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Interview with Ioannis from Ioannis
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 29 September 2004, 7:34 AM

Ioannis Vasilopoulos, mostly known as just Ioannis, is one of the most renowned cover artists for not only the genre (and sub-genres) of Heavy Metal and Rock but also Jazz, Electro and other musical fields. An artist who's drawn the cover artwork (and not only that) for some of your all-time favorite albums. To name a few bands whose albums' artworks Ioannis has drawn, I'll just mention Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, Fates Warning, UFO, Dokken…Wait till you read this interview, your jaws will drop (like mine did) after you read all the bands Ioannis has worked with! Over 160 covers…from the early 80s to now. Without any further ado, my dear readers, here is Ioannis' interview with his Greek compatriots at Metal Temple Magazine.

First of all I’d like to welcome you Ioannis to Metal-Temple’s Interviews section as you’re the first person, in almost four years of our existence, who’s not a musician! It’s really an honor to be interviewing such a well known art designer like you, who’s also Greek (like most of us at the Magazine)!

Thank you very much, I have done a number of interviews in the last few months both for magazines and rock websites but this one means a lot to me because it’s for the fans in my home country which I miss a lot.

Let’s first take a journey back in time in order to introduce you to our readers. We’re now in the late 60’s and you’re ten years old. You’ve just moved with your family from Greece to the U.S.A. and a new life unfolds before this child’s eyes. What’s the story that followed, through that child’s eyes who grew up to be a truly successful and well known professional in his field?

Wow this could be a real long answer, and will probably mean a lot more to the Greek readers. I remember the beach in Nauplio the fun and blue skies and playing with my friends. I remember going to the movies on Saturday night with my brother and dad and mom and marveling about what it was like to visit all these great places far away. I remember my uncles Greek wedding at his village and how we partied for 4 days!!! I remember reading ’O MIKROS IROAS’ (The little hero) and ’O MIKROS SERIFFIS’ (the little sheriff) about a young Greek sheriff in the old west and being fascinated with the stories and the illustrations. I remember going to school one morning (3rd grade) and seeing tanks rolling down the street people being beaten up and arrested, people panicking and emptying the markets of food and water as the Greek army overthrew the government and took over. I remember running home scared and telling my mom that something was going on and nobody was at my school. I remember my Uncle sponsoring us to come to America as he was worried (having lived through the communist attempt to take over Greece in the late 40’s).

I remember bordering the Anna Maria with my family in late August and a 12 day voyage to America.

We grew up in the late Sixties early Seventies me and my kid brother Giorgos (George) 5 years younger than me. Cartoons, comic books, ’James Bond’, ’The Thunderbirds’, monster movies, rock and roll we were all influenced by them. I was drawing as long as I could remember and soon by brother and me were drawing our own comic books and selling them to kids in the neighborhood (he wrote them and I drew them) we got money and toys for them, we became very popular because of this in the neighborhood for a bunch of Greek kids.

My family attempted to return to Greece in 1974 (in the end they stayed in America) so they sent me first to get settled in School. I lived with my aunt and uncle in Athens in the Zografou district and went to high school there. It was tough as I had just adjusted to America made friends and had got used to my new life. Now all of a sudden I was a foreigner all over again this time in my own country!

Anyways It turned out to be a magic year as art and Rock and Roll became my favorite subjects.

My first Greek girlfriend (Katerina) bought me my first rock record (I had a bunch of 45’s), Deep Purple’s Machine Head , she also helped me pick my first series of albums as this was my Christmas present. Uriah Heep Demons And Wizards, MAGICIANS BIRTHDAY, Slade, Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality, Yes’ Fragile, John Lennon’s Imagine, Led Zeppelin’s 4, Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon, T.Rex’s The Slider. Man she loved T.Rex! We spend countless evenings lying down on the roof of her building watching the stars listening to underground Greek radio, which was the only place you could hear rock music. She loved my art and told me I was going to be a great artist someday.

