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Chris Bigg: I Always See Music in Colors

By Published: March 19, 2013
AAJ: Do you sometimes feel as if you act as a vessel for the client?

CB: I think you are always a vessel for the client. Your job is to visualize the sound but, of course, client input does vary. I think some of my more successful projects have involved a higher level of collaboration. I don't have much time for the marketing person. Over the years there have been a number of rather boring, backward decisions made by such people.

Jan Bang / Erik Honoré AAJ: How does an album cover get chosen and who makes the final decision?

CB: Again, it's a decision that all parties have to agree too, but ultimately the artist/client and I have the final say.

AAJ: How does your work differ when working for clients to when you're focusing on self-initiated projects?

CB: I think a lot of my work is very personal, there is no difference between my personal and paid work. I work hard to develop my typography, skills to keep my own self- initiated typographic experiments available for any number of projects, mark-making and taking photographs are a very important part of my routine; it has to be done.

AAJ: How do you see the album cover in today's digital world? Do you believe the evolution of digital music downloads is substantially impacting the perceived importance of album artwork?

CB: Yes, of course the digital download has played havoc with the importance of album artwork, but there must be a future between music and visuals they can never be separated.

AAJ: Do you see the decline of physical music formats as a loss, or as an opportunity for music and visuals to be brought together in new ways?

CB: I think it's sad that these formats are a thing of the past. The music business has changed so much since the arrival of the MP3/download. We are in the middle of a vinyl second wind, not sure how long this will last, and it's such a small part of sales. I like to think that music will always work hand in hand with image and typography. I can see a future in limited special editions, and of course the moving image area has possibilities as most new music is viewed on YouTube. I would like to see more experimental developments in the viewing of live music, be it venues, or stage design.

AAJ: Can you elaborate on the cover for Cocteau Twins Lullabies to Violaine (4AD, 2005)?

CB: That project was art directed by Vaughan, my roll was one of design assistant I like the limited edition version, printed on this wonderful matt paper, I do think Nigel Grierson's wonderful art is missed on this release.

AAJ: How did you meet David Sylvian and how did you first get involved with his record label, SamadhiSound?

CB: I first met David when Vaughan and Nigel Grierson were working on Secrets of the Beehive (Virgin, 1987) in 1987 and as v23 we worked on further projects up until 2000. I was having a rough time on a number of levels in 2003-4 and I was on the verge of giving up graphics. I had been working very hard with very little reward or appreciation and then out of the blue David emailed me. Blemish (2003) had been released on his new label, SamadhiSound. He and Yuka had plans to handle all the graphics / typography on further releases, but both were busy and were looking for someone to help out. I considered getting involved for about one second! It's been the most rewarding of all of my collaborations.

It's a dream project; his music never disappoints and we have a very gentle relationship. I just want to do my best on every occasion. It just gets better and better, he is a very generous man who is always willing to share his inspiration on any number of topics. If there was to be one thing that could improve our working relationship, well I wished we lived in the same country. It would be fabulous to spend some time together while working on various projects. We do meet when we can but it's a rare thing.

AAJ: Please talk about the way you work with Sylvian who is known for his involvement in the artwork direction on his own or other SamadhiSound releases.

CB: It's a very collaborative working relationship, David art directs all images, illustration, photographic elements and he has never disappointed me. Quite the opposite —he has a very broad taste in art, and always inspires me with his choice of images. He will send me the music and his image selection with a suggested front/back cover selection. Then I respond to this work typographically. I like to think SamadhiSound and David's solo releases have a feel of continuity, without us repeating ourselves. It has a typographic language that gives the label a subtle identity. Philip Marshall 's "Rebels in Control," who handles all the web aspects of the label , continues the story with his delicate edits of the format art.

AAJ: Can you elaborate on the new covers for Jan Bang
Jan Bang
Jan Bang
live sampling
and Erik Honoré's Uncommon Deities (SamadhiSound, 2012) and Greta Aagre and Erik Honoré's Year of the Bullet (SamadhiSound, 2012)?

CB: All of the projects that involve David Sylvian are rewarding and inspiring. David sent me artist Hannah Bertram's beautiful drawings made in dust. It was a pleasure working with such images. We made a limited edition that allowed us to explore Hannah's images even further by working with a special gold metallic that included the lyrics in both Norwegian and English. I particularly like the half size grey board "O" card that has blind embossed typography. Year of the Bullet, is a project by Greta Aagre and Erik Honoré. Erik was again such a joy. He gave me freedom to respond to the music. I had recently been looking at the photographic work of Luís Filipe Cunha, a wonderful inspiring portfolio. I presented Erik with a selection of various moods incorporating Luís images, a choice was made by return. Not all projects run that smoothly

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