In 1978 Paul Raymond Gregory painted his first canvas, a ten-foot-wide, Tolkien-inspired work called The Ride of the Rohirrim. Exhibitions at the Edinburgh Festival and at The Barbican followed, and in 1984 he was asked to paint his first record sleeve, for Saxon's Crusader.
Other commissions followed, including covers for Molly Hatchet, Dio, Uriah Heap, The Company of Snakes, Beholder and Battalion. In 2001 he co-founded the Bloodstock Festival, which he now runs with his children.
This year’s festival sees the launch of the RAM (Rock & Metal) Gallery at the festival, a permanent exhibition which intends to showcase rock-related art and memorabilia. The focus of the initial exhibition is Gregory’s work, so we asked Classic Rock’s Art Director James Isaacs to ask him a few questions.
Which artists made you want to pick up a brush?
The information highway wasn’t around when I was young boy, so if you needed to find anything out it wasn’t via Google, it was the local library or museum. During my first visit to the Derby museum, I recall being taken aback by Joseph Wright’s paintings. His use of light was inspiring. There have been many old masters including Turner, the Pre-Raphaelites and many more, that leave their mark and inspired me towards my journey as an artist.
After painting Tolkien fantasy pieces, was working for heavy metal bands like Dio an easy transition?
For me, it was never about the connection to heavy metal! When commissioned to do an album cover, it was more the message the band wanted to convey that created the artwork.
**Much in the way that classic Iron Maiden album covers are synonymous with Derek Riggs, your work and Saxon are forever tied together. Do you ever worry about being typecast? **
I never worry about being typecast for my association with Saxon, given I’ve produced Tolkien inspired artwork for coming up to forty years.
**Bloodstock Festival is an event for true metal fans. Do you see yourself as a true metal artist? **
I love music and as a child of the 60’s, had the privilege of seeing the influence blues had on the pop bands of the day. Blues has had an influence on pretty much every rock and metal band on the planet. Last week saddened me with the loss of the great Johnny Winter. I’m an artist with a history and part of that history includes heavy metal so in answer to your question, yes.
**Most photography is now digital, do you feel the work of digital painting has anything to offer? **
It’s another medium or possibly THE medium now for all things with some talented artists. The only thing you don’t get is an original piece of art.
**Of the new / young artists out there, who do you admire? **
I admire all young artists that choose art for a living. It’s not an easy road and the same for musicians, writers and all creatives that feel the need to follow their muse.
Ken Kelly or Frank Frazetta? Go…
Frazetta created great art way back and influenced many artists and illustrators.
Tickets are available for Bloodstock, that takes place 7-10 August. Find out more info and get your tickets here.