A Gathering of Tribes

May 27th, 2009

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Summer is almost upon us and so is the summer concert season.  Every year band’s hit the road to play clubs, outdoor sheds, arenas, stadiums, and now more than ever music festivals.  The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, MerleFest and Coachella have already kicked the festival season off, but others like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, All Points West and the granddaddy of them all the Newport Folk Festival pack them in throughout the summer.  Whether you want to hang with hair metal bands at Rocklohoma or feast on punk at the Warped Tour, there’s something for everyone on the festival circuit, so we decided to focus on two of the newest festivals to enter the fray.

In this first installment, we’ll focus on the brand new Merchants of Metal Festival that kicks off it’s inaugural year on June 6, 2009 in Chicago.  While Ozzfest takes a summer off, The Merchants of Metal Festival (with the curious accronym of MOM) brings together some of the hardest metal acts in the U.S. and abroad.  The one-day festival will have a main stage and a secondary “Pit” stage that features acts ranging from prog-metal stalwarts Zeroth to doom metal act Crimson Eye and Thrash Metal upstarts Forgest.  It also features the stateside concert debuts of Japanese death metal kings Minagoroshi and the German black metal act Dark Brotherhood.

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Chicago is not only the site for the inaugural Merchants of Metal Festival, it is also the home for the label which organized the event and backs a number of the participating bands, Long Bong Records.

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Figment News journeyed to the Windy City to gain some insight into the genesis of the festival and got a lot more than we bargained for in the process.  In an extended interview, which ranged across topics both mundane and arcane, the shadowy figure behind Long Bong Records [aka “LBR”], known only as “The Infernal Archon”, alternately enlightened, amused and, frankly, frightened our reporter.

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From the outside, the offices of Long Bong Records appear like any number of professional buildings in architecture-rich Chicago; the structure is an early 20th century tower in the style of Louis Sullivan or Frank Lloyd Wright.  Inside however, things are a bit more…esoteric.

Following a disturbingly thorough security check, we were ushered into the office of the head of Long Bong Records, an individual known only as The Infernal Archon – simply “The Archon” within LBR.  The dominant and most immediately striking feature of the office of The Archon, is the copy of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden Of Earthly Delights triptych, visible prominently behind the massive desk.  After a moment, a door to the side opened and a young spectacled man entered, introducing himself as Mr. Styx, assistant to The Archon.  He immediately proceeded to lower the lights, commenting that The Archon is very sensitive to lighting.  When asked when the Archon would be available, he replied, “He’s already here.”  Startlingly, a shadowy figure was seated behind the broad desk, apparently entering the room unnoticed, and positioned to be completely in silhouette [see the photo below, where apparently a digital glitch blurred the image of the influential label head].  So, begins our interview….

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Figment News: Thank you for taking the time to meet us today.  We’re very excited about the upcoming Merchants of Metal Festival.

[Mr. Styx leans back into the shadow, The Archon mutters something and he leans back forward.  This was the sequence for every question and will not be noted in each case].

Styx: I will be speaking today on behalf of The Archon.  He says we’re pleased to have you here and welcomes the opportunity to discuss the Festival and other matters with the Figment News.

Figment News:  That’s an excellent copy of The Garden of Earthly Delights, if I may say so.

Styx: [pauses] Copy…ah, yes, thank you.  It’s The Archon’s favorite work of art.  It’s a very inspirational piece, don’t you think?

Figment News:  Well, I thought it was supposed to be more or less a warning against lustful excess?  No?

Styx:  [sighs] I suppose that’s the case with all great art…things are open to interpretation.

Figment News:  Ah, hm, interesting.  Well, I will dive right in here.  What prompted Long Bong Records to form the Merchants of Metal Festival?

Styx:  As with all great endeavors, there were many reasons.  Some were commercial, some artistic, others…let’s say…sociological.

Figment News:  Sociological?  How do you mean?

Styx:  In the way music creates a connection between the performer and the listener.  It is a very powerful relationship, wouldn’t you agree?  It can be a channel for all sorts of things….

Figment News:  Ah, I see, sure.  Why the 2 stages?  Is “The Pit” 2nd Stage for up and coming acts?

Styx:  “The Pit”…Interesting that “pit” implies some sort of lower echelon.  It could be possible that The Pit is the prime venue, with the greater significance, no?

Figment News:  I suppose that’s true…

Styx:  In this case though, you are correct.  The Pit is the second stage for less-established bands.The schedule was arranged so the second stage, or “Pit” if you prefer, performances are completed before the final two bands on the main stage [LBR artists Crimson Eye and Zeroth].

