Archive for November, 2009

15. DEF LEPPARD – Part Two

November 26, 2009

Welcome back to more DEF LEPPARD. Before we get to ‘Hysteria’, I’ll finish off on the ‘Pyromania’ sleeve.

Having a clear image in my head of what the cover should be was one thing, creating it was another. I’d recently met a young illustrator, Bernard Gudynas, who had impressed me with his portfolio of airbrush illustrations. They had a futuristic feel which was entirely appropriate to the album concept. We sketched out ideas, including a magnified section of the exploding building which I would build the graphic ‘sight’ around. It was demanding work for both of us to get it exactly right (‘exactly right’ is always a good aim). I had already decided the illustration should be contained within a border which smoke could pour onto – creating a further dimension to the design. The ‘sight’ itself added another – the ‘viewer’ – YOU. The sight, as a piece of graphics, may seem complicated and detailed but it had to imply a weapon much bigger than a rifle sight – a rocket launcher perhaps. Bernard’s take on the perspective – looking up at the building – created scale and dynamics. Originally the border around the illustration was white, to emphasize the black smoke, but when we tried a black border we all agreed it was more powerful.

Describing visual concepts sounds pretentious sometimes but that’s the nature of using words to describe images. (Artists are often asked to explain their visual work in words but I’ve never heard anyone ask an author to describe a novel by painting a picture.) Creating a visual image is based on intuition for the most part and decisions made in that process are not limited by the need to explain them. That’s why I love creating visuals – there are mysterious forces at work which I don’t really understand – or feel the need to.

I have been fortunate enough (I’d like to think talent played some part!) to work with some great artists who understood that intuition is vital. The ‘THAT’S IT!’ moment never comes from a long intellectual conversation – it more likely comes from an instinctive immediate reaction. There are a couple I’ll get to later, with PAUL McCARTNEY and with LED ZEPPELIN, where I was so sure which design they’d choose, I wrote on the back of it before the meeting – ‘You’ll choose this one.’ (Yes – Magic Tricks ARE an intrinsic part of presentations.)

DEF LEPPARD were a band I could rely on for instant reactions to artwork ideas. There was no pissing about. ‘Hysteria’ was a case in point. After working on the cover for close on a year, something Joe said made me abandon most of what I’d done and start again on the central image. In those days, and for such a major project, I had the luxury of time to develop ideas. Now, in the ‘I want it yesterday world’, there is often no time to consider and re-think – budgets and schedules catagorically deny it. I have turned down important work on occasion, simply because the time-frame imposed would have been hugely destructive to the creative process. I simply can’t produce half-arsed work that ultimately I’m unhappy with and almost certainly will damage reputation.

For those of you unfamiliar with DEF LEPPARD’s history, after the phenomenal success of ‘Pyromania’, (in 1984 the band were voted favourite band in the US – ahead of peers like THE ROLLING STONES and AC/DC), the next few years recording ‘Hysteria’ proved to be tragic and challenging on so many different levels. On New Years Eve,1984, Rick Allen, Def Leppard’s drummer, swerved off the road on a sharp bend near Sheffield and crashed into a drystone wall. He lost his arm. I can’t begin to imagine how Rick and the band dealt with the tragedy but what I do know is that their unswerving loyalty to their drummer and friend must have positively contributed to the the quality and impact of one of the biggest albums in rock history – ‘Hysteria’. A one-armed drummer? Surely, most bands would have considered finding a new drummer, however difficult it might be emotionally. Not DEF LEPPARD – it was not an option – they never sought a replacement.

Rick realized, after practising drumming on pillows, that he could use his legs to do some drumming previously done with his arms. He then worked with a pioneering British electronic company, Simmons, to design a customised electronic drum kit. Rick’s triumphant comeback was sealed at the 1986 Donnington ‘Monsters of Rock’ festival with a huge and  emotionally charged ovation when he was introduced by Joe Elliott.

