We’re poking our heads out of hibernation to bring you an interview with Terry Pastor and news of a David Bowie print giveaway, details of that are at the end of the interview.
From album covers to sci-fi books, advertising imagery, to technical drawing, fine art to photography, Terry Pastor has done it all. Since the 1970s the self-taught graphic artist has worked for clients all across the world, creating iconic imagery with masterful flourishes of his airbrush. But he’s best known for two images in particular, that jump-started the career of a young David Bowie. Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust turned Bowie into a rock legend, catapulting him to stratospheric levels of global fame. For Terry the story was somewhat different…
How did you get your career off the ground?
Terry Pastor: I'm self taught. I missed out a lot of school, which I don't regret, but it would have been nice. I had a lot of friends that were at Central in London, but I left school at 15 and started working at a commercial art studio in Fleet Street, in London. 1962 I think that was.
Did you make a conscious decision not to go?
Terry: I think it was just that my regular school was completely hung up on things like being good at maths. Maths was a big deal and I was terrible at it—pretty reasonable or good at everything else, but maths just left me cold. I was good at art, and a parent of a friend of mine was very successful and ran an art studio. He took me under his wing and trained me up a little bit; he went to the school and saw the headmaster and said, “I think Terry's got a talent as an artist. I think he needs extra art tuition.” They said, “No chance of that.” It was a dead end there.
Working in this art studio I came across tricks of the trade, which you would never have been taught otherwise. I was stuck in the retouching studio which was the only part of the studio complex that was vaguely creative. I saw these airbrushes and I knew I had to get some of those. The airbrush became the main technique in my work as an illustrator for a long time.
What kind of work was being produced at the studio? What sort of things were you involved in the early days?
Terry: Not very much. I was mostly a tea boy. I did do a little bit of retouching on photographs and stuff, but they didn’t really do illustration as such. Anyway I was far too young and inexperienced to do anything proper at the time. I was there for about three years, but I didn't really fit in. I had long hair and looked a bit like a Rolling Stones clone. Then one day they just sacked me out of the blue. One Friday it was; “Here’s three weeks wages, don't come back.”
That's pretty brutal.
Terry: It didn’t really worry me because I didn't really like it there very much. It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. If they hadn’t gotten rid of me I'd have stayed there forever and not done anything in particular.
Where did you go after that?
Terry: I left there and luckily my mum supported me for several years. I found a local art gallery in Croydon and just painted stuff for them—mostly surreal, abstract, weird stuff. I vaguely survived on that, but by about 1970 I thought I’ve really got to make some money here because I’m starving to death.
I found a commercial art agent and went to see him, but it was a typical catch 22 situation. He said, “You haven’t got anything published. Come back when you've got something published and I’ll have another look.” That was that. Then he phoned me up a couple of weeks later and said, “I’ve got this guy wants this poster done for a rock band called Stray. It’s just a black and white thing, but go down and see him. Just tell him that your portfolio’s in Paris so you haven’t got anything to show him, but you can do the job.” I just blagged my way through it and got the job. Did it and they loved it, this agent took me on, and that was the start of getting commercial illustration work.
Were most of the early projects for music?
Terry: No, not really. I did do quite a few Elton John covers, but it varied from hard-nosed advertising to album covers, book jackets, publishing works, and magazines. I did a lot of work for the girly mags—Men Only, and Mayfair Magazine, which were popular at the time. They were really good for illustrating their stories and there was no real art direction. They just wanted something that vaguely fit in with the story.
That kind of thing doesn’t exist anymore. Those sorts of magazines don’t work with that level of editorial as well as naked women—I think now it's just all naked women. I did some work occasionally for Playboy, and at the time they were renowned for their journalism believe it or not. They used to win a lot of awards for journalistic stuff.
Were you working on quite erotic imagery for them?
Terry: It was erotic I suppose, but there was this weird thing with publishing in those sort of magazines. They could show photographs of naked women but if you drew them you had to make them quite coy, because the law was such that for some reason photographs were okay but paintings or illustrations of this sort of thing weren't. I never could quite understand that.
That's so bizarre.
Terry: That was the way it was. I used to do a lot of stuff of girls in black leather and bondage—psycho-sexual imagery—which was fun to do because you could be very creative. But you had to draw a line at a certain point or you'd get the censor saying you couldn’t publish it.
So on one hand you’ve got the censors trying to stop you making certain work, and on the other, musicians saying do whatever the hell you want…
Terry: Yeah, musicians were very undisciplined people in that period. I think in the 60s and 70s the whole culture of the music industry was one of “Let's just do it!” That worked great obviously because a lot of the music of the 60s and the early 70s was really good. Whereas now I think you look at a lot of music and it's all controlled by accountants and people asking if it’s going to make money. You only do it if it makes money. I think that's why there's not a lot of good music around now. Not on mainstream radio. It doesn't get any play because it's not commercial enough. But maybe I'm just getting old. I don't know.
There was bad music around in the 60s and 70s, don’t get me wrong. If you look at the charts in that era, a lot of it was terrible, but between the lines of that most bands in that period were into making albums, and the albums were great. The whole thing of the concept album and things like Dark Side of the Moon—they were albums where every track was good. You didn't necessarily pick the track and say that's going to be the single, whereas now it's more singles market I guess. Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust by Bowie were both very strong. All the tracks were pretty good. There wasn't really a weak track on either of those LPs.
Did that give you a sense of pride when you were making the artwork?
Terry: I don't know. You've got to remember that at the time was doing Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust David Bowie wasn't a star. He was just breaking through then. It was only a few months after the release of Ziggy Stardust he really became a megastar. I remember him saying that Hunky Dory didn't sell well, and he was quite concerned about what was going to happen to his career. Then of course Ziggy came out and that changed everything, and after that Hunky Dory sold well too.
Were you working with him closely through that or was it quite a disconnected process?
Terry: I didn't have much if any art direction from David with either of the covers but he would drop into the studio or we would have a drink in the pub next door where at that time he would go completely unnoticed. One evening in my studio David phoned to ask how the cover was progressing. I told him I had finished the front of the cover and was starting work on the image for the back. He was pretty surprised and asked what it was. I said " It's a shot of you in a phone box. " David replied "Oh! I didn't know there was going to be an image for the back cover. I can't wait to see it." I think that gives an insight about the input that David had with the Ziggy cover art. After the success of the Ziggy album there was probably more input from David on album design.
