Jimmy Kimmel’s Coachella!

April 24th, 2013

Looks like we’re not the only ones making up fake bands.  Now Jimmy Kimmel is creating his own figments!

Figment player frizbee tuned me in to this video not to long ago.  It’s about David A. Smith, a traditional sign-writer/designer, who the musician Jon Mayer hired to create the album cover for his most recent LP “Born & Raised.”  Not only does it provide a lot of a fascinating insight into the creative process that goes in to making an album cover of this type, but it also casts a spotlight on the incredible glass and design work of Mr. Smith.  Do yourself a favor and take a few moments to check out this fantastic video.

If you are not familiar with graphic designer Peter Saville, I strongly urge you to check out his work.  In the 80’s he designed album covers for Factory Records artists like Joy Division and New Order, and would later go on to design covers for artists like Roxy Music, Peter Gabriel, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Suede, David Byrne and Brian Eno.

His cover for Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” album is probably his most iconic cover, and in this video created for the upcoming Visualized Conference in NYC November 8 – 9, 2012 he talks about the origin of the cover image and how it transcended it’s original use.

Data Visualization Reinterpreted by VISUALIZED from VISUALIZED on Vimeo.

Since creativity and art are such an important part of Figment, we thought it only appropriate that we select a judge for this year’s Figment Album Cover Design Contest that was really an “artist.”  Someone who is, and seeks to be, creative in every progression of their life and career.  Chris Mars is an artist.  Whether he’s making music, solo or as a member of The Replacements, painting or making films, he is always creating art.   We spoke to him about his progression as an artist, his creative process, and the parallels of music and art.

Figment News:  Most people know you as a musician, but you’ve been drawing and painting for many years correct?  How did you get started as a visual artist?

Chris:  I had done much drawing as a kid as far back as I can remember so visual expression was integral to me all along. Visual art comes more naturally to me than music.  Eventually I simply took up art again full time.

FN:  How does creating visual art compare to creating music?  By that I mean, is your creative process different or similar?

Chris:  In writing music for my solo records, I found that I had to wait as often as not for a melody to come along.  With visual art, I don’t have to wait, it is immediate – I converse with drawing or the paint and shape it in real time.  With music, the inspiration needed to be fostered.  With painting, it is a constant.

FN:  What was it like making the transition from musician to full-time visual artist?  Are the two worlds that different?

Chris:  After the Replacements, and after I expressed myself musically with my solo records, I felt I had thoroughly exorcised music from my system.  I could then let the visual art flow completely and it was a feeling of freedom devoid of rules and typical structure, for me, like going from a box to an open field.  Eventually the music bug returned, but my engagement is more of an aside these days…generally as accompaniment to my films.

FN:  You’ve been very open about the fact that your art is inspired by your brother, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 15.  What is it you hope to convey through your art about your brother and his mental illness?

Chris:  First and foremost I paint as a need to express myself and to convey my own vision. Beyond this I would like to think that through the communicative nature of art – any medium – others may identify with what is expressed in a way that might make them feel less alone.

FN:  Do you think the arts – visual, musical, physical – are a good way to address issues of this kind?

Chris:  There are many ways to address these types of issues; art is what I know, so for me the arts work well as a vehicle for expression. In general I think the arts are a very good way to address issues of many kinds, political, social, personal.  Instruments, paint brushes, keyboards, pencils – all just, at their best, tools of expression.

FN:  The imagery in your work could be described as “dark” or “macabre”.  Is that your intention?

Chris:  It is not an intention so much as how it comes out of me naturally. I have always been attracted to textures and shapes in nature that carry a worn character to them – a rotting tree with bark patches missing, rust, cracks, decay… Nature is so rich and varied in the way it expresses itself biologically, wonderfully bizarre creatures and fungus and insects – all this can be considered less desirable by some yet it is as much part of the world as anything else. This is analogous to how people are varied as well, so for me it is not dark, it is simply turning an eye toward the beauty that lay beneath the veneer considered by some a more “pristine” vision of the world.

FN:  You work in a variety of mediums – paintings, pastels, scratchboards and film.  Any one favorite, and what are some of the unique challenges of each?

Chris:  Painting first, then drawing, then film followed by the sounds and music that go with film, today in that order.

FN:  What artists have been most influential to your own art?

Chris:  Influential is odd to determine, since nature and my own experiences have the greatest influence on my work.  But there are many artists whose work I admire – visual art mostly the expressionists and the surrealists – Beksinski is a favorite, Albright, Dali, too many to name.  In other media, Guillmero Del Toro, David Lynch.

FN:  You art has been exhibited all over the world.  Any upcoming exhibitions you’d like to let us know about?

