In what’s becoming a tradition for most of our releases, I’ve been providing a background into the creative direction that went into our album covers. Now, if ever a cover required some explanation, it would be for Unearthed. For starters, a lot of people have reached out and have taken an interest in the cover, and wanted to know if there were any influences that inspired the design, or just generally wanted to know ‘w’sup with that cover?’ Aside from that, the influence that inspired the creative direction was actually quite involved, which I’ll detail. For this cover, I knew that I wanted to go with an illustration, and wanted to take the idea of unearthing a diamond into a more cosmic realm, instead of keeping the concept grounded. After sharing my ideas with the homey Doug Cohen, he referred me to the graphic design genius of Mike Jones, whose developed quite a portfolio over the years for his work with Mishka, Mad Decent, The Hundreds, and more. I was already familiar with Mike’s work, and thought his style that blends caricatured images with these pop art sensibilities was an ideal fit.
Working with Mike was dope. After we outlined a plan of attack, he sent over an email that had all these images that supported different elements of the overall design scheme. I was pretty floored, dude did his homework, and it shows that he’s not only a talented artist, but very savvy when it came to his art history. Eventually, Mike and I narrowed down four images that would provide inspiration, which include the Paul Lehr designed cover for Isaac Asimov’s The Martian Way and Other Stories (1955), the Tadanori Yokoo designed cover for The Wonders of Life on Earth, by Isamu Kurita (1966), the movie poster for Nicholas Meyer’s Time After Time (1979), created by Lawrence Noble, and last but not least, space artist B.E. Johnson and The Drawing Board’s time-honored album cover for Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet LP (1990). So without further adieu, press play on the SoundCloud player for Unearthed below, while you check out all the images and details…
1. Isaac Asimov – The Marian Way and Other Stories (Designed by Paul Lehr):
The Martian Way and Other Stories is a 1955 released collection of four science fiction novellas previously published by Isaac Asimov in 1952 and 1954. Although it seems that there’s three different covers of this book in existence, it’s the version designed by Paul Lehr that borrowed influence for the design for Unearthed. You can see the influence in both the presentation of the Earth, from both an artistic and spatial perspective. The presence, and positioning of the UFO’s near the planet is also largely shaped by Lehr’s design. For some more background, Lehr, who lived from 1930 to 1998, is known for being one of the most prolific and well known futuer-fantasist painters of the post-pulp era. To view more of his work, head over to his artist profile page, courtesy of Visual Melt.
2. Isamu Kurita – The Wonder of Life on Earth (Designed by Tadanori Yokoo):
Although my internet spelunking couldn’t expunge much information on Isamu Kurita’s The Wonder of Life on Earth, I was able to discover that the books cover illustrator, Tadanori Yokoo, is a well known Japanese stage designer, printmaker and painter known for painting in an expressionistic figurative style that used photographs of the basis for his design. As you can see the red and yellow contrasts and shadowing of the title panel for Unearthed was largely inspired Tadanori’s image. Head over to the MoMa’s website to learn more about this eclectic designer.
3. Time After Time, Directed by Nicholas Meyers (Designed by Lawrence Noble):
Time After Time is the 1979 directorial debut from Nicholas Meyers. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Karl Alexander where H.G. Wells played by a young Malcolm McDowell, pursues Jack the Ripper through 19th-century London to San Francisco in the late ’70s. You can click here to check out the theatrical trailer (no, we will not give you those three minutes back). The film art was designed by the renown Lawrence Noble, whose also designed several other iconic movie posters, which include Flash Gordon, as well as the tenth anniversary poster for The Empire Strikes Back. Noble’s also an accomplished sculptor to boot, and has designed the Olympic Gold Medal for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Creatively, Noble’s use of the hand clutching the hand clock for the Time After Time poster inspired the idea for Mike to design an alien hand that would unearth the diamond.
4. Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet (Designed by B.E. Johnson):
Of all the influences that helped inspire the design for Unearthed, I think it’s safe to say that B.E. Johnson and The Drawing Board’s timeless cover for Public Enemy’s third studio album, Fear of a Black Planet, played a significant role. Although the cover for Unearthed doesn’t depict the characteristics of your typical rap album, nor is it intended to convey the social themes addressed on FOABP, there’s no denying the influence of space artist B.E. Johnson’s planet and space themed background, when taking just one glance at Unearthed. A true renaissance man, B.E. Johnson is known as a ‘method painter’ in many art circles, and in addition to being a member of the prestigious NASA art program, Johnson, was also a member of the Penske racing team, a known computer whiz, licensed pilot, and was on the landing crew of the STS-9 Columbia space shuttle flight in 1983. His award-winning work has been published in several publications, including National Geographic, The New Yorker, Scientific American, Time and Newsweek.
“Throughout all of human exploration, Art, in one form or another, has always been our first vehicle.” -B.E. Johnson, 1970
Here’s some additional artwork found in the album packaging for Double Disc CD of Unearthed. The image continues the theme of the album cover where one of the UFO’s is towing the ‘unearthed’ diamond back to their planet. Who knows what they’ll need it for — maybe to power the sound set for an intergalactic throw down.. hmmmm.