ROK . No words needed
Rok is a true enigma and a stalwart of true heavy metal. A name and reputation that only grows in stature as time progress. His artwork and voice helping create the Legend that is Sadistik Exekution and solo output Burning Metal. His signature artwork that graces the covers of many new artists and continues to be highly sought after. Always busy Rok vowed to never give any more interviews, so we are very honoured to have a conversation 25 years in the making.
Starting at the moment he got into Metal ...
"It would have been in two different stages. Firstly way back in the early 70’s I remember seeing the Black Sabbath Paranoid album and something about the look of the cover and the inner fold out photo got me. Back in the early 70’s hard rock music was very big and bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were having hit songs and a lot of radio airplay, so being exposed to the sound of this form of music, with its heavy guitars, bass and pounding drums no doubt struck something in my young head which has remained there for the rest of my life. However, it wasn’t until 1982 that I started getting into what we’d called heavy metal and some of my favourite bands in the early 80’s were AC-DC, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Motorhead. So some of these bands, especially Sabbath, Priest and Motorhead I still listen to almost every single day!"
The love for metal has also had a profound effect on his art work.
Well, the story could be explained in a more complex way, but the basics of the art that you see and relate with Sadistik Exekution, was heavily inspired by the Hellhammer Apocalyptic Raids cover art. A lot of people associate my Sadistik art with Away from Voivod. I can understand that a bit, but the real truth is that I have never ever been inspired by his style at all. It’s purely coincidental, probably due to the red that he used in the earlier Voivod days and he may have had similar early life influences to me, so that our styles had some similarities. Aside from that, I’ve also had a lifelong attraction to Nazi war machines and particularly the Luftwaffe aircraft used from 1935 to 1945. The brutally streamlined nature of those aircraft and other Nazi weaponry of the era has always been a strong influence on my art."
And like any artist there are always compositions that don’t make the cut and private pieces.
"Actually there used to be a lot of art that didn’t make the cut and years ago it was common for me to spend many hours on a piece, only to get angry and destroy it. However, as I got older I learned how to modify a drawing or painting if I didn’t like it and sometimes, even now I end up painting over a lot of the painting to completely re-work it. Only this week as I’m answering your questions I spent a few hours on a painting and then painted over half of it so I had to completely re-paint the middle of that particular painting. I think this also happens with a lot of other artists as well.
As for different styles, yes I have done all manner of different styles, with a variety of different mediums. I ventured into a much wider spectrum of styles and subject matter back in the late 80’s and through the 90’s and still have many of these pieces of art, paintings and drawings. But mostly now I stick to the one main style, which is the Sadistik art that people are familiar with.
And like any true artist time is not of the essence when it comes to creating.
"How long is a piece of string? It could take anywhere from one minute to one year to complete a piece! But really, most of my paintings and drawings are done over the course of a week or up to two weeks and in that time frame I don’t mean I work all day every day, I mean some days I’ll work a few hours and a few of the days I may leave the work so I can return to it again with a fresh mind, to input new ideas or make further adjustments or what I see as required improvements. So in terms of actual hours I mean roughly 10 to 20 hours work time and another 5 to 10 hours thinking time!"
So no lair where you go to make your art with metal cranking and a virgin waiting?
"I simply work wherever I can, as long as I have a clear space to work, with good lighting and by that I mean a combination of lights and natural lighting. When I was younger I used to work more at night, but these days I much prefer good strong sunlight coming through windows to work properly. Today for example it’s raining so I will be working mainly with electric lights because I need to finish the art today, but otherwise I always try to work with decent natural sunlight. "
And it’s not just business when a band comes looking for art but also personal interest.
"Both. Obviously as I’m doing this as a full time living, I need to make money and saying yes automatically means I will be paid for my time. However, I do NOT work for any band that I deem as false metal. I would rather do art for a rock n roll band than a new age false metal band or trend band. So yes, sometimes I will just say NO, but the more I like the band, the better the art will normally turn out and this is particularly so when I believe the band is REAL METAL! "
"I wouldn’t really say I have specific fav pieces and even if I say something now, then in a few months perhaps I would change my mind or have done a new piece which I like more for example. But just off the top of my head at the moment I’d say the album cover art paintings I’ve done for the bands Whipstriker from Brazil and Slaughter Messiah from Belgium I like a lot."
Art is as recognizable as a fingerprint or a bands logo. One of the most famous Logos and Bands in the underground is Sadisitik Exekution and Rok still remembers to the day its beginnings
"Yes, it was in May 1985 at an Iron Maiden concert in Sydney, which was part of Maiden’s World Slavery Tour. I met him before the band started playing that night and we swapped contact details. He was heavily into bass playing and I was a learner bass player and we both had similar metal musical leanings so we clicked and within months of this meeting we were already creating the embryonic stages of Sadistik Exekution.
