Whilst perusing the web for decent cover images to use for the Leonard Nimoy post featuring ‘The Illustrated Man’ story (in the end I scanned my own copy), I found a whole heap of great images that er… illustrated the book in question.
Thursday night saw the launch of Trevor Jackson‘s first release in 14 years, ‘F O R M A T’, hosted at the Vinyl Factory space under Brewer St. car park on the heart of Soho. The release consists of 12 tracks and is initially being made available on 12 different kinds of media with 1 track per format.
These range from 12″, 10″ and 7″ vinyl, CD and mini CD, DAT, VHS, Cassette, USB card, Minidisc, 8-track cartridge and 1/4″ tape reel. The numbers of the edition drop as the format gets more obscure so while the 12″ is pressed up at 500 copies the 1/4″ reel is in an edition of only 10 available with the complete box set of all 12 formats. Prices start at £10 and slowly creep up as the numbers get more limited until you get to the full box set at an eye-watering £850. There is also a poster of all 12 formats available in an edition of 100 with each piece signed and numbered. See, hear and buy the full line up at www.formatvf.com
At the opening last Thursday guests were directed into the car park and downstairs to a space with a free bar at one end and a table selling the various formats that make up the album at the other. A second dark, enclosed space housed a wall of 12 huge screens opposite corresponding plinths with two sets of headphones. Each format and track was represented by a different film of it being played on the corresponding equipment, not a one shot YouTube-style video but varying close ups of the act of loading the format as well as associated graphics such as time displays, VU meters, rotating spools and platters etc.
What’s different about how this album came to be is that Trevor had over 100 tracks that he’d worked on over the past 14 years but only finished last year. This isn’t an album in the conventional sense, none of the tracks were intended to work together, they’ve been cherry-picked from the archive and exist in isolation from each other at the exhibition, preview-able via the headphones. Likewise (at the moment) each track exists in isolation if you buy it physically. Even the spaced letters of the ‘F O R M A T’ title suggest a disengagement from each other or maybe that’s just the graphic designer in me reading more into it. There was no playback of the full record and it will be interesting to see how the tracks hang together when the collection is released in two months time.
About the music, as it’s not been mentioned as much as the packaging and concept yet: everything I heard was instrumental, electronic, stark, minimal and very brittle sounding. Knowing Trevor’s methods and tastes I’d guess that a lot of this has been made using original kit rather than samples and his ‘Metal Dance’ compilations point the way to the sonic palette he’s using. Baring in mind I’ve only heard approximately two thirds of the record (it was a very busy night with only two heaphone sets per track) my description above may be a little skewed.
The 7″ track, ‘They Came From NY’ for instance, features an unidentified voice intoning a few lines and the ending disintegrates into random background sounds that slowly coalesce into a mutant jazz ensemble before being abruptly cut off. ‘In Your Hands’ - the VHS format that also includes the video – was my favourite from what I heard, an edit of a 7 minute plus ambient piece with a film of a dancing form that had been forced through some sort of video distortion technique.
My friend Frode Heieren pointed out that if you added up the 11 separate formats they would cost over £300 and yes, the pricing is crazy if you look at it like that. It aligns the work with the art and fashion worlds rather than the music industry, way out of proportion to the majority of similar objects sold elsewhere. The way each piece is sold is in the same manner as the art world too, these won’t be available in shops, only at the show and online, and each piece comes with a signed, numbered card that states which number you have and there’s the difference.
You’re buying part of an edition and the art world dictates that the lower the edition the higher the price. If you want to get into that side of things then you’ll spend the money – personally I bought a 7″ and cassette as well as a poster, certainly the most I’ve ever spent on either of those formats new. You’re getting 1 track per format and I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that that’s a good deal but you’re buying an artifact here on a format of your choice and it’s more about your preferred media than the track it contains.