Figment News:  You’ve managed to put together a lineup of bands that really covers the full gamut of metal from death metal to doom metal to hair metal.  How well do you think it will all mesh on stage?

Styx:  We anticipate nothing but the finest coming-together of metal bands ever to occur.  All other metal festivals will pale in comparison with the Merchants of Metal lineup.

Figment News:  That’s quite a claim, given some of the metal festivals out there: Ozzfest, Cruefest, Warped Tour, etc.

Styx:  Those are all very worthwhile festivals, but I guarantee you, we will have something they do not.

Figment News:  Which would be what?

Styx:  All will become clear in time….  Back to your question though, I grant you, the hair metal band was a bit of a stretch, but 80’s metal seems to be coming back, so…[shrugs].

Figment News:  What are some of the bands you are most looking forward to seeing play the show?

Styx:  All of them, of course.  Every band was carefully selected by The Archon for both the quality of their work and their live prowess.  We do not like to pick favorites among them, but we are obviously very happy that LBR bands are so well-represented, and are expecting great things from the headliner, Zeroth.

Figment News:  What kind of things?

Styx:  We expect a transcendent experience.

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Figment News:  I see….  You also have some firsts in the form of Japan’s legendary kings of death metal Minagoroshi and the live debut of SupercrusherDo you think that will help ticket sales and what do you think fans can expect from these two acts?

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Styx:  Ah, yes, we were very pleased when Minagoroshi approached us to participate in the festival.  It shows the truly international appeal of metal music, don’t you think?  We expect the American audience to embrace them warmly, and also have seen some Japanese fans planning on following the band to the festival.  Supercrusher was never really conceived as a live band, but we were able to convince Mr. Young and Mr. Gibbons to create a live incarnation for the festival.  Ticket sales had been strong for the festival given the number of top-notch bands already participating, but I’m sure these two firsts only increased the demand.

As to what we expect from these two bands, we expect both to live up to their names.  [Minagoroshi’s being “kill everyone”/”wholesale slaughter”] [Laughs] Not literally, of course….

Figment News:  Mmhm.  Um, what do the band’s riders look like at a Festival like this?  Any ridiculous demands?

Styx:Food, drink, hordes of virgins, farm animals, various implements and other arcane, ah…items…nothing that we can’t handle…

Figment News:  Um…

Styx: [smiling] No, I am kidding.  Everyone was very reasonable in their requests.  We have planned an extensive backstage area, with all sorts of “amusements”, for the performers to enjoy throughout the show.  When everyone heard what we had in-store, any requests they might normally have had basically became moot.

Figment News:  Wow, sounds, er, great.  ‘Merchants of Metal’ is an interesting name – are you literally selling Metal to the audience?

Styx:  Only in the most superficial sense.  We are selling what metal represents: freedom.  Freedom from the conventional mores of society.  Freedom from choices between good and evil.  For there is truly no evil, as there is truly no good.  There only is…

Figment News:  Uh, okay….  What act was the hardest to sign on to the Festival?

Styx:  We were able to get every band we wanted.  Let’s just say…that once these bands heard what we had to propose…they all jumped at the chance.  [Styx leans back again, murmurs ensue]  Supercrusher did take a bit of effort – The Archon had to personally involve himself to close that deal.  But as with the others, everything worked out.  As the expression goes; he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse….

Figment News:  Right…. Zeroth is headlining the main stage at 10 pm.  What do you think we can expect from the masters of prog metal?

Styx: [becoming increasingly animated] A confluence of dimensions, the end of civilization, the dawn of an age of darkness over the surface of the earth, the coming of… [There is a sudden shifting of The Archon, stopping Styx mid-statement.  He collects himself and continues.]  Apologies, I am a big fan of Zeroth….  Perhaps just some outstanding music and showmanship.

Figment News:  Uh, huh….  Uh, any plans to record the shows?

Styx:  Of course.  This will be a landmark event – for music and for society.  The implications of this event run far beyond mere music.  All will become clear in time….

Figment News:  Ok, um, uh, I think that’s all we have.

Styx:  Thank you for coming.  We will see you at the Festival, no?

Figment News:  Uh, yeah, sure, I suppose so….

Styx:  Excellent.  You certainly do not want to miss something this unique.

[At some point in the last few moments, The Archon has left the room, as silently and suddenly as he entered.]

Figment News:  Um, well, I see The Archon has left.Uh, please give him our thanks.

Styx:  It will be my pleasure.See you at the show.

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Stay tuned for our next installment when we go “Under the Big Top” with Zandergriff Miggs.

