Perks of the job

One of the nicest things about the job I do is meeting other artists and like-minded people, and sometimes you get unexpected surprises because of this. Two recent packages turned up within days of each other and bought a smile to my face. The first was from Nigel Peake and he’d sent a unique screen print of the Ninja Family Tree he’d designed for the XX box set. This had reversed colours – blue on white – and he had hand-coloured my name on the print. Beautiful. He has now made a limited, signed edition available via his site so, if you didn’t get the box set, prefer the reversed colours and want a fold-free version, head on over there.

Doc Vec x 2This week saw not one but two posters from Doc Vek at the door, his design for the DJ Kentaro show earlier in the year (right) and the forthcoming Ninja Tune party in Bristol at Motion (left). This was one of only three made and I’ve already framed it for the studio. I loved it so much that I suggested to Ninja that they have some made for the Ewer St. party in London on Oct 2nd. They will be personalised with the date, location and line up and probably available from the Ninja shop afterwards.

Ninja Tune XX box set features on Hard Format

I’m very proud to announce my first design entry on the Hardformat blog. Run for three and a half years now, it’s a site dedicated to “reaching for the sublime in music design”, both past and present. One of the first things I think any designer finding the site would think is, “I wonder if I’m on here?”, the second would be, “I want to be featured here”, if they don’t find their work. The site already published the original mock up image of the set a few months back and we entered into a dialogue about it. That turned into me writing up a lengthy piece detailing some of the process involved in realising the gargantuan project.

www.hardformat.org/5200/ninja-tune-xx/

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Process: The working practices of Barney Bubbles

So, Nigel Peake is in town, fresh from painting a mural and we’re wandering around Pimlico like a couple of tourists. Clutching an A-Z and an iPhone, we’re trying to find the Chelsea Space which is currently hosting the Barney Bubbles exhibition, Process.

Bubbles, born Colin Fulcher, sadly committed suicide in 1983 and has long been an unsung hero of British sleeve design but this has started to change in recent years after Paul Gorman’s book on his work, ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’, was published in 2008. Quickly selling out and starting to command high prices on the web it’s now been updated and expanded in a new edition.

Possibly one of the reasons Bubbles isn’t as widely know as, say, Neville Brody, Malcolm,Garrett, Hipgnosis, Peter Saville or Jamie Reid is because his work spanned both both ends of the seventies and beyond – the hippy / prog / rock and the punk eras –  and never conceded to one house style for anyone. The two things he’s probably most known for – Hawkwind and Stiff Records – couldn’t be much further apart. Looking at one of his Hawkwind sleeves and then an Elvis Costello or Ian Dury from later you’d be hard-pressed to see any sort of stylistic link, yet he did them both.

After walking up and down the street way too many times, asking in the Tate to a bemused attendant and eventually finding the space via a round-the-houses route through the College of Art we realise we’d walked right past it. Failing to notice the sign outside the inconspicuous door set back from the main road, we should have stopped yakking and paid a bit more attention.

Anyway, once inside we were greeted by walls pasted with vintage music paper ads and posters of late 70’s vintage, a couple of old record players sporting various vinyl rarities, badges, stickers and a gorgeous rack of Ian Dury ‘Do It Yourself’ wallpaper-sleeved LPs. Right in, no messing about. Along the bottom of one wall were various publications all sporting BB covers including a John Cooper-Clark ‘Directory 1979’ an issue of the NME, Nova magazine and a Hawkwind programme.

A long, thin, tall corridor then stretches up before turning into the main exhibition room and one wall is covered with posters and record sleeves, the Hawkwind ones unfolded flat to show off their wares. Frustratingly the sharp viewing angle meant that the higher pieces were hard to see properly, further compounded by spot lighting which caused glare on anything in a PVC protective sleeve.

Into the main room, past a giant hanging Chuck Berry sculpture and here’s the good stuff. Cases of artifacts, portraits, sketchbooks, paintings, paste ups, reference books, even materials like Rotring pens he left behind. One wall is covered in original art paste up sheets, tracing paper with notes covering some of them, all hung with big bulldog clips which is a nice touch throughout. Another wall is full of beautifully presented black and white art, logos, layouts – a mixture of paint, pen, Letraset and whiteout – all of which would have blended into one under the camera later.

