Artist Name : Mike Hrubovcak
Nickname : Vinnie, Tubman
Location : Philadalphia , USA
Style : Various


First of all, could you please introduce yourself to our readers ?
My names Mike Hrubovcak, an artist from the U.S. around New York / Philadelphia area. Also from the bands DIVINE RAPTURE (listenable records), AZURE EMOTE and others. I now run a digital Illustration and design business through my website VISUALDARKNESS

When did you start drawing and making graphics? Where did this passion come from?
I started when i was a small kid, drawing in pencil then moving onto painting in acrylics and oils. I guess the interest in drawing and creating was always there, but i didn't really jump fully into it until my adolescent years. Those were the chaotic years of passionate rebellion. All kids need a release, whether it's music, sports, fighting, or whatever. My release happened to be painting and music (deathmetal). I was very mentally unstable at that time, questioning life, religion, etc. - into self mutilation, astral projection, and all that, so locking myself in my room painting all day and blasting blackdeath was my peaceful time, when i could unleash some visions that where in my head onto paper. I guess in a way, it was good therapy.

Besides being a graphic artist, you're also a photographer and the creator of the two bands "Divine Rapture" and "Azure Emote". What's the connection that lies between those projects?
Well, Divine Rapture was my first real serious band, that my brother and I started when we were young. He's a totally pro musician, so with his musicianship, and my artistic passion, we set out to create some truly expressive musical art. Divine Rapture was total deathmetal back in the day, and for like 10 years, we pushed this band. It was my number 1 artistic outlet at the time. So i guess you could say it was a very important part of developing myself as an artist as well. A lot of experience and creativity went into that band. With Azure Emote, I set out to create a personal project, which I would have full control over, and the ability to get crazy with it, and push it beyond the normal confines of "deathmetal". Azure ranges from death to doom, black, industrial, noise, ambient and even digital techno elements...but always with a negative misanthropic passion at the heart. Azure Emote is my chance to get artistically crazy with the music, as well as the visuals without limiting myself to a particular genre.

How would you describe your artistic approach?
Open, diverse yet sadistic. Life creates some truly insane realities, and whether were aware of them in dreams, nightmares, or enraged thought patterns, we're never truly aware of them until someone puts them onto paper, or video, or into sounds. So i guess my approach is trying to be as open as possible. It's like tripping on drugs; something that you see ever day might be something totally wild and different if you see it from another perspective. When i was a little kid, I always enjoyed standing on my head, as to look at shit upside down, instead of how it was actually force fed to you. I think this is a good way to approach life and art, because there's always so many different realities behind the one "safe" face we look into every day.

What's the line of conduct of your work, and the artistic spirit that dwells within you? And what's your motivation?
Artistic spirit? hmm....probably the misanthropic disgust of reality as I see it, and the ingrown desire to be apart of something pure and fantastic. Living Fantasy is better than this nightmare of reality. I mean yeah life's great and all, but if you really look at it, it's a pretty morbid existence of evolution, natural selection and death. Beyond internal motivations, I'm inspired by the old school art of Dan Seagrave, Wes benscoter, Necrolord, and others. I love the dark metal music so much, that I just wanna be apart of the great music that I love, and my only goal would be to have my art on the covers of some of my favorite bands, to add to the overall "magic" that is created through the combination of musical and visual emotion.

How did you end up working with bands, becoming a renown illustrator in the underground scene?
When i was a kid, still doing oil painting, pen and ink and all that, I made up little flyers and would send shit loads of them out with all the tape trading I did, as well as just writing up a lot of the bands I was into and offering my art to them. I think the first bands that i did art for beside Divine Rapture was Abominant (wild rags) and Aurora Borealis (diehard). Nowadays it's promoted through the internet with my website, and link trading and such.