It seems weird to look back on the album now that it’s so ingrained in pop culture, and imagine you both worrying whether it would do well…
Terry: If someone had said to me then that it was going to be a really major record, and also an iconic image I would have said no, you’re kidding. I know I never put either of those covers in my portfolio.
Terry: Yeah. I never considered them particularly indicative of my work . I thought they were good but most of my work was pure illustration with the airbrush, and these were cut-out photographs. I didn't want to get involved too much in doing that sort of work. Interestingly I've never been offered work like that since.
You'd think people would be saying, that guy did those covers that were lovely let's get him to do a cover for us; but I've never been asked to do anything similar as far as colouring up photographs for LPs. I've been asked to do full artwork, but not a Hunky Dory or a Ziggy Stardust. They were one-offs.
We’re teaming up with Hypergallery to celebrate their release of a beautiful set of Terry’s limited edition and signed Bowie prints, titled Oh! You Pretty Things.
When planning our first exhibition in 2012 we stumbled upon the Hypergallery site stocked full of prints of iconic album artwork by designers we loved. We got in touch, as we do, and over the years they hooked us up with the likes of Toby Mott, Central Station, Richard Evans, Michael Spencer Jones and the late great Storm Thorgerson’s studio.
This year Secret 7” has raised £40,000 profit for Amnesty International UK - and we’re still counting the pounds.
A few of the auction items previously sold were sadly not paid for and so they’ve been re-listed. There are records for John Lennon, The Jam, Chvrches, Max Richter and Jack Garratt up for grabs. Plus a few of those special test pressings. You can check them out here.
Those listings all end on Sunday and if they do well there is a chance we’ll break our record for the amount our project has raised in one year. Fingers crossed!
This year’s efforts have already taken our grand total since 2012 to over £170,000, which we are incredibly proud of.
A huge heartfelt thanks to everyone who got involved this year. From our partners to supporters, sleeve designers to exhibition visitors, Public Record performers to workshop attendees, record buyers and bidders. Secret 7” would not come together with such beautiful results without all of you.
It’s time for us to think how we could aim even higher in 2017. You could help with that too. Whether you’ve got a great idea for us to explore together or work for a brand that would like to become a partner - get in touch via email. Until next time...
Thank you to everyone who made it down and capped another incredible year.
We arrived at Sonos Studio on Sunday morning to find a queue forming ahead of the official queue, including familiar faces and some new ones. About 30 people braved an overnight stint to be first served the next day!
By the time we opened the doors at 10AM on Monday there were people queuing as far as I could see.
We sold over xxx sleeves in about 3 crazy hours of non-stop secret revealing!
We have teamed up with renowned French artist Thierry Noir and iconic British turntable company Rega this year to create seven original versions of the award winning RP1 deck for the benefit of Amnesty International UK.
Each turntable has been hand painted in Thierry’s iconic vibrant style and then assembled by Rega to ensure it’s quality.
For full details and to bid on the items please visit Amnesty’s eBay page - bitly.com/S7Amnesty
The listings end on 8 May!
You can read an article we did with Thierry for our programme by clicking here.
To celebrate five years of the project this year, Secret 7” collaborated with Sonos, Michael Marriott and Staf Schmool to create the Secret Seeburg – a re-animated vintage jukebox.
The jukebox mechanics have been rehoused in a contemporary cabinet and repurposed to work with Sonos.
The Secret Seeburg comes complete with a Sonos multi-room set to fill your home with music - 1x Play 5 and 2x Play 1 - so as well as being able to play all the records in the jukebox, you can also stream all your favourite tracks to any room in your house.
It is being auctioned along with all 35x Secret 7” releases since 2012.
Earlier in the year Michael and Staf sourced a 1966 Seeburg Mustang, made in the USA. It’s mechanics were solid and have been serviced by a specialist jukebox engineer.
The cabinet has been completely rebuilt into a fluro yellow birch plywood cabinet with solid iroko door frame. It’s been finished with laser cut acrylic, aluminium trim and new internal lighting.
“As a painter, everything is political” asserts Thierry Noir, a man who knows much about the political power of art. In 1984 Thierry left his home town of Lyon after dropping out of university and being fired from numerous jobs. On the advice of a stranger at a New Year’s Eve party, he took a train to west Berlin and shacked up with her friend for a couple of weeks.
When he was thrown out he relied on the lyrics of Lou Reed for guidance; “In Berlin, by the wall/You were five foot 10 inches tall/It was very nice/Candlelight and Dubonnet on ice.”
Thierry followed the wall until he found a house in which he spent the next 20 years of his life.
“I read later in an interview that he was never in west Berlin and he read everything from books to make that album. It was strange for me because thanks to him I spent 20 years in this house near the Berlin wall. I was manipulated by Lou Reed. It was funny too because it happened exactly like in that song; I was looking for a house and I found it exactly as he said. Maybe I was too naive, but it happened. That changed my life.”
Now Thierry’s name is synonymous with the wall, and he’s lauded for being the first artist ever to paint on it. 32 years ago he was just as likely to join a band as to become an artist. “I had a band in the 80s,” he says, ”and went on tour all over Europe. We were all artists and musicians at that time, all trying to make whatever we could with no money.”
It was only after two years living by the wall that Thierry felt the urge to paint it. “I realised it was really depressing and melancholic, so one day I just started to paint. Suddenly everybody wanted to know why I was painting the wall, because it was taboo in German society. People were ashamed that the wall existed and didn’t want to have it painted. I broke that taboo.
“As a foreigner I wasn’t concerned with the political aspect of the Berlin Wall. We never learned anything about it at school in France, so the whole idea was new for me. I just painted it without knowing all the details behind it. It wasn’t an art project.”
Needless to say people quickly took an interest in Thierry’s work, and many were under the impression he’d been commissioned by a government body to paint it as propaganda. It wasn’t until later, when other artists added their own marks that it was accepted as a form of self-expression.
Initially Thierry was pestered constantly by passersby, a struggle that led to the evolution of his distinctive style. “People were always talking to me, and there was always the danger of being caught by the German border guards. I had to transform my style into the most minimal shapes to paint as quickly as possible. My style evolved into three colours, two ideas, just to keep it simple, so the painting was finished quickly.”
