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Home arrow Interviews arrow Storm Thorgerson interviews
January 17th 2001 - Launch Print E-mail

Launch.com, 17 Jan 2001

Storm Thorgerson's name--colorful as it may be--may not be immediately recognizable to those who aren't big fans of Pink Floyd or classic album cover art, but we can guarantee you his artwork and photography is. Thorgerson is one of the most renowned rock 'n' roll artists in showbiz, having designed/photographed 11 Pink Floyd album covers (including Dark Side Of The Moon!), as well as album covers for Led Zeppelin, UFO, and newer artists like Anthrax, Catherine Wheel, the Cranberries, Phish, and Ween. He's also directed music videos for the likes of Yes (anyone remember "Owner Of A Lonely Heart"?) and Robert Plant, and, most recently, he created a Shockwave video for the Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here medley (whose audio you can currently download right here on LAUNCH).

To promote his new Pink Floyd Shockwave video, Thorgerson "stormed" into the LAUNCH chat room on January 17, logging in from his home in London. Maybe it was the time difference (it was past midnight in the U.K. when the chat started), maybe it was his late-night cocktail and/or caffeine, but Storm chatted up a storm (sorry, can't resist those puns--and neither could he, which you'll see if you read on) like an old pro, even though it was his first-ever online chat experience. Wish you were there? Well, reading this transcript is the next best thing...

Storm Thorgerson: Greetings, hello, chat room, this is Storm, and this is a first experience for me in such a place.

MODsterGR1: Exactly which Pink Floyd album covers did you design?

Storm Thorgerson: OK, Modster, I had designed the covers starting from the beginning--not the first one, which was Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, but I then did all of them, except The Wall and The Final Cut. So therefore I did, if my memory's holding good, A Saucerful Of Secrets, Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, Momentary Lapse Of Reason, Delicate Sound Of Thunder, The Division Bell, and Pulse.

FusionAddict: Mr. Thorgerson, most fans recognize you from your groundbreaking work with Pink Floyd. However, you have worked with other artists as well, as some fans are aware. Of all the non-PF related projects you've worked on, which is your favorite?

Storm Thorgerson: Well, that's a killer question, Mr. Fusion. in fact, I'm not going to answer it (in a friendly way) because it's too difficult--it's like being asked what is your favorite film, which is really difficult, REALLY. If you were to be asked what are your favorite 10 films, then that's easier. But in terms of non-PF material, I obviously enjoyed working for people like Led Zeppelin, 10cc, Peter Gabriel, and, in more recent times, the Cranberries, Phish, and Ian Dury. I hate to say it because it sounds conceited, but I have done a lot of work, so IT'S TOO HARD! Tell that Fusion Man it's too difficult, I'll see him later, I'll sort him out!

whoyaus: do you tell your ideas to the band about the album cover or do they tell you what they want before hand?

Storm Thorgerson: Whoyaus: HA HA!! Good question! It's kind of a bit of both, really, and I think that usually it's sort of a mixture. The album cover, which may not exist much longer as an art form, is the only thing that lasts with the record, so you try to do it as a representation, and in order to be as faithful to and as interesting as the music, then the imagery and design is usually conceived between us. They tell me stuff, music and lyrics, and I go back to them and say, "How about this or that?" And they say, "Could you do that with a bit of this?" And we try to reach something that constitutes an amalgam or synthesis of what is best visually from me and what is best musically from them...who what made it, governor!

mystrydwn: Do you consider the calibre of music's art to have declined recently? Especially since the decline of the larg LP cover?

Storm Thorgerson: Mystry: Ooh, eeeek. Mystrydwn, I would say that there are about four factors, if not more, that may have contributed to the decline of album graphics. (In no particular order): #1--Decrease in size from vinyl to CD. #2--The arrival of the computer. #3--Arrival of the ubiquitous Internet. And lastly, there's an issue about what sells, and in this issue about what sells, I think it is now harder, or may be harder for a band to remain aloof from, from the act of selling. However, Mystrydwn, it's a good question, but very complex, and my answer is really very much my opinion. I think there's obviously a lot of good work--especially my own (HA HA HA!)--but I think overall, the implication of the question is that maybe album art has declined a bit. My coordinator believes that's a relatively intelligent answer, though a little dull! Ha ha ha.

jbrunet1: What type of photo equipment you most frequently used on Pink Floyd album covers?

Storm Thorgerson: jbrunet1: OK, um, wow, they actually tend to vary--it's horses for courses, as we say this side of the Atlantic. Maybe you have a similar expression, depends on the job. Hassleblad, 2 1/4 , and it's square, so it's got advantages. But we'll use anything--35mm, I like a Nikon, 'cause it's heavier. We also use a digital (though I don't remember the maker), but not if the end result is required to be big or better quality, because the quality of the digital cameras aren't high quality yet.

hiwattstack: hi Storm! Any collabarations with the other greatest designer(Roger Dean) in the works...another Album Cover Album book e.g.

