Archive for April, 2011

46. METALLICA Part Six – ‘Trouble in Mumbai & More BIG 4’

April 8, 2011

‘ I N V A G E N T S ‘ … (m a l a y a l a m) …

Many apologies for the abrupt ending to ‘METALLICA Part Five‘ but urgent personal matters insisted I travel to Mumbai to help Ray. Ray – Agent Raymond Page, affectionately codenamed ‘Double Oh-Fuck‘ by his colleagues – is in serious trouble and, fearing for his life, I had to take immediate action – abandoning commitments here, to see what I could do.

In a nutshell … it’s like this. Ray is held captive and being interrogated aboard ‘THE ISCARIOT‘ (the largest and most dangerous stealth-aircraft on the planet) by Thaddeus, a self-confessed meglomaniac and sociopath. Thaddeus has a terrifying agenda – he believes the human race must be sacrificed to save the crippled, dying Planet Earth. (Quite!)

Ray – chaotic and crumpled, but a brilliant agent – works undercover in Mumbai’s notorious underworld of vice and corruption, where murder, betrayal and revenge run riot. Along with fellow agents Lincoln Hamilton and the beautiful Emerald Lake – the outcome of their mission will determine the survival or destruction of the human race …

Ray’s now been captured – so not a great scenario really.  Sometimes there really is no choice but for me to rush off and help resolve pressing international situations. Ray’s still in deep shit but – there may be a way out. Maybe.

‘ I N V A G E N T S ‘  (malayalam)

 – a 21st-century detective cyber-thriller by Andie Airfix to be published in November 2011

Now … back (slightly battle-scarred after Mumbai) to ‘THE BIG 4’ …

Not only did the simple ‘scratch’ idea connect the four disparate logo styles, it was effective in other elements of the packaging to create an overall ‘style’. (It always sounds pretentious to describe ‘style’, ‘graphic devices’ and ‘concepts’ in an area that’s usually for me something totally intuitive but this is an exercise in explaining the process involved in creating artwork – so bear with me. There will be enough visuals to clarify the words) So, still concentrating on finalising the most important design element – THE COVER – the ‘scratch’ was used for more typography needed for the cover/back cover and for other items in the packaging …

We then had ‘type’ elements (including James’ BIG 4 logo), and now we needed an amazing image to hang it all on. METALLICA had a great idea. What I love about the final choice of photograph for the cover is that it appear, at first glance, to be a close-up shot of a guitar pic – which it is – but on closer inspection we realise the shot is on a massive stage-screen. When you see Lars’ drum-kit on the lower right of the photo the perception of the image suddenly shifts – the scale now huge and entirely appropriate to the ambitious nature of the project. I experimented with a choice of different ‘pic’ photos and crop variations, assembled all the elements (it really wasn’t easy – SO MANY different elements) and sent the final composite to the band. Again, with a few minor amendments, the cover was approved almost immediately. We were on a roll …

Then came the rest of the packaging – an unbelievable number of different elements for the box-set – DVD’s, CD’s and wallets, a digipak for the DVD’s, a set of black and white photos, a poster, a 24-page booklet and a replica guitar pic. There’s nothing more exciting for me than the challenge of designing box-sets which really deliver the goods to fans. The joy of opening a package and discovering more and more and more is my design ambition – and certainly an ethos METALLICA have always nurtured to their credit. I HATE buying what’s supposed to be a ‘deluxe’ version of a commercial release to find hardly anything original inside it – just a re-hash of the basic elements used on the cover. Metallica could never be accused of not giving real value for money.

Here are three other DVD box-sets I loved working on.

Each was incredibly difficult creatively for so many reasons but … they all have one thing in common. Each artist I worked with appreciated the value of art and design and stretched my talents and capabilities to the limit – forcing me to solve problems and learn something new. Without such creative ‘clients’ I know I would not be so excited by what I do, or as satisfied and proud of what I have achieved. Sadly, the music industry is a different animal now. Opportunities for challenge on such an intense level are less frequent. The nature of instant access to music, via various websites, inevitably relegates the visual side of music to a much more basic, and therefore less exciting, level of creativity. Thankfully though, thanks to the METALLICAs of this world, who still recognise the value of great packaging …

… I’m still able to do this … Thanks guys!

Still to come on METALLICA posts …

… Hanging out with the band in Berlin for S&M,
… the Viper Rooms in LA,
… Lars at his most generous,
… mayhem as the METALLICA stage collapses in London,
… dinner with Lars at Nobu in London with two Very Special Guests,

… and much more …



45. METALLICA Part Five – ‘THE BIG 4/2’

April 4, 2011


… Apologies for such an abrupt end to this post, but I had to scurry off away from my computer for a few days on personal business …  However, while I was off galavanting, I got carried away with what was to be the second half of Part Five which will now be …

… ‘METALLICA – Part Six – ‘THE BIG 4/3’ to be posted on Friday 8th of April
and … still to come after that …

… Hanging out with the band in Berlin for S&M,
… the Viper Rooms in LA,
… mayhem as the METALLICA stage collapses in London,
… dinner with Lars at Nobu in London with two Very Special Guests,
… and much more …

But now – more on ‘THE BIG 4’ and creating it’s artwork …

I know I keep banging on about the importance (and joy) of hand-created artwork – and I do believe in it passionately – but, without current technology and the massive broadband widths we now have to send artwork around the globe in seconds, so many adventurous projects just wouldn’t get off the ground. For me it’s a question of finding the balance between the spontaneity and energy  creating real artwork with the speed, convenience and endless capabilities of computer graphics programmes

Of all the bands I have worked with – METALLICA have provided the most creative opportunities to balance the two most successfully. James Hetfield‘s iconic and stylised drawings and sketches (not to mention his enigmatic handwriting) have often become a basis – or major contributing factor – to the construction of much of Metallica’s artwork.

Apart from the ‘Black’ album tourbook and its ELEVEN updates as the tour grew and grew and grew

… my first major project for the band was ‘LIVE SHIT‘ and from that ‘SCARY GUY to the title lettering on ‘GARAGE Inc.‘ to the wonderfully inventive ‘NINJA STARand most recently for ‘THE BIG 4‘ – James’ input is clear and remarkably consistent. To be provided with such personal input from the band makes it infinitely easier to provide art and graphics which tune in directly with fans. James is not a graphic designer but his input is spontaneous, totally relevant and uncontrived – a perfect scenario for a designer. His sketches and scribblings are re-worked to fit in with a projects overall concept but it’s vital I retain the original authenticity.

I have always believed that the most successful symbols, logos and graphic devices are those that can be reproduced easily (some dedication is obviously involved!) on paper, jackets, t-shirts and whatever comes to hand by fans themselves. I have seen numerous fan-customised  METALLICA items all over the world, from the UK to Turkey and from the US to beaches in India and the Far East. Some have been astonishingly inventive.

It’s exactly the same for me. With a strong iconic image to start with the possibilities are fantastic …

Just to show you how ideas can be developed I’ve taken the four black and white images above and created four colour images …

OOPS! … have to dash off … much more on this soon