In 1987 Wim Wenders featured Thierry in his film, ‘The Wings of Desire’, cementing the artist’s fame among a global audience and linking him forever with the iconic symbol of oppression. Two year’s later the wall was down, and with it Thierry’s most politically charged canvas.
Still, he’s certain that without it his paintings are still political acts. “When you paint outside you change the way that people look at the city, so it’s automatically political, even if you write only your name. Suddenly people see colour and they get a single second of happiness, so when they go home they feel a little better. That’s political.”
We’ve teamed up with ThierryNoir and Rega to create 7 one of a kind RP1 turntables to us raise money for our cause this year! See how you can get your hands on one shortly.
Being asleep has always been one of my favourite activities really, even from childhood. It’s a long-term fascination with me, that other mode of being that we all spend so much time in but don’t really know an awful lot about, or don’t really think about enough. I wanted to try and explore sleep as a space for music to exist, to see how these two altered states of sleeping and listening to music can fit together. ‘Sleep’ is an experimental project really, a sonic, aural landscape for sleeping in. That was really the origin of the whole piece.
Did it begin with personal introspection or were you engaged in a lot of wider research?
These things all run in parallel, and it was about creating an intuitive, creative response to these ideas as a musical process. In parallel with that I consulted with a Neuroscientist called David Eagleman who’s an old friend of mine. We talked about the kinds of acoustic things that could work with an audience in the various stages of the sleep state. So there’s a poetic, musical research and neuroscientific background to it too.
How does a composer start mapping out over eight hours of music?
I decided quite early on that I wanted to use a variation form for the piece. Variation forms are great for knowing where you are because there’s always something you can recognise. You have this sort of DNA which keeps on coming round in altered from. I thought that was important because if I was listening to a piece of music and then nodded off in the middle and woke up several hours later, I’d want to know roughly where I was. The piece is basically two sets of variations which alternate all the way through. One is this pulsed piano and string music and the other is vocal music, and these two things alternate throughout the whole project.
It’s all composed in the way that people have been doing for hundreds of years, on pieces of paper. It’s a lot of notes. It’s a hybrid though too. At one end of the spectrum are the notes on pages for acoustic instruments, arranged for an orchestra to perform – as has been the tradition for centuries. At the other end of the spectrum there are electronic, immersive spaces which are made with a tape recorder, computer and synthesiser. They live in a slightly different way, but the idea is to have a continuity between those two different things that feel like two sides of the same coin really.
You’re known for working predominantly alone and at night. How did it feel to take this very personal composition and share it with a whole orchestra and then an audience of 450 people?
I always think my work is quite personal and introspective. When I wandered into the performance space last week – and it is a cavernous space, the interior is more than 100 metres long and filled with hundreds of beds – I thought, is this going to work, are we going to lose that sense of one-to-one communication? But actually it worked really well and the attentiveness in the room was amazing. People really embraced the spirit of the thing. With hundreds people in a room that’s like an airport, and it really didn’t have that kind of atmosphere. It felt great actually.
What is the space itself actually like?
It was the inside of an old power station. I suppose the nearest equivalent in London would be the Turbine Hall or Battersea Power Station – really vast. It’s so big that you feel like you’re outside. There were 450 people in bed and we could have had a lot more. It’s a big big space.
There are great things about that from the point of view of how the music is constructed, because it has a lot of low frequency energy which big spaces really like, as well as these very long tails, and the reverberation that produces is perfect for the slow pace of the music. It’s sort of an industrial cathedral really.
‘From Sleep’ is a much more digestible version of the complete ‘Sleep’ project. How did you edit it down into a single album?
‘From Sleep’ is not an edit, it’s a reconfiguration of the material in quite a fundamental way. It’s really a trip through the same landscape but in a completely different vehicle. You still have these two poles of material but they’re traversed in a way that is much more intentional. I think of the difference between the two projects as being the difference between listening and hearing. Listening is a conscious and intentional thing and hearing is more experiential. In fact, ‘From Sleep’ has got quite a lot of music in it which isn’t in the performed piece at all, and vice versa. There are the same themes and the same DNA and the same geometry that underlie it, but they’re really quite different the two projects.
The album is more like a daydream, like a time out and decoupling from the concerns of the moment. Again that sort of hypnagogic, altered state experience, is a very musical space for me and I think is a very fertile space for humans to spend time in. One of the things that’s going on in our culture right now is seeing that space closed down by all the glowing screens. Almost anyone, myself included, when they have a moment to daydream, reach in their pockets and start looking at what’s happening on their phones.
Do you think that has anything to do with the way our culture has become secularised too? It seems to me like ‘Sleep’ is kind of a church-going experience without any religion…
I guess there is that impulse in it to some extent, but I wouldn’t describe it as religious. Jung has this great word, ‘luminal’ and ‘luminosity’ which has to do with the something that lights up inside you – sort of an impulse for something other. I think that’s a very healthy and valuable thing for us to have, and that’s something that’s being marginalised in our lives. This project does engage with that in some ways.
How much do you concern yourself with the audience’s response to your music?
I am very interested in that. For me one of the big things about contemporary music culture in the classical world is that we’ve had this idea over the last 50 years that the relationship between the audience and composer was really totalitarian. The idea was that the composer was this genius and he – it was almost always a he – would write music that was incredibly difficult to understand. If the audience managed to get a hand on it they would be enriched by exposure to this greatness.
Everything about that dynamic to me is just horrible. It’s absolutely horrible. And it’s bizarre really that this kind of relationship lasted as long as it did. I’m more interested in a completely different relationship with the audience, which is less like a lecture and more like a conversation. To me if ‘Sleep’ has a theme, then the theme is the individual listener’s journey through that material; the act of hearing, the act of experiencing that music. The way people responded to that during the performances was really important to me.
Do you ever struggle with being classified as a ‘Classical’ composer and some of the implied snobbery that comes with that?
Classical music is kind of a museum and there are many great things about museums. They are our collective memory and that is wonderful thing. But classical music has got some really troubling social attitudes like those I just mentioned. And this idea of it being a moral, superior art form and all of this kind of stuff is a big problem. It’s brought us to a situation where the average person who goes to a classical music concert is well into their 60s. That’s just ridiculous because there’s so much amazing material there, but this fog of social weirdness prevents people from engaging with it.
