Enter Bruce Dickinson as shiny, bouncy new lead singer, and Iron Maiden were about to take their game to a new level. It was about this time that Maiden decided to make Derek their exclusive artist — they wouldn't use anybody else, and Derek was not to paint for anybody else. Curiously, the same arrangement was made with legendary producer Martin "Headmaster" Birch.
In February of '82, Derek saw publication of his first Bruce-era piece, his vibrant, motion-filled Eddie-vs.-Devil battle: scene for the Run To The Hills single.
Comments Derek, "I painted that because I actually wanted to spend some time painting, instead of just rushing things. So I did that, because I just wanted to. And I showed it to Rod, and he liked it and he bought it. If you actually look at the original of that, if you see a print of it, it's actually better painted than some of the others. It's just me painting monsters with a good sky." "Run To The Hills was easy," comments Smallwood. "Derek brought us a great picture of Eddie fighting the devil on top of a rock surrounded by monsters. We really liked it and just asked Derek to add some feathers to the axe to make Eddie a bit "red Indian" to tie in with the song, which it did nicely. At times the actions of the cavalry were close to the work of the devil."
The following month, Maiden's biggest album would emerge. Entitled The Number Of The Beast, its cover would depict a somewhat washed-out giant Eddie puppeteering the devil, who in turn, holds the strings to a tiny Eddie.
"In Number Of The Beast, there's an alien in it," begins Derek. "But I didn't have much time to paint it. That was just airbrush and silhouettes and a bit of airbrush and silhouettes again. I didn't really have time to do much interesting. I was going to do a lot of figures, like Margaret Thatcher and stuff, in the flames, but there just wasn't time. The album artwork was done for the single. It was another weekend job. Phoned me up Thursday, wanted it Monday morning. So I did that over that time without sleep. Some of it doesn't really work. You might notice the devil's wings are supposed to be lightning and smoke, but they disappear into the background, because I didn't have time to sort it out properly. The figure is not quite right, because he started off... it started out I was going to do this really distorted figure for the devil, and I just didn't have time, to work out all the distortions I wanted in it. And so I didn't have time to paint it. So after a few sketches, I just started painting, and I ended up with a human figure that looks a bit wrong (laughs). And it was supposed to be a portrait of Salvador Dali, because I thought that would be funny, but I don't think anybody noticed it. It wasn't that good a portrait (laughs). It was along those lines. It does look a bit like him, without the mustache (laughs), if you compare it to some pictures."
t was an unfortunate pose, because if you lean forward with a T-shirt, it tends to hang like that; it tends to hang forward. But it looks like he's just fat. But lot of them, they weren't printed right and the colors came out wrong and they lost all the subtlety. Something to do with the red. Because the red was so dense in the devil, to get the molding... there's quite a lot of figurative molding in the devil, which nearly always got lost. Because to get that red, they had to practically blodge it. It was just this big red blob that had little bits of molding on it. So to bring the molding out, they took the red back. When they took the red back, it disappeared in the rest of the painting. So that's why the painting went almost black and white. So what they did in America, which was the best compromise really, they just boosted the blue, until the blue was really strong. And that brought it back to life a bit. But it was never like the original. I can't actually remember what the original looked like now. I can just remember the problems we had, and why they were there. The new posters are, I believe, as close as we've ever gotten to the original, and the ones on the website."
Of note, the original features something missing from the album art, and that's a rather gangly and distracting hoof on the left leg of the devil. But Derek is right: the picture looks much better darkened and deepened.
"So I did the cover and took it down," continues Derek, "thinking it was only a single cover, and Rod looked at it and said, 'Oh, no, we'll have that for the album,' and put it in a cupboard and locked the cupboard. And he said 'Do another one for the single,' so I did that one with Eddie in flames."
"In the early days, it was pretty straight forward in our briefings to Derek," notes Rod, also affirming Derek's story of the big switcheroo. "He would draw them out. We knew pretty much what we wanted to achieve and Derek always did a fantastic job executing it. And fortunately, I guess, they always worked. The Number Of The Beast cover art was going to be the one executed for a single called Purgatory, where the idea was, you know, who is pulling whose strings? You've got the devil with Eddie as a puppet and the devil as a puppet. And Derek did a great job, that whole sort of Bosch-type feel to it, and it looked just way too good for a single, so we scrapped the idea of using that for a single, and used the Eddie head crossed with the devil as the single sleeve instead, and saved the Number Of The Beast artwork for the album. And then when Steve actually did the song called Number Of The Beast, it all clicked. So sometimes we got lucky like that." Derek wanted to make some changes, but we liked it just as was."
Even though the Number Of The Beast artwork was conceived for a single, Derek had done it at the usual just over 12 inch format. "We were doing 12 inch singles at the time, luckily. They were all 12 inch; well 13-odd. Yeah, that was lucky really. That would've been a bit of a mess."
