‘Art Pop’ show by Keith Haynes

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The ‘Art’ Pop  show by Keith Haynes just opened at Gallery Different, 14 Percy Street, W1, just off Tottenham Court Road. The North American map above, entitled ‘Hitsville USA’, in made up of vinyl records, all laser cut and named after each of the states. Likewise the ‘Going Undeground’ maps all have relevant records associated with the stops they represent, a simple idea presented immaculately. In a subtle touch Haynes has used various colours from Factory Road’s extensive 45 adapter range to compliment the 7″ centres. I predict we’ll be seeing this ripped off for years to come.

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Musical icons such as the smiley and the target are rendered in coloured badges that remind me of the work of Ian Wright or Jimmy Cauty. ‘Cover Versions’ of Bowie & Beatles sleeves are cut up and modified, looking like physical manifestations of Photoshop filters. The mutated sleeves work well (the ‘Heroes’ one above is even preferable to Jonathon Barnbrook‘s reworking of same for Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ last year) because he’s remixing the original physical media to form a new work, in the same way Christian Marclay has in the past. Where I find it less successful is when he’s recreated existing designs in vinyl – the Sex Pistols, Velvets (not shown) and Dylan covers for example. They’re beautifully done but they’re Reid, Warhol and Glaser designs, not Haynes’ and it irks me when I see artists reappropriating the iconic work of others. I feel the same way about the portraits of singers like Amy Winehouse, Blondie, Bolan and more in used copies of their old vinyl records.

It renders him as more craftsman than artist, reproducing and recontextualising the work of others, relying on the audience’s familiarity and love of the original subject matter to sell ‘his’ work. The same could be said for the smiley and underground map of course but these are now accepted cultural icons, as part of the public visual consciousness as Coca Cola or Apple. I love the look of his show but I’m conflicted because of some of its artistic origins. It’s on until May 30th, so still a month to check it out and make your own mind up. Photos courtesy of Leigh Adams

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Kevin O’Neill ‘Mek Memoirs’

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Finally, FINALLY!, I’ve secured a copy of Kevin O’Neill‘s legendary ‘Mek Memoirs’ fanzine/mini comic from 1976. It’s only taken me 14 years since first signing up to eBay and creating a search for it, having been outbid on the only two other copies to have come up in that time. 12 pages of self-published, prime pre-2000AD O’Neill robot business, no one can draw bots like Kev.
His hyper-detailed style is still forming into the unique presence he would add to the comic a year later here, first as art director and occasional spot illustrator and then as fully-fledged art droid. For a thorough overview on Kev’s early career including his stint on Horror Classics, take a look at Lew Stringer’s excellent blog piece here.

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Jason De Haan ‘Nowhere Bodily Is Everywhere Ghostly’ exhibition

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Details and excerpts from Jason De Haan‘s ‘Nowhere Bodily Is Everywhere Ghostly’ exhibition at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in 2010 – incredible collage work. Above and below: ‘New Jerusalem’, 2010 (detail) “A floating city/landscape collaged from the deconstructed covers of over 1000 1950’s-80’s science-fiction paperbacks.”

Spotted by Imaginary Cities on Twitterfollow them for daily image dumps of, well… imaginary cities.

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Brand new Solid Steel website by antipattern

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We have a brand new Solid Steel website, built for us by antipattern, which finally does all the things we wanted it to do with the vast archive of mixes we’ve accumulated from the last 27 years. We’re very pleased with the results as the site is full of easy to navigate touches that leave plenty of room for a gallery of artwork and photography to grace your desktop, tablet or phone whilst you listen.

Here’s a quick walk through: (above) Main landing page with Featured mixes bar on the right – just tap Featured to close it. (Below) Once a mix is selected just hit play on the Solid Steel logo on the left, you can jump through the mix once it’s loaded or pause by tapping the logo again. Click Tracklist to open a side bar with a scrollable tracklist.
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(Above) Click the Synopsis tab to bring up details of the mix plus a link to Soundcloud where you can find the mixes and leave a comment or download. (Below) If you fancy finding an old mix there are several ways of accessing them: the good old Search button in the middle of the three top left circles or the Timeline button next to it which brings up a new graphic showing the decades from 1988 to the present.

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(Above) Click the Year you want and a side bar will appear with a scrollable list of all the shows from that date. You can also then scroll vertically through the years too. (Below) Finally there’s an A-Z directory down at the bottom left so that you can see if an artist you love has contributed a mix to the show, hit the name and all their mixes will appear in a scrollable side bar.
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Big thanks again to Suki and Paul at antipattern, go visit their new site, DK for producing the whole project and Tom and James at Ninja for the behind the scenes help.