Earlier that year the band had moved to Dublin. Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who produced ‘Pyromania’ began to work with the band on ‘Hysteria’. He retired from the project suffering from exhaustion. Pressure from their record company, clearly aware the band were on the cusp of megastardom, was intense – afraid the momentum built up by ‘Pyromania’ would be lost. Q Prime, the band’s management, in typically anarchistic but humourous style, got so pissed off by relentless requests from the record company demanding a release date, they asked me to design t-shirts for meetings which pre-empted executive questions. Working my way through my DEF LEPPARD archives of artwork (they’re huge), I came across the artwork for two of them …

I wish Lep fans could see the DL archives. All the artwork is on boards – singles, posters, tour programmes, calendars and promotional material. There is something about artwork with printer’s instruction overlays. They have an artistic value of their own, and obviously each is an original piece.

I’ve always envisaged an exhibition of the original artwork for DEF LEPPARD (the ones above are 2 of hundreds of pieces). I’m sure hardcore fans would be interested in the process that’s involved – how the work they know so well was physically created. Any ideas?

Before I began the DEF LEPPARD series of blogs I re-discovered the original sketch for the ‘Hysteria’ sleeve – created using colour pencils. So was the final artwork, but there is something about the preparatory sketch – an isolated image, not the final combination of all the elements, which is very powerful. I’ve said before that some of my favourite work is unpublished and this image is right up there with the best of them. I began a few weeks ago to publish some work on my website and I’ve recently created a Limited (there’ll only be 200) Edition of the illustration. Visit andieairfix.com to check it out.


which neatly brings us to …


Eight months into the artwork for an eagerly awaited album, I flew to Holland to meet the band where they were recording. The trip was one of the most challenging, upsetting and productive I’d ever had with the band. The working title of the album for a long time was ‘Animal Instinct’ and for months Adrian Baumgartner, an incredibly talented artist and perfectionist, had worked on the cover illustration. I showed it to Joe and he said, ‘It’s brilliant Andie, but don’t you think it looks a bit ‘laboured?’. Laboured? My heart sank. Adrian had worked with such intensity and concentration on the illustration for 5 or 6 hours a day producing about 4 square inches a month. Although the final work was astonishingly accomplished containing unbelievable detail, Joe was absolutely right – it lacked a vital spontaneity. ‘And,’ said Joe, ‘we’ve changed the title to ‘Hysteria.’ I had to start again.

On the plane back to London I gradually accepted that after months of work I had to find something more intuitive, dynamic and more fearsome. I was also dreading telling Adrian. My introspective musings, however, were constantly interrupted by Marc Lebon. At the cutting edge of photography (and outrageous behaviour) he had been shooting pictures of the band at the same time I was there. We discovered we were both coincidentally on the same plane back to London. We decided to  meet up in Amsterdam and had a crazy, extremely enjoyable night roaming around the infamous red light district – the emphasis being on the word ‘extreme’. Without going into too many details, let’s say the early morning plane had to accommodate two individuals who were smashed to high heaven. Marc, as part of our previous night’s entertainment had bought a couple of explicit porn novels and he decided halfway through the journey that he wanted to read extracts from them to me. It wouldn’t necessarily have been much of a problem except for one thing – he was sitting six rows behind me! An innocent adopted entourage of passengers were unwillingly (for the most part) subjected to an unrelenting bombardment of sexual scenarios they really didn’t want to hear over breakfast. Fortunately the flight was very short and by the time embarrassed passengers became a potential lynch mob, we landed at Heathrow and beat a hasty retreat before the police and airport authorities could act on the demands of our shocked and outraged fellow fliers.

Next time … more on ‘Hysteria’ – there’s so much …

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Coming Up … DEF LEPPARD – Part Two

November 24, 2009

On Thursday 26th …

More on ‘Pyromania’, Steve and Rick, exploring my LEPPARD archives and finding all manner of goodies … 

and the beginnings of the phenomenal ‘HYSTERIA’ project.