If you don’t want to get into that then the whole album will be released in 2 months on vinyl, CD and download. Realistically very few people are going to be able to play a DAT, tape reel or 8 track cartridge so the editions are low and the prices high. That’s going to frustrate the completists but it’s also a very clever way to stop the album leaking in full as it’s unlikely that anyone is going to buy the box set and stick it online.
The full box set is inordinately expensive though, I thought it would be £2-300 tops and that’s the only bit where the pricing seemed out of whack to me. It puts it into the realms of the 1% and that’s something I’m personally not a fan of. But then again I have no idea how much it all cost to make, source and produce and the Vinyl Factory have never been known to be cheap which is why they’re one of the best at what they do. Trevor has said that there is no way he’s making a penny from it unless the box sets sell as sourcing things like 1/4″ reels and 8-Track cartridges aren’t exactly cheap or easy. Anyone who has experience of pressing records will also know that the lower the pressing, the higher the cost per item. From my own experience, I made 30 playable postcard records for the launch of the ‘Search Engine’ album exhibition in 2012 and, even selling them at £8 each, I only just broke even. But let’s not get into the crass subject of money and costings…
Most of all, the whole concept and execution is excellent and has had me thinking about music packaging from a different perspective in the same way that a good exhibition or film leaves you questioning things. I found the most successful presentation of the set was actually a framed version hanging on the wall, displaying each format rather than hiding them away in a box. I’d wager that those who bought items on the night probably acquired them more as artifacts of the show and, after a cursory listen, are more likely to display them than play them, certainly with the limited numbered formats. This has been happening for a while now if you speak to record shop owners who quiz their customers on their buying habits with many physical releases.
It will be interesting to see how much makes its way to the secondary market and how they appreciate in value over time, something I don’t think we can discount in this age of investment buying and flipping. A quick web search shows nothing on eBay or Discogs which is refreshing but will these prices seem like chicken feed in years to come? I know that Trevor’s intention couldn’t have been further from any thoughts of long term fiscal appreciation and would have been focused on the concept and presentation and ‘F O R M A T’ is a love letter to the physical in a time when more and more people are interested in owning a tangible manifestation of what they’re paying for again. In terms of innovative ways to present an album Trevor has broken new ground here and, despite the elitist pricing, I think that makes it a success.
I was sad to hear of Leonard Nimoy‘s death over the weekend. Although I’ve never been a Trekkie his appeal for me was always his voice and I’ve dug out three records from the collection that feature him. The classic is ‘Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space’ album, a direct cash-in LP from the TV show that made him famous. As well as a groovey version of the theme from ‘Star Trek’ it also bizarrely features covers of themes from ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘Oliver’ but the gold is in the spacey spoken word tracks were Nimoy shines, especially ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Earth’ and ‘A Visit To A Sad Planet’.
The second album is a 1987 release entitled ‘Whales Alive’ by Paul‘s Winter and Halley with narration by Nimoy. This is essentially a New Age record with voices of Humpback Whales accompanied by Leonard reading relevant spoken word passages. In the early 90’s I used to play selections from this over my ambient sets, one track in particular, ‘Queequeg and I’ extracted from ‘Moby Dick’, was a favourite. Unfortunately the record obtained a scratch at some point and you can hear it during one of my first ever Solid Steel sets from 1993. Near the end of the piece, just as it builds to a crescendo, Nimoy reads, “as he stood…” and the record jumps back to a perfect loop of the line, as I realised what was happening in the middle of the live mix you can hear me quietly fading the line out.
Probably the best known use of Leonard in one of the mixes I’ve been involved with though is the Ray Bradbury ‘Marionettes, Inc.’ story used during the ‘Taking of Pelham 123′ section of ‘Now, Listen’. I can’t lay claim to this as it was 100% PC‘s inclusion and arrangement but it stands as one of the most memorable moments of the mix. Someone has uploaded it to the web and it starts at around the 10 minute mark. I can’t recommend this 1976 Caedmon LP enough being that it contains Nimoy reading two other classic Bradbury sci-fi stories. RIP Leonard.
