ACHOF’s Interview with Bert Dijkstra and Dick Van Dijk about their Vinylize! exhibition and book project
Posted May, 2020 by Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com
Back in April, 2017, I reported on a show that was being staged in Amsterdam as part of the world-wide Record Store Day festivities which each year, if you’ve gone to take a look, put a lot of talent on display including, I think you’ll agree, a lot of fine work on the packaging, with colored vinyl, limited-edition releases and a ton of related merch showcasing the output of designers, photographers, illustrators and the like in close collaboration with the musician and label clients. At the time, I’d referred you to an article in Creative Boom by Katy Cowan (http://www.creativeboom.com/inspiration/vinylize-paper-crafters-nearly-normal-celebrate-record-store-days-10th-anniversary-with-kraftwerk-tribute/), where you were shown an example of the extra degrees of creativity in the RSD-related work of the “masters of paper craft” – Nearly Normal – as they joined forces with Amsterdam-based record retailer Concerto to produce some quite-special items for an exhibit that was on display in the store through that May called Vinylize! What’s Vinylize!, you might ask? Well, according to the store’s site, “at the invitation of the Amsterdam Shop Around, about 50 artists used their favorite record sleeve as a canvas. The artwork of various artists such as Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Jimi Hendrix, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and Blondie (to name a few) got a “VINYLIZE! makeover”, resulting in completely new and unique artwork.” In the case of the one-off cover created by Nearly Normal’s Jaime Kiss, the inspiration was Kraftwerk’s 1981 hit Computer World, and not only did the agency produce a cut paper-based cover homage, they also took it further by creating a series of fine art prints for collectors and producing an animated (8-bit style) music video for the song based on that artwork.”
While I was impressed with what I’d seen on the site and committed myself to finding out more, my short-term memory didn’t quite latch on to this morsel and so I didn’t think about this again until nearly 18 months later when, in October, 2018, my wife and I spent some time in Amsterdam and, one day, made a beeline to the Concerto record store there to see what we could see. The store was mentioned as a “must-visit” spot on any tour of this city and, after enjoying the great display of album art in one of the windows (this is a LARGE record retail shop), walking in the door immediately brought a large grin to my face. Like many establishments in this city, it consists of one narrow and deep room after another (regular visitors to Terry Currier’s Music Millennium store in Portland, OR will feel right at home here) filled with records, CDs, DVDs and other necessary materials. Immediately after entering, my eye was drawn to a display that contained some books, one of which sported a familiar title – VINYLIZE!. Picking it up and doing an initial flip-thru of the pages, it reminded me that I’d wanted to talk to the folks behind this book/show and, after purchasing a copy of the book for my ever-expanding collection, one of the nice people working there gave me the name of the person I’d need to talk to – Concerto principal Dick Van Dijk – and upon my return to the U.S., I sent him an interview request. He responded that he’d be available but, being that this was the beginning of the Holiday shopping season, I wasn’t a bit surprised that I didn’t hear back from him for a while (late January, 2019), and while he did answer some of my questions, he really wanted me to get in touch with the principals at the “Amsterdam Shop Around” mentioned on the store’s site as “they developed the idea and invited most of the artists”. It turns out that “Shop Around” is a creative firm located in Amsterdam (a “multidisciplinary creative production agency and artist representation firm”, according to their web site) and, shortly thereafter, I received a note from Bert Dijkstra there, who my notes and questionnaire had been forwarded to for further feedback. Bert then was kind enough to provide me with the answers I’d sought as short time after, but I then got wrapped up in my Grammy-time interviews and, once again, shelved the Vinylize! story until just recently, when I was erasing things on my whiteboard and saw, to my utter horror, that I’d never finished this project. Seeing that it is that I’m locked away for the near-term, I resolved to finish this article with the hopes that, as you’ll see, it’s still relevant today and a good example of just how creative people can be when given the chance to do good things for others (or, as in this case, raise money to aid an organization dedicated to cleaning up the world’s oceans). So, without further delay, let’s meet the talented and dedicated people behind this book/fund-raising project….
