The exotic life of a band swiftly on their way to the top can indeed include perks for its cover artist, even if the glamour of the situation turns out to be more talk than walk. "I got shipped out to Jersey, one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel," recalls Derek. "Maiden was renting a hotel out there, practicing and rehearsing the
songs that would become Piece Of Mind. My main memory is that it was cold and windy. I got stuck in a hotel and I was painting a lot, and that was it. They recorded the album in Nassau, but they did all the practice and the working out in Jersey, because you can't do that in the studio, unless you're insane (laughs). I had a laugh. I had to transfer some paints, because you can't buy stuff out there; it's a little island. So I devised an idea for a flight case. And I was thinking a little guitar flight case or something — stuff paints in it. So they said, 'Well, talk to this bloke; he makes our cases.' So I talked to this guy, and I said, 'I've got this idea for an easel kind of thing, with the paints in it and stuff,' and he said, 'What color do you want it?' And I said, 'What do you got?' It was that flight case stuff, which only comes in black, but he said, 'Well, I've got a lot of pink left over from something.' I said, 'Do it pink, then.' So, anyway, the wheels on a flight cases are bright blue. So it turns up at my house. It's not a guitar case. It's six foot high, three foot wide, four and a half foot long. And it's upright on blue wheels, bright pink — Barbie pink — with this aluminum trim they put around it; shiny chrome trim with big blue wheels(laughs)
|Derek's illustration for" World Piece tour 1983" (Later Used For "Eddie Ripps Up world tour" 2005)||Derek's illustration for" World Piece tour 1983"|
So I packed this thing full of paints and whatnot, and they picked it up and took it to Jersey, and it turns up in Jersey, and there's all these big black macho flight cases, Iron Maiden stenciled on the side in big letters, and there's this big pink thing with blue wheels. And they're all looking at it going, 'What the hell is that?!"
"And the person who arranged the shipping, they put it on a quango, so it all goes through customs in one go, and you can't change it, so whereas, where I thought it would be coming back to England with me, it all ended up going on tour with Maiden around the world. So they had this giant bloody pink thing that was no use to them. Apparently they lost it somewhere, pushed it off a cliff or something. It was an embarrassment to all of them. Seriously, the tour manager told me they pushed it off a cliff somewhere. That's what he said — whether he meant it literally, I don't know."
"Piece Of Mind was teamwork," opines Rod. "Steve thought about Eddie in a padded cell, which I thought was not quite enough, and it was my idea to lobotomize him. The title was quite hard for that one. I mean Food For Thought was it for a while (laughs), with the brain, but then Piece Of Mind sort of appeared, and that just seemed to be stronger. Later artworks, we would pass around ideas, get to a certain stage, go through it with the guys and then between us, sort of fine-tune it to what we liked. And no, there's nothing sitting in the archives that hasn't been used."
Derek's illustration for Flight Of icarus single
The trundling, authoritative Flight Of Icarus was floated as Piece Of Mind's first single, arriving in the shops a month before the album proper.
"I don't think it worked terribly well,' says Derek, of his somewhat rough painting for this — nice composition, but hurried execution, also painted in Jersey. "It's got Eddie burning Icarus up with a flamethrower thing. Just when they decided to do that as a single, Led Zeppelin decided they weren't making any more records, so that burning Icarus figure is a takeoff from Led Zeppelin's Swan Song logo. If you look at that, it's got Robert Plant as an angel with his wings on, so we burned him (laughs). And on the hill beneath him, there are figures writhing in pain and there's a couple up on the hill who are having sex. So they took that, and they were making an advert for it in an English magazine, a newspaper. The English music magazines at the time were printed on newsprint, so the printing was a bit rough. The color didn't always come out. The colors in the sky pretty much disappeared, and the only part that really printed up well were the silhouettes of the figures, which were writhing in pain. And the falling figure of Icarus, you could see his penis, so EMI stuck a black thing over that so you couldn't see it. But the most prominent thing in the bottom half of the picture are the silhouettes of the little figures writhing in In the end, Derek indeed managed violence and motion, even though Eddie's hands are literally tied. It's almost as if — as another great prog band would say — supper's ready, and Eddie would rather eat the bringer of the glad tidings rather than the cool gruel itself.
