"Scary and poorly recorded music" changed the life of Australian artist Xavier Rekkaen forever. Imbued with the depth of metallic crust punk, he formed his own artistic language with an emphasis on symmetrical subjects and "lively" textures. Xavier's work often references the works of Tolkien, mythologies and ornaments from around the world, as well as images of his dogs.

How the artist discovered the world of crust, why drawing saved him from depression, and how a lot of happy accidents led to the fact that he is now doing artworks for the best crust bands — read in our interview.
"Scary and poorly recorded music" changed the life of Australian artist Xavier Rekkaen forever. Imbued with the depth of metallic crust punk, he formed his own artistic language with an emphasis on symmetrical subjects and "lively" textures. Xavier's work often references the works of Tolkien, mythologies and ornaments from around the world, as well as images of his dogs.

How the artist discovered the world of crust, why drawing saved him from depression, and how a lot of happy accidents led to the fact that he is now doing artworks for the best crust bands — read in our interview.
According to your website, you mentioned that you drew Mortal Kombat characters, dinosaurs and rocket cars being a child. Tell us more about that time. Which things impressed you the most? Why did you choose Mortal Kombat not other movies? Were there any things from your childhood that still inspire you or reflect your current art?
I can't remember too much from that time, but I would have epic battles on my floor with all my Star Wars toys, miniature planes and tanks, basically on the scale of the crowded battles you'll see in old Warhammer 40k artwork. I would never clean up my toys so it was always eternal war in my bedroom. I wouldn't say I chose Mortal Kombat, back in the 90s Mortal Kombat was the coolest thing ever, especially so due to the hyper violence and being a kid and not being allowed to watch it. I also really loved the design of the Todd McFarlane Spawn toys. I started watching movies like Predator, Akira, Ninja Scroll and Terminator when I was about 7 years old so I suppose that's where my love of anime and dark fantasy came from. I look at manga and fantasy art all the time for inspiration when making art.

The thing from my childhood that I would say is reflected most in my current drawings is the textured plaster walls in my bedroom. I think the texture style is called 'popcorn'. In the random decorative blobs of plaster of the walls I could see faces and creatures in the shadows and shapes. Similar to looking at clouds in the sky and seeing animals. Whenever someone tells me they see something in my artwork that I didn't intend, it makes me happy because the person is using their own playful imagination to see something in my artwork like how I used to see things in my walls.
Turning 20 years old, you decided to do good drawing, so you started to draw frogs. Why frogs?
There isn't a deep reason behind it. I had my first experience with psychedelics at that time and I saw a tree that took the form of a giant frog that had dinosaurs partying on its head. I didn't know what I wanted to draw, I was trying to draw more graffiti/street art style characters at the time, but it really wasn't me, I am too lazy to go around the night spray painting buildings, I like drawing in the comfort of my home. After I saw that frog I thought it looked cool so I just started drawing frogs and didn't stop. I did draw other things as well. I don't have a deep affinity or connection to frogs, I just enjoy drawing them.
In the website you also mentioned that you started to listen to crust bands, from Amebix to S.D.S. How was it? Describe the moment you first met the crust music? What were your feelings?
My introduction to crust happened shortly after I started drawing frogs. I was tripping really hard on acid with my best friend who had to go on a mission the next day to a record store to buy an original pressing of 'Arise!'. I had never heard of Amebix before so my mate played them for me saying they're the perfect mix of punk and Black Sabbath. As soon as Axeman started playing I was immediately terrified haha. I still remember all the psychedelic ghosts moving around the room as Largactyl played, the chorus of 'relax, it's only paranoia' making me both laugh and feel comfortable with the visual and introspective insanity going on around me. While I didn't hate Amebix, I thought the music wasn't for me, too scary and poorly recorded haha.

I listened to Amebix every once and awhile over the years, it was about 3 years later that I really got into the band. I found I really enjoyed drawing to the sound of Amebix, and I felt empowered by the music. At that time I wasn't involved in the punk scene, I had a few close friends who were punks and would introduce me to bands, but I wouldn't say I was a punk. I had lost contact with my best friend for about a year or two (we didn't have a falling out or anything, he just disappeared for a while) and I wanted to discover more crust music so I looked around on the internet and found Axegrinder and Anti-Sect. I really got into Axegrinder, then I remembered my best friend always wore an Effigy shirt and the logo looked like Axegrinders, so I started listening to Effigy. Then I saw the S.D.S. logo looked like Anti-sect's so that's how I started listening to that band.

