DARWIN FOYE INTERVIEW 2001

[September 29, 2001]

Darwin Foye is the guy behind art direction and design of the last three Glenn Hughes CDs ("The Way It Is", "Return Of Crystal Karma" and "Building The Machine"). In this interview he talks about what it is all about to do this kind of work and also working with Glenn Hughes. We also get to see some outtakes from his work related to Glenn Hughes' CDs.

If you want to see more of Darwin's work you can find more pictures and information on his website:
www.5th-density.com


We have all seen your designs on the last three Glenn Hughes CDs (TWII, ROCK and BTM). How did you get to do these projects?

I was recommended by Robert John, who has photographed a lot of groups and recording artists like Guns N' Roses, Marilyn Manson, Ozzy and many more. Robert and I had previously worked together on a couple of albums, so he recommended me when Glenn was looking for an art director on "The Way It Is."

I must say that it is such a great pleasure to be working with Glenn on these albums. I am glad that he likes my design style, and the art along with his music keeps evolving, so we have continued to work together.

Were you familiar with Glenn's musical history before designing his albums?

I have been a fan of his music all the way from Trapeze to Deep Purple to Hughes/Thrall and beyond.

With the exception of The Beatles, Deep Purple is my favorite group of all time--especially the Mk III and IV lineups. It is not only the songwriting and the musicianship, but the timbre of the band‹the sonic tapestry they created.

Of course, I am a big fan of Led Zeppelin and Hendrix, and all the progressive rock groups as well, such as Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd. But to me, there was something very special about Deep Purple.

What was it like meeting Glenn for the first time?

The first time I met Glenn was at his home for "The Way It Is". We talked for a while, then went downstairs to his pre-production demo studio so I could hear a few songs he was working on.

Joakim Marsh, who was staying with Glenn at the time while they were writing the album, was also in the studio. Joakim plugged in his guitar, Glenn hit "play" on the drum machine (this was still an unrecorded demo), and they started jamming‹guitar and live vocals!

I was blown away to be sitting in this room a few feet from such a great vocalist as he was wailing away. The song that really stood out for me was "Too Far Gone". His voice was so powerful and, I might add, perfectly in tune.

If we start with TWII, how do you approach a project like that, and was it all your ideas or did Glenn or the record company give you any input on what they wanted? And, who decides on the covers?

It is usually a collaborative effort of Glenn and myself, then discussions with the photographer, and sometimes with additional input from band members and others close to him.

I will come up with cover concepts based upon the title of the record, or based on the vibe of what the recording artist wants to portray at this point in their career and their lives.

On other albums I have designed, sometimes the record company will also be part of the decision-making process. In the past three albums, SPV (the record company Glenn is signed to in Germany) has left us alone in this regard, which I find quite refreshing.

In the case of "The Way It Is", Glenn felt very strongly about the cover shot we ended up using (Glenn leaning against the pure white wall). Other people tried to talk him into another cover idea that I presented earlier on, which was actually much more darker and "hard rock" looking. But that is not where Glenn wanted to be for this album. I kept telling him, "Trust your heart," and although he was getting pressure from others around him, he ultimately chose the one that we see printed now. Only Glenn truly knew what he was trying to portray. And I'm glad he made that decision.


German TWII cover


TWII cover outtake

I recognized that this was a natural progression from his previous album "Addiction" which I did not work on. If you recall, the last song on that album was "I Don't Want To Live That Way Again". This is one of the reasons why we went with a pure white cover. It was like wiping the slate clean. Interestingly, the image that made the cover was the very last frame of the last roll of film we shot.

"The Way It Is" title is so abstract, but I did come up with the concept of the hand gestures in the centerfold. I thought it perfectly epitomized the phrase itself, which Glenn perfectly executed.

Why are CD package designs different from country to country?

After having signed an initial recording contract through their primary record label, most recording artists are signed to various distribution deals throughout the world. In essence, they are signed to one label, and then the record is distributed through other channels in another regions of the world.

