• Jf7

    Jack Featherstone: Hachinoko: Simian Mobile Disco

Behind The Scenes

An interview with Jack Featherstone about his new record sleeve designs

Posted by Amy Lewin,

Ever since he was a wee lad (Jack was an It’s Nice That Graduate in the summer of 2009) Jack Featherstone has been impressing us with his record sleeve designs and music videos, made for the likes of Holden and Simian Mobile Disco. Spying a pair of new sleeves and a brand spanking new video for Hachinoko by Jas and James – the pair behind Simian Mobile Disco – we decided to ask Jack a few questions on how he does his stuff.

How much creative freedom do you have with the design?

I pretty much have total creative freedom on most projects. Sometimes the artist might have some kind of loose concept or starting point, but after that I mostly have complete control. It’s not worth it otherwise.

Do you always get to hear the records before designing the cover?

I insist on it. I think a good record cover shouldn’t just look great and be conceptually solid, but also be an emotional reflection of the music in some way. You can only attain that third quality by actually engaging with the music you are creating artwork for.

  • Jack1

    Jack Featherstone: Wysing Forest: Luke Abbott

  • Jack2

    Jack Featherstone: Wysing Forest: Luke Abbott

What’s the story behind the Wysing Forest cover?

Luke Abbott recorded all the music for his record during a residency at the Wysing Art Centre near Cambridge. Its location is very rural and Luke said he spent a lot of time thinking about nature, and the theme of the forest in the future. The photography for the record was by Luke’s girlfriend Katherine. They both went into the woods and made a shrine or ritual site of sorts around a tree with holi powder. Luke then came to see me in my studio and we talked about the record and what it meant to him. I listened to the music many times before I began to treat the photographs, cropping them and stitching them together into interesting compositions. After lots of tests and variations we settled on the final image, which kind of feels like a ghost tree, a tree that perhaps never existed, or that might one day sometime in the future.

  • Jack3

    Jack Featherstone: Wysing Forest: Luke Abbott

Best record cover of all time?

Pretty impossible decision, but I’ll go with Tangerine Dream, Optical Race. It has a beautiful Otl Aicher-style pictogram design that is dye-cut on the outer sleeve to reveal a multi-coloured inner sleeve. I’m not sure that many people would agree with me on this, but I think it’s close to perfect. The cover reflects the kind of techno-optimism of the record. Not the best music by Tangerine Dream though in my opinion.

… And the worst?

Even harder because covers that are that bad are often so bad they’re good! However I think the artwork for It Can Be Done But Only I Can Do It by Omar S is rubbish. I mean it was a great record, I listened to it loads, but the artwork makes me feel slightly sick. Maybe that makes it good though?

  • Jack4

    Jack Featherstone: Standard Music Library 1970 – 2010: Public Information Records

  • Jack5

    Jack Featherstone: Standard Music Library 1970 – 2010: Public Information Records

  • Jack6

    Jack Featherstone: Standard Music Library 1970 – 2010: Public Information Records

What record would you take to a desert island which just so happened to have a record player?

Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92. No contest really, I have to listen to this record at least once a week, I couldn’t live without it.

Also, you’ve designed and directed a fair few Simian Mobile Disco videos now. What’s your relationship like with James and Jas?

It’s really good! James and Jas are two of the nicest guys you’re likely to meet, they’re incredibly open to ideas and have the balls to put all their trust in you. There have been a couple of times when they haven’t been completely sold on an idea, but gave the go ahead anyway as they believe in us to deliver the goods. That kind of complete trust is a rare thing, but I think it produces the best results as it allows room for risk taking and experimentation. We all recently travelled to Japan together along with Hans Lo to perform our live visuals show in Tokyo. We had fun.

In the video for Hachinoko it looks (to me!) like a bunch of raving leather cuddly toys start exploding, like an apocalypse on the dance floor. How on earth do you come up with an idea like that? And does it have any particular meaning, or is it primarily designed to look cool?

The video for Hachinoko was a collaboration with DesignStudio. My friend Jamie Thompson is an art director there and I thought it could be a great opportunity to make something we could both be proud of. We had an extensive brainstorming session; I guess this was a slightly unorthodox approach to making a music video because it was as if we treated the project as a design brief. Gradually the seed of a concept began to emerge. The funny thing is although the idea may seem a little bonkers and out there (which of course we wanted it to be) it was born out of the longest period of ideas generation I have gone through when making a video. In that way it is also perhaps the most rational video I have played a part in. I like meaning to exist but to be ambiguous, and I think good filmmaking leaves room for the viewer to make up their own mind.

One thing I knew from the beginning was that I wanted to make something that was humorous, but also kind of dark and sinister. I wanted it to feel unsettling. The hedonistic, leathery blow-up characters achieved that feeling. DesignStudio did a fantastic job animating and producing the piece, and the fact that it looks so cool really is down to them.

How long does it take to create a music video?

It completely depends on the concept and what processes are involved. My video for Holden’s Renata took a month solid without any weekends off. But that’s what you get when you decide to use animation techniques outside of the computer. The last video Tangents that Hans and I did for SMD took just over a week to complete. But the technology involved took about six months to be developed by our friends at Artists and Engineers, so it really does vary.

Are you completely sick of the song by the time you finish?

About 95% of the time, yes. But it’s nice to come back to a video a few months down the line after that has worn off. That’s when you really know if you’ve made something that’s any good or not.

