(Logo specifically designed by Christophe for this interview. We here at The Metal Wanderlust cannot thank him enough. An honour indeed!)
When it comes to bands and albums how many of us stop to consider who is responsible for the artwork and logos, those unsung heroes we take for granted without a second thought, one of the most prolific being Christophe Szpajdel, the man behind well over 10,000 logos, his first was for the Finnish band Disgrace in 1990 and the one he’s probably best known for , that iconic design for Emperor created in early 1993.The prolific nature of his work within the industry has gained him nicknamed the “Lord of the Logos”, also the title of a book which showcased his designs, mainly within the Black and Death Metal and ambient music scenes over the years.
Christophe, thank you for taking the time to speak to us at THE METAL WANDERLUST, you’ve had a pretty impressive career so far as a designer of logos, what got you started?
I started drawing being still a child and I rapidly developed interest for drawing letters inspired by Medieval times, Art Nouveau and Art Deco….but I really started getting involved in the Underground in the late 80’s when I started to order demo tapes and write for a local fanzine called Septicore. In the 90’s, there were many bands struggling to find a good logo. Some of the first bands I offered my services to were Morbid Death in 1989 (pre-Enthroned) from Belgium, Disgrace from Finland in 1989…and a couple years later on, one of the most significant bands was Emperor when I offered them a logo in 1991. It was for them a surprise, as well as a surprise for the entire Metal scene when my name got around the world after the release of “In the Nightside Eclipse” in 1994 with my name in the credits). Since I started, I have been drawing logos on all my whereabouts (Belgium, Portugal, France, The Azores, the UK, Greece, Poland…), I simply never stopped drawing logos, It was an addiction…I can consider myself as a “Logo Art addict” as I simply can’t stop.
How do you find your inspiration?
Mostly in Nature, architecture (especially Art Deco for more Jazzy stuff) and Art Nouveau for more 70’s style bands and psychedelic influenced bands) but also lately I stared expanding in traditions, history, geography and first and most important, I constantly look at other artists logos with the aim to come up with even better ideas than my nowadays numerous competitors.
You’ve created in excess of 10,000 designs do you have any specific favourites?
I would say Emperor, Abigail Williams, Wolves in the Throne Room, Enthroned, Covenant which are the first and most well-known that would come to my mind as well as some Devon bands like Deadwood Lake, Cryostorm, and to be even more local, I would mention Warcrab, Ishmael, Violent Virtues (all 3 from Plymouth).
You are often seen at gigs in the corner busily working on pieces, do you feel a live environment fires your creativity or do you just like to keep busy?
I actually love keeping busy at all times and gigs are a great place to generate interest in my art, create opportunities and attract new prospective clients that would potentially commission me for some work in the future. When people see me busy drawing a logo, they are much more likely to approach me and remember me for my services. These days, interest is something that you must create. Meeting people, going out of your way and staying hungry is half of the battle to lead a successful venture. It is all the secret of being out and about and making people aware that you actually exist. A live environment is definitely boosting my inspiration and making me become creative….as well as it attracts me new prospective clients.
How many sketch books do you think you have you filled over your career, given your final designs begin as a multiple of ideas and renderings?
I did quite a lot of sketchbooks, probably a few dozen A4 sketch books like the one I was carrying in my rucksack the other day when we first discussed the possibility of this interview. Some of my sketchbooks are gone missing as probably misplaced but it doesn’t matter. Success comes from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm and it is all about trying, experimenting, failing and repeating. There is a significant amount of clients I have submitted hundreds of sketches and all the time they were saying they want something completely different. If I hadn’t had lost or misplaced my sketchbooks on my whereabouts, I would probably have had a few hundreds. Actually….It would have been one of my dreams to work on a logo for The Hundreds (https://thehundreds.uk/)
Your book “Lord of the Logos”, has sold out but I believe you are working on a second book? What will that encompass and how will it differ from “Lord of the Logos”?
The book is quasi sold out. You might pot luck finding some copies on sale in Waterstones, Powell Books Whitcoulls, Gordon Harris, WH Smith bigger stores as well as smaller independent record stores like Bunker Store in Porto, Portugal for example. So if you keep all your senses open, you may be lucky to sniff it out. There are many opportunities to still get around it. The Second book is indeed taking shape and I am in writing process. It will encompass my perception of this world through the creation of logos. There will be 3 notions developed – Time (from very ancient, prehistoric to modern/futuristic), Temperament (from angular, geometric, structured, calm, organized to totally chaotic) and Simplicity/Readability (from very simple logos which can be read within a split second to something more complicated and sophisticated or totally unreadable). There will be also a fair share of my travel experience, making this book a much more empirical one, an experience I am sharing with clients. I am aiming to have this book written in English as it is the universal language and the first language I am using these days.
Your work is gaining interest outside of Metal; you’ve recently had the call from Hollywood, creating the logo for the Nicholas Cage horror “Mandy”. How did that come about?
Panos Cosmatos like several other people (Amanda Palmer-The Dresden Dolls, Clare Gillen-Willoperron for the Rihanna logo, Jonas Ackerlund-Ditch candles, Metallica+Manunkind, Lords Of Chaos…) actually found me on Facebook much quicker than on my websites (current website www.lordofthelogos.com as other website attempts by web designers resulted in failures due to a stop of the communication). So for me Facebook (and now Instagram) have been very important tools of research to find me quickly, get hold of me effectively, as I respond to messages as soon as I see them. I also have been this year approached by Michelle Shekari from the Wing. https://www.the-wing.com/ . Please see this article https://www.vogue.com/article/the-wing-metal-feminist-merch-audrey-gelman-christophe-szpajdel?fbclid=IwAR0WRzkB8LeLJVVPOJ7mAnl5QSH7ZQ-qN_Bp3asOeAVKc1DkHHy89-D-h18
What other avenues would you like to take your creativity to/or are currently taking your creativity to?
And that rejoins what I just said in the previous questions. I am taking my creativity to much further fields like Movies, even Adult amateur movies would greatly do with my art as I have created some logos for such names as Bonnie Rotten, Deauxma. I really would aim for my name to click with logo art instantly and that to everyone who has interest in graphic design. I would love to give artist talks to Art schools like The Plymouth University, the Plymouth College of Art. Students would absolutely LOVE IT! I already approached respective people for that but they all told me that they are currently programmed up to 2021, but in any case they do not take unsolicited proposals: all exhibitions and artist talks are selected by the programming committee. On occasion, they might invite proposals for open submission exhibitions.
Christophe, thank you once again, any final comment?
Thank you so much for this chat with me. I really hope people will help me to get more recognition within the entire graphic design and art industry, which now becomes over saturated. Life is a gift. It gives you the opportunity, privilege and responsibility to give something back by becoming more. Success results from walking from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. It doesn’t matter how many times you try, fail, experiment, repeat, try harder and fail better. What really counts is that you are keeping your enthusiasm untouched and that you rise higher every time you fall.
Anyone interested in a logo, please check my Social media pages