Derek followed up one of his most ambitious Eddie paintings, his Egyptian-themed Powerslave cover, with one of his most emotionally forceful. Iron Maiden was well and good ready for a world-beating live album, and the two-LP gatefold package Live After Death fit the bill triumphantly. On the cover, Eddie is literally bursting from the earth, seething with anger. As an often overlooked and pretty much inconsequential part of the stomach-turning turn of events, he's being zapped right on his cartouche with a lightning bolt. Maiden matched Derek's blue and red, throwback monochrome motif with a logo that was simply yellow with a dropout to menacing blue sky. Squinting and painting, Derek was up to his old tricks dropping in jokes for his own amusement and that of his and the band's literally millions of fans at this point.
"The tombstone on the front with the Lovecraft quote, I just put it in. They didn't have any say in it. My suggestion for the title of the album was Let It R.I.P., as in Rest In Peace. But they didn't like that. I thought it was quite good, because it's something they never do, 'rest in peace.' Iron Maiden... get a life (laughs). It's not going to happen, you know? On the back, you've got Live With Pride on one of the tombstones; that was a slogan that was going around for live music or something. They asked me to put that on there. There were a lot of things against disco and lip-synching in those days."
"The cat is from way back," says Derek of the halo-topped kitty, also on the back cover, lower right. "That goes right back to Killers. Because it was an alleyway, it was an alley cat. So the cat was floating around for years, and I just stuck the halo on him and made him look sinister because, 'What's that all about?' Well, it's not about anything really — it's just a cat with a halo (laughs). I'm good at making things look unusual and sinister. There's this idea I came up with — to get people's attention, you've got to get people to look at something and wonder
what it's about. And the best way to make people wonder about something is to do something a little bit weird. It's not there because it's great, deep and meaningful. Its total reason for being there is to make you go, 'What's that there for?' That's all it's there for. That's its total reason for existence. To make you stop and go, 'What's that all about then?' The rose on the grave, Here Lies Derek Riggs, R.I.P. I killed myself. This thank you on the gravestone... do you know what that's about? Thank you on a gravestone: it's the Grateful Dead! (laughs). Here lies Faust in body only, because Faust sold his soul to the devil. Part of him is missing."
Live After Death is one of the rare covers that has a full-blown alternate piece of art lurking in its nether-zones. "Well, you see, it was wrong, in my opinion," explains Riggs. "They wanted Eddie coming out of the grave going 'Grrrr.' A figure coming straight towards you has no dynamics. It just looks static; you can't get movement side to side when it's coming straight at you. It doesn't really do much. So I was never really happy with that figure. It just wasn't really happening. But the background was more fun. You went across the graveyard and it had a little tiny Michael Jackson and dead people coming out of the grave, and in the background was, I think, the house from Psycho, on the hill. But then it was an oil painting, and it was pretty large."
So are you saying you completed it and then rejected it yourself?
"No, it was accepted, and it went to the photographers. And in those days, in order to reproduce something, it was taken to a photographic studio, and it was photographed on a seven inch by five inch slide, and they printed up a load of those and sent them to the printers. Because if you send pictures, original artwork, they get sat on, mutilated, lost, stolen, all that."
"So anyway, oil paint is shiny. So they put it on their thing that they photograph things on, and shine their lights on it. And it shines, and being lazy bastards, they move it backwards and forwards a little, couldn't get rid of the shine and sent it back, 'Sorry, we can't photograph this.' Because basically they couldn't be bothered to make the effort. So that's what happened. It wasn't photographable; they couldn't get the shine out. I'd seen this problem before. I used to work with an agent years and years ago, before I had anything published. And I've seen them pull the same routine with other people's pictures. They just couldn't be bothered to make the effort to get rid of the shine. We had no end of trouble with people photographing artwork. Again, the color's wrong. It's like that Seventh Son. There's that green in the water. We went through about four different companies, and not one of them could get that green in the water. You see, the green is quite strong, and they would just lose it. And we showed it to one guy, and he looked at it, and we said, 'Could you get the green to come out in the water?' And he just laughed and said, 'Yeah, I can do better than that.' But usually they just photograph, next one, don't care, and they expect payment for it."
