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It is little over a month since Cult Never Dies and Crypt Publications released the epic collection of occult and fantasy art, Owls, Trolls & Dead Kings' Skulls: The Art Of David Thiérrée [available here] . Containing approximately 200 works by the titular French artist, the book tracks David from his stark and monochromatic early 90s contributions to black metal bands such as Behemoth, Strid and Gorgoroth,  through to his extremely complex dark folk/fantasy creations of more recent years, coming full circle with contemporary illustrations for underground artists such as Celestia, Phazm, Satanic Warmaster, Warloghe, Manes, Kjeld and Mortiis.

In recent times David has kept himself as busy as ever, appearing at France’s famous Hellfest and the private black metal festival Les Feux De Beltane, while also preparing for a number of new exhibitions. Meanwhile the book has already attracted praise and attention from such varied corners as Metal RulesZero ToleranceMetal Hammer,  Rock & Folk, Noise MagazineThe Crypt Of The Red Cat as well as readers and metal artists such as Alvenrad, Allfader and Nergal of Behemoth. We interrupted the artist to catch up and find out more about recent developments.

Cult Never Dies: You were of course very anxious to make sure that Owls, Trolls & Dead Kings' Skulls: The Art Of David Thiérrée was as good as it could possibly be before approving it for publication. How do you feel about the finished book now you’ve had the chance to spend a month or so with it?

David Thiérrée: “The final result is beyond my expectations. In France we say that a good book, has a ‘good hand’. It's a subtle brew of a good weight, a solid binding, and the correct ratio between size and number of pages. It's hard to define, but it's a book you want to grab and open. The printing quality is great, the paper is thick and it's a pleasure to read."

Do you remember how it felt to finally hold it in your hands after so much time and work spent on the project? And do you have a sense of how reactions have been to the release so far from readers?

David: “Some people around me talked about a kind of achievement. I really can't agree with this, although I understand their point of view. It's more like stepping aside from the road, getting your breath back, stretching your legs for a few minutes, and watching the path you walked, then watching the path that remains to walk, before standing up and going back to your journey. As it works when I finish a piece, I don't look back at the time spent, I only try to realise the drawing is my own work, that I made it with my own hands. The same goes for the book. It's now here, it exists, and I have to realise that this is my work and my name on it.”

Everyone that ordered it so far is delighted and astonished with the amount of images, they did not expect the book to be that big. Watching an image on a screen and watching it inside a book aren't the same experience. Once people have the book in their hand, they most of the time buy it.”

Right, and you have begun to take the book to the people, so to speak, by exhibiting and showcasing it and your work generally. Can you tell me a bit about this and how you decide what work to show at events, given how vast your portfolio is now?

David: “Well, it depends on where I go and which space and facilities are available to me. I can focus on past album cover releases through framed prints (as most of the original works are sold or lost), or propose original works that are more diverse and fantasy/folklore focused. I've always been switching from works for music, and more fantasy-based art, but sometimes it's both, and my favourite way of doing things is when a band is choosing some work I made ‘freely’.

I've shown my work in several places, went five times in United States, for example, to show my work, make some artist talks, even do workshops. Most of the time my work is travelling to foreign countries, but not me, mostly when only a piece or two are featured. But it's really important to come and meet people, whether it's an art exhibition, or a music festival. I try to show what it available at the moment, considering that most of the time once the piece is made, it's sold. So I have to constantly create new pieces.”

I understand that at Hellfest you finally met face-to-face with Nergal of Behemoth, who is interviewed in the book about the covers you created for him in the early/mid-90s. How was that meeting, considering your first creative collaboration was about a quarter century ago?

David: “Yes it was quite a moment. We know each other for 23 years now, and we managed to keep in touch since, through mail, email, Myspace, Facebook, etc., despite the growing fame of the band, and the huge amount of work he put into his career. I had the chance to thank him again for the kind words he wrote in the book, and talk briefly about the past. But most of the time we spent was spent talking about the future… But I can't say more about this for the moment.”

You have always avoided promoting yourself overtly – do you feel this book has made your portfolio more accessible and has it raised your profile in a sense? And are you comfortable with that?

David: “I think it has raised my profile yes, but in a good way, as people are coming to me now. I'm really not at ease when it comes to selling myself, as I have difficulties to say to people, ‘Hey, folks! I'm the best drawer around, you should hire me or buy my stuff instead of the work from this guy other there!’ It may be stupid, but doing some publicity and waving around, jumping amongst people while throwing my business cards at their faces, talking constantly about my genius, is something that I can't do.

I respect people and their liberty to choose, so if they once see my work, it's their responsibility to take a pen and write my name somewhere, or bookmark my name in their browser – it's their choice to be curious or not. They're not stupid. The best I can do is slowly building my network by accepting peoples requests on my official ‘Athlete’ facebook page (as I find "artist" page a bit too pompous), hoping that people will help me by spreading my work and talk about me, as they do with the bands they love. I never ask for work, or get in touch with bands, rather bands are coming to me. The rare times I asked, I got rejected. As you said, the book, and the folks that will love it and talk about it, besides the album covers I create, are my best soldiers, my invincible army.”

If we can ask you to select three or four of your favourite works from the book, what would they be and why?

David: “I think I'll choose my favourite works based on the feedback I got about them from other people, and the impact they had on them. To see people react and tell me what they see and feel is my best reward. This is why I do what I do, and this is what makes me feel like a musician, or a cook, or a dancer: we're here to create emotions, to make people feel.

1. Trollskogen: A big watercolour and gouache piece.
2. Sanctuaire - Le Sang sur l'Acier. A pencil work enhanced with a bit of color layers. This drawing was named ‘Draugadrottin’, which is one of Odin's names. Odin as the lord of the ones who were bounded to him, and follow him after death in the Wild Hunt.
3. Giant Steps: Another pencil work, that's very evocative to people.
4. And finally, from the west, a rider, who wielded a great hammer of war. Metal jokes apart (yes, I love old Manowar) it is Sventevith, one of the two covers I did for Behemoth, which, as Nergal says, expresses perfectly the spirit of the album. The drawing is very old, but people still love it and consider it a bit as a ‘cult’ drawing.”

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your plans for the rest of the year?

David: “Well, after Hellfest in June, which was a blast, I'll do two exhibitions this August at Midgardsblot and Beyond the Gates festivals in Norway, where there will be an artist talk, and signing sessions too. Some more features are on the way, which I can't talk about right now. I also hope to put my feet once again in England, maybe in London. Stay tuned!”

Signed copies of Owls, Trolls & Dead Kings' Skulls: The Art Of David Thiérrée are available to buy HERE