Album Cover Hall of Fame – Interviews with Album Cover Illustrators and Typographers

ALBUM COVER HALL OF FAME – INTERVIEWS with Album Cover Illustrators and Typographers

This category includes the painters and illustrators – as well as the people responsible for producing the memorable fonts and logos – whose works are found on many of your favorite album packages.

Jon Blosdale – One of the millions of young people drawn into Beatlemania early on was artist Jon Blosdale who, after a long career in the entertainment/production business, decided to “follow his dream” and focus his efforts on re-capturing a personal piece of the “Peace and Love”/”All You Need is Love” spirit by obtaining all of the necessary permissions he’d need to help him use his artistic talents to re-introduce fans to an important image via an awesome sericel recreation of the iconic cover of the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album

Michael Cartellone – Most everyone who I’ve interviewed in the past has been firmly rooted in “the graphics side” of the discussion. This 2006 interview, though, was quite special, as it was with someone who has earned much praise from his fellow musicians and continues to enjoy a fantastic career as the drummer for some of the most popular musical acts of all time, including his 20+ year gig as the drummer of 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Lynyrd Skynyrd. That’s right – we’re talking this time with Michael Cartellone, whose first love was painting and who uses down time on tour  to create hyper-realistic images of life on the road (the “Road Series”), some of which were featured on a 30th anniversary Lynyrd Skynyrd greatest hits compilation

Lee Conklin – Lee Conklin was a popular poster artist working for the Bill Graham organization and produced a particularly trippy poster (aka “BG-134” to collectors) promoting two multi-day shows in late August/early September, 1968 at the Fillmore, with the resulting pen and ink image so impressing Carlos Santana that Lee was asked to create the now–famous “lion” cover for Santana’s debut album—s.html

Nic Dartnell – Nic Dartnell had to consider himself a lucky man (you KNOW that I had to work that in somewhere, right?) when, at the age of 18 and serving as an assistant at an Edinburgh record store after studying painting at the Leicester Art School, his artwork was selected to be used on the cover of the 1970 self-titled debut album by prog rock “supergroup” Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Rev. Howard Finster – In 2007, I had the chance to talk to Chicago-based art gallery owner David Leonardis about the works that Summerville, GA-based evangelical preacher and folk artist Rev. Howard Finster created for the two album covers he’s best-known for – R.E.M.’s Reckoning and the Talking Heads’ Little Creatures. Via his relationship with the late Reverend (who died in 2001), David became a Finster historian and, later, owner/curator of the Howard Finster Vision House museum (located directly across the road from Finster’s “Paradise Garden” home/studio)

Howie Green – While commercial artist Howie Green has built a loyal following of music fans on the basis of his astounding collection of his pop art-influenced interpretations of well-know record covers – one particular work caught the eye of just-the-right-person who elevated this work into “real album cover” status. Here’s my 2007 interview with Howie about “the making of” the cover of Mick Boogie’s Unbelievable: A Tribute to Biggie Smalls

Gerard Huerta – Gerard Huerta is a designer of letter forms. From trademarks and logotypes to mastheads, from illustrative lettering to Swiss Army watch face designs, he has worked in a variety of typographic styles. He began his career at CBS Records in New York designing album covers and creating letterforms for Boston, Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, Stephen Stills, Foreigner and, as is detailed in this 2007 interview, a high-powered logo for a then-unknown Australian band called AC/DC—a.html

Ioannis – As much as fans of the Allman Brothers Band love their recordings, it is the band’s live performances that have given them the opportunity to play to sold-out crowds for 50 years, so like any manager worth his/her salt, it was important in 1994 for Bert Hollman to find someone with the talent to produce just the right designs for the band’s tour merch and the cover for Where It All Began. This timely need opened the door for the artist known as Ioannis into the band’s inner world and, all these years later, the band and its fans continue to love the now-iconic mushroom-based design he created

