Friday, August 31, 2007

Logo #38: Mental Abuse

From a review of "Streets of Filth," the 1984 LP by New Jersey hardcore band Mental Abuse: "Thuddy, mid-rangey hardcore from a band of mental defectives (singer Sid Sludge was autistic) and outlaw bikers controlled by a shady manager with very deep pockets and a bizarre notion that the band could be a commercial success. A Mental Abuse movie exists." The album, with tracks like "Gimme Death," "Sock Woman," and "Security Guard," was heralded by this cartoon version of the lead singer. Sid sings: "The logo was done by Tommy "Gunn" O'Brien, a fan following the band around Dover NJ around 1983-84. I think he based the picture from the living-Sid Sludge who had a mohawk for a while. I think he has more teeth, though! Tommy silk-screened shirts and did flyers with the "Screaming Guy" just as the "Streets of Filth" record got released. Tommy was famous for wearing his black trenchcoat around the Showplace in Dover. He goes by Toxic Tommy now." Back then, like the one-legged lead singer from Texas punks Legionaire's Disease, someone like Sid would have been a curiosity at best and a misunderstood exile at worst. These days, people with whatever we're using as a euphemism for compromised mental state are lauded as "outsider artists" and celebrated beyond death - because, after all, the living death of nostalgia culture is forever.

Somewhat unrelatedly, Claire Forlani is twilight incarnate.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Logo #37: Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.)

Drawn by Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian (although some sources credit drummer Charlie Benante) in 1985, Sargeant D graced the cover of "Speak English or Die," the debut S.O.D. album for Roadrunner. With titles like "Kill Yourself," "Pre-Menstrual Princess Blues," and "Fist Banging Mania," it was all, in the words of Friend from "Zardoz," "just a joke" - although their 24-second magnum opus "F*ck The Middle East" still hits like a smart-bomb, timely as ever. Purportedly, Ian drew the good Sargeant as the epitome of - to strangle a phrase - life after hate. If he were drawn today, two decades later, how intense might that hatred be? Twenty years can be a long time. A new album was announced for 2005 and might just come out before the Mayans kill us all. The Not Man and Sargeant D will celebrate with beers. With Fear!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Logo #36: Grim Reaper

Illustrated by Garry Sharpe- Young for NWOBHM band Grim Reaper's 1984 debut "See You in Hell." They've reformed recently, under the name Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper, after a two-decade absence (or abscess, depending). They've renewed their melodic onslaught for an entirely new generation that will, as is usual in these times, abandon them in another five years even while the next cycle of repackaging + nostalgia (BFF!) gears up for their inevitable penultimate comeback. What happens when the people who illustrate Grim Reapers die? Do their drawings come for their souls? I find it endlessly difficult to believe that the cosmos has no sense of humor beyond us. Beyond that, there's nothing else to say other than this.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Logo #35: Fishbone

Designed by Fishbone producer David Kahne about six months before the first Fishbone EP (the one featuring "Party at Ground Zero", a single which featured dialogue in its fading moments that immediately perked up fans of the film "Kentucky Fried Movie"). Kahne: "I made that logo in MacPaint on the first Mac. I had done a demo with them (I was working at Columbia at the time) and wanted a special demo package instead of the normal Columbia in-house labels. So I made that logo, did the titles, ran some xerox copies, cut 'em out and put them in the cassette boxes. I knew there was going to be resistance to the signing, so I was doing my best to make it special. There was big resistance, especially from the Black Music Department (as it was called at the time - yikes), but I got them signed anyway. About six months later, a guy passed me on a bicycle and the logo was on his bicycle cap. When the Berlin Wall fell, someone from Germany sent me a photo of a section of wall that had a Fishbone logo on it. The humble icon had grown up."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Logo #34: Love and Rockets

Designed in 1985 by Love And Rockets - Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins, and David J - for the "Ball Of Confusion" single and used until the demise of the band in 1999. It's a singular, instantly recognizable emblem of a band that represented the absolute best of what the genre of gothic rock could be: its raw, (usually) untapped potential to evolve and improve and cover everything stylistically from Motown to psychedelia to heavy metal and, ahem, bees. It's very very strange to contemplate the progression from the bleakness of the whitewalled, remote Thatcherite England of the '80s to Daniel Ash playing records in a skunky dive bar in Ojai, California. Love & Rockets released about six truly great pop songs during their career - the kind of music that almost hurts physically to hear due to sheets of goosebumps running riot across the skin because the songs are so endlessly beautiful.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Logo #33: Simple Minds

