One November Monday

Back in the winter of 2009, on a bleak, windy Monday, I died and went to heaven.

two-tribes-poster.jpgActually, I tell a lie, it was Slough.
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When I think of Slough I see the opening credits to the UK comedy The Office which was supposedly based there. It’s all industrial buildings, dull office blocks and council estates, absolutely nothing to write home about (sorry any Slough dwellers reading this). I’d been invited by my friend Ian Peel to visit him at an address owned by the record label ZTT – home of Trevor Horn, his associated productions as well as the back catalogue of Stiff records, which they acquired in the mid 80’s. Arriving at the address revealed a nondescript ‘premises’ – it wasn’t a house or office in the conventional sense and – while searching for an entrance round the back – Ian popped his head out and beckoned me inside.

I’ve known Ian for a few years now, initially through a shared love for the Zang Tuum Tumb (ZTT) label and it’s golden period in the 80’s, but also for our fondness of the music of that decade. He regularly writes for the Guardian, Record Collector and the like as well as co-ordinating reissues and releases for ZTT, Stiff and occasionally his own label Karvavena. On occasion he picks my brains for something and disappears back into the ether although this time I’d provided him with much more than a soundbite for a magazine feature. An email arrived one day from Philip Marshall who was helping Ian with the reissue of a deluxe 2 CD edition of Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s Welcome To The Pleasuredome album for ZTT. Could I help with sourcing images for the release?

For those unaware, (probably most of you) Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and more importantly the whole aesthetic of the ZTT label in the 80’s, had a huge effect on me in my formative years. Most people have one or two bands that they ‘grew up’ with, moments where a bands rise to fame and the mania that surrounded them dovetailed with your own musical tastes and that group becomes forever linked with your memories of the period. For most of ’84 and ’85 I bought little else than the bands on the ZTT roster, Frankie, Art of Noise, Propaganda, Grace Jones‘ incredible Slave To The Rhythm LP, even venturing into contemporary classical waters with Andrew Poppy, and of course, the Frankie Say… T-shirts.

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Jumping 20 years forward in time I was perusing a ZTT fan forum when I chanced upon someone selling the original artwork for the ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ album. To cut another digression short, I ended up buying the paintings of the front, inner gatefold and back from the original artist Lo Cole and they now hang proudly in my studio. Another jump, 5 years to the present, and Ian is trying to source unique images for the 28 page booklet that will accompany the reissue. The ZTT archive is incomplete, a lot of it having either been binned over time or destroyed in a fire at an Island records warehouse over a decade ago and this was where I fitted in.

Being a fan, over the years I’ve been trawling eBay and used magazine shops for copies of the music press from the 80’s and collecting the ads for all the releases – mini graphic masterpieces in themselves that had influenced my design tastes greatly. Ian had seen this collection and asked if I had any more including the scans of the Pleasuredome preliminary sketches and paintings Lo had sent me when I’d been discussing the purchase of his work. I did and photographed various promo and fly posters too big to include in the folders as well as details from the cover paintings. Then he dropped the bombshell. He was spending a couple of days a week in a property owned by ZTT, sorting out all the master tapes from their archive – the fabled ‘ZTT cupboard’ as it’s known to collectors. Because the artwork required from my collection was so valuable, we agreed I should should drop it off in person to Ian whilst he was working there.
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The thought that I would be in a room with boxes of master tapes all connected directly to the label and music I loved was thrilling but nothing prepared me for the sight I saw upon stepping into the room. It was the whole downstairs floor of the building, the size of a small office or a very large living room. Boxes covered nearly every inch of floor space and were piled up to chest height, Ian had started to sort them into stacks relating to each artist and there was a small warren of footpaths between the piles. Half of the room was barely touched and the sheer volume of boxes was overwhelming.

GJ Slave master 2GJ Slave diskette GJ Slave master

I looked down and saw a stack marked ‘Grace Jones’, in it were various master tapes for the ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ LP and single, duplicates for different territories but no session tapes, yet. Several boxes of Art of Noise reels revealed 24 track tapes of various ‘Moments In Love’ versions, the ‘Beatbox’ and ‘Into Battle’ 12″s, an early, unreleased version of their first album entitled ‘Worship’, already split into an A and B side for the cutting house. Fairlight discs and studio session sheets where inside the boxes too, containing info on what was recorded when, by whom and, no doubt, the original samples used on the tracks. One had the words “I never want to hear this ever again – A. Dudley” on it, another “Anne in tears” written on the metal reel itself.

