There was an old lady…


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Max in boat 650

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Bought this book for my boys yesterday (I’m a sucker for beautifully designed childrens books) Such a unique way of presenting the old tale and at the end her eyes close after she eats the horse. We also have another version by Jan Pienkowski (who did Meg & Mog and the classic Haunted House pop up book) in which she turns into a ghost on the last page!

This book though is illustrated by Jeremy Holmes and available from Chronicle Books from San Francisco, presumable available online but I got mine from Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill who have re-installed part of my Where the Wild Things Are Window display.

Posted in Books, Design, Oddities. | No Comments |

Ah yeah…

I was in the Ninja office today, sifting through boxes of press archive, found some amazing things, hilarious photos of old and some situations I don’t even remember. Lots of weird and wonderful people have passed through Ninja over the years and there are a lot of memories attached to it for me. I’m currently deep into the design and ongoing picture research for the Ninja Tune book which will be published this summer by Black Dog Publishing.

It’s a gargantuan project and one that we are not taking lightly – don’t expect the usual spread of press shots you’ve all seen before, we’re digging deep for lots of unseen material and it turns up in the most unlikely places. There’s no way it will all make it into the book but I promise to share some of the bits and pieces that don’t make it at a later date via this blog.

Also, these turned up today… :) Better res than Vimeo, I promise.
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Psychedelic Pink

A current big hit in our household are the Pink Panther cartoons from the 60’s and 70’s with variations on Henry Mancini’s excellent theme to by Walter Greene to accompany them. One of my favourite episodes is this tripped out classic from 1968, the Panther goes into a weird bookshop and strange things start to happen. The background designs by Tom O’Loughlin are sublime and show a rare glimpse of the times in a chidren’s cartoon. See the gallery above for more shots…

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Posted in Design, Film, Oddities. | 1 Comment |

7 Up

This arrived this morning, most won’t know or care what it is but for those who do and are expecting a similar package it’s the end of months of waiting and speculation.

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Another Ashley Wood/3A toy production, pre-sold with a few prototype shots last Autumn to a rabid fanbase – seven 1/12 scale Bertie droids and their Square companions – all in packaging that won’t have you throwing the box away and not half the price you’d think.

Proper pics of the actual bots soon…

Posted in Design, Robots, Toys. | 1 Comment |

10 favourite sleeves / packages for 2009

Looking at my favourite records for 2009 made me think of my favourite sleeve designs as well, as several were represented in the selection. I’ve noticed a definite resurgence in sci-fi imagery this year, particularly of the 70’s Roger Dean / Heavy Metal / Moebius fantasy variety. Dan McPharlin is probably the best exponent of this style and has two designs in the selection. Julian House is still mining the collage aesthetic although seems to be leaving the Penguin cover design style behind more and more. Warp’s 20th boxset was a beautiful piece of work, making for a great celebratory object in the age of the download and Jeff Jank continues to innovate over at Stones Throw.

12 x favourite covers 2009 650

Oasis -Falling Down (Amorphous Androgynous remix)(Big Brother)
Designed by Julian House

Various Artists – The Byg Deal (Finders Keepers)
Designed by Liars

Roj – The Transectional Dharma of Roj (Ghost Box)
Designed by Julian House

Various Artists – Warp 20 boxsert (Warp)
Designed by YES / Bernard Ryan / Metropolitan Works

Anti Pop Consortium – Flourescent Black  (Big Dada)
Designed by Ron Croudy Illustration by Mark Evans

Mr Chop – Light Worlds (Now Again)
Designed by Dan McPharlin

Prefuse 73 – Everything She Touched Turned Amphexian (Warp)
Designed by Dan McPharlin

Madlib – Beat Konducta vol.5-6 (Stones Throw)
Designed by Jeff Jank Photo by Ernesto Yerena

J G Thirlwell – The Venture Brothers vol.1 (Adult Swim /Williams St)
Designed by unknown

Various Artists – Studio G – G Spots (Trunk)
Designed by Flack

Posted in Art, Design, Music, Records. | 1 Comment |

Warp 20

Just arrived at the door, what a lovely package, congratulations to all involved and Happy 20th Warp. My only gripe is that I could have been part of the package as they asked me to do the mix last year but I simply didn’t have the time so I passed them on to Osymyso. Looking forward to digesting it all.

