Larry “Torch” Lyannas is an underground artist whose artworks may be familiar to US death metal freaks as Torch did artworks for INGURGITATE, SEVERANCE or BLOODSOAKED to name a few and he also uses to work with Burning Dogma Records when it comes to artworks. I got his contact through Ricky as Torch is actually in jail. Torch also did the front cover of the rag you're holding. Read on and let's discover his band DISCHARGE BY DEATH, the first death metal band born in prison state!
1-Hi Torch, almost a year ago I did an interview with your mate Ricky of Burning Dogma Records, and it appears that you did (and still do) artworks for some of his releases. So today, it's you're turn being questioned! How are you doing man? Could you tell our readers what led you to jail and when will you be released?
What's up Jim? Good to hear from you. Well to answer your first question, I'm doing a life sentence. Life carries 30 years flat before parole. I'm in for 1st degree murder for killing a guy that was trying to rape a 13 year-old-girl. He was beaten with a hammer and burned to death. The state tried to give me the death penalty, but wound up with life, “lucky me”.
When I got to prison people already had my nickname ready for me “Torch”. I tried to shake it for years but with no success. So now I go by Torch and I sign my artworks Torch too. I've done 19 years already, have 11 to go. Can't wait to get out of there.
2-How is life in New Mexico's jail? In my chat with Ricky when he was in Texas, he was quite limited, he couldn't listen to music and was just able to read books or magazines. Here, at least, you can listen some music on tapes and you even play in a band! Tell us more about your band. It's the first death metal band created in jail. What's your role in the band? You have just release a demo, right?
Doing time in New Mexico is allot better than where Ricky did time. In Texas, you can't have shit, no TV, no radios and they shave your dome. Not a cool place to do time. Here we can have TVs, cassette players, guitars and art supplies, and we have the sickest bandroom here. We take full advantage of too. My band has been jamming for about 7 years now. It started with me and my bro Jason Desnoyers. I play guitar and do vocals, he's on drums and vocals. When we met, I found out he could drum and play guitar and bass. On the streets he played with a number of hardcore-punk bands threw out the 90's in the San Diego scene. I never played in a band, so this was all new to me. So we started jamming together trying to get things going. It was frustrating like fuck at first, but we've written some kick ass shit. For a long time we didn't have the means to record. Now we do, and we're working on our first demo. It's a pain in the ass to. We just recruited another guitarist Rodney Sanchez and we have this dude playing bass for now, but he won't be on the demo, he's the red-headed step child. Can't really stand the dude. But he fills a void. Our band name is DISCHARGE BY DEATH, that's what your parole certificate reads if you die in prison, and we are all doing life, so it's a fitting name.
3-How do the rehearsals take place? Do you have a special room where prisoners can play instruments? How many times do you rehearse a week? How do other guys (other prisoners, guards...) react towards your uncommon music? I mean death metal is not like country music.
We have a good size bandroom, my band plays three times a week (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday), 3 hours a day. There are other bands here, but we're the only death metal band. People love our shit here, they freak out on how extreme it is. We were told we are the best band here. We all have our own guitars and effects so when we're not jamming at the bandroom, we're jamming back at the pod. Sucks for Jason because he doesn't have full access to the drumkit 24-7.
4-You will also take part to the BLOOD tribute to be released by Burning Dogma Records. Which track do you cover? What's your opinion about the band now? What is your favorite record of theirs?
Yes we're taking part in the BLOOD tribute release by Burning Dogma Rec. Ricky asked if we would be interested in doing a song. I told him fuck ya. We recorded the song “Poison for the soul” with an added twist, came out cool. To tell you the truth I had never heard of the band before, mainly because I have been living under a rock for the past 19 years. Ricky sent all their recordings on tape, and we all agreed that “Poison for the soul” was the one that we wanted to do. I believe it was from their 2002 release “Dysangelium”. I like the band, they have a cool old school sound. Definitely proud to be a part of the tribute.
5-Please, introduce us to your musical initiation, what were the first albums/bands you used to listen to? Are you a death metal maniac only?
I've always been into heavier music, growing up I started out listening to BLACK SABBATH, AD/DC... Then VENOM, SLAYER and METALLICA hit the scene, that led to TESTAMENT, EXODUS, DEATH, VIO-LENCE, DEICIDE, then onto HELLHAMMER, NAPALM DEATH, SORETHROAT, OBITUARY, D.B.C, M.O.D, S.O.D, CARNIVORE, the list goes on... When I got locked up CANNIBAL CORPSE and MORBID ANGEL started to get known. I do listen to other shit from time to time, just to take a break: DEFTONES, SYSTEM OF A DOWN and a little TOOL. But for the most part death is it.
6-One of your main activity, at least the one focusing our attention is artworks drawing and painting. You did artworks for album covers (SEVERANCE, INGURGITATE, SUPREME PAIN, FERMENTO, ...), tattoos, bands logos, etc. How everything's started? When did you realize you had a talent for drawing? What are you graphical influences? Was it your job before getting imprisoned?
