Arik Roper is probably one of the best illustrators alive today who when all is said and done, will be mentioned among the ranks of Riggs, Repka & Pushead. Over the course of this decade, Arik’s work has formed visual language of a new generation of Doom and Stoner Metal, a language as powerful and symbolic as the music itself.
About a year ago we got the chance to work with Arik for the first time which resulted in Summer in the Swamp Rot T-shirt from our Summer 09 collection. We have a few more things in the works with Arik but in the meantime you’ll just have to settle for these 5 questions with him!
5 Questions With Arik Roper
1) You’ve made a real name for yourself as this generations preeminent metal illustrator, defining a while generation of Stoner Metal art… Who/what were your inspirations growing up?
I was into underground comics mainly Vaughn Bode, Crumb, Dave Sim and others. I also had a lot of Mad magazines from the 1960s when I was young , around 10 years old, so I got these doses of deviant art and inspiration from sources like those at an early age. Later when I started buying music I got into the album art especially the Iron Maiden covers. Those really blew me away, the detail and the way Derek Riggs created an entire world for the music. I bought a lot of records back then just for the cover art, a lot of metal records, often the art was better than the music. I was also into the old concert posters by Rick Griffin etc. Also, animated movies like Heavy Metal, Wizards, Fantastic Planet, The Wall all that stuff was formative.
2) You have an ongoing relationship with Matt Pike that spans from Sleep to his current outlet High on Fire. How did you two first meet and what lead to your continued collaborations? How do you feel knowing that your artwork is basically the visual identity of two of the most beloved Stoner Metal bands of all time?
Matt and met in 1994 at a Sleep show in New York when they opened up for Hawkwind. We had some mutual friends in the band Buzzoven and I think I met him through those guys. We weren’t in touch during the next few years when Sleep was having music biz problems so I didn’t see him for a while. When Matt started High on Fire we somehow got back in contact as I started doing some art for them. It was a fairly natural connection we made since we have a mutual respect for each others craft, and share some similar interests.
In my opinion, Sleep was one of the best things that’s happened in modern music. Their aesthetic matched where I was at in a perfect way, same influences, same imagery, similar ideas , only they were doing it with sound and I was doing it with visual art. I felt like the art i did end up doing for them was a result of basically coming from the same head space. I can say more or less the same for High on Fire. Matt took that in another direction, but it was a natural progression which I related to. His sources of inspiration are pretty much on track with mine, so I think that’s why the art works with the music. Both bands are monumental, I’m glad we could work together.
3) What music are you listening to when you’re creating your pieces? Are you a fan of a lot of the bands you do work for or do your musical tastes lie elsewhere?
I like different kinds of music, as long as there’s feeling to it. I like most of the bands I’ve worked with, especially these days. I do listened to the material I’m working on during the art process for ideas, but I also listen to a range of other music. I’d say the majority of it was made before 1975. A lot of old psych rock stuff, drone noise, dub, folk, heavy stuff, etc.
4) Where you ever involved in making Music yourself or were you strictly a pencil and paper guy?
I play music also. I always thought I would have pursued the music path more if I hadn’t decided to focus on the visual art. since music is a big part of my soul. As it is, I do it as something I enjoy as opposed to professionally. I’ve played with a few bands, and projects the most ongoing is something called Matta Llama. Our disorganization has allowed us to keep playing together for years.
5) Acid, Shrooms or Mesc? What’s your trip of choice and why?
That really depends on what I’m going for. Acid goes well with music and art, and can lead to some real revelations. Mushrooms would probably be my choice, they’re smoother and more organic feeling, they put me in touch with the world, last just long enough and come down easy. I feel cleansed after mushrooms. But I would never turn down some real Mescaline… Got any?
On that note don’t forget to check out Arik’s new book Mushroom Magick! A trippy and rich book of 100 paintings of your favorite fungus.- My Pal the Crook