eyes, must be multilayered, and stay opened to a multitude of interpretations. We followed this logic while working on this video, and of course irony, or what Slavoj Žižek calls over-identification, were part of the ingredients. One can see political criticism hidden anywere, in any piece of art.
There is something that I must ask you, who is the blood for Watain’s poster from? And what about the bones for King Dude?
Blood is easy to find, anyone has a few litters to share. For this project with Watain, Erik (Danielsson, forntman of the band) offered to give his own blood, but it was technically too complex to ship fresh blood from Swedden while keeping it fresh and uncoagulated. So, instead, I used my blood and the blood of a friend. Regarding, the bones, I develloped the story at length in the book, so I won’t spoil all the details here, but let’s just say that a black metal band paid me for an artwork with those bones.
And anyway, there are more dead people than living people on earth.
You had a black metal band in the 90’s, hadn’t you? Have you work for any band that was an influence to you at that moment?
I’ve had a lot of bands in the 90’s and after. None has been really successful though. And yes, I had the chance to work with such influential bands. At some point, it was even a strong motivation for me, since I couldn’t see a better way to pay tribute to artists I loved than to work with them. Thus, I managed to work with Ulver, Samael, Morbid Angel, Paradise Lost and a few others.
You states that burning Ulver’s cassette tape was not a sacrilege, however many people thought that Morbid Angel remixes, whose sleeve is yours was a real sacrilege
Unfortunately I have neither access to bands/labels decisions nor to public’s optinion about what is or isn’t a sacrilege, and I honestly couldn’t care less about this second point. This Morbid Angel album was embarrassing to say the least, but hey, I’m a fan of that band since I was 14 years old. How could I refuse to have them in my portfolio, just because the album and the remixes were bad? It’s not even like I had access to the demos prior to working on the visual anyway. As for Ulver, since the mastertape was damaged and unusable, it was just accumulating dust on a shelf. So why not using it for this almost alchemic project?
How is the French metal scene? In my opinion, out of your country people only think in Gojira
Well, I beg to differ. In the wolrd in which I live at least. Bands like Alcest, Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord, Peste Noire, Mütiilation, just to quote a few, have a lot of respect in the whole world, from Mexico to Japan. The french metal scene took a while to blossom, but after the early 2000’s, the french identity, its taste for innovative sound and exploration became a massive reference for a lot of artists worldwide. Not to mention the fact that we also have or had many influential labels. Aren’t Season of Mist, Norma Evangelium Diaboli or Osmose Production back catalogue french?
I love your Black Anvil’s illustrations. Is Gustave Doré one of your inspirations?
Definitely yes. Probably one of my earliest ones, from the mid 90’s. However, who dislike Gustave Doré? Saying “I like Doré” is like saying “I like Stanley Kurbik”, it’s an evidence more than a mere matter of taste.
In The Satanist‘s (Behemoth) sleeve it seems that you leave aside your geometrical forms to do something similar to oil painting, what is the reason?
There might be a confusion here. I took care of the design of “The Satanist“, typographic choices, production choices, layout, logo conception etc. But russian ultra-talented Denis Forkas Kostromitin took care of the cover illustration. His work is a model of excellence.
Finally, where can fans buy the book? Can they buy any of your creations too?
The book is available at this adress. Some bookshop and retailers in France will have it in stock but the most simple way to get it is to order it online, I guess, unless you live in Paris.
And of course, I have a shop.