New Openmind website & Super Deluxe Ed. interview

A couple of big design-related things happened this week – I’ve now finessed a site for the best of my design work over the last 20 years under the Openmind alias. You can check it out at – it’s not exhaustive and doesn’t contains all the extra info I provide in the design section of this site (look, it’s up there ^) but it offers a quick overview of some of the things I’ve done. Who knows, maybe you might even want my design work to grace your own objects?

Speaking of this site, it’s been undergoing a redesign, spring clean and update over the last few months as well as being made responsive so as to work better on mobiles, tablets and desktops. This has all been happening on a server elsewhere but should go live before Xmas. Don’t worry, everything will still be here (mostly) in the same place, it will just be easier to use, view and the Design and Discog sections will be fully up to date. It’s been 5 years since this version debuted and it’s never had an overhaul save for a couple of back end updates.

The other big design thing is the first part of an interview about the making of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ box set over on the Super Deluxe Editon website. Curator Ian Peel, co-designer Philip Marshall, Steve Bunyan from Union Sq Music and myself all discuss aspects of the thinking and approach to making the set with part two set to appear next week…

Inside The Pleasuredome – the Sarm Studio visit video

Here’s a short film of what went on at the Sarm Studios playback event of ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’.
For people who didn’t get a copy of the box set or were restricted by territory (N. America and Japan were excluded because of licensing laws) you can now order it through Am*z*n and elsewhere (although beware, some places are taking the p*ss with prices).

‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ – released this week

At long last, after 8 months of work (off and on) the Frankie Goes To Hollywood box set ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ was released on Wednesday 29th – 30 years to the day from its original debut. Back in November 2013 I was asked if I’d be part of the team that would put together the 30th anniversary set of Frankie’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ album, for release in Autumn 2014 and this is what writer Ian Peel, designer Philip Marshall and myself came up with.

To put this is context, this was a big deal, a very big deal indeed. Frankie and by extension Zang Tuum Tumb records were a massive formative influence on me in my early to mid teens. The band and label created a phenomena in 1984 which I’ve still not seen the likes of again and, alongside Trevor Horn and his team, the group made some of my favourite pop songs ever.

The album was the most eagerly anticipated of the year and, while being uneven, contains possibly the greatest side A of music ever issued in the 17 minute long title track. The design of the label greatly influenced my own aesthetic for record sleeve graphics although I didn’t realise this until years later and I started the Art of ZTT website as an online archive of the old material which I feel has been neglected in the history of music design.

This set is officially sold out now as it was a Pledgemusic production but I’m told a quantity have been kept back of the 2000 made (never to be repressed) and will be available from some distributors to those who couldn’t pledge due to the restrictions of licensing territories.

Bernard Szajner’s ‘Visions of Dune’ reissue

Received a vinyl copy of this wonderful album over the weekend from InFiné Records (thanks!) Beautiful packaging with debossing on silver card + insert and inner sleeve, rounding off an excellent record perfectly. Pretty sure this will be in the end of year top 10 album chart for 2014 for me, not a duff track on it. Get it here.
UPDATE: Finders Keepers have just put an exclusive cassette version on sale referencing the original artwork.

Zonatape box

I found this lovely little Zonatape box at Spitalfields market last Thursday, great colours and design. It housed, not a reel of tape but some home made date calculators with odd painted patterns on the back. Later the same day I found this op-art plate in a charity shop, I like the way the turntable poster from the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal magazine looks like it’s exploding out from it.

Posted in Oddities, Packaging. | 1 Comment |

Frankie flick book image restoration

It’s been a bit quiet on here of late because I’ve been very busy tying up the last pieces of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood box set with Philip Marshall and the deadline is this weekend with the book still to finish. We’ve had some 11th hour changes due to the USM legal dept. getting cold feet over the cassette front cover (there’ll be a lengthy blog post about the cassette one day) but also some higher res images arrived today of one of the Lo Cole gatefold prelims for the interior of the book. These were courtesy of a German fan who went out of his way to get a decent copy of the image from someone who had bought the rough draft painting when it was sold years ago. Now we can have a much larger version of the image rather than the low grade jpegs we’ve had for years.

But the subject of this post is about the Flick book* – maybe considered a throw away item to some, certainly the runt of the litter but getting as much love as the rest in its construction. The book features scenes from the TV advert that briefly aired around the time of the album launch in November ’84 with imagery based on Lo Cole’s paintings – a brief 40 second rampage into the Pleasuredome by the band accompanied by assorted mythical beasts. As pages are limited in the book the original film was broken down into an image sequence – 25 frames per second x 40 to nearly 1000 frames – which were then stripped down to essential frames and made into .gif files to see which few seconds of animation would work best.

