Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Keep It In The Family.

My Uncle Peter, aka Geoffrey, was the famous musician member of the family when I was a child. My Mum’s brother has been touring far-flung corners of the world for as far back as I can remember, appearing on stage and on album covers, on telly and in music mags. Courtesy of Uncle Peter - who professionally uses the name Geoffrey, just like his musician Dad before him - I’ve met famous people, learned that name-dropping at school can get you favours and admiration, and been to a celebrity wedding aged 11 (at which I had my first experience of drunkenness with naughty Welsh cousin Ellie, having uncovered the yacht’s champagne stash).

Starting out at art college, becoming a painter and sculptor, my ‘artistic’ side was often thought to have flowed down that side of the family mixing with the cinematography, music and typographic influence on my Dad’s side. Thus as I got older it was often thought inevitable that at some point, we’d get the chance to work together.

Still as busy as ever with a production house and recording studio of his own, and still touring and gigging like a man possessed, my Uncle Peter is today married to yoga teacher Liz and living in medieval Canterbury within a viola bow’s distance of the cathedral. I was surprisingly nervous and excited to be asked if I would design the cover for his solo album, Garden of Love, because international mega-clients and eye-watering deadlines are one thing, working for The Family (read that in an Eastenders voice) is quite another.

I had a few listens to the album before going straight in with the tiniest little ink sketch on the title - y’know, just to tide label Cherry Red over for the Amazon/distributor listings - then went ahead and produced about 20 different suggestions for an album cover. Now I’ve made this mistake before, because, as is often the way, the first design seen was the one the client had fallen in love with, and there was a moment of bemusement as I slightly-nervously presented idea after idea to a face that was saying ‘but love, we've already chosen!’

Not to mention the making of an immaculate mock-up - seems legit? (note harsh creative overseers (my ma and pa) in the background)

I spent a whole day spent drawing gerberas in ink - the kind of indulgent ‘just drawing' that really doesn’t happen enough - which was followed by the painstaking hand-writing of the credits, track list and other bits that belong on an album cover. No typesetting!

And released by Cherry Red on October 30th, you can buy it directly here and here is how the final album looked in the end!

Uncle Peter is very pleased with it, and thus the need for me to avoid family gatherings for the next five years has been awesomely swerved. For now.

You can buy the album directly from Cherry Red here.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Schmiede - or, ‘Smithy’.

Stupid Enough, the results of our first foray into film-making, was shown at Schmiede in Hallein, Austria in September.

Schmiede translates literally as ‘Smithy’, and refers to the idea behind this still-new annual event: the idea of creative and excited people coming together for 10 days, to join forces, experiment, and collaborate on projects of their choosing, allowing the outcomes to forge themselves, steered by the net results of the participants’ contributions. A sort of sculpting, a new thing having been hewn from raw materials at the end.

Or to put it simply, to play!

We’d never been before, but our long-term colleague and original Myspace chum Lilo Krebernik
aka Dead Lemming (for whom I drew the ‘Atomic’ snowboard a few years ago, big inky skull face) invited us to show the film there after watching the little trailer we’d put together. It’d not yet been shown anywhere in full, so yeah, we thought, an audience of 200 international creatives, professional and amateur, keen and raring to go - why NOT chuck ourselves in right at the deep end eh? So having decided to drive there and back (all 2,000+ miles), we ran various index fingers along various European map pages, booked a ferry and the first couple of hotels, sent some little business cards to print, and started counting down.

(oh and I gel-glittered my nails, of course).

Held in a truly impressive abandoned salt mine on an island in the centre of Hallein, people are invited to apply to Schmiede once a year, and can be from any discipline. With no idea what to expect - we’re not that accustomed to just ‘joining in’ on a casual basis - we decided to hang around for a few days to chat and observe, since time was limited and we had no idea which, if any, of our skills would even be useful to the Schmieders (one of them definitely proved to be, but more of that later).

Introductions had taken place earlier that day, and our film was to be the opening event to kick off the ten days. Organiser Rüdiger and Lilo felt that the subject matter - talks with real creative successful people who’d done it their own way, and intended to offer reassurance, encouragement and inspiration - fitted Schmiede's raison d’être, and would provide an undemanding but stimulating thing for participants to do together before getting down to work the next day.

