VILE VISIONARIES: Masters of Metal and Horror! Jeff Zornow, Eric Rot, Putrid Matt

By Derelikt Waugh

This article has been long in the making, so I’m not gonna waste too much of your precious time with a long-winded introduction. Suffice it to say, if you’ve purchased some quality underground metal in the past decade or so, you’ve more than likely seen the excellent, gory and often times highly disturbing works of the three following individuals gracing the covers of some of your favorite albums: Putrid Matt, Eric “Rot”, and of corpse, Jeff Zornow. Each one of these dudes has their own amazing style, but more than that, they are three of the most humble, cool motherfuckers that you’re ever likely to speak to. I had the awesome opportunity to do exactly that. So, without further ado...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Hey fellas! First off, I wanna thank all of yas for agreeing to do this interview. It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to interview three of my favorite artists! Secondly, I’d like to ask you how you’re all doing and what are you all currently working on?

JEFF ZORNOW: Currently working on GODZILLA : RULERS OF EARTH the comic series as a variant cover artist and fill-in interior artist when needed. JUST recently illustrated the critically acclaimed zombie comic/miniseries ’68: JUNGLE JIM “HELLHOLE”,while doing various art work for bands, and Fright-Rags and DVD/BLU-RAY covers.

ERIC ROT: Doing great, bud! Thanks for asking, heh...Man, I'm working on something right now for a band out of Chicago called BEAR MACE, a piece for IMPETIGO based on one of my favorite zombie flicks, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie aka The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, and getting ready for some MINDBLOWING projects that I'm really stoked about (but can't mention ‘em here just yet)! I just recently did a few shirt designs for MACABRE and SAINT VITUS and a few covers for Canada's SLAUGHTER and Florida's DRUID LORD.                        

PUTRID MATT: Hey Derek!  Well I’m stoked to be able to waste some space with my foul mouth here haha.  I’m doing great man, just grabbin a beer at a local pub and hacking away at this here questionnaire.  As for what i’m working on I got 3 things in the works, a t-shirt design for Hellbringer (Aus), the new Bones album cover and a cover for an Impetigo art/fanzine through Razorback Records.  All of these are pretty elaborate so they’ve been taking up most of my time right now but all have been real fuckin fun to work on so the work life is grand right now.

WC: I know this is a super generic line of questioning, but it’s usually fun (I hope) to read the responses…What artist was the biggest influence on your own work? Was there more than one? Who was the first artist to make you wanna pick up (insert artistic tool here) and go to fuckin’ town?

ER: Damn, that's a tough one as I've loved art and drawing since I was a kid. I'm an old man now so let's see...I've been drawing since I was a kid, war scenes, haunted houses, all kinds of shit that I still enjoy drawing...The furthest back I can remember is when I started reading MAD magazine as a kid and seeing Don Martin's stuff. That guy was a maniac and I started copying him. I just thought he was the kookiest and zaniest artist out there! Later, as I got into reading more comics  it was guys like John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Walt Simonson, Steranko, man just about everyone from those days were great! Too many to list. The main guy that got me into horror comics was Bernie Wrightson, of corpse! His style was classic and those MONSTERS! His inks just read menace from the get go! The lighting and the heavy black inks just immediately struck a chord in my horror craving brain! The more I learned about his influences and peers, the more I understood that there is a deep lineage of artists, illustrators who all gave me a deep grave to stand in! Guys like Corben, Jack Davis, "GHASTLY" Graham Ingels, Al Feldstein, hell the whole E.C. comics roster, and classical artists like Franklin Booth, Gustave Dore, Virgil Finlay with the pulp magazines, all known for their fine line work…man, I can go on for days talking about all the great artists that made their mark on me and countless others!
PM: I’m always down to kneel before the masters throne and worship the gods as I see them!   These gods to me are Bernie Wrightson, Ghastly Graham Ingels, Rafael Auraleon, Esteban Maroto, Frazetta, Sanjulian, Jack Davis, Tom Sutton, Chas. Balun, The Gurch, Bruce Spaulding Fuller, Fukitor, Vince Locke, Richard Corben and a shitload of the Warren, Skywald, Eerie Pubs dude’s that are evading my name drop.  The first and largest influence for me though was definitely Wrightson, my Mom bought me Cycle Of The Werewolf in the early 90’s and I was hooked, from there I bought Creepshow and it was all over, that was my bible and still is to this day among everything else that Wrightson did, I’m a shameless fanboy for BW.  A few others I should mention though that had an impact on me though not as long lasting were Dave Dorman and Stephen Gammel.  As a child I really loved Dormans Alien and Predator paintings and read the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark religiously immitating Gammels creepy as hell sinewy creatures and unearthly landscapes.

