Grindouse Studios Athens present for the first time in Athens on Saturday 23/9 at Underflow – Record Store & Art Gallery, Costin Chioreanu’s art exhibition entitled “The Twilight Visions of Costin Chioreanu”. Graphic designer, illustrator, musician and video artist, the romanian artist is specialises in heavy metal artwork and he has collaborated with many famous names of the rock and metal community. But let’s see what he has to say.

Please give us a small bio as many readers of Metal Invader may not be familiar with your name.

Well, everything started back in the mid 90’s, when I realized that the artworks found in my own collection of bootleg cassettes released in the post-communist era, had to be improved. This is the way I started, by redrawing shitty bootleg xeroxed covers, as I felt the music deserves more respect than that. The lack of access to information from that moment put me in the position of inventing covers for the cassettes which were having just track-lists and no cover.

I experienced the next and way deeper level of illustrating music when I started with my own releases, as I had my first band back in 1995. So I made several covers for my bands’ demos between 1997 and 1999.

I am specialized in Graphic Design, with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at the National University of Arts, in Bucharest. In 2003 I started my own graphic studio, under the name of TWILIGHT 13 MEDIA. Since then, I’ve been covering all types of expression regarding music illustration, from covers, posters, merchandise design to filmed or animated videos, live DVD’s, or full concert screenings. Some of the most renowned collaborators of mine are At the Gates, Ghost, Opeth, Arch Enemy, Darkthrone, Napalm Death, Arcturus, Ulver, Enslaved, Triptykon, Decide, Mayhem, My Dying Bride, Wardruna, Paradise Lost, Sigh, Necrophagia and many others. And here I am today.

What process do you follow creatively and what is your communication from when your collaboration begins with some bands or generally a customer? Are there any rules that you pose as a prerequisite for good cooperation between you?

Well, there were some rules which changed over the years. Right now bands or solo musicians who get in contact with me know already what I do and 95% of them give me free hands. But that doesn’t mean that I do things randomly or out of any control. I remained the same respectful metal fan since back in the days and I want to hear the story of the record, to listen to it and feel it. Then, I act more like a medium, as I fully try to get into the band’s world. Sometimes, the transformation of my perception gets so deep that I change even my style in the order to fit as much as I can the aura of that certain band I work with. I don’t like to impose my style upon each client. As soon as I feel that I can change my graphic expression in order to make everything more powerful together with the music, I do it .So… More or less, this is the way I do things.

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Who is the ideal customer for you? One who will properly guide you to what exactly he is looking for or one who will leave you totally free to create what you think is right for him?

I believe I already experienced working with many ideal clients. I always like to have a friendly relationship with them. Basically I am also a musician. I know what’s the deal with the whole thing from the darkest and most depressive corners to the highest rainbows of joy and excitement. It is all about harmony, mutual respect, things made with passion for those who have passion. These are the key words.

Is there a way for professionals like you (graphic designers, illustrators) to protect themselves from scammers (rip offs) without being the bad guys with potential customers?

Well, I need to confess I dislike scandals. I also need to confess that in the last years I did not encounter more than two scammers. Honestly, I cannot be a military guy, coming up with tons of rules. I did that back in the day when I got mad by some rip-offs, but now I think I started to “smell it” from the beginning and I act accordingly to what I feel. Rules are useful, but equilibrium is always the solution, the balance between being strict and being pretty open. Many professionals choose a very strict set of norms and act pretty corporate. I do not condemn them, this is the way it should be in this fucked up world, but I cannot switch myself on demand from a lawyer to a dreamer and the reverse. I try to, but this takes so much energy that I skip it many times. So yeah, in the end, I just talk about the subject. I have no advice, except trying to find a balance.

What advice would you offer to a new team that wants to collaborate with some iconographers so that they can smoothly co-operate and get the best result?

First of all, the base of everything is to be true. Yeah, I know there are many successful fakes out there, but that is just crap. If you are for real, being what you pretend you are, and you really have the passion, it will go further, it will resist to all the bullshit you will encounter, stuff thrown by many, including persons you less expect to do that.

BUT! There is always this “BUT” and will always be, as long as we speak of humans. Not all the icons are the most real, coolest, or the most passionate persons you will meet in your life. Yes, many of them are, no doubt, but what I am saying is: keep in mind that we are all humans, after all. That’s why I tell you as many times as possible to be the real you, if you are a fake and you start working with a real icon then you can get in the garbage trunk in the next second. If you are real and you meet a fake icon, then is cool, since the icon will love you, simply because you believe more in his work than himself, so the collaboration will be extremely successful, even you may experience some deep depression… Hahahahaha!

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From where do you draw your inspiration when you are free to create something of yours?

From my own life experiences. I learned that if I want to make something powerful, I strictly need to connect myself with something which my mind, soul and body experienced deeply, so these things can guide my subconscious towards the navigation of the right path. Well, okay, maybe “right” is not the best word, as it is very limited. There is no “right” or “wrong” here. It is just the level of coherence found between the result of conscious and subconscious co-working and the guidelines given by the entity you serve in the real world. It is very abstract, at least apparently, as we are speaking of tuning two totally different worlds. Well, okay, “real” is again a weak word here… But I guess you get my point.

Which of your colleagues do you admire or consider pioneers in your field? 

Michel “Away” Langevin, Niklas Sundin and Dan Seagrave are those who I admire the most and I consider them also solid pioneers. I also love very much the paintings of Zbigniew M. Bielak, I consider him a pioneer regarding this “evil”, a bit impressionistic kind of painting.

Which illustrators and what covers did you admire as a fan in your teenage years?

 Woooow! There are so many of them… But I need to confess that the covers of Edge Of Sanity “The Spectral Sorrows” (Dan Seagrave) and “Crimson” (Duncan Storr ) are really special for me. I remember even now the moments when I first saw these… I said to myself: “Wow! What the hell is that thing? It looks like it came from another world!!!” This is what I love most actually when it comes to the idea of illustrating metal; it is about being capable of going beyond.

For what favorite band would you like to create the cover in the future? 

I would like to make a video for Voivod and a cover for My Dying Bride.

Which is the work you have done and you are most proud of? 

There are many, but I think At The Gates – “At War With Reality”, Tau Cross – “Pillar Of Fire”, Arcturus – “Arcturian” and Bloodway – “A Fragile Riddle Crypting Clues” are some of the greatest ones. But yeah, it is very difficult to choose!

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What kind of music are you into? Name the 5 last albums you bought.

I listen to lots of different types of music, from extreme metal to classical music, experimental, electronic, even some very weird stuff.

Latest albums:

Agatus – “The Eternalist”
Convulse – “Resuscitation of Evilness” tape
Diamond Head – “Diamond Head”
Sincarnate – “In Nomine Homini”
Metallica – “Hardwired To Self Destruct”

What we should expect at the “The Twilight Visions of Costin Chioreanu” in 23/9?

Well, I will bring many exhibition pieces; there will be high quality prints on canvas, also a listening session of the latest album of my band, Bloodway – “A Fragile Riddle Crypting Clues”. I will be there to meet old and new friends and to have a good time. It is like a celebration of my longtime relationship with Greece… which goes far beyond my first collaboration with a Greek band… My grand-grandmother was a Greek woman.

Do you have any message for the Greek audience? The epilogue is yours.

It would be nice to meet you on the 23rd of September, to share some thoughts and experience a beautiful evening. As for the rest…I have no idea why, but there is this quote which is haunting me since I started this interview… So I put it here. I guess my subconscious wants also to say something to you, something which I don’t understand… Hahahah! “Too much love will kill you every time” – Brian May.