Cover for me

Designing record covers is ostensibly my job! Here are a couple of artworks I made this spring that I am particularly happy with:

Hospitality On The Beach 2019 Record Cover

This year’s kind-of-annual Hospitality mix album was timed to tie in with the label’s Hospitality On The Beach party. Our first idea turned into an awkward problem involving a girl with a tattoo, so I decided to follow the form of the last couple of Hospitality albums, but this time make it out of sandcastles. Well, I really raided my baking cupboard and made it out of brown sugar, but the effect was perfect. I sculpted moulds out of foamboard and filler, and the cover basically did itself. I am pleased with it!

Etched vinyl disc for Urbandawn's 'Come Together' record

Urbandawn did a cheeky cover-version of The Beatles’ Come Together, and it blew up the club scene so much that Hospital felt obliged to release it. The cover design job fell in my lap, but having never been a fan of The Beatles, I found the job hard. It was as difficult as I found the task of designing beer labels as a non-drinker: these are worlds with very deep, revered cultures with which I have no relationship.

Given that, I must confess I don’t feel great about the actual cover I made. It’s a neo-Junglist agglomeration of Yellow Submarine and Abbey Road, so as a total outsider to Beatles Culture, I worry it seems like an awkward mashup of two things that a more learned person would never want together. But hey, it pleased the label and the artist, and has been well-received by its target market too, so maybe it’s a case of two great tastes that taste great together after all.

What I do feel great about, however, is what’s inside the sleeve! Hospital have been making an effort to make their vinyl more special as the market has continued its shift from DJs to collectors. Because this was a total one-off track, we got to do something for this I’ve wanted to do for a long time, which is to etch some artwork into the reverse of the record, as in most other contexts, the other side would’ve had another track.

Even better still, the design we had etched into the reverse was a revival of an illustration I did several years back. The illustration never ended up getting manufactured as the T-shirt I had intended it to be, and I was always a bit sad about its rejection as I was a big fan of the design. It suited this project perfectly, so it was an extra sweet reward to bring it back in such a unique context.

Etherwood's Lost In The Right Direction packaging

Etherwood has been living/touring in a campervan while writing music for his latest EP, ‘Lost In The Right Direction’. We wanted a way of snapshotting his life on the road, as it seemed like such a crucial part of the experience, but we only had a handful of in-the-moment smartphone photos to communicate that. We ended up using projector slides to contextualise these images on the cover, but my favourite part of this package is the inner sleeve.

Given the retro-photography concept of the cover, I extended the metaphor with the packaging of the inner sleeve. I wanted to evoke my all-too-brief darkroom days, and based on a couple of lovely comments left on my Instagram, it seems like it evoked it for other people too!

Levela - Cerebral EP

I still work with Critical, but my role with them has been a bit more technical lately, as they’ve been getting some excellent artwork done by some of tomorrow’s graphic artists. It was a nice treat to do a whole cover for them again, and this was a Critical classic – mostly black, but a shot of colours and oh-so-minimal. I’m pleased with how this one came out!

Headstand

Whiney's Waystone LP

Catching up a little on this one: Last autumn I had a fun extra-project for an album I worked on. Med School came to me with Whiney’s second album, and the title for it was ‘Waystone’. I really liked the title, and it made me think of the Giant’s Causeway, which was the main inspiration for the artwork. To make it a bit more interesting, I had an idea of using rotational symmetry to ‘break’ the faux-3D graphics, making it feel like it bent around the other way.

The idea was a sell, but as this is Drum and Bass, Whiney wanted my original version to be grimier. I obliged, and although it wouldn’t have been my choice, it ended up opening up an interesting opportunity further down the album’s development run. The label wanted some extra video content and asked me if there was some way I could do a live painting of the artwork – I thought a stencil would suit the more roughed-up design very well.

Conveniently, the label had recently moved into a new office featuring some dead space waiting to be converted into a new studio. The back wall of this space was offered to me to fill with spray fumes, and I was glad I brought a new respirator with me (Don’t spray-paint indoors without one, kids)! I spent a dark winter afternoon down south of the river laying down a bit of colour:

It made for a good backdrop for a live-streamed DJ set before it was entombed behind the new Hospital Records studio this winter. And it gave me a good excuse to do a bit of artwork on a different scale to what I usually do!

Freezing in a Heatwave

A new record cover I created is released today! It’s the debut single for a new signing to Med School Music – a chap called Lakeway. Aside from the title, I was kind of given carte blanche with the direction for this project, so I ended up creating some artwork intended to feel ‘connected’ like nerves, which I then physically froze.

I made it by hammering some carefully-placed nails into a surface I painted, then winding cotton thread between the nails (it’s all one continuous piece again!) to form the letters. I was happy with the design at that point, but it needed to represent the frozen part of the title too, so (obviously?) I put the whole thing in my kitchen’s freezer. I sprayed it with water at intervals until the ice had built up enough around the cotton threads for the lettering to solidify satisfactorially.

It hung out with the frozen peas for a couple of days while we got final approval, then for a little something extra, I timelapsed the ice melting away from it again and reversed the result, so it was becoming frozen again. Harry at Hospital Records then swept in and edited the timelapse into some nice motion graphics to accompany the track uploads to YouTube.

It’s nice to have a bit of ice-cold artwork for this long hot summer we’ve been having in Britain!

Somewhere Between The VCR Heads

Another record cover I designed recently has been getting a surprising amount of love… Nu:Logic’s second album ‘Somewhere Between The Light’ has been out for a couple of weeks now, and is my first Instagram post to not just reach but blow past 100 likes!

The design is a homage to old VHS packaging, which was an idea suggested by Nu:Tone and Logistics themselves. It was down to me to turn this idea into a record package, which tied together nicely with a retro thumb-hole cutout, printed inner sleeves for the records, and a solid black jewel case for the CD version too.

