Interview with Doug Randazzo (Insane Tales From The Dead)
I came into contact with you through artist Alaric Barca who I interviewed for this webzine a while back. Have you been acquainted with him for some time? How did you and he meet?
I met Alaric on the net after seeing his art, I thought it was pretty awesome. I asked him to contribute a piece and it came out great too. Alaric is a real cool guy and his art actually appears in the gallery section of my new book. Check out his website.
Describe your involvement in the recently released anthology Insane Tales From The Dead, which came out in October.
I started Insane Tales From The Dead in 2012 with issue #1 as kind of a bet. The idea goes back to the early 90's when I was the main artist/penciler/inker, writer, editor, colorist and publisher (publishing every two years). I'm still all those things yet just have a lot more friends involved now. The new book, issue #3, is currently available.
Who were the horror artists you admired before you began publishing material? What resonated with you about them?
I'll say it was guys like Bernie Wrightson, Vincent Locke, The Gurch or Steve Bissette and Joe M Linser who I admired during those days. One just has to go and look at some of these guys’ works and you will feel and see the same reverberating resonations I still experience when looking at it. These guys were always a big influence on me in the 90's.
Those artists you mentioned above, where can people view their work if they’re interested in checking it out? What about those artists’ work resonated with you?
Bernie Wrightson… how can one describe one of the best of the best? This artist definitely resonates with me for his intricate line work that none can seem to fully master other than how he does it. One can imitate yet not replicate his one of a kind style, which is closely reminiscent of that of his own inspiration. The master of ceremonies. Graham Ghastly Ingels, probably Bernie's biggest influence and also the best of the best. Go on Google, type Graham Ghastly Ingels and check out his website. Vince Locke and Joseph M Linsner were big influences on me from my late teens into my twenties with the comic book titles Dead World and Cry For Dawn. Locke, most familiar for his Gorifying catalog of Cannibal Corpse album covers and Dawn by JML is just one of those titles that stuck with me for the incredible art and writing. Hit these sites up: http://www.joelinsner.blogspot.com and http://www.vincelocke.com. Let us not forget Tim Vigil, another huge influence.
Are you mostly self-taught as a graphic artist or did you attend high school or college classes along the way?
I’m mostly self-taught yet I did do three years of commercial art here in New York during the 80's. I still use some of those techniques I learned in works I do today.
What materials did you have to work with when you began drawing and designing artwork?
In the early days it was just a Bic pen and or a Sharpy. As far as materials, it was anything I could draw on. I'd even draw in the sand or gasoline burns in the fields. I definitely experimented with a lot of elements, even my own blood. Things are a bit different now, haha.
When you began drawing were you doing your own versions of things you saw in print or drawing on your own imagination? What made you imagine you could design art professionally?
I started with my imagination and slowly adapted to whichever scenario I took interest in. I always say if you’re uncertain as to the way something looks it’s always an option to reference it. I’m constantly referencing my own hands for angles. I never imagined I could do art professionally; I just draw and cool things happen.
What techniques from those three years do you still employ to this day?
Using a colored pencil to do bold shades I feel still does better than a modern shade marker. Also using an exacto knife for trimming and cutting word frames instead of using Photoshop. Actually drawing on paper (a lot of artists are drawing on their tabs now).
What do you think some artists still get out of drawing by hand, with all the advancements made in art design?
I think it's more hands on when you simply draw. You can get a real feel for the actual texture of things along with a natural visual perception level not included in most supposed advanced apps. You can always scan an original, which I feel adds more options and enhancement features to your layering process. Different papers and canvas to use to draw is an art in itself. If you’re using digital and advanced editing software, that's fine yet it’s important to have that extra level of possibilities with the already existing possibilities.
Do you preferences in music have bearing on your artwork? Explain how it reflects what you most often listen to.
There are too many preferences to list when it comes to music, yet my art could be a reflection of everything I've been into or listening to for the past 35 years. Extreme Death Metal and horror movies are definitely my main influence when creating my art, or what some may simply call madness.
Having been a fan of extreme music since the 80s, do you cite any album cover art as inspirational? Which cover artists do you admire from that period?
I definitely was amazed by Derek Riggs while growing up in the 70's. I still usually reply to most basic questions with the answer "Killers" [Iron Maiden]. Stuff like "Hey do you know where that pizza place is?" or "Can I bum a dollar?" or "Can I get a light?” I always just say "Killers", haha. [Maiden’s mascot] Eddie made me want to draw way back then. There was also guys like Dan Seagrave, who did covers on most of my favorite death metal albums; albums by Pestilence, Entombed, Suffocation, Séance, Dismember and countless others. One cannot forget Vince Locke, Ed Repka, The Gurch, Steve Bissette, Bernie Wrightson, Mark Riddick, Ghastly Graham Ingels as the best of the bunch for me.
