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Home arrow Older News Archive arrow Storm Thorgerson working on two new books
Storm Thorgerson working on two new books Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Sunday, 10 April 2005

Yesterday's Swedish Daily News had a large feature on Storm Thorgerson, who designed most of Pink Floyd's legendary album covers, and it revealed that he is currently hard at work on two new books to be released soon.

The first of these is an autobiographical look at all of his work, over the years. The other is a lavish book about Dark Side Of The Moon, and the triangular theme is to be repeated throughout, as with the poster that comes with the limited vinyl edition of the 30th anniversary DSOTM release.

With much thanks to Alex Ahlstrand, we have a full English translation of the original Swedish article for you...

Don Quixote of Design
A good cover is based on obsessive thoughts
Written by Malena Rydell

Storm Thorgerson is a guru - a record cover guru. His pictures for Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin albums are classic. And so unique that you immediately recognize all the others at the first glance.

London. Storm Thorgerson is the man who became the stylist of the supergroups. His often hyper-realistic or just bizarre record covers came to define and inspire the psychedelic 70s. He never abandoned his uncompromisable and personal style, even though the bombastic progressive rock era has been buried and spat upon.

Last time The Mars Volta played Stockholm, DN had the heading "New and better 70s". Nils Hansson saw a blast from the past on the stage at Berns; a Santana, Led Zeppelin, Miles Davis and Yes all rolled up into one, but updated for our time (via Soundgarden and Janes Addiction) and with an ever-present sense of uncertainty. His opinion was that this ought to appeal to everybody who thinks rock has become comfortable and boring over the last thirty years.

Appeal to many, surely yes. And it also makes a lot of people flee from anything that can be associated with 70s-styled giantrock - it is music which often causes a reaction as over dimensioned as the expression itself.

In either case its no coincidence that The Mars Volta chose Storm Thorgerson to design the image material, record sleeves and cd-booklets for the band. He is the designer that has forever been linked with the psychedelic/hippy label Harvest and known as the court designer for the Pink Floyd. The Mars Volta connect on all levels to the 70s and the time when Storm Thorgerson formed design-collective Hipgnosis. Today the legendary design-group has dissolved, but Storm Thorgerson digs his way forward through bombastic suggestive tire tracks. If you have seen one Storm-image then you know the others coming from afar.

"But my images are not surrealistic, as many tend to think, because there are no impossibilities in them. They are, rather, hyperrealistic. Photographed performance art. There is often something wrong with my images, but what it’s unclear what it is. Some call it "British Surrealism" - Ha Ha!". He is thumbing through a pile of images. Right now he is compiling a big retrospective book on all his record covers.

"I’m trying to think: What binds my work together? And that is most defiantly obsessive thinking. Neat ideas. I always come back to the similar objects. I am obsessed with beds and that has little to do with sex, it has more likely something to do with sleeping. And I am obsessed with water. And the human body, male and female alike. And animals. And wide open landscapes of course, the opposite to caves and tunnels".

Before the Beatles and "Sgt.Pepper’s", there was practically no such thing as sleeve design. But then the record companies began to understand the myth-making potentials of record sleeves, but not necessarily the moneymaking aspect of them. The companies began hiring famous artist and photographers, the designer was given attention and the sleeves became something to talk about. Andy Warhol arrived with his personal revolutionary sleeve-aesthetic, Hipgnosis their diametrically opposite.

Storm Thorgerson was perfect for the 70s, unschooled, a bit naïve and obsessed by staging, and with a love for the clutter, the imaginary landscapes, the fantastically confusing. His covers are often puzzling and anecdotic, just like the Mars Voltas latest cover. He points this out to us: "Here I try to make a picture about addiction. The album was about Jeremy who died from an overdose, which caused the others to abandon their "recreational drug taking". So the picture is about desire, the town is full of people who can’t see but live in the impression that they have complete control over their actions".

In other cases, a Storm-image, comes from the artist himself. As when Syd Barrett was painting his room and exclaimed that he was thinking about also painting the floors. The result became the wonderful cover for the ironically titled: "The Madcap Laughs", which actually shows the humour and self-distance the madcap-icon Barrett had, compared to the corporation Pink Floyd, whos management had cleaned Barrett out because he was considered a bit too crazy.

We stumble around in the hyper-messy two-floor studio Storm Studios. It is like being backstage at a freaky space rock-musical. Right now Storm and his assistant Dan Abbott are sitting twisting and turning triangles - again. Its time for yet another Pink Floyd release, a lavishly designed book about "Dark Side Of The Moon", and the triangular theme from the album sleeve has to be varied in absurdum. Dan explains that he see triangles every time he close his eyes, and have been doing so for several years now; since the greatest hits period a couple of years back when the Pink Floyd aesthetic saw a brief renaissance.

Storm Thorgerson is one of the exceptions in the music business, the exception that make up the rule. He stays in his place, keeps on digging where he stands and evolves within the space he once decided was the most interesting. Like the Don Quixote of design he fights daily against the indisputable fact: that the two-dimensional image is flat. All his pictures are about the same thing: asking the viewer how he (because most often it is a "he" who lovingly views his record collection) perceives things; emotionally rather than intellectually.

All must be built from the ground up. It may take all the time in the world and it can be hard, and completely foolish. He gladly uses digital technology, he is, after all, not a reactionary - but only when he feels that the technology has a task to solve in the montage process. It must be the same method as for Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", where the burning man is a stuntman with asbestos-clothes and asbestos-wig. His moustache was burned, and Storm loves it. Because it has to be authentic but at the same time it screams out loud that it couldn’t think of anything more irrelevant as if an image is authentic or not: the form and message is enough. But Storm won’t listen. He sits for months on end working with the same album. Assisting or photographing for Storm often mean that you have to sit and wait for the right weather. Or travel to the right desert with a gigantic sculpture depicting a fire. His staging is as much a craft and equally time consuming as the smallest embroidery.

"Many graphic designers are anal and tremendously interested in their own poo. They collect their work like small heaps of dung and say "mummy, look what I have done". That is exactly why I build big things, to make mummy happy".

Making record covers and making them this expensive and time consuming, is probably not what an overpaid everyday-analytic would call his future profession - in a time when a record collection is equal to an external hard disc.

"The record companies don’t give a crap about the covers, because they don’t believe that they will help the sales, which probably is true. But the covers are there to identify, to protect and to represent. And I think most people like them. If not because of the possibility of becoming nostalgic, then because they like to have something to look at. People like objects. They like to collect things.

"Sure there is the possibility of the covers disappearing and me being without a job. But I don’t think it will happen over the next ten years, and I’ll be dead within the next ten years anyway".

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