Storm Thorgerson: Hi, hi, hi. We don't, unfortunately; we were supposed to have, but I have not heard hide nor hair of Roger for years. I hope he's well, but I wish we were, those books are enjoyable to do. It's nice to have a showcase of what the outside is, rather than the business side. Maybe Roger's found someone else to collaborate with!? Uhhh! Actually, if he's found someone else to collaborate with, I'll kill 'em (no, not really)!

lightman42103: Let's get to th' nitty gritty! Have you been approached to keep some time clear for any upcoming Pink Floyd project?

Storm Thorgerson: HA HA HA HA. Yeah, OK, Mr. Lightman, let's cut to the quick: NO. (ouch) Unfortunately, not as of yet, as far as I know--but then, what do I know?

f5m6: Tell me about your priority project right now Sir

Storm Thorgerson: Excellent question! Wow, if I told, the most difficult project right this minute, since you happen to ask, is that I have to deal with the tax man. Not the IRS man, but the VAT man--value-added tax. You must be "psychedelic," because I've been mostly preoccupied trying to organize my financial paperwork from the last six years--your pound symbol is totally coincidental, because English pounds is what I'm obsessed with right now, and being an artist/designer, my paperwork is in disarray, so tell Mr. Poundsign to get off my case! It's all turning my brain to jelly. However, I'm mostly designing a website for the Cranberries, a series of books for a man called Douglas Adams, and I'm starting an album cover.

lulularoca: Storm, can you talk about the video you just completed for Wish You Were Here and describe what it was like working on a video 25 years after the album was released?

Storm Thorgerson: Lulu-baby, my answer is, can you redefine the question? Very difficult. It's a very complicated question, we may get muddled up here. Dear Lulularoca, I love you already 'cause of your name, and I want you to have even more of my babies, but this question is too general, so I'm going to answer part. I think working on something 25 years later in rock 'n' roll terms is kind of weird, but if you were talking about classical music or movies, it might not be so odd. I mean, did you know that Gene Hackman's new movie over here, Under Suspicion, is a remake of a 20-year-old French film? But in rock 'n' roll terms, it was something quite different, working on something 25 years gone. But they say, "Good music, she don't die." One of the interesting things was we were going to make a film for just the song "Wish You Were Here," but David Gilmour thought it was a bad idea because the song was never intended to have a video, so he suggested we make a video for the album as a whole--which changed the whole aspect, because we had to combine several elements to segue bits in order to match the album. But Lulu, that's only the half of it, honey! So unless you want to come around my house, that's all you're going to get!

johntt11787: Who's idea was it to BLUE shrink wrap the WISH LP's??

Storm Thorgerson: johntt: The blue shrink wrap was MY idea, and the reason why we did it was because it came from the source of major feeling for the album Shine On You Crazy Diamond, which was absence, and what could be more absent than a cover you couldn't see? And in fact, I have heard that there are some REALLY devoted fans who have NEVER taken the shrink wrap off--what they did was they bought the album, took a scalpel, and slit the wrap, and slipped the album out, but they've never seen the album cover. What could be more absent? Columbia went through the roof, the then-president went crazy--he said, "How can you put out an album you can't see the cover? You can't do that, it's crazy!" But the manager said, "That's what the band wants!" And that's what they got.

Snowmanvik: Storm, how did you get your name?

Storm Thorgerson: Ha ha ha. Hey Snowmanvik, sounds like Trader Vic. I got my name, which is a real name, from Norway. I'm named after my uncle, or rather AN uncle on the Norwegian side, and the reason I'm called Storm was my mother thought I was a girl for nine months--so you wonder why I'm f--ked up! When I arrived, she realized I was not a girl, but she had no name for me, boo-hoo! This is a TRUE story! Any other Storms I've met have been two girls! So my mother, not knowing what to call me, asked my father, and my father gave her this name--which I have to say I like very much. It was kind of really handy in school, because you didn't get mucked about, or teased, because no one could think of a better name. Kind of cool for rock 'n' roll--better than if I'd been a girl, 'cause then I would've been Geraldine! Isn't that AWFUL!?

Nate_Dogg_22: so is there any corolation between dark side of the moon and wizard of Oz

Storm Thorgerson: HA HA HA!! Yeah, Hi Nate_Dogg--there's no dog like a Nate Dogg. Good question. I heard that story as well. What do you make of it? Is it galactic, psychedelic coincidence, or is it a load of crap?! I have to say that, not being a romantic--that's not true, I am a romantic--being a romantic BUT a realist, I think it's probably the latter, but then, with Pink Floyd, would you ever know?

twocv: Which artists do you have hanging on your walls at home? (i mean, artwork, not the actual artist!)

Storm Thorgerson: OK, twocv, the French car was the first car that we ever got a ride with when I first went hitch-hiking around Europe as teens. We got in this car, and within five minutes it crashed and I broke my arm and had to go home. I have on my walls--in the room I'm standing now, the living room in London--I have a picture by a San Francisco artist called Roy Deforrest. I have a Vermeer copy--not an original--a Dutch painter, 17th century; a Miro print (also not original); Lucy Iverat; and a painting I bought in South Africa by Ambrose. And then I have ONE OF MINE (in a high-pitched voice!!!), which is the Lightbulb Man, which is actually a steal from Dali--kind of a steal. This guy Roy Deforrest does crazy dog pictures--they're really good, the eyes are hysterical!

calgary_sinner_boy: I was wondering if there were any repercussions from the "Animals" shoot or was the extra publicity worth it?

