Thursday, May 29, 2014

On My Radio.

Two of the sessions I did for Altar Ego Radio are now on Mixcloud so you can have a listen! I did four session in total - maybe 5 actually, I don’t know, it was a long weekend…

My past experience in radio is touched on here. The pic above is a very early flyer for our old radio station which I did when I’d just discovered Pens Plus Photoshop - it’s all about the spirit of the thing though, right? And pre-Wacom. On the right is Perry, the left is me (I always did the catering) and in the middle, Matt Thornhill aka Monkichi, now senior A&R geezer at XL. I wish I was still this brave with colour!

Listen to Mole + Perry.
'Mole + Perry took clumsily energetic control of the airwaves in the one hour between Miss Pink and Dogface & Dead Pony, cramming in as many tracks as possible and keeping the energy deliriously high. Let's just say it was 'lively'. '

Listen to Mole’s Good Mourning.
'Mole was on early shift to provide a Good Mourning set of her favourite tear-jerkers and melancholics, roping in Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac, Gravenhurst and Bat for Lashes. '

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sage Francis and Mole Have A Chat.

If you haven’t caught this already, I did an interview with Sage Francis last Friday over the phone, talking about his new album, the process of making it, the stresses of sick kitties and a bewildering range of topics such as you might delve into during the course of a one-hour conversation. There was much laughing!

It was broadcast live on Altar Ego Radio over the weekend, but if you didn’t get to hear it, here it is again!

A lovely man, and such a creative one, who I don’t get to talk to enough. Bring on the UK end of the tour - October, can’t wait.

Interview on Mixcloud.
Feel free to share with any other Sage fans you know.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Altared Egos!

We've spent the last eight weeks curating a special Bank Holiday line-up for independent radio station Altar Ego. We've never been asked to do anything like this before, and we reckon we've put together a wonderful assortment of mis-shapes, bringing together the amateur and professional alike; comedy, poetry, dance, murk, bangers, electronics, soundtracks, futureshock, interviews and guest-curations. Whatever occurs this weekend we know it'll be dive and lie wrecked, to borrow from Radioactive Man!

Why ask us? Well, you might know that years ago me and Leigh ran a pirate radio station in Birmingham, where as well as organising schedules, advertising and doing the general day-to-day stuff with assorted colleagues, we played as Perry + Mole. We even played some gigs, and stuffing a record bag with tunes late on a Saturday night after a week’s work was a weekly task, with me packing a folio of work to do at the same time, while waiting for our turn on the wheels of steel. I was often to be found inking on the floor to the sound of the drum’n’bass, trip-hop, breakbeat or whatever else was being played at the time, in assorted cold empty studios with non-stop tea and, usually, a bag of chips somewhere along the line from a legendary Erdington chippy.

There’s a lot of romance and myth surrounding pirate radio, but it was hard work and a proper commitment - like having another part-time job. Here are some shots betraying the true brutality of pirate radio. We were called ‘Real’ after all (when we stopped being called Mix).

Hand-calligraphing the Shout Outs:

Playing records and trying to be invisible (and wearing my Grandpa’s cardy):

Text us!

The Set-up:

A diabolical attitude to authority was essential:

Possibly the worst studio we ever had - with the nicest guest we ever had, Monkichi, now head of A&R at XL Records:

And the breathtaking 4am view from the studio. All-city, always beautiful. (Those tower blocks aren’t there any more.)

Even being under 30 couldn’t stop the 3ams taking their toll:

This weekend I get the chance to relive the pleasure and pain of playing one record after another without it sounding horrendous, as I’m getting my headphones back on and playing a couple of sets on Altar Ego Radio, an independent radio station. I’m no DJ, but I do love my chunes, and cannot work, think or exist without music - whether it’s  Squarepusher's tear-inducing bassdrama, the exquisite pain of some of Venetian Snares’ most magnificent ear-grating or a humble Human League classic. In other racks you’ll find my Paul Simon records, my Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, Barbara Streisand, and the masses of electronics.

That’s not to say I’m playing all that. I don’t actually know what exactly I’ll be playing yet - but I know I'm likely to leave records everywhere and put them all back in the wrong white sleeves - a bad habit I never did break! The station’s mission statement, after all, says 'We are raw, live, honest, irreverent and temporary.‘

Tune in - you can do it on your actual radio at the 89.6fm frequency, or online on your phone, computer or iPad etc. -

And just for gigglz, here is me and Leigh DJing at the Custard Factory in Brum, playing just before DJ Food burned the place to the ground with a Godzillan drum’n’bass set of biblical proportions. How excited do I look?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Jobs You’ll Never See.

