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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Roger Dean, July 2005
    Posted: July 16 2005 at 00:20

Dear Members and Visitors:

 

As you may know, in late 2004 ProgArchives was contacted by legendary artist Roger Dean (Yes, Asia, Greenslade, Badger et al) about entering into a mutually beneficial relationship.  We were and continue to be honored that Mr. Dean chose ProgArchives from among all the prog-rock websites on the Internet.  Just before year's end, that relationship was formalized.  Among other things, mutual links were set up between Mr. Dean's website and ours, and we held an essay contest, the prize for which was a complete set of Roger Dean desktop wallpaper.

 

Mr. Dean then offered to undertake an exclusive no-holds-barred interview with PA.  I put together a series of questions, and also included questions from those of you who got them to me in time.

 

Here, then, is the ProgArchives exclusive interview with Roger Dean.  Please join me in thanking Mr. Dean for his time, patience and support!

 

Maani

For the Admin Group

 

-------

 

PA:  Can you tell us a little about your childhood, and especially when you discovered an ability and/or love for art, and how that came about?

 

Roger Dean: Surprisingly, I suppose, I took it pretty much for granted and didn’t really focus on art as a possible future until my last year in school and, in fact, even then I did not realize that there were so many different branches of art and that one was supposed to choose. So a few days after my 17th birthday I started at Canterbury College of Art without really having a clue what I was supposed to be doing.

 

I have told this story many times because for many reasons it had a great effect upon me. All the “art” students spent the first few weeks in a general induction class drawing and painting a naked lady who was in fact just a couple of years older than us and being just turned 17 back in those unenlightened times I and most of my contemporaries didn’t know how to cope, most of us had never seen a naked lady. We didn’t want to stare but how could we draw her otherwise?  It was both heaven and hell. A few days into this, at the height of my discomfort, the principal came into the class and called out my name and loudly informed me that I should not be there, I knew it must be true--I was caught in some sort of illicit dream.

 

He took me into his office and said the problem was my exam results, which surprised me as, although not genius, I figured I had done as well or better than many of the others in the induction class.  The problem however was the opposite.  I had passed in mathematics and physics and he thought that to be inappropriate for an artist, so he sent me off to study industrial design. Too late I suppose, as I already had gotten a taste for art.  However, I very soon also got a taste for industrial design. In fact, I enjoyed all art and all design and that’s how I have come to think of myself: as an artist and designer.

 

PA:  Did you have any "formal" art education after that?  Also, did you find yourself drawn - either initially or later - to any particular medium?  Any particular subject matter?

 

Roger Dean: I received my National Diploma in Design (NDD) from Canterbury College of Art, as well as my Higher National Certificate (HNC) in cabinet making.  I received a 1st for my Masters degree from the Royal College of Art in London M.Des RCA and received an honorary Doctorate from the Academy of Art, University in San Francisco.

 

As to particular subject matter --- Landscape Painting and architecture. And medium Drawing and Painting.  I enjoy painting on canvas and watercolour and working in 3D (real 3D).

 

PA:   Who were, and are, your favorite artists in any genre (i.e., of any period)?  Why?  Were (are) you specifically influenced by any of them?

 

Roger Dean: Too many to mention but, fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view, some aspects of my art history education were so bad that I did not discover many of the artists who would have profoundly influenced me until it was too late to make any difference.

 

PA:   What kind of music did you listen to as a teenager and young adult?  Did you find yourself drawn to rock and/or prog rock, and, if so, why?

 

Roger Dean: I was 12 years old when I first heard Elvis Presley and it changed my world; it was amazing, stunning, fantastic. I then went to live in Hong Kong and there was Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, etc. As a student I never had any money so I missed the Beatles, etc., and started buying around the time of Led Zep and Pink Floyd. The year I left college I shared an apartment with four or five other people, one of whom was Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd.  In the same building two floors down, Hipgnosis was getting started, and I knew them well.

 

PA:   Were you involved in other art projects - professionally, semi-professionally, or just for fun - prior to doing album covers?

 

Roger Dean: Yes. I had a very successful series of exhibitions with my brother, Martyn, that were fairly radical furniture designs, and I also designed the seating for Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.

 

PA:   What was the first album cover you did?  How did that come about?  Did that lead you naturally into the genre, or did other factors come into play before you became seriously involved in album cover art?

 

Roger Dean: It was for GUN.  Jon Anderson had briefly been their singer, but I did not meet him then. GUN were managed by Ronnie Scott and they saw my work in the course of my working with Ronnie, and asked to use one of my sketch book paintings as a cover. I said “yes,” but repainted it.

 

PA:   You are, of course, most closely associated with Yes. Can you tell

us how that came about, and why you believe it turned into such a unique and fruitful collaboration?

