German visual artist Andreas Marschall is widely known as one of Metal’s quintessential illustrators, his works having adorned album covers for decades. Bands like Blind Guardian, Kreator, Sodom, and In Flames, among many others, owe Marschall big time for helping them to establish crucial aspects of their visual imagery. Over the last few years the artist has also been exploring another passion: film making. In fact, he recently premiered his second feature film, a horror/fantasy tour de force titled “Masks”, which is expected to arrive on North American shores soon. While promoting the film worldwide, we had the opportunity to talk with Marschall about the origins of his career, his vast body of work, and movie making.
Do you remember how your interest for visual arts began?
Andreas: I started drawing as a child, scribbling comic stories. My parents both were painters, so it was there from the beginning.
Do you have any previous formal education in Visual Arts?
Andreas: No, I didn’t go to any school of arts. I tried once but they rejected me. Here in Germany art schools are only into abstract “artsy-fartsy” art. If you draw fantasy and horror you are not accepted as an artist.
How did you became involved with Metal artists and started making album covers for their albums?
Andreas: I started as an artist for graphic novels. There were some stories, thrillers and horror, in magazines like “Heavy Metal”. But my style was far too detailed and too time consuming. I could not continue this path and ended my career, which was a hard step for me. Then I met Karl Walterbach from “Modern Music/Noise International” in Berlin. I did my first artworks for samplers called “Rock from Hell” and, as far as I remember, “Rock from Death”, which was incredibly gory and trashy stuff. It got banned in Germany. My first good artwork was the “Doomsday News” sampler. I went a lot to Metal concerts and loved also Gothic bands like Sisters Of Mercy. Back then, Berlin was a party town for the Rock and Metal crowd in the eighties.
In your opinion, which of your earlier works was your big break within music industry? Was it maybe the cover of Sodom’s Agent Orange?
Andreas: It was Coma Of Souls, because this was my most famous artwork worldwide then. But Agent… was still enormously popular.
These days you seem to be more focused on filmmaking. Why the change? Is that part of your natural progression as an artist?
Andreas: Yes, it´s a return to storytelling, which I abandoned before working as a cover artist. I can tell my stories much better with the film medium. For example, the sountrack, the music and sounddesign, is extremely important for the experience I want to give to my audience. And graphic novels don´t have soundtracks.
Moviemaking is a collaborative process…how different is the experience for you in comparison with drawing illustrations, which is a more personal experience?
Andreas: Drawing has a meditative, calm quality to me. When I´m on the film set I´m more lively and energetic. I can work for days without sleep. The experience of leading a group towards a common objective is very important to me. And it´s absolutely fascinating when actors take the lines I have written and make them real. Then a fantastic reality develops.
How did you develop the interest for making films, specially fantasy and horror-oriented?
Andreas: I started shooting music videos for bands like KREATOR in 1991, when Kreator needed someone to direct their horror concept video “Hallucinative Comas”. I came from drawing graphic novels and had this storytelling talent since I could hold a pen. I shot many of these music clips for Sodom, Rage, Thunderhead, Guano Apes,etc for MTV´s Headbangers Ball and Viva. I was a Fan of Horror and Fantasy films my whole life and in my early video clips like Kreator “People of the lie” and “Terrorzone” there already were many quotes to films like “Hellraiser”. Later I started editing TV and feature films like the big budgeted prisoners of war drama “As far as my feet will carry me”. I shot only one short film before I raised my feature film debut as a director in 2004: “Tears of Kali”.
Of all the cover artworks you’ve done, do you have a favorite?
Andreas: I like “NEXUS POLARIS” by Covenant very much. Also “NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE EARTH” by Blind Guardian and the new album “TO THE END” by Orden Ogan, which is very detailed and atmospheric again.
How and when you began working on your new movie “Masks”?
Andreas: After the success of “Tears of Kali” I hoped that I could get public funding in Germany for a bigger international Co-production called “The Face”. I worked years on the screenplay, found a good international cast and crew… and then the financing didn’t happen because the German film funds absolutely don´t like horror and fantastic films. I lost patience. I went to a Berlin drama school called REDUTA and asked them to give me their students and rooms during the summer and winter holidays. I promised to shoot a complete feature film there. Fortunately they said”yes” to this Kamikaze-like idea.
Since Mask is very much a indi production…Is it difficult working on a script having in mind that you probably will have to face some financial limitations to visually achieve all your ideas?
Andreas: Yes, there are many limitations, but it´s the job of the director to make them invisible in the final product. MASKS looks much more expensive than it was because I had very creative people in the team, like the director of photography Sven Jakob who lensed the rooms of the school in a very atmospheric way.
How long it took you to finish it from writing the script to having the finished movie in your hands?
Andreas: About one year and a half.
Check out the ‘Mask’ official trailer
Being an illustrator yourself, do you usually storyboard any of the film sequences?
Andreas: I storyboarded mainly the elaborate murder scenes.They contained special effects with complicated make-up and prosthetics. You have to be very precise in the preparation because every error will cause huge problems for the scene. You have to know exactly from which side you will see a fake latex mouth and things like that, because the fx-team will only build what´s in the frame.
The movie has some theatrical, Brechtian, expressionistic vibe. Would you agree?
Andreas: Yes, the theatrical expressionistic mood is very important. The sets remind very much the studio sets of the italian thrillers from the 70ies in Rome´s cinecitta, a bit surreal. The film is a hommage to this golden era of the european horror film, which I love very much. It´s very different from films like “Paranormal Activity” in terms of style, although it tells a contemporary story.
So far, what are the plans to promote the movie on festivals and other events? Have you found distribution?
Andreas: It had a small theatrical release in Germany and is out on DVD and BluRay now. It will be released in France soon and we have some offers from USA, but nothing is signed yet. It was shown on more than 30 festivals worldwide last year and won seven awards.
What are your future projects…will you still be focused on movie making? Any chance to come back drawing illustrations, album covers?
Andreas: I still draw record covers, but not as much as before. I take my time to do a cover artwork nowadays, because I´m not working full day on it. It has a meditative quality for me. But my main focus will be on my film projects in the future. I will likely stay in the horror/thriller genre for some more films.
Next Time on AJFA: An interview with longtime Judas Priest illustrator Mark Wilkinson
Previously on AJFA: As I Lay Dying’s “Awakened” – Pure American Metalcore… with a French Twist!