Much is being made of the current resurgence in vinyl, I for one am very much in favour of it (and have never considered it dead). The reissue market is also on the rise, even the trendiest clothes shops have small record sections devoted to yesterdays hip -and music, even the old stuff is always somebody elses new stuff. Of late I have been involved in the process of a number of such reissues, with the latest being for Peter Gabriel – his first four self-titled albums having been half-speed remastered (a process I can’t explain) and set to be rereleased as 2xvinyl in gatefold sleeves, very nice too. The first part of the art/design process was getting hold of the artwork of the time, fortunately much had been archived by the original designers Hipgnosis/Storm Thorgerson and Peter himself, and most was in pretty good condition. I set about getting all the original parts rescanned and photographed at hi-res, determined that if the music was getting a spit-and-polish then the sleeves ought to too. I had grown up looking at these record sleeves (I have a distinct memory of being wowed by the PG1 ‘Car’ cover in the window of Bullough Bros. Electrical on Portishead High Street when I was about 6!) and it was marvellous having the chance to see the original works in detail – the scalpel-scratched water droplets on the car bonnet of PG1, the tippexed and paper tears on the scratches of PG2, and the smudged, scraped and, frankly, vandalised polaroids of PG3 – it’s amazing to examine the process up close and see the ‘idea’ remain so pure throughout. Thats what I love most about these covers, they were idea led, sure there must have been marketing departments and the like but one senses from the energy they still exude that they were born out of passion for both music and design, the rest fell in behind, certainly ‘focus groups’ were as far from thought as the Apple iMac I type this on, and it shows. Wonderful art for new music. The first four Peter Gabriel albums are available now from the odd record shop, the giant internet shops and even from the man himself at petergabriel.com/vinyl
When I first spoke to John Metcalfe about his new record I immediately had an idea of what I wanted it to look like, but I wasn’t sure how to achieve it. I was certain the cover should be an image which indicates a sudden bursting into (or out of) life, that flicker of electricity from which all things are born (or end). Some time ago I saw an exhibition of photographs depicting the moment a cathode ray tube tv is turned on/off and I found them immediately fascinating. I showed these images to John and he was equally taken by them. We got in touch with Kenzee Patterson, an Australian artist who works across a wide array of media, materials and technology and He was really into being part of this record – “TX-21PS72AQ (2008) is from a series of photographs depicting the flash that occurs the moment a cathode ray tube television is switched off. The random scattering of electron beams produces unique patterns in an array of colours. This fleeting moment has been fixed on photographic film, rendering visible a normally imperceptible phenomenon. As a medium, analogue photography has withstood its own imminent demise, making it the ideal witness to the death throes of an obsolete technology.”
We all immediately agreed the image was too good to spoil with titles or additional information of any kind as that would detract from its ‘non-verbal’ impact. This ties into one of the core ideas behind John’s album -‘that the absence of a specific narrative can provoke much more intense reactions in our subconscious emotions’
Back in the carefree days of 2002 I used to spend an awful lot (more) time and money on comic books, at the time I bought a three-part mini-series written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Ben Templesmith entitled ’30 Days of Night’, the story takes place in Barrow, Alaska, so far north that during the winter the sun does not rise for 30 days. In the series, vampires, being vulnerable to sunlight, take advantage of the prolonged darkness to openly kill the townspeople and feed at will. It was a great story and I remember thinking it would make a great film too. Five or so years later, this came to pass, a film was directed by David Slade which contained a great score by Brian Reitzell. Having recently worked with David and Brian on the ‘Hannibal’ LP art for Invada records I jumped at the chance to work on this Record Store Day 2015 release. The music was of course taken care of and sounded as good today as I could have imagined it whilst reading that book so many years earlier, David provided some wonderful photography and unused shots from the film, so along with some well-placed type and a lovely blood red piece of vinyl, I was pretty sure we’d have a good looking horror soundtrack on, and eventually, in our hands.
I have just delivered the sleeve art for a soundtrack that’s, uncomfortably, a little too topical at the moment. ‘Warning Sign’ is a 1985 science-fiction/horror film about an outbreak of a virulent bacteria which largely kills those who are unfortunate to come into contact with it. In my opinion, its not a particularly good film, but its saving grace is the dark synth tones of Craig Safan’s score which menacingly runs throughout proceedings. The original artwork was all black and red, as per the biological hazard symbol, but I was keen to do something a little more derivitive of the laboratories in which the action takes place – so I went mostly white and agar plate red. The image on the cover is a paint and pixels affair, my hand pressed on to paper, watercolours and a flick of paint here and there, stretched and embellished on the Mac, then printed on uncoated white/white board. The insert is a mish-mash of original tape boxes, films stills, my mucky fingerprints and mid80s computer type – all in a bit of a mess as the intention was to give the impression the art/layout itself was somehow infected/affected. Fittingly topped off with red/white splatter vinyl – well what else?!. ‘Warning Sign’ by Craig Safan is available on CD/Ltd Ed Vinyl from Invada Records.