 

Roger Dean: I was toting my portfolio around to anyone who would give me 5 minutes and I met Phil Carson who was running Atlantic in England and Europe. He said he really liked my work and wanted me to do a cover, but said that he had only signed two bands: Yes and Led Zep.  He said he would show the first of these who needed a cover and it was Yes, and the rest as they say is history.  The reason I think it worked with Yes was because they gave me the space to develop my own solutions; there were no professionals who thought they knew best, no art directors.

 

PA:   Your illustrations on the early Yes albums contained an ongoing story about a destroyed planet being relocated.  Was it ever your intention to develop this story, perhaps through animation or narrative?

 

Roger Dean: The simple answer is “yes.”  From the get-go it was conceived as a narrative which was worked out before I even started sketching, and was fully developed as a story, and, for that matter, as a movie script. It now exists as a story within a story for the movie provisionally titled “Floating Islands,” which is currently in development. It is a full length animated feature film intended for theatre release. See my website www.rogerdean.com for complete details.

 

PA:   Speaking of collaboration, to what extent do you actually "collaborate" with a group?  Do they merely pick from an existing series of paintings, or do you draw each cover in response to something - e.g., the music, album title, or album concept?

 

Roger Dean: We talk, sometimes a great deal, but it is rare if ever that there is a collaboration in the sense you mean.  Strangely enough, a band usually puts its most successful efforts in defining an album into the title, either directly or by allusion.  For example, Fragile and Close to the Edge.

 

Tales from Topographic Oceans probably came nearest to being a collaboration. Jon and I talked more or less non-stop for eight or nine hours about patterns in the landscape as we flew over Siberia on our way to Japan in 1973.

 

PA:  How do you choose which groups you will do work for?  Have you ever turned down a group who wanted you to do an album cover?  Would you do an album cover for a group you didn't like (the music of), or for a form of music you didn't enjoy?  What group(s) do you feel "complemented" your own style best?

 

Roger Dean: This is a very organic process, and I think fate, or destiny, or chance, depending upon your point of view, plays a big role in how things happen. I do know a lot of people who could broadly be described as making up the “Progressive Rock Community,” but at that time I was not aware that such a thing existed. I like all kinds of music and don’t think of myself as a “Prog Rock Fan” or the fan of any other specific thing.  I could just as happily listen to ‘Madame Butterfly,’ ‘Yes,’ ‘Howling Wolf,’ ‘Led Zep,’ ‘Link Wray,’ ‘Pink Floyd’ or even ‘Eminem.’

 

PA:   Following up on that, is it important for you to listen to the music of a group prior to creating a cover for them, or is that not necessary?  In either case, how often do you do that?

 

Roger Dean: That is almost never possible no matter how desirable. The cover is often needed long before the music is finished. I have had the experience of a record company flying me halfway around the world to “hear” an album being created in a studio, only to hear the same drum and bass track being played day after day, and never knowing which track it was. The useful thing is spending time with the band talking.

 

PA:   Why do you think there is such a "natural" relationship between your art and prog music in particular?

 

Roger Dean: I would like to think anything I did was “natural,” but I do feel very fortunate, very privileged when people think a relationship is “natural” and it’s something I am very grateful for.

 

PA:   Are there any places on earth that capture your imagination, inspire you, or simply give you pleasure?

 

Roger Dean: Yes!! The mountains of Scotland and Wales, the mountains of Hong Kong (long buried in developments), Utah, and Arizona. The South Downs Pine Forests … so many places … Big Sur,  Point Lobos in California, New England.

 

PA:  Has the demise of vinyl, and the 12" sleeve, impacted how you go about providing an illustration for an album?  When designing LP sleeves, were you conscious of the fact that the left hand portion would form the back cover and the right the front, and did this affect the layout?

 

Roger Dean: The simple answers: no and no. I make a painting to work as a painting with no reference to how it has to work as a cover. This often changes with different formats anyway, but no, the painting is my sole focus.

 

PA:   Although most artists hate this question, one of our members would like to know which album cover(s) of yours you consider personal favorites.  If you do answer, what makes them favorites?

 

Roger Dean: In two styles: Asia Alpha and Yes Relayer--which I consider as tinted drawings--and The Dragons Garden, The Centre of the Earth, Red Dragon, and Floating Jungle, representing a very painterly approach. In the former, they were very much planned in advance. With the latter, they evolved gradually as I worked … with me personally getting a lot of feedback from the canvas.

 

PA:   Do you also paint straight landscapes, or portraits, or any other subject matter or style that might surprise many of your fans?  Do you accept commissions for work outside music, and, if so, which of these are you most proud of?

 

Roger Dean: Hmmmmmmm, not really in the sense I think you mean. However, most of my paintings are drawn in every sense from real life.  Nearly all my trees, for example, are portraits or combinations of portraits of trees.