Chris:  I have been invited back to Le Musee Halle St. Pierre in Paris for another exhibition in conjunction with Hey Magazine.  I will exhibit about ten or so scratchboards this time, and it will open this January.  I also have work in Arizona, New York and Los Angeles currently, with San Francisco joining in soon as well.  My website has a full list of upcoming exhibitions.

FN:  How important do you think visual art is to a band?

Chris:  I’ve seen poor art with great music inside and great art with poor music so if music is the focus I would hope that it stands on it’s own, though it sure can’t hurt to have some well done art and well done music together.  I had bought my share of records because of a great cover, so I think if you’re not familiar with the music, the visual art is especially important.

FN:  When you were making music how involved were you in the visual identity of your music?

Chris:  With the Replacements not at all save for a few poster illustrations or outtake tapes very early on.  With my first solo record, I think I was as excited about having my art on the cover as my music inside it.

FN:  Do you feel it’s important for an album cover to tie in with the theme of the album or is that not as important as a cover that grabs someone’s attention?

Chris:  I think it’s better that it tie in and be somehow cohesive with the sound. There is enough crass imagery designed to grab first, but if it lets you down, what’s the point?  Again, if the music is strong, this should do the grabbing so perhaps the intent of the visuals might be to fit first rather than grab.  Sometimes a genre or a sound has a look, and this can help people find the music they’re looking for.

FN:  What do you look for in an album cover? What types of design catch your eye and make you interested in hearing the album?

Chris:  Something subtle typically, something that’s naturally cool and doesn’t have to try too hard.  And if there is a good painting or tastefully done graphic that expresses the right tone – this could mean words only, or visuals only, or both together – all this can be effective.

FN:  Was album cover art something that inspired you to begin creating visual art?

Chris:  I would have to say no.  I liked punk.  The graphics were music graphics; they didn’t inspire me visually.

FN:  You have lived and worked in Minneapolis, MN your entire life.  It seems like an incredibly creative town.  Do you agree and if so, why do you think that is?

Chris:  I do, for me there is a lot of natural beauty to Minneapolis, with its many lakes, trees, streams and rivers. The seasons are very defined, going from lush summer to cold and dormant winter and all the beats in between. It is a good environment for creativity. There are a lot of artists, musicians, theater… Creativity is present everywhere, but Minneapolis inspires me.

FN:  Many of our Figment players are interested in design, art and music.  What advice would you give them if they are looking to carve out a career in any of these disciplines?

Chris:  Pull as much as you can from your own individual vision and emotion. Find the expression that is uniquely yours.  You can borrow influences from wherever you want but in the end it should express your own voice, yours and yours alone.


To find out more about Chris and his art we suggest you visit the following:

Visit Chris Mars’ website.

Follow Chris on Facebook.

Watch Chris’ animated films.

Watch Chris’ music videos.

Editor’s Note:  We’d like to thank theHoseman for submitting some of the questions used in this interview.


Rob Sheridan

January 30th, 2011

I’ve been following Rob Sheridan on Twitter for some time.  If you’re not familiar with Rob he’s the creative director for the band Nine Inch Nails.  Now some of you may be saying…an industrial rock band has a creative director?  Well, if you’re familiar with the work of NIN and the band’s leader Trent Reznor, you know that they are more than just a band.  They are an art project, whose central focus is music, but whose work also encompasses design, video, photography and reality games.  Rob has been a big part of all of these projects since he was hired by Trent Reznor at the age of 19.

Rob recently posted an article on his site about the making of the art for Trent’s most recent project the soundtrack for the film “The Social Network”.  I thought it was a very interesting look at how a designer and an artist approach a project of this type.  So when you have a moment check it out.  I’d also recommend you check out Rob’s site and follow him on Twitter.  He’s a talented artist and a perfect example of how integral a good designer is to a band’s overall esthetic.

Sam Thurman

December 1st, 2010

I got to know Sam Thurman when I stumbled across a post on his blog called “Fake Bands, Real Danger.  And Posters.” Sam is a talented young illustrator and designer who recently relocated to Brooklyn, NY, and is interested in creating gig posters for bands.  Great idea right?  After all, you can’t swing a dead hipster without hitting a musician in Brooklyn!  Well, not so fast, as he explains there was a hitch, “I felt I could make some good band posters, but I don’t know any bands or band people…”  Well, that is a problem isn’t it!?  So what’s a young talented designer to do?  Well, make some up, that’s what!

And thus his posters for the fake bands Teeth and Calm Kids were created!

