The virtual nature obviously makes it pandemic-friendly (I still haven’t got my second vaccine yet!), so after a couple of false starts and venue changes, Chris at Hospital and the Art Vinyl guys got set up in Defected Records’ basement event space.
Chris and I had to pick fifty covers, which seems like a lot, but was pretty difficult considering Hospital’s catalogue is closer to 450 now, and that doesn’t even include the not-quite-100 on Med School as well. We filtered it down to albums that came out on vinyl only, and began whittling down to our favourites from there.
There’s more than just the record covers in the exhibition though – there are a selection of some of the original pieces of art I made for the covers dotted around, as well as many other bonus features. And! Chris and I also wrote a little commentary about some of our particular favourites in the exhibition.
I’ve been designing covers for Hospital for about fifteen years now, and I’m not sure if I’m proud or terrified when looking at this exhibition!
On the subject of how I make record covers for Hospital…
I also recently revisited the footage of making a pair of EPs for Logistics, from just before the pandemic-era. I’ve edited them into a nice new ‘How did this happen?’ video, which talks through the inspiration, and how I made the artwork. Check it out below!
NHS381 marks a sad moment in my music industry design career. I’m no stranger to design and identity projects for labels that have had short runs and naturally fizzled out, but Med School is the first one to very firmly close its proverbial doors after more than a decade.
It came as a bit of a shock to me – and everyone, including the decision-makers, I think, to wind down the label at just shy of 100 releases. It was a hell of a thirteen-year run, but the decision was made, and Hospital decided the best way to acknowledge the label and its exploits should be in the form of a ‘Graduation’ LP on the big label.
The artwork project proved to be a bit of a battle, but in the end my awkward illustration skillz saved the day, and we ended up with something we all liked. Below is an alternative cut in classic Med School scrubs-green, which didn’t quite win the office popular vote over the full-colour version, but it’s the one I prefer anyway.
Behold my latest record cover! Long-time collaborator Logistics has a habit of kindling inspiration in me, usually by bringing his music with some kind of twentieth-century art or design reference point that is totally in my wheelhouse.
For this EP, Logistics gave me some images of library music sleeves, so I took these reference points and set about creating a unique piece of artwork that (hopefully) feels like it could be part of the same niche. I came up with a scheme to do a spin painting for the artwork. The technique is wildly unpredictable, and (as is the way in the topsy-turvy world of independent music) the constraints didn’t afford the luxury of creating an entire spin-painting turntable, but I managed to cobble together a setup using my power drill, some scraps of wood, and my communal back-garden on a sunny day.
The trial-and-error began. I discovered that acrylic paint was too thick and ink was too thin, but paint from a spray-can was just about the right consistency to drift with the centrifugal forces, but still stay opaque. A few attempts later I was starting to get results I was happy with.
A little colour-shifting later, the results pleased the label and Logistics himself, so it was on to the packaging details. The cover design was divided into thirds, so I found a slightly abstract way to divide the centre labels into thirds too.
Because this is a cover for Hospital’s most-prolific musician and the reference point for the artwork was library music, I also went to the effort of presenting the inner sleeve as a library of Logistics’ music in itself. I combed through the entire back catalogue, fought it into a sensible (again thirds-based) layout, and after a bit of to-and-fro over what should and shouldn’t be included where, we have another satisfying detail for the project!
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!
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!
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!