There are big challenges with that world, but it’s a baby and bathwater situation you know, it’s about trying to dig down into the purely musical qualities that are there and to present those in a way which don’t alienate people. I think actually there is this cross-pollination that’s been going on for the last 30 years between classical music cultures and experimental music cultures starting to join up, particularly in electronica, and everything is starting to loosen up a little bit, which I think is great.
Now that ’Sleep’ has finally been performed, do you feel like it’s a true musical representation of the act?
The patterns in ‘Sleep’ feel familiar, like a familiar physical and mental state. Obviously when you’re playing and performing a piece a different part of the brain is working as you’re busying yourself with notes and stuff, but I feel content with how it all fits together now, definitely.
Whether or not you know her name, you’ll recognise the films and photography of Cheryl Dunn. Since the 1980s Cheryl has become world-renowned for documenting life on the streets of New York in a style that confronts the city’s gritty edge head on.
While focussing on her influential artist friends or the every-men and women of the world, her work provides a document of time and place that pulls a sharp focus on otherwise transient events.
Cheryl’s keen eye and sense of narrative were honed from a young age, alone and abroad. “I moved to Europe when I was 23,” she says, “and lived by myself in Milan, Spain and other countries where I didn’t speak the language. What I did was take pictures on the street and draw and read. I was doing test shots for models to make money and survive, but I was living in isolation the rest of the time, and I think that kind of honed my observational skills.
“I would just walk for hours on the street shooting pictures, and then I’d write stories of what I thought was happening between people, because I wouldn’t talk to anyone for a month at least. I didn’t really speak to any other humans back then. People didn’t speak english all over the place like they do now.”
Having decided that photography would be the medium through which she earned a living, Cheryl returned to New York and embarked on a project that would define her working method permanently; shooting the world of amateur boxing. “I had access to that world and made a 360 degree documentary of it. It wasn’t for anything or anyone, so I could make mistakes and use the opportunity to learn. It was a chance to see beyond what I was seeing and look deeper into a subject. I learned to shoot fast and think about timing and anticipate action, and that very much informed my street work later on.”
In spite of it’s practical value, Cheryl only shot boxing for lack of any other regular work, a situation she’s thankful for in hindsight. “If I’ been shooting loads of assignments for ‘Vogue’ then I’d have lots of outdated fashion pictures, but instead I’ve got this documentary body of work that only has more value the older it gets. So it’s lucky I wasn’t really getting good jobs back then.”
Having risen to fame for her street work, Cheryl is keen to stress that ‘street photographer’ is no longer a label that fits. She’s shot fashion, film and music campaigns, and made bold strides into the world of documentary filmmaking. “To just say you’re a street photographer is really only one part of the story in my opinion. There are people who just do that, but it’s more of a marketable thing now – particularly because of Instagram.”
These days she shoots film and stills in a manner that’s as vital to her as drawing breath, obsessively documenting everyday occurrences and the minutiae of modern life. “I’m never walking without a camera. I’m always obsessively looking for shots. I never walk by something on the street that’s crazy without taking a picture of it, so it’s difficult to edit all the pictures I take.”
With a recent book about the world’s festivals launched to critical acclaim, Cheryl’s work is as relevant now as it’s ever been, both in photography and film. Her documentaries have provided a definitive picture of two grassroots creative movements. The first – America’s DIY art movement of the late 90s – gave form to the documentary ‘Beautiful Losers.’ The second – New York City’s street photographers – was the basis of her first feature-length documentary, ‘Everybody Street.’ In spite of a now global fanbase, Cheryl’s still fundamentally interested in “the study of the humour and the pathos of human nature.”
This year Monotype offered up 9,000 typefaces for Secret 7” contributors to use in their designs, leading to some frankly banging font-filled results. To get a type-based take on music and design, we got Monotype’s Colin Kersley and Emily Fenech to dig though record store bins for sleeve inspiration and discuss some of the challenges of pairing letters with notes.
Colin, you put your #ArtOnOurSleeve for Secret 7” this year. Tell us how designing for music differs from creating for any other medium?
Colin: Music is such a unique experience in that from the very first note/chord/word/sound, you have this immediacy in your response to it, whether good or bad. It’s all about the feeling. You can so quickly get a sense of tone, energy, weight, groove and space once you press play that doesn’t come as instantly from any other medium. With music you either get that punch in the gut or you don’t. So to design for music I think you really need to focus on that core reaction to convey something that supports, highlights, but doesn’t overplay what the musician or band are expressing. It’s a tough balance to get right but when you do, you’ll know that people will look at your cover and be filled with everything that the music brings with it.
Emily: When you think about it, it’s kind of a common design brief. This is a package and your design tells a story about what’s inside. Music is more immediate than some other media, but it’s also more personal — personal for the listeners and also for the musicians. They pour their heart and soul into their music.
Do you think that designing for music also allows for more risk-taking when you compare it to a brief for, say, a brand?
Colin: Yeah, it’s one of the rare opportunities that a designer gets to really run with it. I imagine most album briefs are; “Have a listen, see what you come up with,” as opposed to when you’re doing a more prescribed design for a brand where they already have an idea of how they want something to be presented. Also, as bands make more and more music, they change and the albums change and so you’ve got to adapt the designs too.
Emily: You can see that in the discography of bands like The Beatles and The Stones — how conservative their early covers are. Then they evolve and become a little bit more experimental, psychedelic, bizarre. It matches the evolution of the artists and the music.
Colin: It’s also a matter of when can they afford to take those risks. Queens of the Stone Age commissioned an illustrator called Boneface to do their last album, and he also did the animations to their videos. It was like a complete theme all the way through, as opposed to their earlier albums which just seem like, they had to be done, and they kind of fitted the style of the music, but they didn’t seem as directly linked to the band.
Monotype has given access to 9000 fonts for this year’s programme. How would you go about picking one of 9000 fonts to use in a sleeve design?
Colin: 9000’s a scary number isn’t it!? The sheer range of typefaces could seem daunting to begin with but I think once you get your head around what kind of design direction you’re going in, it becomes a lot easier to find what you’re after. Personally, once I’ve listened to the music and got a sense of it as well as the band itself, I’d think about the tone or voice that the design needs to convey. From there you might already have a tried and tested typeface in mind or you can start filtering by keywords or style to find an appropriate typeface.
