For Maiden's spirited and electric 1984 album Powerslave, Derek was whisked off yet again to a vacation retreat — to do anything but vacation.
"I was in a beach house to start with, and I didn't see that much of them. I was painting. And then that didn't work, because the airbrush wouldn't work because of the humidity, so I moved to another place which was no use. There's a bunch of apartments at Compass Point in Nassau, and they had me in one of those, and I never saw anybody
after that (laughs). I never spent a lot of time with Iron Maiden. The couple of times I was with them, they were in the studio, and I was painting in a room somewhere (laughs). And I've never been a great drinker. It never really appealed to me. So in Nassau, I just sat there painting, and the airbrush packed up, and they had to send me home, really, and that was it. It's quite funny, because they had the schedule on the wall. Bob Marley had died the year
before. And he was up on the schedule, on the board. Straight after Maiden left, Bob Marley was in the recording studio. And it's like, 'Do they know
he's dead?' (laughs). All these stoned Rastas wheeling Bob Marley's corpse into the studio. 'Sing 'im a little song, mon. Give 'im a spliff (laughs)."
"That one was a nightmare," laughs Derek, of his elaborate Eddie in Egypt idea. "It started out... Steve had this picture of these five guys dragging this Pharaoh's head along, some engraving he'd found. So I started drawing it, and it just grew and grew. Most of this I invent as I go along.
I started on a little piece of A4 layout pad; it's like tracing paper. So I started drawing it on that, and then I ended up with a piece of paper... it's like patching pieces of paper together, because it kept getting bigger. And in the end, I went to Rod and it was about 16 pieces of A4 paper that were all patched together. I unfolded it and said, 'Look, I've done this. Should I paint it?' And he said, 'Yeah, all right then.' (laughs)."
"So yes, they had flown me over to the Bahamas for some reason. And it's a nightmare over there, if you want to do a painting. You couldn't get the paint. I had flown the paint over. I had to fly an easel over. Couldn't get an airbrush. Had to fly an airbrush over. Had to fly my brushes over. Then I started work, and I got some sheets of drawing board flown over. Because the island sold nothing. It was like they've got four tubes of water paint or something, and that was it, on the whole island, or some of these kiddies palettes (laughs)."
"So the airbrush and the compressor and all that were flown in, and then I did a sketch and started working, and, well, it was very humid there. It was coming into summer. And when you compress humid air, it compresses the water out; the water condenses out. And so it started spitting big gobs of water at my painting. And I was working in watercolor, so this wasn't really appreciated (laughs). So for the next five hours, I was trying to remove this blodge from Eddie's nose. So that had to stop. So we got a water filter, and that didn't really get it. And what we ended up with... I was in this little room somewhere. So we had a dehumidifier working at one end, and had about four of these air filters that were supposed
to remove water from the air, in a row, and it was still spitting sometimes. And it took ages,
because every time I felt like it was getting ready to spit — because you could kind of tell after awhile — I had to squirt it on a piece of rag or something. It took ages and it was a nightmare. You think, going down to the Bahamas, it's lovely, but there's nothing much to do. And then when your equipment doesn't work, it gets a bit painful..
Was your final piece fairly close to the original concept? "No, you just make it up as you go along. It got bigger and bigger, which is a problem with me and pictures. I start working on something, and it just gets bigger and bigger. If I'm not careful, I'll end up not making any money out of it (laughs), because it just takes so long to do. Powerslave has little jokes all over it. I can't remember who the women were, but they were real people. And there's actually a picture of me drawing. If you look on one side, there's a picture of somebody drawing at an easel."
"I did Powerslave on 23 inches; that was huge. Because I just couldn't draw it smaller. My vision just wouldn't work smaller. That was one of the best painted ones, I think, as far as printing goes. I don't worry about 'perfect.' Or where I'm supposed to be going. I don't even care. Some people paint and want it to look photo real, and I don't really care about that. I just want to get my vision out onto a piece of board."
"I had to leave Nassau halfway through doing Powerslave, because the airbrush packed up. As I've
said, it wasn't so bad when I started, but as the summer came on, the humidity increased. And as the humidity increased, it became impossible to use."
"It was presented as an Egyptian religious text, but it's not really," says Derek, with respect to the hieroglyphics all over Powerslave. "It's like a lot of ancient religious text. If you actually read it, it basically says that Osiris is the meanest son of a bitch. Don't mess with Osiris. He'll kick your ass. Some of it I pinched from somewhere else. I asked somebody to get me a book of hieroglyphics, because I was in Nassau and I couldn't do it. And that was one of the things I brought back. And it was about this big and had everything in it. But that was the only thing I found long enough."
"That's a woman praying," adds Derek about the curious brown blotch behind the jackal figure on the back cover. "I painted the woman prior, and then I put the figure in ghostly in the foreground, and it kind of covered that up so much that you couldn't see her. So it's a bit of a cock-up, really. I should've left it off in retrospect."
