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Have A Cigar: Blacklake - the team behind Haken and Headspace's album covers

Mark and Merlijn from Blacklake with some of their designs
(Image credit: PETER V\/D KERKHOF)

“The first two albums I bought were by Yes and Iron Maiden… I didn’t know what they sounded like, I just liked the cover art!” laughs Merlijn Zeeders, one half of the design-cum-promo team Blacklake. Fortunately, it turned out he also liked the music and his youthful purchases marked the beginning of a long association with both prog and metal.

Heavily inspired by Roger Dean and Storm Thorgerson’s luscious album art, Zeeders pursued his passion for illustration at art school in the Netherlands, and it wasn’t long before his own pieces started being used by bands, including American fantasy metallers Manowar. It was through his best friend that he met fellow designer Mark van den Hoven, and in 2009 the pair officially created the graphic design company Blacklake. Their first client? Dutch tribute band Maiden uniteD, who were fronted by none other than Damian Wilson.

“During a gig, Damian took us to one side and told us about his other band, Headspace,” recalls van den Hoven. “He asked if we could design [debut album] I Am Anonymous for them and said he would talk to Adam Wakeman about it. Headspace led to Haken and now we’re 50 per cent prog!”

These days, Blacklake have expanded to include not just album design, but also merchandise, stage design and even an accidental record label that keeps Zeeders and van den Hoven busier than ever. At the time of press, they were in the middle of a promo campaign for Damian Wilson’s latest, Built For Fighting. Having their fingers in different slices of the pie means they have more control over the way their designs are used and that’s an arrangement they’re happy with.

Headspace led to Haken and now we’re 50 per cent prog!

Although their roster of prog artists is growing all the time, Merlijn Zeeders hasn’t quite ticked everyone off his wish list just yet. “I would have loved to have had the opportunity to have worked with Genesis and Peter Gabriel. Opeth as well, and Devin Townsend – I find his music very inspiring when I work. And we’ll have to talk to Threshold about their new album too!”

For more, visit Blacklake’s website.

Natasha Scharf
Natasha Scharf

Contributing to Prog since the very first issue, writer and broadcaster Natasha Scharf was the magazine’s News Editor before she took up her current role of Deputy Editor, and has interviewed some of the best-known acts in the progressive music world from ELP, Yes and Marillion to Nightwish, Dream Theater and TesseracT. Starting young, she set up her first music fanzine in the late 80s and became a regular contributor to local newspapers and magazines over the next decade. The 00s would see her running the dark music magazine, Meltdown, as well as contributing to Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and Artrocker. Author of music subculture books The Art Of Gothic and Worldwide Gothic, she’s since written album sleeve notes for Cherry Red, and also co-wrote Tarja Turunen’s memoirs, Singing In My Blood. Beyond the written word, Natasha has spent several decades as a club DJ, spinning tunes at aftershow parties for Metallica, Motörhead and Nine Inch Nails. She’s currently the only member of the Prog team to have appeared on the magazine’s cover.