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Monday, December 27, 2010

ARTWORX

Hey, about a year ago I did an interview about some of our artwork for something called Fluxion Magazine. Not sure if it ever came out, but here is some rationalization:



Baiting the Public 7"
Probably my favourite sleeve that we've done. This was only our third 7" release, and we hadn't yet settled on the 7" layout template we use for all our singles now, with the titles on the top margin. Representing that, there are two different covers - one following the aforementioned template, and one with a bigger "Fucked Up" at the top in microgramma font (as opposed to Clarendon, which we use for everything now), and "Baiting the Public" on the bottom, representing maybe a last ditch attempt to go in a different direction. The front image is meant to be a metaphor for what we thought we were in punk, and what punk was in the world (we were really into punk at that point) - a pack of rats running over a proper looking young woman in bed. The inside was more to the heart of what this record was about, which was more or less a tribute to the Actionists, a radical art group in 1960s Austria. The inner picture depicts one of their "events" which is basically a naked man aiming a naked woman at a roomful of people. The Actionists, along with the Situationists, who were another big "influence" of ours at the time, were admired because of their blatant attempts to challenge and shock rather than pander to their audience. That's what Baiting the Public was meant to be - our small symbolic challenge to our listeners. The theme for the record went beyond just the art - we split the song into two so you had to flip the record over to hear the whole thing, and the lyrics were jumbled so you couldn't follow along. We were really into the idea of confrontation back then, and after the Police 7" was pretty well recieved, we sort of arrogantly already wanted to hit back with something a bit harder to digest.



Year of the Dog 12"
We had never really done many 12" singles when Year of the Dog came out, so we didn't really have a set template down yet, like we had for our 7" singles. The label was willing to go along with a more involved design, because it was a co-operative and had a lot of people down to glue stuff. I was listening to a lot of European revisionist martial music like Der Blutharsch and Les Joyaux de la Princesse, and I wanted to do a design that went along with that - sharp lines, block colours, etc. We picked a dark blue for the jacket, glued white bands around the jackets, and then foil stamped the title in silver print on the bands. Each one had a postcard sized image glued onto the cover - it was an Alfred Kubin (who we also used for the Dance of Death 7") of a giant demon ejaculating as he walks across the countryside, except his ejaculate is made up of humans, implying that humans are satans seed, who impregnated the earth with us. It was a cool layout, but it took forever to put them together, what with all the glueing. When it came time to repress the 12", we had just released Year of the Pig, and had a more standard design template for the Zodiac 12" series, so the repress of Dog follows that and has some intense biblical imagery for the artwork.


The Chemistry of Common Life LP
This was the first time we commisioned a photograph for an album cover that wasn't a picture of the band. Our friend Mimi Cabell (mimicabell.com) took about
600 different shots over a few weeks in mid town Manhattan in July of 2008. What we realized later (by reading the wikipedia of our own album) that what she'd inadvertently captured was Manhattanhenge, where the sunset lines up perfectly with the street grid of New York, something that only happens twice a year, and allows a perfect view of the sunset looking west on the major streets of midtown. The shot is somewhere between 30th and 40th if I remember correctly. If you look closely you can tell that its not just one image, but a composite of about 35 different shots line up ontop of each other, which is why you have some people and cars overlapping, and explains the relative brightness of the sun and the lense flare everywhere. The shot is supposed to represent the main idea behind the record, which is the unity between culture and nature, and the idea that the literal source for all human culture and life is the sun. Even though the title is taken from a 19th century book on wild mushroom identification, what it means for the album is how everything thats cultural about our lives has its source in nature and science, and that there really isn't a divide between the two spheres. The song ChemCom describes the theory of the origin of life on our planet that states that tidepools containing abiotic proteins were zapped by lightning bolts continually for millions of years until finally the electricity (the sun) and chemicals (chemistry) fused to create the first living matter (common life), which describes the title and also the album cover.


Looking for Gold 12"
We used to get all the art for our records from either art books from my university library, or the image bank at the big central municipal library. Around the time we did this record and Dance of Death, I was getting into the fantastic realism artists from Vienna like Alfred Kubin and Max Klinger. I think this picture came from a book called "The Fantastic Art of Vienna". I don't remember who did the piece because I think it's a really minor work, but it again describes the lyrics perfectly. What struck me about the piece is how it inverts the classic white-black dualism you see everywhere. The black guy on the horse looks like the good guy, and the white angels kind of look like demons. Its got some heavy alchemy symbolism going on, which was something else we were really feeling at the time. Looking for Gold is kind of the most important Fucked Up record and describes the age old quest for the idealized humanity. Alchemy was really heavy on dualism (which we stopped digging on Hidden World) and is therefor really useful as symbolism for punk bands, who exist almost entirely to be placed in opposition to some other prevailing force. The last verse of the song is "On horses black we plunder through, The white with serpents eggs strapped to, Our backs are turned against the silver moon". The illumination was done by a friend who I used to work with.


Royal Swan 7"
All the artwork associated with the ChemCom album shared the sunlight theme. All of the 7"'s (No Epiphany, Royal Swan, Crooked Head) had the sun very prominently displayed on the covers, as did obvious the album itself. This picture was therefor a no brainer - a bunch of swans, the sun. I just found it in the library's image bank in the "Swans" folder when I was looking for LP artwork. This 7" only really exists because this picture is so perfect - if we'd have found a picture that perfectly represented the lyrics to "Days of Last" or whatever, that would have been the 7" instead of this, but I couldn't find this picture and not make it the cover of a record. The song title refers to a G I Gurdjieff anecdote about these ancient swans used by royalty who had the ability to separate milk from a mixture with water. This goes back to the alchemy theme, wanting the ability to seperate the wheat from the chaff, in the parlance of our times.


Year of the Pig 12"
The art on both sides of this 12" is by Ferdinand Hodler, a 19th century Swiss painter. This was a tricky record to choose cover art for, because it deals with an issue that doesn't really lend itself to subtle representation (prostitution) and we also didn't really want to go the literally route by putting some slaughtered pig on the cover of the album (although we did that for one of the 7" versions of this song because it was a sick photo). We spend a few days in the library until we came across this Hodler piece which fits really well because it kind of alludes to prostitution through public sex (because there are a bunch of men and women sleeping in a public place) but also the central guy seems to be about to get whats coming to him. The central black figure is obviously meant to connote Death and this fits the theme of the album, which is that the problem with our conception of sex work is that the responsibility for carrying with social taboo is with the worker and not the consumer. The cover is meant to allude to a get-back wherein the consumer is meant to pay the ultimate price, not the prostitute. We thought the art and the lyrics on this album were pretty cohesive, but lots of reviewers just thought the song was about animal rights :(.



Triumph of Life 7"
Here is another cover with a subtle but powerful message. It's pretty much just a picture of a bird (The extinct Black Mamo) but then when you look closer you see that what makes the picture and the bird significant is the flower it's standing on, who's petals are perfectly formed to fit this birds beak, and no other. This holds with the syncretic message that most FU songs are about, our "anti-dualism" vibes. In 2006 I was mostly finished being interested in university and was taking biology and botany classes for fun and was learning about symbiosis in nature as it relates the evolution of species. It turns out that competition between two species, be it an antelope and a cheetah, or a bird and a flower is what drives evolution, since the constant battle between opposing forces makes each better and stronger and challenging the opponent. But since it's happening on both sides, its a positive feedback loop and allows new traits in each species to develop and strengthen the species as a whole. It's kind of like Marx/Hegels theory of the dialectic in society except that in nature it makes cheetahs that can run 100 mph, and in society it just makes Walmarts and Russian billionaires. I got the image from a huge picture book of extinct animals, and this was I believe the first time we ever used a colour photo on a 7" cover. I kind of tried to make this record like the part in The Wizard of Oz where all of a sudden everything was in colour. This 7" was kind of like a departure in style for us, and seemed appropriate for things to start being in colour.

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The picture from the "looking for gold" 12" often illustrates the poem "DER ERLKÖNIG" by German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - if anyone cares ...

3:28 AM  
Anonymous TEXY said...

ALREADY KNEW THAT. JOHANN WAS MY GRANDDAD. SOMETIMES HE WOULD SAY HE WROTE DER ERLKÖNIG JUST FOR LITTLE OLD ME.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very pretentious, very interesting

nice

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

definitely continue this on other sleeves

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please do.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the story with the "municipal pricks?" What did they do to obtain prick status?

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read the inserts and you'll be in the known ...
And to TEXY: the little boy dies at the end of the poem so maybe your grandad was trying to tell you s.th. ...
By the way, how old are you? I mean old Johann died in 1832 aged 83 ...

7:01 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

"European revisionist martial music", hipster term for Neofolk, or is "Neofolk" the hipster term? Or perhaps the nationalist term? Has to be sorted out.

;)

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post, would like to see more!

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please explain the covers to every single one of your records ever please. Make a zine of it. God, that would be the coolest zine I would ever own.

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I thought the reference to revisionist martial music was talking about bands trying to reclaim the strict tempo military style from it's associations with fascism and so on.

4:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love when you guys give bullshit interviews and spread misinformation about the band, but this was really rad and informative (unless the details in this article are bullshit and misinformation!).

Punk + intelligence = danger

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's definitely one deliberate factual innaccuracy. I think he still likes to tell the odd fib.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just in case any one was wondering, I do feel like a right nob after writing the 'One deliberate factual inaccuracy' comment.

Just to be clear, it was me. Apologies to the other Anonymous if people thought it was you.

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Mark Harvey said...

Hi,

I actually publish Fluxion. Its a arts journal. It has always been infrequently published. This interview on the artwork is for issue 5.
It hasn't come out- yet.

I had a disastrous year in 2010 and had to put the whole issue on ice until fall of this year, but it will happen and I will let you know.
I love what you do and appreciate your patience and participation.

1:23 PM  
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what is your music genre buddy

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