Years ago I witnessed the work of artist David Paul Seymour for the very first time. It blew my fucking mind! Big chunks of gooey brain matter mixed with splintered skull fragments slammed the walls around me, when suddenly a gorgeous warrior princess draped in the pilfered cloth of a god walked in, casually motioning to her wolves that it was time to feed. As my spirit hovered over my body, preparing to depart for another reality, the floor split open and out leaped a bearded sage riding a huge monstrous snake. He held aloft an eery orb filled with a dark purple mist which he placed delicately into my skull before stitching me back up. The experience was god-damned freaky, as you can imagine.
But it didn’t end there.
We all traveled together for what seemed like years, until we reached a seriously ominous castle that was carved into the jagged rock of the towering mountain it sat upon. The sage and the princess whispered something about finally reaching the realm called “Miikropolis”, or “Minneapolis” (it was hard to hear). As we approached the castle, we noticed it was engulfed in a swirling black fog and protected by an army of snarling savage beasts. The thick vines that covered the door parted as we drew near, allowing us to continue on inside into a grand throne room, where, after a lengthy walk, we stood at the feet of David Paul Seymour himself!
High atop many crumbling stone steps sat a throne within a huge green skull, and behind it hung the wings of a bird that must have been 40′ tall. David’s beard extended all the way down the steps, and it was tended to by some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen (they were freakin’ HOT). David’s eyes were shock white, his head crowned in thorns, and his robe was colored in a shifting pattern of deep orange and red. As he stared down at us, a slight smirk appeared on his face. Suddenly, he stood! He swung his mighty sword in our direction, and the banners that hung throughout the hall became engulfed in flames! “SPEAK!” he bellowed, with a voice that shook the room and squeezed your soul.
And here’s how that conversation went…
Hey David! I’ve heard that prior to being one of the most sought after artists in the metal/indie-rock scene, you spent a good portion of your life as an architect. What led to such a big shift in the type of work you were doing?
Actually, I was and still am a draftsman. Not actually an architect. Essentially I work 2 full-time jobs right now. I go to work every day to a job that I genuinely dislike at this point and I draw art for bands (mostly) for the other half of the day. Almost every day I draw or sketch for my bands. I generally don’t take any days off with the DPS stuff. I started drafting right out of high school and I honestly can’t really complain to much. It’s been very, very kind to me and my family as far as paying the bills. But I’ve worked my ass to the bone over the last 2 years grooming to get myself where I’m at, and I’ve literally managed to make the DPS stuff equal what I make as a draftsman. The good news is, after the kind of year I just had, I am actually putting plans in place to leave the “dayjob” in 2015.
That’s awesome! Do you have any advice for aspiring artists, or for people looking to make a break from the 9 to 5 to pursue their dreams?
Yes. Work your fucking ass off. There are no shortcuts in anything in life and rarely does anything just fall in your lap. I learned that pretty quick. If you want to get somewhere – wherever that is – bust your ass till you get there. I love to draw but there’s plenty of times when I wanted to take a night off or go to bed early but I pushed through that shit. I’ve sacrificed going to concerts, going out with friends, watching tv, dicking around for the results of a bigger goal. The only thing I never sacrifice is time with family. My studio is just off of the living room so even when I’m drawing I’m actively hanging out with them. Also, while it’s the right thing to do to continually push yourself to get better and better, but once you find what works, get better by honing that. Don’t go fucking around with other hit. Stay the course. I made the mistake years ago of trying to draw, spraypaint walls, make stickers, screenprint… You know, do freaking everything under the sun. Jack of all trades, master of none. Once I saw the value of doing just one thing well, I kept at that. And I kept peeling it back to the simplist niches I could. If you look at what I do day-to-day, you will see while each piece is different, my operations are exactly the same. That’s why I am where I am. Simplicity. I’ve made myself into a go-to guy in a small, tight-knit community. And it’s a community I love. That’s the other thing. Be part of something you genuinely love. Don’t fake your way into anything. If you don’t love what you do and who you do it for, everyone will smell you out pretty quick. Like a fart in a locked car. The final thing is, treat your clients right. One of the things I’m also known for is my “customer service”. I have so many clients come back and back again to me, and it’s not just for my drawing ability. It’s cause they know I’m professional and they know they can count on me to deliver with a smile.