Amy

Posted by Amy Lewin

Amy joined It’s Nice That in July 2014 as a freelance editorial assistant. Previously she studied English at Oxford University and has worked at several media and film production companies.

Most Recent: Behind The Scenes View Archive

  1. Mirandajuly-badman-int-main

    The problem with Miranda July is that everything she says or does is great, so editing the interview I did with her the other day has been a bloody nightmare. In this half of our two-part feature Miranda discusses health, drugs, sex, ideas, and – of course – some of the themes in her spectacular new novel The First Bad Man. You know what? Here’s some homework for you: read part one of this interview, then read this, then go read the book. Trust me, you will enjoy all three. Here she is…

  2. Mirandajuly-badman-int-main

    Last week I went to visit Miranda July in a somewhat archaic hotel in Mayfair. Turns out she wasn’t even staying there, but had been placed in a small room on a sofa to talk to journalists all day about her new book The First Bad Man. Although she was meant to be speaking primarily about that, I wanted to talk to her about some of the themes in the book and how they tie in to her own life – particularly as a few times in the past she’s almost cast herself seemingly unawares into her own projects. Miranda had a baby while she was writing this novel, and so this interview also covers how one continues to stay creatively motivated when confronted with eternal busyness, and the ways LA shrinks and doctors can help – or hinder – your work ethic.

  3. List

    On New Year’s Eve in 1965, photographer Lisetta Carmi met and photographed a group of transvestites living and working on the Via de Campo in Genoa, Italy. It was the beginning of a seven year relationship with the group, considered outsiders by Italian society, and led to the publication of I Travestiti, an incredibly controversial book of all the images Lisetta took over this stretch of time. Now, almost 50 years later, Jacopo Benassi, a photographer already famed for his work documenting prostitution and gay culture, has retraced Lisetta’s original steps, tracking down the two remaining subjects from that body of Lisetta’s work – Rossella and Ursula.

  4. List

    Scott Carthy only graduated from Kingston University’s Graphic Design course last summer, but the 22-year-old Irish creative looks like he has a very big 2015 in front of him if the first week is anything to go by. Uploaded just seven days ago, Scott’s new film Litefeet has racked up thousands of views and been featured on many of the leading creative blogs around. The film – which follows New York subway dancers against the backdrop of a city-wide crackdown on their activities – is the follow-up to 1050.6© Scott’s first look at the same issue which we featured back in May.

  5. List

    There are coffee table books, and then there are huge, fantastic publications so weighty that they’re likely to shunt your table a couple of inches closer to the floor, as in the case of this staggering beauty by TASCHEN. The Rolling Stones is a 518-page testament to the incredible wealth of photographs that have been taken of the iconic band over the course of their 50 year career, and it’s breathtaking.

  6. Main

    It’s great when we speak to editors and founders of the best magazines on the stands today, and they say that the reason they created it in the first place was that “There wasn’t a magazine for me on the racks. There wasn’t one that did what I wanted.” Leith Clark is a stylist to the stars, and has been entrenched in the world of fashion and style for over a decade.

  7. List

    On Tuesday afternoon America’s largest lingerie retailer, Victoria’s Secret, descended on London with a horde of “Angels” to execute one of their famed multi-million pound productions, complete with wings, light shows, male back-up dancers and several hundred black and silver balloons.

  8. List-3

    Harley Weir is an extraordinary talent. Her work is bold and unreserved, whether it be part of a personal project investigating the border between Israel and Palestine, a vibrant fashion editorial for the likes of British Vogue, or a series of ethereal portraits capturing redheads with all of the eerie stillness of Millais’ Ophelia.

  9. List

    Back in August, Thames & Hudson published Collector’s Edition, a stunning book collecting collector’s editions of music and literature releases. Now, to continue the rather meta trajectory of the original, the book’s author and creative director, Stuart Tolley, founder and director at creative agency Transmission, has released a collector’s edition of Collector’s Edition in the form of an “artist cover bomb” series, which has seen ten artists whose work appears in the book decorate a copy, and which will be sold in an online auction to raise funds for The Alzheimer’s Society. He talks us through the “very loose” brief he set the participants, and how it felt for him to have the likes of Paul McCartney and Nick Cave decorating a book he created.

  10. List

    There are equal doses of pleasure and frustration to be had in stumbling across the work of a photographer you’ve never seen before. It’s classic FOMO on a macro scale, coupled with joy at the prospect of showing off the treasure you’ve found. At least that’s what I felt when I discovered that photographer Mark Neville was to be showing two of his photo-series alongside one another in a new show entitled London/Pittsburgh at London’s Alan Cristea Gallery.

  11. List-flyers-for-the-institute-at-sexology.-photography-by-russell-dornan_-design-by-liam-relph-(3)

    London’s Wellcome Collection space always hosts explorations of the things that fascinate us most. It’s covered death, it’s exhaustively explored the human body in all its glory and grotesquery, and now it’s moved on to surely the most fascinating of all – sex, or more precisely, how people have studied it.

  12. List

    How’s this for a collaboration? Artist Quentin Jones, who counts photography, animation, painting and filmmaking among the tools of her trade, has teamed up with spatial designer Robert Storey to create the setting for her new exhibition in the The Vinyl Factory Space on London’s Brewer Street, with Robert creating a set for each of Quentin’s works.

  13. List

    There’s a real appetite here on the internet for old black and white photos being presented in colour, but in the main they tend to focus on historic or social themes. It’s less common to see sports photography undergoing this treatment, which is why we were so struck by the work of Gooner Frog when we came across it on Facebook.