I’ve heard of Ed Repka and Mark Riddick, but the other artists you cite are new names to me. Any examples of their work you would recommend checking out?
Those old album covers by Ed Repka and Dan Seagrave you and everyone should check out. If you already know this stuff check it out again, Ed Repka at http://www.facebook.com/Ed-Repka-Illustion and http://www.danseagrave.com and The Gurch on deviantart.com. Also in Insane Tales From The Dead #3 there is a gallery at the end with all my favorite sicko artists, over 30 of them. All epic works with links and info.
Which album covers of Pestilence, Entombed, Suffocation, Séance and Dismember are personal favorites? What does death metal art have that is lacking in other contemporary art as a whole?
Entombed: Left Hand Path and Clandestine. Suffocation: Human Waste/Breeding The Spawn. Séance: Forever Laid To Rest. Dismember: Like An Ever Flowing Stream. Malevolent Creation: The Ten Commandments. Pestilence: Testimony of the Ancients. Cannibal Corpse: Tomb Of The Mutilated. Death: Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy. These are a few favorites. Death Metal art has that gloomy feel I need in my life because happy is just too depressing. It's thought provoking structure grabs the eye with razor like incisors instead of typical contemporary color lures. The art makes you want to listen to the madness while feeling you are in the place on the cover.
Did you ever consider designing album covers for a living? What bands would you want to work for, and do you think your artwork would do tem justice?
I've done a few pieces along the years for miscellaneous band covers. I always felt I did justice to them but never considered doing it full time. I’m open to do one here and there yet time is always hard to find while juggling too many things. As far as who (if I did do it full time) I think early Morbid Angel would have been one I’d have wanted to do, or Angel Corpse, or Slayer!
What bands have you done cover art for so far? Were you usually approached by bands seeking cover artists or do you meet bands while seeking work?
I will help out a band if they need some art done, yet they will usually ask me if I have the time. I'm definitely not looking to become another album cover artist but I dabble for a certain few if needed. Some bands I’ve done cover work for are Iron Rainbow, True Unholy Death, Infidel and Perpetual Suffering. I did the first Exuviate demo and CD cover which was my own band at the time along w the first Grotesqueuphoria CD. I’m probably forgetting a couple… oh I recently completed a cover for the band Dirigiri from Texas titled Cursed Masters. I’ve always been more focused on my own projects yet would love to do more covers in the future.
I’m familiar with Iron Rainbow, Grotesqueuphoria and Dirigiri. Was your artwork for them based on their material or your own perception of where they were coming from?
The Iron Rainbow cover was done by request, based on what the band had in mind at the time. I was a founding member of Grotesqueuphoria and created the first album cover design based on my lyrics. I also drew the original logo which was used on all the releases. The Dirigiri album cover idea came directly from Gene Olivarri. I just did it the best way I could to bring his vision to life. I think it came out pretty sweet. Check out Dirigiri on Facebook.
Of all the cover pieces you have designed, which do you consider your best work?
I'll definitely say the Dirigiri cover since it's a newer piece. I was happy to work on it. The piece is quite maddening and I like how it came out.
What horror movies had set designs or special effects that made a lasting impression on you?
Check out "Begotten", mute the audio and ignore the storyline and it definitely had an impact on my visual impression. Evil Dead 1 and 2, Dead Alive, Necromantic, Alien, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, on and on.
I saw Begotten and it truly was a disturbing independent film. I had read an article about it in Propaganda magazine which made me want to see it but it wasn’t until years later I had the chance to. What did you like about its production?
I liked that it pulled me in immediately. The first time I saw it was in the 90's I think. It was being played on a TV screen in a dive bar while some bands were playing. I remember being buzzed out staring at the screen thinking what is going on here? I watched most of it in curious repulsion, got it a year later then watched it full through. I think it was the initial viewing on the bar TV screen that stuck with me. Just a strange film reel being played… no plot… no audio... no meaning other than demented beyond visual dementia. More strange was the feeling I had to keep looking in bizarre curiosity and behold the birth of god? So weird it’s cool.
Which Evil Dead movie do you most like? Did you see the remake or the new TV series that started airing earlier this year?
I like the first and second movies the best. I felt the remake was entirely unnecessary yet I did go see it. When it was over I just put the old one on again to cleanse my eyes. I felt like I cheated on my girlfriend when I watched the new one, haha. I am getting a kick outta the new TV show. Ash is kinda a pop culture icon these days.
I’ve heard a lot about Dead Alive and Necromantic but still haven’t had a chance to see them. What placed those two movies on your most watched list?