So where did you grow up, and when did you realize this art thing was pretty cool? You weren’t one of those kids that drew all over the walls, were ya?
I was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. I moved my family to Minneapolis in 2002. I am literally freaking out right now cause I just realized I’ve been here for 12 years. Holy shit! Where did all that time go?!? Lol. So, funny you ask, cause YES indeed I was the kid who drew all over the walls. And the lampshades and my clothes. I started drawing when I could hold a pencil. For real. My parents never needed a babysitter. They literally could take me with them to some friends house and set me up with a stack of blank paper and one ballpoint pen and you’d never know my ass was there. For somebody who struggled with the most intense ADD you could imaging (still do), if you gave me something to draw or a good record and headphones, I could just go into another world literally for hours at a shot. When I hit my teens, I discovered punk rock and skateboarding, and like many other kids my age that I could play music in addition to just listening to it. I became hyper-active in my scene, being a part of the music and skateboarding community. Not just playing and skating, but helping to promote shows and events through drawing flyers and tape covers, etc. I think that’s what I love so much about the Stoner Rock/Doom scene I’m a part of now – it has that exact same DIY ethic and spirit and also sense of strong community as back in the punk days. And that’s saying a lot ’cause thanks to the interwebs, this community is spread out over the whole world. It’s an awesome time.
As a kid, were there any artists that just knocked you out?
Ando Hiroshige is still my favorite all-time artist, but that’s a whole other league no one else can be in. Since my teens, my favorite artists have been Pushead, Jim Philips, Frank Frazetta, Brian Bolland, Todd McFarlane (mostly his Spider-Man era) and Raymon Pettibon. The DNA of everything I do is literally contained in the work of those six dudes.
Is it true that you were in a punk band years ago? What can you tell me about it?
A hundred years ago, I was in several punk rock bands. The most notable was a band called Revision A. That band lasted for a total of about 5 years off and on. We put out a few tapes, one cd and did one roadtrip tour in addition to playing almost every weekend somewhere in our hometown area. Clearly, that band or any of the others I was in ever made it anywhere notable but this was a time when there wasn’t any internet to speak of (we didn’t even have computers in those bands) let alone smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, etc. So what we did accomplish in those days was pretty fucking unbelievable. We mostly played 40 person bars and VFW halls and shit like that. Dudes my age will know exactly what I’m talking about. While nothing came of those bands, I can tell you that had I not been a part of all that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. That work ethic of DIY (TRUE DIY) is why I am who I am.
You must smile like a Cheshire when you look back on the bands you’ve created work for. Clutch, Agnostic Front, The Sword, Red Fang, Graveyard, Earthless, Kadavar, Wo Fat, Truckfighters… dude, what a line-up! Was there a project that you’re particularly proud of, or one that had you pounding the walls?
Oh dude, you have NO IDEA! If today me could travel back in time and tell teenage me who I’d be drawing work for and who I’ve gotten to hang out and have beers with, I’d shit my diaper for sure. I’m genuinely proud of everything I do. Obviously, I get more stoked over doing stuff for a “famous” band, but I’ve built my reputation on doing the same level of work for the garage band as the famous one. I make a point to listen to the music of every band while I draw their project and they are all good. Good music is good music, regardless of stature. And today’s garage band is tomorrow’s potential Metallica. They all start somewhere.
Trashed hotel rooms, sports cars in the pool, drug-fueled orgies… that’s the life of an in-demand album cover artist, right? RIGHT?
Haha. Suuuuuurrreeeeee. As I said before, I have a family to feed and I’ve sacrificed any kind of social life to get where I’m at. That won’t have to be my existence forever, but it was key in building what I have. I AM looking forward to replacing my POS car I’ve had for 11 years with a new pickup truck. How’s that for rockstar? Huh? Huh?