Interview with the creators of the Vinylize! book and fund-raising events – Shop Around’s Bert Dijkstra and Concerto’s Dick Van Dijk:
Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com – To the both of you – hello from Chicagoland and thanks for your time. As I shared with you, after visiting the Concerto store in Amsterdam and picking up a copy of the beautiful Vinylize! book there, I initially reached out to Dick van Dijk at Concerto to get some info about your Vinylize! project. Now that you’ve had a chance to take a look at the series of questions I’d originally sent Dick, I’d now like to – if you’re ready – begin at the beginning…Who originated the idea of this project? Was it an someone’s individual idea, or come as the result of a group discussion, or ??
Bert Dijkstra, Shop Around – Mike, thank you for your questions. As a creative agency, we work closely with contemporary artists from all over the world, with some of them exclusively connected to Shop Around. At Shop Around, we mainly focus on advertising assignments, but we also create a lot of leaders for TV shows, make artwork for record sleeves and also design book covers. Every year we come up with a few self-initiated projects, just for the fun of it and, since Shop Around is my company, I take the liberty to come up with these projects. Most of these projects are music related, since I’m a big music fan.
To give you an idea what I’m talking about, here’s an example – in the past, we have created our own full color music and art glossy magazine named ‘Yoko Eno’ (see below).
We’ve also curated and presented a big David Bowie exhibition, created a music calendar and other similar projects, doing them all just for the fun of it.
To focus specifically on the Vinylize! project – about 15 years ago, we were approached by a local bar to participate in a charity project. They were trying to raise money for a school project in India. We decided to participate, and just for this project, we asked our roster of artists to use record sleeves as their canvases. We then exhibited the nearly 50 record sleeves they’d created under the name ‘Shop Around presents: For The Record’. On the last day of the exhibition, we hired a professional auctioneer who auctioned the record sleeves and, by the end of the day, everything was sold. Some sleeves went to their new owners for massive amounts of money and, in the end, we’d managed to raise a few thousand Euro’s and, as planned, all the money was donated to the school project.
Since I noticed that everybody who participated – including myself – had so much fun while we were working on this project, I decided a few years ago to repeat it one day. In 2017, the time felt right and Amsterdam’s biggest record store, Concerto, learned about our project and invited us to do the exhibition in their gallery section. And since Record Store Day was coming up on the 22nd of April, both Concerto and my company thought it would be a good idea to both have the opening of the exhibition on that particular day and produce and sell an accompanying book.
Dick Van Dijk, Concerto – The whole Vinylize! project was a collaboration between Concerto and Shop – Around. Bert Dijkstra was really in charge – they developed the idea and invited most of the artists to participate. I made the book, invited some of the artists and did a great deal of the marketing. I believe that this was the second time they invited artists to work on a record cover make-over…
Mike G – Sounds like everything was in place to make this the success that it’d become. So, tell me, who developed the design criteria or rules for the submissions to the project?
Bert D – That was me – I took the creative lead in this project. There were only a few criteria: First, I wanted to feature hand-crafted artwork. This meant that all the participating artists needed to work directly on the original cover of the album they’d selected. They could do whatever they wanted – draw, paint, cut, paste, etc. – as long it was directly on the sleeve. They weren’t allowed to send in a digital version of the sleeve. Secondly, I’d asked the artists to select record sleeves that were not too obscure, since it is more fun to look at the make-over if you know the original. Not everyone followed that rule, though…
MG – Artists do tend to be free-thinkers! Since the proceeds from the auction of the finished works of art were designated to go to support a charitable organization, I’d like to follow up with several related questions. First, how did you select the charity you wanted to support and did that selection effect what it was you were trying to accomplish, design-wise? In your opinion, did any of the designs reflect the fact that the goal was to raise money for an environmental organization?
BD – We first had a small brainstorm in order to find a possible good cause. It was Dick from Concerto who came up with ‘The Ocean Clean Up’ project. We all thought that was a very good cause, and so we went for it and donated the proceeds of this project to that organization. Since we also wanted to make a book that would contain all of the record sleeves included in the exhibition – and the book needed to be ready in time for the exhibition – all the artists needed to start quite early on with the creation of their artwork. When that work started, we hadn’t decided yet to donate the money to ‘The Ocean Clean Up’ project, but if we had identified this good cause before the start of this project, we probably wouldn’t have asked our artists to reflect it in their artwork, anyway. That’s because the real fun of this project was that everything was possible, so even though the subject was a very good one, I didn’t want to confine the artist with an environmental theme.