Catherine Kanner – For the cover image on the record – 1979’s Slow Train Coming – that Bob Dylan had intended to release as a very public statement regarding his commitment to his new found Christian faith, he surely was not going to accept any image that did not illustrate this appropriately. In a last-ditch effort to deliver something that Dylan would accept, the record’s art director turned to his friend, illustrator Catherine Kanner, who he hoped would use her vast experience as an editorial illustrator to save the day (and it was the last day). In this 2008 interview, I asked Catherine to describe those most-interesting final 24 hours for my readers and, being the Precious Angel that she is, she was kind enough to comply—b.html

John Kehe – In the early 1970s, the Electric Light Orchestra was a hit in the U.K. and just beginning to make waves in the U.S.. It was at this time that the band’s U.S. label – United Artists Records – undertook the effort to rebuild its art department to better-accommodate its new roster of talent, engaging wunderkind art director Mike Salisbury to lead the effort and, as part of that process, Salisbury brought on recent art school graduate John Kehe and immediately put him on the project. John’s re-imagining of a popular corporate emblem would provide the perfect logo for a band well on its way to electrifying the pop charts and would be the first of scores of images Kehe would create – alone and later with several notable cohorts – at this early stage in what would be an illustrious (sorry for the art pun) career in nearly every aspect of the design/illustration business. I caught up with John via email in July, 2020 and asked him to take us back to that time in his career, and here’s a recap of our conversation –

Kyle Lambert – In 2019, I’d seen an article about the band Muse’s then-upcoming release (Simulation Theory, released in November, 2018 on Warner Bros. Records) and that they’d hired a young movie poster artist – Kyle Lambert, who’d worked on promo imagery for hit movies including Stranger Things and Jurassic Park, among others – to work with them to come up with just the right cover art for that record. Being that this was his first album cover project, I knew I’d have to find out more and share that conversation with you

John Lorenzi – Work hard and someone, someday will notice and reward you, right? In the case highlighted here though – that of artist/illustrator John Lorenzi – his own break came as the result of an almost-first-place (!!) finish in a contest to redesign an iconic image – that of Megadeth mascot Vic Rattlehead – where he just hoped to gain a little notice and, perhaps, win a guitar for his kid. As luck would have it, the designs he submitted caught the eye of just the right guy (i.e., Dave Mustaine) and, quite suddenly, John was now tasked with a much-larger project (i.e., the cover of 2007’s United Abominations) than he had ever thought he’d see arise from his contest entry, the details of which are covered in this Summer, 2010 interview

Faheem Majeed – In my July/August 2020 ACHOF news summary, I shared a link to a “Top 10 Favorite Album Covers” article on the Muse By Clio website I’d read written by a prominent Chicago-based artist named Faheem Majeed, a sculptor who had spent a number of years earlier in his career as the Director and Curator of the esteemed South Side Community Art Center. With credentials like that, I was not at all surprised to find this particular article both informative and a well-written and an interesting read overall. I was also intrigued by his choices for his list (and the reasons behind them), which prompted me to contact Mr. Majeed and ask him several questions about any influences album cover art/artists may have played on his life and career. This then led to a phone interview in which we covered several more topics – including some discussion about his own recent work on an album cover for Gangstagrass’ 2020 release No Time For Enemies, which features a custom collage he created – an article which will be found via the link –

James Marsh – While many acts/labels would commission album cover work from different designers over time, 1980’s New Wave hit makers Talk Talk instead teamed up with one talented individual – artist James Marsh – to create a memorable collection of album cover images that still impress and inspire 30+ years later. In 2012, I tracked down Mr. Marsh at his studio in the U.K. and asked him to provide an insight into both his relationship with this act and how he collaborated with his client to create the imagery for three of their later records – Spirit Of Eden, Laughing Stock and the After The Flood box set

Dave McMacken – Composer/guitar phenom Frank Zappa clearly appreciated the opportunity to use his records’ packaging to give fans even more to talk about (along with his music and lyrics). Art Director Cal Schenkel’s body of work clearly shows that, just as the composer’s music would continue to take new and exciting turns, so would his cover art. To continue this tradition of album art excellence on 1973’s Overnite Sensation, they (Zappa and Schenkel) would turn to the illustrator that had helped them with the promo artwork for the soundtrack album for 200 Motels, artist Dave McMacken.  After a somewhat messy break-up with his former business partners, this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time, and Dave was up for something new and exciting in his career. As you’d expect, the job – and the resulting image – pushed cover art – and the illustrator – to new extremes

