From the Archive; Peter Saville interview

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The London Design Festival is the capital’s most prestigious design event, taking over the city for much of September each year. Back in 2013, Peter Saville won the London Design Festival Medal; I interviewed him for Blueprint and the article is available online via DesignCurial. At the time I asked a number of creatives about their favourite Saville works, and one guest blogger, Paul West of Form, mentioned True Faith by New Order, with photography by Trevor Key. Now, a display of work by that legendary photographer, a regular collaborator with Saville, is on show as part of Hull 2017, UK City of Culture. Trevor Key’s Top 40, features his iconic photographic images for some of the twentieth century’s most famous record sleeves. I’m using this opportunity to post another unpublished interview with a contributor to Sound Design, this time Peter Saville, as a number of their joint efforts featured in this exhibition, which the British Council toured across Asia and Australia in the early years of the new Millennium. These edited interviews come from long phone conversations or studio visits. I tried to keep the interviewees focused on the topic of designing for the music industry, and rather than bombard them with penetrating questions, I preferred to let the designers do the talking and reminisce anecdotal stories about the finer details of working with musicians and labels. You can find the Aubrey Powell interview, here, and there will be more in this series. As I’ve said before, I’m reluctant to post copyrighted images to illustration the interviews, but this Japanese website offering a complete discography of Peter Saville’s record sleeve designs is all you’ll need.

Peter Saville, interviewed by Liz Farrelly on 1/8/2000.

Liz Farrelly: Tell me about your involvement with Factory Records.

Peter Saville: Going right back to the beginning, I was at school with Malcolm Garrett, and at that point our horizons stretched no further than a Hawkwind, Velvet Underground or Roxy Music cover. Then Malcolm went to Reading University, and courtesy of the library there, the history of twentieth-century design became known to us, via his reading list, which included design theory that we at Manchester Art College didn’t get. I started college in 1974 and graduated in 1978. Malcolm did a year at Reading University while I did a Foundation Course and I encouraged Malcolm to do his next three years at Manchester.
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From the Archive; Aubrey Powell interview

Screen Shot of Pink Floyd's exhibition website

Screen Shot of Pink Floyd’s exhibition website

With the Victoria and Albert Museum staging the blockbuster exhibition, Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, and an upcoming talk by Aubrey Powell titled, ‘Art of Hipgnosis and the Album Cover’ (14/9/2017), here’s an interview with the man himself. Back in 2000 I spoke with Aubrey on the phone while curating an exhibition, Sound Design, for the British Council, which featured the very best British record sleeve designs from the heyday of Rock to the rebellion of Punk, the eccentricities of New Wave and the innovations of Rave and Rare Groove.

The exhibition included extracts of interviews with all the contributing record sleeve designers but the complete interviews were not published, even though the designers gave permission for them to be compiled into a book. The publishing industry being what it was, at the time, the book didn’t fly, so look out for more interviews on this blog. My questions were quite general; the aim was to get the designers talking about what interested them. The interviews were edited from longer conversations, but I tried to keep the designer’s tone of voice, and each interviewee signed off on the final version. What’s particularly interesting is that at the time vinyl had been replaced by digital technology in the form of CDs; Web 2.0, online downloads and MP3s were still ‘experimental’ and the first Apple iPod wouldn’t be launched for another year. The implications of the Internet for the music industry were beginning to be talked about but not yet felt.

Why am I posting this interview now? To celebrate the work of Aubrey Powell and his (late) partner, colleagues and clients, and the V&A exhibition that he helped to create, which I also hope to review. For more information on the exhibition visit the band’s exhibition website and the museum’s extensive programme, here. To see masses of images check out the websites dedicated to Hipgnosis and Aubrey Powell; for the best of Hipgnosis’s work in print have a look at Aubrey’s book, Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue, published by Thames and Hudson.

Aubrey Powell, interviewed by Liz Farrelly on 5/7/2000.

