With the new Six Feet Under album, Undead, dropping on May 22nd, we here at THT wanted to do something a little different and interesting. I had a chance to kill time with Dusty Peterson, the talent behind the cover art for the new album, and ask a few questions about his process, tastes, and more.
THT: First off, I would like to congratulate you on your success. It must feel amazing to see your artwork on album covers and t-shirts for bands that you love listening to and respect. Also thanks for taking time to BS with me. Let’s get to it, how did you get to design the new album cover for Six Feet Under?
DP: I have been working with Six Feet Under off and on since I first did their cover for Graveyard Classics 3. Mostly for tour shirts and whatnot, but I’d say we have developed a pretty good working relationship so [Chris Barnes] asked me to do the new studio album as well.
THT: That’s cool so you’ve worked with him before, what other covers have you done for them?
DP: Just “Graveyard Classics 3″ and the “Wake the Night: Live in Germany” DVD.
THT: The Undead cover looks pretty sick man. I wonder how you will top that. How do you come up with your ideas? What is your process to bring your ideas to life?
DP: This cover particularly was easily the most difficult thing I have ever done from start to finish. We probably went through 20 different sketches before finally nailing down the idea that all parties involved agreed on. It was clear at a very early point that they wanted something special. Not to say that every band doesn’t want quality art, but I think everyone is really proud of this new album, so they were especially critical of initial designs. As for where the initial idea came from, Chris Barnes just said that he wanted something “completely insane”. Something that reflected the insanity on the album. All I could do at that point was pull from the darkest parts of my brain and start. The specific details I can’t really say where they came from, but metaphorically there is a lot of hidden meanings that I sensed Chris Barnes felt about this project after talking to him extensively. The past, line-up changes, and rebirth all play a role in the swirling chaos that is Six Feet Under.
THT: I can see how the process can develop your skills, and you seem to handle projects on another level of thinking. How long have you been designing artwork for bands?
DP: Not a very long time, actually. 2008 was the first year that I started doing them and it just sort of fell in my lap. At that point, I was actually in an artistic lull so I used it as a much needed kickstart.
THT: Great way to get things back on track. What other bands or labels have you worked with over the years?
DP: Metal Blade (obviously), Peaceville, and Earache. I’ve worked in one capacity or another with Bloodbath, Cattle Decapitation, Oceano, Whitechapel (though that was unpublished), Funerus, Behold! The Monolith, and a few others. I’d say I am probably most known for my covers for the last two Bloodbath releases, “Unblessing The Purity” and “The Fathomless Mastery”.
THT: And your favorite is…?
DP: It’s hard to pick a favorite of my own work. Everyone’s favorite seems to be “Unblessing the Purity”, though.
THT: Yeah “Unblessing” has a great cover. I need a print of that. You definitely have to grow a love for this kind of music and artwork. It’s not like you wake up one morning when you’re a kid and tell yourself, “I love Death Metal, I’m gonna design covers”. When did you start listening to Death Metal?
DP: It was probably around 1995 or so. I grew up in Kansas and the only thing on the radio at that time was basically the “Alternative Nation” style of music. And Country…lots of country. I was really into a comic book called Dead World at the time, which was drawn by Vincent Locke and when I saw some of his covers for Cannibal Corpse at the record store, I immediately recognized his art and picked up some of the CDs. At first, I didn’t quite know what to say about it as the heaviest stuff I was listening to at that point was maybe Ministry or Testament, but as soon as I heard “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled” off of “The Bleeding”, I was totally hooked. It was still pretty hard to find that kind of music back then where I was, though, so it wasn’t until I moved to Seattle where I really started to expand my metal interests.
THT: What are some of your other favorite bands and albums?
DP: Most of my favorite bands/albums are from that initial discovery period between 1995-1998. So Rotting Christ’s “Non Serviam” and “Triarchy of the Lost Lovers” are eternally in my top 5 albums ever. Also, Samael’s “Ceremony of Opposites” is possibly my favorite album of all time. I consider that to be the most perfect metal album for my own personal tastes. The riffs, the lyrics, everything…every song is just so incredibly evil. It’s just a shame they don’t really make that kind of music anymore. I’m also a pretty big Immortal fan. “At the Heart of Winter”. Seattle is pretty grim with the gray skies and rain, after all. Not quite frosty here, but it still fits. Then there is a bunch of stuff that is almost not even worth mentioning that I love like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest or Dio…but everyone loves them. I’d have to turn in my leather jacket if I didn’t love them. These days, I mostly listen to NWOBHM stuff like Angel Witch, Grim Reaper, Cloven Hoof, Hell, and Tokyo Blade. I listen to pretty much every sub-genre of heavy metal depending on my mood..it just depends.
THT: Cool man, which band do you want to work with?
DP: I mean, there are always bands I’d love to work with. Some just seem incredibly difficult to get a hold of. I’d love to do a Deicide cover at some point. Their stuff was always so offensive, I’d love to do something like that. Gwar would be another one because I think I’d get to let my wackier side loose for a bit.
THT: I would definitely like to know how you tackle a Deicide cover. I can see you doing something for Gwar too. I’ve seen your wacky stuff. On that note, what else have you done outside of band artwork?
DP: I’ve actually been a 2D/3D game artist for about 12 years now. It’s my primary career. I’ve worked on games like FEAR, FEAR 2, Spiderman: The Movie (first movie game), and tons of casual/budget titles. I can’t really complain. I make video games all day and then I go home and make heavy metal album covers. Life is great!
THT: Hell yeah, man. Do what you love. I gotta hear more about your game work at some point. Before we wrap up, what’s the best way for bands to reach you?
DP: dustypeterson.net is my website and there is a contact form on there. I’m pretty much always available for work, but I have to say…no more ruined cities! Every band asks for “Ruined apocalyptic cities” these days. It’s definitely the new “king sitting in a throne” for the new millennium. Time to change it up, guys!
THT: Can people get their hands on any of your artwork?
DP: I have an online store (http://dustypeterson.storenvy.com/). It uses a cart and paypal or CC. Pretty straight forward. I often draw sketches and slip them into the packages, btw. Usually when I slack in getting them to the post office on time. Which is almost every time.
THT: Oh, one last question… favorite horror movie and video game?
DP: Video Game is probably Fallout 3 because I loved the way that it really felt like I was walking out into a nuclear wasteland. And a close second would be Dark Souls. That game is so punishing, but I was hopelessly addicted to it. The creatures were some of the scariest ever made, too.
My favorite horror movie of all time is “The Beyond”, but Lucio Fulci. No one nailed the nightmare logic like he did. Even with it’s low budget, there is really no other movie that has it’s incredible sense of atmosphere and dread.