Various – Xen Cuts

  • RELEASED: Sept 2000
  • FORMAT: 4xLP / 6xLP Boxset / 2xCD / 3xCD / 12″ promo
  • CAT No.: ZEN49 / ZEN49BX /  ZENCD49 / ZENCD49X / ZEN1249P
  • DESIGN CREDITS: Openmind
  • MODEL MAKER: Richard Johnston
  • PHOTOGRAPHY: Nancy Brown
  • SPOTTERS DELIGHT: The background montage of all the label’s record covers contains one fake sleeve and 3 pictures of friends as children
  • EXTRA ZEN: page

This took so long to do, about 4 or 5 months as I remember working on the back cover Ninja figure montage on a US tour with Kid Koala and Amon Tobin to promote ‘Kaleidoscope’ mid 2000. How to tie a whole, ever expanding, label in together for a ten year anniversary? The first thing was the title: instead of Ninja Cuts it was Zen Cuts with the ‘Z’ changed to an ‘X’ – the Roman numeral for 10 – and subtitled ’10 years of Zen’. After this I created an ‘X’ logo that could be used repeatedly to form a background pattern and denote the number ‘ten’.

Next was a logo redesign of the Ninja figure which I’d actually done a few months earlier in time for my own album release. After years of being suspended mid air clutching a record the Ninja had finally landed and thrown the damn thing, Dom Smith from Ninja suggested I put it on the cover – large. I thought I’d go one better and make a 3D version as I had photos of an existing model of the old Ninja logo from different angles. I photoshopped parts from all the different views into the new pose so that it looked like a I had a second 3D model and that was the cover decided there and then. The model had been originally shot under tungsten light and – once i had filtered some of the yellow out – had a nice bronzy tone to it so I decided to print a lot of the text in a metallic bronze colour to compliment it.

The hard part now was fitting everything else in as there was a history and full discography of Ninja Tune, Ntone and Big Dada to include on some sort of timeline (actually suggested by my wife no less) These all went on the eight sides of the 4 inner sleeves needed to house the vinyl – twelve if you bought the limited edition 6 disc boxset. Also I scanned every sleeve the label ever released for a background montage and promotional poster than was included in the set – that took a loooooong time. Hidden in amongst these sleeves are four ‘rogue’ images which, to this day, no one outside the label has ever mentioned.

In addition to this I designed a whole collection of items in the same style for spin off merchandise and events: a T-shirt, slipmats, 4 part flyer, magazine ads, poster, tour laminates, even a stamp to mark people’s hands who were staff at a gig. The Melkweg in Amsterdam held an exhibition of work with huge printouts of past artwork and various pieces I took over, also there were brief showings in London and Paris.