Can you tell us about your creation process? Do you start from nothing, or from elements that you already have? How long did it take to achieve artworks like Mortician's "Animated Dead Flesh", or Heavy Arms' "Another Forgettable.."?
It usually starts with a sketch of the idea, then I take pictures of the poses I need, collect a shit load of reference, and go from there. Collecting visual reference is the most important thing an artist could do in my opinion. You need to study and really know, what it is your trying to create. The Mortician cover I was able to get done rather quickly, like in a week, when it usually would take 2-3. That was only because they needed it a.s.ap., and were about to go on tour, and needed to press the cds immediately. So I worked on it nonstop for like a week to get it done as fast as I could. The Heavy Arms cover and art, was spaced out here and there, they where in no hurry, and wanted previews as I went along, so it evolved and changed over time, probably took like 2 weeks to get the whole album packaging done.

How does it feel to work with a huge band like Mortician? Isn't it challenging? how did it happen?
Well I have known the guys in Mortician for a while, from playing shows with them all the time in New York with Divine Rapture.
So it was good to already be cool with them, then I heard through the internet that they needed a new cover artist for the new album, so I wrote them up, and gave them a link to my website and showed them the gore cover I did for XXX Maniak. I feel great to have my art on a Mortician cover. I remember when I was a kid, getting "house by the cemetery" and such, so It's a very good feeling to have my art associated with a band that I grew up listening to, and being inspired by. So, yeah it's great, and i'd love to work with them again, if they wanted to.

Concerning CD's illustration, and more specifically the gore parts. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you draw your gory inspiration from classic gore movies from Herschell Gordon Lewis, Frank Henenlotter, Tobe Hopper, Sam Raimi. Moreover, don't you think that the American gore cinema is slowing down when compared with the Japanese one?
Yeah, I'm a huge fan of old school horror flicks, especially zombie flicks :) America has been coming out with a lot of newer zombie flicks, which are gory to a point, but I think a lot of them lack the "horror" aspect of it.. you can show as much gore as you want, and zombie action, but if you don't have the realistic desolation and hopelessness of an actual reality of the idea, it looses the impact. All the newer zombie movies are all action movies really, not horror. I'm not that familiar with that many Japanese gore flicks. If you could recommend to me a few killer ones, i'll be sure to check them out.

The artwork of XXX Maniak "Harvesting the cunt nectar" has staggered me. Don't you set any limit to yourself? I'm not talking about any kind of self-censorship, but is your watchword : as long as the music doesn't have a limit, the gore imagery won't have any?
Sure, that works...I mean the bands say that they want total gore, sick shit, and when I begin creating it I have a vision in my head of how it would actually be if it was to take place, and then I just try to display that - in reality. We've all had day-dreams when we've envisioned mutilating someone, or what we would do, if we just gave into our darkest animalistic malevolence...but they stay as dreams (as they should). With my art, i've never felt the need to censor myself, i guess cause to me, it's doesn't seem that crazy, until i step back from it, and view it as if i where a normal person who hasn't already become conditioned to things like this...thats when I realize - "hey, this is pretty fucked up"

Do you sometimes refuse to work for a band that doesn't inspire you, or a band who's music you don't like? Or do you always find something you can do about it?
Um, haven't come across anything like that really, I mean, I like a lot of stuff, and even if I don't really like it too much, I can usually understand it for what they're trying to achieve, even if i may not be into it personally. But I'm open to doing artwork for any and all types of music. I can try to achieve a look that would embody what the particular band is going for, like for Heavy Arms, they wanted to go into the hardcore type direction of imagery. I'm pretty broad and can take my art into a lot of different directions, and I actually enjoy trying to do that too, cause it pushes me to explore a lot of other ways and styles. So yeah, I'm actually looking to do a lot more different stuff, I don't want to just tunnel myself into one style, like gore art or something, even though that seems to be the most popular.

What are your favorite bands ? can you tell us why, and how do you feel about them?
I don't have many favorite bands, just cause usually all these bands have one or two awesome albums, then they have a few o.k. I have a lot of favorite albums, only a few favorite bands. My two biggest musical inspirations however are Devon Townsend and Peter Tagtren. I like a lot of weird shit like Red Harvest, Bethlehem, Laibach, Covenant, but i also love Dismember, Suffocation, Pestilence, Morgul, Evoken, Anathema, Katatonia, Deicide, Hateplow, the list goes on and on. I like the straight forward death/black bands like Inhume and belphegor, but then I also love the really mellow stuff like Sentenced and To/Die/For , and crazy industrial, ambient trance too. So yeah, my musical tastes vary, but it always seems to come back to full circle to extreme black/death.