*( this is a provisional cover design – it’s changed a bit since this version)

Luckily we can print on both sides of the page with this book so you can view two separate animations depending on which way round you hold the book. In an effort to get the best possible image quality for the book we went back to the sole surviving master copy, a U-Matic tape, and pulled the frames we needed. These were still fairly grubby looking with a dark caste over most, dull colours and lots of ‘noise’ across the image. In Photoshop I set up a series of image filters to find out how best to lighten the images and bring out the vibrancy of the colours without it looking too forced. It turned out that different scenes needed different amounts of filtering as the saturation kept changing so there was no chance to automate the process.

When I was satisfied I’d got the best colour and light balance there was still the subject of the noise and how to remove it, this is when you can see a texture like a grain across an image, usually caused by light or introduced by generations of copies. I use a great Photoshop plug in caused Neat Image (yes, terrible name but amazing results) to remove this. It takes a digital fingerprint of the image and then smooths out all the bumps without blurring the image, something some similar plug ins tend to do. See the process below, at the top is the original as it came to me, then the filtered version with enhanced colours and any dark cast taken away. Finally there’s the denoised version that will end up in the book.

Soul Food – quizzing Matt Johnson about ‘Soul Mining’

On Monday evening I joined Matt Johnson of The The on stage at Rough Trade East in London for a two hr Q&A about his ‘debut’ album, ‘Soul Mining’. It was a great evening with plenty to talk about and 200 eager fans there to listen and ask questions before queuing half way down the shop floor for autographs.

One fan even had the original art for the ‘Soul Mining’ cassette with him, complete with pasted up overlay. Matt recorded it all via clip on mics and I believe someone was video taping as well. I should be editing the audio sometime next week for a podcast. (Top photos by Nancy Brown and Adam James Seth-Ward, photo below posted on Twitter, thank you , please let me know who you are so I can credit you).

The recently released box set is something to cherish with lots of quirks courtesy of Matt’s designer Cally at Antar. Upon lifting the lid you’re greeted with a huge scan of one of the original master tapes on the underside and a 24″ x 36″ foldout containing images and liner notes. The download card is a large replica of a 1/4 inch reel to reel tape and I was thrilled to have a thank you on the reverse for providing images from my archive to the project.
The bonus disc of remixes and B-sides is probably the jewel in the crown as it arrives in a full colour gatefold plastered with Andy DOG Johnson‘s classic imagery. Finally we come to the original LP which is a faithful recreation with an inner sleeve showing the original labels barely visible printed straight on to the paper. Cally tells me he had to fight hard to present details like this and more as part of the package as Sony wanted it all cleaned up but to me these are the details that make it unique, showing off the artifact. More master tape scans finish the experience on the box bottom and the quality is top notch, it all feels as if a lot of care and attention has been taken to put this together.

The audio really doesn’t need rhapsodising over but the bonus Recollected disc contains alternate 12″ and early versions of Uncertain Smile, Perfect, This Is The Day and I’ve Been Waiting For Tomorrow (all of my life) from the album and period B side Fruit of the Heart. The remaster has been very sympathetic to the original and with a lack of outtakes or demos the quality of the songs never dips or falters. You can order a copy direct here and there are several articles doing the rounds on the web at the moment, one of the best being John Doran‘s piece on the Quietus and check the latest issue of Mojo for 6 pages of Soul Mining.

Also I should point out that the box set is (intentionally) large enough to easily fit the dual 12″ of Matt and mine’s versions of ‘GIANT’ that was released for Record Store Day. This was always intended and nicely completes the set of Andy Dog cover art from that era whilst adding a touch of my own take on his work.

Death Waltz Record Store Day releases

Death Waltz Recording Company releases for Record Store Day 2014 (only 2 of the 4). Each album has a splattered colour vinyl disc, a huge 36″x36″ poster, a 12″x12″ card print of the poster plus sleeve notes, a housebag that’s both embossed and debossed and a paper wraparound with release details.

These retail at an average of £20 each – incredible when you see the prices of other releases only offering half that. Plus Spencer Hickman, the label owner, is a straight up dude, one of the soundest people I’ve come across in the music industry. DW details x2

808 State Cassettes from Artoffact Records


These beautiful objects are soon to be available from Canadian label Artoffact Records. 808 State’s classic turn of the decade albums, ’90’ and ‘Ex:el’ have been made in 8 different colours on cassette at the very reasonable price of CAN $9.98 each.

For the completists out there they are also selling a bundle of all 8 tape colours for CAN$74.98. View all the different colours and buy here.