AON Beatbox 12" master AON Beatbox diskette AON box 1 AON box 2 AON early tape AON Moments master AON Worship 1 AON Worship 2

“Here’s the Frankie pile”, offered Ian, pointing to about 50 boxes, each stuffed with reels of master tape, cans of film used for videos, VHS, Hi-8, DAT and cassettes. There were session tapes for the ‘Liverpool’ album, I think I saw at least 50+ reels, mixes upon mixes, vocal sessions from actors like Joanna Lumley, Pamela Stephenson and Jeff Palmer. A version of ‘Two Tribes’ finished on my birthday in 1984 marked ‘mix 115’. The reels of an unreleased 7 & 12 inch remix by Paul Morley of their last single, ‘Watching The Wildlife’, ready for the cutting house to master. A ‘Welcome To the Pleasuredome’ ‘continuous wacky jam’ between Trevor Horn Steve Lipson and JJ Jeczalik entitled ‘the shit mix’. This was like entering one of those lost temples in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the ultimate digging in the crates session with the added appeal of teenage nostalgia.

FGTH Pleasedome shit mix FGTH Pleasuredome Palmer vox FGTH Rage Hard Lumley vox FGTH Rage Hard Stephenson vox FGTH Relax 7" master FGTH Relax Sex mix master FGTH Two Tribes mix 115 FGTH Two Tribes Video destructo master FGTH Wildlife Morley 7 & 12" mixes FGTH Wildlife Orchestra mix FGTH Wildlife:Waves 12" mixes

After four hours my hands were black and I had to get back to London but I felt I’d barely scratched the surface. A couple of boxes were filled between the two of us, full of interesting or important tapes that needed to be baked and transferred to DAT for future compilations. Pleasuredomes indeed as an old Paul Morley-penned sleeve note read.

The deluxe reissue of Frankie’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ is out April 12th from ZTT / Salvo / Union Square Music. It comes with a second CD of unheard works in progress, rare alternate 12″ and cassette only cuts including a completely unheard extended version of ‘Ballad of 32’ from the original album. Included is a 28 page booklet featuring text by Ian, design and layout in the style of the original releases from Philip and many picture contributions from myself. Ian even let me have a hand in the track selection and order on the bonus CD, running it past me and taking on board suggestions for inclusions and omissions. Last but not least, I get a nice credit inside :)

Buy it here

More design, visuals and tape shots in the gallery below, click to enlarge. I’ve been writing and researching a long piece entitled ‘Who’s Afraid of the Art of ZTT?’ for about 5 years now, it’s nearly finished and will make an appearance someday…

Posted in Design, Event, Music, Records. | 25 Comments |

The Simonsound – LP and Solid Steel mixes on the way…

I’ve been raving about this LP from the Simonsound – aka Matt Ford (DJ Format) and Simon James – for a while now, and a test pressing dropped through the door last week. It’s a fantastic mix of moog funk, radiophonic workshop atmospherics and downtempo soundtrack beats with a smattering of vocals. First Word have picked it up for release after two 7″ singles appeared on the duo’s Project Bluebook label covering Kraftwerk’s ‘Tour De France‘ and Jimmy Casto Bunch’s ‘It’s Just Begun’ to brilliant effect, backed by their own compositions.

The good news is that the LP will be out on May 10th and the even better news is that we will have an exclusive hour long mix from them on Solid Steel on the 14th. Even better news is that they have not only done a mix but have put together an hour long video podcast as well!!! We’ll be hosting both and word is that DJ Spinna and Gilles Peterson have been digging it too…

SS LP TP

Posted in Music, Records, Solid Steel. | 3 Comments |

Edward Willliams’ Life On Earth soundtrack

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I only got this last week, a shameful admission as I’m usually first in line with my tenner when the Trunk mailout pops in the In Box, and yes I have done the funny drawings Jonny asks for too. Had I bought it when it was released though then it would have instantly made my best of 2009 list – what a soundtrack! A mixture of classical wind and strings sections with occasional gamelan-like percussion and electronics. One track even has snatches of David Attenborough’s narration dubbed into it with full echo, was that in the series?

