Rodney Matthews’ interview

Afin de rester le plus fidèle possible à l’interview, vous trouverez ci dessous la version originale publiée dans Ganesha 20 : Musique

Rodney Matthews Hello, 
Thank you for this great cover on our comics fanzine dedicated to Music. You are a musician yourself, aren’t you?

New Day – Thin Lizzy © Rodney Matthews

Hello Laurent.
Yes, I am a drummer and write lyrics. I am known better as an illustrator of fantasy, but have also played drums (progressive rock and jazz) since 1960, off and on.  It was my father who introduced me to drawn art when I was a young child, and who also made the mistake of leaving one of his drum kits assembled in our house in 1959.  Of course, I could not resist the temptation and proceeded to annoy the neighbours for many years thereafter.  It can be said – my dad started at all!

It’s incredible the number of Album Covers you’ve done. Often for the same style of music, is it important for you to like the music you illustrate?

No Mean City – Nazareth © Rodney Matthews

Music album art has been the mainstay of my career, commencing with my first EP cover for Thin Lizzy’s New Day in 1969.  It does help to admire the musicians and their music when taking on a commission.  The fact that most of my album artworks are for bands that have an interest in fantasy art or

surrealism, is not a coincidence.  I’m still producing album cover art after all these years (forty or so years) with bands like Magnum, Praying Mantis, Nazareth, the Tygers of Pan Tang, etc. returning for commissions some thirty years after our first collaborations.

Your art is basically made for a 12-inch vinyl record, did the CD’s have an influence on your career?

Of course, the LP vinyl album cover is an ideal format for my illustrated work, and when the CD appeared, I remember being very disappointed to see my pictures reproduced in such a small format.  Fortunately, the 12-inch vinyl album has

Ambush – The Tygers of Pan Tang © Rodney Matthews

returned and is not showing signs of going away – long live the LP!

Can you tell us how you became an illustrator? How did it start?

As I have said, it started with my father, who seeing my potential as an artist, drew Walt Disney characters from me to copy – on the interior walls of our house!  He later encouraged me to attend the West of England College of Art in Bristol, England.
After art school, I became an illustrator at a Bristol advertising agency – an occupation that lasted some eight years, before I went freelance with a friend, who was also an artist and musician.  It was around that time that I started to receive commissions for music related design.

I discovered you in France in the eighties, in an imported art-book published by Paper Tiger Books. Did this publisher help you become famous?

Lost on the Road to Eternity – Magnum © Rodney Matthews

That publication must have been Voyages Extremes, which was my second anthology book for ‘Dragons World/Paper Tiger’.  I had a long and successful relationship with that company until their demise in 2009.  The company that had a greater effect on my art career was ‘Big O Posters’, without which there most likely would have been no involvement with ‘Paper Tiger’ for me.

Technically, what is your favourite painting technique?

Well, over the years I have worked in acrylics on canvas, watercolours and pen line, and so on.  My enduring style utilizes pigmented inks on art board, applied with an airbrush and a sable-haired brush.  I am particularly fond of working in pencil on tracing paper.

Do you make digital art?

No, I am not a computer artist, yet much of what I design ends up

in digital format, i.e. for reproduction or for use in

animation or computer games.  In the case of all these, I make sure I preside over all the processes, ensuring the eventual product stays true to my artistic expectations.


Encore at the End of Time © Rodney Matthews

A lot of your illustrations are based on Michael Moorcock’s universe, is he an inspiration source?

Michael Moorcock was a great inspiration in the early days and became a good friend -helping me to get started in the field of book cover design.  We did several projects together, including a series of posters with ‘Big O’, a calendar for 1978 titled Wizardry and Wild Romance, and an illustrated short story Elric at the End of Time.  I don’t see Michael these days, but I still remember the 70s with great affection.

You did a series of illustrations about Alice in Wonderland, can you tell us about it?

My enthusiasm for Alice can be traced back to my childhood days, when my elder sister treated me to a visit to the local

Painting the Roses © Rodney Matthews

cinema, where we saw the Walt Disney movie Alice in Wonderland.  I attempted to draw scenes from the film as soon as I returned home.  Much later, I was asked by a publisher of limited edition prints, to suggest subjects that I would like to paint for them – of course, I chose Alice – great imagination and surrealism by Lewis Carroll.  Later still, I was commissioned by ‘Templar Publishing UK’, to produce illustrations for their collectors’ book Alice in Wonderland, which also included some new pencil drawings.

What about the Rolling Stones?

I can remember being at the first notable Rolling Stones outdoor “festival” in 1964 – held at Longleat house, in Wiltshire,

England.  It was an event I can recall in detail.  It occurred to me, that at that time, the Stones were routinely blamed for the fall in moral standards of the youth of the day, but to me it was “Rock ‘n’ Roll”!
In the late 70s, many of my commissions were from companies marketing wall posters – posters were big then.  Looking

Painted Black © Rodney Matthews

back, I could see that the Stones’ reputation for being the bad boys of rock, fitted an idea I had for a poster design, featuring five medieval warriors resting around a campfire in a forest clearing.  This image was titled Another Time, Another Place.  It was also used as a poster for an American tour by The Rolling Stones (without my knowledge).  More recently, with the substitution of Brian Jones for Ronnie Wood, the image was used by ‘Coda Music Publishing’ to package recordings made from the various Stones concerts in the US during the 1960s.  Coda commissioned two more record covers this year to accompany Stones early recordings.  These works are titled Time on Our Side and Painted Black.

What are you working on today?

I have just completed artwork for the latest Magnum album titled Lost on the Road to Eternity, and believe it or not, have just returned to the Michael Moorcock fold, by commencing illustrations for a new limited edition collectors’ book of Stormbringer, featuring the albino warrior Elric of Melniboné!

Trinity – Rodney Matthews, Jeff Scheetz and Friends © Rodney Matthews

Additionally, I am working on music for my own album Trinity, to be published early next year.  I have completed all drum tracks, but have yet to complete the accompanying graphics.  Contributing musicians include US guitarist Jeff Scheetz, Oliver Wakeman (YES) on keys, both John Payne (Asia) and Tony Clarkin (Magnum) on bass guitar and Pete Coleman on wind instruments.  Rick Wakeman (YES) will also make a guest appearance, having recorded on the title track.

Where can we purchase your art?
My originals, fine art prints, music and various other merchandise can be purchased from my new and official website.
Thank you for the chat.
Rodney Matthews