So our film was to be shown in the StadtKino across the bridge, where on the day a keen cinema manager was waiting to load the film into his pro cinema gear. If we’d arrived with a huge can of film, the setup would have taken minutes, but we’d come armed (four copies of) digital files and a DVD, which proved a bit of a hassle for the patient cinema fella, who battled with unseen subtitles and belligerent DVD chapters before eventually getting the film to play in all its glory on the large screen. Seeing the faces of our interviewees ten feet high was something else, and suddenly made the whole thing Real.

As the humans filed in, the smell of popcorn permeated the building:

And soon enough, as casual as we tried to be, checking Facebook in the moments before, the nerves eventually bit. Would they laugh (at least where they were meant to)? Would they wander out? Would they resort to checking phones and napping? Months and months of work was about to be put to the acid test.

Here we are battling bad lighting and unflattering camera angles to introduce our film (that’s red-shoed Rüdiger on the left, Leigh with the serious look, and me with the Heidi plaits):

In the end, the film’s reception was everything we hoped it would be. The audience laughed at the right bits, watched all the way to the end (one or two left early, but they later explained that English wasn't their first language), you could hear a pin drop, and the question-and-answer session afterwards demonstrated that it held the viewers’ attention. The content was felt to be not only relevant, but highly useful, and moreover, really helpful.

And usefully for us, thanks to the input of one or two of the technical bods in the audience, the premiere also highlighted some technical improvements that could still be made, making the film just that little bit smoother to watch before it goes off into the wild.

The rest of our time at Schmiede was spent volunteering in the kitchen where vegan breakfast and lunch is prepared every day for the participants - the hungry ‘Smiths'! - and we discovered we run a mean wash-up between us; ‘well oiled machine’ doesn’t even come close, as these ‘official’ Schmiede photographs attest:

Knackered (that’s Chloe, who did the cooking with Walter)

And when we took off our gloves, wandering the rooms and rock-hard salty floors proved a fascinating way to spend the time, utterly baffled about what people were making and doing, but fascinated nonetheless at the mysterious, pixelly, LED-ed bread-boardy things being made by this satisfyingly varied collection of friendly humans from all over Europe:

(what does that even MEAN?)

Despite harbouring concerns that we're not the most natural movers’n’shakers, we met some lovely people, namely Andi who tweaked the Stupid Enough sound for us at a moment’s notice, Marie the festival organiser, Nick and Helen from London who shared late-night sillies and pizza bought in a thunderstorm, new musical discoveries Nicole Jaey and The Unused Word who dominated the stage at a post-Schmiede gig (where people could still smoke!) and dancer Livia, who was the first to take us to task on one or two of the issues raised in Stupid Enough in one of the six languages she spoke, and who was last seen seen dancing spontaneously at midnight to live music played in the cold electrical rooms of the building, where remnants of its previous life still wait:

Thank you to Rüdiger and Lilo for inviting us to be part of what turned out to be a brilliant and surprising event, and we definitely hope to be part of it in the future.

In the meantime, if you would like to book a showing of Stupid Enough, you know where we are! hello@stupidenough.org

Lilo Krebernik // Twitter         https://twitter.com/deadlemming

Schmiede // Twitter        https://twitter.com/SchmiedeHallein

The last deadline.

My day started with the sad news that my longest-standing client passed away at the weekend.

I’ve been working with Hannah for ten years - since 2005 - and today was the first time I've received an email about a client's death. It came as a shock, and to be quite honest I've struggled to pull myself together all day. There was rarely a time when my work sheet didn’t have a job for her company on it - whether in progress, or billed, or overdue!

The last thing I said to her was that I had lost count of how many covers I’d done for them, and said I really must gather them up and make a poster, and told her that since she always had to chase me when I was busy, I sometimes didn’t know why she came back to me so often. She said something very kind in return, which made me smile, and went off on her maternity leave.

So this afternoon despite having a zillion things to do, I put together that big poster of all those covers, and I’m only sorry I didn’t get round to it while Hannah was here, to share how many deadlines I almost didn’t make (and sometimes didn’t!) and all the lovely, varied covers I did with Hannah and her team over the years.

Thanks Hannah, for being a lovely (patient) client, and helping keep my cover folio full and varied for the last ten years.


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