Things were going pretty good then my family had me flown back as they decided to stay in America for good. Goodbye Katerina, goodbye Greek friends, goodbye Athens. I still had my dreams and art, (which I discovered was a cool way to meet girls!) especially rock and roll art. While in high school I picked up a book that had just come out, Roger Dean’s Views, it was a collection of his art for Yes and the other bands he had done covers for, all of a sudden I knew what I wanted to become. Before then I doodled with guitars and music as I was unsure where it would all lead, I was clearly better in art.

Record Cover Art was the combination of my two favorite things it made perfect sense. I was putting together some cool images judging by peoples reaction when they saw my stuff. By the time I was in college(styding art) I was working professionally. I started by doing art for local club bands , some made it pro and hired me , by the mid 80’s I was working for Metal Blade, CBS, Enigma, MCA etc..

Meanwhile by brother had become a disc jockey in college doing a metal show and working in a promotion company handling Marvel Comics. I remember meeting a young Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, The Tubes, Ronnie James Dio, The Scorpions, Aerosmith my first metal sale was selling a painting to Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Later that year I did Fates Warning, Heaven, Hallows Eve, Warlord etc… By the late 80’s I did Extreme, Bang Tango, Dream Theater, Voivod, Noisy Mama, Trixter, Propain, Wargasm and a ton of other famous non metal bands.

 Before I move on to any of my art-related questions, I’d like you to answer me this if you may. Why in your opinion do you think that Greeks always made it big time abroad (especially in the U.S.) compared to similar things they could have done while being in their home country?

It’s simple opportunities I don’t know how much things have changed but I remember a lot of road blocks either through the government on getting things done or financing. Greeks are always hard working, and have a great outlook on life and a good sense of humor. They never let things get to serious and are always very focused. They seem to flourish when given a opportunity I have seen it too many times even in my field. The U.S. has the least amount of government interference and the best credit options to start a business. They also least punish you financially if you fail. The wealthiest people in America sometimes failed several times even went bankrupt before they succeeded.

Tell us a few things about Vivid Images Design and Dangerous Age. These two companies are your brother’s and yours, right?

By the early 90’s me and Giorgos decided hey lets do our own thing so Vivid Images Design was born we currently handle all aspects of entertainment design. Websites, Videos, Stage art, CD packaging, DVD. We also do movie posters (just finished one for IFC) merchandise etc… He is a great business partner in the firm handling promotion, day to day activities, the websites and has great ideas on how to forge ahead. He also manages my art career. A few years ago we launched Dangerous Age Graphics a company specifically to market my prints, posters, merchandise and original art., to my fans, conventions, art galleries etc… And that’s how we found you, so here we are!

 Fates Warning, Hallows Eve, Heaven, Liege lord, Warlord, Wargasm, Obsession, Yngwie Malmsteen, Slaughter, Deep Purple, Dream Theater, Blue Oyster Cult, Voivod, Sepultura, Lynyrd Skynyrd and King Crimson are among those for whom you’ve worked on their covers. Since it would take ages to make specific questions upon each and every piece of your work, I’d like you to share with us the highlights of your co-operation with all these really big names. It would be interesting to hear a few words about your co-operation with Deep Purple too…

Allman Brothers, Styx, UFO, Overkill, The Fix, Warrant, Dokken, The Tubes, California Guitar Trio, Flowerkings, Bang Tango, George Thorogood, Extreme, Particle… all in all since 1984 I have done about 164 record covers that’s not counting logos, tour books, stage graphics, merchandise etc… which have included clients such as The Rolling Stones, Jon Bon Jovi, and Skid Row.

The approach is always the same we get a call from the manager or record label (always nicer than us calling them), we meet with the band (always very important to us so we can see if we are on the same wavelength). We listen to the music and discuss what the band feels is appropriate for their fans and them. The management is more concerned with how valuable the image is as a selling point for the band and to sell merchandise. We come up with ideas and show them to the interested parties involved, always a very nervous time as we are either patted on the back for being brilliant or given the proverbial boot out the door. Thankfully this hasn’t happen too often, we coordinate all the elements (photo shoots, artwork layouts) put it all together and deliver it via cdr with full color outputs to the label in some cases (Deep Purple) to multiple territories. We go out get a bottle of OUZO and celebrate!

