Joey Hi-Fi: Artist Interview – A Lowest Heaven Special

LH_PB_7Next week, The Lowest Heaven will be released in paperback. We’re getting excited and are kicking off celebrations with a good look at the full cover artwork of The Lowest Heaven AND an interview with the artist himself. In the same post!

Yes I know, I know, we’re too good to you.

But what is The Lowest Heaven you ask? Well, it’s a sci-fi, short story, spectacular which features some of the hottest names in modern genre publishing and contains exquisite celestial photography from the collection of the Royal Observatory Greenwich. and it’s all wrapped inside the exquisite artwork of the one and only Mr Joey Hi-Fi.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Joey Hi-Fi is one of the greatest book cover artists anywhere in the world right now.

Seriously! All those amazing book covers that you love, the cover to Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, to Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, to The Knights Of Breton Court. This guy, Joey Hi-Fi did them all!

Still not impressed? Then check out the incredible wrap around artwork for The Lowest Heaven. Drink that whole thing in and marvel at the imagination that came up with it!

TLH Solar System Artwork

Stillllllll not impressed? Okay, then check out this interview with the man himself and realise just how much you need to love this incredible artist!

On with the questions:


Hey Joey! Given that the universe is vast, infinite and filled with some very cool things,  How and where did you even begin to squeeze it down in to book cover form?

JH DreddA universal version of the shrinking ray that Braniac used to miniaturize the city of Kandor would have been nice.

With The Lowest Heaven being an anthology (featuring original science fiction stories inspired by various celestial bodies in our Solar System), the brief from Jurassic London  was to create a piece of artwork that would tie all the stories together. The artwork also had to work both on the covers (paperback and hardcover) as well as on a fold-out poster within the hardcover edition.

I thought that creating a bespoke solar system map for the book cover would be good way to condense The Lowest Heaven universe into a graphic form. Besides the various celestial bodies, the solar system map would also include small elements (spacecraft, asteroids etc) plucked form various stories within the anthology.


The artwork for THE LOWEST HEAVEN is quite different from some of your more recent book cover designs, could you tell us a bit about why you took this artistic direction?

blackbirdsThe Anthology is also being published to coincide with a new exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. It also contains Imagery from one of the collections at the Royal Observatory. So I wanted the look of the cover to tie-in and reflect some of the pieces in the collection.

Along with initial brief, Jurassic London sent me a folder of pieces from collection at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. I was particularly inspired by the wall hangings (all based around astronomical themes) produced by the Working Men’s Educational Union in the 1850s. They were printed lithographically on cotton, which gives them an interesting appearance. I liked their simple, yet striking design. It was my chief inspiration when illustrating & designing the cover / solar system map.

I just took a more modern approach (if you can call it that). My map has more of a 1950s aesthetic as opposed to one reminiscent of the 1850s.


From Blackbirds to Zoo City to the forthcoming Apocalypse Now Now, your book covers are always extremely distinctive. Are there any particular elements of South African culture that influences your designs?

More on a subconscious level I think – and more in the way I approach things creatively.

zoo cityTo make a living as a designer and Illustrator in South Africa I had to be a jack of all trades. So I could never settle into one style. For each new project I often had to try something different or distinctive (to various degrees of success). Since every book has it own distinctive voice that needs to reflected visually on the cover,  this approach has been a good fit.

South Africa is also a tapestry of diverse cultures and traditions. Which I tend to interpret visually as collage in some of my work.

The bringing together of often disparate imagery has always intrigued me.


You’ve designed the covers for a lot of fantasy and science fiction novels in the last few years. Are you a fan of SFF fiction? If so, what attracts you most to it and what do you like to read?

‘All of time and space, everywhere and anywhere, every star that ever was. Where do you want to start?’ – Doctor Who

To add to what the good Doctor so eloquently stated – science fiction & fantasy pulls us outside of our own worlds and concerns. It could take us to  a planet in our solar system, a galaxy light years away, to a parallel dimension or to a magic realm.

DOCTOR WHO *embargoed 19th March*

It makes designing and Illustrating covers for SF&F most appealing. Since I get to give those worlds full of bold and infectious ideas a visual form on the cover.

I grew up on steady diet of Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror. So I’m a fan of both fantasy and science fiction.

Although my love of the above genres is eclipsed only by my love of Horror!

I tend to read a wide range of SF&F (which also includes books I’m designing covers for). Some of my favourite SF&F novels include As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem, Vurt by Jeff Noon, Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell  by Susanna Clarke

dune-illustratedJust to mention a few.

I recently made by hand the Dune Boardgame ( published by Avalon Hill in 1979) for my girlfriends birthday. Which had me eager to re-read the Dune trilogy, which I am currently doing. I also recently enjoyed reading Machine Man by Max Barry, Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor & Deadenders (a science fiction comic book series written by Ed Brubaker) and… Ok….enough with the recommendations now.


What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?

I’ve been asked that question many times. And I’m no closer to an answer.

I imagine it would be like Michael without KITT, Spock without logic… Professor X without his mutant gene.

In an episode of the tv show ’30 Rock’, Jack asks Liz, ‘in a post-apocalyptic world, how would society even USE you?’

She answers ‘Traveling bard!’

He answers ‘Radiation canary’.

I’d like to imagine that if i could no longer illustrate – I could just write or play some kind of music. But I fear my true calling would be something akin to a modern-day ‘radiation canary’.


Radiation Canary… Not a chance Mr Hi-Fi!

Thanks for the interview Joey! We looking forward to catching up again soon!

For anyone wanting to know more about the one and only Joey Hi-Fi (and you really ought to know this guy better) you can catch him on Twitter here.

This entry was posted in Books, Interviews, Launch Pad and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Joey Hi-Fi: Artist Interview – A Lowest Heaven Special

  1. This was fascinating. Joey Hi-Fi’s work stands out in the crowd – he’s unique and incredibly talented.

Leave a Reply