There are a few jobs I’ve done which have never seen the light of day, because of all sorts of reasons - either the client forbids it (this does happen - a famous New York jewellery store did it, my job for a secret government department had to do it, and pharmaceutical clients often have to do it for legal reasons); or I wasn’t very pleased with the end result; or the client changed it in such a way I wasn’t happy with it (does occur); or, more often, because it’s a style I wouldn’t want to repeat.

This happened with these two jobs which I’ve just come across again, for Relistor, an American pharmaceutical product, and one for a mental health organisation in the UK. Both clients wanted the by-now well-known look of ‘a face made of type’, and one wanted fonts and the other, all hand-drawn. I was initially happy to do them despite being painfully aware that there are other people more capable of this who find it easier, but I had a real good stab at both, within a few months of each other.

They proved to be among the most awkward and difficult pieces to create that I’ve ever done, and although the client was really happy with both pieces, I chose not to show them in case I was asked to make this style again. In fact, I’ve been asked to work this way several times since, and I’ve said no each time - if somebody else is excellent at it, then my theory is it’s better to let them do it! I consider this a strategic necessity - there are things I’m naturally good at, and things I’m not but relish the challenge of, and this fitted into neither category. My site is therefore mostly full of the kinds of things I’d like more of.

Still, the client was really pleased, and that’s all that mattered for these. But I won’t be making any type-faces again any time soon! Thanks to Dave Giles from whom I borrowed these nice shots of the Relistor piece doing its job out in the wild.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Wizard’s Promise.

Book covers are still my favourite things, and once in a while I do one which becomes an immediate favourite. It can be because I loved the book, or I like the author, or both; or I don’t know anything about either of those things at the start and just have great subject matter.

This modern young adult book by Cassandra Rose Clarke for Angry Robot with its icy far away landscape and dark magic, a disturbing-looking shaman and the aurora borealis coupled with a request for spiky, unfeminine type was a recipe for excitement. I’m getting increasingly into the eyeball-razoring work that goes into a cross-hatchathon, despite the fact that I don’t get paid any extra for the 400% increase in production time, but nevertheless, this seems to be where my work’s leading me at the minute. I’m aware it isn’t feeling too modern or groundbreaking, but it pays to listen when that humming throb of enjoyment arrives parallel with what a client is loving.


I find my book covers happen two ways:
a) In one take; one piece, rendered completely and going to press that way
b) built using several different hand-drawn parts.
Needless to say, for ease of change and flexibility near to deadlines, clients prefer the latter - whereas I prefer the former!

This one used method B. I was given the image of the long-necked traditional shaman, and I found the magnetic image of the Native American gent online, and those two things coupled with images of Iceland and other freezing landscapes all fed into the content. My artwork generally starts with a tiny thumbnail in a sketchbook, a largish floppy Moleskine, and moves quite quickly to a pencil sketch with a fair bit of detail. The Wizard’s Promise, shows the Shaman of the story progressing from sketch to man-style with clothes to horned version and the final, which is then fully inked in with a dip pen and ink. 

The titles are always hand-rendered too, and all of the parts scanned carefully, and pieced together in all kinds of combinations until the ‘right one’ comes together. I made several ink backgrounds dried on the wood burner (well one burnt actually so that was chucked in the fire), and this is the result, enhanced on the final product by spot varnish and sensitive printing.

I love it when a plan comes together.

But What Do You Do With It Afterwards?

I’ve also created this, a collection of stories about what happened to various pieces of artwork after they have served their useful purpose.

Where do they go?
Who do they end up with?
And, why?

All. Revealed. Here.

I have a new thing!

Since I get asked such a lot how I make my work, and in response to a gradual increased expectation of how fast I can produce things, I've begun this record of time-lapses, films and step-by-steps. It should help to shed light on what’s actually involved in a piece, from concept to sketch to final, and why things can’t be ‘just’ changed in a jiffy.

As well as that, I’m intending it to be an entertaining resource for the the student, the nosy and the curious!

Smoking Gun.

I've just spotted these photographs of the print which accompanied Katie Wirsing’s new album release - these are on her site, while we wait for the actual product to arrive from the US.

Printed by Stumptown, Portland - see them being printed here!


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