It never really sinks in for Giorgo and me until months later when we are seeing the band in concert (Deep Purple - New York City, March 28th, 35th anniversary, Machine Head tour) and see people walking around wearing our art on their t-shirts, jackets, carrying our tour books and when the band kicks into Highway Star, and we see our images projected behind them. We look at each other and go Holy Shit! we did the art for Deep Purple!!!!.

The way I met the band was that Jim Lewis office than manager of Yngwie Malmsteen was next door to D.P. management. One day Bruce Payne (D.P. mngmt.) walked in his office exasperated about not having found decent art for the new D.P. album (Abandon) already behind schedule. Jim said I know this two Greek guys who are amazing. Next thing I know I’m in the office with my brother, Roger Glover, his dog and Bruce shooting ideas out. We had less than a week to put it together, the band loved it, the label loved it, Roger loved it. We did the whole Abandon tour, and have been working together ever since, more recently the Bananas album and tour they are a class act.

 Have you ever been asked to do the artwork for a Greek Metal band? Is there a Greek band in particular you’d like to do their artwork?

Actually no,  however I would love to. I suspect the fees we charge might be a deterrent however there are a number of projects me and Giorgo do every year for the hell of it because we either love the band or it’s music and want to help out. Are there any popular Greek metal bands? I haven’t really paid much attention.

 Let’s talk about other illustrators. What’s your opinion on Derek Riggs (Iron Maiden covers) for example? Which illustrators do you admire as an artist yourself and which artwork do you consider to be top of the tops apart from yours of course?

I have a lot of respect for anyone who can practice his art in this field and still make a living at it, it’s a very competitive hard field to work for and it takes a long time to make friends and connections that lead to clients. A lot of it other than talent is being at the right place at the right time. Derek Riggs, a case in point, Iron Maiden and their manager were flipping through portfolios at EMI saw a drawing he had done of the Eddie character and the rest is history. As far as who I like it’s a mix as pure artists Rodney Mathews, Roger Dean, Frazzetta and Allan Lee. Roger Dean was my biggest influence as a painter and how I have recently pursued my art career in prints originals etc…

The influences that formed Vivid Images was Russe  Mills, Bill Smith but primarily Storm Thorgerson independently and when he was with Hipgnosis (Pink Floyd, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, The Cult, Rainbow, UFO, Audioslave, Cranberries etc…). His approach is something I have modeled our firm to, which is to design for the client. Thus being very flexible has not only paid us well but gave us longetivity. It’s funny but I am different things to different people. To the Allman Brothers fans I am a cool psychedelic artist. To the metal crowd I am known for Fates Warning, BOC and Yngwie Malmsteen fantasy art. To the King Crimson crowd I am a avant guard artist (King Crimson, CGT, Trey Gunn etc…). As for Derek specifically it’s immaterial what I think of his art specifically if it’s good or bad or not technically proficient or what. I like some of his paintings more than others, but the bottom line is that he hit a nerve and developed a good image for Iron Maiden and that is what matters. He did his job and did it well and on that level he is a success, that is something that the art critics always miss. The fans are always hard. I got raves for the recent Fates Warning Art and people pissed that I did not do another Awaken The Guardian of course where the band wanted to go is what dictated it. Ironically enough when I did Awaken The Guardian I got the same reaction even the band was lukewarm about it. Now people think it’s a masterpiece, go figure!

 Which album covers do you consider to be your best efforts in your longtime career? Are there any covers you’d re-design, given the opportunity?