Best of all it invoked one of my favourite sensations upon first listen, something I only experience on rare occasions and frustratingly fleeting at that. The sense of a door in my childhood that has been locked for decades suddenly being opened again, remembering something entirely forgotten but has been sitting patiently for the right code to active it again.

That code was the rising crescendo of notes that finish the ‘theme’ to Life On Earth, music I haven’t heard for 30 years but that is still etched into my memory. As soon as I heard them I was transported back to being a 9 year old, getting ready for bed on a (Sunday?) evening as the closing credits of the series faded. I didn’t watch it, I was more interested in Star Wars and life in outer space than watching life on this planet, but my parents obviously did and something must have stuck. So, thankyou Jonny Trunk for releasing it (and sending me one of your remaining copies too), it really made my day.

You can read more here and listen and buy the CD here

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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 |

Music Top 10s for 2009

2009 music picks

I don’t usually do this kind of thing because it’s largely meaningless but a friend asked me to round up some favourites for the year so here they are. I have to say I’ve been very uninspired by a lot of new music in general this year hence the fact that a lot of this is retro sounding or backward looking and this list is by no means definitive, I’ll probably think of a load more tomorrow.

10 favourite new records for the year 2009 (in no particular order)
Oasis – Falling Down (Amorphous Androgynous – A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind Remix) 12″ (Big Brother)
The Slew – 100% LP (Ninja Tune)
Mr Chop – Lightworlds EP (Now Again)
The Simonsound – Reversed Engineering LP (CDR)
Antipop Consortium – Flourescent Black LP (Big Dada)
2econd Class Citizen – A World Without LP (Equinox)
Proof of Concept – X As In Box (reprise)
King Cannibal – Let The Night Roar LP (Ninja Tune)
Juice Aleem – Jerusalaam Come LP (Big Dada)

6 reissues / compilations of the year 2009:
Amorphous Androgynous – A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind Vol.2 CD (Platipus)
The Beastie Boys – Audio commentaries for Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty mp3 (Grand Royal)
Studio G – G Spots LP (Trunk)
John Hill – 6 Moons of Jupiter LP (Finders Keepers)
Foetus – Limb CD/DVD (Ectopic Ent.)

10 favourite DJ Mixes for the year 2009:
DJ Moneyshot – Beastie beats – Check Your Head sources
DJ Moneyshot – Rotten to the Core ’77 – John Lydon’s Capital Radio show recreated
DJ Cheeba – Solid Steel radio part 3
The Simonsound – Have You Heard?
Skywave Systems – A Boards of Canada mix
Grohs – Plundering Zizek
Lazy – Mind The Gap (KLF soundscape)
Zoon van Snook – Solid Steel mix April 09
The Broken Keys – Engine Oil & Elbow Grease mix
Passing Time with Lazy Pt.2 (Orb megamix)

Posted in Music, Radio, Records. | 1 Comment |

‘Brother’ John Rydgren

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On my new EP, The Shape Of Things That Hum, there’s a track called ‘Brother John’, a tribute of sorts to a remarkable man with a remarkable voice. He appears in the form of samples taken from records, air check recordings and station idents for his LOVE radio show. Most will never have heard of him but I’ve been collecting his recordings for many years now and thought this would be the ideal time to write up a proper introduction for those wanting to know about the man behind the voice.

I’m not sure how I first found the work of John Rydgren, it may have been via Otis Fodder and his 365 days project or maybe the single vinyl bootleg of his ‘Silhouette Segments’ album that began circulating around 2003. I can’t remember what drew me to it, it may have been the psychedelic cover (I’m a big advocate of judging a record by it’s cover).

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Anyway, as soon as I heard that baritone voice, the hip but sometimes dark delivery and the selection of music he chose to recite over, I was hooked. Many compare Rydgren to Ken Nordine and they certainly do have a lot in common. The crucial difference is that Rydgren was a man with a message and that message was spreading the word of the Lord. “Oh, he was a preacher”, I hear you cry, well yes – he was a Pastor and the American Lutheran Church‘s Director of Radio/TV and Film – but not in the clichéd fire and brimstone sense that we picture when one thinks of such things.