Eventually my best friend returned into my life and I asked him if he liked bands like S.D.S. and Anti-sect. He was shocked that I knew of and liked those bands. So he started introducing me to more bands. He introduced me to Bolt Thrower, Inepsy, G.I.S.M., Framtid etc. We're still best friends to this day, it has been around 18 years of friendship, he currently runs Fuzzed Atrocities Records, check em out!
Also, tell us in detail how crust cover art reflects on you? Not only Amebix cover, but other bands
Crust cover art really doesn't reflect into my artwork at all. I don't take inspiration from crust visual artwork with the exception of Amebix. I'm more inspired by the sound of crust. I always try to reflect the crushing primitive darkness that leads into the soaring crescendos of crust. Axegrinder is a good example because most of their songs really build up and soar. I am also only inspired by metallica crust, I wouldn't listen to, for example, DOOM or early Deviated Instinct when I draw. I consider all my drawings to be crust, but I try to stay away from drawing in a traditional crust style.
Remember your first commission for the band? What was it? And how did it happen?
I can't actually remember what my first was. I think my first commission was for a local Thrash Metal band called 'Substance Abuse' back in 2013 or 2014. They're friends of mine and asked me for some t-shirt artwork. I had the idea of someone looking into a toilet stall to see a dude booting up into his cock and their head exploding. The band liked the idea, so I asked my housemate to pose for me for a reference photo and I went ahead and created the drawing. Not much of a story haha.
Not so long ago, you did extremely nice art for FATUM/LiFe split. Years ago you also did artwork for FATUM. As Moscowites, we're interested to know how it happened? How did you meet FATUM?
I've never met FATUM unfortunately, they're one of two bands I've most wanted to see play live (the other being MURO from Colombia). I became a fan of Life Dungeons in 2016. I was travelling in Japan, and a crustie from the Netherlands scolded me for not having listened to Life Dungeons. When I got back to Australia I started listening to Fatum and I fell in love with Life Dungeons.

Since then I listen to the album all the time when I draw. I'd recommend the album to nearly everyone I met at shows or when I travelled. I kept wishing they'd tour Japan or play Varning. They ended up doing both but I couldn't attend either due to life circumstances unfortunately.

I've been to Montreal a few times for the Varning Festival, and I always wanted Janick (ex-PARASYTES, FACTURED, Varning Festival) to ask me to draw the artwork for Varning because the festival means a lot to me. At the end of 2017, PARASYTES from Montreal toured Australia. Before Janick left Australia, I cheekily told her that I'm drawing the 2018 Varning poster artwork and she nicely said okay. It turned out that FATUM was booked to play that Varning, I was so bummed I couldn't go. After seeing Sergey post the artwork I reached out on social media and said hello.

Sergey was super nice and liked my crust darkness style and asked if I wanted to draw a t-shirt for FATUM. He pitched the idea of me drawing and Balrog and it just so happened that I had wanted to draw a Balrog for years. So I was happy and motivated to make the artwork for them.

I also became friends with LiFe from travelling to Japan, during my 2016 visit to Japan LiFe's drummer Kenta recommended to the band that I draw their 25th anniversary show flyer (which PARASYTES also played). After that I was asked to draw some more flyer artwork for LiFe. Since I had previously made artwork for both FATUM and LiFe I guess it made sense for the bands to ask me to draw for the split. Also Janick has guest vocals on the release so I think the release is a nice collaboration of friends. I'm really happy and grateful that I was asked to be a part of it.

So basically it all happened because of travelling, making friendships across multiple countries, being a crust nerd and creating artwork for my friends. A lot of happy accidents.
What's your current playlist?
My playlist is all albums and goes on for 23 hours, I'll pick out a few that get the most plays.

Ironhawk Ritual of the Warpath
The album is metal crust at its finest, and my favourite album to listen to since it was released last year. It captures the quality of uniqueness I like in all my favourite crust albums, and it kicks absolute ass. If you like crust and haven't listened to it, you are missing out on what I feel is a modern classic.

Möwer – Möwer
High quality motorpunk. I can't think of any bands that are tougher than Möwer.

The Lousy Shut Up I'm Talking
This release is a really good time.

Punter S/T

Released recently local band, very tough punk rock, and I'm always a sucker for "oooooooo" backing vocals.

Speedtrap Powerdose
Riffs, riffs and more riffs. I always have a really fun time listening to Powerdose and it's my favourite speed metal album.

Antisect Leeds 2.4.86

I love this release so much. 40+ minutes of live crushing metallic crust Antisect, hell yeah. Behind Enemy Lines followed by New Dark Ages, wow just those two tracks are better than most punk bands' entire catalogue.

Inepsy – No Speed Limit For Destruction
Because it's the best album ever made.
Most of your artworks are full of textures. Everything is flamed, flowed, melted. At first sight your lines look like a fire, characters and plot comes next. So, tell us about this style. Is it only me who saw this kind of flames or is it your deliberate technique?
I think nearly everyone sees the flames in my drawings haha. I don't intentionally create fire as much as I think most people would believe. When I was younger, I thought my drawings looked too flat and stiff, so I focused on developing my ability to create texture and flow. The style I ended up with is a mix of intentional thought and random direction that looks like my subjects are melting or on fire. I do experiments with other textures as well. The dynamic flow of black with white is always the most important thing to me, it is the aspect I enjoy the most when creating my artwork.

