Morbid Illusions
CoC chats with artist Michel Casarramona
by: T. DePalma
Twenty years after H.R. Giger supplied the cover for the now legendary _To Mega Therion_, Celtic Frost again chose one of their own to help usher in their latest incarnation. Swiss poster artist and designer Michel Casarramona, contacted to create an image that would be as loud and psychically unnerving as the music itself. It was a new challenge for Casarramona, whose previous work includes a cover for British punk group The Mekons. He succeeded magnificently. Recently, we caught up with the artist via e-mail to discuss his involvement with Celtic Frost and the album _Monotheist_.

CoC: When did you start illustrating professionally?

Michel Casarramona: That was during my apprenticeship as a graphic designer from 1989 till 1992. From then on I worked as a self-employed illustrator and graphic designer.

CoC: How were you contacted about doing the cover art for _Monotheist_?

MC: Martin and Franco are old friends of mine. I used to create posters for Martin's music-club "Luv" in Zürich in the Nineties.

CoC: Were you ever a fan of Celtic Frost? Is this the first metal band you ever worked with?

MC: No, I'm not into the metal music at all. I listened to bands like Black Flag, Saint Vitus and Hüsker Dü when I was younger. I still like these bands, but more often than not I'm listening to country, hillbilly or old school punk music... and yes, it's the first time working for a metal band.

CoC: Much of your poster art is very vibrant, fluid and sexy. Were you excited to do something that was so different and monstrous compared with this?

MC: Yes, that's one of the most important reasons I wanted to do this. I had a vague idea of how it should look. Later, I told Martin that I had some examples, sketches and ideas to show him. I knew for a long time that they planned to release a new album and they weren't sure who should design it. We go for lunch together quite often and we talked a lot about the project.

CoC: Who are some of your influences (people or publications)?

MC: Charles Burns, José Muñoz, Raymond Pettinbon, Loustal, Frank Frazetta (black and white stuff), Jack Kirby, Daniel Clowes and of course Marvel comics, movie-poster books, classic advertising posters and so on...

CoC: What was the collaboration Martin Eric Ain like? Did he have sketches of his own or did he primarily verbalize his ideas to you?

MC: No, he let me do what I wanted. I guess he wanted to be surprised. He knew well that I'm not into the metal music scene, and that would be a good chance to get a cover which looks different compared to the usual metal stuff. That's what they wanted: not just another Satan picture or semi-scary characters... a new approach. When he came to my studio and I showed him the first steps, he was enthusiastic from the first moment.

CoC: How long did it take to finish the piece?

MC: Hundreds of hours... it took about two years to finish the main imagery of the album. Martin and I, we sat here again and again. New ideas were born and others thrown away. And I really have to say, even if it took so long, it was never boring or annoying, because working with Martin is very interesting. He knows a lot about religions and occultism and I enjoyed listening.

CoC: What is the actual scale and medium used?

MC: About 12x12 inches. It's a collage made of photographs (by Jozo Palkowits), newspapers, magazines and books.

CoC: I think I see a few different and famous images in the piece, including the shroud of Turin. Could you comment on ay of this?

MC: It's true. There are about a hundred pictures in one, including the shroud of Turin (but this is the only famous image included). If you would see the original imagery, nothing of it looks scary, but the way it is combined makes it evil. Just flipping an eye upside down causes a strange effect. I used a couple of eyes in one, for example... that causes the "dead" look.


(article submitted 9/1/2007)

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