My job on the streets before coming to prison was to smoke as much bud as humanly possible and to drink until I shit my liver out of my ass, and I worked at a rental car company.
I always known how to draw since I was a kid. I was raised around art, most of my family are artists. But since my incarceration I've honed my skills in. I used to do a lot of wild life art and South Western art for a couple of galleries around New Mexico. I made good money doing it. But I really wanted to do obscure shit. When I've seen OBITUARY's “Cause of death” art when I was a teenager, that made me want my shit on album covers. My main influences are of courseWes Benscotter, H.R. Giger, tattoo artist Paul Booth, Dan Seagrave, wild life artist Carl Brenders, South Western artist Donald Crowley, and some of Zig's shit has caught my attention. I've only done 2 logos so far, one was for Dave Kibler's side-project EMBRACE DAMNATION and for Chris Hutto's side-project DEATH BLOW. As far as CD covers go I did INGURGITATE “Blackest origins”, SUPREME PAIN “Cadaver pleasures”, SEVERANCE “Suffering in humanity” and their upcoming release “Progression towards purgatory”, also the BLOOD tribute CD. I've done inlay stuff for LIVIDITY and some for FERMENTO. Steve Green used a piece of mine for BLOOSOAKED's upcoming release “Grotesque memories” and 2 CD covers for a trendy zine out of Canada BW&BK, inlay work for FUCK THE FACTS split with MINCING FURY, and I just got threw doing a piece for BASTARD SAINTS upcoming release which Ricky is going to release. Whenever I'm not painting or drawing, I tattoo in here, but tattooing in prison is illegal so we have to watch out for the guards.
7-How does it happen you work for a band? I mean, you have no website and you're not known as guys like Jon Zig or Chris Moyen, so how do you manage to get asked for making a CD cover?
I owe most of my gratitude to Ricky, he's been keeping me busy for the last three years now. When I first started my bro Worm wrote Dave Kibler and told him about my artwork. Dave wrote back and wanted to see some of my shit, so I sent him a little piece I was fucking around with. He wrote back, said he loved it and used it for a Milwaukee metal fest t-shirts, so I flooded him with artwork for a while. Then I got hooked up with Hound of Corpse Gristle Rec. (RIP) and he got me a CD cover for INGURGITATE; that led to Steve Green of Comatose Music, he's used 2 or 3 pieces of mine so far. Right now I'm devoting my time to Burning Dogma, Ricky does me good, keeps me busy, sends cash when he can. Dude has proven to be quite the friend, no bullshit in his game at all.
I don't really make much at it, just enough to keep my art supplies stocked. I'm not trying to get rich either, just trying to get my name out there. So when I finally do get the fuck out of here, I'll be able to use my art for a source of income. Plus I love death metal and this is the only way I can support it. The prison doesn't allow CD, so I have to have Ricky's record shit to tape for me. Anyone looking to get work from me get ahold of Ricky Lockett Burning Dogma Rec.
8-How do you proceed to create a new artwork? Do you listen to the band's music for inspiration (in case it's for a band), do you have recommendations or advices by the band members... Do you draw artworks for printed zines or T-shirts. Explain us your process of creation.
Most of the time Ricky let's me know what the band is looking for and I'll go from there. Usually when I paint or draw I'll thrown on some DISEMBOWELMENT, that's a good tape to paint to sets the mood. But if I have the band's music, I'll listen to that. The music and the lyric help paint the picture for me. I haven't did much zine work yet, only for Manos of Sewer Zine, your zine and BW&BK. I did a cover for a book called “The property”, it's about some crazy fuck that came back from Vietnam and found out his ol'lady was fuckin' someone else, so he bought this property in Arizona (USA) and made it look like Vietnam and turned her and her lover lose on the property and put them threw some horrid shit that he went threw, in the end they died a pretty gruesome death. Awesome book.
9-What are your conditions for creating a new artwork? Do you ask money in return or some CD or shirt of the band concerned? Did you ever get ripped-off by some bands or guys?
For a CD cover I usually charge anywhere from $50 to $100, it just depends on the piece and how long it takes to do it. I don't have the luxury of an airbrush so everything is done with a brush. So it take longer to do. As far as getting ripped off? I've never been ripped off yet, but there's always the first time.
10-What do you think of artworks done with computers? Some are not bad at all, but this way of creation doesn't always fit the music. It looks like “synthetic” and it loses the “organic” aspect of hand drawn or painted arts.
I do like some of the artwork done with computer. But a lot of it looks too video-gamish. I would rather have hand-drawn shit because there is more freedom in the creation process. But at the same time I've seen a lot of hand-drawn crap out there too. I guess it just depends on what you prefer.
11-You did the artwork for the upcoming “Progression towards purgatory” by SEVERANCE, which is a beautiful & dark work of art! You gathered different feelings with this one, darkness, coldness and even solemnity. It differs a bit from your previous works, because here you mostly used white, grey and black colors, and this is probably your most subtle artwork. Are you seeking constantly to do new things, do you need to experiment or do you want to remain in the gore/horror/demons category?
That piece I did for SEVERANCE “Progression towards purgatory” is my rendition of Caspar David Friedrich's “Monastery Graveyard in the snow”. It's one of my favorite pieces by him. Evidently that painting was destroyed in WWII. Originally I painted it for myself, as part of a learning process. But it came out pretty sick with the changes I added to it. So I sent it to Ricky and he used it for SEVERANCE's new release.
I do like to do other art, portraits, birds of prey and other preditoral animals, it's probably my best work, the come out photo realistic, I can paint or draw anything put in front of me. And I'm constantly looking to better my art by studying other artists and their approach.
12-Artworks are sometimes part of an album's atmosphere, in a sense they help to develop a mood in addition to the music itself, i.e MORBID ANGEL with the “Blessed are the sick” cover , INCANTATION “Mortal throne of nazarene” or IRON MAIDEN “Killers” to name a few. Do you see what I mean? What are the best albums covers according to you?
Man there are a lot of sick covers out there, but the ones that come to mind right now are: DECREPIT BIRTH “And time begins...”, CANNIBAL CORPSE “Butchered at birth” and “Tomb of the mutilated”, MORBID ANGEL “Blessed are the sick” and “Altars of madness”, EXULCERATE “Remnants of a cannibalistic debauchery”, DEEDS OF FLESH “Crown of souls”, FORCE OF EVIL “Black empire”, never heard the band before but they have a pretty cool piece of art on their CD. CATTLE DECAPITATION has a couple cool ones too.
Artwork does help set the mood and sell the CD. I'll be flipping threw a zine reading reviews and I will only read the ones that are artistically pleasing to the eye. Then when I read the zine again later, I'll read the ones I dismissed as crap because of their art, and find out they got a good review. Then when I hear them later on, I'm like “fuck these dudes are sick”. Pisses me off to see a sick band with 5th graders artwork on their CD cover.
13-The worldwide musical extreme metal stream has evolved a lot through the last decades. Death metal wasn't spared by this evolution, in good and bad ways of course. Death metal became more and more brutal, technical and even integrated new elements. Do you still behold this evolution or do you remain faithful to your old records? Do you try to stay informed about new releases of the oldest bands? Any good surprises or disappointments?
I evolve with the scene, some of the stuff coming out is sick! But at the same time there are some bands that are just too repetitive and have blast beats from beginning to end in their music, gets real boring, real fast. I'm always on the look out for real heavy and brutal music. I thought my search was over when I found DEVOURMENT “1.3.8”, I was stuck on that fucker for almost 4 years. Then I found other bands that replaced DEVOURMENT in my cassette deck: SKINLESS, REPUDILATION, MORTAL DECAY and so on. One of my biggest disappointment is MORBID ANGEL “Heretic”, the best track on there is “drum check”. The new MORTAL DECAY disappointed me too, “Cadaver art” should have let the name die. I think I probably would have liked the band if I didn't know it was MORTAL DECAY. The shit I'm listening to right now is DECREPIT BIRTH, HUMAN MINCER, NILE, INGURGITATE, DIGESTED FLESH, PSYCROPTIC, NECROPHAGIST, VITAL REMAINS, DYING FETUS, SEVERANCE, AEON, DEEP VEIN and DEEDS OF FLESH. The only way I can stay informed on new shit is threw Ricky Lockett, Dave Kibler and Steve Green from Comatose Music, other than that, there's no radio stations around here at all and short supply of metalheads.
14-Do you keep a correspondence with people from outside? You were probably in touch with many bands, labels and various people; the fact of being locked makes you aware of who were your real friends. Do you lose contact with some people after your incarceration?
The only people I stay in contact with is of course family, Ricky, Dave and sometimes Steve Green from Comatose. I used to write Ruben Rusa (Ruben Rosas – Jim) from DEVOURMENT when he was in the joint. We stayed writing for about 2 ½ years then he got out, wrote a couple of letters and that was it. Guess he had better thing to do, so yes I do lose contact with people, sucks but that's all part of doing time. I'll tell you what does bug the fuck out of me is there is all kinds of fine ass chicks that work here can't fuck with an of them. They're too scared and I hate fags so that's out of the question, I'd rather masterbate with a hand full of glass than do some creepy shit like that.
15-We'll stop there this interview Torch. Thanks for your time, I let you end this chat the way you want. Take care man and keep in touch.
Thanks a lot for the interview Jim, you rule! And thanks again for the zines and your demo. Anyone looking for artwork from me get ahold of Burning Dogma Rec, Ricky Lockett.