As regards the curious floating hand on the back cover... "Well, they wanted a gatefold cover, and I wanted to put my signature somewhere, and it was a bit boring as a cover. It was just a padded cell, and that's not terribly interesting. So I did a door in the back with clouds outside — dreaming of freedom, that kind of thing. So I just did a floating glove with a chain, with my signature on a piece of jewelry. I thought, that would be weird, so I did it. The meaning behind it is just something that occurred to me. It reminds me of something I grew up with as a kid. There was a comic hero, Louis Crandall, The Steel Claw. It was this guy who had a steel hand, and he stuck his fingers in the light socket or something, he would turn invisible, apart from the steel hand. And when I was like five, I thought that was real cool. I think I said to my dad, 'Would that work?' He said 'No, you would just die.' So anyway, they kind of cut this thing out and hung it on pieces of string as part of the display in the record stores. So my signature is floating around in stores. Also, if you look at the other cover, the one where he's burning the guy, Flight Of Icarus, that little box there, by the sun, that's Eddie's room. The padded cell.".
A photograph of Derek can be found on Piece Of Mind's inner sleeve. "I don't really know why they chose the location," says Derek, "but they dragged us off to this big country house, when we were on the island of Jersey in the English Channel. So they found this old house, because it looked spooky. I think they wanted a photograph of people eating Eddie's brain, so they wanted a manor house with a big table. So they put everybody around a table, with the brains on the plates. And they had suits of armor, real ones. So Martin and I just got dressed up in these suits of armor for a laugh. And if you shrug in a suit of armor, your head disappears like that. So I thought, well, I don't want to be hassled by a lot of Iron Maiden fans, so I shrugged, to hide me face. Because I'm not great at being photographed." Derek is nicknamed "Dr. Death" below this photo to which the good doctor answers, "That's just a load of rubbish — they make things up (laughs)."
Derek speaks a bit more on the sizing of his Eddie pictures throughout the years. "Generally they were painted about the size that you see them. The first two or three singles were seven inches square, seven and a half, because they needed the extra half, to wrap around the back, so you wouldn't have a white bit around the edge. After that, the singles were all issued in 12 inch format, so they were done that size. So it was printed at the size you see it. There was no reduction, except for the extra bit that they just wrapped around the edge. The early albums were all 13 and a half inches square, except the second album, Killers, which I did 12 inches square, and somebody trimmed it off, so it had a little black border around it, and nobody knows why that happened (laughs). They asked everybody at the time and it was, 'Well, don't know' (laughs). But it ended up with a black border around it."
Obviously this called for precision then. "That's right, because how you see them; that is how they were painted. People say, 'Oh, they are painted huge and then reduced,' but that is largely bollocks, that. You can do them a bit bigger. You can do them up to about A3 size, but beyond that, you're just wasting time. I used to paint these things over a weekend, right? They would tell me Thursday roughly what they were about, and I would get an idea out of thin air and then I would go off and paint it. They would phone me Thursday night and by Monday morning he would want it in his office. So I wouldn't get any sleep for three days, and a lot of the times, when I took it down there, I'd be painting until the taxi arrived. You have to get a taxi because you couldn't go on public transport with that. Somebody would sit on it; you'd be surprised (laughs). So the cab would draw up, and I would be finishing the painting and say, You know, hang on a minute; I won't be a minute' and the bloody thing would be drying and I would be holding it by the open window trying to get it to dry (laughs). While the cab was going down the street to the offices."
And what kind of paint would you use? "Mostly, for the early ones, up until, I don't know, Somewhere In Time I think, I was using a watercolor medium called Designer's Gouache. And after that, I tried acrylic, which is hell to work with; they dry on the brush. They dry as soon as you put them down, which is a positive if you can work out a technique. But the paint goes lumpy; it's not the best paint really. I also tried oil but it just doesn't dry. I've got two days to get it right and it won't dry. You'd do a bit of sky and two weeks later it's not dry — pathetic. I mean, the watercolors were all right, but if you've got to correct something, you can't paint over it. And I had more than a few disasters, from illustration board. I used to paint on illustration board, which was always a problem, strangely, because people would always want to wrap it around machines. And on occasion, they tried to separate it from the board it was on, because for some stupid reason they would assume it was mounted on a board. So they would start stripping the tape off the edge and try to separate the board off the thing, and they damaged quite a few artworks, doing that. Anyway, I would do it on illustration board, and sometimes it wouldn't be as absorbent as it should."