So Derek learned a lesson with respect to oils. I guess this rules canvas out as well... "Yes, canvas is useless, basically. If you've got a 12 inch stretch of canvas, and it gets damp, that can stretch up to half an inch, which makes it go saggy in the frame. You can't paint on that, and if you have painted on that, the paint will fall off. When you crack an oil canvas, the paints dry; it turns into a jigsaw puzzle, really. Every weave of the canvas has a lump of paint stuck on it. All these things in films, where we see these things stuck out of the frames and rolled up, you don't do that with an oil painting (laughs). It will fall off the canvas — literally — and the older it is, the more of it will fall off."
"So for me, it's always something mounted on board. The best surface to paint on for oil paint is aluminum sheeting. Yeah, apparently it takes oil paint very nicely, and doesn't stretch or buckle. But I haven't found a supplier (laughs). Mediums are a problem. I've had better results since I've been using computer, color-wise. Because it cuts out the whole other bull in the middle, of people photographing your artwork and not getting it right, and all the nonsense I spoke about earlier with the printers. It goes from my thing to another computer, where his and my equipment are calibrated roughly the same as mine, so he can see roughly what you're supposed to be aiming at. And then
they print it. These things, you know, after working and working, you get them as good as that, and that's no good, basically. I've had ones where there was deep rich red, and somebody said, 'It's so realistic you could pick it up.' And just, because they messed the colors, it kills the picture. And you wouldn't believe the difference it makes; it can kill it. The best I could do, at the time, was to get it to look like a good picture in its own right. That was what we used to aim for. Don't try to color-match it because you'll go mad. Just make it work in its own terms, as a good picture. Because we had some bloody horrible things. One from Spain came back and it was out of focus. One from Italy came back and there was no color in it. I think it was Killers, and it was black and white. The Americans were the best of them because, if they were in doubt, they would just kick the color up, and make a happening print. And that worked. Ten times out of ten they would come back with a better print. But since I've been working digitally, it comes back with a color-correct image every time. With no hassle, no grief."
Looking at a comparison of two quite different renditions of the problematic Number Of The Beast cover, Derek comments, "Yeah, now imagine what happens with that across the world. They print 500 of them, and knock off for an hour for lunch, and print another 500 of them, and they're different from the last 500. Go and get two copies of the same magazine, and look at an advert in the magazine, the same one, and just compare them side by side, and you'll often find differences. Sometimes it's just down to printing them at a different time of day; other times it's print runs weeks or months apart."
For the panoramic artwork that actually did get used for Live After Death, Derek went back to gouache. Still, luckily, this didn't put Derek doubly under the gun as one might imagine.
"I don't believe so, because I couldn't have painted that with that kind of deadline. Although, most of it is quite quick to paint, believe it or not. The grass would take a long time and the trees would probably take a while, but these gravestones don't actually Lake dial long to painl. It's layers and layers and layers of stuff, but it's not really that difficult to do. And themafically, it's a bit John Martin-influenced, with the lightning destroying buildings. Go into the National Gallery in London and look for John Martin's illustrations. They're 40 square feet, and it's the same principle, lightning destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. Live After Death's a biblical illustration, basically (laughs)."
The label centerpieces featured a blank tombstone, with Eddie's hand emerging from the grave. "That was designed so they could put the song titles on, obviously. I did that one bigger because I thought they might want to use it for other things. You get the image, and then you work it. So the image sticks in people's minds. And you know, it works. As I've said, vou get the image and you work it around. So it's done basically for the label, but it was also used for adverts and probably on T-shirts somewhere. It's Carrie, the horror film. You know what happens at the end with the hand coming out and it grabs the girl or whatever? I'll steal everything. I'm not proud (laughs). If you've got a good idea, I'm going to get it off you."
"Noted cover artist Ioannes (Warlord, Fates Warning, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers) underscores this idea of identity and image. "I remember first seeing Killers, and my immediate reaction was curiosity. The painting technically was not the greatest but it didn't matter. The subject matter, the execution
and the mood was very striking and also most important in record cover design, it perfectly fit the music. Now this to me is no small feat. There are hundreds if not thousands of incredibly talented illustrators and artists, much like guitar players and bands. However very few become Jimmy Page, Brian May, or Tony Iommi, rising above others with their own individual signature. This is the case in cover art. Where would Yes be without the identity created by Roger Dean, or Pink Floyd without Storm Thorgerson, and can you imagine Iron Maiden without Derek Riggs?"
