JAN KSINSKY (Graphicores): „My “minute sketches” may look as being drawn by my little daughter, but the most important here is to quickly catch the idea.“

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Usually, when the bands are releasing new albums with the covers really worth to put the eye on, we naturally tend to attribute these achievements to the band. In these times especially, only minority of the fans are really interesting to know, who is the author of this or that particular cover artwork. Despite of all mandatory credits in the booklets the authors remain anonymous quite often. One of well respected and successful authors mainly on the gory field of work is Great Britain based Slovak – Jan Ksinsky. So let’s introduce his work in by the pictures and words.

I would start by a kind of traditional type question, but I think it matters in your case. How did you get to the drawing and graphics? And when did you found out that you could work with it on a bit more serious level to let your talent, big without any doubts, grow to a bigger extent? Have you been studying some kind of drawing and graphic arts, or are you a self-taught?
Yes, I am self-taught. I am learning until these days, watching a lot of tutorials and trying the new techniques. I was drawing all my life, but I never even thought about making something bigger from it. In 2005 I have relocated to UK and bought my first PC. After a year of experimentation I sent some of my ideas to the friend, Hoyas from Attack Of Rage. I remember how shocked I was when he asked me if I could make a picture for their debut CD called “Grindpeace”. This was where it all started. Soon the other bands started to contact me and it is possible to say that it continues until now without a break.

How do you work today? I mean, if do you prepare some hand-drawn sketches first, or you work with PC since the start of the new picture. I also would like to know, if this job can pay your bills and expenses, or is it something you do besides of your regular daily job?
Pencil and paper are still very important to me. My “minute sketches” may look as being drawn by my little daughter, but the most important here is to quickly catch the idea. I always do the logos on paper and then I just digitize them. In my case the mouse is replaced by graphic tablet, so PC painting is not that far from the traditional techniques. I have found and developed my ideal combination of tools, seeming to look very natural, so I can concentrate to creative side without any interference. I am not living from graphics. Maybe it could be possible, but I am afraid I could be forced to do also the stuff I don’t want to do. People can appreciate my work, but everything changes when the money are the question. Some people think that guy who painted their hallway, is worth more money than me after 100+ hours of work on their picture. So to have a decent income from this work I would have to do also the company logos, business cards and a lot of other rubbish that has nothing common with the stuff I am interesting in. All what I like easily could become a job I don’t want to go to…

You have created several themes for the albums or T-shirts, you cooperated with Gothoom festival or with the labels like Metal Age and Slovak Metal Army as well. Which of your works are most precious to you?
It’s like asking me which of my children I love most. Each of my works has some deeper meaning to me, all of them taught me something new and each of them pushed me further. It’s amazing to met and know the new people with every new project. But if I have to choose one thing that has a special place in my heart, it must be Napalm Death T-shirt. It was right in the beginning of this my “career”. It was a superb feeling when Shane Embury wrote me that he likes my work. I really enjoyed that period.

Which albums with your graphics are about to be released this year?
Actually, I can’t tell anything special or more concrete. The new Attack Of Rage album with my work was released right now. I finished the stuff for the re-release of three old albums of one US brutal death metal legend and if it will be released as planed, this will be something big for me. But I also would like to have also some time for my own stuff. I work on the new Graphicores logo, maybe T-shirt as well, but finally I would like to find some time and learn something new I am really bad at for a time being…

Has it even happen that some of your works were stopped by censorship and the albums have to be on sale with an alternative covers in some countries?
If I remember it well, I had no censorship problems up till now. The bands mostly sell their merchandise via their websites or various underground distros, where censorship in fact doesn’t exist. While working for Metal Age, I saw what had to be covered, when it was about to be send to Germany. Judging from this I think that almost all of my works would need some alternative cover.