Rok and Dave Slave
And there was only one goal
"The entire concept of the band was to be the world’s most extreme heavy metal band, full stop!"
Defying genres Sadistik Exekution drew the attention in particular to the second wave of Black Metal something Rok has definitive thoughts on,
"Yes. Back in the mid 80’s the term ‘black metal’ did exist, but at the time it was mainly as a reference to what Venom were doing obviously because of their Black Metal album. I’d also hear Mercyful Fate referred to as black metal, most probably due to the satanic aspect and Venom’s earlier albums also having a blatantly satanic theme. But, as the newer bands like Hellhammer, Sodom, Kreator and so on were coming onto the scene, the term DEATH METAL was mainly used to describe them. This is 1984, 85, 86 and 87 I’m talking about. As we moved towards the end of the 80’s the term BLACK METAL was starting to become more commonly used. At the same time though, death metal was now being used more for the American bands, grind was used for some of the UK bands and thrash was also now used to describe Sodom and Kreator. When the first two Bathory albums were released they were mainly described as death metal, but around 88, 89 more and more people were labelling Bathory as black metal. 88, 89 and 90 was also the period when more Scandinavian bands were either being labelled as black metal or simply calling themselves black metal.
As Australia was always a year or two behind with everything back in those days, this newer Scandinavian and more specifically, Norwegian black metal movement wasn’t really catching on here until late 91 and more so in 92, 93, 94. Then the next thing it’s suddenly a big trend, where it seemed as though everyone wanted to be like Norwegian black metal bands, with the themes about snow, full moons, fog, Vikings and so on, not to mention the black and white face paint trend. As this trend was growing I could see some things about it that I didn’t like at all…."
"Firstly they were all starting to look like clones of each other, as if they were all made in the same factory! Secondly, the actual music was starting to sound thinner and less aggressive then bands like Kreator or Slayer for example. It was also starting to sound more feminine and a more female friendly gothic sort of element, with badly played keyboards, more feminine looking band members and overall it was looking and sounding like a weaker version of what I normally called death metal. It wasn’t getting heavier or more extreme; it was going in the opposite direction. I personally hated what I was seeing and to make matters worse, Sadistik Exekution was now often lumped in this stupid new category they called black metal or more often, Norwegian black metal. The look and sound of that had very little in common with what we were trying to do and my anger towards this whole silly situation grew more. We were AUSTRALIAN, not Norwegian, we were rough and aggressive, not thin and feminine sounding. We were not part of that shit at all. So on the simple cassette tape we sent to a few record companies, looking for a deal at the time, we boldly wrote WE ARE DEATH FUKK YOU – as a reference to make it perfectly clear that we were not one of these new age half gothic wannabe full moon fog and snow Viking bands! "
They even recreated your first SadX shirt for the Lords of Chaos film. Was it weird seeing your art on A Culkin?!
"Ha ha yes that was a bit silly. It was sort of a dumb movie that probably appealed a lot to younger people who weren’t even born when it originally happened, but to us older people and especially those like me who were in contact with Euronymous and some of the other characters featured in the movie, it was a poorly put together semi documentary, which sort of glorified a few of the ‘wrong’aspects about it the blurred truth of the past. Overall I don’t care much either way, but I would have preferred that movie was never made."
Metal is still with us but is the current state of the scene better...
"Obviously these days’ things are very different to back in the 80s and 90s. In a way I’m surprised at how strong and big heavy metal still is worldwide. That’s impressive but it also demonstrates that metal is an incredibly potent and REAL form of music and it is so strong that it’s sort of like a religion or a disease that runs through our blood.
What we’re seeing and hearing these days is strong, as I said, but in a way I find it a bit disappointing that the extreme side of metal in particular, hasn’t progressed that much in the space of 20 or 30 years. If you look at how much is progressed from 1980 to 1990 and then compare the progression from 2000 to 2020 for example, it’s a bit pathetic in a way.
As you mention, the nostalgia aspect of today’s metal scene. Well that goes along with what I just said about the progression of metal through the 80’s compared to the past 20 years. The 80’s were such a powerful and progressive era for metal that is can well and truly be called the glory days and the strongest period of metal, so it’s probably to be expected that we’re now seeing a huge trend towards nostalgic or old metal. In 2020 younger people all around the world are looking back into 80’s metal with intense passion. For us older people who actually lived through that era it are all quite amusing."