If the text was supporting imagery, you’d need to make a decision whether you want to compliment or contrast that with your type choice. Once you’ve got a handful of typefaces, you’ll want to start assessing their character in a more detail, focussing on the available weights, the shapes within the letterforms, or even looking at a specific glyph. At that point, I’d say it’s all about experimentation and play, making sure you have fun with it!
Emily and Colin flip through their personal vinyl collections and local record store bins to find their favorite typographic album art.
John Mayer Born and Raised
This cover is simply exquisite! Dave Adrian Smith has perfectly captured the intricate, soulful and warm tones of John Mayer’s music with this incredibly detailed illustrated cover. Dave’s use of hand-drawn type and imagery lends itself to the nostalgic bluesy sound of this album.
The Bronx Self-Titled
With The Bronx you know what you’re getting: loud, aggressive, riotous noise! As with all of their artwork, this album reflects the brutal energy of the band. If you get in the pit at one of their gigs, you can almost guarantee you’re going to be able to replicate the clever use of type in this cover.
Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti
Physical Graffiti is probably Led Zeppelin’s most expressive album for me, and I’ve always loved the vinyl artwork as it just looks and feels how the band sounds. The photography has a dirtiness that oozes from their riffs and then the use of type on the closed blinds lends that bold rhythmical drum-like punch.
Various Artists Hard Days Night Treatment
This gold foil on black beauty caught my eye whilst rifling through the vinyl at Spillers Records. A collection of artists from the UK folk scene covered a number of Beatles for this limited edition LP. Ben Johnston has created a beautiful mix of hard typographic lines with flourishes that sweep out towards natural illustrated elements. If you can get your hands on this, I’d recommend you do, as it’s absolutely stunning.
The Grateful Dead Aoxomoxoa
I’m a sucker for wordplay and this album has a lot of that going on. The title is a palindrome (same word backwards and forwards) and the ambigram lettering on the cover reads ‘The Grateful Dead’ or ‘We Ate The Acid’ depending on how you look at it. I imagine lots of teenagers defending this one to their parents.
Rage Against The Machine Renegades
Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Renegades’ cover is a parody of pop-art classic, ‘LOVE’ by Robert Indiana. It’s a cover album – each of the four band members got to pick three songs to cover. I like to think this typographic parody is because they each picked songs they ‘love’.
Nerdy air drummers around the world (including Colin) adore Canadian rock band, Rush. I love this cover of their debut self-titled album. That huge hot pink type bursting forward makes me think of that “Yeeeeeaaaaahhhh” at about 20 seconds into the start of the first track, ‘Finding My Way’. It’s a perfect debut cover for this band and their unapologetic fan base.
The Black Keys Brothers
The Black Keys’ ‘Brothers’ is everything I love about old time rock and roll. The first album recorded in 30 years at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the sound is thick, haunting, gritty, and distorted. And Cooper Black represents that sound so well — it’s the ultimate vintage typeface.
Neil Young Harvest
Neil Young — another Canadian! – but when I see this cover, I feel Americana folk music. The colours remind me of a 1960s US kitchen. The lettering is absolutely beautiful and I love the folk-art simplicity of the amber circle as the harvest moon.
George, you’ve worked for some of the biggest names in 20th Century rock and roll, but managed never to get caught up in the hysteria of that scene. How come?
There was a lot of what used to be called ‘starfucking’ going on, but that never interested me, although I’ve met quite a few famous people in the music business I suppose. I was taught at The Royal College that the idea was everything, people like Bob Gill would say that if you’ve got a good idea you can just ring me up and tell me over the phone, I won’t need to see it. So it was quite aggravating really that after such strict training and tough teachers, you could come up with a white horse as the answer to a record cover and the band would say, “Oh we quite like it but Bill’s wife doesn’t like white horses.” Working for bands always had an element of taking a running poke at a rolling donut, in the sense that one could sweat blood trying to think of something that was totally appropriate and then someone just wouldn’t like it. It was a very different kind of work than anything else I was doing.
On the other hand one could get away with amazing things if a band did like an idea, quite wonderful things that were almost like trying different ideas on for size. The best bands would get really enthusiastic about it and go with it.
Were you reading lyric sheets then, instead of listening to the music? I heard you never even owned a record player at one time…
I fell back a bit on enjoying the words of bands, which puts me in a very bad category in terms of taste. I like 10cc because the words really mean something. It was lower grade pop, or at least lower grade than some of the other bands, but they were funny and you could make pictures about them.
Very early on I had my cassette player stolen in the burglary of my flat and I never bothered to replace it. Most things I never listened to until after I’d made the imagery, which really influenced the way I used to work with Hipgnosis. They would say, “Hey, we’ve got this sleeve to do,” and I’d ask them to tell me what the music was like, and they’d go; “Well it’s a bit like Led Zeppelin but more raunchy and there’s a bit more of a western edge to it,” and I’d say, “Yes but what does raunchy mean, and what does Western mean?” I was lost without a vocabulary really, without a dictionary. I’m no good with music. But in some ways that frees one up to have abstract ideas and just go on trying them until they’re accepted, which did happen quite a lot.
Did that lead to eureka moments where you would finally hear the music and everything all made sense?
Yes, and of course the great advantage of working with Hipgnosis on so many of those projects was that they had that yardstick to judge things by. They’d tell me if I was completely wrong in what I was producing. It’s not a great moment in my life though, talking about music…
What are your musical tastes if Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd aren’t for you?
Oh gosh! My tastes are strange and I have no depth of knowledge, but I enjoy things like Kurt Weil and Cole Porter, whose lyrics I think are amazing. An album that I absolutely adore is ‘Red Hot and Blue,’ which is a compilation album of all Cole Porter’s best songs, but sung by people like The Pogues and Talking Heads. I like that a lot.
Outside of music, you always produce imagery with strict sets of rules to govern them. Was that the same when you worked on album art?
Yes, because I have to have that back story to make something work I think. The problem with music is that the back story can be wrong for the band, but I still had to know in my mind that there was a rationale for doing everything. I think it’s about puzzles and playing games and that awful graphic cliché that goes right back to my training of solving the problem. Once you’ve solved the problem you can hide all the evidence of it, but I need to do it before I can make an image.
