Heres some mental pyschosurgery with a brilliant artist who creates some of the best looking CD covers in Metal. He is one of the people behind the scenes that help make sure we get our money worth when we buy a CD. Because if its a band we haven't heard before we may put it back on the shelve if the cover looks gay. So in a way he is promoting the bands and let me tell you he's doing a damn good job.
Prof.ManiC: I guess I'll start and ask you....Did you go to school to learn all this or are you self-taught? Is this what you wanted to do with your knowledge or is this what you happened to get into?
Travis Smith:
I am completely self taught. at the place I worked before we got a Mac in with Photoshop installed already with no manuals or prior experience, and I had to figure it out for the job. Along the way I did a lot of experimenting and figured out a lot of neat stuff. This is just what I happened to get into but I've always created art and when I discovered this way to realize my visions I knew it's what I wanted to do.
Prof.ManiC: I know you did the cover art for Enola Gay,Nevermore,Death,Control Denied,the upcoming Jag Panzer and some on Demons and Wizards. Are there any others floating around out there? What was your first one? Which ones are your babies?
Travis Smith:
Well, I've done a lot more than that. Skinlab, Iced Earth, Sadus, Solitude Aeturnus, Katatonia, Opeth, to name a few. If you mean by babies, which one's did I solely create myself, then most of them. If you mean which ones am I most proud of, then most of them, but especially the new ID6, Katatonia, Demons and Wizards, and Control denied, and Nevermore.. The first CD I ever Started was Psychotic Waltz Bleeding, and the first i actually completed was Darkstar Marching into Oblivion.
Prof.ManiC: Most of the covers that im aware of are bands that used Morrisound studios...do you work for them or are you a freelancer?(if you work for Morrisound what is Jim like and does he work like 30hr days to do all these bands??)
Travis Smith:
I am a freelancer. The bands i do using Morrisound is just a coincidence. But man, do they sound good. I understand that Jim is an incredibly great guy. Many people have told me so. And he never seemed to mind when i was emailing all his bands at the studio or calling at all hours.
Prof.ManiC: Do the bands tell you exactly what they want or do they give you an idea and you go from there? How much creative control do you have?
Travis Smith:
That answer is different for each project. Most of the time, I create the whole thing and the band usually digs it. Sometimes the band will already have a whole idea, and sometimes there is no idea and we work together to develop one, and sometimes, I'll come up with the idea and they'll give input as they see where it's heading. In all situations, it works great.
Prof.ManiC: Do you work personally with the bands?If so who did you enjoy working with the most? Got any good stories to share with us?
Travis Smith:
Yes, I usually work personally and closely with the bands, which is how i like it. I don't have any spinal tap or scandal type stories, but i will say that since i started this, I've made a lot of great friends and have had a lot of good learning experiences along the way. doing this has been a great creative outlet and lets me be involved with something I'm passionate about. One thing I can give you an example is (and this actually goes for most of the people I've worked with) is imagine being a big Death fan from since almost the beginning and one day coming home for lunch and there's a message from Chuck Schuldiner on the machine saying he wants to work with you. It's incredible. It's been like that for most of it. It's kind of a cliché anymore to say it, but I'm really still just a big fan of all this working with the people I really admire and it feels great. Which I guess you could say makes a great story in itself. for me anyway.
Prof.ManiC: Are the similarities between the STRANGE ENCOUNTERS and DREAMING NEON BLACK cover because of band input or because you having a thing for drowning or being overwhelmed by something?? Does all your art deal with some sort of a struggle?
Travis Smith:
Yeah I see the similarities you mean. The SE art was something i had done before that the band saw in my portfolio and wanted to use. I changed a few things but its pretty much the same. 90% of the nevermore stuff is custom for that CD. there were a few that I already had done that just happened to fit. I used my wife for most of that art and Warrel told me it looked just like the girl in the story. We both freaked. Now that you mention it, I DO have a thing for drowning and I love water. it always seems to work. I guess the struggle thing always seems to come up. I guess I like expressing that kind of thing. Whether its brutal or emotional. I think its a good theme.
Prof.ManiC: Since We know what guitars,drums and stuff the bands use mind telling us what software you besides Photoshop?
Travis Smith:
Photoshop is the staple. for layouts I use QuarkXPress, and I have painter and poser and illustrator for logos and stuff. I guess just the basics. Acrobat, InDesign, etc.
Prof.ManiC: What other stuff besides cd covers have you worked on??
Travis Smith:
Not much till now. But I just got into the Comic book field. I'm pulling heavy duties on a new book called Violent Messiahs, and I will be involved with Dwayne Turner on his new creation Butcher Knight. Danny Milki and myself are doing some art for Zack Ward's (Titus) website. Some new things are coming up as well.
Prof.ManiC: Who inspires you when it comes to graphics and being creative?
Travis Smith:
Lots of people. Definitely my CD's and artless I'm into Dave McKean, Mid, Kristian Whalan.
Prof.ManiC: What kind of music do you listen to? What are some CD's(or mp3's) you have been playing alot of the last few days?
Travis Smith:
Metal and it's spawned genres. This week I've been listening to Arcturus, Engine, HIM, Babylon Whores, Opeth, Katatonia, and Opeth and Nevermore and Demons & Wizards. I had to put the Control Denied CD away for a bit cause I was playing it so much and when I do that I tend to overdose on it. Or any CD I overplay.
Prof.ManiC: When you are depressed or upset what do you do to control or at least get your mind off the wondering thoughts and feelings?
Travis Smith:
I drown in good music or i play with my little girl. Seeing her laugh makes everything better. Or, I'll sit down with the depression and try to turn it into a picture to release it. Where a musician would turn it into a song I'll try to visualize it.
Prof.ManiC: What are some of the web pages or graphics that put you in awe? How do these other graphic artists make you better at what you do?
Travis Smith:
The Dave Mckean Dreamline site floors me everytime and the site by the guitarist of Dark Tranquility is very good. He does some great things. Some of Ashley Wood's stuff is very cool. Things like this will inspire me to experiment more and try different approaches which sometimes makes for favorable results.
Prof.ManiC: What other hobbies do you enjoy??
Travis Smith:
I like Music, movies, and books or just wasting free time when I have it. Which is rare.
Prof.ManiC: What are your "predictions" for graphics and the Internet in the next 5-10 years?
Travis Smith:
You know something, I haven't thought about it. I predict that I will be spending a lot of time trying to keep up.
Prof.ManiC: If you could form a "SUPERGROUP" with anyone in the world(or time) who would you pick and why? What would be the aim or message of the band?
Travis Smith:
theres a hard one. I never thought about it cause in some ways they already exist. They're called Opeth, Ananthema, and Katatonia. Id like to hear an all mellow Opeth double CD with Dan Swano on guest vocals with Mikael. Yeah!
Prof.ManiC: Any final comments?
Travis Smith:
Just thanks for the interest. i really appreciate the kind words and I'm glad that some people are pleased by the art. Other than that I cant think of anything very clever to close with. Warrel's got the market cornered with that. hahahaahah.