Justin Bartlett wants to see your record collection. It’s a tradition as old as the hills, a way for metalheads to break the ice, and an opportunity to bond over the stuff we love the most: music. Metal. Records.
And, because we’re living in 2017, Bartlett wants to do it over Instagram. And he wants to give away prizes to some of the people who get involved. Bartlett, who is also the man behind VBERKVLT and some metal art you’ve most likely feasted your eyes upon over the years, is giving away some records that he’s illustrated or designed art for—Lord Mantis, Aura Noir, Hooded Menace—as well as records by other bands—Nails, Krisiun, Blood Incantation—and artwork prints and skateboards by VBERKVLT, Holy Mountain T-shirts, and 20 Buck Spin gift cards.
We caught up with Bartlett to find out what this is all about, what he’s working on next, and what classic metal bands and classic movies he’s mashed up together for some recent artwork.
Give us a bit of background on you and your history in metal.
I’ve been involved in some way for quite a while, starting with writing for zines and interviewing bands back in the ’90s. Following that, I broadened my involvement by developing websites for bands and labels (anyone remember Cadaver Inc.?), creating album covers, ads, shirts, and posters for a ton of clients within music. This was all before I starting sharing my illustration work, though. That’s what I’m really known for: a bit too obsessively detailed pen-and-ink album-cover illustrations. Actually, if anyone remembers the first Decibel tour, with Behemoth, In Solitude, The Devil’s Blood, and Watain, I created the main illustration for the campaign. Yeah, so I draw weird black-and-white shit—although I suppose 50 percent of underground metal releases are detailed black-and-white drawings, so that doesn’t really make my involvement sound that interesting—but, in a nutshell, that’s what I’ve done.
Justin Bartlett’s illustration for the first Decibel tour.
Tell us about the Instagram challenge; what do people need to do?
They need a mobile phone and the Instagram app. Okay, well, besides that, they need a decent record collection! The basic premise was just to get people to share photos of their heavy metal or extreme metal collection, but I threw in some exciting rules like having them alphabetized, and if you follow the rules you can win money and prizes. I know that a lot of us can just sign on to Discogs and order the most kult of records on demand, but it is cool to see what weird shit people actually picked up over the years or decades, organically speaking. So, if you’ve got too much free time, let’s see your alphabetized death, black, thrash, grind, and doom records and maybe you’ll win some free stuff in the meantime. Try to keep the nu-metal and post-metal to a minimum, though.
Who came up with the idea of this challenge, and why are you doing it?
Oh, this was an idea I had for a while. But it’s nothing original. After seeing a lot of other illustrators or brands create these challenges, I thought it would be a great way to spread my visual filth a bit and give away some cool prizes at the same time. I mean, I’ll be completely honest here—it’s just a great way to spread my illustration work through social media. Yeah, I do love records and, primarily, that’s my favorite type of illustration project, but as a self-employed artist, just like an independent band, most of us know we have to find new and clever ways to get fans. Even if you’re releasing great material or putting out good artwork, there’s quite a lot of “competition” out there. I hate to frame it in those terms as I don’t really consider myself to be competing with anyone but myself. The truth is that there’s definitely competition for an Instagram follower’s time and attention and sometimes you have to lower yourself to these kinds of cheap marketing ploys. One step above groveling?
Justin Bartlett’s illustration for Hooded Menace’s Darkness Drips Forth.
You’ve been out of illustrating for a bit but are getting back into it, right? So what’s next for you as far as projects go?
Hopefully others can relate to this, but frankly, spending so much time alone drawing and barely making a living really took its toll on me over the years. Both out of pragmatism and feeling burned out, I jumped ship and went back to the corporate world for a while. I lightly kept my involvement going by doing some client work here and there and had wanted to restart my illustration work in a more intelligent way; by intelligent, I mean how I work, not what I am drawing. Recently, though, the opportunity to work creatively for myself presented itself again. I’m pretty excited or scared shitless about that, depending on which day it is. As far as new work goes, I recently put out some super cheesy metal nerd mashup stuff which is different from what I am typically known for. One involves Darth Vader and Voivod, and another combines Black Sabbath and Alien. I terms of my usual style, I am illustrating the new Dragged Into Sunlight album. If you’re familiar with their first album, Hatred for Mankind, I have to come up with something to top that. It’s a challenge!