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Doing The Art Justice: An Exclusive Interview With RAMON OSCURO MARTOS Of The ...And Justice For Art Books

By Alex Yarborough, Orlando Contributor
Saturday, February 20, 2021 @ 11:54 AM

"...originally, I wanted to include about 200 artwork stories in Volume 3, but it’s impossible to get everything you want, no matter how hard you try."

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Ramon Oscuro Martos is the author of the acclaimed book series …AND JUSTICE FOR ART: Stories About Hard Rock & Heavy Metal Album Covers. He recently completed the third volume of the series, which is available for order now. The books are a collection of graphics and never-before-revealed stories about the making of some of the most iconic album covers in the history of heavy music. Volume 3 features 260 glossy pages, 431 images and 102 exclusive interviews with bands like Amorphis, Judas Priest, Sepultura, Carcass, Katatonia, Morbid Angel, Megadeth, Enslaved, Cradle Of Filth, Nocturnus, Ihsahn, Sabaton, and acclaimed visual artists like Costin Chioreanu, Eliran Kantor, Travis Smith, Ken Kelly, Dave McKean, Hugh Syme and Rene Mivile. In addition, it includes an insightful foreword by veteran Swedish musician, Anders Nyrstrom, guitarist of acclaimed Metal bands KATATONIA and BLOODBATH. As a Graphic Designer and Metal fan myself, (and huge fan of his books), I am really looking forward to Volume 3. I make no secret that these are my all-time favorite books. Recently, I had a chance to ask Ramon a few questions about his publishing journey. Here is what he had to say:

KNAC.COM: What inspired you to write the first …AND JUSTICE FOR ART book, and how long did it take to write?

MARTOS: Initially, And Justice For Art was a weekly column I created in 2012 for the Canadian website, PureGrainAudio.com (now v13.net). I decided to start that column because I noticed that there wasn’t first-hand information available at the time about Metal album covers and, as a fan of visual arts and heavy music, I wanted to know more. Eventually, I decided to do a proper book instead of just continuing doing a weekly column. That’s how the first …AND JUSTICE FOR ART book was created. It took years to finish it. Now I’m publishing the third volume of the series. I can’t believe it!

KNAC.COM: How do you do research for your books?

MARTOS: Before doing any research, you need to have at least some basic knowledge about the subject you’re exploring. That was relatively easy for me because I studied Graphic Design/Advertising, and because I’ve been listening to Metal (and have even played in a few bands) for more than 30 years. Also, you need to use any connections available and have a proper professional approach in order to get interviews with bands, artists, etc. Basically, the research for any …AND JUSTICE FOR ART book (including the new Volume 3) starts by doing a serious analysis and selection of the artworks I want to explore. Then, I try to interview the people involved in their creations (usually bands and artists). Sometimes I even travel to the locations where the artworks were created, just to have the most vivid and complete information about them. It’s an arduous process. But it’s also a lot of fun.

KNAC.COM: What do you like to do when you are not working on your books?

MARTOS: In all honesty, I’m working most of the time. I work about 12 or more hours a day. I’m a professional musician and work for a private institution that demands a lot of attention. Besides that, I also work as a designer, I work on my own music and also write for a couple of publications. In addition, the …AND JUSTICE FOR ART project takes a lot of time, either creating the books, creating content for the web or taking care of people’s messages and the social media. I also dedicate some serious time to my family and I always try to watch a good film every day. I listen to music and read so I can learn something new. I also like to play chess as much as I can… but I confess being a very impatient player.

KNAC.COM: You not only wrote the …AND JUSTICE FOR ART books, but also designed them. Please describe your design process for your books.

MARTOS: I basically used Adobe Photoshop and InDesign to create the books. The most difficult aspect of this is establishing the overall look of the book and solving some of the little/big problems that occur during the process. And, because of my OCD, some things take longer than usual. I tend to get stuck if there’s something that visually bothers me. Even if I know the solution to a problem, sometimes I take longer than needed to solve it. This happened a lot during the making of the new Volume 3.

KNAC.COM: When did you realize you would be able to write Volume 2?

MARTOS: Originally, I thought that I was going to do just one …AND JUSTICE FOR ART book and release a very limited number of copies. The original version of Volume 1 was about 400 pages long. Because of the logistic and budgetary limitations, I decided to leave some material out. After the first book received worldwide acclaim (to the point that I had to print two additional editions to satisfy the demand) I decided to start working on the second part. I started gathering new information, new stories and graphics, etc. And, of course, I included some of the first book’s unused material. I even included some of that material in the new Volume 3.

KNAC.COM: What do you hope to achieve with Volume 3, and what made you decide that would be the last of the series?

MARTOS: After the success of Volume 2, I just felt it was worthy to complete a trilogy. At that time, I was hoping to take some time off, but decided to move ahead and started working on a third volume. I had to compile a lot of new information and also used some unused material from the previous books. I think Volume 3 is the perfect culmination of this long journey that started years ago. In my opinion, this is the best book of the series, and can be enjoyed without the need of reading the previous ones. I think I succeeded in rescuing many of these cover stories for posterity. Also, these publications give fans and people not interested in heavy music a better understanding of the genre’s visuals. I’m really pleased with the results, especially with this third book.

