Portrayal of an Artist – Part 3 [Music Parody]

For the past two days I have been sharing the wacky album cover and music industry satire we created for the defunct website artlick.com (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here). This is the final instalment in that oddball collection. And if you thought some of the other albums were odd, you ain’t seen nothing yet. These go deep into really unusual abstract places, but are among my very favourites of the entire series.


Albums: Futurific;  Neon: The Futurific Remixes
Singles: Once in my past twice in your future; Greener Grass; Eliminate your last thought

 

One afternoon in 2001 we headed out around the financial district to take some suitably esoteric photos of me wearing a beanie hat and some Elvis sunglasses. I remember really loving this photoshoot. The result was the Futurific album which we decided was to appear on a new record label called Electric Son. I imagine this as somewhere between heavy beats driven electronica and jazz. We had been listening a lot to the band Red Snapper during the creation process for these, which I feel are a big influence on them.

As with all popular records, you’re nothing if you don’t have a dance-y remix version of your album. So we went to Times Square one night and captured some remarkable photos in front of the neon lit NYPD outpost there to assemble the makings of this sister album to Futurific.

The singles all followed a similar theme to the Futurific album cover but are lent an added air of poignancy given the events of 9/11 a few weeks later. They now stand as a strange document of that time

The most eerie and unusual one of them all was this single, which we named before the terrorist attacks, but now seem strangely prescient given the subsequent events that unfolded. Another curious element here was the naming of Clune (David Gray’s longtime collaborator and drummer at the time) as a collaborator on the tracks. I was a huge David Gray fan, and we had been to see the band perform many times during this period. We had a huge affection for the charismatic drummer Clune in the band, so we added him in as an unlikely collaborator on these.

The Greener Grass single cover is probably the coolest of them all and might well have deserved an album of its own.

We shot so many great images of the Twin Towers, so we designed a funky foldout CD type inlay to accompany the standard album covers. These are really nicely designed I think and the glorious lines of the towers are so photogenic in these. Masterful work by Dave on the design.


Albums: The Rambler Trilogy – The Rambler; The Return of the Real; Committed to Mediocrity
Singles: Slang; The Myth of Everything; Intermission

This is where we went super oddball and arty, and the results are both beautiful and slightly unnerving. It began with a photoshoot in our old office, where we were packing up to move to downtown Manhattan. So there were loads of empty office spaces, brimming cardboard boxes and a wealth of orange packing labels. Naturally enough I decided to stick them to my head to create a makeshift hat of sorts, and off we went. Given the rather unusual atmosphere and ambience of the photos, we took the album art even further out there as we manipulated the images. We also decided to put this out on yet another record label that we called And Recordings, which somehow felt suitably indie. Additionally, I quite liked the idea that the word “and” is a conjunction and it was somehow connecting radically different phases of the artist’s career

We imagined that the recording artist would forgo his usual name (Kalle Ryan- yes, I find it odd talking about myself in the third person too) and simply become a character called The Rambler and this would be a suite of three concept albums that told a trilogy story from his experimental point of view. Ultimately the idea was a series of records based around language. And if you look closely, the table of ideas has resurfaced as one of the tracks on the first album

Again for this one, we decided to a gatefold centre with a slightly unusual look and feel

The singles all followed in the same mad spirit. There’s something almost Kubrickian about them. Empty spaces. Weird characters.

I love the deliberately computer generated blockiness and cut-n-paste vibe of many of them. Seems fitting for something so artificial and contrived.

This one really looks like some kind of otherworldly painting. For some reason it harkens imagery from the Wim Wenders film Until The End of the World, which I was really taken with at the time. I remember going to see Wim Wenders do a Q&A at a legendary 4 hour version of that very movie around this time ( and it was the only print in existence of the movie) so some of that must have filtered into the influences on this one.


