NORWAY ROCK MAGAZINE



- How did you get into record cover art?

My epiphany came one day while I was in London to see The Who at The Marquee Club. It was one of their first gigs in Britain after their infamous Woodstock appearance in the USA and the tickets were like gold dust. I had travelled there early by hitching a lift with a bunch of friends, one of whom had bought the tickets the day they were announced. We first went to see the famous mural painted by Dutch artists ‘The Fool’ on to the Apple Boutique building in Baker Street, it was just so amazing. After that we wondered into two independant record shops that we knew specialised in american import albums - ‘Musicland’ in Soho and ‘One-Stop Records’ in South Molten Street. I picked up a copy of ‘Savage Resurrection’ in Musicland - purely because I loved the cover art, but it was toss-up between that and ‘Beacon From Mars’ by Kaleidoscope! Everywhere you went, the place was buzzing, my home town in contrast seemed to be in black and white and grey - London was technicolour! By mid afternoon the queue at The Marquee Club was stretching all the way up Wardour Street. We got chatting to a guy in front of us who told us he had produced some drawings to show The Who for their next album art. We didn’t believe him! The drawings from what I recall were OK-ish - but nothing amazing and we just thought this guy was spinning us a line - and delusional! Keith Moon emerged from the pub up the road half an hour later and walked casually down the queue chatting (very) merrily to the crowd. He stopped to talk to our mysterious friend in front - and sure enough - he looked at the drawings and told him to get in touch the following week. We were astonished! He was telling the truth after all! However - I never saw his work used on the next album cover by The Who - or on future releases! I wonder where he is now? Perhaps that guy turned out to be someone well known - I just don’t know. But it got me thinking. I had left school and had no real idea about what I was going to do...in fact I ended up in a drawing office for a few years  producing technical drawings for the heating and ventilation industry for a while, before plucking up courage to go to art school. But I never forgot that afternoon, and seeing this young guy showing one of my all time heroes some artwork. What a fantastic thing to do - to maybe earn your living from producing art for your favourite bands! We saw 3 very early performances from support bands that afternoon and evening: ‘Yes’, ‘Jethro Tull’ and ‘Gun’. The Who though were incredible - and are still my favourite band to this day - them and Pink Floyd. My friend standing next to me caught a piece of Pete Townshend’s broken guitar as he flung it into the audience after the usual smash-up at the end of the show! I went home with something else - an idea, a plan of action to pursue art - whatever it took.

- In which degree are the various artists themselves involved in the ideas for the cover art? Any examples of artists who are very much/very little involved?

Fish was and still is - the most ‘hands-on’ out of all my collaborators. He has a great visual sense, and is a joy to work with as ideas come streaming out. I usually act as a filter for these - and try to paint the pictures inside his head. In that sense I was very lucky to find a willing conspirator so early in my career. Other bands act differently - occasionally leaving it all to me, or supplying an album title, or a longer written brief, it varies.

- Do the bands come to you with their ideas to be realised, or can they choose from your library of unused artwork?

I don’t have a library of of unused work really - bits and pieces that I might re-use on occasion...but normally I have to start afresh each time.

- Can the musicians or their art directors dictate exactly what they want from you? Have you ever vetoed an idea or turned down an otherwise well paid commission? (For reasons too violent/extreme/sexist whatever...)

No - I’ve never had anything so strong I’ve had to ‘veto’ an idea. I was asked by a girlie magazine once to paint some pretty raunchy stuff in the late 70’s - a boy has to do what a boy has to do to survive I suppose. I remember a guy from one magazine having the job to stick stars over the naughty bits all day - including my pictures! It was pretty tame compared to what they produce nowadays I hasten to add!

- How long time do you spend on making a cover as detailed as, say, Nostradamus?

Difficult to say because I spent about 5 or 6 months on that and the 4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse illustration, working on both more or less at the same time.

- You have been a lot in Norway the last few years, with exhibitions in Holmsbu (a small cluster of buildings most Norwegians can't place on the map) and several Marillion-associated concerts. What's the connection?

Two great Norwegian friends - Andreas Dahl, and Morten Eliassen - who I call ‘The Glimmer Twins’, they are the reason! Andreas invited me and Julie to stay at the Spa Hotel that Morten works - and where Fish and his band would be staying during their Rockafella gig a few years ago. He suggested I bring some artwork with me - which maybe we could sell at The Rockafella and pay for our trip. We did - and it was a great success. Morten then invited us to come later that Summer and have an exhibition at the hotel in Holmsbu, again it was a great success - and we have met so many fantastic people during our trips here that we just love coming back.

- And your next visit to these shores is..? (Your chance to push the Script-event in October! )

We should be coming over for The Reasoning gig in September in Drammen, and also for The Script-event in Oslo in October.

- What's your next project?

I have a painting to do for an ‘Erotica’ show in Copenhagen in September, a painting for a Marillion fan who has commissioned a private piece from me. A Jack Bruce DVD, another Highland Glory album cover - and 16 DVD designs for The Dalai Lama! (Yes - really)

- Any artist you would particullary like to work with, that you haven't already?

I love Riverside from Poland - was lucky enough to meet them all in the USA a few weeks ago at NEARfest...Mariusz Duda is one hell of a musician and songwriter.

- A few thoughts (the more, the better!) about the progress and creation on each of these pieces. How did you get involved, where did the idea come from, was the artist involved (who from each group?), any other fact which might interest... (We would like to include the cover art of each in the article. Is it ok if we copy these from your website?)

