Let’s talk about album covers & screen-printing…

Amos - Showtime

I’m not sure how the people at Sounds of Subterrania got my info, but they were kind enough to invite me to participate in a pretty awesome thing going on for the release of a new album on their label: AMOS – Showtime.

And to be perfectly honest, I had not heard of AMOS before this project. But immediately upon seeing his website, and listening to some preview tracks they provided for the invited participants, I was fully on-board. He’s got a pretty distinct look, and an equally distinct and amazing sound. Watch and listen here: AMOS on Facebook.

Essentially, the project consists of a group of artists and designers who were invited to create album covers for AMOS’ new album called “Showtime.” Each artist was mailed a blank LP sleeve onto which they were to create their design. I found this pretty intimidating, considering I was planning on screen-printing onto mine, and fixing screen-printed mistakes isn’t particularly fun. I guess if I needed a second cover I could have asked for one, but I really wanted to get it right the first time. More about that later.

Here is a description of the album from AMOS’ website:

Showtime is the name of AMOS’ upcoming album – to be released
on 26 Aug, 2010.

11 brandnew rock tracks herald a new chapter for German-Iranian universal talent.

“Showtime” presents an AMOS who has grown up and lost his constraints, leaving the dancefloor of his earlier releases behind to tread in the footprints of traditional rock bands.

With guitar work reminiscent of Brian May and Steve Stevens, vocal lines to match Lou Gramm or Rick Springfield and Led Zeppelin-style interludes as a striking touch in today’s musical climate, AMOS remains true to his own distinctive style throughout, with his finger firmly on the pulse of contemporary music.

The album is broad in scope, with each track packed with individual dynamism. From the straightforward up-tempo rhythm of “Showtime”, languid power of “Love Between Men” and anthemic pop rock of “Are You Ready” to the cheesy instrumental “White Snow” and balladesque rock melodrama “Last Song”, AMOS rolls out his multifaceted talent with the confidence of an artist in his element.

The album’s lyrics are far more profound than its predecessor, examining inner conflict – in “Showtime” and “New York City” – or focusing on social conflict, as in “Are You Ready” and “Us Against the Rest of the World”. AMOS’s trademark humour surfaces blackly in “Thinking of You” and “Supersonnig”, his first song in German language, which tackles the current hot topic of insatiable material greed.

The album was produced in collaboration with Christian Wosimski and Martin Bartscher from the band Bitune.

And here is a description of the project:

“Showtime” is the new Rock-Album by the german-iranian musician and entertainer AMOS.
“Showtime” is also an international art-event.

The record will be released on 26 August 2010 on Sounds of Subterrania in Hamburg.
On vinyl with a blank white cover. More than 450 visual artists from all over the world and across all genres are creating individual artworks. They live in Munich, Berlin, Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles, on the Phillipines, in Budapest, Rome or Barcelona.

The price for the artwork including the record is set by the visual artist himself. All one-off pieces will be presented and for sale in an online-gallery on www.amos-showtime.com.

Also starting on 26 August 2010, there will be a five-week-tour through Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland with exhibitions in offline galleries and “Showtime”-Release-Concerts. Vernissages and concerts will be combined to full-evening-events.

On this platform – especially via the blog in our Newsroom – we want to provide you with inside information about AMOS’ new music, about all participants and the work in progress. This blog should serve you as a tool for researching, networking or simply for having some fun. We are looking forward to you coming back frequently and are happy for your comments.

We don’t want to miss pointing out that this whole project is, of course, commercially driven. The AMOS Showtime provides a chance for artists to sell their work. Hopefully we will reach a synergy for all participants. The visual artists will present and interpret AMOS. In return, AMOS and his label present and promote the visual artists for the ears and the eyes. Art pieces are made to stimulate your senses, but don’t forget that those stimulators need to make a living. Support them and preserve their art by buying it.

Very cool! A list of all participants is here.

Now. My approach to this project was similar to The New Pornographers poster I last wrote about. It uses some of the same techniques, but in some new ways. Plus, I was printing onto a 1 of 1 LP sleeve, instead of a bunch of posters where registration can vary without having a HUGE effect on the overall project. In this case, if the one and only print that matters is messed up, well… I’m screwed. To that end, I decided that instead of buying films and burning a bunch of screens for one singular print, I would create an editioned print that would be independent of the AMOS project, but would be the same artwork. In other words, I made a print that happened to be used as the art for this album. Something like that. Anyway… You’ll see the same kind of concentric circles, wobbly circles/ovals holding various images, textures, and whatnot. The colors are super eye-burning orange, magenta, and silvery black, as a nod to the crazy and intense sound of the album. Each of the textures could be said to represent the various layers and textures found in the music. I don’t think it’s a far stretch to see the radiating lines and op-art-like images as a direct visual interpretation of AMOS’ sound. It’s pretty easy to make the connection between concepts in music and concepts in design like rhythm, texture, color, etc. So rather than use (many) recognizable concrete images, including images of AMOS himself, I decided to let the color, texture, and rhythm stand as visual metaphors. And I used modular typography that I developed for a previous project for the name AMOS on the cover, and Clarendon Stencil for the title of the album Showtime. I like the idea of modular type that’s broken across two colors, making the words illegible until all the colors are printed and can work together to construct the word. Clarendon Stencil provides a nice compliment as it is more sophisticated, yet also modular and broken, and printed with one color.

Finally, for the back of the LP sleeve, I wanted to use one of the amazing photos that the label provided of AMOS. As previously mentioned, he has a pretty distinctive look, and I certainly wanted to take advantage of that. So I cropped one of the photos down to just his face with his eye burning a hole through the camera. And to tie it to the cover visually, I converted the photo into a line-halftone and overlayed a star-target printers mark blown up to the size of the full back. This created a pretty awesome moiré effect when converged with the photograph’s line-halftone at 45 degrees.

I took a whole mess of photos to document the process. Let’s have a look:

Here are screenshots taken of the Channels, representing each screen, in Photoshop. I use the Channels palette instead of Layers because it more closely resembles working with films:

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Orange plus Magenta:


Plus Black:


Here are the separations for the back of the sleeve:

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Here are the separations as I got them from the shop downtown where I have them printed:

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They are black toner on translucent vellum, so that light can pass through them and react with the photosensitive emulsion coating the screen. I’m showing them here all layered, but of course they would be exposed one at a time.


Here are some screens with the images “burned” into the emulsion:

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As you can see (hopefully) the emulsion literally acts as a stencil, allowing ink to pass through where I want it to, and blocks it where I do not.

Now the printing:

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Thanks for reading! I hope this sheds some light on the process and gives some insight as to how this project evolved. Keep an eye on the AMOS page at Facebook to see contributions from other artists and to find out when and where these will be available.

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