Dead Alive for its gore soaked madness and Necromantic for its modest shockery and brilliant soundtrack one cannot simply forget. Watch both of them back to back, in no order.
Alien is another groundbreaking movie in terms of art and set design. What kind of an impression did it make on you?
I was eight years old when I saw Alien in a rundown theatre in Long Island in 1979. My pop probably dozed and I might have even been a bit anxious but it scared the living shit outta me. My brother probably laughed but man at eight… that... thing... whatever the hell it was stalked my nightmares. I hoped whatever Ripley brought back with her wasn't in the trunk waiting to latch onto my face on the ride home. It really is the worst possible case scenario (Next to Godzilla rising out of the sea and walking through your neighborhood spewing nuclear radiation in the streets of course); if any of those things came here in numbers we'd be royally fucked. How do you kill something that bleeds acid? Think about waking up in the middle of the night and one of those things is hovering above you? Nightmares from the late great H.R. Giger. I still have a lot of the Alien sculpts and figures I used to collect and play with, like that large bugger Alien toy every day back in the late 70’s… you squeezed the trigger on back of its head and it's demented tongue claw mouth protruded. You could almost see the drool dripping from its jaws. Disgusting (Choke!)! I wish I still had it. The repro is cool enough... I guess (GASP!). ALIEN FOREVER.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a gritty splatter movie from the 70s as we all know. It was ahead of its time for being so in-your-face with no attempts to hold back on the graphics. Is this what spoke to you about the movie? What sort of a horror icon has Leatherface become over the years?
The film, based on true events committed by the notoriously disturbed Ed Gein, definitely freaked me out when I first saw it. Not because of the events that happen in the film but for the ending. The girl who escapes at the end and the trauma she will never forget is the most terrifying. The real fear is the end where Leatherface swinging the saw around in a maddening outburst and knowing he's still out there somewhere. Or waking up to that guy gutting your buddies like pigs in front of you and knowing you’re next. I think Leatherface has become more of a horror icon over the years because of the fears people want to face and try to become desensitized to; the worst things imaginable. For the most part it seems to work until the saw starts, haha, then you know it's chopping time and you can't talk your way out of it.
Do you prefer the 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the remake from the 2000s?
I actually thought the one from 2000 was one of the better remakes in a long list of unneeded remakes, yet the original just can’t be topped to me for feel and era. There's no need to fix something that ain’t broken.
In addition to the movies we discussed, were you partly inspired by any graphic novels such as Creepshow or Tales From The Crypt?
Both these titles were my main influence for ITFTD. Creepshow is one of my favorite movies along with the comic drawn by Bernie Wrightson and the late great master of headlights, EC's own Jack Kamen who did the actual cover. The three Ghoulunatics from Tales From The Crypt, The Vault Of Horror and The Haunt Of Fear directly influenced Stephen King when he created it and still influence me today.
What work were you publishing in the early 1990s? Were the artists you mentioned earlier directly influential to you, or did you just elaborate on and ideas you picked up on?
In the 90's things were different for me as I was partying hard and experimenting with mind altering consumables. I was more focused on different bands I was part of during the times and just getting ripped. An interesting note might be, a lot of the works I drew in the 90's that were influenced from these guys actually appear in 2012's ITFTD #1. As I finally sobered up enough to realize my potential, I decided to start from the beginning and do what I should have done back then. That being publishing a cool horror comic.
How did you come up with the name Insane Tales From The Dead for your anthology series? Was this the first name you chose for it or did you go through a few others beforehand?
Actually the title was conceptualized way back in the late 80's while I was drinking in the cemetery. Originally it was simply Tales Of The Dead, yet at the time there was this commercial that used to air on TV of this electronics store in Brooklyn called "Crazy Eddie". The guy in the ad used to say "Our prices are INSANE!" Anyway it seemed everything was cooler if you just added the word "insane" to anything you could back then, haha. In 2012 when I finally dug up most of the material to publish, I decided to add it to the title.
How long did it take you to work on the first issue of Insane Tales From The Dead? Describe how lengthy this first issue is and how much artwork you designed for it.
The first issue was finally made in 2012 after years of delay. I first conceptualized it in the eighties and nineties yet was still partying too much to take anything seriously. Most of book one is actually old work I drew from the early to mid-nineties and it was kind of a joke. I wrote all of it back then and drew 85% of that issue. The book is the smallest one in the catalog with only 44 pages, yet still larger than your standard 33 page comic. So I'll definitely say it was years in the making.
How many copies of Insane Tales From The Dead #1 were printed when it came out? Did any copies find their way to a zine editor? How much favorable press did the first volume receive?