An original Ballatine Horror anthology I found at the weekend with a cover by Richard M. Powers
A 3 page story appeared in the January ’92 issue of Heavy Metal magazine, credited to Greg Gallo and made entirely out of distorted photocopies. I’ve searched for more comic work by Gallo but found nothing, can anyone enlighten me on anything else he’s done please or was this a one-off? The twisted xeroxes remind me of WKinteract‘s work that sometimes utilises a similar method.
I know next to nothing about this but picked it up because of the cover and Dali‘s involvement. According to Discogs it’s a “Short commercial recorded by Salvador Dalí for Crédit Commercial de France (CCF). Sponsored by Publicis. Probably issued in 1967.”
The Continuo blog however thinks it was released in 1971 and describe it thus, “In 1971, the french bank Crédit Commercial de France was selling (not offering) Salvador Dali‘s book L’Apothéose Du Dollar to its customers in CCF agencies all over the country. To promote the book and their customer-oriented financial services they had their advertising agency Publicis create this disc for which Dali wrote a remarkably cynical Dollar appraise. The first part is Dali reading the great poem above. The 2nd part is a bank PR promoting the CCF. The final part is Dali promoting his own book.” All dialogue is in French and the Continuo post contains a transcript of the poem Dali reads.
The Rammellzee love-in continues… finished colour versions of the Ramm(s) by Dan Lish (love that he flipped the 2nd one) and an old video popped up the other day of a performance by Rammellzee and Toxic C1 at the Rhythm Lounge in 1983. Toxic is cutting up Billy Squire‘s ‘Big Beat’ while Ramm raps but Jean Michell Basquiat also provides graphic overlays and doesn’t actually appear, the video isn’t all that but it’s all about the recording.
Big Fish Little Fish was amazing on Sunday, god knows how many people crammed into the Clore Ballroom at the Southbank in London. So many at one point that we had to stop the music for 10 minutes for an unscheduled break while the staff tried to calm a swell of the people trying to get in. Above is at the start as people were coming in, you can see House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ on my laptop as the opening track.
The parachute dance (above) is a regular feature of the BFLF parties and this one was different in that they did it three times so that people got a chance to be under it, still didn’t stop a fight by two mums nearly breaking out to get underneath :). Below you can see just how much it had filled up by the end as families poured into the totally unprepared ballroom to rave inside away from the rain. Despite it being a roadblock all the staff were lovely and Hannah and Natasha from BFLF handled the whole thing like pros.
I made a mix for them back in January that I’ve been meaning to post it on here but what with the Selected Aphex Works mix I didn’t want to push too many mixes out there. But here it is – Warning! Pop Alert! This is made as much with kids in mind as adults, probably good for a picnic or birthday party rather than the more adult-centric classic rave and jungle I played on Sunday.
‘Ordinary’ was one of my comics of 2014, the story of a world where everyone wakes up with different super powers, all except Michael who’s ordinary. As the world quickly goes to pot he has to find his son in a New York city gone mad and he soon becomes a target for the government – who want him dead – and the scientists who want him alive as they believe that he may hold the key to reversing the effect.
Shot through with Rob Williams‘ dark humour and illustrated in gorgeous colour by D’Israeli, I’m not ashamed to say that the ending bought a lump to my throat. Originally published in the Judge Dredd Megazine it’s now been collected into a trade paperback by Titan Comics and buyers from OK Comics in Leeds can get an exclusive signed bookplate edition by both creators.
How inspired is this mash up? 2000ad’s Shakara mixed with Hellraiser‘s Pinhead by Neil McClements for the 2000ad forum monster mash art competition.
This blog seems to rapidly be becoming a Dan Lish showcase of late. Furthermore to the first portrait of Wildstyle-era Ramm that he posted just a few days ago, late last night this version went up. The Rammellzee in full on Ikonoklast Panzerism mode. Both so wonderful, can’t wait to see the colour versions.