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In music there always seems to be a “next big thing.”  Most of them fizzle within a year or so and fade from sight, but every now and then one comes along that shows all the signs of becoming a band that’s here for the long haul.  Eccentric Arcade is one such band.   With a debut album that has sold well, a third place finish in the Figment Album Cover Design Contest and a new album that’s already racking up sales, Eccentric Arcade are a band on the rise.  We sat down with them to see what makes them the real “next big thing.”

Figment News:  How did you guys form and what’s the story behind your band’s name? I mean what exactly is an Eccentric Arcade?

Riki: We formed kind of by pure chance really. We were all playing Rock Band one day and we started talking about how we all wished we could just be a real band.

Marcus: A few of us had dabbled in some short lived projects in the past, but we decided that there wasn’t anything holding us back from really doing it.

Riki: And the name Eccentric Arcade was actually something that was randomly generated by Rock Band, but we loved it so much that we stuck with it. It’s a suiting name for what we do, I think.

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Figment News:  Your self-titled debut was a hit album and even placed third in the Figment Album Cover Design contest. What does it feel like to have so much success so quickly?

Riki: It’s mind blowing, to say the least. We took a risk just being the kind of band that we are, playing the kind of music we do because we know it’s not going to appeal to everybody. But we put out an album that we wholeheartedly believed in and we got such an amazing response from it. We can’t thank people enough for backing us up and believing in us.

Figment News:  You’ve described your music as “Amalgam”. I must admit that’s a new musical genre to me. How would you describe it?

Riki: Well, “amalgam” means a mixture, and that’s exactly what we are. Nothing sounds the same twice.

Ferny: We all draw from our own influences and it creates a kind of musical melting pot.

Riki: Our motto is “don’t get comfortable” because you never know what genre we’re gonna tap next.

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Figment News:  You’ve released 2 EPs containing singles from your first album, remixes and live recordings. Do you find that your fans are receptive to such an ambitious release schedule?

Riki: I’ve always been the type of fan that when a band I like comes out with something, I’m gonna buy it no matter what. And I always like collecting the singles that come out from my favorite bands because there’s usually something you can’t get anywhere else on there. So I wanted to make sure our fans had the same options. They’re not always everybody’s cup of tea, but if you’re buying ’em and you enjoy ’em, that’s all that matters to me.

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Figment News:  Speaking of new releases, you just released a new LP “Machines Again” on May 12th. What was the inspiration behind the new album?

Riki: We wanted to go somewhere different on this album. We wanted to keep people guessing and to turn them on their ear with something a bit more aggressive and more experimental.

Marcus: We really wanted to step our game up not only musically but lyrically as well. We down tuned alot of the instruments and played alot more complex rhythms and stuff on this album.

Riki: Chris [Vrenna] produced the album and he used to play for Nine Inch Nails, so he definitely brought that vibe to the record. Alot of the tracks have a more raw and industrial feel to them, which really helps shape the tone of the album.

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Figment News:  In the liner notes of the new album you call the new album a “soundtrack for a steampunk utopia.” I’ve been hearing a lot about the steampunk design movement. Would you call it a movement and how exactly did it influence this new record?

Riki: It does seem to be an increasingly popular idea. I think stuff like the video game BioShock has really helped bring the steampunk style to light. It’s not something that we’re excessively involved in or anything, it was just a really cool concept that we started exploring as the album came together. Alot of the songs have that kind of “rise and fall” theme, both lyrically and musically. And when we decided on the cover art for the album, which is this sort of steampunk typewriter, it just sort of all came together. (It’s not totally obvious, but if you look at the keys on the typewriter they spell out “Eccentric Arcade”.)

Figment News:  The first single from the new album is “Rust and Mildew” which features a guest vocal from Aaron O’Blivion. How did you come to work with Aaron? Are you fans of Fait Accompli or his solo work?

Riki: I’m a huge Fait Accompli fan, and I love Aaron’s solo work as well. When we were putting the album together and writing and recording I knew that he would fit perfectly. I got in touch with him just to see if he would even be interested in doing it, or if he even knew who we were *laughs*. And it turned out that he actually liked our first album alot and was really interested in working with us. So we brought him into the studio and I showed him a song I’d been working on, “Rust and Mildew”, and he was into it right away. We did some minor tweaking, he wrote his verses, and we laid it down that same day. I love that song and I’m so psyched that we got to work with Aaron.

Figment News:  What was it like recording with Aaron? Any plans to have him or Fait Accompli join you on the tour to support this record?