14. DEF LEPPARD – Part One

November 19, 2009

Well, first I have to say it’s brilliant so many DEF LEPPARD fans have checked out the blog already, even before we start. So … here we go …

Where to start – the music, the Rock’n’Roll stories, the band’s unswerving loyalty to Rick Allen, drunk with Steve Clark in Chelsea, the artwork, meeting the band in Ibiza, touring, watching ‘Spinal Tap’ with them all (hilarious), diamonds in Dublin’s Cartier, the ‘Terror Twins’? I guess I’ll just dive in and see where memories lead me … I did promise ‘diamonds in Dublin’ so I’ll definitely get there this time.

I did remember something that happened a few years ago which catapulted me dramatically back to the very early days working with the band. I can’t remember exactly when it was but I know it was the first time I’d met up with the band since an event which radically changed the political world we now live in. I met Joe first and he said, ‘It’s really weird Andie … when 9/11 happened…’ ‘I know,’ I said, ‘I thought the same as soon as I saw it.’  ‘PYROMANIA’, we both said in unison.

Iconic sleeve design by Andie Airfix

Nearly 20 years earlier, I met with Peter Mensch of Q Prime who managed DEF LEPPARD. Peter was the young protege of Cliff Burnstein, the founder of Q Prime – it was then, and still is, one of the best and most influential management companies in rock history. Peter’s brief for ‘Pyromania’ was refreshing and he was obviously excited by the challenge of the project. ‘The thing is,’ he said, ‘DEF LEPPARD are different to your average heavy rock band – the sleeve needs to reflect that. We’ve all had enough of tattoos, terrible pictures of half-naked women riding motorbikes and fire-breathing monsters – it’s all too cliched now. We need something different – more modern.’ ‘How – different?’ I said. ‘We need to go back to basics,’ he said. ‘We need to redefine the image of heavy rock.’

No challenge there then. I stumbled out onto the street in Earls Court, London – very aware of how important the project was. Not just for me (it was potentially a defining moment in my career as a designer) but, in terms of responsibility, it was an important step in the band’s rise to stardom. I realised I had to create an extraordinary image and present it in an original way. There were some things I couldn’t mess around with though; it WAS STILL ROCK’N’ROLL and with that comes important values that cannot be ignored or diluted – the anarchy, the sheer energy of the ‘in your face’ music and it’s ability to rocket emotions into overdrive. Crucially whatever I came up with had to reflect the energy of a generation rebelling against the Establishment. No matter what people say, it WAS different 25 years ago, and music, especially rock’n’roll, was one of the few mediums where you could express how fucked off you were, revelling in the company of like-minded people who defiantly held up two fingers to the status quo. Long live Rock’n’Roll.

Ok, a short diversion here (you should be used to them by now) but it’s relevant. I was in Washington in 1971, (yes I am that old) and I was there to add my voice to the millions who were objecting to the war in Vietnam. Think of the million who gathered in London demonstrating against an illegal and mis-judged war in Iraq – but on a much bigger scale. A state of seige existing in the Capital and the Nixon administration were so threatened they brought in 10,000 Federal troops, 4,000 paratroopers were on ‘War Alert’ at an airforce base 15 miles outside Washington, 5,000 DC police were deployed and 2,000 National Guard patrolled the streets. Government tactics involved low-level helicopter sweeps over the crowds (terrifying), the use of tear gas, actual combat assaults on those surrounding the Washington monument, and thousands of troops controlled all roads in and out of the city. The largest mass arrest in US history was the apprehension of 12,000 protesters, most of whom were detained in a football stadium without food or water. Luckily I managed to avoid arrest and attended the massive protest concert which brought the demonstration to an end. Music, once again was a common language which brought focus to the event, uniting disparate groups of people in a common cause. It was an exhilerating experience and a defining moment in US history. It was not the only factor in Nixon’s decision to bring home the troops from Vietnam, but it sure as hell woke up America to the to the error of participating in a war that couldn’t be won.

PYROMANIA’. So there I was sitting in Battersea Park, London, watching ducks laugh (they so do don’t they?) thinking ‘What would really freak people out as an image?’ Inspired by the title, and stretching the concept to its extreme, I tried to envisage what would constitute an attack on our materialistic world that would be totally unacceptable. An attack on a skyscraper was what I came up with. The ‘sight’, aimed at the building, emphasised the attack was a deliberate action. I’ll get to the details of design later but the point here is to give some background to the concept behind the sleeve design. It’s weird looking at the cover now, in the context of 9/11, but even without that context it remains a powerful image that is both subversive and terrifyingly aggressive.

