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Designing the Future of Alternative Music for 20 Years with Frank Maddocks

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Frank Maddocks’ art work is a flowing river of photography, textures and illustrations running through the alternative scene of the early 2000s and is still moving with a strong current to this day. From the incredible White Pony by Deftones, the phenomenal debut album Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park to R&B artist Gary Clark Jr, Maddocks’ mixed media fingerprints are arguably as iconic as the songs themselves.

Maddocks’ passion to push boundaries within his artwork and to forever evolve as an artist is a testament to his longevity within his career and his shared history of collaborating with bands such as Deftones for over 20 years. We spoke to Frank Maddocks’ about how he defines himself as a creative, and we explore more on what he is currently working on.

What’s inside?

  1. Defining Yourself as an Artist
  2. Beginning
  3. Middle
  4. Now
  5. Growing With Bands
  6. Proud Design Moments
  7. Blocking Out Noise When Creatings
  8. Working With New Acts
  9. Keep Growing Your Love for Music
  10. Future Plans

Defining Yourself as an Artist 

When starting off as a freelancer you need to take on the business side of your career. I have business instincts but I don’t think of myself as a business person. I still maintain some of that but I fall into an interesting space where I do so many different things. I like the term artist more than I like designer, photographer, illustrator. I am interested in all of those things and I try to bring those disciplines to my work.


I grew up loving music so much but I’m not a musician. I was always seeking out music in magazines and record stores. I had Rolling Stone, Spin and Alternative Press subscriptions. I got super interested in the art that is behind the bands. When I was growing up, design for music was a super cool space to be in, being really into music and being into art was a great place to be. 


After I completed my course at Art Center College of Design where I majored in Illustration, I went on to do freelance work for labels like Sony, Universal, Warner Brothers and Capitol. I started doing more and more work for Warner Brothers Records. Every month I was doing something small for them. The creative director, Melanie Nissen approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in a full time gig… There were close to 15 people in the art department at the time. Since school I have had a mixed media approach to my design. This was right at the beginning of where you would use a computer to do stuff… That style is still a part of what I do even today.

It was so exciting to be around people who really loved art. Photoshop was just something that people were really spending time exploring. I used to be totally anti-computer but once I started to understand how I can make it work for me, I just sat with it every day. I still don’t do things the right way, though. Today, there are all these filters with dust and messed up photos. I used to build archives of my own images and xeroxes with dust etc. That is the crazy stuff I used to use to put my designs together. If you can do it yourself and bring a little piece to life… It makes a difference. 


My day to day is about taking care of my family duties first of all, then I come into the office and then focus on the projects I currently have.

I’m creating a series of photobooks. The books relate to my interest in photography. I am constantly taking pictures. My interest in photography is on par with design. It’s super exciting to me, I have all these images that I have documented over the years and it gets a little daunting when I think about what to do with all this stuff. The photo books are a means to get things out there step by step. They are an easy way to have fun with images and get them out there for people to enjoy. There are already 4 or 5 more pretty much done. I’m super interested in zines and photobooks. It really takes on this different kind of aesthetic. Some of these images are 10+ years old and some of these I captured yesterday.

Growing With Bands

Creating art is putting a piece of yourself out there for criticism. When you care about the music, you care about the artist. You need to do a good job for the artist and yourself. It can be extremely challenging because of that. There are always going to be haters as well as people who love what you do. You need to be able to take all that in. 

I always try to do the best job I can for the artists I work with. I was a fan of Deftones before I worked with them. We have grown together. The relationship is very cool. I find that it’s uncommon for a band to stick with an Art Director for so long. As they grow, I grow, It’s really about us growing together. 

Another example of growth is working with Linkin Park for the first time before they were even known. I went with photographer James Minchin to photograph them on the road. They were in an RV at the time. Mike Shinoda wanted to borrow my jacket for the shoot and Brad Delson didn’t have a belt… Which is just so funny in contrast to where they are now. They were the supporting band on this bill then. Sometimes you don’t know when you are in your beginning phase of what lies ahead.

You need to be careful where you stand with artists.  Sometimes people get wrapped up in a band’s world and you might risk enjoying their successes a little too much. I’ve always tried to keep a bit of distance and space. I’ve become friends with the bands I work with but it’s up to me to produce a visual for these guys in the end. Remember to give them their space.

Proud Design Moments

There are some popular things I’ve done with Deftones and Linkin Park. When we did Hybrid Theory, we were just finding out about Banksy, his art work looked like something revolutionary and it was really mysterious. It’s really important because the bands are amazing but we never compromised on the art. We did what we thought was the right thing to do and it stood the test of time. When designing you really need to do what you feel is right but you need to block out all the noise. There is a lot of weight and pressure from people in marketing but you need to focus on what you want to do and what makes the band happy. 

I am super proud of the work I have done with Gary Clark Jr. We always try to make unique visuals and unexpected imagery. I feel like we’ve made cool art together. 

I love the stuff where I get to touch multiple sides of a project and create a story around the people. I really enjoy the things that I am able to control end to end, like the Green Day record I photographed and designed, Revolution Radio. Green Day was so much fun to work with and the process was super interesting. 

Blocking Out Noise When Creating

Deadlines help me. I’m still feeling pressure after so many years. I don’t think it ever goes away if you care about the people you are working with. You gotta just take the first step and put yourself out there. I think that is half the battle. You gotta put those first marks down. Just so that the canvas isn’t blank anymore.

Working With New Acts 

When I was beginning in my career, I would get assigned something by my superiors. As my portfolio grew, I got to start to choose who I wanted to work with. At this point, I get to pick and choose which things I am working on. I have a lot of clients that are still active… Mike Shinoda and Deftones are still doing a ton of stuff. And I get approached by a lot of bands to do work for them.

There are a lot of super refreshing bands out there. I’m always humbled that they would reach out to me.. There is a band in the UK called Higher Power and they are really cool and creative guys. The music was so good and it opened me up to all those other bands that are in that scene. When I look at that sleeve… it looks like it was just fun to create.. There were no boundaries.

Keep Growing Your Love for Music 

I have two kids now and they are starting to ask me about music that I am playing, which is awesome. The first thing I do when I get home is put on music. I need something for the morning and the evening. When I was growing up music was the soundtrack to my life, it’s just something that is so needed. Some people are just like whatever and listening to anything but  I’m just kind of obsessed with it. Now more than ever,  there is so much available. I love starting a playlist and going down the rabbit hole. Music and art are both important interests of mine.

Future Plans

I’m going to continue to work with my favorite artists that I have worked with and there are a few new artists that I would like to work with too. I really want to focus on my own art more. Just want to find more time to create more art and I am really loving creating these photobooks, I already have a few more designed. I’m also going to release a book that features my artwork and personal visual journals.


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