How does it work with the bands? Will they tell you the album title and then leave you free to do anything that come to your mind? Or do they have some clear idea? Will you get also the music to enhance your imagination, or, respectively, do you have it among your conditions?
It is often quite a difficult with the bands. If  I would come with the conditions about all what they have to send me, I even wouldn’t start with most of the projects. I get the music on rare occasions only, respectively, I get it when I am working on the last details, not sooner. The album title could be misleading quite often, so I can’t rely on it. The very important thing for me is the lyrics, to get some orientation in what all this will be about. The vast majority of the bands do not have some specific idea, so all is in my hands. Of course, this is what I like most. Because I found out, that the best for me is to read the lyrics and then offer my own idea to the band. This was already proven as the best way and in the end all of us are satisfied with the final work.

Do you have some favorite authors on this graphic scene, whose work you appreciate artistically or as some source for your inspiration?
Ed Repka is on the first place, when it comes to metal. I tried to imitate his works since I was a little kid. Then Mark Riddick and Pär Olofsson come to my mind. Everybody knows the name H. r. Giger. His works have a strong effect on the people and I’m not afraid to say, that he have influenced a lot of artists, even though it may be not directly visible on their stuff. Outside of metal I totally love the work of Peter Gric. I have mentioned a few names only, but there could be a lot of more others. All of them mean a strong inspiration to me to keep working on myself.

Your graphic works mostly appear on the extreme music cover artworks. But I would like to know, what kind of music you listen to privately. Is it extreme metal as well? Or also the other stuff?
I feel that people who started with the listening of metal in the times when internet was not a common stuff, have one thing in common. They listen more or less to all kinds of metal. Long time ago, when there was a new tape out, it didn’t matter if it was black or grind, the only important issue was, if it was a good music. This had remained to me until now. My favorite bands range from gore grind to punk. Maybe this wide scale of my favorite stuff is why I don’t feel need to escape into electronic music, hip hop or classical music. If I am fed up with black metal, I play crust punk and everything is just fine. Whoever knows me is sure that I mention the Nasum. This band is a heart issue to me…

Are you going to some festivals this summer? Can you find a space for such things alongside your family and work?
The family, work, graphics and sleeping, this is all my time. Sometimes I have a chance to see some metal show here in UK. Every year I visit Slovakia and there I always attend some festival. There I will meet my friends after a long time, so it’s more about talking than about music. Last two years I was at Gothoom, but I still don’t know what this year will bring…

Finally, tell me if there is any band you would like to make a cover artwork and this would be a some kind of dream came true to you 🙂
Since I grew up on the Napalm Death, my dream already came true. I don’t know if there could be something even bigger for me. Nasum are the past now, and even if they are doing the new merchandise from time to time, this chapter is more or less closed for me. I wouldn’t say that I have some particular dream, but there are certainly a lot of bands that I would be more than happy to co-work with. I will see, what the future will bring…

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Väčšinou, keď kapely vydajú nové albumy a ich obaly stoja naozaj za to, skôr prirodzene pripisujeme tieto zásluhy samotnej kapele. O to, kto je vlastne autorom toho-ktorého obalu sa (najmä v dnešnej dobe) naozaj zaujíma len menšie percento fanúšikov. Autori obalov sú tak často, napriek všetkým povinným kreditom v bookletoch, v anonymite. Jedným z úspešných autorov najmä na poli gore scény je Slovák žijúci a tvoriaci vo Veľkej Británii – Jan Ksinsky. Poďme si teda jeho tvorbu predstaviť obrazom i slovom.

Začal by som tak tradične, ale myslím, že to v tvojom prípade má význam. Ako si sa teda dostal ku kresleniu a grafike? Kedy si zistil, že by si sa tomu mohol venovať na serióznejšej úrovni a naplno rozvynúť svoj nesporne veľký talent? Študoval si aj nejaký umelecký smer alebo si v tomto samouk?
Áno, som samouk. Dodnes sa učím, pozerám množstvo tutoriálov a skúšam nové techniky. Kreslil som celý život, ale nikdy ma ani nenapadlo, že by som s tým mohol niečo urobiť. V roku 2005 som sa presťahoval do UK a kúpil som si prvý počítač. Po roku experimentovania som poslal kamošovi Hoyasovi (Attack Of Rage) pár mojich pokusov. Pamätám si ako ma šokoval otázkou či neurobím obrázok pre ich debutové CD Grindpeace. Takto to všetko začalo. Čoskoro sa začali ozývať aj ďalšie kapely a prakticky som sa nezastavil až doteraz.