On a lighter note. The ‘Terrible Twins. Dublin. Diamonds. Steve and Phil were legless in Dublin and they decided it would be fun to head for Cartier and spend some money. Cartier were not prepared for the 2 lunatics, off their heads, who tumbled into their precious, expensive environment, flaunting a fistful of credit cards. It must have really pissed them off to have to politely deal with the dangerously unknown quantity lurching around the shop. They started to buy stuff and the assistant they were dealing with was smugly confident that at some point the credit cards would explode. I can’t remember whether it was Phil or Steve, but one of them asked the hapless individual, ‘Where are the fuckin’ diamonds? We want big diamonds.’ At this point the assistant thought his time had come, but as each sale was processed the card delivered a resounding confirmation of the sale. The boys decided to push the limits, but as the diamonds got bigger, and prices became astronomical, each sale was processed. With their bags of goodies, the Boys left the shop and headed home.

If the assistant’s world was thrown into chaos and insanity he couldn’t deal with that day, he must have thought at least the shop had made a fortune. Not to be I’m afraid. Realising the next day that their impromptu extravagant spending spree had made them the beneficiaries of  ‘fuckin’ rubbish we don’t want’, Steve and Phil went back to Cartier and told the assistant exactly that and dumped their treasure trove on the counter, denying the poor bastard the only consolation he had for the ordeal he’d suffered the previous day. The small fortune they had given Cartier was retrieved and the Twins sauntered out of the shop. Pure genius. Pure Rock’n’Roll.

I think that’s probably enough for this time. Next week I’ll explore the ‘Hysteria’ phenomena, my times with Steve in Chelsea and the stratospheric rise to fame of one of the most successful bands in the world. I may throw a few random short blogs into the mix in the meantime.

Watch this space.

To the genius Def Leppard Fans …

November 18, 2009

Wow – the response from DL fan clubs UK and US has been fantastic – and we haven’t started yet!

14. DEF LEPPARD – Part One  – up tomorrow 19th. You won’t be disappointed. It’s half-written and I am constantly reminded of why those boys were amazing to work with – and how receptive they were to abandoning the tired rock’nroll visual cliches that littered rock albums in the early 80’s. Respect. 

Follow me on Twitter for updates on new blog posts. ROCK ON.

Def Leppard

November 16, 2009

NEXT … 14. DEF LEPPARD – Part One

I hope you all watched ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me‘ at the end of  Blog 12. The Blog now hits the Rock’n’Roll Rollercoaster big time with DEF LEPPARD. Designing, amongst others, the ‘Pyromania‘ and ‘Hysteria‘ albums, I spent a lot of time with the band over several years in many different countries – experiencing first-hand the incredible highs and tragic events which shaped one of the most successful bands in the world. There are stories which reflect on both, some hilarious rock’n’roll moments and insights into designing the artwork for the ‘Hysteria’ sleeve. (an album which sold over 20,000,000 copies worldwide)

– it took over a year!

THE PERILS

November 15, 2009

As we’ve now firmly pressed the rock’n’roll button it’s time for you to meet …


This live headline performance in Brighton recently showcases one of my favourite songs from the band I’m currently working with ….. love the drumming with bass solo at the end. BRILLIANT!

Give it a year. They’ll be bigger than us.’ – Mick Jones (The Clash/Carbon Silicon)

THE FUN THEORY

November 13, 2009

THE FUN THEORY
It really works.

PIANO STAIRCASE
THE WORLD’S DEEPEST BIN

12. DEAD OR ALIVE – Part Two

November 12, 2009

Pete Header

I have to start with a ‘comment’ I noticed on one of the DOA videos in the last blog … ‘such people who balance between being woman and men caused interest to observe them…’ – says it all really. I spent time this week looking through my studio DOA archives and was astonished how much stuff there was. I found drawers full of original artwork for various DOA logos and hand-created type, artboards with overlay printer instructions (this is pre-computer still) for tour prgrammes, sleeves and posters. I also found sketches and ideas which were never used. Two things occurred to me rummaging through my drawers (so to speak) – firstly that there will have to be more of Dead or Alive at a later date and secondly that you may be intereseted in some great designs ‘that got away’ – either because they were never used or if they were, the albums were not commecially successful.

