Yeah, I haven't been around much of late. Busy gettin' caught up on some work and we've got our niece here for the weekend. So while I recuperate from our day of fun in the sun at the zoo I thought I'd do an update I've been meaning to do for a little while.
This project has been a little on the strange side (in a good way) from before the beginning. Let me explain: A couple months ago we were on our way back from a convention and I mentioned to my wife Heather how sometimes American artists and musician will get a huge following in other countries and get little or no recognition here. A great example is rocker Suzi Quatro. I felt it would be a great stroke of irony if that happened to me, especially since I am known for my Americana zombie series of paintings I have dubbed Dead White & Blue. We had a chuckle and that was that. Or so we thought...
I check my email the next day and there is a message to me with the subject "Dog Faced Corpse!" from an address that looked a lot like a spammer. But reading it revealed otherwise. It was from a guy named Lateef who was the drummer and founding member of the death metal band Dog Faced Corpse based in Baghdad Iraq. Yes, Baghdad. Iraq. They are working on their debut CD and wanted me to do the cover. According to Lateef, thanks to the internet I have a bit of a fan base in Baghdad. As I had unknowingly foreshadowed just a day earlier.
Now these guys are true Iraqis. Born and raised. And they really are part of a growing underground metal scene that exists there.
You can read more here on ABCNews.com and (now here's a website I'll bet you didn't think you'd be reading today!) IslamOnline.net. So these guys are the real deal.
Before I accepted the offer I did a little soul searching. I am not a hardcore political activist but I am a hardcore patriot. I love my country, what it stands for and what it allows me to do for a living. Regardless of what my opinions are of the war in Iraq, which can differ from day to day, I know a few people that have served there. An old friend was injured during one of his tours. Also in my travels I have met a lot of soldiers. I have had the opportunity to speak with them at length. And some of these guys and gals have become fans of Dead White & Blue. (One soldier told me that if he were allowed he would love to have a Zombie Sam painted on the side of his tank!) For one thing I didn't want to do anything to undermine what our guys are doing over there and I also didn't want to do anything that could reflect badly on me later on.
So I read the articles closely. I read Lateef's emails closely. Just to try to get some ulterior motive. My conclusion was that these guys are just guys that want to rock. They don't give a shit about the sectarian differences. They just want to play the music that they want to play. They have said that their music does not touch upon religious themes but deals with reality. That may mean that their lyrics will be blunt and to the point. And I'm sure Americans will be referenced in some of their lyrics, for better or for worse. But by them asking an American artist to do their debut CD cover, which for a band is a very important thing, shows that they don't hate us. They like what they like regardless of where I am, who I am, who I worship, what color I am, etc. Some of us could learn a thing or two from them.
The more I "spoke" with Lateef the more I realized that not everyone over there is hell-bent on seeing America go up in flames. Most people over there just want to get on with their lives just like we do. It's the violence driven minority you see on the news everyday. Everyone else just ain't news worthy I guess.
So here I am, one of the most non-activist artists out there deciding that by doing their CD cover I could play some small part in spreading the news that Iraqis are not all that different than us. I mean, how different can we all be? The U.S. military loves my Dead White & Blue as well as these Iraqi metal heads. I know a lot of soldiers that are into metal as well.
The more I worked with Lateef the more I liked him. It was clear that he was a good guy. Just like most of the metal heads I know here. And in our conversations the terrible environment they live in became clear.
The perfect example is their name: At some point during the sectarian violence a guy was kidnapped, tortured and beheaded. The head of a dog was sewn onto the corpse which was then dumped onto a street corner to serve as a message. The kidnappers hid down the block and shot anyone that came near the body. This story is what Lateef wanted to depict on the CD cover which is below.
Another example is the death threats: One sect dislikes them because of their black clothes which is something their enemies wear. Another sect dislikes them because of their goatees which is something their enemies wear. So on these grounds they receive death threats on a regular basis. Y'know, growing up a headbanger in a small rural, conservative Kentucky town was pretty tough. Or so I thought at the time. But I never got one death threat. We have it pretty damned easy here.
So below is the completed CD cover, sans logo.
After we completed the project I really wanted to get the band's views on what we were doing over there. I won't post them here because I don't know if they would want me to but I will say that things aren't as black or white as people here would have you believe. There seems to be a lot of choosing the lesser of two...or more...evils there.
If you want to see just how alike we really are go the the IslamOnline.net article I mentioned above and read the comments below. All you have to do is replace all the references to Islam with references to Christianity and they could be talking about any number of bands anywhere in the world!
I wanted to take a minute to give a little backstory on this project. I've had several questions about it so far and I felt that maybe everything should be put out there by me before rumors began to fly. The war in Iraq is a pretty touchy subject and there are a lot of people on both sides that love to stir the pot. This project has the potential to do just that. But this wasn't about if what we're doing over there is right or wrong. It's about showing that even though we're different in a lot of ways we are alike in a lot of ways as well. And we as a global society need to focus and build bridges from those similarities. We'll be better off when we do.
Below are a couple of videos from Dog Faced Corpse. Enjoy.