The Sydney scene in the 80s was a very special time,
"Of course I miss the old Sydney metal scene, of hanging out with my old metal mates and seeing our local bands. It’s to be expected that I say this, but I honestly think it was better back in those days than it is now. "
"As for building a following, obviously things are so much easier these days. It’s obvious the internet was the biggest thing that changed the entire world in many ways, but it also dramatically changed the heavy metal world as well. A band in a remote part of Argentina can now post something on Facebook or Instagram for people from Russia, Iceland or New Zealand and the rest of the world to see within seconds. 30 years ago it would have taken months just to get one tenth of the same coverage, via letter writing, tape trading and magazine interviews or advertising and chances are that if you were in a remote part of Argentina than it may have never even happened at all, because it would have just been too difficult to even function as a band! Yes, the internet and communications technology has changed things in a very big way. "
"For the most part I suppose it’s good, but it also means that shit bands that would have NEVER been signed to any label back in the old days, can now have their own band camp, YouTube or Facebook pages and be signed to a smaller label and have material released that in reality isn’t fukking worth releasing! There’s definitely way too much of that going on these days."
Rok still hears a tonne of new music so does any of the new stuff impress him.
"Well, aside from those ten billion shit bands around the world that shouldn’t even exist in the first place, I also think there are plenty of excellent metal bands now as well. As you know, I still mainly listen to the classic old bands, but I certainly like a number of newer or younger bands. Some fukking great bands that I’ve been listening to a lot in the past few months are Exhumation from Indonesia, Slaughter Messiah from Belgium and Wraith from Indiana USA but there are more, including a number of South American bands. Overall, I think the standard of bands around South America now is very strong. The reality is South America has always been great for metal, but the spotlight is all too often on what’s happening in Europe and the USA, so bands from other parts of the globe tend to go unnoticed a bit, which is a shame."
A champion of original heavy metal has a definition for what is true metal
"I firmly believe there is a formula or guideline that separates HEAVY METAL from hard rock, or punk or FALSE METAL. Most of this has to do with the earlier origins from the old bands and I firmly believe Black Sabbath was the first real heavy metal band. Yes, back in the days when Sabbath formed and started playing around England and Europe and released their first album, no doubt the term heavy metal wasn’t used at all and I assume they were generally thought of as a rock band that’ve taken too many drugs and played tripped out, overly distorted rock music! But along with other bands who became more active during the early to mid-70s like Judas Priest, Rush, AC-CD and so on, at some stage the term HEAVY METAL started being used and but the late 70s it had already become a common and accepted form of rock music. "
"So this sound and style of music that evolved through the 70s is what I firmly believe to be the foundation of metal and to this day, certain aspects of this must come through what a modern band is doing in order for the band to be real heavy metal. If it strays too far from the older, basic formula than it could be what I would now call FALSE METAL. "
"Firstly, the image of the band needs to be metal. So if it starts looking too far in the Gothic direction or all of the band members have short hair or there’s no sign of black leather, studs or chains for example than it won’t look metal. I don’t mean every member of every band has to have long hair and all look exactly the same, but there needs to be at least some elements of this in a band in order for it to LOOK METAL. Then of course the guitar, bass and drums need to be played with some aggression or metal feeling. Simply plugging in some distortion effects and playing loud won’t make it metal. The feeling must come from within the minds of the musicians or it just won’t sound right. "
"Heavy metal bands must also be playing purely because they want to make or perform this sort of music, not because they want to make money or become famous rock stars. If they want to do that then they’re far better off playing a different style of more commercial music and just fukk right off from the world of heavy metal altogether. "
"Overall, I’m not talking about how good or bad a band is, how great or stupid they look, where they come from or from what racial background, be they black, white, pink or purple. The issue is if they have metal in their blood they will naturally playing metal, if not then people like me will see and hear their false or fake ways shine through. For me, a very big and important aspect of metal is that the PLAYER of the metal must be true or real, not trying or pretending to be something they’re not. "
Passion is what keeps an n Artist moving.
"Art is now my main focus and this is what keeps me very busy at this point in time. Since I was a little kid I’ve constantly drawn or painted and it’s just something I was born to do. I don’t like it and I don’t hate it, I just do it and I don’t know what life is like without doing it.
Despite my long involvement with Sadistik and other metal bands and projects over the years, playing or performing is not part of my future at all. For me, being on stage for example was something I did when I was younger and now I haven’t got what it takes now to go at my maximum level on stage. To me Sadistik Exekution in particular was all about being MAXIMUM or NOTHING. Either do it totally fukking full on or don’t do it at all. That’s my way of thinking."
"However, I’m not entirely ruling out recording or releasing metal in the future. I doubt I will and art will remain my main focus, but yes there is a slight possibility that doing some songs or an album in one form or another could happen.
That’s all from me now, so fukk off…..