Gojira is a French heavy metal band from Bayonne. They have released six studio albums and three live DVDs, most recently their album Magma on June 17, 2016 through Roadrunner Records. The band isn’t easy to categorize, they shift with ease between Death Metal, Progressive Metal and Thrash Metal. Their lyrical themes are equally broad – life, death and nature play major roles in their songs and albums.
The cover artwork for Magma was created by Hibiki Miyazaki from Portland, Oregon. Hibiki is an award winning artist focussing on prints, paintings and drawings who studied at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD. I had the chance to ask Hibiki a few questions about the idea and process of this amazing artwork.
Symmetal: What’s interesting about your work is that you aren’t a typical Metal cover artist. Your work stands out from the usual art styles in this specific music genre – something that makes your work truly unique. Can you tell us about the collaboration with Gojira and how the project was initiated?
Hibiki Miyazaki: Joe (Duplantier, vocals and guitars Gojira) emailed me out of the blue one day and introduced himself and asked if I ever did collaborations with musicians. I had never done that before and I didn’t even really know what that would entail. He explained that they were looking for cover art for their album, which was still being completed. I was intrigued and he explained the basic concept, which was a simple, powerful volcano in the ocean.
Both Joe and Mario told me how their music was inspired by the “boiling energies” of nature all around us and within us.
They explained about their origins in the Azores Islands where active volcanoes rose above the sea. Also, this album was a tribute to their mother, who had passed away recently. I made a digital sketch and emailed it to them and they gave me feedback and we went back and forth until it was time to begin working on the print.
The process of the Magma cover you shared on your Facebook page grabbed my attention. Can you tell us more about the process of this artwork?
This album art was done as an intaglio etching print. Intaglio etching is an old art medium dating back to the 1400’s in Germany which (usually) involves a metal plate that is incised using many different types of methods, whether it’s a sharp tool scratching lines directly into it or acids etching the surface. In my case, I take a copper plate and sandblast it to create an all over texture. The plate gets inked up and the textured areas hold the ink while the polished areas do not. The plate is put on a press bed with a damp piece of paper on top and run through the press using a lot of pressure. The ink on the plate is offset onto the paper. The image begins as black and I polish and burnish highlights into the plate to create light areas.
Many consecutive prints are pulled to achieve the look I want.
In the process pic I posted, you can see how the print starts out very dark and then gets lighter and more defined in the areas I’ve polished out. I chose this technique because there is a moody, beautiful atmosphere in this style of printmaking.
The final artwork feels very mesmerizing – When I look at the smoke patterns they almost seem to move. Can you tell us more about the meaning of the artwork and its different elements?
Initially, I had made some sketches with many elements – more fire, more smoke, more lava. The Duplantier brothers’ feedback was that it was just too busy. I pared it down to just a black silhouetted mountain and smoke against the sea and sky. It was so minimal that I felt I needed to add a lot of texture to the smoke and ocean. I liked the idea of the absolute simplicity of the black volcano mountain and contrast it with dramatic smoke.
In my mind, the volcano represents dynamic forces that are creative and destructive at the same time.
The red lava versions of the print came after the mountain and smoke were created and the band couldn’t really agree on which lava they liked. I think in the end, the red lava may have been too predictable and they went in a totally different direction and decided on adding a sun in the mountain. It was never fully explained why the sun was chosen or what the sun meant. I like the enigma of the sun and how it looks like an element from some ancient illuminated manuscript. The sun has a smile on it’s face, but that belies the potentially destructive forces within the volcano and I like that ambiguity.
Your art is very diverse and inspirational. Where do you usually get your inspiration from?
I am very inspired by old illustrations and American commercial graphics from the 30’s through the 50’s. I love all kinds of classical European art and all that weird Flemish painting from the 17th century. Chinese and Indian graphic design and illustration from before the digital age is very close to my heart.
What was the last cover artwork that deeply impressed you and why?
Every time I go to a thrift store, I totally zone out in the vintage records section.
Those album covers from the 50’s and 60’s are completely mesmerizing. They have such a strong, playful graphic sense and fun colors. My color palette tends to be subdued, so I like stuff that is different than what I do.
Thanks to Hibiki Miyazaki for the interview. Here are some of his very diverse and beautiful paintings, drawings and prints as well as the magma cover artwork.