My goal is to always produce a drawing that would be enjoyable to look at by someone tripping on psychedelics while listening to Amebix.
You mentioned that drawing saved your life from depression and suicide. I guess drawing has a therapeutic effect on you. How deep can you go in this? Have there been times when creating certain works need too much moral energy and emotions? What effect does this process have on you?
I didn't have any self confidence when I was younger, and I wasn't a very social person because I struggled talking to people. I always felt lonely and depressed due to that loneliness, which resulted in me constantly thinking of killing myself because I wanted the sadness to stop. Drawing gave me something to feel proud of about myself which in turn gave me confidence to speak to people and engage with the world more. This then led me to have more courage to make more friends. I would also feel happy after completing a drawing.

There haven't been times when creating certain works required too much moral energy or emotions, quite the opposite actually. Whenever I was feeling really down I would start drawing, and slowly that would pull me out of my depression spiral. In a way, the unbearable feeling of sadness always motivated me to draw. Drawing was always a temporary fix for my depression. After seeing a psychologist I now have mental tools that I feel are a more permanent fix to my depression. Creating art, as well as having wonderful friends, did keep me going for long enough to finally get the help I needed though.

Sometimes when I draw I experience a flood of negative emotions and memories. It can feel overwhelming to the point of crying. Afterwards I feel relieved, like I've vented a hidden pressure of emotions that has been building up. This rarely happens though. Ordinarily I'm having a happy time drawing to music and rocking the night away.
Tell us about your current creative process. Do you have any specials or rituals before/while/after drawing?
I suppose the only ritual I have is eating healthy, exercise and yoga before creating. I don't really have a method for coming up with ideas, they usually pop into my head, most times inspired by something totally unrelated. If I'm trying to figure out a problem in a drawing I'll play around with ideas in my sketch book until I hit something I like. I find the best way to discover a solution is to either draw, or look at nature and artwork I admire for inspiration. My artwork has led some people to think I'm spiritual, or high on drugs when creating. The truth is I'm always sober and I am too pragmatic a person to have any kind of spirituality in my life. I do have trouble sleeping after I finish a piece of art, I can never seem to turn my brain off.
There're many artists that influenced your art. From Zdzislaw Beksinski to Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman and Kentaro Miura. Also I see your strong passion for traditional oriental art. So, which themes do you mostly enjoy using? While working on band commissions or personal projects?
I wouldn't say I have a strong passion for traditional oriental art, though I can see how it might appear that I do. In actuality, I take my inspiration from anywhere. For my personal projects, the main theme that I enjoy exploring is degradation of life, and the volition to carry on, even if it seems hopeless to do so. For band commissions I explore a theme I know they will like, which is different for each band.
What's your current inspiration?
Currently I'm inspired by the world of Elden Ring. Kilian Eng. The Cuban painters Tomas Sanchez and Alberto Hernández Reyes.
You have two dogs, represent them to our readers. How do they support you in your life?
I only have one dog at the moment. My previous dog Buddy passed away in 2018 and shortly afterwards I adopted my current dog Smoke.

Buddy (Bull-Arab) was a garbage monster that gave the best cuddles and loved swimming. I impulsively adopted Buddy after a friend recommended him. He taught me what my capacity to care is, and he saved me from feeling so crushingly lonely all the time. He was the first living creature I expressed all my love for. His health and happiness was the most important thing in my life during our time together. Buddy gave me a feeling of joy that I never knew was possible. I drew to include a little Buddy head in all of my drawings as a tribute to his memory (sometimes I forget).

Smoke (Rottweiler X Maremma Sheepdog) is a complete crackhead who loves chasing cars, laying around on couches and playing with his toys. I impulsively adopted because I was drowning in misery and depression after the death of Buddy. Smoke taught me the limits of my patience. He required a lot more of my time and energy than Buddy, but training Smoke led to me becoming a more confident person in what I am capable of in life. Smoke taught me an important lesson that in order to take care of a dog, a person must first take care of themselves.

They both have made me a better person than I was.
What's your plans for the future? Have you thought about a personal show?
My plan for the future is finishing the second Shattered Hell Zine (the first zine was released back in 2020), other than that just more drawings and more dogs. I would also like to release a book of my artworks and stories at some point.

I put on an exhibition of my artwork back in 2016, it was a lot of fun, but organizing isn't a strong ability of mine, I really only managed to put on the show because of my friends pushing me and helping me. Maybe I will organize another exhibition next year now that you have made me think about it haha.

Xavier's website

Grade Moscow
20 Apr, 2023