 

PA:  Is there any "label" that bothers you: "Album cover artist?"  "Fantasy artist?"  "Pop artist?"  Etc.?  How would you best describe yourself and your work?

 

Roger Dean: All these would bother me. Any label such as these are self-limiting.  I would just call myself an artist. Not any particular kind of artist. When asked what I do for a living, I say “I’m an artist,” or “I’m an artist and designer.”

 

PA:  Did you ever work in tandem, or in any capacity, with the Hipgnosis group, and Storm Thorgeson in particular?  What, if anything, do you think of their work, particularly the covers they did for prog groups like Pink Floyd?

 

Roger Dean: Yes. Storm is an old friend and a great artist and I love Hipgnosis’ work.

 

PA:   Are there any other album cover artists (in any genre) whom you admire?  If so, why?

 

Roger Dean: Many, but here’s a few: Rick Griffin, Mouse and Kelly Vaughn Oliver.

 

PA:  You are involved in quite a number and variety of projects, including architecture.  Can you talk about some of them?  Any future projects in mind?

 

Roger Dean: There are quite a number of projects, and when I can we will announce them on my website.

 

PA:  Forgive this question, but so many of our members are so incredibly curious: did you (or do you) dabble in any "illicit substances?"  If so, what, if any, effect did they have on your art?

 

Roger Dean: I don’t smoke, drink or take anything …pretty much not even caffeine … and apart from fish, I’m more or less a vegetarian.

 

PA:  Thank you so much for your time and patience.  And thank you again for making ProgArchives your "prog music" home on the Internet.  We are honored to have you in our "family," and please know that you always have a "home" here with us.

 

Roger Dean:  My pleasure.



Edited by maani
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2005 at 01:07

Thanks Maani.

Excellent interview. He sounds like a real nice guy and such a clever person. I cannot think of another artist whose long standing relationship with music and a musical group has been so influential. When I think of a Yes album, I naturally picture the covers and their interconnectedness.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2005 at 01:47
Great interview, however im surprised that there was no question regarding his house designs, I should have sent in a question about it
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2005 at 03:27
Great interview...Thanks Roger (and maani)!

Roger kind of passed over my Storm Thorgerson question though

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2005 at 10:03

Superb Maani, a real coup for Progarchives!

Some very interesting answers from Roger, he is refreshingly frank and honest with his responses.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2005 at 11:03
RIO/AVANT/ZEUHL - The best thing you can get with yer pants on!
EXERIOR Experimental tech/death/progmetal from Norway!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2005 at 12:54

What a pleasure to read. Roger Dean's the coolest!

Great job, maani.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2005 at 16:21
Excellent!  It's kind of interesting to think that Roger Dean was once in the same apartment as the guys starting Hipgnosis.  That's kinda cool, but I wouldn't have wanted to be in the same room as Syd!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 19 2005 at 10:33

Hi MAANI...thanx for a great interview,Roger Dean are one of my favorite

album designer/painters along with Rodney Matthews/Rick Griffin/ Mouse/

Hipgnosis...etc.

T.larz.

 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 20 2005 at 17:50
Great interview
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 26 2005 at 17:07
He seems to be a very inteligent man.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 27 2005 at 07:09
Originally posted by Syntharachnid Syntharachnid wrote:

Excellent!  It's kind of interesting to think that Roger Dean was once in the same apartment as the guys starting Hipgnosis.  That's kinda cool, but I wouldn't have wanted to be in the same room as Syd!


Just what I was thinking - talk about being in the right place at the right time.....

Cheers Maani - excellent interview!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 27 2005 at 11:00

Thanks Maani.

How about Stacia from Hawkwind next?

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 27 2005 at 12:25

Another fine, interesting and illuminating interview -- good questions, sensibly (and sensitively) asked!Thumbs Up

Thanks to Roger Dean and Maani!Clap

Let the monkey drive.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 07 2005 at 16:09

Interesting interview that gives an insight into the life of a genuine artist. Clean living Roger Dean who creates images without the use of hallucinogens, or without particular attention to the albums his work decorates is a bit sobering. Nevertheless, it underlines that he is his own man.

Very pleased Maani  -  great job!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2005 at 17:23
Great job...as I mentioned in another thread, I met him a year or so ago at a comic convention and he was great. Very nice, slightly reserved, but nice nonetheless...I couldn't believe I was meeting the guy in the first place! I got a signed t shirt (and like a dope, I wear it frequently), and a signed print...amazing!
If you like art of musicians, check my site (the music section) and tell me what you think! http://www.kenmeyerjr.com
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 30 2005 at 20:43
a day late and a dollar short, but great interview! 
I find your lack of Bassoon disturbing.....
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 16 2007 at 22:24
What a great artist!
Thanx for your art Roger
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