Joined: 17 May 2003
Location: Chatlotte, NC
|Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:42 am Post subject:
|Interview by the site who hosts the art.
The Davey Interview!
It just so happened that Dave Nodz saw this and got in touch. Dave did a super, rather moving, little Q&A for me:
How did you wind up doing the Suburban Base sleeves?
It all started really when the record shop “Boogie Times” opened up in my home town of Romford. It was the only place really that I could get my early house and hip hop, so I guess I became a regular. One day I was hanging around the place as record shoppers do, and I had just returned from an interview at some graphic design studio if I remember, and I had my portfolio with me. The boss of the shop, Dan Donnelly, out of interest, asked me to show me what sort of stuff I did, and that was it really. He asked me to do a t-shirt promoting the shop, which had up until then been a pretty lame to be honest plain logo type. I already had a design of a kind of b-boy character with a set of turntables and a mixer strapped to him, (which I later reprised for the back of a DJ Hype sleeve) and I adapted it with Boogie Times lettering. Up until then I think the idea of merchandising was not really thought of seriously, but from then on, a limited run of 100 t-shirts were produced, and to my surprise, were lapped up by the locals. When Suburban Base was conceived, it was a natural progression, and the merchandise was an important part of advertising and spreading the label image, and became popular, not just with t-shirts, but jackets, record bags, slipmats, even lighters, and even exported around the world due to a mail order form that was inserted into every Suburban Base release. So I was pleased that not only was the record label getting great recognition, but I hoped myself and my style as well.
Did you ever do graffiti?
Surprisingly enough, I was never really what you would call a hardcore graf artist I suppose. I used to do outlines and pass them on to people to reproduce, but my medium was on paper, never really with spraycans on walls. While at college in London, I met and befriended graffiti artists just about the same time as I began to get serious about my hip hop collection. So I walked and talked the graffiti style, name- belt and all, and due to my talent I guess, could mix with the right people. So apart from my lack of time down the “yard” I never really considered myself “fakin’ the funk” as Main Source would say.
Were there any particular artists work you loved?
My influences have always been comic book artists, obviously I think. If I had to name particular ones I would say Simon Bisley, whom I consider to be god, and who in homage to have ripped up many a design cursing how good that guy is. His early black and white ABC Warriors series artwork for 2000ad is perhaps my biggest direct influence, as well as his Lobo series, and a myriad of awesome covers. Jamie Hewletts’ style is brilliant, I have a lot of his early work, and I think he also gave me a quite disturbing crush on Tank Girl. I love his clean simplistic style that he has now honed to his amazing work with Gorillaz. I also admire a lot of the superhero artists, notably John Buscemas’ Silver Surfer, Frank Millers Batman, anything by Alex Ross, and also the fantasy art of Boris Vallejo.
Any other sleeve designers you rated?
As far as other sleeve designers went, I don’t think many independent labels really bothered. Jaz, who did the artwork for Genaside 2 was the nearest I saw to what came out of my own head. Some of Junior Tomlins’ stuff was pretty good on mainly Kickin Records I think, but the airbrushed style also mirrored by Pez, I think became clichéd during the period in which it was rehashed on most rave flyers. I also loved the style of the artist that used to do the Ultimate Breaks and Beats LPs. Myself and Danny Breaks, obviously both ardent hip hop fans, decided to recreate (out of respect) a typical design style of the latter for the “Flowers in my Garden EP” even down to the colouring. My idea for the Suburban Base image was always meant to be monochrome, not for cost saving reasons, but more because for one it was what I was most comfortable with, and for two, I thought once people were used to it and expected it, you could hopefully always pick out a Suburban Base sleeve on a record shop wall.
How did you find your work changed in during the Ardkore to Jungle years?
I suppose my work changed and adapted image wise, to the changing face of the underground music scene. I just thought it fitted the hardcore urban music style. You could never recreate that image for a house release for example. Sometimes artists had ideas of their own, which I tried not to dispute, although I was of the opinion that hey, I know what will work and look best, that’s my field, yours is the music, but inevitably some sleeve concepts were compromised and maybe suffered as a result. Most of the time I would design a sleeve purely based on what the name of the track conjured up to me, it was that simple a thought process really. Either that or I would just sit and doodle, and something usually came up!
How do/did you do your work? (Pencil/Scanners/Software etc)
The materials for all my work were very basic. I had trained for a couple of years as a paste up artist, (even the title now defunct due to the rise of the computer) so I was used to simple tools and methods such as Letraset (ha!) and copious amounts of Spray Mount. All ive ever used for any sleeve design which I always produce in black and white, are a selection of black pens, sometimes a Rotring 0.5 or even thinner, some cheap markers, pencils, tippex for highlighting..as I said, very basic, but its what I’ve always been comfortable with. The technology came along and was fine when used properly and subtly, but its no good having loads of fill effects and photoshop style sleeves in the hands of the clueless to begin with. A prime example being a series of Jungle compilation sleeves I did for Labello/PWL, which when handed over to the “colourist/finisher”, came back looking to me like someone had been sick all over them, and my artwork was scarcely recogniseable.
