If you have a copy of the recently released Oct/Nov 2019 issue of Revolver then you've seen the incredible acrylic on canvas board piece, titled "Die by the Sword," by Jef Whitehead on the last page of the magazine. According to the heralded painter, tattoo artist and musician (best known as Wrest of the one-man black-metal project Leviathan), the original, commissioned piece was inspired by Slayer's iconic imagery, particularly the Show No Mercy album cover. "Slayer Forever/Forever Slayer!" he enthuses.
Whitehead's Slayer painting is available in Revolver's shop as a badass, collectible seven-color screenprint on French Construction White paper. Limited to 250, this 16" x 20" print by Kayrock Screenprinting in Brooklyn, New York, is hand-embossed, editioned and signed by the artist.
Shortly after the completion of the piece, Revolver caught up with the artist to discuss how satanic comics and movies inspired the painting, how the thrash OGs have followed him throughout his life, and the Slayer tattoo he'd love to ink into a diehard fan's skin.
SLAYER HAVE A LOT OF IMAGERY YOU COULD HAVE FOCUSED ON TO PULL INSPIRATION FROM. WHY FOCUS ON SHOW NO MERCY?
JEF WHITEHEAD Because it's where Slayer began in '83 and it's the rawest sounding record aside from Haunting the Chapel. I've always been drawn to that iconic caped goat master drawing and always wanted to try my hand at aggrandizing it.
SETTLE THE DEBATE: IS IT A GOAT, MINOTAUR, SOMETHING ELSE?
I had no idea there was even a debate. I've always seen it as a caped Baphomet-type character that one might scratch on their Pee-Chee binder during after school detention.
WHILE WORKING ON THE PIECE, YOU ALSO MENTIONED MARVEL'S SEVENTIES CHARACTER SON OF SATAN AS AN INSPIRATION. I CAN TOTALLY SEE WHY. FOR THOSE WHO AREN'T FAMILIAR, CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE CHARACTER AND WHY YOU WERE DRAWN TO HIM?
I grew up on Marvel Comics — that's pretty much how I learned to draw, at first. And I'm thinking that Marvel's Son of Satan was inspired by the onslaught of satanic films and the hysteria, but also precedes all that was [being] created at the time.
YOU ALSO MENTIONED SATANIC FLICKS AS AN INSPIRATION. WHICH ONES?
Daughters of Satan, Race With the Devil, The Touch of Satan, The Dunwich Horror, The Devil's Rain, and, of course, The Omen ...
FOR THE SLAYER FEATURE IN THE NEW ISSUE, WE ASKED PEOPLE FOR THEIR "SLAYER STORES." WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SLAYER MEMORY?
I have a very hazy memory of partying with these Native American menaces from the desert city of Hemet, California. I'd ingested — possibly too much — psilocybin fungi, and alcohol was abound and [I] ended up in a VW bug with these much older cats, tearing around some mountainous area at incredible speeds. Seasons in the Abyss had just come out and that was playing at full volume! I was pretty sure I was going to die that night, but I remember being strangely accepting of that. Ended up at a bonfire in the middle of a desert I was completely unfamiliar with, raging until dawn.
AS A TATTOO ARTIST, HAVE YOU EVER INKED ANY SLAYER LOGOS OR SLAYER-INSPIRED PIECES?
I did a zombie hand, throwing the horns, breaking out of the ground — hell — with a banner that read "SLAYER." I would be super hyped to do some kind of tattoo of the Show No Mercy goat!
WHAT IS THE MOST UNIQUE THING ABOUT SLAYER TO YOU?
For me, it's how Slayer has been in some aspect of my life — skateboarding, tattooing and making music — since I can remember. There's not that many bands I can think of that have diehard fans in that broad of a spectrum.
And as just a huge fan, seeing how they didn't really kowtow to the trends of the late Eighties, early Nineties and kept it fast and brutal way longer than any other band of their ilk and era seemed to. They've always been 1,000 miles per hour, full bore, riff after killer riff, attack!