This is where the artwork sometimes gets changed, and the art director/designer loses control of the original design concept.

Sometimes the artwork is changed because it may be offensive to a particular culture. For example, the Alice In Chains' "Tripod" album was banned in Japan because it featured a three-legged dog on the cover. This was deemed offensive.

Other times, an art director of a distributing label might want to get their hands on the project and change things around just for ego's sake, and believe me, this has happened to several albums I have designed.

Or, in the case of TWII, the distributing label in the US simply didn't have the budget for a 16 page booklet. They opted for an inexpensive 4 page booklet, so I recommended at the very least to use the centerfold shot from the German SPV version as the cover, as they wanted a "harder" look. I am glad they asked me for advice, but I had nothing to do with the actual design of the US version (as you could probably tell.) To me it was an abomination!

If you live in the USA, here's my advice. Like in the old days of vinyl, if you want the best in value, buy the imports. In particular, if the album first came out as an independent release in Japan or Germany, the booklets are usually better printed and more extensive, the 4 color artwork on the actual CD is better, and you may get some bonus tracks.

What are the overall steps in the design process before the artwork goes to press?

Ideally, the process goes as follows:

1. Meet with the recording artist to talk about what he or she is trying to convey this time around, and hear some of the new music.

2. I will go away and then come back with some ideas for the cover, sometimes in sketch form. Many times I will also design mock-up album covers in the computer.

In the case of "Building The Machine" I came up with about 12 mock-ups (also known as "comps") before we actually shot the photography.

3. We then decide which concepts or cover mock-ups fulfill the particular vibe we are going for.

4. A photo shoot is scheduled, and based upon the style we are going for, the photographer chooses the appropriate film stock: either grainy or smooth, saturated/vivid or de-saturated, etc. A lot of manipulation can be done in the computer of course, but it is best to get as much as possible from the film itself.

On "Building The Machine" John Harrell shot some infrared film, which has an unbelievable, almost "other-worldly" look. In fact the film has so much vividness to it, that offset printing won't do it justice, because much of the color is out of gamut, meaning the colorspace is more richer than what can be replicated by offset printing inks. The original transparencies look amazing!

5. After the photo shoot, Glenn, the photographer and I review all the film we shot, and narrow it down to what strikes us at that moment. Usually, as with any artistic decision, the "first impression" is the best one.

6. Once we have chosen the photography, I will then scan the images at a low resolution and use them in my next series of album cover mock-ups.

In the case of "Building The Machine", we hadn't yet decided if we wanted to go with Glenn on the cover this time, or use one of the previous ideas, as I previously mentioned. So, I created some more cover concepts using the shots of Glenn from the new photo session.

I then show this to Glenn, where he can make comments on what he likes or perhaps doesn't like. Thankfully, Glenn and I share a similar vision, and he is willing to experiment during the photo shoots, trying out many ideas.

As a side note, a lot of times we go into a photo session with the intent of getting certain shots for what we think will be the cover shot. After the shoot, we may see something that works much better, or that comes about as pure accident or surprise.

7. Based upon his new comments, I then complete the package design, and present him with a complete color mock-up of the entire CD package.

8. The digital files are then burned onto a CD-ROM, and submitted to the record company.

Who are your influences as a designer?

For album artwork, I have always admired the work of Hipgnosis, which is the design company from England that did all the coolest covers in the 70's.

Led Zeppelin's "Houses Of The Holy", Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", Be-Bop Deluxe's "Futurama" and Black Sabbath's "Technical Ecstasy" are some great examples of their work. In fact, if anybody is interested, there is a great book of their artwork called "The Work of Hipgnosis: Walk Away Rene". It's probably out of print now, as it was published in 1978.

When I am designing, I look at each project as a moment in time, a piece of history. So I try to do the best I can, and within the constraints of budget and time. Usually it takes about two weeks to a month to complete a CD package, from concept to photography to delivery.