Riki: Working with Aaron was great. We got along from the get go. I was nervous meeting him because I’m such a fan of his work and Fait Accompli has so many albums under their belt and we’re these up-and-coming guys working on our second album. But he was awesome, one of the coolest people to work with. I was nervous about singing with him on the track, but once we started recording and we found how well we meshed on the track, all that went away.  We’d love to tour with Aaron or Fait, but nothing’s been discussed as of yet. Cross your fingers!

Figment News:  Speaking of touring, what are you tour plans for the new record?

Riki: The plans for the tour are still being ironed out at the moment. Our management is still putting it together and figuring out who we’ll be touring with. Maybe it’ll be Fait, who knows? That would be great, performing “Rust and Mildew” on stage with Aaron.

Figment News:  What do you guys do when you’re not recording or touring?

Riki: We’re still those guys that started out playing Rock Band *laughs* So we all play video games, me and Marcus especially are big Halo freaks. Ferny’s really into hockey, so he hits up a game any time he can. Brian teaches drum classes, which is where he is at the moment. And we all like to spend our alone time, of course. I’m usually spending time with my wife and our cats and dogs, going to movies, out to dinner, the usual. I’m always writing and we’re always working but we still find time to do our own things. We’ve already got some ideas for the next album, so watch out…

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Concept albums…there are good ones and plenty of bad ones, but say what you will about them they are a mainstay of rock-n-roll.  With that in mind, we thought it was high time we design a contest that would bring out the thematic best in you all, so we’re unveiling our latest contest – The Figment Concept Album Contest.

The contest begins today, Wednesday, May 20th and will run until Wednesday, June 17th.  During that time we’ll be asking you to create a concept album based around a central theme.  The album’s artwork, description and songs all have to relate to that central theme.  Our crack Figment editorial staff will be judging the entries and will crown a winner and two runners up.  The winner will receive a prize package containing a copy of The Decemberists newest concept album “The Hazards of Love” courtesy of Capitol Records, a copy of Mastodon’s latest concept record “Crack the Skye” courtesy of Reprise Records, a copy of Green Day’s latest concept album “21st Century Breakdown and 500 pieces of Lucre.  The first runner up will receive a copy of “The Hazards of Love” courtesy of Capitol Records and 350 pieces of Lucre, and the 2nd runner up will receive a copy of “The Hazards of Love” and 200 pieces of Lucre.

To enter please follow these basic rules:

1. You must be a registered Figment user to participate.  If you don’t currently have a Figment account please click here to create one.  This contest is open to Figment users worldwide.

2.  Create a fake band on Figment and release a concept album with cover art.  You may also release a concept album from an existing band that you have previously created.  To be considered an album must be based around a central theme which is articulated and reflected in the album artwork, description and song titles. Once you have released the album or album(s) you want to submit as an entry please post the band and album name as a comment to this post, so that we and other users can check it out.  If you don’t post the band/album name as a comment to this post or your concept album entry won’t be considered.

3. Users may enter as many concept albums as they would like.

4.  Any artwork used in the creation of your album cover should either be original or at least one at which you have the permission of the copyright owner to use.  If you do use someone else’s work you need to make it your own by at the very least adding text or something that makes it your own.  Any album designs that are judged as being a copy of an existing work will be disqualified.  We will also disqualify any album cover that is offensive in nature – sexist, racist or hate-based.

4.  The contest will run from Wednesday, May 20th until Wednesday, June 17, 2009.  All submissions must be posted by no later than 11:59 pm ET on Wednesday, June 17th.

5.  By no later than, Friday, May 19th Figment will select the Top 3 concept albums – a winner and two runners up.  The winner and runners up will be announced on Friday, June 19, 2009.

You can view the full official rules at http://figment.cc/home/cacon.fig

We’re going to be judging the entries based on the creativity of the album’s central theme and how well that theme is conveyed throughout the album, from the artwork to the song titles.  So good luck and let the conceptualization begin!!!

I Will Follow

May 18th, 2009

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Here at Figment we’re always preaching “promotion, promotion, promotion”, because like a real band a fake band needs fans, and since you don’t have any music it’s important you figure out ways to get your band’s back story and images out there any way you can.  That’s why we’re so excited to see a band like Eccentric Arcade come along and not only promote their band on Figment, but also set up a Twitter account and begin promoting the band on that site.  The fun is that they may very well begin adding followers on Twitter who believe the band is real!  But then if it has fans maybe it is?

If you haven’t checked out Eccentric Arcade’s Twitter feed you should.  Follow them and help them build an audience, but more importantly do the same for your own bands.  We’d love to see more fake bands realize their true potential.  And while you’re at it follow our FigmentNews twitter feed to get the latest on what other bands are doing on Figment.