JZ: For me it was a mixture of things growing up, early on by the age of 7 I KNEW I wanted to be an artist when I grew up and draw cartoons of some kind, either animation or comics, I wanted to tell stories. So my initial art influences came from all my favorite things as a kid, SCIENCE NINJA TEAM GATCHAMAN, GODZILLA, ULTRAMAN, ROBOTECH/MACROSS, ALL sorts of HORROR/GORE movies from the 80’s, a mixed bag of comics,  (I was very picky with comics and mostly read Japanese Manga) Spider-Man, Detective Comics (Breyfogle /Grant run) AREA-88, GoreSHriek , Grendel, Iczer-One, The Crow, stuff like that.

Right now the 2 artists I look at the most are JUNJI ITO and TAKEHIKO INOUE.

WC: What’s your ALL TIME favorite album cover? Was there ever an album cover that made you go, “Holy fuck! That’s what I wanna do for the rest of my life!”?

PM: I would have to say the first 3 Cannibal Corpse covers by Vince Locke sealed the deal for me in wanting to become a Death Metal artist.  I got kicked outta the house for my Butchered at Birth shirt haha.  Those covers are unbeatable.  Also Obituary’s Cause Of Death cover made a lasting impression, I also had those Del Rey Lovecraft book with the same art so I was stoked on that shit bigtime.

JZ: Ed Repka’s cover for DEATH’s “SCREAM BLOODY GORE” is always one I really dig on. Well, I originally broke into the professional art field as a comic artist… then quickly realized that its way easier to try and live on other commercial art hahaha. I essentially was forced to become an illustrator… it was not something I ever really thought I was gonna do…

ER: That’s another majorly tough question…my brain is fried with images stemming back from my youth ‘til now. I'd say there are two album covers that made me think "This is what I want to do!" It was Derrek Riggs’ covers for IRON MAIDEN... KILLERS and POWERSLAVE! When I got Powerslave on vinyl back in '84 i would play it over and over and put myself into that cover, man! The crypt with the sarcophagus and the Egyptian eye in the sand with the maggots that was just the icing on the proverbial cake my friend! I was really transported into that mysterious and creepy atmosphere and of corpse that record just blew my 10 year old mind! KILLERS is just classic Eddie! They had a wooden 3d display at the record store I'd frequent as a kid of the KILLERS album and it just spoke to me. That with all the horror movies i could watch and the comics just brought it all together…in my mind at least! I didn't really get serious about creating my own works ‘til much later!

WC: In terms of art (music related, or otherwise), who are your current favorites?

JZ: I’ve always been addicted to Junji Ito’s horror manga, as well as Takehiko Inoue’s VAGABOND manga. I’ve been looking at a lot of vintage 60-70s horror/gothic commercial art for posters and books. LOVE that stuff and that era’s style so much. I’ve been trying to incorporate more of that into my own work.
ER: I've always loved the old bands and always will. There is not too much newer stuff I can speak for. I mean there is great stuff being made all the time. It's all in the underground by the way! I always seem to go back to my favorite bands from my youth and I don't know why. I'm stuck in the past some may say. I just get a feeling. It's not nostalgia, it just is. I like a ton of music…Black Sabbath. There ya go.

PM: I really dig the art of Dan Desecrator, Manuel Tinnemans, Juanjo Castellano, Mortuus Black And White, Adam Geyer, Reuben Splatterbeast, Humanburger, Fukitor comix, Alexandros Pyromallis, Halseycaust, and there’s many more, I’m some brews and whiskey deep so I’m not as ambitious with thinking that hard about it.

WC: Do you guys prefer B&W, or is color your preference? What are your mandatory tools of the trade? Is there any medium that you just can’t stand?
ER: I love sketching with pencil. It really is the most fun as you are creating this "thing" from nothing. Inks are great! Painting is great! I love it all, but to me B&W is where it's at jack! You can hide a lot with color, but the shadow knows! Heh!