For example I’m doing a menu for someone at the moment and I’ve realised that I think we’ll make a pattern, so that’ll be one set of rules, and then I’m thinking that the client is a conjurer in the kitchen, so it’ll be about connecting cooking with magic. That gives me quite a good story to work on, and then because I admire cookery in the way that I admire some music, I’ll try everything on and see what feels right for his particular area of expertise. I suppose that’s what I did with bands too.
That’s a huge amount of narrative focus for someone who trained in graphic design…
My life has changed from plain ideas, stated as simply as possible to much more complex images that have some time built into them. The other great thing about a good record cover is that someone’s got to be able to discover something about it a year or two later. The classic example of that kind of imagery is the calendar page that hangs in someone’s office for a month. You don’t want something simple for that; it needs to be an image that can be explored over time and continue to offer something new with each viewing. You need to keep getting lost in it.
Was there ever a feeling that you were creating imagery that would simply be overshadowed by the success of the music?
I suppose so, yes. It all became clear to me the other day when I read something about the designer of the ‘iconic HSBC logo.’ You know that logo, everyone knows that logo. But if you have a client who has more banks in the world than there are churches, then anything you do for a logo will be iconic, in exactly the same way that the cross is iconic. I’ve written about all of this very recently, because I don’t think that any of my two ‘iconic’ record covers are that iconic. They’re only described that way because they sold a lot of copies. The actual images – the prism or the crashing Zeppelin – are borrowed images, not original ideas. The whole thing is nonsense I think, calling things iconic.
Once Pink Floyd accepted the prism we just went away and did the rest. I don’t suppose we went back to the lyrics once. The interesting parts about that project for me were things like creating the stickers for the front cover, or when we did ‘Wish You Were Here,’ that was very collaborative. I think we thought about doing the four elements somewhere on the record – earth, wind, fire and water – which may have been my contribution or not. Once we’d decided on that we had to solve that problem, which wasn’t a problem given to us by the band. We were kind of making up the job as we went along. All of this work was just done by discussion, we’d have the most wonderful evenings solving what to do for people.
How did you solve the problem of what to do for your own Secret 7” sleeve?
It’s an absolute monster bit of work actually. I don’t know why I started on it. I’ve been at it for days. It’s a narrative curled up in the form of a groove.
It’s exhausting! I’ve made several mistakes already, some of which I’ll leave in because I keep on forgetting which way round I’m doing it. It’s complicated. It might be good…. I mean it has to come good in the next few days. I’m enjoying it and it’s beginning to work. But it’s one of those ideas that develops as you go rather that one that’s immediately in your mind and you replicate on paper. It’s unravelling as I make it!
You’ve been with us for a long time now. Have there been any shows you’ve missed?
Dave: I’ve been every year except the first. The reason being, I didn’t want to risk travelling from so far away and not getting any! By the afternoon Secret 7” still had more than half left, so I decided to go the next year.
Have you met anyone in the queue that you’ve remained friends / lifelong enemies with?
Dave: Every person in the queue is your enemy! You have no friends! Take no prisoners! To be honest though, from my first year when I walked round the corner to a cheer and a whisky, I found all my fellow nutters a great bunch. I am looking forward to seeing a few familiar faces, just as long as they are after me in the queue!
Talk us through your lego sleeves and how that came about?
Carolyn: I saw a lego record shop design on the internet a few years back and thought it looked awesome, so decided to make one for Dave for Christmas. I used small lego tiles, white labels and fine liner pens to recreate some of the album covers of Dave’s favourite bands and hung them on the wall in the lego shop. I added some more the next time he bought records and then some of the ones he lost out on at last year’s Secret 7”! Last year we decided to make our own sleeves to submit and I decided mine just had to be made of lego!
What’s been your best Secret 7” moment over the past five years?
Dave: There have been many great moments, but finding out I had unknowingly picked up a sleeve by Michael Spencer Jones in my first year was pretty good. Knowing very little about art at that time, it wasn’t until I got home that I found out he’d done the Oasis covers, among many other things.
What’s your all-time favourite record cover?
Dave: My favourite Secret 7” sleeve is my Boneface superhero comic-themed cover, complete with figure. My all time favourite is Radiohead’s ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’ closely followed by Jethro Tull’s ‘Stand Up’ and Uriah Heep’s ‘Magician’s Birthday’.
Who would be your dream artwork contributor for Secret 7” 2016?
Dave: Laurent Durieux. I love his clever movie artwork (if anyone has a spare Rear Window poster going cheap Winking smile please please please).
Every year we invite our creatives we love to contribute artwork for the show. In the past the level and number of people who have accepted our invitation have caused our jaws to drop, air to be punched and had us jumping for joy. Well, you’ll be pleased to know this year was no different…
Sir Anish Kapoor, Sir Paul Smith, Jenny Holzer, George Hardie, Gavin Turk, Cheryl Dunn, Thierry Noir, Marina Willer, Tom Dixon, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Bob & Roberta Smith, Anthony Burrill, Rob Ryan, Jean Jullien, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Juno Calypso, Frank Bowling, Anthony Lister & musician Stuart Murdoch are all on board to contribute!
We could go on and on. Instead you can click here to discover more of the greats we’ve announced in this first wave today.
Live and direct to vinyl
Back by popular demand this year is The Public Records, which gives you the chance to record yourself live and direct to vinyl at the exhibition.
It’s a chance to experiment, play and create your own vinyl masterpiece – be it a musical performance, spoken word or even a personal message.
It takes place over two weekends - 9/10 and 16/17 April - in a purpose built acoustically treated room at Sonos Studio. That means our recordings are going to sound even better this year!
To book your 15 minute slot click here - there are a limited number of spots so don’t delay.
Sleepover with us
We have also announced some additional special events happening during the exhibition.
For a lucky few we’re hosting a sleepover(!) at the exhibition on 19 April soundtracked by Max Richter’s acclaimed 8 hour record, Sleep. While Tom Vek will delve into the significance of sleeve artwork and its future in the digital age with some special guests.
For more information on these visit our events page.
A reminder that we’ve made a Facebook event for this year’s exhibition, here. Please hit attending and consider inviting all your pals.
Welcome to the second in a series of interviews with past purchasers of our records. In this new feature we’re looking to locate some sleeves from years gone by and profile those who got their hands on them.