KNAC.COM: What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?

MARTOS: My least favorite part is knowing that I sacrificed a lot of time (literally hundreds of hours) that I could have spent with my family. Also, working so rigorously has been taxing for my well-being. This can be very stressing, especially if you are working alone and don’t know exactly when you’re going to finish.

My favorite part is what I call ‘tiny victories.’ It could be just getting an interview with someone I really wanted to feature in the book, getting an image I was looking for, concocting a written passage (could be a title, a sentence, a paragraph) that I really like how it sounds, finishing a specific chapter, etc. Each of those ‘tiny victories’ got me closer to the finish line.

KNAC.COM: Were there any album covers you wanted to include in your books, but couldn’t get the approval for?

MARTOS: That always happens. I don’t want to mention any artwork in particular, but originally, I wanted to include about 200 artwork stories in Volume 3, but it’s impossible to get everything you want, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes it’s just out of your hands. You just need to be able to adapt and use what you have to create the best product you can create.

KNAC.COM: How did you get Max Cavalera, David Vincent and Anders Nystrom involved in writing the foreword for your books?

MARTOS: I’ve been a music journalist for a long time. So, I have been able to develop many relationships at different levels. Max, David and Anders are among my musical idols and I have been able to interview them on several occasions through the years, so they knew me and liked my work. When I needed to have someone writing the foreword for each book, I just contacted them and sincerely ask them if they could help and they graciously accepted. I still can’t believe these Metal icons wrote the forewords for my books. For me, it’s a true honor and still unreal.

KNAC.COM: Who were some of your favorite musicians/artists you interviewed for your books?

MARTOS: That’s difficult to answer. It’s always a pleasure to interview visual artists I admire like Costin Chioreanu, Eliran Kantor, Andreas Marschall, Dan Seagrave and the awesome John Kosh, who used to work with W.A.S.P., THE BEATLES, THE WHO, THE EAGLES, etc. He has a lot of unbelievable stories. As far as musicians go, I love to interview Max Cavalera because he’s always so honest, down to earth and usually has amazing tales to tell. Travis Ryan of CATTLE DECAPITATION is usually very insightful. However, I would like to bring to attention to an interview I had with Jon Schaffer of ICED EARTH. This happened a few years back and I was able to finally include it in the new Volume 3. That interview is about album covers but he also mentioned some of his political opinions. I think some people will be interested in reading about it given Schaffer’s recent involvement in the political events that took place in Washington.

KNAC.COM: What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

MARTOS: You need to know as much as possible about the subject/topic you’re writing about and you have to embrace it. That’s more important than being a perfect writer. If you really don’t love or believe in what you’re writing about, then it’s not worthy. Readers need to feel the passion you have for the material. There are people out there producing written material (including books about Metal art) that clearly haven’t done their homework properly and that is reflected in the work they do. You can feel it through the lackluster tone, the cold writing style, etc. That’s disappointing. I know I’m not a perfect writer, I still have much to learn. But I try to communicate an honest passion through every word I write. I think …AND JUSTICE FOR ART – Volume 3 is a perfect example of that.

KNAC.COM: What are your personal all-time favorite bands and album covers?

MARTOS: QUEEN and AMORPHIS are my two favorite bands. I like everything in their discography. Some of my favorite Metal album covers are SKID ROW’s Slave To The Grind, DEATH’s Symbolic, GRAVE’s Out Of Respect For The Dead, and METALLICA’s …And Justice For All, among many others. I love these images for different visual and conceptual reasons. I think these are outstanding piece of Metal art and had the privilege of including them in the …AND JUSTICE FOR ART books.

KNAC.COM: Who do you think is the greatest album cover artist of all-time?

MARTOS: That’s too difficult... I refuse to answer! To be honest, I don’t think there’s only one an ‘all-time greatest’ cover artist. There are many amazing artists and pieces of art out there.

KNAC.COM: Do you think album cover artwork is getting better or worse?

MARTOS: I believe we’re currently in a good place regarding the quality of album covers, at least in the Metal scene. We have several masterful artists creating really great art. Some of them are featured in the …AND JUSTICE FOR ART books and I hope that Metal art is going to be even better in the future.

KNAC.COM: Thanks for your time, Ramon! Any final thoughts you would like to add?

MARTOS: I just want to invite people to check the …AND JUSTICE FOR ART books, especially the new Volume 3, which is now available at https://andjusticeforart.bigcartel.com/product/ajfa-vol-3. If you’re a fan of Hard Rock and Metal, you will love it. What is really awesome about the new book is that you don’t need to see or read Vol.1 or 2 to understand or enjoy Vol.3 or vice versa. Although they’re similar in concept, they’re totally independent from each other. I think that’s the best part of this project.

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