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FGTH ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ deluxe box set

This is what the last post was all about, a project I’ve been working on for the last few months but feels like I’ve been working towards for over a decade. 10 years ago I actively started contacting and interviewing the people involved in the creation of the ZTT label’s artwork, starting with Paul Morley who I collaborated with on ‘Raiding the 20th Century’. Through the years after I met designers, illustrators and photographers who had all had hands in the late 80’s output of the label whilst collecting promo posters, magazine ads and in some cases original artwork and photos.

After starting my ArtofZTT site early last year and having been in contact with Ian Peel, responsible for the ongoing reissue series at the label, I was asked to collaborate with resident designer Philip Marshall on what would become the 30th anniversary of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’.

Now re-titled ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ this deluxe box set is available to pre-order via Pledge Music and will be released on the anniversary later this year at the end of October. The set will contain:
Re-mastered and redesigned original LP,
3 x 10″s of remixes, demos and alt. takes
a hardback Art of FGTH book with sleeve art, adverts, ultra rare promo posters, LP prelims and making of interviews
a cassette of multiple ‘Relax’ remixes with new artwork inside a card slipcase
a DVD with videos plus 5.1 audio from various singles and album tracks
3 x Prints of the original Lo Cole album artwork (with uncensored back cover image)
a digital only EP of instrumentals
a Pleasuredome TV ad flick book
a Tumbometer (fans will know what this is)
6 x cards with download codes for the remastered LP, the 3 10″s, the cassette and the digital EP

I’ll be sharing photos here during the pledge period of 65 days, I’d love to post it all now but there will be a slow roll out as items are unveiled to people who pre-order . Once the order / pledge period is up no more orders will be taken and once /if the target it reached that will be the extent of the number of sets made. Of the 10 ‘elements’ contained inside the box, half of them will be exclusive including the art book and 10″ featuring ‘Slave…’ It has already made a quarter of the target less than a day after going online but there’s still a way to go. You can pre-order here but once that window is closed that will be your only chance, the box set won’t be sold in shops.

Epic Beard Men 7″ on Blunt Force Trauma

Those lovely people at Factory Road (purveyors of Solid Eggs, 45 adaptors, gallery spaces, Inkymole illustration etc) also run an occasional record label called Blunt Force Trauma.

Their latest release is in conjunction with Sage Francis, an artist they’ve enjoyed a long association with, providing artwork for several of his releases over the years. Co-released with his Strange Famous label this one consists of a mini Hip Hop supergroup, the Epic Beard Men aka Sage, B. Dolan and the UK’s very own Buddy Peace.

It’s a double A-sided 45 with an ode to black plastic on the A (“Viva La Vinyl‘) and a stomping funk party rap on the flip (‘You Can’t Win‘). As usual they’ve gone the extra mile on the packaging and artwork on this one and the 7″ comes in a 12″ fold out ‘sleeve’ with tear off double-sided art print and custom Factory Road 45 dink in the center.

You can also listen to it and buy direct from them right now, ahead of its April 14th release date HERE. Also, check Sarah (Inkymole) Coleman illustrating some of the work in these two shorts.

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

Joe Mansfield’s Beat Box Book special edition

I’m featuring this again because I just got the special (Record Store Day 2013) edition and it’s one of the nicest packages I’ve seen in a while. A heavyweight slipcase to house the sumptuous book of drum machine photos which really aren’t done justice on a blog here as they are gorgeous up close in richly printed colour – see more of the inside in my previous post.

But this is all about what’s with the book – namely a cassette and 7″ record housed in the front of the slipcase. The 7″ features a version of the Beasties Boys‘Paul Revere’ remade on the 808 drum machine on side A and the same beat played the original way (ie not reversed) on the flip. In a nice touch, the B side plays from the label outwards towards the edge, backwards rather than forwards. The cassette has samples on it but I can’t listen to then right now as my tape deck broke about a year back. All are done out in the black and white schematic that adorns some of the book, adding to the fitting design aesthetic of the package.


Another nice touch is the inner sleeve for the 45 which opens to reveal a painting of an 808 on one side, and in a nod to the Beasties’ ‘Licensed To Ill’ LP, shows it crunching into a mountainside on the reverse. I’ve placed the two sides together here so you can see how the full image should look as the artist has nicely matched the original style.

You can still pick this version up from Rap & Soul Mail Order in the UK for £50 and it’s worth every penny.

Clone ‘Hallowe’en 1976′ cassette package

Love this oversize clam shell cassette packaging and design from Andy Votel‘s Cache Cache label. The artist is Clone – aka Gary Sloane of last years ‘Harmonitalk’ and this is 26 minutes of electronic jam sessions from 1976 supposedly. Inside each box is a bonus plastic skeleton to keep with the Halloween theme. Still in stock over at Finders Keepers but limited to only 100 copies.

Posted in Design, Music, Packaging. | No Comments |