Suggested by Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr in 1987 and touched up a bit by longtime Simple Minds graphic designer Malcolm Garrett, this ring design by Richard Joyce - artisan and slave to a Moorish goldsmith - dates from around 1689. The Claddagh ring comes from Claddagh, a suburb of Galway and purportedly the oldest fishing village in all of Ireland. There are various meanings to the symbol - from friendship to marriage - most of which can be found on dusty little cards in some of the finer souvenir shops. Simple Minds, a band that began life as Johnny and the Self-Abusers, soldiers on through the concert circuit, released an EP fairly recently and had one of the best of all possible songs of the 1980s. No, not that one.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Logo #32: Faith and the Muse

William Faith muses about the symbol adopted in 1994 by gothic atmosphere merchants Faith and the Muse: "The symbol embodies in itself the dual nature of mankind - the human animal, as it is, has been, and always will be. (It's) an acknowledgment of the refined side, as well as the animal within: good and evil, love and hate, birth and death, laughter and sorrow, light and shade - and, in our case, 'Beauty and Beast.' One cannot exist without the other, and the symbol is a reminder of that - too many people blind themselves to one side or the other, and the symbol is there to remind them to always think twice. The symbol appears in all our work as it's the best representation of what we do." It's easily turned into a sticker or the base for a pattern on one's camouflage backpack - but the aforementioned is purely a fuzzy pop culture pantomime on matters good-and-evil, fundamentally at odds with Catholic belief (Mel Gibson et alia notwithstanding) when it comes to inverted crosses. And they know their crosses! St. Peter was crucified on an inverted cross, his martyrdom a matter of choice when it came to modes of suffering. Eventually, Peter got a Basilica out of it and Caravaggio was still Caravaggio. Chalk one up for Stryper.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Logo #31: Public Enemy

Now it can be told! Chuck D: "I designed it in 1986. As a graphic graduate, I did it as a combo of two former groups. When the Public Enemy group and concept was signed to Def Jam in 1986, I simply moved the logo from the other dormant situation to PE. It was tightened up for the upcoming ads and album "Yo! Bum Rush The Show" in 1987 by New York artist Eric Haze. For the longest time, rumors had said it was a state trooper in the target scope, but the truth was it was a b-boy of that time where fedoras and Kangols were the hats of choice. I silhouetted E-Love, LL Cool J's right-hand man, in a fanzine named "Right On" with Magic Marker, X-acto-knifed it out then layed a target scope over it, using Wite-Out within the blackened figure. After some runs through the copier - presto."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Logo #30: Soulfly

Designed by longtime Samoan tattoo artist and sometime modern primitive Leo Zulueta in 1998 for Sepultura mainman Massimiliano "Max" Cavalera after he decided strike out on his own with Soulfly in 1997. The conventional wisdom among tattoo aficionados is that one should never get a band logo tattoo because it's so transitory a statement - but what about a band logo designed by a tattoo artist? Evocative of a tribal shield, it's a constant in a band that changes musicians as often as it travels through musical styles: metal, thrash, world music, deep groove. They are also quite possibly the heaviest thing to come out of Phoenix since the video game and the comic book mutant who has the power of tacky housing subdivisions and used car lots.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Logo #29: Die Tödliche Doris

An enigmatic emblem designed in 1980 by Die Tödliche Doris - or, The Deadly Doris, as she is sometimes known. This Berlin collective of multimedia and conceptual artists, led by Wolfgang Müller, in April 1983 released the proto-turntablist "Chöre & Soli (Choirs & Solos)," a work for records in laughing boxes. Among their many conceptual pieces is the recent "Gehörlose Musik" DVD, with all 13 tracks of their debut LP interpreted entirely as sign language live at the Berlin Volksbühne (about which they received word from German music publishers GEMA stating that there are no royalties for compositions based exclusively on sign language). About this logo, Müller recalls: "When we opened a bank account for our band in 1980, we noticed the logo of the Sparkasse Bank and decided to use it as a band logo, but inverted. We called this "Die Umkehrung der Werte" (The inversion of values / securities / assets). The original designer of the logo is Otl Aicher, who revived the Sparkassen logo in 1971. Aicher was responsible for the typical new (West) German design of the post-war era. He created logos for Lufthansa, the 1972 Münich Olympics, Dresdner Bank and many other famous logos. As a young boy, he refused to go to the HJ (Hitler Youth) and therefore didn't get his high school diploma. He hid for several months, from the beginning of 1945, because he didn't want to be a soldier fighting in Hitler's "Endkampf". After the war, Aicher was married to Inge Scholl, sister of the executed Sophie Scholl (who helped lead The White Rose, a German war resistance movement). We received a promotional postcard from Sparkasse showing an unknown rock trio (just a fake band, created probably just for the photo-shoot). So, we hid the original logo, painted the mirror-inverted Sparkassen symbol and put the letters "Die Tödliche Doris" on this card. This was our first autogramm (and was exhibited in Kunstraum Kreuzberg, 1999). The inversion of values and securities and assets relates to the German word "Werte" which means, in the German language, material and also immaterial values and securities and assets."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Logo #28: Sixth Comm