Mike McInnerney – Mike McInnerney was the art editor for the International Times underground British newspaper when he met The Who’s Pete Townshend in 1967 at a gathering organized by the paper. An active member of the UFO Club and an ardent follower of Meher Baba, McInnerney introduced Townshend to the teachings of M. Baba and these influences ultimately shaped (to a certain degree) Townshend’s budding rock opera, Tommy. As their relationship grew and as the recording process advanced, Townshend finally commissioned McInnerney to do the cover. Rather than trying to portray the title character, Mike wanted to “picture his experience of being in a world without conventional

Terry Pastor – Always in the top 50 of everyone’s “Greatest LPs of All Time” listings, David Bowie’s 1972 release The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars tells the story of a visiting Martian who’s on a mission to save the world from its day-to-day humdrum. At that time, artist Terry Pastor relied on his own eyes and talents – and no high-tech gadgetry – to produce a memorable (and humdrum-free) color image for an entertainer soon to launch into the Pop Culture stratosphere

Rex Ray – Artist Rex Ray had impressed David Bowie – himself an accomplished painter and patron of the arts – with his talents in the early 1990s while he worked producing posters for Bill Graham Presents. This soon led to the two to collaborate on a myriad of fine art projects, culminating in the somewhat controversial collage Rex created for the cover of 2003’s Reality. I caught up with Rex in April, 2008 and asked him to help my readers get a better understanding of the pair’s working relationship over the years and the inspirations behind the fantastic anime-inspired collage he created

Jon Sarkin – Guster drummer Brian Rosenworcel then showed his good sense of timing when he asked an artist whose work he’d recently added to his own art collection to produce something wonderful for the cover of the band’s 2010 record Easy Wonderful. What Brian hadn’t bargained for was that, once this particular artist gets started on a project, prodigious amounts of artwork would be created and that this inspired effort would produce imagery that would be used in nearly every aspect of the band’s visuals (the cover, related merch and a highly-praised music video for the record’s first single)

Gerald Scarfe – Pink Floyd’s rock opera The Wall is the best-selling multi-disc recording of all time, having sold well over 30 million packages since its 1979 release. All Pink Floyd records since their 1967 release The Piper at the Gates of Dawn had featured cover designs/packaging by Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis but, for The Wall, the band chose U.K. cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe (who, as he’s stated, creates “drawings that are often a cry against that which I detest, and in showing my dislike I have to draw the dislikeable”) to create the now-famous packaging, stage props and concert animations—p.html

Winston Smith – With a pedigree that included works for the Dead Kennedys that were banned in some countries and lambasted by the Religious Right, artist Winston Smith found, in the red-hot Bay-area punk/pop band Green Day, a group of young collaborators eager to create a cover for their 1995 studio release Insomniac that would stick a pin through the eyelid of their fan base

Phil Travers – A late 60’s psychedelic record titled In Search of the Lost Chord from a band like The Moody Blues – and one that truly exemplified the notion of a long-playing sonic experience – could only be packaged in an album sleeve with a truly fantastic cover image. This would require a visual artist of exceptional talents, which prompted the band to turn to artist and illustrator Phil Travers, who’d impressed them with his previous work for the label and with whom they’d collaborate on their next five albums

John Van Hamersveld – when designer John Van Hamersveld, who’d established his industry cred via his poster and package designs for Hendrix, The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane and others, was approached by the Rolling Stones (who in 1972 were in a studio in LA putting the finishing touches on an album called Exile On Main Street) to work on the graphics and packaging for a songbook project the band wanted to release, he joined in on an interesting series of events on the day of their initial meeting had a profound impact on the course of album art history

Paul Whitehead – Artist Paul Whitehead was introduced to Genesis after producer John Anthony and Peter Gabriel saw his “High Tide” cover for Liberty Records and then more of his work in a London Gallery. They were looking for someone to work on the cover for what was to become their first record album and with that effort (and a meeting with Charisma label chief Tony Stratton-Smith) became the designer for Trespass, their next album (Nursery Cryme) and then, at 27 years of age, for the subject of this 2007 interview, Foxtrot