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Andy Warhol is an artist who has certainly received his share of coverage over the years by art critics, writers, journalists, filmmakers, and even Mr. Warhol himself.  In fact, it often seems as if there wasn’t a minute of Warhol’s life that hasn’t been documented in some way.  That’s why I found the recent release of the book “Andy Warhol:  The Record Covers:  1949- 1987” so interesting.  I had no idea that Warhol had created so many covers or that he had done them throughout his entire career as an artist.  In fact, one of his first commissions was an album cover.  “Andy Warhol:  The Record Covers 1949 – 1987” is a fascinating look into Warhol’s work in this design medium, and it led me to seek out the book’s author Paul Maréchal, himself an avid Warhol cover collector.   Paul is the curator of the art collection at the Power Corporation of Canada by day, but his love of Warhol drove him to create this definitive collection of Warhol’s album cover design work and we are thrilled that he agreed to speak to us about this aspect of Warhol’s work as an artist.

Figment:  Most people are familiar with the album covers that Andy Warhol created for The Velvet Underground & Nico and The Rolling Stones, but I for one had no idea how many album covers he designed over the years he was alive.  How did you find out about the breadth of his album cover design work?

Paul Maréchal:  My collection and the book on Warhol’s record covers were born from an intuition:  if one can design revolutionary record covers such as the Velvet Underground’s peelable banana and the working zipper for the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, it is because you certainly know a great deal about record covers. I thought that an artist who can come up with such creations must certainly have done a lot of them to demonstrate such mastery and understanding of the medium. It is the main reason why I suspected Warhol had done many more. It then became a conviction that drove my research all along the way. I already knew about those two covers of course, like most people. From as early as 1996, my goal was to write the catalogue raisonné of those records covers, a type of book or compendium listing each and every work of an artist in a field of creation (the words catalogue raisonné are also used in the English language and also refer to the same thing). The purpose of publishing a catalogue raisonné is to make people aware of the existence of a body of work by an artist, the most complete one that exists, and to have people submit you other works that are unknown and that might be added in a further edition of the book.

Figment:  Was there one cover in particular that prompted you to put together this book?

PM:  The cover that started the whole adventure (a collector’s journey and an author’s creation) was unfortunately the Paul Anka cover for the The Painter album. I say unfortunately because this cover was done from two of four existing portraits of himself Anka commissioned to Warhol in 1976 and shortly after asked Warhol to use as an album cover in exchange of a substantial fee. It is too bad I have to mention this one because, contrary to 95% of all Warhol covers, this cover was not a creation designed specifically by Warhol to be an album cover and represents what I consider to be a “recycled artwork”, i.e. a work of art that was not created for the sole purpose of a cover design but is used in that purpose or an art work used after an artist’s death for the same purpose. Warhol knew it and agreed to it so I guess it is OK. It is unfortunately not the case for most artworks reproduced on album covers in the big music business, even today. Especially in the field of classical music: Aren’t you tired of seeing reproductions of impressionist paintings on the cover of classical music albums, or even worst, a touched up photo of the artist? It is so sad and pathetic. But when I came across this cover for the Anka album flipping through the bins of a Montreal record store, it is the one that fired up my imagination and made me [see] a connection with other potential albums Warhol could have created. It could have been any other album but it was that one.

Figment:  How did Warhol first get started designing album covers?

PM:  Warhol started designing album cover as soon as he arrived in New York in 1949, fresh out of Carnegie Tech School in Pittsburgh. It is most probably the very first commercial job he landed a few weeks upon his arrival in the Big Apple. It is his friend and classmate George Klauber who introduced him to Columbia’s then-artistic-director Robert Jones who gave him an assignment for three little drawings to illustrate three different album covers (A Program of Mexican Music and Alexander Nevsky). My book reproduces those two while the third one remains unknown to this day. I can’t wait until someone comes up with the third one! It is one of my great hopes for this book is that someone somewhere knows about the third one. Even the specialists and the people at the Warhol Museum don’t know about it. And don’t forget this third one is certainly unsigned which adds to the difficulty of identifying it. Many people have submitted me with potential third ones but no luck so far.

Figment:  Do you think he viewed this work as an extension of his art or was it merely a job to pay the bills?

