We all know vinyl is back -you can even buy it at your favourite supermarket alongside your vegetables- but sound quality is not the only thing people are after these days. Vinyl manages to touch four of our five senses, with its sleeve playing a similar role to that of a book cover. Although as the saying goes, “never judge a book by its cover,” DJB has gone ahead and listed the top 10 sleeve designers who make that record worth buying even more.
1. Will Bankhead
This UK-based photographer and graphic designer is behind some of the most memorable covers of the mid-90s dance music scene, having designed many of Honest Jon’s and Mo Wax’s iconic sleeves, including DJ Shdaow's iconic Entroducing..... (pictured). Back then, most of his sleeves were done without computers with a focus on the darkroom and making graphics with enlargers. According to Resident Advisor, his initial inspiration came from skate magazines like Transworld Skateboarding and Thrasher. His stylistic use of mixed-media and minimal photomontages depict an obtuse reality. More recently his handiwork has graced the covers of Joy Orbison and Hessle Audio records. Art is not Bankhead’s only focus, as he simultaneously runs his own shop, blog and label, Trilogy Tapes.
2. Alex Solman
A large part of the visual communication of Hamburg’s Golden Pudel is due to this man’s professional craft and constructivist poster designs while his stylish and constructivist illustrations have rocked the covers of artists such as Benjamin Brunn, Helena Hauff and Demdike Stare. For 10 years, Solman has regularly been designing the flyers and posters for Pudel’s Sunday events -MFOC (Musik Festischisten Ohren Charakter). Originally inspired by cubism and Bauhaus, since 2005, Solman’s diverse minimalistic illustrations have tended to focus more towards comics and caricatures moving from black and white to colour graphics. His West German 70s and 80s minimal style also appears on FACT Magazine’s weekly mixes. In an interview with VICE, Solman explains that his inspiration comes from the musician’s appearance, with the music also playing a significant role.
3. Alan Oldham
This Berlin-based artist, American DJ and producer is one of the most important figures of Detroit’s techno movement. His music and art careers started simultaneously when, in 1987 he started doing radio in Detroit devoted to electronic music and was asked by childhood friend Derrick May to produce a label design for his first record, ‘Nude Photo’. Having worked as a comic book artist from a young age, the artist’s sharp sleeves often look like they could be taken straight out of a cartoon book. Oldham’s futuristic designs are explained by his vision, as he has said that, “Detroit techno, in my view, was originally about futurism… A lot of sci-fi movies and TV shows portrayed a future that had no blacks in it. [Detroit techno] was a statement that black people would be around in the far future”.
Godspill aka. Mehdi Rouchiche is the main creative force behind Dutch label, Crème Organization’s gothic vinyl covers. His artwork is so detailed that you often have to look twice to find some of its inner subtleties. Godspill has dedicated much of his work to The Hague’s underground scene, visioning the sound of the city’s electro and rock generation through Crème’s “for the freak by the freaks” ethos. His dark, neo-horror imagery corresponds with the label’s dark but playful sound. “People have always talked about [the artwork],” states Jeroen van der Star also known as DJ TLR, “it’s very distinct. People actually always thought it was some elaborate branding we did. It’s not, it just happened that way.” In 2001, Rouchiche also launched his own t-shirt brand to promote his artwork through a new medium to a broader public.
5. Lindsay Todd
Passionate artist of sleeves for his labels Firecracker, Shevchenko, Uthank and The Sacred Summits, Edinburgh-based Linday Todd has a lot to give. Speaking to Krossfingers, Todd explains that while in the past he was often reworking comic book art, towards the end of the last century, Todd has experimented with print techniques, while maintaining some of the design elements from the previous dynamic comic book themes. Most of his artwork is the result of “wonderful mistakes and eureka moments” as he builds collages with photos, drawings and metallic inks, “mixing [his] own crude style of illustration to make something new that somehow goes with the music.” This man’s artistic process is all about being organic as he does not work with digitals effects and prints all of his pieces by hand.
Glasgow-based Tom Scholefield’s talent reaches across many disciplines. He works as a musician under the name Konx-Om-Pax and has produced videos, music, cover-art and animations for a number of artists. His artwork has rocked the sleeves of record labels that include, LuckyMe, Warp Records, Brainfeeder and Hyperdub. Scholefield explains that music is a means of escaping the stress of 3D animation, “which is really time consuming and can be a bit grating.” His sci-fi visuals depict his dark sense of humour while he manages to balance his vision with that of the artist’s. Although Scholefield’s art touches on psychedelia, he would rather get high on artwork because “you’ve got control over what’s happening” as opposed to the synthetic world of drugs, which he suggests is repetitive and “not that great”.
7. Trevor Jackson
This London-based art director, designer, moving image maker and producer has made a solid stamp on the audio and visual industry, having been an active influence for over 20 years. Jackson’s career began in the 80s when he found himself in the midst of the burgeoning hip-hop and rave scene where he would, “be dancing to a record on Saturday night and trying to bag the job of designing the cover for it the next week,” he explains in an interview with VICE. At the mere age of 20 he was designing records sleeves by hand with photocopied cut out paper for the likes of techno masters Derrick May, Juan Atkins as well as hip-hop legends, the Jungle Brothers and De La Soul and his unique designs for his company BITE IT! were selected for the Creative Futures exhibition. Jackson, who was unimpressed by the usual photographs that donned sleeves stated during his Red Bull Music Academy lecture, “I was influenced more by comic books, videogames and stuff like that.” Jackson’s later artwork for Output Records and Soulwax earned him international acclaim and his strong ability to communicate with the dancefloor puts him at the forefront of visual and musical global influence.
8. Jeroen Heeman
Dutch visual artist Jeroen Heeman is known for his cycle tags and illustrative style. He is also known under the pseudonym Erosie, which used to be his be his graffiti name. In a chat with Draw A Line, he explains that his evolutionary process is about developing a new thing through small steps: “when I go for a freestyle piece, and I continue with a second one, it changes a little but you can still see the similarity. The third piece changes even more but it’s still related to the first one.” Erosie’s sense of artistic freedom blends graffiti, illustration and typography into bright, often geometrically shaped compositions with layers of forms and figures. He minimal yet grandiose designs can be found on record label 3024’s sleeves, which he founded with his friend and musician Martyn.
Moritz Friedrich is a Berlin-based professional painter, illustrator and graffiti artist as well as record producer. His colourful and diverse artwork features photography, sketches and cubism, and he is also responsible, alongside the Pfadfinderei team, for the iconic Moderat albums (sleeve and logo). Moritz’s musical career began in 2000 with the record Ne Me Quitte Pas and he has since worked as a reclusive producer with the likes of Boys Noize and Modeselektor. Aside from his visual artistry, Moritz produces music from his studio space hidden in a former GDR office in Prenzlauer Berg, intersecting genres that range form techno and house to hop-hop.
Machine is the creative product of Amsterdam-based collective Mark Klaverstijn and Paul du Bois-Reymond. Their first project ‘DEPT’ began immediately after graduating, when they found themselves working for the Dutch club scene, creating masses of flyers for the legendary club RoXY, when the medium was in its heyday. After DEPT, Machine was founded in 2001, using mixed media for versatile projects such as websites, record sleeves and installations. After Machine they founded their own label, Our Machine Records, and became the exclusive designers for record label, Kindred Spirits. In collaboration with Detroit’s Carl Craig they also worked on a short film series ‘Slambient’. Clone Records, Delsin, Eskimo, Kindred Spirits and Planet E are all marked with the colour and incredible imagination of Machine’s art.