Stepping back a bit though, one month prior to the issuance of the album proper, Maiden lashed out with a rock 'n' rollsy Adrian Smith single selection called 2 Minutes To Midnight. "They actually took that lyric from The Who," chuckles Derek. "They were playing it when I was in Nassau, and The Who lyric goes, 'Two minutes to midnight on a sunny day. Maybe if we smile the clock will fade away.' And they nicked it (laughs). Bruce was playing it when I was there. He had been rediscovering The Who when we were in Nassau (laughs).
Onto the single s cover, and a curious set of flags comprises Derek'stake on the United Nations. "I'm not sure what that green one in themiddle is. It just depends on what flags you can actually find at thetime. You'd think it would be easy to find flags, but until youactually go out and look for something, you can't find it! It's alwaysthe way. You see stuff and you go oh yeah, I've seen that somewhere.The day you want it though, you won't be able to find it anywhere. It'sincredible. Information just disappears. I got to the point thatwhenever I saw something that might be useful, I would just buy it(laughs). Almost neurotically."
And is there any reason Eddie is rendered in near black and white?
"Not sure, but I may have had a limited amount of time to do it in, soI limited my color palette — it gives you a stronger image quicker.There might have been some thought of ash, Eddie turned to ash. Becauseeverything turns to ash in a nuclear explosion. It sucks up all thebuildings and drops them on you. You can see all the buildings liftingoff the ground. Well, that's what was on the painting. You can'tactually see them too well."
"It's actually this way up, if you look at it," laughs Derek, turningslightly the sleeve he had painted for the barnstorming Aces Highsingle from the album, issued October of '84, a month after the launchof the album proper. "Actually, sometimes I don't paint any way up. Iused to turn them around, like this one, when I was working, to getdifferent lines in. It's a Spitfire. I did a projection of it frompictures I had. Because I'm quite a good technical illustrator. So Idid a projection of it, and then I went to the Imperial War Museum, outof curiosity, when I got back to England, and compared it, and I got itright. Except it's wrong, because you can't shoot bullets through thatglass. I showed it to a friend who said you couldn't get bulletsthrough that glass, because it's bulletproof glass. He used to repairSpitfires, and he said the glass is about four inches thick. You canhit it with a hammer and you won't even scratch it. But that one wasactually quite big, 13 inches square"
The back cover to the singlelooks curiously unlike the work of Derek. And it isn't — it's creditedto the Artful Dodgers, who Derek says is a graphics company Maidenworked with. It looks sort of computer-generated, and sort of not, butDerek is pretty sure computers couldn't have had anything to do withit, given its 1984 vintage.
"The picture disc single was quite good for Aces High" continues Derek."It was a spiral. They still released records, so you could actuallysee that picture disc going around, not like a CD. It was fields, andthey came out in a spiral, and there was an aircraft going down, so Ithink that went against the spiral. The idea was to put it on aturntable, and you got this feeling of vertigo because it looked likethe plane was diving into the fields, because the spiral was oppositeeach other. It was a spinning spiral — one does this and one does that.Didn't exactly work, but it was a nice theory (laughs)."
Another innovation was Derek's Eddie-based work for magazine covers. A short-lived metal mag out of Canada called Metallian ended up with a Mounties-based Riggs original. "I had like two days to do it; that's what they asked for and that's what they got. But these things... they often didn't use them for what they said they were going to use it for. It always ended up on a T-shirt or a poster. They just used it for anything. When it was done, they used it for what I made it for, and then they spread it around for other things. And if it went out through a retail outlet, I got paid for it. I never got anything from the concert tours. That's how they managed to put on those huge shows. So it all came and went around and came back. At one time they were doing greetings cards through Athena and places like that; you could go and buy Iron Maiden greeting cards." There were also phone cards and likenesses of Eddie turned 3-D, but on a trenches level, Derek was also involved with things like backstage passes, of which fairly rudimentary work was all one could achieve. "Yes, there were limitations. I
had to draw them sometimes because they were very strict about what they could print. So it was just a pen and ink drawing." Case in point with respect to the image recycling, that same Metallian image showed up nearly 20 years later for the 66th issue of Canada's current reigning metal magazine, Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles. And incidentally, the Mountie motif was also resurrected for a Canada-specific series of album reissues, which were quickly whisked off the shelves due to the Mounties suing for copyright infringement, inevitable collector's item status ensuing. Also of note, Derek was still doing the odd magazine cover in the digital age, having created a digital piece for the spring 2000 issue of Boston's pop culture magazine Lollipop, in which a long interview with Riggs had run. The picture was an exclusive, featuring a genetically chaotic hybrid of a rider on an even more gravely gene-spliced steed. The four page article included, among a few Maidens and digital pieces, a rare (and decidedly unglamorous!) shot of Derek at his workstation.
This Material is taken from Derek Riggs book Run For Cover