MG – So, how did you go about selecting who the participants were going to be in the project? Was there a general call for submissions, or did you contact these people directly and ask them for their participation?
BD – Since I have been working in this business for many years, I really have access to a big network of artists from all over the world. I tried to select a diverse selection of styles – from paper craft to cartoony illustration to graphic design to realistic painting and everything in between. Also, I tried to add a few artists that were well-known by the public , such as Typex, the writer and comic artist who made the acclaimed international bestseller ‘Andy’ – the graphic novel about Andy Warhol; the well-known illustration duo Loulou & Tummie, the cool American illustrator William Dalebout and my favorite Dutch fine artist, Luuk Bode.
MG – Did you note anything in common between how these noted visual artists approached the project and/or the designs they submitted?
BD – Not really. Everybody was free to approach this project any way they wanted. Some spray-painted over the original artwork, while others choose to work with collage techniques, illustration techniques or cut paper. We also did work that changed all the backs of the record sleeves. For every artist that participated, we’ve designed their biography into the back of their artwork of choice. These bios were quite often funny, too.
MG – Can you give us an idea about how much money was raised at the auction and which works raised the most money?
BD – It’s been a while since the auction – which was held on the last day of the show, which was May 19th, so I’m not sure exactly, but I think that it was just like the results we saw the first time we did this – a couple of thousand Euro’s. I know that the Jimi Hendrix cover by Typex did very well, moneywise, as did the Lady Gaga cover by Tineke Meirink and the hand-painted version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller by Wouter Tulp. My own Bowie “superheroes” did sell for a better-than-expected amount as well.
DVD – The auction was not as successful as we’d hoped, although we did sell most of the covers and all of the money was donated to the Clean Up The Ocean project. In general, the response from everyone was great!
MG – Venturing out on to dangerous ground…did you have any personal favorites from all of the submissions? If so, can you tell me why they stood out from the rest?
BD – I really loved the Michael Jackson Thriller make-over by the fantastic Wouter Tulp, because it was technically so well done. The Bryan Ferry cover – now “Tom and Ferry” by Richard Simonse – was one of my favorites, because I thought it was really funny. And I totally loved Supertrump – Break Stuff in America by Maki, who used a Supertramp Breakfast in America record. BTW, Trump was featured a few times…for example, Pink Floyd’s The Wall became Donald Trump’s The Wall.
DVD – I personally liked the covers of Patti Smith, Lady Gaga and Supertramp the most.
MG – So, are there any future plans for a “Vinylize! 2” or something similar?
BD – Since that time, we did another new demo project, that time focusing on the music side, even though we aren’t musicians. The project was called ‘Bert & Vivien’s Google Translate Hits’ and, for that project, we have translated Dutch hits songs into English via Google’s-“Translate” app. The translations are often hilarious, since Google Translate converts these texts very literally. The Google-translation of the Dutch hit song ‘Met de vlam in de pijp’ – which means that you are driving very fast – was converted into a literal English translation, that being ‘With the flame in the Pipe’, which is absolutely nonsense, of course. Since we design all the record sleeves for the Dutch band Indian Askin – by the way, if you don’t know them, check them out (see image, below).
They are one of the best Dutch bands right now – they offered to help us out with the music and, to make it more special, we have contacted all the original artists to do backing vocals on our versions of their songs and, I’m happy to say, they all said yes! We’re about 70% finished, with three more tracks to do, and we hope to release this record, along with some music videos, in August of this year.
MG – If I’m not mistaken, I’ve seen some other takes on the same idea – some have even made it to network TV in the U.S. (Editor’s note – late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon has done several segments like this, including one with Anne Hathaway singing several “re-imagined” pop songs and another with Mama Mia’s Amanda Seyfried during which they take some of Abba’s hits and put them thru the Google Translate app).
BD – When I first heard that Fallon was also Google-Translating songs, I was really annoyed by it, because we’d started working on our Google-Translate project way before him. I would hate it if people would think we got the idea from Fallon. The only problem was that we never released anything… Then, I looked up Fallon’s Google-Translate songs on Youtube and I was relieved to see that he’s doing something completely different than what we are doing in that not only do we Google-Translate the lyrics, we also completely change the music too, turning them into new “Indie” tracks. Some of the songs are hardly recognizable (Editor’s note – you’ll find a sample of this music in the “Special Bonus Content” section at the end of this article).