PM:  Designing album covers was certainly a job any graphic designer would anticipate to do in the course of his/her career at the time.  Designing album covers was done more and more since 1938 after an experiment, in that sense, convinced Columbia records executives that cover design did increase sales.  Some 11 years after, Warhol arrived in New York City.  Warhol certainly didn’t view it “as a job to pay the bills“.  When you come to think of it, designing album covers is one of the most difficult job a graphic designer could take.  It is probably the reason why I consider that at least 80% of the album cover design is so lame.  The challenge is beyond imagination: you have to suggest the musical content of an album without imposing your own vision with the image you create.  It is more about suggestion than persuasion.  It is all about letting the listener develop his/her own world from the creation you offer to the listener as an artist. To put it in a few words you literally have to draw music!  Warhol was certainly well trained at that since he did exercises such as creating an album cover while he was in school at Carnegie Tech.

Figment:  Did Warhol develop some of the elements of his style from designing album covers?  And if so, what stands out about his album cover designs’ that sets them apart from other designs of the time period?

PM:  Warhol certainly realized very early on in his career that album covers would be a fantastic vehicle of communication to attract new audiences to his art.  His art would enter the lives of classical, foreign or jazz music listeners but also those of fans of spoken words creations like radio crime drama, documentary, foreign language students etc…  My book is a witness to those very eclectic creations Warhol harnessed his skills to.  A brand new and varied audience [was exposed] to his works and an audience he wouldn’t certainly have reached in the normal course of a normal career as a graphic designer.  I think by designing album covers, Warhol strongly developed the receiver side of his personality along with his transmitter side abilities; basic communication skills.  When you consider Warhol’s oeuvre as a whole, you realize he was extremely efficient at transmitting what he had received from the society he lived in, namely the consumerism and the celebrity-obsessed society so characteristic of his and our times. You have to admit he was extremely prescient in that respect.

Another aspect one should consider in regards to his early works is the depiction of movement clearly visible in his early designs for album covers: Warhol drew hands playing musical instruments, dancers dancing, angels playing trumpet etc…, in one word: action. His early works for album covers is not static. He knew how to draw lively figures, contrary to a lot of fine arts of the times depicting static scenes such as still life and portrait of models sitting or standing still. This preoccupation for movement is certainly an indication of his involvement in cinema that would come up a few years later.

Figment:   Was Warhol drawn to music in the same way that he was drawn to other forms of pop culture?

PM:  Warhol certainly realized at some point, and very early on, that pop music would somehow translate into the fine arts as well.  Evidence of that can be found in a painting he did as early as 1956, a work he titled Rock n’ Roll.  That painting has disappeared since but we know it from a photograph that was rarely reproduced.  With Elvis and the Beatles in mind, Warhol had this intuition that culture in general was opening to a brand new youth market the same way it opened in the music field.  Music became pop so the fine arts had to become pop sooner or later, so one might think of Warhol’s understanding of his times.  Warhol musical environment was extremely present in his life: he would listen to deafening rock music while painting with the radio blasting opera AND the TV set on (but without the sound).  Warhol was listening to art while creating art.  It is very easy to see he was sort of translating all this musical presence into his own art.

Figment:  If you had to pick one album cover that you think really captures his esthetic which one would it be?

PM:  That is always a difficult question, but if I had to keep only one it would be the Kenny Burrell on Blue Note 1543 Warhol designed in 1956. The movement of the hands playing the guitar along with the low angle point of view borrowed from the photography and cinema speaks to Warhol’s future as an artist using photography and cinema extensively.  For some reason I also like the John Lennon cover for the posthumous Menlove Ave. he did in 1986.  The way the portrait is closely cropped is a sign of closeness between Warhol and Lennon.  You even feel a sort of intimacy between the artist and his model.  The choice of colors is also very sensitive: the black background and the orangey hue are very reminiscent of the countless candle lights vigils held after Lennon’s death while the pink and blue colors of Lennon’s portrait on the back cover reflect Lennon’s peace activism.

Figment:  What is the importance of album cover art in Warhol’s total body of work?

PM:  It is the most constant vehicle of creation of the artist who is considered a commercial illustrator from 1949 until 1963, a painter from 1960 until 1963 and from 1972 until 1987, a filmmaker from 1963 until 1972, but also a sculptor (the Brillo boxes for instance), a record producer, a television host, a publisher of the magazine Interview, an author of books, a show designer etc…But Warhol designed record covers from 1949 until 1987.

Figment:  I understand you are involved in helping Stéphane Aquine, the curator of contemporary art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, develop a show around Warhol’s album covers.  What was that experience like and where can people see that exhibit?  Is your book an extension of this show?