Liz Farrelly: How did you start Hipgnosis?

Aubrey Powell: We started Hipgnosis in the 1960s…It’s not what you know it’s who you know and Storm Thorgersen and I came from Cambridge and Pink Floyd originated in Cambridge – Syd Barrett, Dave Gilmore, Roger Waters – we all came to London at the same time, around 1965/66 and were all attending various art schools. Storm was at the Royal College of Art film school, and I was at the London School of Film Technique. Syd Barrett was at Hornsey Art School. And we were very together, all coming from Cambridge. We shared flats; Storm and I and then Syd and Dave had a big flat in South Kensington. Storm and I were looking to get some holiday money and we had a connection to photograph some cowboy book covers, and at the time everybody was getting stoned and dropping acid and were very drug-oriented. We were right in the middle of that psychedelic revolution. We were all part of that. Pink Floyd were doing gigs in tiny clubs like the UFO club on Tottenham Court Road and had just released their first album and were about to have a hit called See Emily play.
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The Happy Film; graphic design on screen

Stefan Sagmeister in ‘The Happy Film’, seeking discomfort on the streets of New York. Photograph: Ben Wolf.

Stefan Sagmeister in ‘The Happy Film’, seeking discomfort on the streets of New York. Photograph: Ben Wolf.

The Happy Film
Duke of York’s Picturehouse
Preston Road, Brighton, East Sussex
14 June 2017 at 6pm

I’m not a fan of solo cinema visits but even with my partner-in-crime currently ‘away’, I had to see this just released, much discussed film at this special screening. Right on the money, the power-couple hosts of Glug Brighton, Carl Rush of creative agency Crush, and Helen, the renowned Illustration agent and founder of Agency Rush, invited graphic-design hero (and I don’t use the term lightly) Stefan Sagmeister to show his seven-years in the making documentary, The Happy Film. Despite the lure of a glorious summer evening, Brighton’s historic Duke of York’s cinema was packed with the city’s creative community including a good number of Graphic Design and Illustration students from University of Brighton, come to see the legend in action, for after a film of thrills and spills Sagmeister stepped up for the Q&A.
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From the Archive; listening to Kalle Lasn

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The outpourings of unease, dread and fear that recent political events have caused reminds me of an earlier era, 1999 (although back then we were asked to party too). The run up to the Millennium witnessed the kind of end-of-days headbanging practiced by religious zealots since the Middle Ages, spiced with a dose of fin de siècle decadence and topped with the techno-paranoia of the Y2K Bug and the predicted meltdown of communications, power and defence systems worldwide. With the Internet still in its infancy and social media merely a glint in its circuitry, hysteria was polarised. Mainstream media presented experts and button-holed politicians while conspiratorial survivalists used grass-roots networks to challenge official messages meant to placate the public.

One media practitioner commanding attention was Kalle Lasn not because he peddled doom-laden prophecies, although he was angry, but because the magazine he had launched a decade before seemed to (now) perfectly fit the zeitgeist. Adbusters gave a message of resistance and not from a place of despair. It advocated for urgent action using the incendiary power of the image, documentary and manipulated, while retaining a stance of positivity, and the look and feel of the magazine – colourful, glossy, eye-catching – helped promoted that can-do, future-focused message.
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Digital histories in Northumbria; a workshop

Screen Shot from The Discovery Museum website showing a permanent gallery where workshop delegates played on interactive exhibits.

Screen Shot from The Discovery Museum website showing a permanent gallery where workshop delegates played on interactive exhibits.

Digital Histories: Advanced Skills for Historians
Northumbria University Newcastle and Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums
24-25 April 2014

Flying to Newcastle for a two-day workshop may seem an extravagant use of research time but this AHRC-funded workshop (organised by Laura Hutchinson and André Keil of University of Northumbria) promised to investigate issues around the digital humanities, to do with archives, text, image, data and metadata, and examine a number of innovative projects into the bargain. Speakers, including a Medieval scholar, a social media maven, community organisers and university- and museum-based IT consultants, were to discuss the implications of: putting archives online; striving for web- and museum-based interactivity; and crowd-sourcing projects that link institutions with volunteers.