In addition, he’s working on a new project called “How To Be Happy”, that he describes as “a minicomic writing/illustration instructional series on improving your life by isolating yourself and alienating everyone you love.”  Sounds like the perfect holiday gift to me!

So support a fellow fake band creator by letting him know what you think, and if you know of a band in need of a good poster designer pass em’ along to Sam!

Truly Epic!

November 26th, 2010

I talk a lot about marketing your bands on Figment, and over the years I’ve tried to give you some help and tips on how to get your bands in front of more people.  After all, marketing your band is key if you hope to build a fan base and truly establish your band among the top bands on Figment.

That’s why a recent video posted by frizbee hyping the upcoming release of his band Eccentric Arcade’s new album caught my eye.  Not only is this video adventure a novel way to hype an album, but it also plays right into the album’s concept and therefore is the perfect way to market this album.  This is the type of creativity I love to see, and is in essence a game within the bigger game of Figment.  So set aside some time and embark on this adventure, because it is truly epic!

Metal Treats: The Morning After

November 1st, 2010

Well, it’s the day after Hallow’s Eve and I for one stand amid the wreckage of another night of ghoulish fun.  Candy wrappers, toilet paper blowing in the trees, forlorn jack-o-lanterns awaiting their inevitable trip to the trash can, and of course a stomach ache from indulging in too many bite size Snickers.

But there is a bright side to my post-Halloween malaise and that’s the Halloween figments that were dropped in our site’s candy basket last night – starting with the incredibly cool Figment Pumpkin that frizbee carved!  Thanks friz – WE LOVE IT!

And then there’s the new albums that dropped last night, clearly inspired by the evening’s festivities, and full of all kinds of devilish fun!

Werewolf Concerto not only headlined the first annual Halloween-Fest, but also dropped their latest “Vampirella” and it’s chock full of all that ghoulish goodness we expect from this band.

Nordic extreme metal masters Törnekrona returned with the excellent “Cinder”.

The Forgotten Falling also played Halloween-Fest 2010, and their label gave their fans a treat by releasing the rare “EP” that until now had only been available in Japan.  Don’t forget to catch the band on their “Aphelion World Tour”.

Extreme metal newcomers The Angel’s Sin continue their inevitable climb to the upper reaches of the metal stratosphere with their best yet, “Lucifer’s Rebellion”.

And last but certainly not least, what would Halloween be without some good old fashioned Death Metal!  Well fear not, Cryptic Rage emerged from “Out of the Depths” with their latest!

So if you didn’t receive any of these new releases in your treat bag last night, don’t fret they’re all on Figment for the taking!  We hope you all had a Happy Halloween!  Horns up!

Time for the latest installment of “Cleaning out the Bookmark List”, so let’s get to it!

  • Stumbled on this incredible blog post on FontFeed while reading another of my favorite blogs – HardFormat.org – it’s a rundown of the album art on some of the newest releases with special attention paid to the font and typefaces used.  I know this something that Will Schaff pointed out as being very important in his selections for the 2010 Album Cover Design Contest, so give it a read.
  • HardFormat also had a link to this incredible new documentary “Taken By Storm” that is being made about the legendary album cover designer Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis, the team that designed famous covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Bad Company, Yes, Scorpions, Peter Gabriel and many more.  Check out the trailer, it looks fantastic, or visit Storm’s site.
  • If you like Def Leppard you’ll love this set of blog posts by Andie Airfix, the designer behind all of their album covers since Pyromania.  Check out the original designs, etc.  It’s going to be part of a show at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame opening in December of 2010 and running through 2012.  Speaking of Def Leppard, Hipgnosis designed their “High N’ Dry” album cover.
  • Love Black Sabbath?  Then you’ll love this!
  • While not technically what we’d call a fake band (since they actually recorded & released music) Sex Bob-Omb does have some famous members (no pun intended).

Hey it’s that time again, time to clear out ye olde bookmark list and share some cool odds and sods with you!  So here we go –

  • How important is a band name?  The NY Times ran an article on this subject, and how even classical groups are getting creative with their names.
  • Don’t believe that you can get people to believe in a fake bands, albums or concerts?  Guess again! Even the art community is getting involved – whether it’s creating fake bands or record stores!  So imagine it and they will come!
  • Sleeveface rocks…it simply rocks.  I dare you not to agree.
  • Change the Thought is a great design blog, but I particularly liked this article on gig posters.
  • 7 Deadly Sinners are 7 artists who among other things seem to like to create gig posters for fake bands!
  • frizbee pointed this Wired article out to me.  A must read for Lost fans.  BTW frizbee I’m still working on getting a hold of them…I’ll keep you posted.

That’s it for now.  Until next time…