If you’d like to feature in future simply tag an image of you and your purchases on Instagram using #S7OffTheWall and we’ll be in touch.
This time the spotlight is on Simone & Rick from St Albans, who we met in our very first year. They’ve followed our journey ever since and are a constant feature of our sale day queue.
Simone is an ex music journalist who now works as a data analyst and Rick works in Local Government. In their spare time they promote gigs (Ezra Furman, Public Service Broadcasting, Evan Dando, Tim Burgess) and attend loads more - to the extent where we’ve run into them watching live music as far afield as Barcelona! It turns out we’re not alone...
How did you first discover Secret 7”? I was covering Record Store Day for a magazine, and found you as part of my ‘research’ (read: vague googling). After I interviewed the heck out of Kevin, he very kindly invited me to the launch night. I was a bit hooked.
You came to our first ever sale in 2012. Can you tell us about the morning and what you got your hands on? One of my biggest life regrets happened that day.
Rick and I had got up horribly early and headed to Rough Trade with our friend Nathan. After we’d nabbed most of our shopping list there (I got Baby Love on heart shaped vinyl, so was already winning), we went over to Secret 7”, and joined a queue smaller than you will ever find outside that door again at 9,30am. There was about 20 people ahead of us, or thereabouts.
That year, it was cash only, and I only had enough on me for one record. Also, you could pick them up and put them back down again at that point, which is very pertinent to this tale. I was trying to decide between two; I definitely wanted The Cure, because I was a teenage goth (or would have been if my parents weren’t way to savvy to let me ruin any teenage photos by dying my hair black). One of them was a picture of Robert Smith, and the other, I recognised the artist but wasn’t 100% sure it was The Cure. So I put back the David Shrigley (oops) and am now the proud owner of Johnny Fartpants out of Viz, farting a heart. Luckily it was The Cure or this story would have been even more awful.
You've been to every sale since is that correct? What's in your collection now? We have:
The Cure - Friday I’m In Love by Simon Donald,
Haim - Better Off by Listen 04
Elton John - Bennie & The Jets by Pete Fowler
Roxy Music - Virginia Plain by Donshi
T-Rex - Get It On and Massive Attack - Karmacoma by Storm Studios
Black Sabbath - Age Of Reason by Neil Bowen (made from and complete with a vial of charcoal from the 13 burning from the actual album cover)
Rolling Stones - Dead Flowers by Modern Toss
Chemical Brothers - Let Forever Be by Liam Clark
St Vincent - Digital Witness by Von
Underworld - Born Slippy by Pete McKee.
Quite the haul, right?
Where do they reside in your home? On the wall or in your record collection? Tucked away carefully in a box by the rest of the singles that are not quite as limited editions. We have no room left on our walls, we need a bigger house...
Any tales from early morning queues and sleeping rough for the sale? You start to get to know the regular queuers, and they’re a lovely bunch who will hold your spot while you go for a wee.
Last year we had a no train nightmare so had to stay out all night or give up on the idea. There was an actual proper dinner and cheese board bought out in the middle of the night. It was worth staying out just for that, although I could’ve done without Big Ben going off every hour.
Even now, people approach us at festivals/gigs saying they know us from the Secret 7” queue.
What's been your best and worst Secret 7" moment over the past five years? Best - getting the Pete McKee that I’d set my heart on and suffered at the bells of Big Ben for.
Worst - missing out on a Pete Fowler by the tips of my fingers. Or the Shrigley episode above.
What's your all-time favourite record cover? The Velvet Underground And Nico. That banana cover is a bit iconic, isn’t it? Or Afghan Whigs, Gentlemen. That’s pretty poignant.
Who would be your dream artwork contributor for Secret 7" 2016? Rick’s picked Banksy, or Peter Saville but I don’t think he’s dreaming hard enough. I’m going for Warhol. I’ve always wanted to own a Warhol. I’d definitely make room for that on the wall. Or Matt Groening. Let’s be honest, if he did one of Maggie Simpson farting, I’d almost certainly pick it up and leave the Warhol behind by mistake, based on my previous purchases.
Which musician would you love to see us work with next year? Do I only get to pick one? I’d go for Bowie, Lou Reed or Morrissey. Rick currently is trying to collect everything The National has ever released, so you could make his life a little harder there (do it)...
Will is the first in a new series of interviews with past purchasers of our records that we’re calling “Off The Wall”.
It’s impossible to keep track of all the new homes our records find on sale day. However, over the years we’ve made friends with a fair few overnighters and early risers.
We thought it’d be nice to profile some of these people. Find out more about their experience of Secret 7”, gleam some information about their sale day strategies and see whether they treat their purchases more like a record or a work of art.
In doing this we want to spark a movement to see where more of our records have ended up. We’d love to see images of any purchases you’ve made on Twitter or Instagram using #S7OffTheWall. We’ll be getting in touch with those we spot to feature here in future!
To begin, we’re winding it right back to 2012 with letterer and illustrator, Will Holmes. A handsome and witty chap we met in the queue for our first sale. He’s early start that day payed off, as he bagged not one but two of those seven David Shrigley sleeves for The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love”.
Since then Will’s become a regular contributor of Secret 7” artwork, moved to Portland and set up studio. He’s also found time to make the adorable Hazel.
Will tell us about the morning of that first sale day from the perspective of someone outside? I can barely remember what I had for breakfast, so trying to remember 2012 might be tough. I think I got to to Shoreditch pretty early in the morning - about 7am I reckon. I thought I'd be the first person there, all prepared to snag the sleeves I so desired, but it turned out that a few other people had the same idea as me, so I was eighth or ninth in the queue. Still, not too bad.
Was it easy to get your hands on those two Shrigley's in the sale day melee? Absolutely. Shrigley's signature style sticks out like a sore thumb, in a good way, so I was able hone in and grab what I wanted with ease. Plus, I'm quite tall so I managed to out-stride everyone else.
How sure were you that they were both by him? I wasn't, and I think that's part of the fun. Everyone knew Shrigley was going to put a sleeve or two into the exhibition, so I suppose people could have ripped off his style.
Where do they reside in your home? On the wall or in your record collection? The sleeves are framed and up on the wall, the vinyl is in our big hamper of records.