It must have been a difficult task for the curators to hang the work because it was so random, finding obvious themes and connections is almost impossible with Bubbles because each piece is so different from the next. Sure he has various tricks and techniques that he employs, his mixture of abstract and 3D shapes to make words for instance, but it’s as if he was always starting from scratch with each new piece. His foldout sleeves for Hawkwind and Elvis Costello are placed behind perspex but even they jut out at points, unable to be contained in such a space.

I’m no expert on Bubbles but this looks like a goldmine of his work for anyone remotely interested in him or the groups he designed for. Also this is a great reminder of how things were done decades ago, pre-digital, everything is hand drawn, painted, cut and pasted and it’s beautiful to see, especially all the whited out parts. Although by no means a complete overview – several pieces are conspicuous by their absence – the curators intend this to be more of a stepping stone to bigger things later and the new edition of the book should help this.

The exhibition is on now until October 23rd at Chelsea Space,

16 John Islip Street,

London, Sw1P 4JU
More details here

and visit Paul Gorman’s excellent blog on all things Barney Bubbles

and a good, quick overview of his work at feuilleton

Posted in Art, Books, Design, Event, Music, Records. | 2 Comments |

Familiar?

Interesting image, looks familiar, seen it before somewhere, can’t place it…

hff_main_strip_site_v2TCO A2 poster (promo)

I’m just kidding, go check this out if you’re in London this weekend, a couple of Light Surgeons’ things are playing:

SCHLIMAZELTOV! dir. Christopher Thomas Allen 11m
Documentary short exploring the concept of luck or “mazel” through London’s Jewish Community.
(this is excellent and beautifully shot)

and a live performance of

TRUE FICTIONS 80m
True Fictions is a live audio-visual spectacle that fuses documentary film making, music, animation and motion graphics with cutting edge digital performance tools. A stunning collage of music and live cinema which explores the themes of truth and myth through a multitude of American and Native American voices; with a original musical score created through the collaborations of 25 New York based musicians and vocal artists.
(you need to see this live, multi-layered screen collage at its best)

More info here

Paris XX

The Paris show on Friday was great fun, packed out, great to see Vadim and Yarah on a Ninja bill again too. During mine and DK’s set someone pulled the fire alarm and all the power went off on stage for more than 5 minutes. Unfortunately we were in the middle of a drum n bass section so that went down like a damp squib. Before the gig I went up to the Galerie Chappe to see the exhibition of Ninja art and sleeve design that had been put on, apparently 1,500 people turned out for the opening! Ping Pong, who have done promotion for Ninja for over a decade now under the leadership of Fred ‘DJ Oof’ Elalouf, did a great job of putting together a show which included original art, paste up sheets, sleeves, huge posters and specially made prints of selected covers. They also made exclusive T-shirts, seats and a huge banner for the gigs which greeted me when I walked into the venue.  See photos from the exhibition here (warning, this is a Facebook photo album), and it’s on until October 2nd. There are 4 more gigs coming up in Paris over the next few weeks including a huge, long sold out line up at La Machine and two gigs at the Pompidou Centre.

XX banner, ParisGalerie Chappe Ninja L'expo

Ninja Tune XX boxset is here finally

I was having a shitty day with nothing going right when this was hand-delivered from the Think Tank offices out of the blue this afternoon. Eight months of hard slog, revisions, deadlines, corrections, proofs, more revisions, changed constructions and over 50 GB of information went into this.

A slipcase containing 3 hardback books – ’20 Years of Beats & Pieces’ was actually started back in July 2009 and completed just under a year later with a solid six months spent on it and little else. The other two, containing 6 CDs, 6 45’s, 2 posters, a booklet and a sticker sheet (which should have been straight forward but I had no end of hassle with) took another 2 months at least with meetings and discussions as to how the packaging would work going on since March. I even managed to find time to write a new track to go on the damned thing which is on one of the exclusive CDs.

When I look back at 2010 and think what I did that year, this is what will sum most of it up. If you have one on the way then you’re in for a treat believe me, want one, didn’t get round to buying one yet or were maybe sitting on the fence then there are still some available to buy before the big release day on September 20th.