Akým spôsobom dnes pracuješ? Mam na mysli, či si robíš najskôr nejaké ručné skice a až následne používaš software, alebo ideš naostro v počítači. Zaujímalo by ma tiež, či ťa dokáže táto práca uživiť alebo to robíš popri štandardnom zamestnaní?
Ceruzka a papier sú pre mňa stále veľmi dôležité. Moje minútové skice možno vyzerajú ako keby ich maľovala moja malá dcéra, ale podstatné je rýchlo zaznamenať nápad. Logá robím vždy na papiery a v počítači ich v podstate iba prevediem do digitálnej podoby. Grafický tablet u mňa úplne nahradil myš, takže maľovanie na PC nemá až tak ďaleko od tradičných techník. Našiel som si svoju ideálnu kombináciu nástrojov, ktoré pôsobia veľmi prirodzene, takže sa môžem nerušene venovať iba kreatívnej stránke. Grafikou sa neživím. Možno by sa to aj dalo, ale obávam sa, že by som musel robiť aj veci, ktoré robiť nechcem. Ľudia síce vedia oceniť moju prácu, ale keď príde na peniaze, tak je to inak. Niektorí jednotlivci si myslia, že chlapík čo im maľoval doobeda chodbu, si zaslúži viac ako ja za 100+ hodin práce na ich obrázku… Aby som sa teda slušne uživil, musel by som robiť aj firemné logá, vyzitky a podobné hlúposti, ktoré nemajú s tým, čo ma baví nič spoločné. Z toho, čo tak milujem by sa potom mohlo ľahko stať iba zamestnanie, do ktorého nerád chodím…

Vytvoril si viacero motívov na albumy či tričká, spolupracoval si aj s festivalom Gothoom, či vydavateľstvami Metal Age a Slovak Metal Army. Ktoré z tvojich výtvorov sú pre teba najcennejšie?
Pripomína mi to otázku, že ktoré zo svojich detí mám najradšej. Každý môj výtvor pre mňa niečo znamená, pri každom som sa niečo nové naučil a každý ma posunul ďalej. Úžasné je, že pri každom projekte som spoznal nových ľudí. Ak mám ale vybrať jednu vec, čo má špeciálne miesto v mojom srdci, musí to byť triko Napalm Death. Bolo to hneď na začiatku mojej „kariéry“. Bol to super pocit, keď mi napísal Shane Embury, že sa mu páči moja robota. To obdobie som si riadne užil.

Aké albumy sa chystajú tohto roku na vydanie s tvojou grafikou?
Nemôžem vlastne nič špeciálne prezradiť. Práve vyšiel nový album Attack Of Rage s mojou grafikou. Dokončil som veci pre reedíciu troch starých albumov jednej americkej brutal death legendy, ktoré budú mať novú grafiku, a ak sa toto podarí, bude to pre mňa veľká vec. Chcem sa ale venovať chvíľu aj sebe. Chystám nové logo Graphicores, možno triko, ale konečne si chcem nájsť čas a pokúsiť sa ovládnuť niečo nové, čo mi zatiaľ fakt nejde…

Stalo sa ti už, že niektoré tvoje obaly neprešli cenzúrou a v niektorých krajinách sa albumy musia predávať s nejakým alternatívnym obalom?
Pokiaľ ma pamäť neklame, tak s cenzúrou som problém doteraz nemal. Kapely predávajú svoj merch väčšinou cez svoje stránky alebo rôzne undergroundové distrá, a tam cenzúra prakticky neexistuje. Keď som pracoval pre Metal Age, videl som, čo sa muselo zakrývať, keď to išlo do Nemecka. Podľa toho usudzujem, že moje veci by potrebovali alternatívny obal takmer všetky.