Storm Thorgerson: How do they sin in Calgary? Ha ha ha, yeah, the Animals shoot, I've been to Calgary--we went to Calgary to shoot the video for "Learning To Fly"--have a man in a flat wheat field, you could shoot the Rockies in the distance, it was fantastic. The Animals shoot has been likened to a sort of "Spinal Tap"--in other words everything that could go wrong, did, in the best rock 'n' roll tradition. The idea came from Roger, who insisted, as was custom, to do things for "real." So there's a famous London landmark, a splendid '20s art deco power station had to have the inflatable pig for REAL flying between its towers--and on the first day, the pig, she would not inflate (I want no rude jokes at this point). On the second day, the pig, she inflated big, but a gust of wind tore it from its ropes, and the wind tore it to the heavens so quick we couldn't shoot it, and it went high enough in the air traffic lanes of the jets coming into London's busiest airport, so pilots actually radioed in pig sightings, and air traffic control was mad! Incredulous! "What are you talking about? You crazy?" You'd think it was a joke, but it was for real. The pig decided to come down later that evening on a farm in a county about 100 miles away. Can you imagine? "Darling! There are pigs landing in our field!" Anyway, the pig was rescued by the Floyd road crew, who are famous for such feats. On the third day of this saga, as we lurched from crisis to crisis, the pig actually flew and stayed tethered between the towers of the power station, behaving very well at last, having had its bit of fun! And if you ask me was this all worth it, I'd have to say it probably was. It was crazy, it was crazy, but it's all true. Tell Mr. Calgary Sinner this is all for real. The Floyd give it to you straight...or do they?

see_emily_play_1967: Is the Tree of Half Life really Mr. Barrett's bust?

Storm Thorgerson: Dear see_emily_play_1967, thank you for your question. They say, don't they, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You can read what you care to read, the tree is the Tree Of Half Life--it is not consciously Mr. Barrett, but then again, it might be. I have to say, Emily, that we are very fond of the picture, as are the Floyd, and I said that to someone in London and they claimed to have seen that tree on a train ride they'd taken recently. I thought that was really funny.

chefkojak069: storm, i love your art as much as i love the floyd's music....here is my question: which one of the floyd's album covers was the most trying to do....meaning as far as time and labor

Storm Thorgerson: OK, Mr. Chefjak, thanks for the compliments. I'm going to answer by telling you the easiest--you have to remember there's sort of a difference between what's hard to think of and easy to do, and what's easy to think of and hard to do. The easiest one to do was Atom Heart Mother, the picture of the cow, because all I did was get out of the car on the first field I came to leaving London traveling north, climbed a fence, walked up to a cow, took a picture, and I walked away, climbed over the fence, and got back in the car! Total time: five minutes. Cost: 50 bucks. Momentary Lapse Of Reason, on the other hand, was very complicated to do, because the beds on the beach are all real and there were 700 of them, and these beds were Victorian, wrought-iron beds, beds of hospitals, beds of patients, beds of mad people and dreamers, and each bed weighed a ton--and there were 700 of them! And we put them all out on the beach with three tractors, a flat bed, 30 people, and each bed had its own separate bedding, and we got all set to take the picture and it RAINED. So we had to put all the beds away back in their trucks, and two weeks later we had to do it all again. It cost PLENTY! But it was worth it.

mexnor13: Have you ever had an exhibition of your work? Or will you?

Storm Thorgerson: Hullo, Mexnor13! Wow, what are these people, really psychedelic on the Net tonight! The people on the Net tonight are really SHARP. That's amazing, because I have not had an exhibition yet--BUT was only last week asked to!

adenva: your work is reproduced on tons of stuff - tshirts, mugs, posters, pencil sharpeners - how do you feel about this

Storm Thorgerson: Pencil sharpeners!? It can be seriously aggravating--people rip you off or use it without permission. Knickers in Venezuela, or motor scooters in Italy, or condoms in Taiwan. But I think my stuff would be nice on pink dresses. But I thank the questioner for the sort of sympathy in the question. It can be really aggravating. Of course, I'm talking about unauthorized usage. A line of pencil sharpeners--wow!

jbrunet1: Who is the lady in the shall picture from Wish You Were Here?

Storm Thorgerson: HA HA HA! I'm not quite sure what he means--the "veil picture"? In what we call the veil picture, the veil is a symbol of absence, to hide the face or when someone dies. In this picture, you can dimly see this face--I'm surprised he noticed it. I cannot reveal the name, but I can tell you it is the wife of a famous man. It would be inappropriate to reveal the identity. Good question, though! He would be amazed if he knew who it was. When we took the picture, she was not the wife of a famous person, but she later married him...

Storm Thorgerson: Thank you all for being in on this, my initiation on the world-wide-neb as I now call it. Thanks for your questions, keep them coming, but maybe not so late next time--I'm a tired little bunny. So hasta la vista, keep looking over the wall!

 
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