Other than instances like the above cupboard scenario, things generally went well with Rod. "I always dealt with Rod, as the band were usually off touring. He was all right, most of the time. He knows a good picture when he sees one. But I never talked to
ll the covers I've ever done, nobody ever phones me up and says, 'That really worked' or it really sold a lot or anything. I don't know what's going on. I have no idea how much they were selling or anything. I was just doing covers and getting on with it. And there was never any problem getting paid — they were very good with that as well."
Which brings up an interesting point — where are all these paintings? "I don't know; I don't have any of them. The last thing I heard, which is about ten years ago now, is that Steve... he lives in this big farmhouse somewhere, and he's got a big vault in it. It had a kind of bank vault built into it for some reason when he bought it, so he used it to put all the artworks in. And I think Rod has a couple framed on his walls, because I went to a flat of his once and saw Powerslave up on the wall. But as far as I know, Steve's got the majority of them locked away in a vault. When I sell the artwork, all the rights go with it. Album covers don't really work any other way. People get pissed off when they're chased around by artists who have these restrictive contracts on the piece. But there have been ones that have turned up for sale from time to time. Because some of the early ones disappeared at the printer's and things, and have no doubt changed hands a few times since then. There's possibly the first album cover floating around out there somewhere. And a lot of the first singles have gone that way I believe. There is a story that somebody was trying to return an artwork to Iron Maiden, and one of the bloody girls at the desk said, 'Oh no, we don't want that; you can keep it.' So she gave it to somebody. So, you know, she lasted about five seconds (laughs)."
I asked Derek who Eddie was as a skanked-out ghoul, but one, presumably with a life — was at this point, who he had become, or was going to become. "He wasn't anybody. Eddie was just something, as I've said, that I thought up one day as a symbol for wasted youth, the punk thing that was going on. So I just did this corpse, and this corpse had to run around and this corpse had to do that, and the single was called this, so what can we do with that, what fits with that? And that carried on from the last thing, so it started making a kind of narrative. You know, you get 20 pictures of the same character, somebody, somewhere is going to invent a narrative. So there was never any thought about what was Eddie like or what did Eddie think. It was just what could we have Eddie do that fits in with this song? It's basically what you do with him, or what could you do to him? (laughs). There's no thought of actual characterization, what's he like, what is his personal philosophy, and that crap. It's, 'Who can we kill?' (laughs)."
Rod agrees with Derek's psychological profile of Eddie. "We have never given Eddie a life, a background or even a voice. The fans all have their own idea of who and what he represents so we prefer the fans to have fun with their imagination. The art may give them ideas and they can run with them as they wish. It would be boring if he was too characterized. To this day we are always asked to do stuff with Eddie like Eddie's voice on ads or weird and wonderful contests or have him walk down the street. But we think too much of him to get him into this sort of thing too much, although, I did have fun in the early days wearing the Eddie mask on stage and round radio stations — great for meeting girls! Perhaps one day when the band finally does the last show he will become a movie star!" I wonder if Derek ever painted the text for the album or single title right into the picture.
"No. That was added by graphic artists after. Because that wasn't my job. There wasn't such a thing as computer graphics in those days, so it had to be with Letraset or by photography and dropped in afterward. You should never do that on an illustration. You should always do the illustration separately from the text, because then you can use the illustration for the posters and T-shirts. Otherwise, you just had to try get that stuff off somehow. That is never done, ever. But sometimes I forgot (laughs). A couple of pictures like Number Of The Beast... it didn't actually matter too much. Because we were in the habit of cutting bits of the logo out and putting them behind the character on the single anyway, so it wasn't much concern for us. Then that became an album cover, so we had to do something So somebody stuck a load of sky at the top with an airbrush (laughs), and we went with that."
In later years, the same sort of concerns applied to the short-lived CD longbox format. "There were some that had to be long and thin, a couple of them, for CDs in America. It would be about twice the height of the CD, and the CD would be in the middle. So to make it work in an illustration, I had space at the top, space at the bottom, and the painting didn't have very much on it. So a couple of them were
like that, but then it went out of fashion to package them like that. A lot of the paintings, although the overall painting is square, I'll often do them oblong so they can be used as posters easily. If they don't have pictures on the poster, they'll just put a black band on it and put the text on that, which looks kind of naff. So I would put enough space there so that the printer could position the image where he wanted it and the designers could put the text on, without too much disruption to the image. There wasn't very much in those spaces, just sky or blue — we'd keep it simple — so they could put tort on them." similar pose to the controversial and rare Maiden Japan art, displaying the severed head of the devil. "I just added bits," says Derek of the particularly unsettling and horrid looking dead devil. "I had to make a monster but it had to look human. I started off with a portrait of Salvador Dali again, with googly eyes, and kind of gave him a lizard's tongue and stuck lizard frills
and horns on him, because that's traditional. He had to have ears, but I didn't want to give him pointed ears, because that was a bit naff. Well, it was a desperate attempt. It had to be done over a weekend again. Because I have done the other one, the Number Of The Beast album cover, but as a single, as you know, and I had to replace it because he locked it in a cupboard. I could've made it better, I could've improved it, I could've added stuff to it, but he takes it and said, 'No, that's great,' and he locks it in a cupboard and that's that and I didn't see it for ten years (laughs)."
Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt appreciates the ghoulishness of this particular Riggs vignette as well. "Yes, I had that huge poster of Eddie holding the devil's head in his hand above my bed when I was really young. It freaked me out and I had to take it down. Eddie was the inevitable symbol of my childhood being such a massive Iron Maiden fan so early on. I was terrified and intrigued at the same time. I had another poster with him piercing the earth with the Union Jack I believe it was... loved that one! I remember I did drawings of him but only like copied ones. I had thin butter paper that I placed on top some of my Maiden sleeves and basically copied what was underneath. Even though I liked to consider myself a decent artist, Derek's stuff was far too complex for me."
"I'd say my fave Riggs artwork is either Powerslave or Live After Death, which had lots of details and hidden messages and subtle things you had to really look for. I could stare at those sleeves for ages. I think Eddie was a brilliant idea as a mascot for Maiden. He almost became more synonymous with the music than the actual members of the band. Like on Powerslave, Eddie was the mummy, not Bruce. Eddie was the crazy psycho on Piece Of Mind, not McBrain, Eddie's the killer on Killers not anybody else. You know... Maiden is him and he is Maiden."
Unearthed from around this time was an unused but nicely considered and appointed Eddie featuring our favorite ghoul with poofy, almost Farrah Fawcett hair. Handling it for the first time in years, Derek muses, "I don't remember when this was done. I think it was for a tour, in America. Looks like he's wearing an Uncle Sam thing, doesn't it? Yeah, that's an Uncle Sam kind of war jacket thing, Your Country Needs You. So maybe it's an American tour. It looks like something for a tour program. That would be done in gauche; it's watercolor basically, on an illustration board. If you get it wet, it'll come off (laughs). There's a bit of a smudge on it as it is. You can't seal a watercolor. Because anything you put on it will wash it off. So there's not a lot you can do with it. Tape the edge up to stop it from getting battered and pray (laughs)."
It was in and around the Number Of The Beast era that Derek's health took a turn. The brain is a sensitive and little understood instrument. Just as Dennis DeYoung of Styx ended up with chronic fatigue syndrome and light sensitivity due to a bad flu and three days of a 103 degree fever, so too did Riggs end up with chronic fatigue syndrome and seasonal affective disorder, only he was hit by a confluence of chemicals.
"I had a load of fillings that were mercury, and every time I had a mercury filling I would end up sleeping for a day or two," explains Riggs. "So it was making me ill slowly. And I had a lot of mercury in my mouth at that time. And it turns out I have a very high sensitivity to mercury. I've got heavy metal poisoning. That's good, isn't it? (laughs). And then I got pesticide poisoning, and that hammered my system to such a degree that the mercury poisoning finished it off."
Derek doesn't want to name chemical companies, but the essential story on the latter is that this company "was making pesticides, and they were making it from military grade nerve gas. So I got exposed to a halfway product. I had bad cockroaches in a flat I used to living in London, and I knew somebody who worked for this company who said, 'Oh, I know something that will work that you can use.' So, unknown to me, she sneaked this out past the security, for me to use. So I sprayed it on the floor, and got very ill as a result. I was already becoming ill because of the mercury poisoning, and the amount of work I was doing wasn't helping. So when I got hit with this stuff, it just leveled me completely."
"So what I ended up with was chronic fatigue syndrome, the yuppie flu, except this wasn't the flu and I wasn't a yuppie. It actually took me about ten years until I figured out what it was. I mean from Number Of The Beast on, it was all downhill. But it worked out OK, because Maiden was paying me well, and it was about all the work I could do anyway before collapsing."
Is there a chance that paint poisoning enters into the equation as well? "It may well have done, because the paint is quite toxic. But I wouldn't have been able to tell (laughs). With all this other stuff I was going through, you wouldn't have noticed."
Given all this, Derek's foray into the martial arts was unsurprisingly short-lived. "Around the second or third album, I started to do tai chi chuan, and did it for about a year and a half, and then got bored with it, because I kind of figured that solving disagreements by hitting people was a stupid thing to do (laughs)." This Material is taken from Derek Riggs book Run For Cover
This Material is taken from Derek Riggs book Run For Cover