Posts Tagged ‘Trensmat’

Johnny O Rocket: Excellence in search of space

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords),Trensmat, 2008.

The talents of Johnny O Rocket came to our attention with his superb Barney Bubbles remixes for the three split 7-inchers released last year by Irish indie label Trensmat Records.

Poster, Rocket Recordings 10th anniversary celebration, 2009.

Like Barney, Johnny studied technical illustration and works closely with a select band of independent labels and groups, incorporating Barney’s legacy in his graphic design, light-shows, photography and concert posters for Trensmat and Rocket Recordings and sonic adventurers such as The HeadsThe Notorious Hi-Fi Killers, Thought Forms and Cripple Black Phoenix Band.

Photography, Thought Forms, 2008.

Based in Bristol, Johnny first encountered Barney’s work via an introduction to Hawkwind as an avid vinyl collector in the late 80s, when acid house, shoe-gazing and grunge reigned in “a heady mix of distorted guitars and expanded oscillations”, to use his phrase.

Poster, The Heads/White Hills split LP, Rocket, 2009.

“Nowadays, investigating the past is handed to you on a plate via the internet,” says Johnny. “Back then, I had to rely on older brothers and their friends.” One, by the name of Simon Healey, championed early 70s Hawkwind and in particular the first album Barney designed for the group, X In Search of Space.

Posters, The Heads/White Hills split LP, 2009.

“Wow, the music was Viva La Trance!, a driving, throbbing freak-out,” exclaims Johnny. “I couldn’t detect the ‘hippiness’ the post-punk period portrayed it as, and the cover was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I sat for hours listening, looking and absorbing. The design and music seemed so intertwined, and I’m not sure Hawkwind would have had quite the same power without Barney’s work.”

Poster, Can You Pass The Rocket Test? 2008.

At the time, Johnny was a student on a technical illustration course, which would have struck a chord with Barney; his father was a precision engineer and the technical drawing he himself had studied at Twickenham art school (now Richmond Upon Thames University) was a major element in his output.

7" sleeve, Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere, The Heads, Sweet Nothing, 2000.

Johnny says he’d been accustomed to “a disciplined and geometrical but black-and-white world. Barney opened infinite doorways to the possibilities of the vinyl LP packaging format in all it’s multi-coloured glory. In Search Of Space’s artwork and log booklet are striking, graphic yet stark. It embodied an escape from the rigid structure of the engineered drawing I was studying, while still encompassing geometrical forms”.

Sonic Attack (Motorheads)/Sonic Attack (Lords Of Light), Trensmat, 2008.

Johnny describes the Trensmat covers – which came in three colour schemes in a nod to Barney’s multi-format approach  –  as a “collage”, bringing together elements from Barney’s covers, posters, inserts and booklets for ISOS, Doremi Fasol Latido, Space Ritual and The Glastonbury Fayre, as well as the die-cut elliptical puzzles contained within the booklet produced with his former Conran colleague John Muggeridge (who has the credit J. Moonman) for Quintessence album In Blissful Company.

Poster, Sun Ra Arkestera, The Croft, Bristol, 2008.

“They are all amazing,” says Johnny, “not least because of the interactivity: the opening, the unfolding, reflective print, puzzles, shapes, allusions, the collage of BB’s influences – all of these reflect the consciousness of that period in music, something that is harder to replicate in CD packaging.”   

The Heads Live @ The Thekla Bristol, Part 4

Johnny’s light show for The Heads live.

In his work for Rocket Recordings, Johnny says he has attempted to incorporate this creative approach “by collaging different influences and techniques; be it for graphic design pieces, photography or light shows. I dabble with the same methods and draw from an ever widening circle of interests”.

Poster featuring 12" sleeve, Which Side Are You On?, The Notorious Hi Fi Killers, 2008.

And he is full of admiration for the way Barney adapted to the post-punk period. “He seemed to fit neatly into the DIY ethic, but simultaneously had the full multicoloured myriad imagination of the 60s,” says Johnny. “Hopefully I try and encompass those values.”

Logo, Rocket Recordings, 2009.

And Johnny has a theory as to why there is such a blossoming of interest in Barney’s work right now: “In the 80s the commercial environment surrounding cheaply manufactured CDs didn’t pay regard to consumer tastes in packaging, so the art-form was forced underground.

Concert poster, Trinity Centre, Bristol, 2005.

“The rise of download culture has enhanced a desire from those who oppose it to own music as part of a well-crafted and considered package which makes an artistic statement.”

Artwork. Tribute to Can.

Wigged-out sleeves remix Barney’s Hawkwind artwork

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Barney's letterhead during his time designing for Hawkwind, early 70s. (c) Reasons 2009.

Hailed in some quarters as the “psych-rock single of last year”, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), the Acid Mother’s Temple/White Hills split 7″ is one of three special limited edition releases by Irish record label Trensmat celebrating Hawkwind’s heyday with cover versions by contemporary bands.

Front cover, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), Trensmat 2008.

The wonderful Acid Mothers Temple (with oft time collaborators Cosmic Inferno) give it plenty on their version of Brainstorm from 1972’s Doremi Fasol Latido, and White Hills “put the wig-out horse before the cart” on their reshaping of album track Be Yourself from the band’s eponymously titled debut album.

Back cover, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), Trensmat 2008.

Sonic Attack (Lords Of Light) features Bardo Pond and Seattle’s  Kinski covering Lord Of Light and Master Of The Universe respectively, and, on Sonic Attack (Motorheads), Mark Arm’s pioneering grungers Mudhoney get to grips with Urban Guerilla as Liverpool’s Mugstar sound like they were born to do Born To Go.

Labels, Sonic Attack (Psychedelic Warlords), Trensmat 2008.

The single sleeves by Johnny O pay homage to Barney by remaking and remodelling many of the elements of his design work for Hawkwind; each sleeve appears in a different set of acidic colours.

Left: Sonic Attack (Motorheads). Right: Sonic Attack (Lords Of Light).

Some of Barney’s work for Hawkwind was produced under the aegis of design company Hawk Graphics in London’s Westbourne Park.

Left: Front X In Search Of Space, UA, 1971. Right: Record bag, Space Ritual, UA, 1973.

At the top of this post you’ll find the letterhead derived from his double-headed Hawkwind logo. Due to space considerations, the letterhead did not appear in the first edition of Reasons; this is the first time it has been published.

Gatefold, X In Search Of Space, UA 1971.

Many of the elements will be familiar to Barney heads, having appeared first on the cover, gatefold and Hawkwind log insert of  X In Search Of Space.

Outer gatefold, Space Ritual, UA, 1973.

There are graphics, symbols and decorations from both sides of the six-panel Space Ritual fold-out as well as the tessallated design of the album’s record bags.

Inner gatefold, Space Ritual, UA, 1973.

And there are images and graphics from both sides of Doremi Fasol Latido, including the chrome Hawkwind “gateway”, as well as from the programme for the tour which accompanied that album’s release

Back + front cover, Doremi Fasol Latido, UA, 1972.

Left: Space Ritual tour programme 1972. Right: Logo 1972.

To play us out  here’s Kinski’s version of Master Of The Universe: