The Artistic Soul of Heavy Metal: The Derek Riggs Story

Who is Derek Riggs? He’s the guy who illustrated your rebellious teenage years and shaped heavy metal’s visual identity.

Derek Riggs
Derek Riggs
Key Takeaways
  • Derek Riggs, born in Portsmouth, England, is a self-taught artist best known for creating Eddie, the iconic mascot of Iron Maiden.
  • Riggs initially designed Eddie as a punk character named “Electric Matthew Says Hello”, but Iron Maiden’s management repurposed it to fit the band’s ethos.
  • Although Riggs’ role diminished in the ’90s, his artwork from the ’80s continues to be celebrated, and he has also worked with other metal bands like Stratovarius.

Portsmouth’s Pride

Derek Riggs landed on planet Earth on February 13, 1958. Little did we know, heavy metal art would never be the same again. Born in Portsmouth, England, a city famed for its ships and sailors, Riggs would set sail on a different kind of odyssey—an artistic one.

The year 1958 isn’t just a date on a calendar for Riggs. It’s a timestamp that puts him smack-dab in the middle of the rise of rock ‘n’ roll and the birth of heavy metal. He didn’t just grow up during this time; he was shaped by it, soaking up the cultural shifts that would later fuel his iconic art.

Riggs’ Road to Self-Made Artistry

From a tender age, Derek Riggs had a knack for drawing and painting. He didn’t learn his craft in some stuffy art school; he was mostly self-taught. This autonomy let him forge his own artistic path, free from the shackles of established norms.

You might think being self-taught would limit him, but not Riggs. His unique style didn’t borrow from any existing art movements. This became a signature of his work, setting him apart in the heavy metal art scene.

Riggs got kicked out for criticizing the curriculum.

He did give art school a try, but let’s just say it wasn’t a match made in heaven. Riggs got kicked out for criticizing the curriculum. Far from a setback, this episode revealed his rebel soul and unwillingness to just fit in.

Getting booted from art school didn’t throw a wet blanket on Riggs’ ambitions. If anything, it fanned the flames. It solidified his resolve to do art his way, a determination that would serve him well in the years to come.

How Eddie Came to Be

Derek Riggs will forever be tied to Eddie, the face of Iron Maiden. But did you know Eddie wasn’t initially planned for the band? Nope, he was originally a punk character named “Electric Matthew Says Hello”.

Riggs had crafted this artwork for an entirely different musical vibe. Yet, when Iron Maiden laid eyes on it, they knew they’d found their match. The rest, as they say, is heavy metal history. Eddie has graced everything from album covers to T-shirts, becoming a cultural icon in the metal universe.

The Portfolio That Launched Eddie

Derek Riggs wasn’t just doodling in obscurity; he had a portfolio that showcased his artistic range. That portfolio got into the hands of Iron Maiden’s management team, who were on the hunt for something extraordinary. They didn’t just bump into Riggs’ work by accident.

When they stumbled upon Riggs’ “Electric Matthew Says Hello”, they knew they struck gold. It was a “light bulb” moment that would forever change the visual landscape of heavy metal. Iron Maiden’s management team approached Riggs, asking him to tweak the artwork. They wanted it to gel with the band’s unique blend of the creepy, the imaginative, and the downright rebellious.

He took up the challenge and transformed “Electric Matthew” into Eddie, who would go on to become a mascot as legendary as the band itself.

This wasn’t just a one-time gig for Riggs. It was more like getting the keys to the Iron Maiden kingdom. He took up the challenge and transformed “Electric Matthew” into Eddie, who would go on to become a mascot as legendary as the band itself.

And let’s not forget, this wasn’t just a win for Iron Maiden. This partnership thrust Riggs into the limelight. Suddenly, he wasn’t just another artist; he was THE artist to watch in the heavy metal scene and beyond.

The Iconic ’80s and the Diversifying ’90s

The 1980s were a golden ticket for both Iron Maiden and Derek Riggs. Riggs became the band’s go-to artist, crafting iconic album covers like “The Number of the Beast” or “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”.

But time moves on, and so did Iron Maiden’s musical style. By the early ’90s, the band began to diversify, not just in sound but also in visuals. It was 1992 when the winds really started to change for Riggs. Iron Maiden began to open the door to other artists, and Riggs’ role started to shrink. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a breakup, but let’s call it an “artistic open relationship”.

His art had already hit legendary status, and it continued to make waves among fans and newcomers alike.

Even though his role diminished post-1992, Riggs’ influence on Iron Maiden remained rock solid. His art had already hit legendary status, and it continued to make waves among fans and newcomers alike. It’s like an old hit song that still gets airtime, you know?

So, even though Iron Maiden began to see other people, artistically speaking, Riggs’ legacy lived on. His art from the ’80s and early ’90s still gets the spotlight, from band merchandise to album reissues. In short, the man left an imprint that still gets high-fives in the metal community today.

The Medium Behind the Masterpieces

In the early days, Derek Riggs worked his magic with acrylics and alkyd paints. Quick to dry and vibrant, these paints were perfect for capturing Iron Maiden’s high-octane vibe. This wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment choice; it was all about keeping up with the fast beat of the heavy metal world.

But the ’90s rolled around, and Riggs had to make a big change. You see, those paints came with a not-so-pleasant side effect: health risks. We’re talking headaches, skin irritation, and even risks to the liver and lungs. So, Riggs decided it was time to go digital.

Switching to digital art wasn’t just about keeping up with the times. It was a life choice, a way to keep doing what he loved without the health hazards. And let me tell you, the quality didn’t suffer one bit. If anything, going digital gave him new tools to play with, opening up all sorts of creative avenues.

More Than Just Maiden

Derek Riggs isn’t just a one-band wonder. He’s lent his artistic magic to other big names in metal. Ever heard of Bruce Dickinson‘s solo gigs or the Finnish power metal band Stratovarius? Yep, that’s Riggs’ art you’re headbanging to.

But life isn’t all ink and metal for Riggs. He’s swapped England’s gray skies for the California sunshine. Now living in Riverside County, he’s soaking up the vibrant local art scene. It’s not just a change of zip code; it’s a testament to how far his art has traveled.

Still, every artist has their shadows. For Riggs, it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short. This winter blues can mess with his mood and slow down his brushes. It’s a reminder that behind every iconic album cover is a human with real struggles.

Eddie Riggs in Gaming—A Nod to Derek Riggs

When heavy metal collides with the gaming world, you know you’re in for a treat. Take “Brütal Legend”, a 2009 action-adventure video game. Designed by gaming guru Tim Schafer, the game is a love letter to metal culture. From its lore to its album cover-inspired world, it’s a headbanger’s dream.

But here’s the kicker: the game’s main character is named Eddie Riggs. Yep, you heard that right! It’s a mash-up of Eddie the Head, Iron Maiden’s skeletal mascot, and Derek Riggs, the genius who brought Eddie to life.

So why does this matter? Well, naming the character Eddie Riggs is like giving a high-five to both Iron Maiden and Derek Riggs. It’s saying, “Hey, you guys have shaped metal culture, and we respect that”. It’s not just a name; it’s a tribute to the essence of metal art.

More Than Just an Artist

Derek Riggs is more than just an artist; he’s a heavy metal legend. If there was a Mount Rushmore for metal, his face would be there with the greats like Ozzy and Lemmy. Riggs didn’t just draw for Iron Maiden; he drew the spirit of an entire era.

If there was a Mount Rushmore for metal, his face would be there with the greats like Ozzy and Lemmy.

Riggs is also a master of change. He started with paints like acrylics. Then, when health issues came up, he switched to digital. No fuss, just action.

And let’s not box him into just Iron Maiden. The man has range. He’s done art for other big names like Bruce Dickinson and Stratovarius. So yeah, he’s not a one-trick pony.

To sum it up, Derek Riggs is more than lines on a canvas. He’s a storyteller. He’s a historian. He’s a voice for the heavy metal culture. His art isn’t just something you look at; it’s something you feel, deep down. It’s part of what makes metal, well, metal.