PM: B&W is definitely my preferred style, a little while ago I was screwing around with Prismacolor markers on Photocopies but it just never came out exactly how I wanted it to so I just ended up saying fuck it and telling bands that it’s B&W or nothin’.   That worked out quite well in the end haha.  I do really love color but when it comes to my own work I just enjoy seeing everything in black, white and grey….. like my souuuuulll…  That was gay.  The medium I can’t stand is all that Photoshop, Illustrator CRAP, and I mean it’s crap!  Crappity fuckin CRAP dipped in shit, I would rape Photoshops dog and kill it’s Mom if that was even possible.

JZ:  It depends on what the piece is, or what it’s for… I prefer what will work best for that particular piece…some things should be Black and white, others should be in color.

WC: What are your greatest weaknesses when it comes to your art? What are your greatest weaknesses when it comes to your life? What’s your biggest vice (artistic, or otherwise)?

PM: I would say lighting and perspective still really give me a lot of trouble though I do fight it daily and have made some good progress in the past few years but still it’s an uphill battle for me that I will continue to fight.  I still have problems with a piece being too busy and making sure the eye flows correctly but meh, that’s just something I hope to get better at in time, not too worried about that.  I’ll have these bizarre anti-social, can’t leave the house days every other month that start when I wake up to my alarm and the weight of the fuckin world just smashes me in the chest and the only way to cope is a lot of weed, beer and movies, I guess I’m just burnt out when this happens and I tell myself I need it but hell, I always think I could work a helluva lot harder.
JZ: I still don’t draw as well as I should, or want to be able to…I smoke.

ER: My greatest weakness is being distracted by all the stuff in the world, great and not so great. I love to escape. I used to waste a lot of my time partying and doing a lot of dumb shit, not really focusing on any particular goal. (I hear my high school guidance teacher in my head now). Umm…just being dumb and not taking life too seriously..I still don't, but I do have a bit more responsibility now and just doing nothing. Like Bon Scott used to say, "Doing nothing means a lot to me." I love to read and it’s a vice I wish I took more time to exercise. I DO exercise my right to smoke and drink! I don't exercise my muscles enough, haha. 12 oz. curls and pencil lead dead lifts are about all the physical exercise I get!

WC: I think it’s safe to assume that you guys dig comics (most of ya, anyway). What are some of your favorite titles, and who are some of your favorite comic book artists? Did comics have a huge impact on your own style?

JZ: Yes…I guess I already kinda went over that one earlier, haha. But besides my mentors from the School of Visual Arts, such as, Klaus Janson, Joe Orlando, Walt Simonson, Carmine Infantino, Sal Amendola, I’m really big on Japanese Manga artists Junji Ito and Takehiko Inoue… I think of those 2 as the 2 greatest living comic artists on the planet right now. I love all the sweet horror/comics artists from the 50s inot the 70s. namely Jack Davis, Al Williamson, Jose Gonzalez,Alex Toth, Jordi Bernet, Haruhiko Mikimoto, Hideshi Hino, and Manga Gods Shotaro Ishinomori, and Go Nagai.

ER: Yeah comics, I have a love and hate attitude about them. 99% of what’s out there now is crap to me! I dig pre-code horror, the horror mags of the 60's 70's and 80's. Fuck everything else. I mentioned all the 70's 80's 90's superhero stuff…I did like some, but those days are behind me, Comics got lame. I only sought out horror stuff and superheroes lost their appeal when I grew up out of my Batman Underoos!

PM: Yeah I would say the largest impact obviously haha.  I mentioned above such artists as Bernie Wrightson, Estaban Maroto, Sanjulian, Auraleaon, Tom Sutton, Ghastly, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Vince Locke, Fukitor, Chas. Balun, Bruce Spaulding Fuller, The Gurch etc.  I fuckin hate comics these days and pretty much only follow the older titles such as the Warren, Skywald, Eerie Pubs, Gore Shriek etc, all that shit does it for me, I know that sounds ignorant but I don’t care, this is just what I enjoy reading and looking at so fuck ‘n suck it new comic art, you’ll never be as good as where you come from.

WC: What are some of your all time favorite albums and what are you currently listening to right now? Also, what’s your favorite medium when it comes to music? Are you all vinyl geeks, or do you like tiny circles of plastic (CDs)? Outside of sheer collector geekdom, do you think that cassettes are still a necessity, or are they strictly for the diehards/”kvlt as fuck” shit heels?