Solid Steel logo process

Solid_Steel_logo+1_2015The start of the new Solid Steel site was the creation of a new logo for the show, from which we determined where we were going design-wise. A clean, modern look was wanted that also had to work alongside an image of the mix artist featured each week. I decided on a very thin, san-serif font that would leave plenty of space for an image, show date and artist name, all within a circle or square that would work at thumbnail size.

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(Above) I started off with variants of the existing single ‘S’ logo which looked OK but lacked that certain something.

(Below) I won’t bore you with all the endless font and weight placements but there were many and I ended up with a central ‘o’ which aped a record or CD appearance from a distance and a very thin font on which I did a lot of work kerning and re-sculpting letters to sit at different weights. There were many subtle variations on the ‘S’s and by extending the ‘L’s and ‘T’ the text was suddenly no longer floating and a unique, eye-catching logo had been formed.

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(Above) Variations in a heavier weight as well as an off-centre ‘O’ were needed for use at smaller sizes.
(Below) I then started experimenting with different ways to unify the weekly artist images – toning or tinting the images and discarding an oblong title card inside a square as it looked too much like existing mix show graphics.
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(Below) A brief flirtation with breaking the circle which was discarded because it would cause too much trouble when placed onto a coloured background or image.
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(Above) Different weights of type for readability. (Below) By moving the artist name out of the centre circle we freed up space and gave ourselves room for longer names. I have to be creative with the image placement each week but the date is readable and there’s plenty of room for the artist names in the top right section.
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Gaslamp Killer + The Heliocentrics at Koko, London

Gaslamp Killer Experience A3_6This line up is ridiculously good, I’m almost jealous that I’m not playing but in reality I get to go as a punter without having to worry about performing. The DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist ‘Renegades of Rhythm’ show in Jan is the one to beat but this could be show of the year. Early bird tickets just went on sale here – be quick! Great poster by Tom Miller too.

Flexibition #17: The Ken Nordine Group ‘6 Commercials in Search of a Client’

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I originally posted this on Otis Fodder‘s incredible 365 Days Project back in 2003 and if you’re not familiar with that treasure trove of weirdness then you’re in for a treat but you have your work cut out for you. This though, is a jewel in the flexidisc crown and always worth hearing again as the lushous tones wonder-wander out of the grooves. A red 7″ flexi produced by the one and only Ken Nordine to show what Evatone promotional soundsheets can do for your company. He goes through six imaginary scenarios all based around what any PR rep would be thinking given such an opportunity, “Why would I want to give such a thing away?” “What will I say?”, “Who will do it?”, “Will they do a good job?”

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Apparently this originates from 1970-71 and came as a magazine insert and it has ‘Free Eva-Tone Idea Kit ’70’ on the bottom right of the A side so we’ll go with that. Ken mentions that Reagan sent out one and a half million such promo sound sheets, “and look where he wound up“, at one point which originally suggested to me that it might have been later. There are quite a few dents in the flexi so please excuse the audible bumps, I did my best to digitally iron them out.


The A side, ‘Words We Live By‘, isn’t on the web that I can find and, unfortunately, I can’t find the flexi right now but when I do I’ll encode that too.

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Ninja Tune 25 Expo, Charleville-Mezieres, France

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I keep forgetting to post this – there’s a Ninja Tune 25 Year retrospective currently showing at the Médiathèque Voyelles, 2 Place Jacques Félix, 08000 Charleville-Mézières in France. It’s been curated by Jais Elalouf aka DJ Oof (that’s him below, at the opening night) from his own personal collection and some of my archive. It features many record sleeves, promo posters, proofs and some original artwork and finishes on April 30th so if you’re in the area check it out.

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Record Store Day 2015

WNBARB_RSD2015I didn’t go into town for RSD, instead I stayed south of the river, went to smaller, local stores like Rat Records in Camberwell, Casbah and The Music & Video Exchange in Greenwich and The Book & Record Bar in West Norwood (above). Much calmer atmosphere, no crush or crazy queuing, no crowds. I saw some scenes in the centre of London on the day and it looked like Carnival was on. Read what happened to Mr Thing at his set on Berwick St. in the middle of Soho… not cool.

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I went to West Norwood first, got there at 10am, walked in and pulled one record straight away from my list (the Amorphous Androgynous ‘Wizards of Oz’ comp above). No fuss, no crush, no queuing. They also still had records from RSD 2014 in the racks. I will go to Rough Trade at some point in the next few weeks to see what they have but I joined a queue there on RSD about 3 years ago and never again. It’s not for me, I don’t enjoy buying records that way. If people are all looking in one place I want to be somewhere in the opposite direction.
In all on Saturday I did four records shops, only two of which had RSD records, but I got plenty of vinyl, both old and new (plus books, magazines and a CD).