CGT’s 3+2, Trey Gunn’s Third Star, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s  Edge Of Forever, Blue Oyster Cult’s Curse Of The Hidden Mirror, Saga’s Definite Moments - Volume 3, Flowerkings’ Rainmaker, Deep Purple’s Abandon, Allman Brothers Band’s Where It All Begins  and a few others. It’s been a long road! As far as redesign, yes but I couldn’t say because to those clients they were perfect and they would be shocked!

 Even though I guess you’re into the new age of making art (the digital age), would you ever use the old fashioned way nowadays to create a cover for a band? Do you believe in the idea that though computers have lifted the limitations artists once faced, there’s a different feeling when you go back to your crayons and paints?

Oh yea actually most of the art that I’m doing again for my exhibits are on traditional canvas and acrylic paint. However to me the computer is just another tool another set of paints to achieve the finished image, which is what its all about. I don’t get hung up on the purist theme. It makes more sense for me to do a original painting as the value increases dramatically over the years especially if it turns out to be a successful or landmark album for the band. At the time I did the Allman Brothers Band artwork I got paid $7500.00. Today 10 years later I have been offered as much as $65,000.00 for the original. However I dont aproach it that way, the clients needs and what works best is what’s its all about. So if a traditional painting is what will work that’s the way I go, the only setback there is time and changes, very easy on computer a bitch traditionally.

What are the bands you grew up listening to? I know Blue Oyster Cult is one of them, for sure!

Man another long answer, it really falls into genres, I love music and great musicianship . Lets see in Progressive: Yes, Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, ELP, Gentle Giant, David Sylvian, Michael Ooldfield, Nektar, Camel, Trey Gunn.

Electronic: Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, B-Tribe, Vangelis, Jean Michael Jarre, Future Sound Of London, The Orb, Moby, Air, Riuchi Sakamotto, Bill Nelson.

Jazz: Weather Report, Return To Forever, Jean Luc Ponty, Dixie Dregs, Allan Holdsworth, Bill Bruford.

Classic Rock and Metal: Who, Led Zeppelin, U2, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Judas Priest, Montrose, Iron Maiden, Rush, Bue Ouster Cult, Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, Voivod, Fates Warning, Be Bop Deluxe, T-Rex, David Bowie, The Police, Uriah Heep.

Now for a completely different question. Since the whole world is probably watching the Olympic Games being held in your home country/home city, how do you feel about 2004’s major athletic event?

I am proud of the job the Greeks did, among controversy and reports of being unprepared and that it was too much to handle, or terrorist attacks, they did a magnificent job. They were able to pull it all together and put together a great show, showing the world that we have come a long way in the last twenty years and we are a modern thriving intelegent country.

What’s your relationship with the Internet? Do you read Online Magazines related to Heavy Metal and Rock?

Yes I do and its been a great way to find my many fans and talk to them, it was because of the internet that I realized the demand for copies of my work and my decision to launch Dangerous Age Graphics, my online site. Also the letters that I get are unbelievable, as I was working on this interview I got a letter from a Greek Priest who works in a church in NY telling me what a Fates Warning fan he was and how the art I did influenced his life and that now his 3 year old daughter is a fan and rocks with him, a priest !! you could not make this stuff up.

What’s your opinion on our mascot, Alice, who’s on top of our site’s menu bar?

Sexy and very metal man! was she modelled after a actual Greek girl?? ha ha ha

Finally, I’d like to thank you for your time and hope to see more of your always outstanding artwork in albums to come! The ending words are yours; send a message out to all our readers!

It was a honor and priveledge for both me and my brother Giorgos to do this, and it was very cool to tell my story to Orpheus and the staff at I am currently working on two huge projects which I cant divulge until early next year both metal. I am also peparing for exhibits in NY, Japan and London hopefully I would love to do one in Athens. Finally I am preparing to unveil a new series of collectibles on my site soon from Blue Oyster Cult , Deep Purple, Fates Warning at And you can always keep tabs as to what I’m doing there by reading the news and diaries and signing up for the newsletter.

Life is very short, dont play it safe, work hard and follow your dreams, sooner or later you will get your chance , so get out there and make your mark!


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