The Project

I’ve written elsewhere that all I ever needed to know about professional creativity I learned in anonymous rock bands. Part of that was cutting my teeth with some initially rudimentary, then increasingly professional design work on album art for the music projects I was part of—more than a dozen releases and over fifty gigs with three different bands.

I’d sneaked in through the design industry’s side door circa 2003 thanks in part to my various album cover designs, but the reissue idea came up in 2015. By then I was a twelve-year design industry veteran and had finally made a solo CD after almost two decades writing and playing music. Rotten Miracles is about the ups and downs of professional creativity, and I illustrated the artwork with a series of fun, simple, three-color digital images primarily starring my two Fender bass guitars.

The Rotten Miracles project was also a sort of capstone for my amateur music career, inadvertently moving my nostalgia into high gear—especially for my first band, a retro-60s-blues-surf-garage outfit called The Mojo Wire. That band’s first album Battery Acid Blues turned 20 years old in December 2017, so to celebrate the anniversary I redesigned the old home-made CD-R cover art for all four Mojo Wire releases from 1997-2001.

Each album got a new 20-page booklet—with photos, illustrations, liner notes, and quickie essays all crammed into a PDF. I remastered the audio, added some bonus tracks, uploaded everything to Bandcamp, and called it a “digital reissue.”

Applying my professional skills to amateur pieces I’d made decades before, without software or scanners or any real design knowledge beyond instinct and middle/high school art classes, was a unique exercise in discipline and humility. I was retouching old photos, digging up illustration credits, and in one case replacing an entire amateur watercolor piece with heavily manipulated NASA photos just to edit some type.

In Fall 2018 I repeated the redesign process for two of my favorite music projects. One was for my second band Honey White‘s full-length studio debut How Far is the Fall (2005), which got a deluxe treatment with bonus tracks and two redesigned 44-page PDF booklets containing more photos, lyrics, liner notes, and band interviews.

The second 2018 reissue was for my own solo side project The Weapon of Young Gods (2008), the instrumental soundtrack to a novel I eventually finished in 2012. I’d been designing publications for my entire career, so a 200-page-plus-cover book layout was easy. Writing it was hard, even after I made music to listen to while typing. The album aged much better than the book, but both are together here: a 20-page PDF booklet with photos, liner notes, a short essay, and the novel as a PDF.

I’ll admit I hype my old bands the way other people talk about their high school sports career. Even so, why go to such lengths for a questionable collection of unabashed juvenilia? Mostly because it validates what I do now, and not just for music hobbies or album art design (which I’ll do anytime at all). It shows me that I’ve learned a lot in the past 20 years, and that many of my then-untrained instincts about taste and visual communication were good ones.

Thanks for the indulgence. Follow the link at right for the whole sordid saga and stay tuned for more in 2019!

—Keir