You’ve also created a lot of rad work with Zac over at Heavy Clothing. How did that relationship come about?
I have such a horrible short-term memory. Ask him. Lol. I have no idea. Knowing me and him, one of us probably just reached out to the other and said “Want to do a shirt?” Zac is definitely one of my longest-standing and most prolific client. I think some of that friendship is we are both Southerner transplants to Minnesota. Something there in the blood I suppose. And he is the most chill and respectful client I could ever ask for.
In addition to your stuff with Heavy, you’ve also drawn some rad bikes for Red Desert.
Yea, Red Desert is a kickass legendary local Stoner band here in Minneapolis. I’ve only done two shirts for them, and only one shirt had a biker culture image to it; so it’s funny how iconic that one shirt has become. It’s become for me I think what the screaming hand became for Jim Phillips. It was one graphic among hundreds but it’s the one people talk about so much. Pretty funny. But I will take it. I can’t imagine anything worse than making a career out of art and never having at least one image that stands out in everyone’s minds.
Are there any artists out there today that you’re really digging?
This is going to sound really shitty and stuff, I hope no one takes it the wrong way. I am horrible at following the work of other artists. Especially in the community I’m in. Part of that is protecting what I’ve built, part of it is a safeguard against me unintentionally biting somebody else’s shit. I just try REALLY hard NOT to look at other artist’s stuff or even becoming too friendly with them. I’ve had really, really bad experiences being friends with other artists. That shit always ends poorly. At least for me. I went out of my way years ago to cultivate a scene, build art shows and collectives around helping and empowering other artists in my community and I was ultimately met with backstabbing and name calling and shit going on behind my back that broke my heart. That’s why I don’t help other artists, I don’t make friends with or hang out with them or go out of my way to encourage them or anything. Again, I know that sounds shitty but that’s where I’m at. No one knows my story or how many times I had my back and my heart stabbed so I don’t rightly care what anyone thinks about my attitude there. It’s my business. I also notice there only seems to be a handful of artists out there working along side me who seem genuine and seem to match my ethic. You can tell when someone has that fire in their belly. That goes further with me that just talent alone. That being said, I love and admire the work of leather artisan Pascal Davyat, tattoo artist Forrest Cavacco, and illustrator Gorgeous George. I love what they do and have the ultimate respect because they’re the real fucking deal. And I’m proud to count them as friends.
Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on next? Any upcoming shows or products that we should keep our eyes peeled for?
2015 has some really cool stuff coming that I’ve either done and haven’t been able to show yet or haven’t started drawing yet at all. I’ve got some sweet stuff waiting to drop that I’ve done for Gas Monkey in Dallas, TX; Volume 4; Earthless; a killer collaboration with Pascal and Forrest; the Burial Beer artwork I’ve done for them will start canning and selling in early 2015; and of course the album cover art for the Jimi Hendrix “Electric Ladyland” tribute record. I’ve also signed on to do some cool stuff with Nuclear Blast Europe to do some art for some of their killer bands. Lots of cool shit. And that’s only the stuff I can even talk about! I am also doing a solo retrospective art show at Nihil Gallery in Brooklyn, NY (UNinvited Festival) in April. It will feature 2 years worth of my original sketches and inkings for all the band work that I’ve done.
I always close out an interview with the following question ’cause you never know what you’re gonna get: If you could travel through time, where would you go?
I would travel back to the day before my little brother died and spend the entire day with him. I’d tell him I love him one more time and he and I would have a pretty epic fucking day.
Wow, that would be an awesome day! That’s without a doubt the best answer I’ve heard to that question so far. Thanks again for the opportunity to speak with you for Doom Cycle, it’s been a blast, and I’m sure everyone who’s reading this is as stoked as I am to get a peek into the man behind so many fantastic works of art. All the best to you, David, and I’ll be looking forward to having my mind blown by your work for many years to come.
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- Art by David Paul Seymour