Originally published in ‘zine issue #35, 2006
Logos are important for a band for several reasons, maybe as important as the band name itself. They help identify something about a band: their sound, their attitude, their level of originality, their level of maturity. One person who has designed logos for some high-profile bands as well as underground ones is Christophe Szpajdel.
“I got a terrific demand for logos, so the inspiration comes from people around me, some movies scenes, some states of wrath I or people around are getting through,” says Christophe as he launches into scaning logos for bands that are “gagging for them sooo badly!” after coming back into town in Devon in the U.K. He continues, “What is exciting is that I get the best logos done when I am utterly angry or obsessed by death, like it has been the case when I’ve drawn the new Dark Horizon logo. It happened right after I got a serious hand-to-hand fight with one of my Russian housemates at the place I was previously living. This bastard fueled so much hate in my veins that he allowed me, by upsetting me, to create the best logos I ever could do. Mysteriously I haven’t ended up dismembered, landing in the hospital or the nearby graveyard. What a miracle!”
Besides the states of mind Christophe describes that bring him results, in some cases he also gets some instruction from the bands for whom he designs.
“It depends but generally both are confluent. The band gives me some ideas but my angry state or my piss-off mood brings me utter inspiration. It is like volcanic lava uniting forces with boiling water in a crater lake. So generally these two parameters are undissociable. The band comes up with some ideas, submits me some art directions; then I need to pick up the right state of mood: angry, infuriated, or depressive or annoyed or excited. Then the fluid runs through my veins and I complete the logo. It takes me quite some days to get a logo completed, up to six weeks if I run out of inspiration.”
Besides his passion for his own work, Christophe also admires what others have done in this area, logos such as “Mayhem, Sodom, Possessed, Celtic Frost, while my absolute favorite is the one I’ve done for Pit Fiends, a great pit-zombie band from Chico, California.”
Christophe adds further, “I can’t say I have logo-drawing idols but I like very much the works of Tompa Lindberg. For example, Darkthrone is one of his finest art. Then I really follow my own instinct. You need to know I am so utterly busy with logos that I run 666 mph to shift between my three part-time jobs and my logos.”
Having said all that, Christophe has admittedly run into situations where he couldn’t come up with anything upon which he and the band in question agreed. “Recently I had a band called Eithel Fuin from Italy, Deus Ex Daemone, still need to get into it. Eithel Fuin tries to combine some dark gothic with grim black metal but they wanted something looking like Borknagar. I drew them a nice logo as they wanted; then they told me the logo does not correspond to what they want. Same with a band from Yugoslavia called Dagger Spawn and a Greek band called Acrimonious. I got a mail from their manager who wanted a logo like more doom gothic oriented, then did a logo like that. A month later I got a nasty mail from one of the band members, Bill Magafas, who has been absolutely rude and nasty, telling me that the logo does not match the band. I mailed him, ‘What’s the matter?’ but he never, ever answered further, not even a thank you or whatever. I also worked for a band called Murder Rape and it took me eight years before they pick up the right logo. A lot of hassle, lot of time wasted.”
Concering the subject of the wrong logo for the right band, Christophe has more to say.
“On that question, there are lots of excellent bands I’d like to redesign the logo, like for Breath Of Sorrows, Engorge, who got nice logos already but they will stick to their old ones. By the way, you can see an Engorge logo which will remain unused by the band, but have a look on what I redesigned for Engorge [on my MySpace page].”
“This bastard fueled so much hate in my veins”
Finally Christophe explains that logos go beyond just a piece of artwork.
“For me, the symmetry and the readability of a logo are essential. The logo can be very complicated like the one I did for Evil God or Black Witchery or Sorghegard for example, but still needs to be readable and extremely efficient … A logo is the band’s ‘Front-Of-The-House’ so it must be absolutely readable at first sight. I truly mean it.”
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As Christophe points out, logos are a visual concept of course, and some bands look at logos as artwork while others see it as simply modifying text, to make their band name look cool. Luc Lemay of the Canadian band Gorguts redesigned their logo from the version that appeared on their demo for a specific reason:
“Cause it was too hard to read it,” he laughed during an interview to promote their first album, Considered Dead (see D.U. #3) “Yeah, we had to do it. We’re pleased with the new logo; I think it’s better than the demo one, yeah. ‘Cause in ‘zines sometimes you get bands and it’s only like a load of shit, I don’t know, it’s like a ink splash, you know what I mean? It’s hard to read sometimes.”
Autopsy was an interesting case. The only one of their albums and EPs that had the same logo with which they started was their second LP, Mental Funeral. On their two EPs they cleverly incorporated their logo into the cover artwork, instead of laying the logo on top of a painting for instance.
“It changes with everything we do,” guitarist Eric Cutler explained at a one-off gig to promote Severed Survival, the first album. “Autopsy will always have a new logo. This is the way we like it. We don’t like to stick with one logo.”
Some bands have had their logos modified from their early days. Vio- Lence’s logo started out looking like it was coming out of a wall, made of brick. Edward J. Repka redesigned the logo for the release of the band’s first album, Eternal Nightmare.
“He made it chrome or look like a fork or whatever,” explained Phil Demmel, guitarist for Vio-Lence, speaking while on tour for their second record, Oppressing the Masses. Vio-Lence had a situation where on the second album, the cover featured yet another, totally different logo design. “That was Megaforce Records fucking up. We hate the new logo,” continued Demmel. “We can’t stand it. But that’s basically the way record companies are. If they don’t wanna do something they’ll find some way to subtly keep it their way.”
The same thing happened to Sepultura, although with different results. Their Schizophrenia album was the last to feature their original logo, as Max Cavalera revealed while touring for the following record, Beneath the Remains:
“Record label says that people can’t read, and at the time we didn’t have any power through Roadrunner because we’re just another new band. So we say we like old logo, and they say, ‘I know you like the old logo but we wanna use this one because people have to read, people have to know that you are Sepultura and you’re from Brazil and all that shit.’ Is like, if you wanna keep fighting for the old logo they gonna say, ‘Okay, so go find another record label.’ They got more power at that time to do anything they want. We gonna have the old logo back, now that we show them that we sell, and we show them that everybody likes the old logo better.” As time revealed Sepultura never did end up going back to their old design, and on recent albums even changed their logo to a different design again.
Visibility is also a factor in some cases. It used to be that you could spot an Overkill shirt from a hundred paces because of the neon green they’ve employed. Of course, all logos should jump out at you, no?
Check out Christophe’s work at www.myspace.com/christopheszpajdel. Some material for this piece originally appeared in Curious Goods ‘zine. ■
Photo: Christophe Spajdel, taken from his MySpace page