After Death In June founding member Patrick Leagas left in 1985 to start Sixth Comm, he designed this mask, later adopting a second, the kenaz rune, in 1991. Leagas: "I'm not really interested in talking about the meanings behind the logos, but anyone interested in symbolism, magic, paganism, etc. will be able to take a good guess. Every aspect about music, songs, artwork, lyrics seems to be dissected to an almost subatomic level these days. I think the world is more interesting because of its mysteries, not in spite of them." 'Nuff said!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Logo #27: Jawbreaker

Jawbreaker's logo was appropriated in 1989 from designer - and founding father of modern gymnastics - Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (August 11, 1778 – October 15, 1852), who created it circa 1846. Comprised of four F's, it's shorthand for the credo "Frisch, Fromm, Fröhlich, Frei" ("Hardy, Pious, Cheerful, Free") - although anyone who's gone through any amount of gymnastics training might imagine they had in fact been crucified by the end of the day. Jahn invented the balance beam, horizontal bar, parallel bars, and vaulting horse - the forms of which can be seen in this particular sigil. A pushy, stubborn loudmouth, Jahn was exiled from Berlin in 1825 and, not coincidentally, was a fit sumbitch. Jawbreaker broke up in 1996 after almost a decade of impassioned, literary hardcore punk rock. What was the last discipline you invented?

Logo #26: Devo

Devo's "energy dome" (or "flowerpot," as it's been re-purposed recently) is an emblematic piece of headgear designed collectively by Devo (Bob Casale, Gerald V. Casale, Bob Mothersbaugh, Mark Mothersbaugh, and "Oh That" Alan Myers) in 1980 and featured prominently on the cover of their "Freedom of Choice" LP. Just like the myriad varieties of Kryptonite, there are several colors of domes: green in 1981 for "Solid Gold"; white in 1982 during their spokesmanship for the then-new Diet Coke; silver chrome-domes for a few 2002 dates; and blue domes for Nike's 2004 "Run Hit Wonder" race and live action, coordinated with the event's overall color scheme. Gerald Casale explains, "(The Dome) was designed according to ancient ziggurat mound proportions used in votive worship. Like the mounds it collects energy and recirculates it. In this case the Dome collects energy that escapes from the crown of the human head and pushes it back into the medulla oblongata for increased mental energy." What Casale hasn't been able to explain is the existence of Devo 2.0, a particularly startling level of selling out that must have gone down quicker than a hand reaching for the Jergens on Valentine's Day.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Logo #25: Dead Milkmen

I realize that it may be a tad soon after the Inspiral Carpets cow to include another cow, but it's my birthday and I'm feeling generous. Why couldn't they be best-friend cows? Designed by Dead Milkmen drummer Dean "Dean Clean" Sabatino, it first appeared in 1983. Funny and simple, it suggests a simpler time, during which America was gripped by "The Far Side" fever, and any gag with a cow or a dinosaur was immediately brilliant. When Dave Blood (born Dave Schulthise, September 16, 1956 - March 10, 2004) died, after living an entirely different life in Serbia until the '99 NATO bombing, it was pretty much over for a punk rock band that created about a half-dozen truly great pop songs and made a lot of weird people really happy for over twenty years. Who could ask for anything more? Apart from the thing about Dave Blood still being alive, I mean.

Logo #24: Articles of Faith

Vic Bondi, guitarist / vocalist for Chicago hardcore band Articles of Faith, writes, "Like everything in those days, we designed it ourselves. All the other bands had logos, and we wanted one. We thought about an upside-down cross, or a cross like the cross of a rifle sight - but those were too close to other bands such as Die Kreuzen. So we ended up with the off-center cross. Kind of strange in a way: we and most of the other bands in those days were relentlessly anti-corporate, and yet we all quickly made "corporate-lite" logos. Our drummer Bill "Virus X" Richman probably did the bulk of the thinking, and certainly laid out the design. We probably did it in late 1981." Beautifully stark and completely effective in eye-catching, the placement of the cross-hairs (i.e. do you take the shot?) implies doubt and deviation, two things incessantly plaguing punk as a catalyst for lasting change. Punk's logical conclusion brings up a dilemma that can be summed up in just two words: "Now what?" "No future" was easy - everything just stops and that's that. "If they treat you like crap then act like manure" is a terrible slogan because it's too long - but it's a process that ultimately works purely through sheer Zen pragmatism. At one point, Bondi worked at Microsoft, editing entries for their Encarta encyclopedia. The fount of all knowledge. Irony of ironies.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Logo #23: Inspiral Carpets