I am basically self-taught, but have always been around music. I used to be a recording engineer in the 80's, recording albums, soundtracks and even sweetening rock videos for MTV. One of my favorite music videos that I worked on was "Weird" Al Yankovic's parody of "Beat It" which he called "Eat It".

I then got into computer software interface design, and through computers, discovered my artistic abilities. It is interesting to be on the other side of the musical process now, although I still occasionally engineer and produce a project.

What is your own favorite of all your CD artwork so far?

I like everything I have designed for Glenn, but I am particularly fond of what I would call the centerfold shot in the "ROCK" CD package. I think in that particular shot he looks like the rock star that he is, if I may say so. "Building The Machine" came out very nice as well, and I think the fans will have a lot of positive comments about that one. For the record (no pun intended), the actual CD disc is supposed to be pure orange in color, but I hear the record label changed that aspect of my artwork for some reason. I personally haven't seen the final printed version yet. Just picture in your mind "Orange" when you open up the package!


ROCK centerfold outtake
(clickable)

I really like the design of Graham Bonnet's "Underground", with the cover painting by Thom Ang. The package design came together rather easily, and I have received a lot of compliments on that one.

My other favorite is R&B/Jazz singer Patti Austin's CD package. That was an odd experience. She was constantly on tour, so we could not schedule a photo shoot with her. We ended up shooting a bunch of daisies for the package. Its simplicity and ultra-clean design really worked. People have really commented on that one as well.

Who picks the photographers?

This can sometimes be the choice of the art director, management company or a recommendation from the record label. Most of the time, however, it is the band/recording artist that picks the photographer.

For example, they might like the way another band has been photographed, so they may try to get a similar style for their album. And, they are the ones that will ultimately have to have the "chemistry" with the photographer, so he or she can bring out the best in them.

In the case of Glenn, he chose Robert John for "The Way It Is" and John Harrell for "Building The Machine".

For "Return Of Crystal Karma" Glenn specifically did not want a "rock" photographer, nor necessarily a fashion photographer, so I picked Victor Moller, whom I had wanted to work with on a rock album. He has quite a diversity of photographic styles, and a multitude of talents in other fields as well. And by the way, he is also a fabulous chef!

There was a little controversy about the fact that Glenn used a lot of makeup during the ROCK photo shoot. What was the idea behind all that?

You know, I logged into the chat room on this website, and I noticed a few people were freaking out about this issue.

Basically, Glenn wanted to go way out and "over the top" on this album. It's that simple.

I found a makeup artist who happened to have a "heavier" style of makeup. She had just done work on a photo shoot with Marianne Faithful, as well as Tommy Lee, and they also had the heavy makeup vibe. So I thought, why not use her?

To me, it all comes down to the music. If a musician wants to become a certain "character" for an album, then let it be so. It's nothing to be afraid of. Have fun with it!

I also saw in the chat room that a few people are freaking because they think he looks "skinny" on "Building The Machine". Hey, the guy is in great shape!

Where was the cover photo of BTM shot?

The photo was shot in an office building in Venice. CA. A beautiful structure. Out of respect for the owners, I can't reveal the name of the building, or its exact location.

When I saw the shot that became the album cover, the color palette in that room and the odd trapezoidal shapes set the tone for the rest of the package design. Modern and very hip.

Who picks the locations to shoot the photography?

It depends upon what we are going for and the mood of the album. For example, with Teddy Andreas' album, "Innocent Loser"--he was the keyboardist that toured with Guns N' Roses--we shot everything outdoors in a desert ghost town, because the record had a very "Americana" rock vibe. This was my choice as the Art Director.

With Glenn's albums, we have shot everything indoors. There is a little more control over the lighting, and many times I am compositing his image against another synthetic background, so I need a neutral backdrop to shoot him against.

Speaking of compositing, I'd like to show you what we, as Art Directors sometimes go through to get the ultimate shot.

