Veteran graphic designer Andrew Cremeans isn’t just an obvious talent with credits from legends like Walt Disney, Marvel, Google, Universal, and Amazon (just to name a few); he’s a massive Metallica fan. But it’s not only about the music for him, though to be fair, the music has played a starring role in his life since the mid-’80s. As of late, Andrew has found himself inspired by All Within My Hands’ charitable work and its impact on local communities. He considered a financial donation before it struck him: if he donated his art, the amount could grow exponentially. And that’s how we found ourselves with a completely unique poster drawing from iconography representing Metallica’s entire studio album catalog to celebrate the 40th Anniversary shows this week. Andrew and his online-exclusive poster benefitting AWMH are the latest subjects of our So What! Pop Quiz with Steffan Chirazi.
1. What was your first musical childhood memory?
I grew up in a very musical family. We are all huge music fans, and rock & roll was always front and center in one form or another. It was always around.
When I was young, my uncle was in a band that practiced in the basement of my grandparent’s house, and I would just sit on the steps and take in the volume and energy of the music.
I loved how it made me feel. I remember realizing early on that the band was playing as a team, and everyone else in the audience was positively affected by it as a result. They affected the audience emotionally and sometimes even physically just by doing something they loved to do. It was just pure energy transfer.
I think my deep-rooted love for live music started there.
2. And the first piece of drawn or painted art that caught your eye? How old were you? And describe where you saw it.
I can remember being seven or eight years old, just constantly flipping through my family’s various record collections and staring at the album art for hours. Some of the harder rock and more heavy metal covers were pretty subversive and almost made me feel like I was getting away with something by sneaking a peek at them. It was all very different and exciting to me.
I fell in love with album art in general around that time. Kiss’ Destroyer and Love Gun, all of Derek Riggs’ Iron Maiden cover art, all that stuff made a huge impression on me at a very young age without realizing it at the time.
3. You are a multi-faceted artist who spans not just video game art but some wonderful ink and other forms of illustration. Not to mention comic books. What does each area bring in terms of satisfaction and fulfillment?
Early in my career, I made a lot of video games for kids’ properties that had completely different art styles, so you had to learn to be an “artistic chameleon” to stay employed. We would sometimes have two or three projects with contrasting design aesthetics happening at the same time.
There’s a satisfaction and fulfillment when you finally nail a new art style you hadn’t known previously. It’s like finally finishing a large jigsaw puzzle.
It’s also pretty great that most of the different mediums and properties I’ve worked on have been so disparate. It’s made sure that the last 20 years of my career have rarely gotten boring or “samey” for too long. It’s always “on to the next project and style.”
4. Have you ever played a musical instrument or wanted to be a musician yourself?
Absolutely. I think a lot of young metalheads eventually fall on that path. Sometimes it’s easier to express yourself with an instrument than with your own voice, especially if you are reticent and awkward like I was.
At age 14 or 15, I had been playing guitar for about two weeks, so two buddies and I decided it was time to start a band and take over the world. We sounded like a drum set and a couple of amps falling down a staircase, but we found our “tribe” and an outlet for all our teenage angst.
I think finding like-minded friends and a creative outlet at that age is essential. I can’t imagine all the different ways my life could have gone without having art and music back then.
5. When did you first hear Metallica? Give us the full story.
I know the exact day - August 1, 1986, in Charleston, West Virginia.
They opened up for Ozzy at the very first concert I ever attended. My mother went with my sister and me because Ozzy was huge in the area at the time.
It was packed to the gills. Metallica came out first and completely blew everybody’s minds all over the place. James had his arm in a cast from skateboarding, and Cliff was just a huge blur of hair, headbanging literally the entire show. It was fantastic! It’s one of those nights where I wish I could hop back into my younger self and experience it once again, knowing what I know now.
It was so different from anything I had been exposed to. My sister became my tour guide for metal music after that.
6. And how about being asked to do this event poster? What sort of elements first signaled as being vitally important to incorporate? Tell us about the creative process to arrive where you did.
Well, as a fan, it’s one of the biggest honors of my career.
Metallica has always been incredibly visual. When I hear their music, it’s hard for me not to picture the album covers or the classic shirts that Pushead has designed over the years. The visual art associated with the band includes some of the most iconic designs in rock & roll history. Even the Metallica logo itself is simple, iconic, and inspired.
I think if you’re going to sum up the first 40 years of a band’s career into a single image, you’d want to pull in some iconography that has made such a cultural impact over that time and then try to make it feel like it has its own story.
I’ve always associated the classic wood-engraved printmaking art of Gustave Doré and Albrecht Dürer as being very elegant and classic, so I think that “feel” is what started as my initial mission. I tried to incorporate an essence of all of Metallica’s original studio albums on the image and added a few little Easter eggs here and there just as a fan.
7. If you were asked to present a piece of art which defined the heart of Metallica, what might it look like?
Specifically, when I think of the “heart” of Metallica, I think of all the charity work. All the people they are impacting with the All Within My Hands Foundation. I think of standing in a stadium with 45,000 other Metallica fans and feeling the camaraderie as James yells, “HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ALIVE?” I think about how much time they spend with the fans or the vulnerability in some of the lyrics that have helped people get through hard times. Loss. Recovery. Hope. Redemption. I would try to bundle those feelings up into something aesthetically pleasing.
8. Ascribe a spirit animal for each band member?
Hmmm… let me think about this. Well, Rob does the crab walk, so that’s a shoo-in, right?
9. What’s your favorite Metallica song?
Man, that is a tough question. When you have a band that has essentially been the soundtrack to your life, it’s hard to separate the music from the experiences.
The entire Puppets album was my gateway to the band and the record I’ve listened to probably more than any piece of recorded music in history. I know that’s a cop-out to say an entire album, but if I’m going to listen to one song on that album, I am going to make a session of it.
I can say that “Fixxxer” is a criminally underrated song and the one that I probably listened to the most while drawing this poster. I even put the “three Xs for the stone” on one of the gravestones in the back. I feel like the lyrics and passion in that song are some of James’ most personal work. You can feel his heart and soul in that song.
10. If Metallica were a video game, what sort would they be?
Man, I loved the Guitar Hero: Metallica console game from a few years back. You could play all the instruments, and it was really hard! My wife and I played it for years. However, if I were tasked to make a brand-new game with the “essence” of Metallica, it would involve some sort of adventure or pursuit. I associate the band with a constant state of pursuit. Never standing still. Pursuit of wisdom, pursuit of meaning, spirit, inspiration, betterment; abandonment of the status quo. That sort of stuff.
I’m not sure how that would translate as a game, but I’m sure if we added some sort of weapon and some zombies, it would work itself out.