"Years before I actually started doing this, I worked out the easel thing," continues Derek, on his working environment. "I had an easel, one of these portable thingies, but they're not stable, they creak, and they move around, so I got two of them. So I had this easel with six legs, like a spider, three at the bottom and three at the top, to hold the thing flat, and then it would still rock, and so I just did a makeshift easel, which was quite stable at the end of the day. But it was a bit of a hodgepodge. And I was using that for years, at an angle. You've got to have it in parallel with your face. Because if you try to draw flat on a table, and you try to draw a circle, because of the distortion of seeing it like that, you got an oval. And that's true of everything you draw. It will be wider at the top; it will be egg-shaped. It will be wider at the top because you want to see a circle. You can always tell when someone is drawing flat — everything is bigger at the top. And when I bought a flat in London, I had an easel built in, which was built out of hardwood with glass on it, and I worked at that same angle as well. And I just kept the same thing. Occasionally I've done one on a table when I wasn't anywhere and couldn't have an easel. But generally, when you're an artist, you don't want to be messing with your environment too much. Because you've got work to do. You want to know that you get your thing and you stick it on there and it's at the right angle. You don't want to be messing around moving things, wasting time. I've got four days to create a picture, and that's a lot of work to do in four days."
One of the more interesting peripheral Maiden pieces at the time was the company/band Christmas card, this year producing one of the series highlights. "Thinking up the Christmas card became such a problem that we stopped doing them eventually," recalls Derek. "It was more hassle thinking up a Christmas card at the end of the day than it was an album cover (laughs). We'd be sitting there butting heads trying to come up with a Christmas card. We figured we'd done everything. After we had done the obvious, it was like, what the hell do we do this year?! Should we have him kidnapping little girls and putting them under the Christmas tree? But the Christmas cards are nice items, because they weren't sold."
"The Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs one was quite good, because the original one looks exactly like the original cartoon, but they made me disguise them, so I put noses and mustaches on them, because they were worried about getting sued by Disney. Generally, the Christmas cards took the same amount of time as a single cover. I believe they were all gouache, except for the Disney one, which was pen and ink. I went off and got some stills from the movie, and copied the style that they drew in, even down to the outlines; they weren't black outlines they were brown outlines, and it looked exactly like a still from the movie, except it had Eddie in it. And if you look at it, it tells a story. It's the Piece Of Mind thing. He's cutting their brains out, and they're putting brains in boxes and they're wrapping them up and putting them under the Christmas tree for Christmas morning (laughs)"
Addressing a miscellany of less infamous Christmas cards, Derek says that "the one with Rudolf isn't mine. Some of them are sort of adapted from my pictures, but aren't my artwork. There was another one which was sort of like Cinderella being chased through the woods, and it's all blue." Derek adds that that particular card got printed in reverse in error — the fleeing woman was actually painted to the right and not the left.
Just as some of the Christmas cards were "podged together" by other artists, so were some of the T-shirts. "Yes, they were taking a lot of it from artwork that I had done at some other time, and then it would be customized, moved around, changed, whatever. I was busy doing album covers, so most these T-shirts were done by other people, from my artworks. They would just basically copy it and move the arms and legs around. You can spot where the face comes from, if you look."
Derek's painting for The Trooper, issued in June of 1983, a month after the release of the album, is a fast fan favorite. Opines Derek, "Yeah, but people keep asking me, 'Why is he wearing that uniform?' Look, the song is about The Charge Of The Light Brigade. He's wearing the uniform that the Light Brigade wore when they charged. Get over it (laughs). It's not World War II. But yes, this is always a really popular one with the fans." A favorite of Steve Harris as well — it's probably the biggest of'Arry's Maiden tattoos, taking up his whole forearm. "That one is gouache and a bit of airbrush, on illustration board," continues Derek. "This Light Brigade, it was an ill-fated attack by the British on the Russians. I'm not sure of the details as I didn't pay attention in school. They went into a valley, a general and a small brigade of soldiers, and he decided to charge the Russians, and the Russians had barricades of cannons and things like that, and he was a rotten general and he made a really bad choice, and they got murdered. There were stories of guys having their horses blown out from under them and things. It was a complete massacre." The battle in fact occurred on October 25, 1854. Perhaps not so dramatically, out of 20,000 killed in the war overall, this battle featured 673 men, of which 157 were lost. Nonetheless, this particular battle entered the psyche of Victorian England, perhaps due to the bureaucratic political drama plaguing the army at the time, as well as this battle's interesting optics — the troops were indeed in a valley and couldn't ascertain correctly what to do, while the generals were up on a hill commanding, with a clear picture of a plan or attack, but no way to communicate it efficiently to the troops...
This material is taken from Derek Riggs's book - Run For Cover
Translated in bulgarian by : Lyubomir Baliev (Leviatan)