I’ve been meaning to post his illustration for the weird Beatles meets Hip Hop mash up that went up the other month too…
I love some of these designs from the first 20 or so releases from Mo Wax by Ian ‘Swifty’ Swift. I’ve purposely excluded the more well known releases like RPM, DJ Shadow, Attica Blues and La Funk Mob that came to characterize the label later and focused on the less well remembered artists. The first 3 releases had stickers like obi-strips on white sleeves and later they were printed on the covers.
I follow Ian McQue on Twitter and have posted about him a couple of times now, his output and range never ceases to amaze me and he does these in a matter of hours. Here’s a collection of recent vehicles that sees a departure from his tugboat images of old.
Check his beautiful black & white work below and he does a fine line in scenery and twisted old trees too. Also he put out a new sketchbook last year, the brilliantly titled (or groan-inducing if you hate puns) ‘Mechs & The City’. His online store has just reopened with restocks of prints and two sketchbooks.
Two very NSFW entries to the Flexibition (or should that be Sexibition? – sorry, that’s even worse) this week. As with many things, sex comes into the equation at some point and flexi discs are no exception. If you’re the proud owner of a copy of Jonny Trunk‘s hilarious ‘Flexi-Sex’ compilation (NSFW link!) then you’ll have heard the first disc here before, originally given away free with a copy of British top shelf men’s magazine, Rustler. No, I didn’t get my copy from there if that’s what you’re thinking, it actually turned up at a record fair and I later made the connection between it and the Trunk comp.
Tantalising Tina was the first in a series of 15 flexis given away over a 3 year period with Rustler and she would later be joined by the likes of Juicy Lucy, Wanton Wilma, Kinky Kelly and Miss Cheeky Chops among others. In true Brit tradition it’s got its tongue firmly in its cheek (no pun intended) and is about as realistic as the Saturday morning wrestling used to be. This is the one where suddenly a man joins in with the charade and pretty much ruins the not-very-good-anyway fantasy that the recording was supposed to induce. Classic 70’s Brit porn. There’s a nice round up of various porn flexi’s over at allvinylexperience, including this one and also at the aforementioned Trunk Records website (Jonny will be contributing to the Flexibition in future too).
The second inclusion is from the other side of the pond, from a special Marilyn Chambers edition of the American magazine, Club. Marilyn is a bit more earnest in this one, over a cheesy sax-led jazz backing and the funny thing about the recording I found online is that the ending is all messed up and skips, leading to more hilarity. For some reason I can’t embed the audio so head on over to the MotorDudley blog to check it out plus images of the mag it came from.
There’s been something in the air recently concerning (The) Rammellzee, firstly there was the old interview that surfaced, pressed up for last year’s Mo Wax exhibition. Then ‘Rammellzee‘ appeared on Twitter last month, despite passing away in 2010… most strange. I got word that this was something to do with Gamma Proforma and a forthcoming project was hinted at. Then this morning Dan Lish posted his take on early Wildstyle-era Ramm as part of his Egostrips series…
Then the bombshell: Gamma announces a new release entitled ‘Brainstorm’ from an unreleased album, ‘Cosmic Flush’, Rammellzee’s magnum opus, recorded before his death. This will be the first part of a set and this edition will consist of vinyl (with a remix by Divine Styler) and a print by Ian Kuali’i, released March 30th. Preorder HERE
Definitely something in the air.
Very sad to hear the news today that Brett Ewins has died after a short illness. He was a master of his art and a huge influence in British comics in the 80’s and 90’s. Starting out with Brendan McCarthy and Pete Milligan he bought the sharpness of the ska movement into comics, slowly working his way up from one-off Future Shock stories in 2000AD to full-on national treasure status in the comic’s first golden age.