I came across a band a few years ago and fell in love with their music. I offered to design an album for them. They had no money but sometimes you have to follow your heart. I still listen to their wonderful music whenever I need cheering up or when I need reminding there is still amazing talent out there. Unfortunately, through circumstances and incompetant promotion, the album disappered without trace. I still rate it as one of my favourite albums and most successful designs.

After I created the logo for the brilliantly-named ‘GEEZERS OF NAZARETH’, I printed it out, screwed it up into a ball and kept it in my back pocket for over a week. There is no way a computer programme could create the authentic texture of the final logo …

geezer's logo Anyway, I digress. I went to see Pete one day and Lynne warned me Pete was recovering from an operation on his nose (the fourth I think he said) He was on good form and we quickly made decisions on the artwork. It was difficult not to react to the bandages, his swollen face and the two black eyes the operation had inflicted on him. I asked him why he did it and his answer was both enlightening and disturbing. ‘I’m addicted to the fear,’ he said, ‘Each time I do it I’m absolutely terrified it could all go wrong. On one level it’s about image but on another level it’s about overcoming the fear so I experience the unbelievable high when its over and everythings ok.’

Eventually it did all go wrong. One of the most honest interviews I’ve seen Pete do was on the ‘Richard and Judy’ show. As I’ve said before Pete is totally honest in any situation, and morning television was no exception. They asked the questions and he answered them. Simple. His clarity talking about surgery, Big Brother and relationships is so open and candid – it’s almost shocking. Watch the two-part interview and see for yourselves …

Richard and Judy Part One

Richard and Judy Part Two

Success fuelled Pete’s anarchic delight in creating an even more outrageous image. The photographs for the ‘Nude’ album were extraordinary and the design for the sleeve needed to be pretty full on …

roses
I love this sleeve. We spent a day photographing a sea of roses, carefully selecting colours to tie in with Pete’s image. After combining the two images we decided the typography style should be as far removed from the image as possible – hence the blackmail/punk style lettering on a harsh black background. The combination of such disparate elements shouldn’t work but maybe that’s why it does – sometimes the most unlikely combinations succeed because of their audacity.

In the studio while I was working on the sleeve I had a dozen photos from the album photo-session pinned on the wall – large 20 x 16 colour prints. A courier who often delivered stuff to me walked through the door and his jaw hit the carpet when he saw them. ‘PHWOAR!’ he said, ‘I wouldn’t mind a bit of that. She’s fuckin’ beautiful mate. Who is it?’ ‘Pete Burns,’ I said heavily emphasising the ‘Pete’. He didn’t know where to put himself. With one foot already out of the studio and the other still firmly in his mouth, his face so red I thought he was going to explode, he fixed his gaze on the floor and squeaked, ‘Sign here please.’ He fled down the corridor and raced down the outside fire escape as if Beelzebub was in hot pursuit. I never saw him again. Pete would have loved it.

4 doaThe last video is one of my favourite songs by Dead Or Alive. It’s that voice again. Also it’s a wonderful collage of photos from different periods of Pete’s career.

Reluctantly we now move on from Pete and DOA (but there WILL be more later). Next week we move to the opposite end of the music spectrum and go back a couple of years. I was invited by the legendary Peter Mensch to come up with ideas for the DEF LEPPARD ‘Pyromania’ album.

Let’s hit the ROCK’N’ROLL button ….

11.11 …

November 10, 2009

11.11 ...

“A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”  (John Stuart Mill)

EXTRAORDINARY Musical Instrument

November 9, 2009

This incredible machine was built as a collaborative effort between the Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory and the Sharon Wick School of Engineering at the University of Iowa. It took the team a combined 13,029 hours. (?)