Behind the covers of the NZ Music Awards

Behind the covers of the NZ Music Awards
The Technical Award finalists for the 50th Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards have been announced, including those for Idealog’s perennial favourite category, Best Album Cover.

Three finalists were acknowledged in the announcement ­– Kelvin Soh (for Broods’ Evergreen), Barny Bewick (for Cairo Knife Fight’s The Colossus) and design firm Alt Group (for Shihad’s FVEY) – so Idealog seized the opportunity to find out just what goes into the creation of the country’s best album art.

Barny Bewick ­– Cairo Knife Fight’s The Colossus

Idealog: What’s the inspiration behind the design of the album cover?

Bewick: The inspiration for this cover is the classic LP covers of yesteryear. Whenever I have the opportunity of ‘free-reign’ over an album cover I tend to choose a surreal, photographic concept that harks back to the great album covers produced by design houses like Hipgnosis and their peers. I always think that that style is the most interesting for the record buyer as they can draw their own conclusions on the meaning behind it. It’s a piece of art in itself that doesn’t necessarily disclose the contents of the music held within.

What’s your favourite track from the album?

I’d have to say Rezlord, it’s got that pulsing, repetitive groove going through the whole track which is something that Nick does very, very well. It’s also got a banging chorus. It’s not the heaviest or fastest track on the record, but for me, it’s one I turn the volume way up for.

Was there input from the artist?

There was no brief and I had total freedom for this cover, which was great. I’ve been doing work for Nick since 2009 and so he kinda trusts me to come up with something he’ll like. I wanted to keep the loose theme of the faceless man from the previous two EPS and so mixed that with an idea I’d had a long time ago that was waiting for the right project (a figure in the blistering heat of the salt flats who was mysteriously soaking wet). Nick asked if we could freshen up the logo a wee bit from previous releases (which I did) and he also wanted to see some other sky options, before, returning to the original stark blue version.

Did you listen to the whole album before designing the cover?

I’d had some mixes of the album since April which I listened to at the time. Mock ups for the single campaign and album started in May, but, the shots for the album weren’t done until July. So, I’d heard the un-mixed record a few months prior, but, that was about it. To be honest, I usually find more inspiration from a bands lyrics rather than the music as quite often a turn of phrase or particular lyric conjures up an image in my head that leads on to becoming the cover.

What’s the best album cover ever created?

That’s one of those questions where there is no real answer, like which limb could you live without. I mean, there are album covers I absolutely love like The Number of the Beastby Iron Maiden. Is it the greatest album cover ever? No. Even the artist, Derek Riggs, admits he had to do it in a hurry and it would have been a lot better if they’d given him more time, but, it means a lot to me, I love looking at it and it reminds me of when I first started really getting into music and buying LPs (often based on the strength of their album cover – I’m talking about you Holy Diver). Same goes for Storm Thorgerson’s Animals for Pink Floyd, it’s not as recognisable or iconic as ‘Dark Side...’ but I much prefer it. Just think about the amount of effort that went into the creation of it. I mean really, making a giant inflatable pig and flying it over Battersea Powerstation – try suggesting that today, you’d get sectioned.

What question would you most like to be asked in an interview like this?

Steve Harris just rang to say they want to try someone new for the next Maiden album, are you up for it?

Dean Poole of Alt Group – Shihad’s FVEY

What three words describe your design style?

Include the necessary.

What’s the thinking behind your design?

The inspiration for the cover came directly from the themes in the album. Five Eyes often abbreviated as FVEY, refers to the intelligence alliance compromising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States to jointly monitor global communications of their citizens. We wanted to capture this idea of your private/public self under mass surveillance. The five-eyed skull was made in 3D software and then rapid prototyped as a sculpture and then photographed. It oscillates between physical/digital, organic/geometric. The lo-poly forms reference Stealth bombers, and glitch aesthetics.

How much freedom did you have with the brief? Was there input from the artist?

We had a lot of trust from the guys. They sent us a few songs with instructions to play it loud. We showed them an idea of a black five eyed skull a week later with the suggestion of just using the acronym FVEY. And they said, hell yeah. Best client ever.

What’s your favourite track from the album?

Think You're So Free. It’s epic and was politically timely. It included the acronym GCSB.

What three things would you take with you to a desert island?

My wife and two kids.

What’s the secret to creativity?

Having the courage to explore the unknown, going with your gut, and hoping that you will arrive somewhere.

Andy Warhol: genius or swindler?

He was a genius swindler.

Kelvin Soh, Broods’ Evergreen

What’s the inspiration behind the cover?

Conceptually, the artwork eludes to ideas of kinship and family since the Broods members are blood related. The wolf masks are basically a reference to how wolves live in packs. We were also inspired by the paper sculptures of artist Anna Wili-Highfield and we worked with her to realise the construction of the wolf masks.

What kind of music do you listen to when you’re not on commission?

Probably contemporary hiphop, EDM and everything in between.

What three words describe your design style?

Conceptual, conversational, contextual.

How much freedom did you have with the brief? Was there input from the artist?

Not so much ’freedom’ in the sense of unbridled free expression. It was very collaborative. The outcome is very much the product of many conversations with multiple collaborators and rounds of edits before arriving at the final version.

Do you have a favourite track from the record?

Never Gonna Change for its epic, melancholic, bittersweet quality. It’s quite cinematic and a visual person I enjoyed that it brought images to mind when I listened to it.

Did you listen to the whole album before designing the cover?

I got to hear the unfinished versions of the songs.

What’s the secret to creativity?

That creativity requires logic.