The event spotlit concerns around digital and online cultural activity that will now inform my museum-based research. Delegates voiced concerns about unfamiliar material. Text-based historians, comfortable working with online resources be they newspaper archives or scanned records, admitted to lacking confidence when it came to image-based documentation. But there also seems to be a (conspicuous) lack of art- and design-led projects within this digital arena, perhaps because historians with those prefixes prefer to interact with objects and images, offline.
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Guest blogger; assessing Peter Saville, legend

Peter Saville Blueprint spread

Interview, 13 September 2013
Published, Blueprint, issue 331, 10 December 2013
Interview: graphic design legend Peter Saville talks to Liz Farrelly
Further contribution by Paul West, Form

For as long as this interview is available on the Design/Curial website, I’ll redirect you there; after that, I’ll repost it. It was a pleasure to be commissioned by Blueprint again after a few year’s hiatus. I worked in house from 1990 to 1994 beginning as Editorial Assistant, and writing from day one; I reached the heady heights of Deputy Editor, then freelanced under every editor until about 2006. Being asked to interview Peter Saville was the bonus; this is the third time I’ve had the opportunity to conduct a long interview with Peter, as well as having a few good chats along the way. He’s a great talker and it shows in the two and half hour transcript! Peter was to be honoured with the London Design Festival’s major award, which prompted the coverage. The award spiel mentions the winner’s contribution to design in London, and I realised that Peter’s amazing affect was as an inspirtion to and an incurbator of a considerable amount of graphic design talent that has gone on to make London the most important city in the world for graphic design. So, I asked around, and got a bunch of people to talk about their favourite work by Peter. Paul West had worked for Peter, and so I’m posting his contribution here as I couldn’t get it to the magazine by the deadline. Thank you Paul for adding such a great further contribution to the story.

Paul West: Where to start with Peter’s output. Who can’t love FAC1; the “Unknown Pleasures” pulsar; the “Closer” tomb, photographed by Bernard Pierre Wolff with the beautiful Lapidary typography; the “Blue Monday” floppy disc, his Section 25 work — the list is endless. To even go on more is redundant, so well catalogued is his work (alongside designers including Martyn Atkins, Brett Wickens, Richard Smith to name but three) that it’s entrenched in our popular counter-culture, in turn influencing culture.

True Faith

If I could name ONE piece of work I have loved above all other it is the fabulous “True Faith” 12″. This beautiful gold leaf suspended or floating on Yves Klein’s “International Klein Blue” backdrop, with the absolute minimum of information on the back cover (Name — Title / bside — Copyright — the all important Fac183 catalogue number — pre barcode!) and the way it fused art, hi-tech, independent couture, anti-couture; it feels as new now as it did then.

In 1987 I wrote my college thesis on Peter Saville Associates and Vaughan Oliver (V-23) and as a result I got through the doors and worked at PSA ’88 to ’89. I remember asking Peter about this cover and I him saying that the expanse of white on the back sleeve made the front sleeve look like an art piece, with the back cover serving as the catalogue descriptor. I loved that. It was so Warhol.

Of course so much of Peter’s great “visual” work is thanks to the genius of Trevor Key who had a studio space next door. I remember watching the exploratory work Peter and Trevor were doing for “Fine Time” and “Technique” and thinking how great it was, to be so progressive with such a spirit of discovery and invention, it was incredibly inspirational for a 20-something graduate. One day I was in Trevor’s studio talking to him about his work and looking through a massive pile of old test polaroids (including, X-Ray Spex “Germ Free Adolescents”) and I saw THE polaroid of “True Faith”. l had to ask. “Can I have it?”. “Piss off” came the reply. #legend.

From guest blogger, Paul West, Form

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