MG – Well, we have it documented here, and I’ll back up your claim of being first but, in any case, I’d like to now pose a question to Mr. Van Dijk… I’ve seen that you use album cover art in many creative ways to decorate your store’s window displays. Who is responsible for these displays, and how often are they updated? How do you determine what the special themes will be?
DVD – We update our window displays on a monthly basis. Special themes are inspired on new releases or reissues, and sometimes the theme is based on something actually happening in the world. Thanks to the comeback of vinyl records, cover art is something that people pay attention to again, sometimes with beautiful results.
MG – They are quite attention-grabbing – I can personally attest to that! Now Bert, I’d like to ask you some more general questions about working as a designer for clients in the music industry. I try to ask everyone these questions and it’s always interesting to see the opinions of artists working in other parts of the world, so thanks for helping me with this. My first question is a big one, concerning the switch over to the electronic delivery of music products and the resurgence in sales of vinyl records and box sets. It’s clear that both are growing at a fast pace, so I’m wondering if you are noticing any more or less enthusiasm on the artist’s – or the record label’s – behalf to invest time and money in packaging and related printed promo materials and merch items that appeal to – and extends their relationship with – their fans – better-known these days as “extending their branding”?
BD – Yes we do. For instance, a short while back, we finished a project for a Dutch band for which we were allowed to design a gatefold sleeve – including a printed inner sleeve – a 30 x 30 cm, 8-page booklet on special paper and a colored vinyl record. On top of that, we were allowed to print the exterior of the gatefold sleeve in PMS colors, which are way more expensive to print than the usual CMYK colors. It depends on the artist, of course. We are mostly working for Rock and Indie bands, and they appreciate it if we come up with something special. Their record companies do, too. In the mainstream genres, it probably is a bit different, I guess. We’ve been asked to create artwork for mainstream artists many times, and even though they sell a lot more records in general than the artists that we generally work for, their record companies tend to spend less money on the artwork. On top of that, they interfere with creation of the artwork. Indie and Rock bands tend to give us creative freedom we need and, for us, that works out the best.
MG – What are your feelings about album artwork-related design, photography and production these days? Are there any musical acts, labels, art directors, etc. that you think are keeping the field alive or important? Do you think album art and packaging – particularly your work for “special products” – really matters anymore?
BD – It certainly matters to me. I’m a big vinyl fan – I buy at least 5 records a week. Every year my wife and I make a road trip through the States and we pick a different route every year. In every town that we visit, we check out the local record shops and we often come across some brilliantly designed record covers from local bands that we’ve never heard of. On the road, we have no record player with us, so once we are home again, it is always a surprise to find out what we have bought. And, funny enough, so far we’ve never disappointed. If an artist or band puts effort in the artwork, generally the music is also OK. I do it over here as well… If I really like the sleeve, I buy the record, and in some cases even when I’m not particularly fond of the band. One of the labels I’ve always liked very much, design-wise, is Mute Records. l think it was 2017 when they released a book about the design of all the records that came out on their label, and the book itself was very well designed, too. It is really worth your attention, if you haven’t seen it yet (Editor’s note – the book, written by Mute Records’ Daniel Miller and author Terry Burrows, is called Mute: A Visual Document: From 1978 – Tomorrow and is available from Thames & Hudson Press).
MG – You’ll have to let me know if you’re ever in the Chicago area – there are several great shops here, too. So, let’s continue – do you think that album cover art serves to help us document modern human history? Personally, it is my belief that, in many ways, iconic album cover art has had a noticeable effect on Pop Culture. What’s your take on this – is the imagery and music providing the direction, or is it reflecting the culture, or ??