You've since designed sleeves too, tell us about that? I've been lucky enough to have sleeves in every year of the exhibition. Mine tend to lean more towards the typographical side of things, and I try to make them all as different as I can. I think last year's entry for Sledgehammer was my favourite so far, but I did like the ones I did for Jessie Ware: they were seven sleeves in total that spelled out STILL LOVE ME, but only when they were assembled in the right order. In isolation each sleeve looked like an abstract design. I have no idea if one person got all seven, or if they all went separate ways.
Do you have an all-time favourite record cover? I do not. I have tons that I love, but no clear favourite. I have always liked that one of Peter Gabriel in the car though. The colour of the car is beautiful.
Who would be your dream artwork contributor for Secret 7" 2016? Secret 7" really varies its contributors, which is great. More of that would be good in my book. In one show I would like to see: Annie Leibovitz, Shepard Fairey, Neil Buchanan from Art Attack, and Alex Trochut. And me, obviously.
And any early requests for musicians in Secret 7" 2017? Fleetwood Mac. The Kinks. S Club 7.
Our design packs contain a blank sleeve and are your opportunity to create a physical masterpiece for the show.
Interested? Check below to see if your local is listed. These are very limited, even if your local is listed we advise calling before you set off to check they have arrived and are still in-stock.
Brighton: Resident Music Bristol: Rise Cambridge: Relevant Record Cafe Cardiff: Spillers Records Glasgow: Love Music, Monorail Music Huddersfield: Vinyl Tap Kingston upon Thames: Banquet Records Leeds: Crash Records, Jumbo Records London: Rough Trade (East), Rough Trade (West), Sister Ray (Shoreditch), Sister Ray (Soho), Vinyl Pimp Manchester: Clamp Down Records, Piccadilly Records Norwich: Sound Clash Records Nottingham: Music Exchange, Plates Records Oxford: Truck Music Store Sheffield: Tone Arm Vinyl Stockton-on-Tees: Sound It Out Records Wakefield: Wah Wah Records Worcester: Rise
Sonos Studio is also stocking a pile of the design packs. Come down, have yourself some caffeine and envisage your artwork being exhibited there come April.
Once these are gone they are gone so don’t delay!
Feeling lazy? Our friends over at Universal Music and Monotype have a handful to give away via Twitter. Make sure you give them both a follow for details. Cheers. The Secret 7" team.
That leaves you with six weeks to send us artwork. Remember, anyone from anywhere has the opportunity to have their work exhibited in our show by submitting via our website. Maybe you’re not the creative type, but we bet you could point friends and family who are in our direction.
Talking of types, we’re very proud to be collaborating with global type foundry, Monotype, for a successive year. Those who attended our exhibition in 2015 might recall the 7 wonderful prints created by 7 fantastic designers, each inspired by one of our 7 campaign tracks, all in collaboration with Monotype - the sales of which greatly boosted the total raised for our good cause.
We’ve got even more typographic magic planned with Monotype this year. To start, Monotype is offering all record sleeve designers exclusive access to typefaces from their vast collection. For a limited time, you can download typefaces from Monotype’s extensive catalogue of fonts; from some of the world’s most iconic typefaces to those lesser-known. Click here to redeem access to that – and explore adding type to your 2016 designs.
In the exhibition last year The Counter Press provided some clever and tactile examples of how type can be added to a Secret 7” - without breaking the rules and using the name of the artist or track.
We’re delighted to announce that they will be hosting the second of our sleeve making workshops at Sonos Studio, in which you’ll learn the process of letterpress and use it to create a sleeve design using only wood and metal type. Click here to find out more and reserve your spot. This is an intimate workshop with just a handful of seats available!
To round off this designer update, we’ll soon be putting a number of our design packs into records stores and our new home, Sonos Studio. We’ll soon be letting you know exactly where you’ll be able to pick them up from. It’s not too late for suggestions, tweet us the name of your local record store if you’d like to see them take stock.
Didn’t that come around fast? In fact it seems like no time at all since we were planning for our first show. This time in 2012 we had no idea what we were launching ourselves into, how it’d be received and if there'd be a second - let alone a fifth.
Thankfully we have had the brilliant support of sleeve designers, record buyers and loads of people in between since the very beginning. People who share our desire to support a good cause and put on a show in the process. Together we’ve produced and sold 2,800 individually-crafted sleeves and raised over £130,000 for four charities. Last year was our biggest triumph yet as we extended the exhibition from a weekend to over three weeks and welcomed over 22,000 people down.
That’s enough about the past, there is a lot of exciting new things to tell you about and (art)work to be doneWe’ve been hard at work behind the scenes since we drew the curtains on our exhibition at Somerset House. First things first, we are very excited to share our tracks for 2016...
S729 - Chvrches - Clearest Blue S730 - Etta James - At Last S731 - Jack Garratt - Worry S732 - The Jam - Art School S733 - John Lennon - Imagine S734 - Max Richter - Dream 3 S735 - Tame Impala - The Less I Know The Better
As ever we’ve gone for an eclectic mix. Consciously more contemporary than it was in 2015, including Jack Garratt who is tipped high and wide for big things this year. Max Richter, Chvrches and Tame Impala all featured heavily in various end of year lists for their recent records. That said, it also includes our oldest track ever in “At Last” and a very aptly named “Art School” from The Jam’s debut album in 1977. And finally, John Lennon’s “Imagine”, possibly our most iconic pressing ever and most fitting song for our cause.
That brings us on nicely to Amnesty International UK, who we are delighted to be supporting in 2016. They stand up for human rights across the world, wherever justice, freedom, fairness and truth are denied. This year our choice of cause reflects our increasing distress at the goings on around the world. If you find some time, please do visit their website to familiarise yourself with current issues and sign up to be kept informed.
We also have got ourselves a new home. For our fifth instalment we return to Shoreditch to take up residence at Sonos Studio. The space is designed as a social, collaborative home for artists and communities working across music, art and technology. That aim is perfectly aligned with our mission. Once again we’ll be putting together a program of special event this year, starting with sleeve making workshops through January and February with some very special hosts. The first a painting masterclass with our good friend Pete Fowler - Visit our Program of Events page to find out more and reserve your spot.
And finally, we have added a few new faces to our team! Natalie is assisting myself with operations in London and Anastasia is across design with Jord in Sydney.