ER: I had a lot of cassettes back in my youth. I always had a walkman or a boombox. I had cassette players in all of my cars up until my last one. I had CD's too and vinyl but not too much..I have a lot of vinyl now which i have been replacing my cassettes for. Expensive fuckin’ ritual, I do not highly recommend it. You could be broke and have that anchor and albatross around your neck all at once! Same for movies and all of the shit I've collected over the years. Fave bands in no particular order: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, early Motorhead, AC/DC, early Mercyful Fate, early Slayer, and on and on...did I mention Black Sabbath?

PM: Always this important but annoying to answer question, ok.  Lately I’ve been jamming the shit outta  Bolzer, Convent Guilt, Emerald, Borrowed Time, Sacriphyx, Tyrantgoatgaldrakona, Coffin Lust, Hades Archer, Deathrow, the new Tormented, Engulfed, Wytch Hazel and old Centinex and Sinister.  I prefer CD’s actually as I jam most of my tunes through headphones when I’m drawing but if there was a way to listen to wax the whole time I would be way into that but it’s just unfortunately not possible with my situation right now.


JZ: These questions are like 3 different questions mashed into one…do you realize that? Hahaha! Favorite album of all time? Gah! That’s such a question that can only be responded to with lists…Lately, I’ve been listening to a LOT of soundtrack music ( I’m a HUGE OST nerd), Mostly from Godzilla and other Japanese sci-fi stuff, and all my horror movie OST’s. Vinyl is nice to frame and hang on a wall…but I don’t own a turntable. Cds are nice but over the years the collection gets too cumbersome if you need to move…so I prefer MP3s that I can carry thousands of in my pocket. The return of cassette tapes is completely stupid…I get it as a novelty collector’s item…but that’s strictly it.

WC: Are there any particular pieces that you’ve done that make you cringe in shame? Also, what’s the piece that you’re most proud of?

PM: Yeah that "Cadaverous Presence" cover for my main buds in Cardiac Arrest, damn it, I tried so hard to make that work and I just can’t really look at it ever, massive failure but at least the music is amazing haha, I learned a lot through it, the next Cardiac is gonna be immense!!  My favorite at this point is about to come out, Bones’ new one Sons Of Sleaze, I’m VERY proud of that cover.

JZ: I can’t think of anything that makes me cringe…sure stuff in the past may not have the refined look of what I’m doing now but what I’m doing now will hopefully look fairly primitive from what I do 10 years from now. I’m not ever praising my own stuff, hahah. I’m my own worst critic of course. I look at some of my old stuff and while the drawing improves there are still some interesting choices I would make to compensate back then… things that worked…so once and a while I’ll actually try to keep those things fresh in my mind for later use…always trying to expand the arsenal. As far as the Piece I am most proud of…you can pick just about any of my Godzilla comic cover illustrations, or my upcoming issue of GODZILLA: RULERS OF EARTH #5 which I penciled and inked…I’d go with that stuff for how hard I worked on it and what it represents to me, wanting to be an artist at 7 partially cuz Godzilla was my fave thing in the world. Then actually getting to work on the character as a professional was a long hard journey.

ER: Of corpse! I threw them all away or hide them well enough! Most proud of, I don't hold any in any much higher regard than another. I really like the piece i did for TOMBSTONES - Not For The Squeamish, That was a lot of fun trying to replicate the look of a 50's horror comic. The most honored I've felt was when Dave Hewson from SLAUGHTER asked me to "re-imagine" the classic cover to their album Strappado! I was hesitant at first. I HATE remakes! I love the album and the artwork! He and I were happy with what I came up with and am glad to have it side by side on one of the many re-issued CD's of that classic album!

WC: Looking back on your early work, do you still dig it, or do you think that it’s total shit?

JZ: Already answered that, haha.

ER: I try not to look back, but some of them I have fond memories of creating, yeah.

PM: I love looking at my earlier work, it sucks but the heart was in it so I find the nostalgia warming.

WC: What’s the first piece of art that you were commissioned for?

ER: I think it was Hooded Menace on their first EP. It was a very big deal for me. Something I've always wanted to do!

PM: I was offered a board graphic commission for Anti-Hero skateboards in ‘03 and took it which is how I came to use the Putrid moniker as I just shortened the title of “Putrid Zombie Intercourse In Rancid Lheukkorhea and Mephitic Chyme” to “Putrid” haha, I was jamming a lot of Carcass and Mex. Disgorge at the time and loved Pushead and Ghastly so it fit quite right I thought.

