Full frontal disclosure: I did the Art Direction along with frequent design partner
Joel Pelletier of Wayhome.com, I drew the Leopard Lady logo and photographed a great deal of the recently released Re-Licked solo album by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee James Williamson, guitarist extraordinaire of Iggy and The Stooges. Then Retrokimmer, DETROIT ROCK N ROLL and a host of other inquiring minds wanted to know the particulars of this design process. Prepare yourself for rather dry, clinical graphic art rumination ahead about what is actually exhilarating, passionate, mind-blowing, wild Stoogemusic!
After the last Iggy and The Stooges show 9.28.13 (see LINK) and his keynote speech and performance this year at SxSW 2014 and Austin School of Rock respectively (LINK) Williamson honed in on a project that my friend, author Harvey Kubernik called "a karmic correction." Williamson wanted to properly record what would have been the followup album to Iggy and The Stooges' Raw Power, songs written by Iggy Pop and him that only saw light of day as bootlegged tracks varying in "quality" from muffled rehearsal audiocassette tapes to various noises sounding like Jacques Cousteau shrieking underwater while his scuba equipment was being jerked away. When present day Iggy somewhat waffled, appropriately intense singers signed on.
Who sang what is legible on the back cover art above. Each singer contributes apropos Stoogepassion in his or her singular style. You're sure to have your own favorites given the spread from O.G. punks like Jello Biafra to popular young rock artists like The Orwells. Who played what is documented in both the 24-page booklet and "The Making of Re-Licked" documentary film that accompany each of the release's formats, cd, vinyl and digital download.
Below, Alison Mosshart (of The Kills, The Dead Weather) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) tackle "Wild Love" as a call and response duet for Re-Licked.
Below, James Williamson and custom ratrod bike in Evil Spirit Engineering, a custom motorcycle and car shop next to Joe Cardamone's Valley Studio where much of Re-Licked was recorded. The next three photos were shot in Dave Grohl's deluxe-but-funky Studio 606, the other studio of choice. 606's main draw could be the Neve soundboard Dave purchased from Sound City when it folded, an establishment with equipment so astonishing that it warranted its own documentary.
The photos above are singer Petra Haden and Primal Scream bassist Simone Marie Butler adding background vocals; Simone on bass with James; James being percussive with drummer Michael Urbano; singer Ron Young of Little Caesar, Simone, and Joe Cardamone at the latter's Valley Sound studio. The touring Stooges, Mike Watt, Toby Dammit and Steve Mackay contributed to many of the tracks as well.
With force-of-nature Lisa Kekaula (above) volcanically belting out "I Got A Right," James Williamson playing at his finest, fastest and furious-est plus top of her field Cleo Viper demonstrating her own right to move, I thought this would be a good concept and a good match of talents for the planned promotional video. Below, stellar retro-burlesque artist Cleo Viper performing in my photo studio and the "I Got A Right" video teaser, which is one of the special features included on the album's "The Making of Re-Licked dvd. Both were directed by Amy D'Allessandro (below right) with cinematographer James Stolz.
(Video LINK )
Our client captioned the shot below "rockin' the estrogen" whereas Studio
606 sound tech Vanessa Silberman (below far left) noted it was the most
women seen working in the studio rather than being companions and
whatnot. Below left to right, Silberman, Simone Marie Butler, Amy
D'Allessandro, Petra Haden, yours truly and James in front, Neve console
lurking in back. Women indeed shine on this release with Lisa Kekaula,
Carolyn Wonderland and Alison Mosshart mining all possible emotions from
their respective songs.
Below, my drawing based upon but not mimicking the art found on James' original Gibson guitar (see above back cover pic) used in all his original Stooge doings and much of the recording.
James as client fortunately presented Joel and me with strong images that made for memorable graphics. The initial two projects were the covers of the Re-Licked preview 45rpm singles above, both featuring the handiwork of Trina Merry's ArtAlive bodypainting studio, with the skull theme related to James' nickname in the 1970s. "Open Up And Bleed" photography by Juan Moreno, "I Got A Right" photography by Franklin Avery.
The first concept for the Re-Licked front cover was from photographer Mark Schvartzman's session with model Ryann Hilairey portraying the Leopard Lady sans clothing --more trompe l'oeil body paint by Trina Merry-- as seen below left in the shot that ended up in the gatefold of the lp and cd. It had a black background plus an extra leopard but wasn't as strong an image as was required for a front cover, particularly given our graphically successful predecessors on the wild 45 singles covers above.
A Franklin Avery shot below right with James himself in Trina Merry skull makeup against Tibetan prayer flags had been in consideration for the second single. However, the simplicity of the color planes of the flags adjacent James' face seemed perfect for the Re-Licked cover wherein the busyness of a whole lotta artists' names would be competing for attention. The artists' names column starts next to James' eyes for maximum impact, as human nature tends to observe anyone's eyes first (vestigial limbic brain reaction to assessing threats or not when we were but little bitty primates in the forest) before scanning around any layout. And I certainly approved of the 'they live again!' undercurrent of our heroically 40-years-persistent Stooges coupled divine intervention! (Jesus and Buddah love the Stooges to update their old motto...)
Even without the universal acclaim of others (an easy Google) Re-Licked's highly enjoyable/energetic/emotional performances of some of Rock's best music ever should be your next purchase. And if you dwell in Los Angeles, you're in for an even bigger treat... (see next post LINK!)