Album: Eventuality of Nothing

I think this one was imagined as an instrumental album along the lines of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. Dave was also a huge fan of Vangelis and I think some of that was fuel for inspiration too. The record label was again different for this one, Lösch Audio, which seemed to fit with the experiemntal soundtrack vibe. If thie artist was to fully realise his wild ambitions then of course he would release an epic lush instrumental soundtrack


Album: I was just getting into that (b-sides & rarities)
Single: Toasting Paint

Any good artist worth their salt must release a B-sides and unreleased demos record (or his contractual obligation will ensure that the record label releases it). But his artist had to obviously go even bigger and release a double album of demos, and an entire record of cover versions. This is very much a Thin Raft album and the choices of acoustic guitar  cover versions ranged from the possible (Bob Dylan) to impossible (Public Enemy).

Fun fact, this photoshoot was done on the same day as Dr Livingstone I Presume, but we didnt use it till much later. There is also a shoutout my friend Corrie Leane (who created the artwork for the Footsteps in Chalkdust album) who is named as co-songwriter on a few tracks. And all of those particular tracks are references or in jokes between us, although my foggy memory can’t really recall the exact reference points any more.


Album: Midnight at Donington

The metal album.?At the time on MTV we were often treated to heavy metal concerts from Castle Donington. So, in my mind that was a connection forged between a place and a genre of music. Which meant that we decided we needed a heavy metal record to capture the artist’s evolving musical development and genre defying proficiency. I think it may have also been inspired in part by Ryan Adams, an artist I adore, who had put out a trash metal record under a different moniker at the time called The Finger.

I think we imagined an epic Stairway to Heaven type track as the closer, and for that we felt we needed to ground it in metal royalty with Kirk Hammett (Metallica) as a guest guitarist on the track. The record label naturally enough had to be suited to the genre, so it came out on Darrk Source, which sounds like something a user on Reddit would call themselves these days.


Album: Zoocoustic

Long before the mighty Ryan Adams made it popular to do a superb cover version of an entire album (have a listen to his Taylor Swift reworking of 1989 – sounds like Bruce Springsteen and The Smiths singing pop songs), I cooked up this acoustic, unplugged tribute to the seminal Zooropa album by U2. A band and an album I adore to this day.The guitar is my Takamine that I still own to this day, and the Zooropa artwork and layour is poached from the original album. I always wondered what this album might actually sound like if it were recorded this way. Over to you Bono…


And that, my friends, is that. Hope you enjoyed this odyssey through my fictional musical back catalogue (Go back and read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). I have a pile of sketches in a notebook of album titles and concepts that we never got around to creating, so I will post those at a later date.

Portrayal of an Artist – Part 1 [Music Parody]

I’ve mentioned before that I ran a website called artlick.com with my friends Dave and Jenn. We were fascinated with this burgeoning place called the internet and the opportunities it presented to be creative. We had a keen interest in all artforms, especially writing and graphic design, but with very little experience of how to code, so we just jumped in and started building a site full of our own artistic creations, quirky installations and mad ideas (and we learned along the way). There were bucketloads of interesting projects and creations from the site that I’m hugely proud of, and I will post about them further in the coming year, but I’ll kick off with one of the most fun projects we ever embarked upon – Portrayal of an Artist.

Through my friend Ravi, we had acquired an early digital camera (it had a 3.5 inch floppy disk that you inserted into the side to capture the photos!) – and, for us, it was a great way to creatively play with such a futuristic gadget. One day on our lunch break we took a snap of me goofing around the server room in our workplace, and following a little bit of digital doodling later we had a suitably silly looking album cover.And so, our shared love for music and album cover art spawned an entire section of the site dedicated to this parody and satire of the music industry. The idea was ultimately to make fun of the many different styles of album cover art, and a broader sideswipe at self-important, stupid rockstars who put out an eclectic set of genres of music to reinvent themselves — with all the whims of moving labels; lack of quality control; wildly misjudged titles and lyrics.