Judge Dredd, Bad Company, Rogue Trooper, Judge Anderson, Johnny Nemo and more, he made a huge impression on me as a kid. As the 80’s ended he co-founded the music and comics magazine, Deadline with Steve Dillon and they launched Tank Girl into the world among many others. I’m pretty sure I draw skulls the way I do because of Brett’s depiction of them as biochips in the Rogue Trooper stories. I remember copying at least one of his characters in a graffiti piece I did in my teens and also being shit-scared of a particular character he and Brendan McCarthy drew for a story called ‘The Day of the Phoenix’.
The one page ‘Encounter’ from a very early issue of 2000AD freaked me out as an 8 year old, mostly because of the leering face of the creature about to do something unspeakable to the human who had just teleported into its world. Back in 2011 Air Pirate Press published ‘The Art of Brett Ewins’, a collection of a lot of his best work from the start of his career up until that time. It’s an excellent book and came as a timely reminder of Brett’s achievements as he’d disappeared from the scene amid rumours of health issues. The book is even more important now that he is now longer with us and nestled inside was the ‘Phoenix’ page which triggered a deep nostalgia in me. I made some inquiries and got a message to Brett asking if he still had the page and was it for sale? Luckily he did and it was, so one summer afternoon I found myself visiting him in his West London home, looking through various classic Dredd stories and chatting about his career. He still had the table that he and Brendan used to sit at and draw on when they were first starting out and he told me he loved listening to Brian Eno when he drew.
He was very humble about his own work and forthcoming with answers to the many questions I had about it. I bought the page although, unfortunately, most of the lettering had fallen off over time (it was drawn in 1978). Brett said that it was around somewhere and that he’d find it and send it to me although that wasn’t to be. Just a few months later there was a news story that he had been arrested and sectioned after an incident outside that very house late one night and soon after he was imprisoned for stabbing a policeman. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and served several months in jail before being released in late 2012. Since then he had been under psychiatric care and even made a few appearances at comic events as many rallied round him to offer support. I feel very lucky to have met him for the hour I was at his house, he certainly won’t be forgotten.
I urge you to buy a copy of ‘The Art of Brett Ewins’ to see how much great work this man gave to the comic world, Titan have also recently released a Johnny Nemo compendium collecting all the old strips and adding new work by artists like Rufus Dayglo, Ashley Wood and more. Air Pirate Press have collections of his Bad Company work and the US series, Skeemer. 2000AD have various Dredd collections available with Brett’s work in them but I don’t know the exact volumes that feature him. Lastly here’s some rarely seen early work that he did for a British poster company in the late 70’s, these are hard to find now but sometimes crop up on eBay.
If that’s piqued your interest, go here…
Found in a London basement this week, my eye was drawn to the illustration on the cover of the 7″ sleeve. ‘Sleeve drawing & design: Rodney Matthews, Plastic Dog Graphics‘, it said. I knew Rodney Matthews from hours spent looking at his posters our hip French teacher had plastered around his classroom in the 80’s, numerous record sleeves and Paper Tiger books. But I’d never heard of Plastic Dog Graphics so I looked it up on his website:
“In 1970, Matthews left the advertising world to form an art partnership with Terry Brace, who was an acquaintance from art college days and had played in the same band (Barnaby Goode) for a while. The partnership was related to a music agency and the two businesses were given the name Plastic Dog (graphics and music agency). The name was a joke at first (family dog!), but eventually became official.
Plastic Dog Graphics specialized in design for the music industry; everything from press ads to button badges to record covers, and what started as a company working mainly for local folk artists on the Village Thing label progressed to encompass internationally known artists via companies like United Artists Records, MCA Records, Sonet Records (Sweden), and Transatlantic Records. Rodney’s first full colour LP cover design was for the German band Amon Düül II (Live in London). It was to be the first of many.”
This sleeve dates from a year later so must be one of his first, but I can’t find it listed on Discogs although the label, Saydisc, is there. The content on the record is first person narrative, dodgy stories of the character Old Pete and his misfortunes, probably similar to a Viz of its day, although way tamer, more like pub banter.