Rydgren – who also went by the moniker Brother John – was much subtler than that and chose to integrate God’s word into his radio shows, intertwined with subjects that the youth of the day could relate to. Sex, drugs, rock music, fashion, cars, it all went in with a Lord’s eye view on each and every one. The creation of the world was turned into a psychedelic trip with allusions to heavy rock and growing weed, a girl with thigh length boots he was checking out suddenly gets him thinking about who had made the girl – “quite a design”.

As well as weekly radio shows Rydgren was broadcast to Vietnam for the troops, intermingling his playlists of rock and pop of the day (Stones, Beatles, Byrds) with short segments he’d written and narrated. Over easy listening backing tracks he planted seeds for the listener to think about the relevance of god within their everyday lives. It was never heavy-handed or overblown and certainly never preachy. His messages were usually slipped in after setting a scene a teenager could relate to, bringing the church into the present day as opposed to the stuffy idea of it being something your parents foisted upon you. One of his often used motifs was, ‘they say…” before going off to quote an example of a commonly held belief before turning it on it’s head.

He was always playful but deadly serious, especially when talking about the Lord, almost to the point of morbidity on occasion as his voice dropped lower and lower in register. He was also very anti-drugs, regularly interviewing musicians of the day and quizzing them on the need for weed or LSD to gain enlightenment. As a Pastor for the Lutheran church he tirelessly spread the word in the form of spoken word radio plays and stories ranging from Moses to Elijah to Xmas tales of Theodore and the Angel, most of which he wrote and co-narrated.

All of his records are promo only radio station issues or were sold at church meetings and, as a result, are incredibly hard to come by. Originals, if you can find them, fetch a high price. Ridiculously rare interview 7″s for radio shows occasionally turn up, flexi discs, religious tales, Xmas stories and sampler records of radio inserts are among the unknown quantity of recordings he made over the years. The best of these is the double album ‘Silhouette Segments’ – literally segments from his radio show ‘Silhouette’. This includes the ‘Dark Side of the Flower – a meditation on the decline of the hippy movement over what sounds like a lost David Axelrod track.

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‘Worlds of Youth’ and ‘Contata Of New Life’ are two similar releases and it’s this last one that Rydgren is ironically best known for, although it’s by default and not actually for any of his vocal work. An internet debate has raged for years over where DJ Premier sampled the main hook from for Nas‘Nas Is Like’ and it appears that crate diggers have honed in on the backing track to one of Brother John’s pieces on the aforementioned album. The track is question, ‘What Child Is This?’, has John reciting over a version of ‘Greensleeves’ and Premier himself has said that the label of the record he sampled was pink with a fish on it, the same as the Lutheran church record label. (side note: my copy of Contata has plain black labels with silver lettering and is 12″ sized, i’ve never seen a Lutheran 10″ record but I’m sure they exist). Where John took this version of Greensleeves from is still open to debate but it’s a shame that most internet searches of his name will bring this up rather than any detailed information of his life and work.

Sadly John suffered a stroke whilst on air in 1982. Over time, with therapy, he was able to recover somewhat but had to relearn to read and speak from third grade level. He returned to work in the 80’s for a few years but died in 1988 aged 56. I was lucky enough to track down John’s son, Shane, and obtain his permission to use the voice of his father and am very excited to be able to release such a song knowing it has the blessing of a family member.

You can hear the track Brother John, as well as the rest of the EP, here:

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The Shape Of Things That Hum EP out today

Shape logo & stickerWell, it’s part 2 of the trilogy that hits the web today – not the streets as projected because of a manufacturing cock up that saw the 12″ run pressed on lightweight vinyl. The physical format will now be available in shops from Jan 11th 2010. But, for those that can’t wait there is a place to order it and it should arrive before Xmas if you hurry – the Ninja shop has copies and will be open until Friday the 19th.

For a fiver you get a 5 track 12″ housed in a full colour inner sleeve, wrapped in an A2 double-sided poster cover, all held together by a snugly fitting plastic sleeve. Not only that, you get a code that lets you download all 5 tracks PLUS 3 remixes by Mr P (aka ex-Fooder PC) of ‘All Covered In Darkness’ – not a bad deal by any means. Alternatively, if you only do the digital thing then the 8 track package is available from all good download stores from today.