Marillion - Script, Misplaced

Script - that was ALL Fish, he had the idea fully formed in his head right down to the Chameleon on the chair - I didn’t hear a peep out of the rest of the band! Well - only Mick Pointer who kept saying how much he hated the Marillion logo - and Jo Mirowski (who designed it) tried to placate him with designer’s gobblededook about how it was ‘perfect’ for them!

Misplaced Childhood - that was initially Fish, but more of a ‘sketch’ this time, just about using the boy replacing the jester - it was left up to me how I would develop the imagery.

Fish - Vigil, Return to Childhood

Fish - Vigil, initially that was going to be the next Marillion album after Clutching. I met with Fish on the very afternoon that the rest of the band came over to talk about it too - but it ended up being a daft argument between them all, which led on to their break-up. I was sat in the middle with John Arnison their manager - who was staring into the abyss like a rabbit in headlights:) It should have been sorted out amicably if the manager had done his job properly and I think then Marillion were poised to be one of the biggest bands in the world. Alas it was not to be! The ideas that we had discussed before they arrived, were developed once we knew it was to be Fish’s solo album cover. Certain themes that were more implicit or opaque within a Marillion cover - were fully explored when the reigns were off and Fish felt more comfortable about aiming his sights in a more political direction than he would have before.

Judas Priest - Ram It Down, Painkiller, Angel, Nostradamus, Jugulator (And Demolition, which I would never have recognized as a real Wilkinson...)

Ram It Down - was going to be a hammer hitting an anvil - then it was changed to a fist hitting the world, no idea why, not even clear in my memory whose idea that was.

Painkiller - was originally a hell’s angel on a huge bike through hell - then I added this metallic creature riding pillion (passenger) - they preferred him - I got rid of hell’s angel! I added the monster as part of the bike after thinking about Bat Out Of Hell - and also the metal wheels after looking at a circular saw blade on the way to my studio one day.

Angel - A development of the Painkiller - but more ‘iconic’.

Nostradamus - Everything but the medieval kitchen sink was thrown at this...a complete world was designed to show in as many pictures as possible what this man was all about. I based his face on Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lector - I don’t know why...his eyes were so penetrating - and that was at the forefront of my mind for Nostradamus.

Jugulator - Metal machine monster - decapitation, mutilation...evil incarnate, forged in the pits of hell...took MANY attempts before I got this right...it was hard to think of anything new with this sort of imagery.

Demolition - Ha! Stripped down to a bare minimum. Despite its eventual simplicity - many attempts were made - about 30 would you believe - to get this right. In the end it was a slap of red paint on a wall that was the inspiration!

Europe - Prisoner...Joey Tempest thought about an ancient civilisation - imprisoned in a desert landscape...perhaps Egyption, perhaps Greek - the idea was that Utopia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. With perfection comes madness as there is nothing left to strive for. In fact - the mindset was about them all being tax exiles - refugees from their own country after their humungous success with ‘The Final Countdown’.

Iron Maiden - The Wicker Man, Donington - Wicker Man...well what can I say! Derek Riggs was struggling for months and months on this idea. To be fair to him - I thought what he came up with was fine. But the band didn’t like his ideas and they fell out. So I was brought in to try and bring some fresh ideas to it - double quick! Donington - was just one of many illustrations for the Monsters Of Rock festival I did every year - and that was the year Iron Maiden were headlining  - so my brief was to base the poster design on Eddie. It was eventually used for  their live album too.

The Darkness - One Way Ticket...Another artist had come up with various attempts at this but the band and record company weren’t too happy with any of them. I had been brought in a few months previously to work on their Winter tour merchandise designs and they had really liked those. Justin Hawkins was in a Queen and Marillion tribute band years before - in Lowestoft where they came from so was a fan of my work. He rang me up one morning out of the blue - with a mission impossible. If you would like to have a go at this - we need a rough visual in 3 days - and if we like that - you have 12 days to do the illustration!!! I worked day and night to get it all done. They loved it and to this day it’s the biggest marketing campaign I’ve ever seen using one of my pictures - it was on every other billboard in London when we drove through to the album launch - which had a working model train which you could sit on going in a circle from bar to bar!

Pink Floyd - Syd Barrett story DVD...Simply one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever been asked to work on. I was a massive Pink Floyd fan when they started...but when Syd left it felt like the end of the line for them by the pundits. He was their guiding light from the beginning who created the spark that lit the fuse. They went on to greater glory as history has judged - although something was definitely lost, they became something altogether different when Roger Water’s personal angst was at the helm. I forgot about the ‘Madcap’ on purpose and instead tried to make this painting a celebration of his unique talent. He wasn’t just the poster boy for Psychedelia as some claim and not just a gifted lyricist but a visionary musician who used the guitar as a free-form instrument, who explored its use in a far more avant garde way than anyone else dared to at the time. Except for Hendrix that is, but legend has it that even he watched Syd very closely one night using his ‘glissando’ technique during Interstellar Overdrive and added it to his own personal arsenal of FX.

Megadeth - Mary Jane - I just cannot remember this at all! I don’t recall who asked me to do it - I did do this one did I?? I never got a copy of it anyway...gone in the mists of time - along with my memory!

The Norway dept.:
Highland Glory - From Cradle

One of my personal favourites this - Highland Glory led by Jack Roger Olsen had a particular idea in mind about this cover...and I think I pulled it off - one of the few pictures I’ve done where I wouldn’t change a thing...really nice guys too.

< BACK >