I have just read a Facebook post by Avantasia's Tobias Sammet. It reminded me, that four years ago this week, his Mystery of Time album was released with my artwork on the cover, despite numerous objections from the record label.
Tobi briefed me on the design and was quite clear about his requirements. As is usual with me, I threw in a few of my own idiosyncrasies here and there. Tobi, I remember, was concerned about the metronome-shaped spider machine on the horizon, because he has a fear of spiders, to which I replied 'come on man, this is rock 'n' roll and perhaps the only heavy bit in the picture'. The spider remained. The goblins for me, are a nod to Arthur Rackham, my favourite book illustrator. I mentioned this to Tobi over the phone, who surprised me with his reply that he had just bought a Rackham book and was blown away by the images.
Tobi was pleased with the artwork when he received it. In his own words, he was 'taken away by its beauty'. Then the record label got their hands on it. I'll let Tobi explain this part:
'Some people at the label said that it doesn't look like a Metal artwork is supposed to. "Doesn't look mature, too blue, too wintry blablabla...". I remember the label saying it looks too snowish for an album coming out in spring, almost like a Christmas Calendar!'
Poor Tobi of course, was left to explain this to me. Here he reflects on our conversation:
'I was insecure (YES, really!), took the phone and called Rodney: "Rodney, they wanna urge me to go for a different artwork!" Rodney went: "Really? What do YOU think?" I went: "I might have to give in, otherwise they have an excuse if they don't sell it in the numbers they have in mind." And Rodney, the loveliest, quirkiest, nicest man you can meet, went: "They think they're experts, but they're truely interfering a*seholes without a clue about art. Tobi, one of the biggest artworks I've done is called Mirador, it's a winter scene, I sell art prints in winter and summer. And if you go for a summer scene on your cover, will they stop selling it in October? What about album covers with night scenes, will they sell them during day time?"...'
This was not the first time I had crossed swords with record company jobsworths; I've been routinely plagued by this throughout my entire near-fifty year career working with musicians. It still happens. I won't mention names, but just last year my art suffered, yet again, at the hands of record company executives. The art director of a young, multi-platinum selling hip hop artist, requested my work for his debut studio album. The well-known musician in question 'went nuts' when he saw it - I believe that's a good thing. I've always been on the same wavelength as the creative musicians and manage to give them exactly what they want. Sadly, on this occasion, the "label" disagreed, despite paying for and acquiring the artwork. Hopefully, I can show you the image some day.
Thankfully Tobi got his way, on his idea and my design. Slight compromise with the sky - the record company could not cope with a swathe of pink fire, so it was changed to blue:
The Mystery of Time album cover
I'll let Tobi bring the curtain down on this one with his final comments:
'Needless to say: THANK YOU RODNEY! We went for the artwork. A strange, un-trendy, beautiful piece of art that - looking back at it - feels AS OUT OF PLACE in this uniform scene and world as I FEEL! It fits! I love it'.
with Tobi Sammet at Bloodstock 2013 - despite having a professional obligation to exult himself in front of the masses, he remains a humble and down-to-earth bloke
- You can view Tobi's full post on Facebook
Well said Rodders!!! “record company jobsworths” hahaha! Cracked me up! x x
I love this album cover, I have the 12" vinyl on display in my dining room, as I do another of your masterpieces – on a Storyteller’s night.
I know you do signed prints of some of your stuff, if either of these are available, I would love to know.
You are immensely talented, not just because of your artistic talent, but because of your ability to translate musical concept into artistic visuality.
The artwork is phenomenal and it captures all that musical and lyrical magic the album brings to the listener. The mystery of time is Avantasia’s most atmospheric album and the artwork does its bit to maximize this. I hoped so for a continuation on the following album Ghostlights… Maybe on another Avantasia or Edguy album in the future. This is you best artwork in my opinion – even better than the classic On a storyteller’s night!
Brilliant album, and brilliant artwork. Like Tobias I’m arachnaphobic, but as Rodney said “It’s Rock and Roll”.
The moment I saw the art I absolutely loved it. It was the first piece of Rodney’s I bought at Bloodstock that year and I had the pleasure of meeting him as well. Truly magnificent, and am very proud to have it on my wall. I love Rodney’s work and Avantasia, I am rather glad you convinced him. At the end of the day, if the creative minds behind the project are happy, no one else really matters. Would love another collaboration someday in the future!