Even the shrink wrap looks good with the thumb hole design. Nice!

A Quick Cuppa

Here is my latest and greatest record cover artwork! It’s for St. Petersburg’s Bop, and a collaboration between Med School and Microfunk.

Bop wanted the artwork to look “pretty but a little bit dangerous so you wouldn’t drink it”. I tried using petrol to get a thin-film effect, but it made my Rickmansland studio smell like a garage. After a different approach, I ended up on this psychedelic cup of cha. It’s one of my favourite pieces of artwork in a little while, and it’s out today!

Tiny Dance

Flea Waltz

The latest cover art project to come out of Rickmansland is Frederic Robinson’s Flea Waltz. It’s his second album, but first on Med School and first I got to create artwork for, and it’s a good one!

The brief started with Joan Miró, but I brought in a little bit of a Matisse to it too with the cut-out vibes, then I made it all out of wood. It turned out really well, and compliments the music too (if I do say so myself). Thanks to all involved for indulging me, and to Frederic for making a great album to inspire it!

Mystery Machine

Krakota's Strange System

More newness! Here is the artwork I created for Krakota’s debut album. He called the album ‘Strange System’, which is totally up my alley when it comes to record titles.

The title made me think of black boxes (as in science/engineering, not aerospace), which are systems that you can give input to and get output from without having any idea of what happens inside the system. I had some crazy idea to create some artwork completely obscured by a black box, but that was too, well, obscure. Everyone on the project seemed to like what I was drawing to go into the box though, so we ended up with that as the cover itself.

Krakota Black Box

Everything is connected in this artwork! Clearly some of the objects are straight out of the mechanical/system corners of my noggin, but a lot of it comes from Krakota – his love of vinyl, celebratory beers and coffee to fuel the writing process, audio bits and pieces, and objects taken from some of his track titles. On the cover is a xylophone (from Xylo), a ghost, some samphire, an ice machine (for Ice Hands), some bones (for Lazy Bones), and the odd elastic bands. There are more track titles in the gatefold artwork too.

krakota-gatefold

I kept my illustrations on this artwork as geometric as possible to make it feel very mechanical, so to contrast that and bring it back into the world of humans, we had all the artwork printed on a nice and heavy unbleached card stock. It roughs it up just the right amount and looks pretty fresh in physical too.

Check the Hospital Shop if you need a copy in your life!

Record Cover Roundup: Spring Tingz

Spring Records

Hello Internet! I thought I should show you some highlights from the record covers I’ve been designing over the past couple of months.

NHS283-Packshot-1200px

rainbows

2016 started a lot like 2015 at Hospital Records, just with a lot more rainbows. It’s a trusted design, now with rainbows on everything (just how I like it!) – CDs, picture discs, posters, T-shirts, stickers, slipmats, you name it.

MEDIC56-Packshot-1200px

futurist-gatefold

Over at Med School the first album of the year was ‘Futurist’ by Keeno. Young Keeno picked the title just because he liked the word, so I came up with this futurism-inspired illustration of a man composing at a grand piano. Of course, with a title like Futurist, I had to use the typeface Futura for the artwork!

tyoms

Med School hit the decade landmark in 2016, which is a terrifies me if I think about it too much because I came up with the original blood-stained identity for the label back in 2006. The Ten Years extravaganza took a few twists and turns, but ended up here, in what I’m affectionately referring to ‘Tennis Years of Med School’.

tyoms-early

Also included here are a couple of earlier ideas for this artwork – one looking back at some of the artwork from the past decade (which made no sense as this album is all new material!), and one papercut version of the final artwork that got downvoted by the label.

maduk-gatefold-brighter

onecolourpertrack

Lastly for now is Maduk’s debut album, Never Give Up. Maduk had 12 tracks on the album and a concept that each track corresponded to a position on a clock-face of colours, which gave a nice rotational direction to the artwork. Creating the artwork involved working backwards, trying to minimise what I started with his single last year. I’m really pleased with this one, but as is no secret, I’m always pleased by bright colours!

Wormhole

Perspective

This week’s new release I had a hand in (literally!) is ‘Perspective’ by Anile on Med School. After MD Chris came up with the record cover in a record cover concept, we sent Hospital’s ‘resident doodler’ Snapclicker out with his camera to find us something to work for the title, and this shot from the Barbican Centre jumped out as being perfect for the job. I gave it a retro jazzy feel front and back, and with everyone happy, it went off to print.

When the final copies arrived at The Purple Gates, I couldn’t resist going back to Barbican myself to keep the image going, in kind of a wormhole style. It worked a bit better with the CD, I think. If I was to go any further though, I’d need a much wider lens!

Perspective CD

He Is Lynx

I Am Lynx

The latest release I’ve had the pleasure of working on is Lynx’s new album, and his first on Hospital Records, simply titled ‘I Am Lynx’.

We haven’t often done the full-on collage thing at Hospital, at least since 2006’s Computer Love EP, but we all thought it’d go well with Lynx’s idiosyncratic musical style. Steve was up for it too, so he sent through a folder of some classic childhood/family photos and a list of objects and memories from growing up in 80s/90s Britain for me to get to work with.

I pulled the collage all together in a way that radiated around Chelone Wolf‘s portrait of Lynx, to show all of these things making him who he is today, along with a few sillier lynx moments.

I’m really pleased with the cover, it’s mega colourful, totally ridiculous and very Monty Python (we even included Bronzino’s Cupid foot), but it’s also probably the most personal artist’s album cover I’ve ever designed.

Digital and CD are out on Monday, with the vinyl following soonafter (thanks, Record Store Day). Go and cop it!

 
You are currently reading
Page 1