The first press was 500 copies made and this was not promoted like it should have been. There were a few reviews, yet it was entirely an underground publication and a big part of me liked it that way. The book was more of an earlier part of my publishing and comic experience. I feel it isn't my best work yet entirely a cult collectible if you’re into this stuff. I'm still proud of the first book as it shows where I started this madness and where it is now.
In what zines was the first volume of ITFTD reviewed? Did you get more positive feedback from friends and contacts who read it?
There weren’t many reviews for the first issue, unless I just haven't seen more. Mostly my friends and contacts or other artists have given nothing but support and positive feedback for the new issues. Here's a quick review for issue 1 from Decapitated Dan at Ghastly Awards.
Have you been keeping in touch with Decapitated Dan since he reviewed your work online?
I just spoke to Decapitated Dan recently as he runs the Ghastly Awards website online. You can submit your horror comics for review and possible reward by public vote in the official Ghastly Awards Event. I’ve recently submitted a copy of ITFTD #3 for review and if it gets a nomination spot in the category section, and you'll be able to vote for it. Check out Ghastly Awards.
How soon after you released volume one did you start working on the second volume of Insane Tales From The Dead? How much material was compiled before the second volume was ready to come out?
I had a lot of material already written for book 2 in 2012. I publish every two years on Halloween. I wrote the rest during the cold forbidden winter of 2013 into 2014 then presented book 2. I was still doing most of the duties: writing, drawing, inking, editing, promoting and distributing. It’s ultra-time consuming if you’re at it alone. I added some more artists to the issue to help me out and a definite improvement was achieved. I’m proud of book 2 and a small press run again makes it highly collectible.
Who were the artists you hired to contribute to the second volume of ITFTD? Was this given some more press or did it have more of a word of mouth reception like the first volume?
Some of the guys involved with book 2 were Mark K. Allen, the main artist and creator of Frightfeast horror comics. Mark added a real gusher of a splattercrap festival with his art for the story "Shitwrecked". Check him out on Facebook. Book 2 didn’t get much publicity that I know of other than some bible thumpers knocking the creepy art. It still is an underground epic. Mark K Allen, Frank Todarello Jr., Silvano Calligari, John Schumacher and I were all the main artists and a slew of other madmen in the gallery including a sick ass back cover by Mortuus Art and a killer introduction written by Mike "The Howler" Howlett, author of The Weird World Of Eerie Publications and The Worst of Eerie Publications from Yoe Books. Check out The Chilling Archives Of Horror Comics on IDW Publishing and Yoe Books.
Are copies of the first and second volumes still available for purchase or trade? How much are you asking for them as well as the new issue?
Books 1 & 2 are still available yet limited quantities are left to order. Book 1 is $5.00. Book 2 is $7.00. Book 3 is $12.00. They can all be found at Insane Tales From The Dead or directly through me. Book 3 is a massive index of anthology terror tales with over 115 pages of horror treats for under $15. It's a real Insanathon! All editions of book 3, 1 through 50 for each variant cover are hand numbered and signed by me. Highly collectible from only 260 squarebound books pressed.
Who are some of the artists you feature in Insane Tales From The Dead volume #3? How many pieces from each of them did you have space to include?
The new book three is a great accomplishment for me as I never expected it to come together as it did. The stories and art included are from some my favorite artists from the last books and some new ones. There are over thirty artists involved. The coolest thing to me about the book is the Gallery Of The Insane at the end. In book 2 there was also a gallery at the end. It spotlighted a few more artists with two full pages each. With book 3 I had a certain number of slots I needed filled for the gallery and really wanted more people involved. Having a full page slot for each artist enabled me to expose more great talents and they are all some of my favorite artists. I asked each artist individually if they could contribute a page of their work and ended up getting everyone I asked in there. I still can't believe it's real. Guys like Mark Riddick, Silvano Calligari, Nikos Malk, Mortuus Art, Brian Postman, Putrid Matt. I got to ink some work by Don England too. Eric Rot, Raul Gonzalez, Elyse Taylor, Chuck Bowman, Bjorn Grasses, Justell Vonk, Ann Tedeschi are just some of the artists in here and they all kick major ass! There were A LOT of artists I just couldn't fit yet maybe next issue I can get them in there.
How much material are you gathering for a fourth edition of ITFTD? Do you hope to meet more artists and expand your network?
Book 4 is in the works and I definitely plan on having new artists joining in the madness so expect some more horror tales and a few more surprises for next years possible release.
How soon do you anticipate a release for volume 4 of Insane Tales From The Dead? How many copies do you expect to print?
New material is being prepared as we speak for a very special hard cover edition featuring all three issues plus issue 4. This all depends on how many issues I have left of 1, 2 and 3 by next year. Either way book 4 will be even more INSANE then the rest and that's more certain than our tombs for sure. As for press run we'll just have to wait and see.