Mark Riddick: Master of Macabre
The American visual artist and illustrator talks about his approach to metal as a musician and being the go-to album art designer
He might have created the ghoulish, hair-raisingly brutal look for albums and merch for the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder, Morbid Angel and Indian metallers such as Gutslit and Kryptos, but more recently, American illustrator Mark Riddick came into the spotlight for designing tour merch for metal’s sworn enemies—popstars such as Justin Bieber and Rihanna.
Riddick says, “While it was an unexpected opportunity and a very unique and rewarding challenge, it doesn’t define me as an artist, as the extreme bulk of my work has, and continues to be, for underground metal bands.” He adds, “Yes, I treated the Bieber commission as any other, including the same rate I charge underground metal bands for their logo requests. I do my best to treat all of my clients fairly.”
As it turns out, there’s more to Riddick than just his grim art. He fronts two death metal bands, including the one man studio-only project, Fetid Zombie, and his collaboration with vocalist Lord Genocide aka Adrien Weber, Macabra. Riddick, who handles all the instruments and writing for these projects, has had a pretty busy 2016 as a musician as well, releasing two albums in the past year. Says Riddick of Macabra, “We only work on material together when the time seems appropriate—if the inspiration is there and we’re not occupied by our other endeavors.”
And Fetid Zombie, which doled out traditional heavy metal-tinged rollicking death metal on its sixth full-length album Epicedia, is “very active,” according to Riddick, with plans to release an album every year. He adds, “I’ve already started recording material for my next album. I also have six other songs nearing completion for various split releases in 2017.”
However, Riddick has reached a professional level as a graphic artist where the work never stops. Even then, he has his priorities set. “My first obligation is to my wife and children; spending time with them comes before anything else.” In between his day job—ever since the Nineties—he’s spent many of his evenings working on freelance illustration work for underground metal bands ranging from Tokyo black metallers Abigail to Fetid Zombie’s record label, Transcending Obscurity. If there’s anyone who knows how to bring skulls and skeletons back to life, it’s Riddick.