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Posted in Books, Design, Music, Records. | No Comments |

Rinky Dink

My friends Sarah and Leigh at Factory Road sent some lovely custom 45 adapters down the other week. After years of buying up old stocks from US factories they’ve made their own, improved from existing versions and debossed with their logo. They also offer a custom service with your own name or wording on the dinks if you need something special or want some for promo. Contact Leigh at [email protected] if you want more info – they also make records, prints and T-shirts and are lovely people.

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K4 Format 09 compilation from Slovenia

This arrived in the mail today completely unannounced and the packaging immediately made an impression. I recognised the designer as being the same Nina Vrhovec who designed this flyer for my last gig in Ljubljana. The cover image is actually a 3D construction if you look closely which is pretty impressive as it could easily have been made by computer. The CD is a compilation of unsigned Solvenian artists in conjunction with the Dept. of Culture with music ranging for IDM to breaks, even industrial rock on one track and has a high hit rate for music makers without a deal. More info here www.klubk4.org and listen and buy here

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Posted in Design, Music. | 3 Comments |

Living The Dream

Lots of things going on at the moment:

DK & DJ Food at the ICA, London

DK and I played the Ninja night at the ICA last Friday with Grasscut, Juice Aleem, Daedelus and King Cannibal, it was great to see so many familiar faces, including most of the Ninja staff, thanks for coming down. Saturday was headlining one of the tents at the Lounge On The Farm festival in Canterbury alongside Tom Middleton, Roots Manuva, The Dub Pistols and Mr Scruff.

Very busy with the next EP, a little behind but making progress, mixing what I have the first week of August.

Still waiting on a vocal from one of my musical heroes – very exciting and scary at the same time.

Natural Self is going to do a version of ‘The Illectrik Hoax’ in a very different style apparently.

Emailing Henry Flint about a possible future cover image.

Going through the archives for this site and another project.

Still got to send the King Cannibal CD off the the printer.

need more hours in the day or less sleep…

Grace Jones, DK & DJ Food at the ICA, London

(photos © Martin LeSanto-Smith 2009)

Posted in Design, DJ Food, Gigs, Records. | No Comments |

New record, new website and new radio show

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It’s here, you wait for ages and then three come along at once. Yes I finally got round to releasing another record and it’s out today, a 30 minute EP on Ninja Tune called ‘One Man’s Weird Is Another Man’s World’. It features the vocal talents of Natural Self (yes, I said vocal) on lead track ‘The Illectrik Hoax’ and the nifty drums of Dr. Rubberfunk alongside the sampled vocals of Ken Nordine and The Dragons on ‘All Covered In Darkness’. Bundy K Brown is behind the board for ‘A Trick of the Ear’ and an old collaboration with PC makes it’s first appearance in the form of ‘extract from Stolen Moments’. 2000ad artist Henry Flint graciously provided drawings for the cover art to make it something worth having and holding when it folds out to an A2 sized poster. It’s available in the form of a 5 track 12″ with poster cover and download code or a 6 track mp3 bundle.

You can hear selections from it on my Soundcloud and buy it from  iTunesDJ Download /   Play.comSpotifywe7Ninja shop HMV Digital Bleep / Tune Tribe 7 Digital / Juno / Boomkat
There’s an interview in the new Clash Music magazine including a free mp3 and a very nice review by Mark E on Ireallylovemusic

Not only is there a new record but the near mythical DJ Food site is finally ready, choc full of stuff from my Openmind alter ego design work past and present and a full DJ Food discography stretching back nearly 20 years. If you want to know anything about the records connected to this moniker over the years then it will be there along with gig dates, blogs, playlists and more. The site is divided into 4 sections: Diary, Design, Discography and Downloads and you can subscribe to the blog without going through myspace at last. It’s still a work in progress as there is so much to present, especially on the design side of things as most entries provide stories, alternate artwork and release info. A big thanks to Dean at Safe As Milk for all his hard work on making it what it is.

And finally, it’s a Solid Steel takeover this week with an hour long mix from myself based on the EP with tracks from all the contributors, some original sample sources and various things I that inspired the making of it. The second hour is a fantastic mix from The Broken Keys – aka Natural Self and Nostalgia 77 – called ‘Engine Oil and Elbow Grease’, stuffed to the brim with old funk, rock breaks and psyche. You can listen here.

It’s been a hectic week…

Not only did I have 3 artwork deadlines to finish by Friday, 2 gigs at the weekend and the usual family responsibilities but no sooner had one of my sons got over a bout of chicken pox than the other one caught it. Cue more sleepness nights, creams, medicines, doctors and eventually a visit to A&E and an eye doctor as the pox had clustered around his eyes and we feared infection. It turns out he is now out of the woods and is thrilled with his new Prowl Transformer toy (the Ninja Autobot no less).