PM:  My collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for this exhibition was an exemplary one.  First of all, I must say that I always thought that museums would not exist without collectors which is kind of an oxymoron…I like very much the idea that a museum can developed an exhibition from one collector’s collection and can actually listen to a collector and understand his collection. To recognize the importance of collectors, like the Museum does, is a good sign of humility in a sense; it acknowledges the fact that museums are not omniscient on all levels, and they don’t live in a closed world.  I was very impressed with how the Museum perfectly understood what to make of this exhibition. My collection of record covers and the book I wrote about it were just the basis or the start for this exhibition. A very enthusiastic Stéphane Aquin put together this exhibition in such a fantastic way, [that allows you] to fully explore Warhol’s creative process through music.  It is a world premiere I am very proud of and I want to congratulate the Museum for this tour de force.  Warhol specialists suspected the importance of music in Warhol’s works but surprisingly enough nothing had been done before on that subject alone, despite the countless books written on Warhol so far.  Most are just coffee table books of course. I like to think of mine as a scholarly coffee table book…but like every good idea, it seems very simple once it is done. The signs were everywhere in Warhol’s works: the portrait of musicians and signers, the Merce Cunningham and John Cage connection, the six music videos he did, the Velvet Underground album he produced and design the album cover for.  In fact, it seems that this collection of record covers created the missing link to associate all those parts together and expressed a continuous thread, in terms of the narrative, to explore Warhol’s involvement in music…and dance!  So to answer your question, no, my book was not an extension of this show but its basis in fact.  The exhibition is currently at the de Young Museum in San Francisco (they had 22,000 visitors on the opening weekend alone!) and it will open at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh on June 10.

Figment:  What do you think Warhol would think about a site devoted to creating fake bands and albums?

PM:  Warhol would be an absolute fan of the Internet and your website. Warhol was extremely into new technologies and media.  He made sure his film and video equipment were of the latest models.  Later he created with Beuys and Higashiyama the first artwork created by fax in 1985, and even went on in 1986 with the creation of the first computer generated portrait, a portrait of ex-Blondie signer Debbie Harry.  That portrait made the cover of New Musical Express newspaper edition of January 11 1986.  But to answer your question more directly, Warhol would certainly have liked the idea of a website devoted to creating fake bands and albums.  Warhol once declared that “If someone faked my art, I couldn’t identify it” (ref.:  Giant Size, Phaidon, 2006, p.166).

Figment:  Are you a music fan?  And if so, do you have any plans to do further books on the subject of album artwork or was this merely a labour of love by a big fan of Andy Warhol?

PM:  Like everyone on earth, I think, I am a music fan.  Music is part of every life. People’s tone of voice, a language, the sound of the rain falling, everything is music. Music is about rhythm.  Rhythm is even found in silence to paraphrase John Cage! Every single thing in life has a rhythm.  I learned to appreciate Warhol’s through his album covers but I also like a lot the works of other artist who did album covers.  My other favorite artist certainly is Reid Miles with whom Warhol worked on a few jazz covers. Jim Flora is also one of the best.  If I am ever to write another book on record covers it would definitely be on Reid Miles.  His creativity, his invention of creative typography carried so well the modernity found in jazz.

We’d like to thank Paul for taking the time to speak to us about his book and encourage you to check it out the book and the exhibit at either the de Young or Warhol Museums.  If you’d like to read more about how Paul put the book together I encourage you to check out this NY Times article.

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When you go to meet with musicians, particularly metal bands, you have to be prepared for the unexpected and, quite often, the bizarre.  In one of our most unusual interviews, Figment News journeyed to a barn on the edge of Amish country – Lancaster County, PA – to meet with the members of doom metal sensation Amish Militia.

Four unassuming young men, clean cut, in denim coveralls make up the Militia: Jan Lapp on vocals and guitar, David Fisher on guitar, John Fisher on bass, and Gustav Koch on drums.  As they say though, still waters run deep.  Despite their calm outward demeanor, these Amish lads unleashed a torrent of metal riffs and powerful imagery on their debut disc: Barn Raising From Hell and the recent “Beezelbub’s Buggy” EP.  As they relaxed and our interview went on, we found out the band not only has metal chops to spare but also a wicked sense of humor.

Figment News:  How does a band form in the Pennsylvania Dutch…oops excuse me Deutsch community?  Do you have a band raising?

[chuckles all around]

Jan: Thanks for pointing that out.  It does drive everyone crazy that no one gets it right; we are of GERMAN descent, not Dutch.

David:  Of course, no one will ever complain about it.  Pacifism, you know….

Jan:  But, no, there is no band raising.  We’re not even supposed to play instruments at all.  Having a band would surely be grounds for shunning.

