You have definitely seen many of his works somewhere, you have albums that he has designed in your collection, and he is probably your favorite artist that associates directly with your favorite music but you just can not remember his name. Let’s have a conversation with the overwhelming Mr. Eliran Kantor.
How old are you and since when did you get started in art?
I was born in ’84, and got into drawing as a kid. My father Zeev Kantor painted and drew, so his work was my introduction to art as a toddler. He painted my bedroom walls with Disney characters, and his own walls with characters from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’.
Forgive me if i’m wrong, You are based on Berlin but Eliran isn’t a Hans name or something? So are you German? How did you end up in Berlin?
I’m originally from Israel, born in Bat-Yam and grew up in Gan-Yavne. I first visited Berlin when I was 16 on a family trip, then came back a stayed for a month when I was 22, and finally moved here when I was 24.
When did you first become interested in Heavy Metal?
When I was 13 I was into modern alternative rock that I was exposed to on MTV, then my father gave me Deep Purple’s “Made in Japan” and a Scorpions ‘Best of’ compilation. That’s how I started to really pay attention to heavy guitar riffs. Both albums had a mail-order catalog attached to them, and there I saw a few covers by 3 names I recognized from Beavis & Butthead: Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Metallica. With money I saved up I walked into a record store and bought one record by each, judging by the cover, not knowing how any of these bands sounded.
Is Heavy Metal the only genre you are interested into or do you have multi genre discotheque?
It’s not rare to find me listening to Kate Bush, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, New Model Army, even some Stravinsky – BUT my list of favorite metal bands just happens to be 100 times longer.
What was the first album art you created?
That would have to be Solitary – “Trail of Omission”. A local band I knew from Israel. I think we were all about 17 then.
Why do you think metalheads appreciate so much the artwork cover on an album?
I think it’s because the metal bands give them something to appreciate: while in most other forms of music, the dominant approach is to have a photo of the musician on the cover, usually just standing there, in metal the norm is to have something a little bit more elaborated. sometimes fantastic, sometimes personal, but in either way very often very dramatic and meant to provoke either a thought, a feeling or an atmosphere.
All fans worldwide sometimes in their lives bought an album just by looking the front cover. Have you ever done and if so which albums were that?
The first 3 metal albums I bought I did based on the cover art alone, not knowing how the music sounded like: “Master of Puppets”, “Killers” and “Youthanasia”.
I know that most of the questions might be answered so many times by you… so let’s talk about more artistic themes. Beyond metal which are your favorite movement in painting? have you been in any university or in school of arts?
I don’t have favorite art movements, I do have a lot of VERY different artists spanning all the way back to the old masters and to modern times, even cartoon animators from the 70′-90’s and modern day 3D animators.
So that list would be as diverse as any list going from Bocklin to Nerdrum, Rubens to Beksinski, Goya to John K, Frazetta to Terry Gilliam to Jesse Kanda – who I think is responsible for the best album covers of the last few years.
I took junior art classes when I was 10, that covered some basics of light and shadow, perspective and usage of various mediums.
Most people talk about the Testament work, but I believe your best moments were on Satan. magnificent brilliant work. Which is your favorite artwork designer and which is your favorite album cover designed by other artist?
Thank you! That’s very kind of you to say. I’m happy I get to do a series like the SATAN covers, where you have the same character that you take onto different stories every time.
Which is your favorite album cover?
It would be hard for me to pick just one, my top ten would look something like this:
Pink Floyd – Inner gatefold artwork of “The Wall” artwork by Gerald Scarfe
Hope this doesn’t count as cheating. I love the characters political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe did for the album and film. It’s probably the first music related visual I remembered from when I as a kid, my dad painted this huge bedroom mural of it at a friends house.
Iron Maiden – “Killers” artwork by Derek Riggs
Everything was already said about this one. So influential on anything that came after as everyone now wanted a painted mascot. I bought this record based solely on the cover.
Solefald – “The Linear Scaffold” artwork by Odd Nerdrum
I owe a lot to Odd Nerdrum’s style, and this was the record that first introduced me to his work. What an amazing, brilliant artist.
Michael Jackson – “Dangerous” artwork by Mark Ryden
The detail work sure is impressive but details mean nothing if they doesn’t serve a purpose, and here it just worked great in creating this unique, magical world within a picture.
Cryptopsy – “None So Vile” artwork by Elisabetta Sirani
Closeups are rarely used when people opt for classic icons and baroque paintings, because they like the epic, grand feeling of a scene. This went in the opposite, more modern direction and the result is pure direct impact.
Pungent Stench – “Been Caught Buttering” artwork by Joel-Peter Witkin
The ultimate death metal artwork. A REAL photo of two halves of a single decapitated head arranged so they appear to be kissing. Many don’t know that and just assume these are two similar looking persons.
Megadeth – “Youthanasia” artwork by Hugh Syme
The purple sky against the green meadow, the tight “magic realism” execution, when I saw it I had to get this. It was so vivid and cinematic. Syme’s work shaped a lot of the new cover art trends that followed.
Converge/Agoraphobic Nosebleeds split – “The Poacher Diaries” artwork by Derek Hess
I love Hess’ style, when I saw it I was reminded of Bill Plymptons short animation bits on MTV during the 90‘s. This is absolutely my favorite piece of his.
Slayer – “Reign in Blood” artwork by Larry Carroll
The red and green color scheme, the chaotic Xerox collage, the huge erect black penises that nobody seems to notice (I only noticed it a decade later) – it took guts to release this thing, and it’s another one I picked up based on the cover alone.
Uriah Heep – “The Magician’s Birthday” artwork by Roger Dean
The red blobs here made absolutely no sense, but it made it so memorable and still didn’t feel as if it’s different just for the sake of it. Roger Dean took you to very imaginative places, and this was my first encounter with his world.
Of my own covers, my personal favorite always changes, right now it’s either Loudblast’s “III Decades Live Ceremony”, or a new one I just finished a few weeks ago but I can’t reveal the name of the band just yet.
Has there ever been an album you were approached to design, but declined because the music left you uninspired or by any other reason (if the artist had racist lyrics or something)?
Oh yes, many. I have a photographic memory and when a band approaches me with an idea I’ve seen on tens of other album covers, I have to kindly decline. If it’s a band I really like, I usually show them how many times it was done before, explain why it would be best for the record and for them to have something really original and fresh, and then come up with an idea together or leave me to come up with it on my own.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished work on the new Krisiun, Hate Eternal and Soulfly records, and I’m working with Devin Townsend on something, along with many others that I have booked for the coming months, you can always check here to see up to date ‘coming soon’ list:
And final question what does future holds for Eliran?
The future, after the success of the exhibitions I had in Bloodstock and Copenhell, I’m going to focus more on these types of exhibitions at metal festivals.
Thank you very much for your time and hope one day design something for our future print edition !!!