Some of the photos are still really funny to me, and some are really beautiful and otherworldly. There are some particularly poignant photos in here of the old World Trade Centre too that proved to be a glorious backdrop to some of the albums. Dave did such a class job with some of these covers – some real gems that would look good on a shelf, and others that still make me laugh out loud. And as I look at them I often daydream about what the songs might actually sound like. I really should record them some day. There are also loads of fake album reviews to go with them, which I will also dig out and share at another time. But for now let me take you through some of the creative process that brought them to the world wide web. The back catalogue is absolutely vast, so I will post a chunk of them here today and share even more tomorrow!


Album: DATABANK
Singles: <ANTON> ; <PUNCHCARD>

The first album came about, as I said above, when we pottered around the servers at our office. The word DATABANK was emblazoned on the original databank itself, so we kept it and figured it would make a good album title. That then sparked the idea to create a couple of singles, which Dave used to hone his burgeoning Photoshop design skills.

I remember us spending huge amounts of time on coming up with the right titles for the songs, so they would fit well with the genre of the album (which we assumed was some kind of electronica). Also, there are little details on there that we added for our own amusement; we thought it would be funny that the album version of Anton was 34 minutes long, but the single was drastically edited in length. We extended the joke but reduced the running time even more preposterously for the Punchcard single.

 

Finally, the name of the record label was incredibly important (for this and subsequent albums) and I seem to recall Dave coming up with this one, saying that it felt right for an electronica record. Can’t argue with him. Even now.


Album: Footsteps in Chalkdust
Single: Walking home in the rain

The next album was a great marrying of old ideas with new ones. I had been playing with the idea of pretentious singer-songwriters and had written a sort of poem with ludicrously earnest titles a few years earlier (and pretentious sample lyrics) . My good friend Corrie Leane, a brilliant artist from Waterford, had designed some cover art for them during a poetry/painting collaboration we undertook a few years previously.

The record label (Thin Raft) was also a shared reference I had with Corrie, which came from a Jim Morrison lyric in The Doors song Texas Radio and The Big Beat– “I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft”. It was our shorthand for our friendship and artistic kinship. So it felt fitting given this new arty collaboration with a few close friends.


Album: Was?
Singles: Was! ; Memory III

The chronology of these albums (both real and imagined) is pretty fuzzy after all these years. We created these back in 1999 / 2000 I reckon, and this particular album was an attempt to create a singer songwriter album (hence the Thin Raft record label), where the singer had decided to go ultra pretentious and perform only on a piano. And all the titles had to have slightly avant garde sounding Steve Reich / Philip Glass sorta titles. This would be the type of album where critics would nod and agree that he began his more “experimental” phase, perhaps bridging into his next phase of electronica.

 

As a student and fan of the German language, I suspect I was playing with the word “was” which means “what” in German, and the past tense of the verb ‘to be’ in English. Which probably explains why the album title has a question mark and the single title has an exclamation mark. Or perhaps I wasn’t thinking of any of those things.


Album: Dr. Livingstone I Presume
Singles: Cane Toad Nightmares

This album was one that was sparked by an impromptu photoshoot on our lunch break (I know this because my fake watch from Chinatown says it was almost 1pm). I spotted a large potted plant outside a store on Broadway and thought it would be funny to appear from it as if I were an intrepid explorer. The phrase just jumped out at me from something I was reading at the time. I still love the way Dave layed out the title on the cover, with the old school “A-Team” style lettering.

 

We then thought there would be something inherently funny about having LOADS of singles of the Cane Toad Nightmares, given the propensity of cane toads to reproduce so much.

We also felt that the artwork had to have something of a psychedelic “Apocalypse Now” kind of feel to them. The harsh neon colours were a very deliberate choice as I recall.

Again, this was deemed to be a Purification Records release, so some kind of dancey, electronic vibe to it. I’m pretty sure the inspiration for that record label was Warp Records, as we were listening to a lot of Boards of Canada at the time.

I’m still not sure what on earth a Cane Toad Nightmare is. Maybe Dr. Livingstone will know when I see him.


So, that’s phase one of the Kalle Ryan albums. Oddball treasures for sure. For more dizzy album cover delights, read Part 2 of the musical odyssey here