BD – I think it is definitely reflecting culture. Music and art will always go together as artwork can be as much a part of a record as the sound. For instance, can you think of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s without picturing the sleeve?. Music fans have always taken pleasure from looking again and again at album covers. The renewed popularity of vinyl means a return of album art design in its original form. Modern stars such as Kanye West, Travis Scott – I really loved his Asstroworld sleeve – and Young Fathers are among the popular 21st-century musicians whose albums’ showcase interesting album art. Only time will tell if their album art will be something to match, for instance, Bowie’s iconic Aladdin Sane package, the Sex Pistols’ bold yellow-and-pink Never Mind The Bollocks…cover or any of the masterful Blue Note covers of the post-war era. So yes, music and art will always go hand in hand, reflecting the world around us.
MG – We’ve all seen examples of album cover imagery that were all used to make sharp political statements and, ultimately, each became an image that was used by both music fans and politicians to help illustrate their takes on a variety of subjects. I’m thinking of artwork like Art Chantry’s hand-assembled collages for Soundgarden, Mudhoney and others; Tom Wilkes’ cover for The Concert for Bangladesh, the blighted landscape cover found on System of a Down’s Toxicity or most all of the covers Winston Smith did for the Dead Kennedys and others. You saw these images on posters, t-shirts and stage props and they became symbols for their causes. With that being said, do you think that musicians and graphic artists and designers worked consciously on creating images that would be noticed by, and have an impact on, audiences beyond the record buying public?
BD – In some cases, definitely. When as a teenager I first saw the album art of Fresh Fruit for Rotten Vegetables by the Dead Kennedys, I was a bit shocked. But, generally, the lyrics of a band had more impact on me. A lot of mostly American punk bands that I listened to in the eighties and nineties had sleeves with images that wanted to make a statement. For me, these sleeves had the opposite effect. Nine out of ten times, I thought they were rather ugly, so I always hid these sleeves behind the ones that I did like. I still do that, BTW. I’m not a big fan of mixing political statements with album art, at least not when it is too literally in your face.
MG – I’d like to know what your views are regarding the future of graphic and visual design in the music industry as it moves on to the many new distribution platforms and ways to own or “rent” music products? Do you wonder whether there are any lesser-known artists creating album cover images now that will be memorable as fine artists 20 years from now? In other words, will the work of album cover artists ever gain the respect of the fine art community and, perhaps, the support of art collectors as well?
BD – Yes. Absolutely. I think that we addressed that in that earlier question about the relationship between album art and Pop Culture.
MG – OK, then, let’s talk about something that’s become more of an issue over the past 10 years or so…while doing the research for articles I’ve written and for some of the bios featured on the ACHOF site, I found examples of something that made me want to work harder to make sure that credits are given where due – those being several incidents over the years where an artist’s work had been used – and, on occasion, abused – by labels, print publishers, licensing companies or other musical acts without permission or without giving proper credit for the work being used. It seems that, in this Internet Age where people seem to find it permissible to “borrow” – it sounds so much better than “steal” or “plagiarize”, doesn’t it – an artist’s or writer’s or photographer’s works to help them promote and sell their own products, folks that create original art have been forced to police the media in all its forms to do what they can to either stop this unauthorized use or, at least, receive credit for the work they’ve done. Do you think that there anything that can/should be done about it, or do you simply chalk it up to being one of the costs of doing business these days?
BD – You can invest a lot of time protecting your artwork and get all panicky about it but, personally, I think that is a waste of time. Of course it sucks if someone steals your artwork or uses it without permission or credits, but it is also a compliment in a bizarre way, as you’ve created something that has been worth stealing or copying. I’m not saying you should condone this kind of behavior. Over the years, our work was copied or used without our permission quite a few times. If a situation like that occurs, of course, we’ll always contact the person or company who’s responsible and demand that they stop using it, but I wouldn’t go as far as taking it to court. That consumes too much energy and money, and I’d rather use my energy and money for creating new stuff.
