Yesterday, Knitting Factory Records released Fela Kuti’s the Best of Black President Pt. 2 which is an extensive collection of the legendary Afrobeat pioneer’s music ranging from 1971’s “Black Man’s Cry” to 1992’s “Underground System”. This release is part of Knitting Factory’s ongoing commitment to make Fela Kuti’s music available to the public.
The above artwork for “Best of Black President Pt 2” was revived by a Columbus ex-pat Zach Jaeger . Mr. Jaeger has worked on several of Knitting Factory’s Fela efforts including Fela: Live In Detroit 1986, and the Ginger Baker compiled Fela: Vinyl Box Set 2 . I talked to Zach about how one goes from taking photos for Columbus Metal Band Teeth of the Hydra to working on important Fela Kuti releases and more.
How long have you been working on the Fela Kuti reissues?
It’s been a little over 4 years now. The beginning phases were a little slow as far as compiling art, information, and data so I don’t really think it jumped off until 2010. It’s been non-stop since then.
For “Live in Detroit 1986” you used actual tickets from the show, and posters? What approach did you take when utilizing those objects?
We weren’t sure what we were going to do with that once we got it (art wise). We were working on having a TDK master cassette tape that the concert was recorded on being cleaned up (including blending the split where the engineer had to physically flip the cassette mid concert to continue recording). I was starting to concept the art when we received the poster and ticket stub from the actual show. It made perfect sense to make the poster the cover and re-appropriate the ticket to be the back of the record. When I found out that a TDK-SA90 cassette tape was used to record the show I went through a huge box of cassettes I had and found one. I brought it in and scanned it and adjusted everything to fit the liner notes. Where all the info about the cassette would be I changed to reflect all the technical info about the 1986 recording. I wanted to do something only analog audio nerds could really respect, I am one. The packaging even had to be approved by TDK, they loved it.
Donewaiting’s first foray into this “Behind the Artwork” feature was with Mike Carney, who did the cover of Heartless Bastards’ The Mountain and the entire Black Keys discography. This time around, we decided to get the skinny on Times New Viking‘s new one from TNV drummer/vocalist Adam Elliott. (Can you tell yet that we’re excited about this record?)
Elliott answered the questions I sent him with his usual candor, and it’s a pretty good insight not only into the reasons behind the album covers these art-school kids create, but also the creative philosophy behind the band itself.
Who does the band’s cover art, or is it a collaboration?
all of our art is a collaboration, much like all of our music. when we were in actual art school we started the band with the idea of 300% creative control, which allows every band member to have 100%. someone will come up with an idea, another person will add or subtract and so on until we all get stoned, listen to the record and agree the two go together.
What kind of process do you use to create the finished product?
we don’t use any computers during recording, so we try not use computers with our art as well. we usually send our label the actual final product–the exact 12 inch size. on this record we decided to get away from just plain photocopy and collage and used a technique we finessed at school, an old school photoshop sort of deal. the front cover was done with xylene transfers, even the color, on matte paper, from photocopies. it gives it a soft edge. we also make sure the paper it is printing on is matte, not glossy.
Michael Carney has illustrated a lot of high profile album covers, most notably the entire discography for The Black Keys (you may note that he shares a last name with the drummer of the band, Pat Carney (his bro)). Most recently, he did the artwork for The Mountain, by The Heartless Bastards. The record is one of my favorites of the year so far, so I thought it would be a good subject to kick off this new series on the site. I sent Carney some questions about this release and his career in general.
How Did This Project Come About?
The Heartless Bastards are on Fat Possum Records and I have been doing random freelance stuff for them since 2003/late 2002 when I did the cover for Thickfreakness for The Black Keys. Matthew Johnson (Fat Possum mastermind) really liked that cover.. (He once told me I should shoot myself because there is no way I will ever do anything better than that cover.)
Anyway, I have worked with Matthew for a while and he tends to flow me whatever work he can. Usually the bands already have an art guy and want nothing to do with me… in this case Erika (the singer/guitar player songwriter) told Matthew she wanted me to do the cover for her record. That was during the summer of 2008. I did some other random stuff for them leading up to this cover, (t-shirts and a poster) and that gave us some time to get used to working together. Their manager, Ginna, who is great, also played a huge roll in making this happen.
Early sketches Continue reading