"There are a number of very memorable covers that come to mind when the music, band and cover designer merge perfectly, such as ELP's Brain Salad Surgery and Giger's cover art for that. However to do it repeatedly is again a rarity. Roger Dean pulled it off with Yes, but Riggs really took command of it with Iron Maiden. And man, his technique vastly improved — Powerslave was breathtaking, and then his style was widely imitated by contemporaries at that time. Not that technique really mattered as I mentioned before; it's the idea and window if you will into an unseen world for the viewer that marks the standard."
"I remember one day having a conversation with the wife of famous (six time award-winning) sci-fi book illustrator and cover artist (name with held for obvious reasons). She could not understand why her husband's original oil paintings were going for around about $30,000 — not a bad price — and Roger Dean's originals — an obviously inferior illustrator by her standards — were going for $750,000! 'Because your husband paints elves fighting dragons' — something we see everywhere. Roger Dean showed me a world that I never knew existed and his thumbprint was all over it. Derek Riggs did that too — once you saw a Derek Riggs painting, you were hooked."
"Oh, we hate them all," says Smallwood of the bootleggers. "Well, for example, in Italy, you can't copyright... in a lot of countries we've got Eddie and the logo copyrighted. So you can deal with them. They're still there, but you can get security and you can take them to court and you can put them in jail, which we've done early on. They tend to keep away from us in Europe because they know we're going to deal with it very heavily. Italy, you can't. You go to a show and there are literally thousands and thousands of T-shirts around in the venue, all bootleg. Bootleg shirts — it's crap quality, they don't pay any royalties or taxes or VAT and they certainly don't care about the quality. I just despise them. We work very hard to create things, to be able to tour in the way we do. So we make sure to take care that the shirts are a good quality. They don't, after two washes, shrink and the artwork fades. So it really pisses us off when people are ripping us off, because they're ripping the fans off as well. And we will do all we can, and always have done, to stop them."
"I think the thing is to be as innovative as we can around the artwork," says Rod, on the subject Derek alluded to above — working the image. "It's very hard after so many albums to do something different with Eddie. It's hard after so many artworks to do something unusual and new. Conquer more shores? I don't know..."
"Unfortunately, Italy is a country where bootleggers are there all the time," offers Christiano Migliore from Lacuna Coil, Italy's biggest metal band. "You go to a show, and you have all these stands outside with people selling fake T-shirts. There's nothing really you can do about that, because even if you call the cops, they just make them go away or whatever. And by the time they come out anyway, these guys are always gone. It's really hard to catch them. But of course, Iron Maiden and Eddie... when I was a kid, I think like everybody, I used to buy Iron Maiden records, and the first thing you looked at was the cover. You see Eddie on, say Powerslave, where he's in Egypt with the pyramids, or Somewhere In Time where you see all this technological stuff going on, and it's always fun to look at these covers, because there's these little details you don't see at first, the black cat, Derek's symbol, all these things. They're one of our favorite bands ever. We all started playing this kind of music by listening to Iron Maiden. For sure they had a huge impact on 99% of all the bands that are out today."
Given the limited use and the profusion of T-shirt designs needed, even Derek's designs were fairly crude. Looking at one of Eddie surfing, he says, "That was done really quick, really roughly. It's a horrible picture, for an Australian tour shirt or something. The one with Eddie in a ball cap might be for Hawaii. They were rough and ready things for tour shirts, and that's all they were supposed to be used for. But consequently they keep turning up on this, that and the other, ever since. I didn't spend much time on them. I did them in about a day, a day and a half; I just threw them together. They needed something, they needed it now, it didn't have to be great, because it's going on a T-shirt, and they can't print that good on T-shirts anyway."
Maiden would issue a "double A side" single from Live After Death featuring Run To The Hills and Phantom Of The Opera; ergo, lots of hills and a pipe organ motif. "Yes," chuckles Derek, "It had to have a bit of both. So why not stick Eddie at the top of a hill with an organ? And I decided to make the organ look a bit like Eddie, and make the pipes a bit more pipey. But I spent so long painting the background that I had to rush painting the Eddie (laughs). You can tell when I had to rush painting something. It looks a bit of plastic-y; there's not much texture. But I just got into painting mountains and all of that, and then all of a sudden, I think, they actually dropped the deadline back by a couple of days, and that knackered me for painting the figure, so the background is nice, and the figure looks a bit horrid."
This Material is taken from Derek Riggs book Run For Cover