The bad thing about the internet is that it makes it more easy for other people to steal or copy your stuff. But the good thing about the internet is that, once it’s been made known that somebody has copied or stolen something from an artist, the public backlash is enormous. It easily could result in the end of their career or company or, at least, result in a lot of trouble for them. About 5 years ago, a Greek phone company copied our artwork for one of their advertising campaigns. When we found out that they copied our work, we first contacted them nicely, but their lawyer laughed at us in our face. After that, we decided to go public with this and launched an online mini campaign on both our and their social media pages. We showed our original work alongside the stolen artwork from that phone company and then asked people to decide whether the Greek campaign was a rip-off or not. Within weeks, we got an e-mail from that phone company in which they literally begged us to stop our little online campaign, which we did, eventually, after they promised to withdraw their campaign. On top of the bad publicity, they were crucified so badly online that they had to pull the plug on their entire campaign, and since they’d already invested in ads, outdoor advertising and even commercials, it cost them a lot of money to pull the campaign. It was not our aim to ruin them, but we did want to let them know they could not get away with this. And that is the good thing about this time – you have to choose your words carefully, but you can act up on your own behalf if it is necessary.
MG – No doubt, the Internet can be a great place to exact your revenge on those who have taken advantage of you! Thanks for all your time and effort – good interview!
About our Interviewees – Bert Dijkstra – founder/owner of Shop-Around, and Dick Van Dijk of Concerto –
Bert Dijkstra is the owner and founder of Shop Around, a creative agency that specializes in “à la carte illustration, animation, motion graphic and graphic design solutions.” During the 20+ years of their existence, they’ve created artwork for ad campaigns, commercials, book covers, record sleeves, music videos and so on for many different companies such as advertising agencies, TV networks, publishers and record companies. Shop Around is based in Amsterdam and has clients from all over the world. In addition to their corporate work, the Shop Around team members are also firm believers in self-propelled initiatives, having launched many ‘one-off’ projects over the years, including the Vinylize! book, their own glossy cult magazine titled Yoko Eno, the contemporary art label ‘Popjugend’ and ‘Shop Around presents…’, an ongoing series of entertaining talk shows about creativity.
Bert and his team are big music fans, so since they make their livings primarily via advertising gigs, they’re able to create artwork for indie/rock bands at preferred rates, so if you’d like them to help you with your own music packaging/promo projects, you can contact them through Bert’s agency’s web site at https://shop-around.nl/
Album art fans will take note that they’ve also released a promotional book built around their record cover art portfolio called Judge Us By The Cover – https://shop-around.nl/project/judge-us-by-the-cover/
Special Bonus Content – while they haven’t yet released the recording mentioned in the interview, Bert and his crew were kind enough to upload one track especially for the ACHOF audience. According to Bert, “‘Tokyo’ was a late seventies hit in The Netherlands by Gruppo Sportivo (here’s a link to the original version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qkXwKJ7vRI). We have translated it to Dutch and added a bit of electro/early Roxy Music vibe to it. I hope you will like it.”
Use the player below to listen to B&V’s Google Translate Hit – “Tokio”
Dick Van Dijk has been the owner of this Amsterdam-based institution Concerto Records since 1999 (he also owns the 6-store Plato Records chain and the platomania.nl web store). The store first opened its doors in 1955, with the company celebrating its 65th anniversary in 2020. In addition to its renowned selection of recorded music, this enormous emporium, spanning five attached storefronts, is the go-to place in that city for all things music and entertainment, selling used vinyl, CDs, DVDs, books, turntables, accessories and much more. The company also runs a coffee house, record label and book publishing house. More at https://concerto.amsterdam/en/
About the Vinylize! book – The first joint publication between Shop Around and Concerto, the team at Shop Around asked 45 contemporary (international) artists to choose a classic or well-known record sleeve in order to give it a complete new creative look. Some of the artists who participated in the effort include (a.o.) William Dalebout (USA), Olla Boku (Taiwan), Zutto (Russia), Kia (Italy) Richard Simonse (Poland), Jonathan Ball, Jaime Kiss (UK), Mark Verhaagen (Germany) and, from the Netherlands, Typex, Luuk Bode, Wouter Tulp and many more. The preface was written by Golden Earring singer Barry Hay.
In case your local record store isn’t currently stocking the book, they can order it for you or you can visit https://shop-around.nl/project/vinylize/
Except as noted, all images featured in this story are Copyright 2017 – Present by Bert Dijkstra/Shop-Around and Dick Van Dijk/Concerto Records and Publishing, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – All rights reserved – and are used by the artist’s/copyright holder’s permission. Except as noted, all other text and pictures Copyright 2020 – Mike Goldstein, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com (www.albumcoverhalloffame.com) and RockPoP Productions – All rights reserved.