What are your main inspiration sources? I'm talking about your more personal works, like the ones we can find in the second gallery, in your website? What pushes you? What makes you want to start a paint, or that mixture between painting and graphics, or even pictures (Complex 25, Stairway)
Dreams, day-dreams, sometimes I'll just be hanging out at home or with friends, and I'll see something or notice something peculiar and an idea will pop into my head. For Complex 25 the idea popped into my head, while driving to work through the city, and seeing all the smoke stacks and lights all over them in the fog....very dismal and gloomly site: gets you thinking about life and how industrialized humanity has become from monkeys, even though we're still un-evolved enough to still believe in religion. For the Stairway to Suffocation piece, i got that idea while watching my girlfriends bearded dragons in their sand cage....started thinking about what if we where the size of the crickets we would feed them, and they would be trying to eat us etc....

The notion of time is very present in your work, in particular on "Anathema, disembowlment, hanging, the awakening, the end", whether it is abandoned, distant, deserted, soothing or disturbing scenery, we always get the impression that time is still. Not fixed or dead, but rather latent. How do you consider this aspect of your work?
Wow, that's great that you actually picked up on that...:)..I never even noticed that until you just pointed it out....interesting, i guess a lot of my work seems to set a scene of morose apathy, perhaps a feeling that subconsciously is present in my thoughts, and makes it's way out through the, i wasn't conscious of this, or set out to do this, i guess it's just a reflection of how i must of felt at the time. Great observation!

Why did you choose to put man forwards in your work? I noticed that some of the themes are centered around humanism (The Dielemma, The Abyss, circle of rebirth, the trap of humanity), and even religious (Apocalypse, Crucifixion). Do you feel it this way or is it just my own interpretation?
Another great observation:) yeah, that is a main theme too I guess. I seem to create ideas from the stand point of mans' place in life, things we have to endure, or how humans feel towards existence, and how we're always trying to find an explanation for it, or feel or hope that there is more to life, than life itself. I guess humanities inner struggle to find it's place and never being content, always restless.

Are there some Cd covers of personal efforts of yours that you are especially fond of?
The Azure Emote piece "submerged" which represents the first song I made for that project, which has to do with the symbolic thought of being submerged under water..or drowning under the constant waves of emptiness. It's all oceanic and sunken ship orientated, to show the sunken apathy and hollow feelings about life that consumed me at that time.

What do you like in art (artists, movements…)?
I like surreal and fantastic dark art. I like really detailed, busy art that paints an actual scene, not just a collage of images or any of that modern art stuff, it has to be dark #1..and then really involved. That's why I like Dan Seagrave's old stuff like the suffocation - effigy of the forgotten cover, the malevolent creation and gorguts covers...entombed....all that old shit was awesome.

Can you tell us about your future projects ?
Future artworks? I'd like to delve into space a little more. I love space and the reality of aliens, so I'm hoping to do a couple pieces all about the universe and the endless possibilities of chaos and other life that may exist.

What are your opinions about Arab metal bands and our illustrators ( AkiraO, Joe Abyss, Zakahead, Anny Mortissia), which you can find on our website?
I like Zakahead and Akira0's stuff, cause they deal a lot with monsters and weird creatures, fantasy creatures that might not otherwise exist.
Akira0 has a comic book style going, while Zakahead is more painterly. Very cool though. About music bands and such, I'm not too familiar with a lot of them, but i'm downloading a bunch of the Mp3s now. My one guitarist in Divine Rapture, Babak Davodian is arabian, and he brings a nice middle eastern style to the solos and such....very crazy stuff, he has a new deathmetal band called The Deeve.

Thanks a lot for this interview. The last words are yours.
Thank you for wanting to do this interview! You seem very professional and dedicated to the scene and promoting the metal., which is highly respectable. Keep up the good work!! HAILS!!!!

Interview by +Ben+ Translated in english by Raders

VISUALDARKNESS, c/o Mike Hrubovcak, P.O. BOX 159, Chester Heights PA,19017 USA
Email : Website:


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