Lots going on this week; as well as the 12″, last week’s ‘Now, Look & Listen’ AV mix with DK there’s the first part of my Warp mix – Blech 20.1 dropping on Tuesday, a mixed guide to the new EP’s contents and a second Warp mix that are both nearly finished. I also have a very special post scheduled about one of the artists I sampled on the new record. You wait for ages and then 6 come along at once…

Shape 12" + inners

More King Cannibal downloads

Adding to the post below and, on the eve of Dylan ‘King Cannibal’ Richards‘ first full length release:

Both Dylan and I were pretty gutted when Ninja said they weren’t going to do a last 12″ single from the album (not a physical one anyway) as we wouldn’t see the cover image any bigger than CD sized. All that effort and work, lost on a format little bigger than a coaster! I’ve taken the step to have them available as a series of desktops and a high quality jpeg of the cover, twice the size of an LP sleeve, at a resolution that you could make a poster from on the Downloads page.

Let The Night Roar is out now on Ninja Tune

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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.

dinks-pack

Whoops!

My original Les McCann ‘Layers’ LP fell off the record shelf and is now splintered across the first track on both sides.

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This was given to me by Bundy K Brown years ago. Luckily I also have a copy of the reissue which he wrote the sleevenotes for – weird.

Posted in Records. | 2 Comments |

A few things on my mind

Been a bit quiet recently mostly on account of being on holiday with the family and knuckling down on the music.

The next EP is nearly in the bag, featuring a collaboration with DK – mixed by King Cannibal no less, a remix of ‘All Covered In Darkness’ by PC, a cover version and more artwork by the excellent Henry Flint. Mixdowns take place next week, mastering the week after, release should be Oct / Nov.

Kid Koala just sent me the new record he did with Dynomite D  – ‘The Slew’ and it is stunning, a mix of rock, blues and scratching, you won’t have heard much like this before. Download it for free here – don’t worry, I’m not into music piracy, this link comes direct from kid Koala himself with the message “Feel free to pass it on to anyone you think would enjoy this noise.  ;)”

DJ Moneyshot’s September Solid Steel mix is floating around on the web already, it’s a collection of all the tracks the Beastie Boys sampled on their ‘Check Your Head’ album and has been on constant rotation here since I got it.

I’ve raved about him before but I just finished ‘Totally Wired’ by Simon Reynolds, the companion to one of my books of the year in 2007 – ‘Rip It Up And Start Again’. Essentially a series of interviews made during research for the first book, it is fascinating reading for anyone interested in music circa ’78-84.

Ashley Wood has some great new robots out, just a shame I’m broke after the taxman reared his annual head.

This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages, Finnish guitarist StStanders strips the track’s audio and inserts his own, complete with off key music and silly lyrics.

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 Artwork and…Music!

Been busy doing all sorts of things and not had time to post much but I did a short interview with the Keep Up! guys a month or so ago and it’s on their site right now. It’s about the making of the King Cannibal 12″ cover which is just out and available to buy here. The Keep Up! interview is here
KC : Food12sOn the subject of my own release, i’ve posted the artwork on my Flickr page and the release is now July 6th I’m told, by which time I should be well into the second EP for delivery a month later.

I’m currently finishing artwork for The Herbaliser‘s ‘Session 1’ (reissue) and ‘Session 2‘ (all new live recordings of Herbs classics) and starting King Cannibal‘s LP art

New DJ Food EP on the way

Yes, I know, I can’t quite believe I’m typing that either. Yesterday it was issue 3 of Alan Moore‘s ‘Big Numbers’ and today news of a new DJ Food record, whatever next?

Today I cut the first of three 12″ EPs which will make up the bulk of an album early next year, the first one is called ‘One Man’s Weird Is Another Man’s World’ and is out late May/early June on vinyl and download.

The vinyl will have 5 tracks with a playing time of just over 30 minutes and the download package will have a remix by Bundy K Brown that won’t be available on the vinyl or album when it drops. There will possibly also be an extra instrumental and a cappella of one of the tracks too + a digital booklet to go with it.

More details soon but here’s a sneak peek at part of the artwork, done by one of my favourite comic artists, Henry Flint.