On the back inlay of "Building The Machine", there is a small inset image at the bottom right, where Glenn is walking up the stairs. This was actually a composite of two separate images.


Image #1


Image #2


Composite Image

I liked the "body language" of Glenn in the one image, but the vibe of the way the model was walking at the top of the stairs in the other image. The third image shows the final composite as it was used on the back cover.

It may seem like a lot of work for such a tiny image, but to me it was worth the effort.

Why all the pipes and machine parts used in the artwork? Is that a reference to "machine" as in the title?

Definitely. We had talked about quite a few ideas regarding tie-ins with the concept of "machine". Some of them would have been beyond the budget for this album.

There was an odd piece of piping in the building that I had John Harrell photograph. I used it as a background, but this is not intended to indicate "metal" in the sense of "heavy metal", which the album is certainly not.

What's it like working with Glenn on projects like this? Is he any different to other artists you have worked with in this respect?

He is a great guy. He is willing to do what it takes to get the shot. On "Return Of Crystal Karma" I had some other ideas for the cover which we photographed, but did not use, where he was going to look like he was suspended by a beam of light-energy between two crystals, hence the connection to the title.

To achieve this he had to lay on a piano bench, with his arms and legs dangling over the edges of the seat. This was very uncomfortable for him to be propped in that position for periods of time, while we were getting these shots.

Most recording artists really are willing to do what it takes to get the perfect take.

Glenn is an interesting person to photograph. In some ways he is like a chameleon, and I mean this in a very positive sense, where he looks like a different person in each shot, and from album to album. This is especially true when he wears glasses versus no glasses, as in "The Way It Is."

Patience is also a great virtue on a photo session. I remember when we were doing the photo shoot for Robby Krieger's (guitarist of The Doors) new solo album, "Cinematix", we had spent some time getting the lighting just right. When we were shooting the test polaroids, one of Robby's assistants accidently stepped on part of the backdrop, knocking it down which radically changed the lighting rigs. And we had just gotten the perfect look! Robby, of course was very understanding, and just played his guitar while we were re-setting up the shot.

Have you got any feedback from Glenn's fans regarding the CDs you have designed for him?

Strangely enough, I haven't heard a word. Hello, is there anybody out there. . .? (Just kidding.) It is probably not that obvious as to how to contact me from the CD packaging. My website is "5th-density.com", and there is a contact button in the site itself, if anyone wants to say "hi".

Why the name 5th Density?

Ah, this will be revealed in public for the first time.

It all has to do with aliens and ultra-dimensional beings. I believe that we are just around the corner for a major shift in human consciousness. Higher dimensional aliens, just above us humans on the hierarchical scale are moving from 4th to 5th density, and we humans are moving from 3rd to 4th density. The movie "Contact" to me was about beings that were already in the 5th density. "Density" involves time as well as space, whereas the term "dimension" is more of a reference to spatial constructs. On the next version of my website, which will be done in Flash, I will visually explore and portray these concepts.

So what's next for Darwin Foye?

Well, I've recently gotten into motion graphics, designing and animating for broadcast and video games. I hope to design opening titles for motion pictures very soon. My mind works in a very fluid way, and I do feel that opening title designs exhibit that fluidity.

I also intend to start making short films, with the emphasis on psychedelic imagery and metaphysical concepts. With the explosion of inexpensive digital video cameras, compositing and editing software, it is easier than ever to achieve these goals. Of course there has to be a great story idea or a unique concept for it to be entertaining. We finally have the power to start expressing ourselves and showcasing it to the world via the internet. Now the movie studios are not the only ones in control.

By the way, I'll be designing the forthcoming "Hughes/Turner Project" CD package, which is Glenn's collaboration with Joe Lynn Turner, another great vocalist. I can't wait to see what we will come up with!

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[ Another great place where you can check out loads of pix & video of Glenn's tours is in the Picture Gallery ]