Were there any particular sleeves you especially proud of? Why?
As far as personal favourites go, I always have a particular fondness for QBass’ “Dancin’ People” actually. I think because I used a lot of little graphic tricks and effects in that one that I’m still proud of, although I always have the urge to go back and re-do a sleeve and improve it. I’m not one for self-congratulation, you would never find any example of my work on my walls or on show at home, for the precise reason that I would constantly be wanting to change things. Also on the Dancin’ People sleeve, I still smile at the little running story I did to accompany the artwork and to set the tone..my attempts at being Frank Miller..ha haa. I’m glad you included the Shades of Rhythm “Peace Sign” sleeve, as that is another favourite of mine. Again, working purely from the simple name of the track, and with a hint of Bisley influence.
Did we leave out any of your sleeves we should have included (by accident naturally)?
There are a few of the Jungle compilations I did after my Sub Base years, but because the design process was on the whole out of my hands, I must admit I got pretty tired of rehashing different poses of a “guy on the decks.”
Did you only do sleeves for Ardkore/Jungle acts?
When Suburban Base branched out to incorporate house and even hip hop, I still did the sleeves, but was never happy with them, as I’ve said before, I just thought it suited the attitude of the music and the time, and those I considered my specialty as it were.
How did you see The Art of Noize project in relation to your sleeve art?
The Noise of Art was really a completely separate thing. I just happened to spend a lot of time in the studio with other artists, and had always thought that my eclectic music background would be a bonus when “digging in the crates” for samples. I had messed around in the studio and come up with a demo of what I hoped would be a 4 track EP to be released on Sub Base, but I think the sample clearance would have been a problem. The DAT has alas been lost but I seem to remember Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin wailing away on one particular track. Slightly obvious maybe. I had originally wanted The Noise of Art project to sound a bit more Techno with breakbeats not so prominent, (in fact early name ideas were “Eclectronica” and “Nouvo Techneau”) but when it came out in my first release on the Subplates Volume 2 as “D. Stomp”, I don’t think people really got it. I still liked it anyway so there. Its funny because after doing so many covers for other artists, I had always harboured the thought of making a personal release of my own to have the most mind-blowing cover, and when it came to actually sitting down and doing it, all I came up with was a silhouette of myself and some lettering. Just shows you.
Apologies for prying, but what happened at the end of the day with Sub Base?
Let me make it quite clear that my time working at Sub Base was the best in my life, and I still sometimes regret leaving it I think prematurely. But things had become strained and my relationship with Dan Donnelly in particular. I suppose when the money started coming in to the label, there was a shift in style and output, the urge to splash colour all over everything one I didn’t share for a start. It was mainly because at the time I was working on a set wage, and when Sub Base began to earn dare I use the phrase “shitloads” from their extensive range of merchandise, I never received a penny extra. Forgive me for sounding self-important, but I think I deserved it, my thinking being, if you take my input out of a t-shirt, how many plain white shirts are you going to sell? I certainly don’t think I was being greedy. There were other little reasons, but I think when during a heated argument one day, myself being shouted at with the words (and I remember them, such is the day ingrained on my memory as a turning point in my life) “We don’t need you anyway, we’ll get a computer” which I thought was a bit harsh considering my part in making the label successful and the image an apparently popular one. That did it for me really, and I stormed out and never went back. It may have been reconcileable, and things were maybe said that were in the heat of the moment type thing, but as I said, it was a decision I made, and one I still sometimes regret to this day. I must add that I bear no grudge against Dan in particular for the way things ended, he after all gave me the opportunity to give my work an audience, something a graffiti artist, if I can be described as one, always aspires to. We had some great times, and I miss them dearly. In particular Danny Breaks, Austin Reynolds, Mike James and Jay D’Cruze were talented and good friends, and I wish I could maybe hear from them again in the future.
Do you stay in touch with your colleagues from back in the day?
I never kept in touch with anyone from back in the day I’m afraid. I did a few sleeves and pieces of work for different people, but I had become disillusioned with the way the whole scene was going, and my feeling was I hoped that I had at least left my mark. Seeing things like this blog and receiving emails from people saying that I influenced them and just general appreciation makes it all worthwhile and something I am thankful and proud of.
What stuff have you been working on recently? Any examples?
I have since moved to Spain and apart from getting offers to design t-shirts, flyers and tattoos for people, there is no real scene to become a part of. Any work I tend to do is just when I’m doodling away on my own, for personal pleasure. I like to think I have improved a lot and would hope to maybe some time in the future have the opportunity to get the pens out again.