Psychedelic wizards, sinuous demons, undead warlocks, grinning skulls, and Nubian shamans: these are the macabre mind-babies of visual artist Arik Roper. Featured in everything from Arthur Magazine (I couldn’t get enough of his poster for Arthur Nights @ McCabe’s) to Guitar World Magazine to Howlin’ Rain’s most recent album art, Roper’s visual palette is steeped in folklore and heroic fantasy.
In today’s world of rapid consumption and digital distribution, the role of album art is (regrettably, tragically) diminishing. I’m not going to claim to be some kind of vinyl purist (though I do love it); but I do cherish the memories of coming back from a record store with a new CD and internalizing the tone of the album’s art before popping the record on my boombox. I love how someday the boombox will replace the gramophone, the reel-to-reel, and the turntable as an archaic mark of fogie-dom to the less discerning youngsters. I’ll even argue that CD’s have a “richer” sound than their high-falutin’ digital songs. Whatever. Album art puts me in a distinct mindspace – a visceral place where I can attach colors to notes, places to melodies, faces to lyrics.
Arik Roper, in a recent interview, said:
“Yeah, the visual side of music packaging has been diminished by the “compactness” and compression of the business, which is really unfortunate because I’ve always thought of art and music as complimentary components. The art of an album creates a world in which the music exists, and the music animates the art itself. When these two things work together, you have a world that becomes real. It exists visually and aurally in the mind, and that’s the beginning of any reality. It can really make or break a band. One way to look at it is this: The music is powerful and dynamic and moving, but it exists in the air, when you create a foundation (the art) is gives it a home, a cage, a tree, a house, whatever you want to call it, which exists physically and mentally.”