How it all began…
About a year or so ago I got a message from Jamie, I’d not heard from him for a bit, we’d met a while ago outside Rough Trade in Brick Lane, he helped me strap a load of bin bags to the roof of the Truman Brewery in an attempt to black it out.
Anyway, he wanted to know if I’d do some art to go with the album he’d made with the rest of his band ‘Officers’. I really wasn’t feeling like doing any more music bits, I wanted to focus on my own work. However I said send the demos over and I’ll give them a listen and see.
What he sent me literally blew my head off! I wasn’t just a series of rough ideas or poor recordings, what they had was the culmination of two years worth of hard slog in the studio, and an album that sounded so massive I almost couldn’t believe they’d made it. It turned out that Dave Bascombe (Depeche Mode) had his hand in the recordings as did Tim Holmes (Death in Vegas), so all of a sudden it clicked and I got it. The more I listened the deeper the journey went, I got swept up by Matt’s lyrics and vocal delivery. This was something I HAD TO BE INVOLVED WITH. It was too gigantic to ignore.
So the dialogue started and things started to develop, but really what happened was we started making things together, bouncing off each other, it took on a momentum. Before I knew it we were looking at a whole world of what Officers looked like. I found this really weird German encyclopedia in the middle of a field in Greece and it was mashed-up, rained on and it was retro to start with, it was incredible. It looked like something that had landed there from another time or place, a parallel reality or something. That’s what the music felt like to me the first time I heard it. So that book started to inform a lot of what resulted. The early promos, that I hand silkscreen on the floor of my studio and bound tight with special tape, all signed and numbered. The whole idea to make something tactile and special to encase all the hard work that had gone into making On The Twelve Thrones.
After a talcum powder fight in the Ellis Scott’s studio we had some fantastic photos of the band, and we worked with Candy Wall on the typography, again stemming from that alien greek german hybrid.
Then I made a series of limited edition prints for the band using pure process colour, and enclosing them in this blow-torch branded crate thing that I came up with. I was pretty pleased with it. It was a chance to work with ‘French Danny’ again… he’s a brilliant print maker, we’d done the Prodigy bits together and they were fantastic.
The difference I suppose with it, was it was about MAKING something, rather than designing, or giving an image to be used, it was actually artist made, I still have cuts and splinters on my hands now! I’ve not got all the ink off.
A few days ago the band came to stay, and we doctored some old Encyclopedia Britannicas together, adding photos of the recording sessions, all the production notes, our email correspondence between us all, and I screenprinted in the book, put lino prints in there and made fold out posters and things. We made them together, a real tight collaboration.
I also found myself re-uniting my love for the old cassette format, they were lovely! And actually how my youth was spent listening to music, that was how it came in my day. There was always something so interactive about pressing pause and record, knocking the tabs out and sharing with your friends. I guess they were like the first social networking, sort of music sharing thing. Anyways I screenprinted up some slipcases and hand foiled them, did them in a load of different colourways, and then vac-packed them.
But the height of the whole physical product thing was the idea to create a house, something you could climb inside with a friend, sit on the floor, put the headphones on, get lost in the record and explore the book and the working processes of myself and the band. That shack, is now in Rough Trade East (Brick Lane), where I met Jamie!… until Sunday evening. And was a labor of love for us all, we painted it and customized it, and I think it really does take you back to a time when you eagerly listened to a record you’d bought, sat on your bedroom floor. It’s a big shed that only plays one record, it’s probably the biggest piece of music packaging I can think of.
I’m really happy because the album has been so well received, and deservedly so! It’s getting 9/10 on just about every review. People are really feeling it. It’s out now on iTunes and you can get the CD from Rough Trade and a variety of other indie stores throughout the UK. The cassettes, shack and booksets are in Rough Trade East (brick lane) till Sunday, and you can get the bookset on my webstore or the offical Officers store (which also has some prints and cd’s)
Next up we’re going to focus on some live show elements, so hopefully we’ll catch you at one of the gigs in the new year.