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Also had time to see an exhibition (Snub 23, see previous post) and meet up with friends and family in the park. A relaxing day that involved going to record stores/shops and helping support them plus the artists and labels. No fretting about whether a record I wanted was going for stupid money on eBay, there’s plenty of time to hunt the one that got away down, I don’t need anything so badly that I have to pay those kind of prices. I should probably also add here, that this is pretty much the same as any number of other days in the year when I go shopping for records rather than making it a one-off.

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‘Short Fuse’ – Snub23 at the Ben Oakley Gallery, London

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Currently starring in his first solo show at the Ben Oakley Gallery in Greenwich is Snub23, a Brighton artist I’ve featured a few times on here and who I’ve collaborated with before on the last Herbaliser album.
One of the most dedicated stencil artists I’ve ever come across, he’s always moving his style forward and several are on display in the show. His signature 23 piece and Mongrol character preside over the back wall with new 3D heads appearing for the first time of the robot.
His Isometric Op-Art designs multiply across distressed metal drawers and more characters grace found signage, a skate deck and circuit boards. Subtler line drawings of female faces in a number of expressions adorn one wall and delicately stenciled feathers are free to viewers.

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He also has these T-shirts for sale plus prints of the same at the gallery, the show ends on May 3rd so be quick, the gallery in a little side passage off the main market square in Greenwich.

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The final 3-Way Mix tonight at the Funk & Soul Club


Above was filmed at the Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg earlier this year, check around the 1 minute mark for the stage-diver :)
Tonight DJ Cheeba, DJ Moneyshot and I retire the ‘3-Way Mix’ live set as part of the line up at the Funk & Soul Club at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. It’s been 18 months since we debuted it in Paris and since then we’ve toured it across Europe, to Russia, Canada and Australia, adding a full video component as we went. The 25th anniversary of the ‘Paul’s Boutique’ album it’s based on has come and gone and the third anniversary of MCA‘s death fast approaches. Time to put it to rest and move on…

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Secret 7″ 2015

S715EyesIt’s that time of the year again when Secret 7″ rolls around and shows off its wares to the public before sale day. You know the deal by now, seven bands or recording artists provide a track pressed onto a seven inch record. Hundreds of artists are invited to design sleeves for one of the acts but aren’t allowed any titles on the image.

The records are housed inside their respective sleeves, all one-offs, and the public are allowed to buy them at £50 each, the proceeds of which then goes to charity. You have to second guess the covers if you want a particular song which can be tricky but some are more obvious than others. The two sleeves at the top of the post were lenticular so moved when viewed at different angles.

The venture has expanded this year and moved venues to Somerset House where they have seven prints to add to the occasion now. Another addition is a vinyl cutting booth where you can go and make your own one-off 7″ on the spot, you have 15 minutes to record something and £50 gets your song, message or performance on a unique piece of vinyl. Looking round the designs I saw several that I could quite happily own and there seemed to be different themes recurring: lots of Op Art, many more 3D works, flower skulls popped up at least three times and eyes were prominent. I’ve divided my own snaps into lots: graphic, illustration, Op Art and 3D work.

 

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Dan Lish (again because I can’t get enough of his work)

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It’s been… ooh, about six weeks since I featured Dan Lish‘s work last but since then he’s been churning out incredible pieces and started to produce work featuring artists outside of the Hip Hop world. You may have seen his print as a part of the De La Soul kickstarter or the free Slick Rick poster with Wordplay magazine. He’s got four new prints available from his site now: De La Soul (featured below), Wu Tang’s GZA, Mos Def and Kraftwerk, all £25 each, limited to 100 copies.

(Top) A Tribe Called Quest, (Below) De La Soul (nice Little Nemo in Slumberland reference with the bed there), De La Soul (original Older version for Kickstarter), De La Soul (Young version for Kickstarter), Funkadelic triple gatefold cover for a forthcoming comp, Kool Keith album cover, Jungle Brothers, Nina Simone, Prince Paul, Run DMC, X-Men/Xecutioners. Check the amazing sketchbook and Prince Paul time lapse short down below too.

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Dan Lish: Ego Strippin’ Prince Paul from Bret Syfert on Vimeo.

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Shindig magazine takeover and rebranding

Shindig47There’s something going on that I feel I need to share with readers of this blog as it involves a magazine that I’m very fond of and, of late, have had dealings with. Shindig! is one of the only music magazines I regularly read, possibly the most informative about certain areas of music I’m particularly interested in, but also one that has recently been the subject of a sudden takeover by their publisher.