To mark the endlessly depressing death of Tony Wilson (20 February 1950 - 10 August 2007), Factory Records founder and herald of all interesting music to come from Manchester - an endlessly encouraging pile - here is the 1986 "Cool As F*ck" bovine logo for "Madchester" band Inspiral Carpets. From their website: "It's with great sadness that we hear of the passing away of Tony Wilson. Tony was a massive supporter of Inspiral Carpets, giving us our first break on TV with his "Other Side of Midnight" programme and he was instrumental in us setting up our own record label, Cow Records. His maverick style and acerbic wit will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with all his family and friends. " Worth digging out of the record pit: Facd325, a.k.a. "Martin: The Work of Record Producer Martin Hannett," released 1991 as a benefit for the family of then-recently departed Martin Hannett. This compilation contains the Howard Devoto-era Buzzcocks; the brilliant paean to capital punishment, "Suspended Sentence", by John Cooper Clarke, who dated Nico at the end of her life and whose "Evidently Chickentown" appeared in the closing credits of the first episode of the final season of "The Sopranos." Also: "Do the Du" by A Certain Ratio, a band that Wilson tried and tried to break huge but for some strange reason the magic never quite took with the predictably slow listening public; "11 O'Clock Tick Tock", one of about a half-dozen U2 songs that are even worth half a damn; the 1978 "Jilted John" single by British humorist Graham Fellows working under the Jilted John moniker, a sad story that would six years later be picked up by British hardcore band Animal Farm and continued as the B-side of their "Model Soldier" 7"; and the breathlessly affecting OMD single, "Almost," which features one of the best of all possible synth melodies of the 1980s (OMD distressingly tends to play it about half a measure too fast in concert). Of course there's also Joy Division and Happy Mondays and New Order and as Franco Battiato's record label use to say, "bla bla." And yet it's not as if Tony hasn't already met God - it was in the movie. As with more than a few things Tony Wilson championed (the extortionately underrated Durutti Column, for example), one need only know where to look - and for how long.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Logo #22: Sepultura

Designed in 1990 during Sepultura's "Arise" recording sessions by friend and fellow Brazilian musician and Overdose lead singer Pedro Alberto "Baza" (or "Bozo") Amorim, this emblem is often referred to as the "bone" logo, although it looks slightly crustacean and more than a little alien. Sepultura - a band named after the Portuguese for word for "grave" and not the intersection of Sepulveda and Ventura Boulevards - was founded in the early 1980s in Brazil, its passionate thrash metal forged in the fires of the Figueiredo military regime, the decline of the pornochanchada film industry and the continued reign of the Catholic Church, which, understandably, is not too “hot” for any metal heavier than gold. So to speak!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Logo #21: AC/DC

Despite repeated allegations by a few staunch Christian evangelicals that AC/DC's lightning bolt is a Satanic one, designer Gerard Huerta responds, "It is difficult to understand the controversy of this lettering when you know the origin. I was an album designer at CBS and in 1975 I did some lettering for a Blue Öyster Cult live album called "On Your Feet or On Your Knees." As it featured a church on the cover, I researched Bible lettering, in particular Gutenberg Bible, the first printed book. I designed the lettering based on these religious forms that came from hand-done calligraphy. I rendered them in metal as there was a limousine on the cover and I thought the idea of a car marque would be cool. In 1976 I designed some lettering for an album called "AC/DC High Voltage." They had used the lightning bolt to represent electricity in the Australian version so I was asked to design one into the lettering. In 1977 I was asked to design some lettering for an album called "AC/DC Let There Be Rock," on obvious reference to the bible. I recalled the lettering I used on Blue Öyster Cult and designed this version to be placed in the sky which was shining down on the group on stage. The orange contrasted nicely with the dark blue sky and I added dimension to the lettering as in the Blue Öyster Cult job. In the late '70s there was a rush of typography which seemed to be influenced by this style and was referred to as "Goth." Maybe as a result of the types of groups that AC/DC and Blue Öyster Cult were this typography started to be associated with heavy music. But as you can see from my standpoint it was more "Gutenberg" than "Goth"." This was a calligraphic style that also manifested in barrio murals and gang graffiti throughout the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area. Huerta also designed the logos for Nabisco, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Eternity perfume(!). Fortunately, the satanic lightning-bolt crowd has moved on to the evils of Harry Potter and homos and we're all really glad they did.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Dr. Know: Logo #20

