You may have heard of the name Alan Robert. In case you need a reminder (and I'm not sure why you would need one), he's one of the founders of the near legendary alternative metal band, Life of Agony. What you may not know is that aside from being a superb musician and songwriter, Alan is also a highly accomplished graphic artist, having already released several critically acclaimed comic book series. His latest art-related project is an adult coloring book titled The Beauty of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book (read our review here). As the title suggests, the book is horror themed and features 80 pages of Robert’s original, hand drawn, and nightmarish illustrations. We recently spoke with Alan to find out a little more about the new book, his career as an artist, and when we can expect the latest Life of Agony album!
Alan, you’re obviously known for your over 25 years as a founding member of alternative metal band Life of Agony, but you’re also an accomplished comic book and graphic novel artist. What interested you the most growing up, music or comics/novels? Robert: I got into comics about the same time as music. By 12 years old, I had discovered my dad's killer comic book collection filled with Silver Age books from his youth...early Spider-Man, Thor, Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Detective Comics, Action Comics, you name it. Seeing those old books got me interested in new comics, so my friends and I would hit the local comic shop every Saturday to pick up the cool titles of my generation. I remember collecting Mike Zeck's The Punisher Limited Series, Amazing Spider-Man, Kraven's Last Hunt, Secret Wars, The 'Nam, and the original, violent, black and white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.
I bought my first KISS album (KISS Double Platinum) on vinyl at the local Mcrorys department store around that time too. I didn't pick up a guitar until a few years later, around 16 I think, once I got into bands like Metallica and Black Sabbath. The first songs I learned were "Sweet Leaf" and "Seek & Destroy." I would draw my own comic book characters listening to metal. The drawing and music kind of went hand in hand.
Your latest project is the colouring book The Beauty of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book which is over 80 pages of your illustrations. How long has this been in the works and what made you want to do it? Robert: I drew one page and the cover on March 31st, pitched it to IDW Publishing that night and was green lit the very next day! It literally happened that fast! It was the quickest "yes" I ever received. It was so fast, that I even had to double check with IDW that they weren't screwing with me, because after all it was April Fools Day! From that point on, I drew a page a day for practically three months straight in order to hit the July deadline for them to assemble the book for a Halloween release. Life of Agony was scheduled for a Europe tour in July and I knew I had to complete it before I headed overseas.
Each page, because of all of the intricate details, took me about 10-12 hours. It was actually very relaxing for me to draw for that many hours. I would get lost in the artwork and forget to eat meals, forget to leave the house, I didn't shave for weeks on end. I looked liked Tom Hanks in Cast Away by the end of it (laughs). I'd get caught up listening to podcasts mostly to pass the time while I drew for hours on end. The hardest part was figuring out what types of designs I was going to include. I set out to create the ultimate horror coloring book, so it needed to represent all the themes I'd want to see as a big horror fan. But, as the title suggests, I established early on that there needed to be a balance to each design. For instance, if the subject matter was gory, it also had to be displayed in a beautiful way. Likewise, if there was a beautiful design, it had to be made up of severed bloody limbs or something like that. It was all about finding that balance between beauty and horror in each design.
Now, these illustrations are darker and edgier, as indicated by the title of the book. What made you want to focus on the darker side of art with this colouring book? Robert: As a horror fan, this is a book that I would want to color. There are a few horror-themed coloring book titles out there like The Walking Dead, but they use pre-existing art from the comic series. This is very different. In The Beauty of Horror, each design was specifically drawn for the book, intended to be colored. The line weights and style of art is consistent throughout the book, unlike some other coloring books in the genre that combine a bunch of different artists' designs together. It was a labor a love and I spent a very long time and a tremendous amount of thought to get all the details just right for a great coloring experience.
Is this a project that you have wanted to do for a while or is a relatively recent or new idea? Robert: I always wanted to do an art book, but never dreamt it would be a coloring book for grown ups. That part was very new. Until I did some research, when I began thinking about this idea, I didn't realize how big adult coloring was. It is a huge phenomenon with no end in sight.
Adult coloring books have become quite popular in the United States over the last couple of years. What do you think is responsible for this boom for adults seeking this type of art or escape? Robert: Well, coloring is very relaxing for one thing. And I think adults like to unplug from technology for awhile and do something tangible with their hands. We're on the computers, phones and tablets all day long, sometimes you just need to escape from the screens. Plus, coloring allows folks to express themselves in a creative way. It's healthy. Everyone needs some time to unwind. There are even coloring book clubs popping up in every state now, so it's not such an isolating experience. People are getting together specifically to color. It's amazing.
Life of Agony have a new album coming out in 2017 titled A Place Where There’s No More Pain. What can you tell us about this upcoming record? Robert: I can tell you that when I hear these songs cranked on my stereo, I smile a big 'ol smile. This is the record we needed to make for a long time. It's heavy-as-fuck, killer riffs, intense, melodic, and the lyrics are very, very emotional and dark. The album art is dark and textured as well. Everyone in the band was on the same page when we started this journey. We all agreed, even before we wrote the very first song, what kind of direction we should go in. We're all very excited about how everything is turning out, and now we're in the home stretch. The music is complete and Mina is wrapping up vocals on the few remaining songs. Then it will be time to mix the record. We'll be done by November. I believe it will be out early next year through Napalm Records. Possibly in March. We'll announce the exact street date as soon as we get it.
What other art related projects do you have on the horizon? Robert: Well, a live-action Crawl to Me movie, based on my graphic novel, is in the works to shoot this winter in upstate New York. It's exciting to be a part of it and to see it all come together. At this stage, we have the production team in place and now we're locking down a director and cast. As soon as we have everything solidified, in the coming months, we'll let you know more. I don't want to spoil anything this early. One thing I can say, is that the screenwriters TJ Cimfel and David White did an amazing job adapting the book into one frightening screenplay! They also wrote the indie horror hit Intruders. I think the CTM movie may be even scarier than my graphic novel.
Outside of that, with the success of The Beauty of Horror coloring book (currently in its second printing), I am seriously considering doing another volume, continuing where I left off... the world needs more haunted coloring books, don't ya think?!