JZ: I wrote and illustrated my own Giant monster/superhero comic in an anthology titled MONNGA in the mid90s. My comic was titled DIMENSION FIGHTER…the anthology only ran 3-4 issues.

WC: Do you think that it’s right that so many bands expect free art when it comes to metal? At what point do you feel that an artist has “paid his/her dues” and should expect a little compensation? Do you feel that an artist should have to “pay dues” when it comes to his/her work, or should we be compensated for time spent regardless, just so long as the work is of excellent quality? Should an artist always be compensated for his/her work? Under what circumstances should an artist not receive payment?

PM: I think in the beginning it’s only right to have to do some free art and work overtime for nothing to get to where you want to be, hell I did a shitload of cheap/free art just because I was so stoked to be able to work with some of my favorite bands at the time, if I won the lottery tomorrow I would go right back to doing that, seriously!  I just love being able to contribute something to the music I love so money shouldn’t taint that meat.  I hate money, it’s always fuckin’ some shit up.

JZ: Bands should NEVER expect free art (especially when there are more than 1 member to chip in) that’s just silly… at least some kind of trade should be involved…otherwise just take a photo off the internet like so many do. Art CAN be cheap… and what many bands don’t get is that the cover of an album is essentially meant to entice to viewer of said cover to buy the album without hearing it (at least it was before the internet). It should still help to sell the album AND the band. I can be lenient with cover art, HOWEVER,  when it comes to T-shirt art, bands should always pay…if I think a band is gonna use cover art for a shirt I’ll make sure they pay something fair… cuz you can’t download a T-shirt. T-shirt art has become almost more important than cover art IMO these days.

ER: In the beginning there are a lot of growing pains you need to endure when you are starting out. If you don't love it, don't do it, whether it's for money or not. I seldom do trades anymore unless I ask for it, and as this is my only job so to speak, I expect to be compensated unless agreed otherwise. I say get payment, even if it's $1 or a CD or something. If you can get more, well ya must be worth it! Freebies are for dweebies, and you don't have any friends! Be ready to be screwed!

WC: Who’s the most difficult summummabitch/crappy band you’ve ever done work for and why? Fuck being nice, I want names, phone numbers and addresses! Keep thy enemies close so you can kick them in the nuts when they’re down and so forth, ya know?

JZ: Some band from Canada had me do one of those angled 80’s thrashy slayer wannabe logos…which is something I’m not really into doing…I’m much better at organic type art…anyway they ended up shitting out on me after I spent way too long making a super tight technical logo. Don’t remember their name…but f-them…they were just some small-town band…don’t even know if they still exist or what.

ER: I was approached through a big merch supplier from Germany and they gave me work for Origin. I originally didn't want to do it, but the money was MUCH more than i was used to getting, so I said shoot! I don't have to sign this shit. It was for the band Origin. They were so god damn nitpicky, probably like they are about their 9000 notes a second playing that i just could not work with them. The money no longer seemed to be worth the re-drawing and drawing, and drawing garbage. I never even talked to any one of them personally. They just kept having the merch guy write me back with changes. Their ideas would be turned into something completely different almost every other day, it was ridiculous Bah! Fuck the stupid shit…I just took my half I asked for up front and called it a day!

PM: Hahaha well every once in awhile you run across these people but I’ve actually been extraordinarily lucky here, I’ve only been ripped off by Jerry from Detest Records for $100, which sucked as that shit goes a long way with my financial disposition so fuck him, it was a bummer cause I considered him a friend.

WC: Lastly, what’s your favorite color?

PM: Blood.

ER: I bleed black...It's not a color? The fuck it ain't! It's the sum and absence of all! NADA!

JZ: Blue

WC: Well, methinks that’s about it. Thank you all so much for subjecting yourselves to my horrible interrogation session. Do you guys have any last words of wisdom for all of the fiends out there in Wormwood land?

ER: Happy Horror daze for all, and stay on top of your shit! Don't let 'em grind ya down!

PM: Thanks again brother, shit was fun!  Sorry about the insane delay.  Words of wisdom? ummmm… use a condom?

NOTE FROM DR. MALITY: Due to my atrocious skills on the computer, I opted to pass on trying to stick captions under the art and images above. Here is the key for who is who and who did what (or maybe who did who):



And as a special WORM-TREAT, here are some additional images from each, followed by links! Bon Appetit, fiends!
BONES "Sons of Sleaze" cover by PUTRID
SLAUGHTER "Strappado" redux by ROT 
"From Beyond" by ZORNOW