John:  We are probably the first band of any kind to come out of Amish country.  When you consider we all have to be up at dawn to start our farm chores, maybe that’s not a surprise.

Figment News:  Where you originally in a band called the Mennonite Militia?

Jan:  Uh, no, come on….

David:  I think that was a chamber orchestra back in the 1700s.

Jan:  Those guys had no sense of humor at all.  Not like we do these days. [rolls eyes]

John:  Yes, growing up Amish is a laugh-a-minute.

Figment News:  Is it hard being in a metal band when your religion rejects electricity?

Gustav: It hasn’t bothered me much at all.

Jan:  For the rest of us though….

John:  We started out imagining gain and feedback.  Our first couple “rehearsals” were pretty silly.  We’ve made a lot of progress since then.

David: We’ve rigged up our amps to run on propane.  Gas is allowed.  This does cause some fire concerns though. Remember when Jan took that lead during “Wool” and we almost burned down the barn? [laughs]

Jan:  [laughing] That was almost the end of the Militia right there.

David:  Might have made a great cover photo though, if we were actually allowed to have a camera.

Figment News:  Why doom metal?  Was black metal too evil or just too monochromatic given your choice in clothing?

David:  It was the color thing.  We were afraid someone might confuse it with a buggy.  You know; ‘Live tonight: Amish black metal’, “What, like a blacksmith demonstration?”

Jan:  And, as you can see, most of what we are wearing is navy anyway.  We could have done “navy metal”, but that doesn’t sound so great.

John:  Again, would probably send the wrong message – like it was a Navy recruiting drive or something.  Which, of course, we obviously could not be associated with – pacifism and all.

Jan:  Doom metal is fine, the Navy is not.  [laughs]

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Figment News:  Is it hard touring when you have to go everywhere in a buggy?

Jan:  We came up with a solution.

Gustav:  We painted a buggy on the side of our van.  So, we are still inside a buggy.

David:  The horses do get tired pulling the van though.

Figment News:  Have you ever shunned any members of the band?

Jan:  Not so far, but if Gustav doesn’t stop giving Dutch ovens in the back of the van after gigs, we may….

Figment News:  Don’t you mean ‘Deutsch ovens’?

Gustav:  The Dutch deserve all the credit for that one….

Jan:  So do you, Gustav, so do you.

Figment News:  Your debut album “Barn Raising From Hell” is, pardon the pun, one hell of a debut record.  Any pushback from Amish elders on the “hell” connotations?

Jan:  Um, the elders don’t know anything about our record….

David:  And we need to keep it that way.

Jan:  So, don’t say anything about this, or we’ll have to shun you viciously from this point forward.
8.  Do you think “Barn Raising from Hell” will rival “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC in the hell oeuvre?

[confused looks]

Jan:  Who?

Figment News:  You do know of AC/DC, don’t you?  Australian hard rock band?  Angus and Malcom Young….?

David:  Not ringing any bells….

[laughter]

John:  Ok, we’re kidding.  Sure, we know AC/DC.  Even being mentioned in the same sentence with them is something we never could have expected.

David:  We think it’s amazing how people have responded to our album.  If were allowed to be estatic, we’d be that.

Figment News:  Any truth to the rumor that you’ll be composing the soundtrack to the movie “Witness 2:  The Shunning”?

David:  We haven’t been asked, but we’d be interested.

Jan:  As long as we could record it within buggy-van range.

Figment News:  Is it true Lukas Haas is your biggest fan?

[Nods and disbelieving looks all around]

Gustav:  Everywhere we play, there he is.  It’s a bit creepy.

Jan:  [directed at Lukas] Move on, man.  That movie was almost 25 years ago!

Gustav:  Seriously, get a life….

David:  Yeah, coming from us, that’s saying something.

Figment News:  What are Amish groupies like?

David:  Freeeeeeaks!

Jan:  You’d be surprised what happens in Lancaster County when the sun goes down.  That’s all I will say….

[knowing looks all around]

Figment News:  I know “plainness” is the common theme in Amish clothing, but any chance we’ll see you in assless leather chaps with flames down the side?

John:  Good thing we don’t have a camera, or you might have already seen that…. [looks at Gustav]

Gustav: [fidgeting nervously] Next question, please!

Figment News:  What’s next for Amish Militia?

Jan:  Today, Lancaster County.  Tomorrow, Eastern Pennsylvania….

David:  Total world domination.  But, in a non-violent and pacifistic manner.

Jan:  With buggies.

Gustav:  And electricity, for the other guys.