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Ninja Exhibition and Pop-up Shop this Saturday in London

Black Dog Publishing open their doors on a Saturday this weekend for people who haven’t been able to make it to the Ninja 20th exhibition in the week. Between 12 and 5pm they will be open and Ninja will have a special pop up shop there selling selected items. I’m not entirely sure what will be available yet but there might be some of the new Ninja Tune XX releases and you will be able to buy the 20 years of Beats & Pieces book for £15 which is a fiver cheaper than the shops. It’s free and at 10a Acton Street, London,WC1X 9NG. This is the last week of the exhibition so it’s now or never…

Pop up shop invite (web)

Ninja Tune Exhibition opens today

Well last night’s book launch at Black Dog’s gallery in Kings Cross was a lot of fun, a huge turn out of artists, staff, friends and family made it a massive success. Thanks to everyone at Black Dog for a supreme effort in turning the exhibition round in three days, also everyone who came down, there were a few old faces I’d not seen in years and some who I’d only known via email but never met in person. Photos by Martin LeSanto-Smith, on form as ever to capture the event.

Record wall

The exhibition is open to the public, free, between 12-5pm Monday-Friday until September 16th. It’s situated at 10a Acton St, London, WC1X 9NG, nearest tube is Kings Cross and then it’s a 5 minute walk, press the buzzer and you’ll be let in.

More 3A goodness

entreatThis dropped through the post last week, well, it actually arrived by courier, soaking wet, looking like it had been sitting in a puddle for some time, the cardboard around it literally falling off when I unwrapped it. Good job they wrapped it in bubble wrap, and it’s a heavy bugger too at 12″x12″ size. This is Entr3At – a visual celebration of the first 2 years of Ashley Wood and Kim Fung Wong’s 3A toy making company, makers of the best robot toys in the world by a long chalk. This is my kind of book, studio shots of the badly weathered toys, production designs, work in progress, box layouts and logo art for the individual figures. To think that they made all this in just 2 years is incredible and there’s already much more in the pipeline for a follow up later.

Ent 1Ent 2Ent 4Ent 3Ent 5

Their latest release is a ‘Heavy’ version of the popular Bramble bot, this time with huge bazooka and tougher build, coming in 4 different colourways. My good friend JP McCarthy managed to score me a Grave Digger variant this week and they sold out on pre-order in hours. Not cheap at $280 a pop but that includes shipping to anywhere in the world (and these bots aren’t small), some of the nicest packaging you’ll ever see and the most detailed paint jobs this side of a film set. These will doubtless not even turn up until around xmas time, if that, as they take a long time to make but a 3A package at the door is always a treat.

Grave Heavy 2Grave 1

heavyheader

Posted in Art, Books, Design, Robots, Toys. | 1 Comment |

Kraftwerk Tribute 12″ of a different kind

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Here’s something interesting I stumbled across whilst perusing the Kraftwerk Facebook page that’s been set up by fans. A limited edition of the band’s Tour De France 12″ that comes with a built in player like those cheesy birthday cards you can get that play a tune when you open them.

The designer’s name is Woes Van Haaften and there are 5 different sleeve colours to choose from but they don’t come cheap let me warn you! Full info and a little film here

DJ Woody’s Turntables In Technicolour T-shirt

Woody T -shirtThe good man DJ Woody foisted one of these beauties on me at the weekend at the Big Chill, I never knew he was a graphic designer in a previous life. This is the logo for his AV performances ‘Turntables in Technicolour’, a homage to Santa Cruz artist Jim Phillips‘ iconic screaming hand logo and a beautiful job he’s done too, this shirt is quality.

Posted in Design. | 1 Comment |

Belbury Poly – Farmer’s Angle (Revised)

GBX014 10in

Yes! At last I can complete (sort of) my Ghost Box collection with the forthcoming reissue of their first release, now revised and on 10″ vinyl. There will also be a new edition of the CD and a download, all coming on September 10th. No tracklist yet but it’s great to know that GB are going to slowly reissue all their back catalogue on gorgeous vinyl, yeah I’m a sucker like that.

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

Ninja Tune 20 year exhibition in London

Opening in 2 weeks time will be Ninja’s first bonafide exhibition in the UK to celebrate the publication of the book, ‘Ninja Tune: 20 Years of Beats & Pieces’. Black Dog Publishing have generously offered to host a little showcase of the design and imagery that went into it and, after designing the book, the box set and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, I’m curating the exhibition too. It will feature lots of original artwork, models, posters, sleeves, flyers and promo bits from across the years.

e-invite (no party)

It opens Friday, 20th of August at Black Dog’s gallery space, 10 Acton St. London, WC1X 9NG between 12-5pm weekdays and is only on for a month. There will be a special pop up shop on Saturday 11th September where there will be several special items for sale, hand picked from the Ninja archives as well as the new book.