KC_Promo_cropThe artwork deadlines were for promos for the new King Cannibal album and single on Ninja and The Herbaliser‘s Session 1 & 2 release on !K7 and I definitely bit off a bit more than I could chew with King Cannibal (no pun intended). The initial image idea had been to create a mass of intertwined bodies, all covered in latex, gas masks, bondage gear and the like (made for some interesting ‘research’). Whilst putting all this together I came to the conclusion that this needed something more and sitting at the table casually talking with my wife about seemingly unrelated events, I got a vision and knew how I could make the image better. Two outer rings of machines and photos of the earth from above would encircle the latex bodies like a darker, industrial take on Mati Klarwien‘s painting ‘A Grain of Sand’.

mati-grain-of-sand--1965I find I get a lot of ideas doing very mundane things (not that sitting talking to the missus is mundane you understand),  – making the tea, tidying up, going to the toilet – anything but sitting in front of a sketchbook or computer. I’ve not looked into it but there must be some subconscious brain activity churning around in the background whilst you take a break, your work is pushed to the background whilst you are forced to concentrate on a different matter at hand. Whilst it’s still there it can be seen in a new light and connections are made which are not immediately obvious when solely concentrating on the subject. I get similar things when conversing with other like-minded people on projects, there seems to be cerebral gameplay with some where the mind goes into a sort of idea-jamming one-upmanship. Thoughts get tossed around, built upon and discarded in quick succession and ideas you would never have had on your own are suddenly the basis for your next project.

But I digress, now that this vision had manifest itself in my mind the only thing to do was go back to the drawing board and start adding to the artwork at hand. I often find this happening, something is adequate but a flash of inspiration can make it better or even brilliant and I am helpless to ignore it and go for the easy option. A week later and I’m sitting at the computer at 3am, literally falling asleep at the mouse, with a 1.4GB image file comprised of 180 layers and the machine is seriously struggling to do what I’m asking it. I’m pretty happy with the end result, even though it’s still not quite finished, and you can see a portion of the image on the front cover of the first single from the new album ‘Let The Night Roar’Colder Still. Or it would have been Colder Still had Ninja not had a change of mind after I had submitted the artwork and changed it to So…Embrace The Minimum – gahhhh!

ZENCDS248P poshetteAnyway, all this at least gave me time to change little details on it whilst I got on with finishing The Herbaliser‘s artwork for Sessions 1 & 2. If you’re not familiar with the Session 1 album there is good reason as it was recorded nearly 10 years ago and not released on Ninja Tune but on the Herbs’ own Dept H which was distributed by the now defunct Beechwood Music. This was a live album of various cuts from their first three long players in the form they’d been playing as a full touring band and was fairly limited at the time, going on to command high prices. Now the band have recorded a follow up with material from the last three albums and !K7 are reissuing the first volume in a special double CD pack as well as the regular, singular Session 2.
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Session 1 CD Disc on bodyHerbs_Session1&2Having done all their artwork since the first album with the exception of Session 1 and the last LP ‘Same As It Never Was’ (other work commitments) I was delighted to go back and fill a space in the catalogue. I completely redesigned the first volume and paired it with a new look for the second from an initial idea by Ollie Teeba – a simple but classic pair of sleeves focusing on large 1 and 2 numerals containing photos from various recording sessions. I ran with this and produced an array of designs in a kind of library music style with geometric number forms, some of which feature inside the booklets now as there were too many to use. I’ll post some soon in the gallery section. This all had to be finished by Friday and I got a mail to say that this was also the last day I could submit a digital booklet for my new EP release to iTunes – another thing to add to the list!

Well I got it in on time and headed off to Bristol with DK for the first night of Solid Steel‘s new residency with D.O.P. at the Thekla. The night was great with new Solid Steel recruit Cheeba playing to his home crowd and us doing the 4 deck video turntablism set followed by Eddy Temple-Morris. Saturday was off to Helsinki to play alongside Mark De Clive-Lowe and the lovely Alice Russell‘s live band at the Funky Elephant festival. I love Finnish design and there was time to shop at Marimeko and Iittala and grab some Moonmin bits for the kids. Check out the shop sign also – in case it’s not so clear it says ‘Ninja – for men’. This week will be tying up loose artwork and website ends before properly getting my head down on the next EP which is in various stages of completion…

Moonmin trollNinja - for Men
Alice Russell band on stage

Posted in Design, Gigs. | 2 Comments |