Real World Records celebrate 25 years of musical discovery by releasing 48 tracks over 3CDs, a booklet and poster all neatly housed in a clamshell box. Wooden block prints were used to create the shapes which eventually made up the typography, scanned then coloured using the established Real World colour system evident on all their CD/LP spines. Much more on the entire 25th anniversary project here > http://25.realworldrecords.com
Firstly, my apologies for posting this a little late. 2012 saw the 25th anniversary of Peter Gabriel’s ‘So’ album (if you read further into this blog you’ll see that has been covered already), since then Peter and the band reformed for a number of shows which played the entire album ‘back to front’ live. The London shows were filmed for theatrical, followed by commercial, release. Standard dvd and blu-ray format as well as a 60 page hardback book of York Tillyer’s photographs, live album, DVD/BluRay pictured above. I have to say I’m a big fan of this format; With the decline of music sales continuing – artists/labels need to do and give more to allow/afford themselves to keep creative, and good quality, reasonably priced sets such as the above keeps everyone happy…
An awful lot has happened in twenty-years, especially in the way music and design is made. The group had already stipulated that there were to be no ‘added extras’ on this anniversary reissue and that anything that wasn’t good enough to go on it in 1994 still wasn’t good enough to go on it now – and I respect that. Subsequently, the sleeve itself was to remain (mostly) unchanged, bar a nip-and-tuck here-and-there. The first issue I had was the original artwork no longer existed, lost in the ether, with many record companies destroying the original artwork films when moving into the digital era. Island Records provided me with files from a 2009 release but it was not as per the original, slightly different typography (Helvetica instead of Akzidenz Grotesk), colour, and using copy dot scans. Therefore, this reissue became an exercise in reverse-engineering. I got a copy of the original 1994 sleeve from storage and set about matching everything to it – colour, fonts etc. The big problem was the photograph of Beth on the front was in particularly poor shape, originally grabbed from film in an edit suite at the time it was never likely to be pin-point sharp, but as Adrian Utley pointed out ‘it was never meant to be’, sadly the copy-dot scans provided only made thing worse. Attempts to grab the section of the original 16mm film was proving difficult, then fortunately the French record label (of the time) found an original scan which I was able to sharpen up just a little. Geoff had never been 100% with the back cover so this was simplified to suit. This edition would become a gatefold sleeve (the original inner-sleeve would spread across the new panels), black-core record bag and limited-edition dark blue vinyl (variant to heavyweight black). This wasn’t as easy to put back together as it ought to have been, but then things never are. The music, however, remains as good today as it did way back when. Portishead ‘Dummy’ 20th Anniversary edition will be released by Island Records in July/August.
Invada Records / Ubisoft approached me to put together the design for the LP version of the ‘Watch_Dogs’ soundtrack by Brian Reitzell; I know little about current video games but a quick web search filled me in on this ones particulars, namely, the player controls a character (a hacker) that exists both in the ‘real world’ and within a computer operating system – so this was to be the line of action I would take for the sleeve art, a split screen skull representing the real and the digital realm. Mathieu Leduc at Ubisoft had previously assembled the collages that make up the inner sleeve and together with the blue/black splatter vinyl (and regular black edition), the package was complete.
I have just delivered the artwork for the third, latest (and last?) Malachai album ‘Beyond Ugly’ and as per the previous two outings from the group it is an eclectic bag of sounds which I’ve tried to match visually with a smorgasbord of images. The cover itself is a photograph I took of the lead singer wearing a beaten-up old ape mask and coloured contact lenses (a nod to the first album perhaps?); I was keen to be as uncompromising (ugly?) with the cover image as possible – ‘here i am!’ ‘this is me!’ – no frills, just a portrait that followed you around the room, something to put on the mantelpiece to keep the kids away from the fire, hopefully whilst listening to the record player. A cracking album thats well worth a listen.
‘and i’ll scratch yours’ is the second part of the song-swap project initiated by Peter Gabriel in 2009, the prequel ‘scratch my back’ was brought out in 2010 and can be seen in various guises on this site. In the same way that Peter had seen the music, I had always seen the sleeves as being two halves of a whole, and at the same time opposites of each other; SMB was inviting, sensuous and feminine and AISY would be its dramatic, male counterpart, which I hoped would both contrast and compliment. I’d had the idea of using a ‘sting’ (or something that scratched back) fairly early on, so contacted photographer Steve Gschmeissner to asked if he could shoot some nettle leaves/stings, he kindly obliged and sent back about a dozen black and white micrographs in various states of magnification. The resulting cover is a combination of those shots, which I then scaled and coloured before arriving at the image you can see above.