It’s great when musicians are handy with pens as well as complicated musical instruments. Over the years we’ve always chatted about the wonder of people who don’t get enough pleasure out of one creative outlet and must pour it into another, and we’re pleased to welcome one to you today. JW plays in Leeds psych band Hookworms who have just released their spectacular new album Hum on Domino Records. JW is also a very talented illustrator and designer, and actually took it upon himself to design the sleeve for their latest release, along with a whole bunch of posters for their frequent, sweaty gigs.
I wanted to speak to JW about his life between making art and music, the process of designing a record sleeve, and his life in general. Also, Hookworms only bloody went and made us a Friday mixtape didn’t they? You can thank us later. For now, press play and scroll down to read a superb interview from a very inspiring man indeed. Enjoy!
What’s your life like at the moment?
My life is pretty hectic at the moment. I’ve just started working almost full time on the Foundation Diploma at Leeds College of Art on their MAGPi (Moving image, Advertising, Graphic Design, Photography and Illustration) specialist pathway. I absolutely love it. It’s very inspiring and humbling to see learners at the very start of their careers producing some beautifully crafted and socially engaged pieces. I’m doing a fair bit of branding and design for a new beer shop that’s opening in Leeds called “Tall Boys Beer Market” and starting some Shangri-Las-themed work for an exhibition in Leeds in January. I’m also studying part time and making music in Hookworms. It’s a tough balancing act but I just about manage it whilst also being able to spend time with my girlfriend and three lovely pet rats. I’m basically constantly catching trains between Sowerby Bridge and Leeds, drinking a lot of espresso, drawing in my spare room or lifting heavy things.
Why the pseudonym Idiot’s Pasture?
It’s the title of a song by one of my favourite bands, Black Dice. I never really thought anything of it but now Hookworms are part of the same family of labels as them and maybe it’s a bit weird. I initially used it because we needed to start a blog for a college project and I was listening to that song when naming it. I never wanted to use my own name as I share the same name as a famous rugby player. I was also working with young offenders and pupil referral units for a long time and didn’t want them finding my work as I was doing some needlessly gory stuff then.
“As much as I love being silly and drawing punk animals, I also get dead excited by nerdy crisp graphic design. It’s all about appropriateness and conveying sound as image.”
Tell us about the new Hookworms artwork
It was quite an easy one this one time, I think the rest of guys approved maybe the second or third draft. It took us ages to agree on something for the last record. I found the image of the teeth in a medical catalogue from the late 1800s and fell in love with the image immediately. It really freaked me out and I kept thinking about it and decided I needed to do something with it. I’d been doing the artwork the whole time we were recording the album in secret and finished it before the record was finished. A few people have asked if the zig-zags are a Twin Peaks reference. It isn’t. I never got into that show (I’m sorry).
Designing a sleeve is pretty technical – did you study art/design?
I did Visual Communication at Leeds College of Art, it was great and I learnt a lot. I’m very grateful that they let me do most of my projects about music and allowed me specialise in art education. I strangely failed my art GCSE and my school wouldn’t let me do it at A-Level, I’m feeling pretty smug right about now. Fun fact: In my GCSE exam I did a ‘psychedelic’ painting of Jimi Hendrix and misspelled his name so it read “Hendix.”
The artwork on the new record seems a little bit more serious than the rest of your work – how come?
I don’t think the psych lads would be too into street dogs, leather jackets and gravestones. As much as I love being silly and drawing punk animals, I also get dead excited by nerdy crisp graphic design. It’s all about appropriateness and conveying sound as image.
How much freedom does your label give you to design and print your own artwork?
As a band they have given us 100% creative control. We sent them the artwork and music as one package when it was done, they hadn’t seen anything or heard a note of music until we had a final product we were happy with. They haven’t changed anything. When we decided to work with a bigger label I was definitely expecting more interference but they’ve been so accommodating and supportive. We thought we were pushing it when we were asking for the sleeve to be die-cut and kinda suggested it as a joke but they were big into it. I haven’t done any printing for this record but with the US release of Pearl Mystic, the first 100 or so records came with a metallic screen printed poster I designed and printed. Again, I just printed them and posted them and they let me do whatever I wanted. It’s a bit of a dream situation.
Did you look at any other record sleeves for inspiration?
I deliberately tried to avoid looking at other sleeves for this, I don’t want to subconsciously rip people off although I’m pretty sure I have. When it comes to layout design I’m more interested in Occult texts than other record sleeves. Occult and spiritual texts usually have beautifully minimal covers and are perfectly balanced. On a simple level, look how beautifully laid out Ouija boards are, I’ve always wanted one but I’m not allowed.
Who else do you think is making great gig posters and record sleeve artwork at the moment?
Pippa Toole has been one of my favourite illustrators for a few years and I’m now lucky enough to collaborate on projects with her, the same goes for Kate Prior. I spend a lot of time looking at Antoine Marchalot’s work, particularly the more digital stuff he’s been doing recently. Drew Millward was a big inspiration growing up, I remember stealing some Deerhoof and Thermals posters that he designed from various venues in Leeds and having them on my bedroom wall (I’m sorry Drew, I was young and didn’t know how the world worked). Mushroom Necklace are a big inspiration for me, their artwork for Thee Oh Sees has been my favourite album artwork for years. Anna Peaker, who did our Radio Tokyo 7" is also doing some beautiful work at the moment, she’s just done the artwork for The Wharves LP that came out this week.
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