Ink Empire

Artist Mike Clift has drawn gory, zombie-heavy record covers for bands such as GutRot, Nocturnus, DiamondHead, and Skinlab. He's probably best known for his sleeve artwork for long-gone locals Psychotic Waltz, whose drummer, Norm Leggio, now runs Blue Meannie Records.

"I used to put my phone number on my flyers, and I got a call about doing [Psychotic Waltz] artwork. They also contacted the infamous artist Pushead, but luckily my design beat his out." Clift's artwork for the cover of PW's 1990 album A Social Grace paid $250. "They made a bunch of T-shirts, stickers, even a billboard.... I charged $500 for the cover of [1992's] Into the Everflow, and that became my standard price for several years."

Clift toured Europe with Psychotic Waltz in 1993; he received equal billing and equal pay ($100 weekly plus per diem). "I was introduced as a sixth member and doing a lightshow backdrop of cued film clips that I synched up to the songs with a 16mm projector, two slide projectors with four carousels, and a 26-inch ten-speed wheel with colored gels and blockers...."

He says his declining profile since Psychotic Waltz broke up in the late '90s resulted in some rumors.

"Please tell people I didn't die trapped beneath a German castle, nor have I OD'd on heroin. The shit you hear after being gone awhile...."

The 40-year-old Clift now tattoos at local Retinal Noise Studio.

"These days, I charge $100 an hour for tattoos. I've tattooed some Psychotic Waltz imagery on my cousin, but most band tats I do are usually Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, AFI, [and] bands with distinctive artwork and logos."

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