Ako to funguje s kapelami? Povedia ti názov albumu a nechajú ti voľnú ruku? Alebo mávajú skor presnú predstavu? Dodajú ti pre inšpiráciu aj hudbu, resp. je to tvoja podmienka?
S kapelami je to často dosť zložité. Keby som si začal dávať podmienky, čo všetko mi majú poslať, tak by som väčšinu projektov ani nezačal robiť. Hudbu dostanem iba zriedka, respektíve dostanem ju, až keď dorábam posledné detaily. Názov albumu je často zavádzajúci, takže ani na ten sa spoliehať nemôžem. Texty sú pre mňa veľmi dôležité, aby som sa zorientoval, že o čo vlastne pôjde. Drvivá väčšina kapiel nemá konkrétnu predstavu o tom, čo presne chcú, takže dostávam voľnú ruku. To mám samozrejme najradšej. Zistil som totiž, že je pre mňa najlepšie, keď si prečítam texty a sám navrhnem kapele moju predstavu. Takto to mám už overené a všetci sme vždy nakoniec spokojní.

Máš na tejto „grafickej scéne“ nejakých obľúbených autorov, ktorých prácu oceňuješ alebo ti je aj inšpiráciou?
Tak z metalového sveta je to v prvom rade Ed Repka. Jeho veci som sa snažil napodobňovať už ako malé decko. Ďalej ma napadajú Mark Riddick a Pär Olofsson. Meno H.R.Giger pozná určite každý. Jeho diela majú silný dopad na človeka a dovolím si tvrdiť, že aj keď to nemusí byť priamo vidieť na ich tvorbe, ovplyvnil obrovské množstvo umelcov. Mimo metalu mám hrozne rád tvorbu od Petra Grica. Spomenul som iba zopár mien, ale je ich oveľa viac. Všetci sú pre mňa silnou inšpiráciou, aby som neprestával na sebe makať.

Väčšinou sa tvoje grafiky objavujú na obaloch extrémnej hudby. Zaujímalo by ma ale, akú hudbu počúvaš v súkromí. Ide tiež väčšinou o extrémny metal? Alebo aj niečo iné?
Mám pocit, že ľudia ktorí začali počúvať metal v dobe, keď ešte internet nebol bežná vec, majú jeden spoločný znak. Počúvajú viacmenej všetky odrody metalu. Keď sa dostala do obehu nová kazeta, bolo nám jedno, či je to black alebo grind, dôležité bolo len to, či je to dobrá hudba. Toto mi zostalo až dodnes. Mám obľúbené kapely od goregrindu až po punk. Táto rozmanitosť asi môže za to, že nepociťujem potrebu unikať do elektronickej hudby, hip hopu alebo klasickej hudby. Keď ma prestane baviť black metal, pustím si crust punk a mám vybavené. Kto ma pozná, určite čaká, že spomeniem Nasum. Táto kapela je pre mňa srdcová záležitosť…

Chystáš sa toto leto na nejaké letné festivaly? Dokážš mať na takéto veci priestor popri rodine a práci?
Rodina, práca, grafika a spánok. To je všetok môj čas. Občas sa tu v UK dostanem na koncert. Raz ročne idem cez leto na Slovensko a tam sa nejakého festivalu vždy zúčastním. Po dlhom čase tam stretnem kámošov, takže je to nakoniec viac o rozprávaní ako o hudbe. Posledné dva roky som bol na Gothoome, ale tento rok ešte fakt neviem, čo bude…

Na záver mi prezraď, či existuje kapela, ktorej túžiš urobiť obal a predstavovalo by to pre teba splnenie určitého sna… 🙂
Keďže som vyrastal na Napalme, svoj sen som si už vlastne splnil. Neviem, či môže byť pre mňa ešte niečo viac. Nasum je už minulosťou, a aj keď občas urobia nový merch, je to pre mňa viacmenej uzavretá kapitola. Nepovedal by som, že mám nejaký konkrétny sen, ale určite existuje veľa kapiel, pre ktoré by som bol viac než happy pracovať. Uvidíme čo ešte budúcnosť prinesie…

-Dodo Datel-
translation / preklad: Martin Lukáč

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About Dodo Datel

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ROCK HARD SK/CZ magazine cooperator, PARAT magazine cooperator, vocalist and bass player of dark metal band GALADRIEL