A little history: Shindig! started out as a fanzine, edited by Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills and Andrew Morten, specialising in Psych, Garage, Beat, Powerpop, Soul and Folk. Volcano Publishing started working with them in 2007, initially publishing six times a year and getting them into record stores and newsagents, inc. WH Smiths. The mag then went monthly and, despite heavily focusing on 60s and 70s artists, also embraced the new and covered many new bands making music in these styles which is what initially drew me to it in 2013 when they featured Broadcast, Ghost Box, Giallo soundtracks and more.

Earlier this week news started to filter out that the next issue (original cover above) had been doctored by the publisher without the editor’s consent and rebranded as ‘Kaleidoscope’ (incorporating Shindig!). Relations between the mag and the publisher had been rocky for some time and things had come to a head to the effect that Volcano Publishing had taken control of the mag, re-titling it as they don’t own the name Shindig!, cutting off email addresses and re-routing Shindig’s website address to their new ‘Kaleidoscope’ pages. See their own statement of intent and events here.

Jon Mills posted on the Shindig Facebook page on April 8th, “there is bad shit going on in Shindigland. Our old publisher is rebranding without Andy or I (who I think everyone knows ARE Shindig!) This new Kaleidoscope title is not Shindig!, although the first issue contains elements of what would and should have been Shindig! #47. It’s a sham and something I know our readers will not be happy about. The editorial policy is not ours. We as editors are not responsible and are as shocked by this as you. A full statement will follow. In the meantime we are working on means and ways to continue Shindig! in the format we all cherish. Our site is no longer functional so please watch this space. More soon.”

Since then there has been a more detailed statement from Andy which you can be read here. There seem to be allusions to the Shindig twitter account being censored so they have set up a new one here. It’s all pretty depressing sounding stuff and I can only feel for them after spending years building up the magazine to a point where the music they were covering and the new musical landscape were in perfect synch. I’d previously pegged the mag as another Mojo but it’s far more than that, focusing on lesser-known, more underground bands as well the more leftfield of the old guard. No endless rehashes of Beatles, Stones or Dylan features year in year out, which, let’s face it, have been examined to within an inch of their lives in other publications now. On a purely personal note it’s galling for me for a number of reasons, mainly because I’d found a magazine that covered many areas of music sadly lacking from other print media that now seems to be being co-opted into something else. I’ve not seen the new rebrand but the cover above is from a pdf of the pre-doctored version so it will be interesting to compare the two come Record Store Day, two days after ‘Kaleidoscope’ has cannily been slated for release. (Side note: I wonder if the new mag is aware of the Italian ‘visual culture’ ‘Kaleidoscope’?)

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Two other reasons to be gutted by these events: I had a letter printed in the next issue, it’s in the version at the top (which won’t see print as is) but whether it will appear in the new ‘Kaleidoscope’ variant remains to be seen (oh the irony of that name too). The letter was praising the mag and its current direction whilst offering suggestions for future inclusions and in light of these recent changes it will unfortunately leave a bad taste in the mouth if they run it. The other pisser is that I was just finishing my first feature for Shindig! as I heard the news – an examination of The Dragons‘ history and the tale of issuing their lost ‘B.F.I.’ LP alongside new interviews with the brothers. It may yet see print as Jon and Andy are taking steps to relaunch but these events are still unfolding so I’ll try to update this as more info emerges.

You can follow their progress at the Shindig Facebook page and Twitter accounts, if you’re a fan of the mag and didn’t know about these events then I urge you to read their posts as it’s quite eye-opening. If you never saw an issue before but are curious about this kind of music and more then investigate Shindig! if you get the chance, it’s the kind of mag that some record stores have back issues of. I’m confident that Jon and Andy will come back in full control of their title because they have a loyal fan base but many will see a new magazine called ‘Kaleidoscope’ in the racks of their record shops on April 18th and not know the background to how it came into existence.

This is a perfectly-timed move for a new title to launch with the artificially-swelled ranks of the RSD audience in the right place at the right time to form a new readership, something I’d bet the publisher is counting on. I only hope that Jon and Andy can recover from this hijacking quickly, keep their team of writers onside and come back doing what they do best. I’d wager that there will only be room for one publication of music of this ilk (although wouldn’t it be nice to be proved wrong – no matter the circumstances of their coming into existence?) Hopefully this split will be for the best for both and even give Shindig! some extra publicity.

*UPDATE: Jon and Andy have a new website up now with their statement about the whole affair on it – visit: www.shindig-mag.com and read what they have to say.

They have a new podcast too with messages and songs of support from all over the world plus that statement again.

Shindig! Broadcast #15 by Jon Mills on Mixcloud

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