Interview with Juanjo Castellano

One of the busiest cover artists these days must be legendary Juanjo Castellano. He is one of those few who really impress me with his works and one of which I can't ever get enough. I guess anybody who is into extreme metal has one or the other album where you can find one of his wonderful paintings on. Though he is a very busy man he found some time to answer my questions with a very nice detail – enjoy reading!


Hello Juanjo, how are you?

Hello Michael, at the moment I have a serious cold that I hope to get over as soon as possible, otherwise everything is fine more or less.

How did you start your career and how did you end up designing covers for metal bands?

My artistic studies actually began in the world of traditional animation. When I finished my studies I joined an American company based in Madrid. During the years I worked there, I was lucky to meet illustrators, comic artists, painters and designers from whom I learned a lot. It was my first contact with illustration, color, digital art, etc. Since then I have been improving on my own, self-taught, and learning day by day to create complex art on a continuous basis. And being a fan of metal in general, it was clear that that was going to be my goal....working for all kinds of bands within the extreme metal scene.

Where do you get the ideas for the covers? Do the bands give you certain guidelines or do you bring yourself in?

Having published more than 400 albums around the world with my art, I could tell you that ideas for art can come in very different ways. There are times when bands want a very specific and detailed concept. Other times I'm the one who takes the initiative usually based on the album title. There are times when bands simply choose works that are already finished, and that I did on my own. As I say, there are many ways to do things, all are ok.

Is there a special way you start creating them?

It also depends, if it is something new, a new path that you are not clear about where it will go, so, for me a good way is to create tones or spots randomly, and from there polish smaller shapes of objects that suggested the first strokes colors. If the idea is well defined from the beginning, it is simply a matter of creating a sketch and polishing it from there.

Are you currently painting a new work and if so, for whom? How many covers do you create each month on average?

Oh yes, many works currently in the studio, some almost finished and others in their first steps. The covers for the new albums of REVEL IN FLESH, SENTIENT HORROR, THORNBRIDGE, CIVEROUS, CENTENARY, DEMORED, KAIVS, MURDERY, RITUAL FOG, BARBARIAN SWORDS, REFORE, NEMESIS, SINISTRUM, QUINTA ESSENTIA, SKELETAL REMAINS, VARATHRON and IN SECRETO CONSPIRAMUS are recently finished and now very serious things are coming like the new THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, HASEROT, DARKENED, WHEN AT NIGHT, MASS BURIAL, and TYPHONIAN among others. A lot of work for sure. I couldn't tell you how many jobs I do in a month since that depends on their can spend the entire month with one piece, or be able to complete 2 or 3.

Which band was the most fun to work with?

Well, let me think, recently I really enjoyed the cover I made for black metallers IN SECRETO CONSPIRAMUS. A classic piece with a dark topic and certain special and fantastic elements. Of course, I can't forget the one I did for MAJESTIES Vast Reaches Unclaimed, with a very deep and special concept. Another, without a doubt, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, Verminous, with all those insects and sewers in a very classic style. The one from VOID CEREMONY was very interesting, Threads Of Unknowing, or the one from the second album by MOLESTED DIVINITY, with all those aberrant forms of flesh and machine. My first work for German Death Metal act TYPHONIAN was cool as well... I could name many more.

Do you listen to heavy metal yourself? What styles and bands do you like the most?

Of course, I've been listening to this music since the year IRON MAIDEN released "Somewhere In Time". A lifetime. I enjoy classic heavy metal, black metal, doom, and thrash of course, but I could tell you that the genre that has marked me the most is Death Metal. My favorites, BOLT THROWER, especially their classic albums like Warmaster, The Fourth Crusade, Realms Of Chaos or For Victory. the old ENTOMBED, with what is for me the best Death Metal album ever released, Left Hand Path. And so many, MORBID ANGEL, DISMEMBER, MALEVOLENT CREATION, IMMOLATION, INCANTATION, etc etc...

Also bands like DISSECTION, EMPEROR, PRIMORDIAL, SATYRICON, IMMORTAL are just awesome. Classic Thrash Metal bands just like SLAYER, SABBAT (UK), FLOTSAM AND JETSAM, NUCLEAR ASSAULT, etc. More epic stuff like PRIMORDIAL too, I love this band.

Coming back to art, which artists or paintings inspired you to become a painter?

Within the metal scene, Dan Seagrave, Necrolord, Kris Verwimp and  Andreas Marshall. Paleo artists such as John Sibbick (the guy that painted tons of dinosaurs but also the "Realms Of Chaos" album cover of BOLT THROWER), Douglas Henderson, Raúl Martin, or Mark Hallet. Comic artists like Joe Kubert, John Buscema, Mike Mignola. Illustrator just like Alam Lee and John Howe, for all it's the Lord Of The Rings amazing works ...big, big inspiration for me as well.

Are there any styles of art that you can't relate to? I don't particularly like Joseph Beuys or pop art, for example.

Not especially, I respect all forms of artistic expression even if I don't pay attention to them or don't particularly like them. AI sucks!!

Which artist, who is also responsible for album covers, do you like or which cover of his?

For me, Dan Seagrave's work has perhaps been my greatest inspiration. In fact, I would tell you that, specifically, the cover of "Left Hand Path" symbolizes like no other what a musical genre represents. For me, death metal or the perfect representation of death metal is "Left Hand Path" by Entombed painted by Dan Seagrave…all those twisted shapes, dead nature…the perfect work for the perfect album.

What is the best metal cover of all time in your opinion? And maybe also the worst?

Just like I told you already, "Left Hand Path" by ENTOMBED is my all time favorite. I could name some of the great Andreas Marshall pieces for BLIND GUARDIAN too, and the John Sibbick painting for "Realms Of Chaos" by Bolt Thrower.

The worst??

Oh mate, what a question, right now I can't remember some really bad artwork, just let me think a bit about it…

Finally, two "what if" questions...for one, which band would you most like to draw a cover for one day?

Ufff, some many, I could say BOLT THROWER or PRIMORDIAL.

Secondly, if you could choose any already released album (any album) that needs a cover, which one would it be?

Easy answer, "LEFT HAND PATH" of ENTOMBED.

Thank you very much for the interview!!!

Thanks to you Michael, and so sorry it takes so long to replay. I really enjoyed the time with your questions.

Entered: 1/10/2024 5:51:29 PM