Drawn by future "Love and Rockets" graphic blandisher Jaime Hernandez in "1981 or early 1982," the good folks at Dr. Know tell us, "The supposed woman he based the girl on is Dinah Cancer from 45 Grave." Jaime's brother Ismael, who designed the similarly seminal Nardcore logo (on a Pee-Chee folder, naturally), plays bass in Dr. Know, a band of many logos: the girl, another girl, the Rx symbol of an understandably mortified pharmaceutical industry, the spider in the "o" in Dr. Know. It wouldn't seem as if Oxnard - town of eternal ridicule on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" - would spawn that much interesting art, but three musical styles were nurtured within its borders: turntablism (via DJ Babu), Nardcore (via Dr. Know) and literalism (via me, with one convenient location, member FDIC).

Monday, August 6, 2007

Shattered Faith: Logo #19

Designed by Shattered Faith lead vocalist Spencer Alston Bartsch around 1978 or 1979. The (abstract) cross, the communal circle, even the abstract halo à la da Vinci's "The Last Supper" - it's all there. An Orange County punk band that started around the same time as T.S.O.L. and Social Distortion, their later logo - that of a skull casting the shadow of a crucifix - further illustrated themes of doubt and longing both political and religious. Religion in punk rock is always a dicey opera, if only because punk's dedication to rebellion and libertinism makes the appearance of religion at best intrusive, and at worst, violently unnecessary. Possibly the solace that the church takes is that if the China White and the Stoli doesn't get to them, reformation and religion ultimately might. When they weren't overturning the tables of the money-lenders, Shattered Faith occasionally showed up on interesting things like their Spot-produced tracks on the brilliantly titled New Underground "Life Is Boring So Why Not Steal This Record" compilation LP, alongside Germs, Zurich 1916, Carl Stone, and L.A. Free Music Society's The Doo-Dooettes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Spaceman 3: Logo #18

Speaking of eyes, this symbol, designed by Pete "Bassman" Bain in 1986, gazes out with hypnotic lightning, zonking you into blissful submission with the implication of fertile and colorful sound. It should be noted that the same year this logo emerged, Spaceman 3 recorded the demos that would become the "Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To" LP, which is one of the better titles ever imagined. Look at that comforting, all-inclusive circle. Isn't that nice? Completely erases the urge to do the whole "Niagara Falls" thing. Member Pete Kember would go on to become Sonic Boom, and co-founder Jason Pierce became Spiritualized, as would you if you listened to the grace of their collected works intently and repeatedly.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Einstürzende Neubauten: Logo #17

Created by an unknown Toltec, this "Cyclops" was appropriated by Einstürzende Neubauten member Blixa Bargeld in 1980 after he discovered it during a search for mythological icons. The Toltec civilization, legendarily founded by the winged serpent Quetzalcoatl, offered up this petroglyph at some point between 700 and 1200 A.D. in central Mexico, succeeding the Olmecs and Mayans and preceding the Aztec and Incan civilizations. Official word - finally! - on this logo from Bargeld Central tells all: "The Sign was discovered in a Mexican cave. There are several possible interpretations: sun and human being, shaman, or a person of great power. The strength of the symbol, when you compare it to others {e.g. the cross}, lies in the fact that it has a creature-like appearance - it has an eye!"

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Anti-Nowhere League: Logo #16

Created by Nick "Animal" Kulmer in 1980, it...well, let's just let Nick crystallize this one eloquently, shall we? "I designed it, mate - and it first appeared on my arm (as a tattoo) in 1980...eazy...". I LIKE that. Just...easy. It subsequently became the cover star of the 1981 "Streets of London" LP; the logo for NWOBHM band Streetfighter is somewhat similar but it appeared in 1982 and since when do heavy metal bands rip off their punk brethren and/ or sestren? Hovering somewhere between Jack Kirby and Jack Chick in its level of folk art panache, it's a symbol of a punk rock band that delivers, in its grooves, what the mace and fist promise physically. Indeed, after their first live action in Tunbridge Wells, the local press called it a "cacophony of noise" - no mean feat in the wake of melody's faded dream, spit up and reversed by noise and nihilism as it was in 1981. Anti-Nowhere League drummer Michael Bettell (February 26, 1962 - September 9, 2003) is now fêted with the annual Drumming Up Hope event, which raises money for local Essex hospitals. No word on how many people are treated each year for mace wounds, though.