Just/Talk: Justin Strauss with Nick de Ville

There’s a kind of synergy that happened in the 60s and 70s when album art was given as much weight as the music, when they existed as conjoined ideas that reflected, juxtaposed and pushed each other. Sometimes you couldn’t distinguish the two in your mind, and any time you recalled a song or heard it, the cover would flash indelibly across your mind’s eye. Nick de Ville was a true conductor for this synergy, creating some of the most noteworthy and emblematic covers for Roxy Music and beyond. He compressed an era onto the static square of record sleeves as a canvas for expressing the sentiment and mood of a culture around music, art, sex, typography and confrontation. Today, they still burn.
 
For this edition of Just/Talk, artist and art historian Nick de Ville sits down with Ace friend and legendary DJ Justin Strauss and discusses the power of inauthenticity, shifting eras and styles and what to do when the weather changes on you mid-shoot. 

Justin Strauss:
Here we are with Nick de Ville. So, where did you grow up in England?

Nick de Ville:
I was born in a small town, rural Staffordshire, in the Midlands.

JS:
And how did you end up in Newcastle, where you met Bryan Ferry?

NdV:
I left school about 1962, and I went to study architecture at Manchester University. And I was there for two terms, and I realized I was not enjoying it. So then I came back home and I went to the local art school for two years. Then, what happened was, the guy who was running the course I was on had been a student at Newcastle University and he invited Richard Hamilton to come and give a talk. He arrived, and he gave a talk about Marcel Duchamp. Richard Hamilton was… I don’t know whether you know him.

JS:
I do know.

NdV:
He’s quite a famous pop artist. At that time, he was in contact with Duchamp, and a bit later he ended up curating the first show at the Tate, the Duchamp retrospective. So, I came across Duchamp, being a sort of callow 18 or 19-year-old. Before that, all art education that I’d come across had been dominated by École de Paris: Picasso, Matisse…

JS:
Classics, as they say.

NdV:
Hardly anybody in Britain knew about Duchamp at that time, 1963, 64, so I thought, “Well, I’ve got to get a bit more of this.” Richard Hamilton was teaching at Newcastle, so I applied to Newcastle and got in, and went there. I learned a lot from Hamilton, and I became his assistant. So, I stayed at his place when he was doing The Guggenheim reliefs, which was a big series that he was working on then.

JS:
Was this early 70s?

NdV:
No, that was mid-60s. I was still a student at Newcastle, and I lived in Eslington Terrace, which is now quite a posh area of Newcastle in a suburb, Jesmond, and there were a lot of fine art students and architects living in that particular street where I was living. Bryan Ferry lived two doors down. He was in the year ahead of me, so he left Newcastle in 68 and I left Newcastle in 69. That was after four years of being stuck up in the Northeast of England and it kind of seemed like in 1969, everything had finished. It had all been done because you knew that, in terms of art, minimalism, hard-edged abstraction, conceptualism, they’d all been fully worked out — we knew about that mainly through art magazines.

Then The Beatles had broken up; Jimi Hendrix was dead. It seemed like, in rock and roll and popular culture, it had all been done. Pop Art, English Pop Art, was already disintegrating, if it ever was a movement. What we thought of as pop artists were saying, “Well, I was never a pop artist. No, I was never a pop artist. Don’t like the term,” and so on.

JS:
What did you think of the Pop Art stuff that was coming out of New York? Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein, all of that.

NdV:
Yeah, we knew all about that. We knew a lot about what was going on in New York even though we were in Newcastle. When Andy Warhol got shot, which is what changed things as far as The Factory was concerned, I read about that in a music paper, because there was more interest, or as much interest, in Warhol because of what he was doing with the Exploding Plastic Inevitable and Lou Reed and so on. And his filmmaking as well at that time, which seemed very much an extension of what Hamilton was interested in. Hamilton left at the end of my first year, but in that year he produced his version of the “Large Glass,” which was the centerpiece of the Duchamp exhibition at the Tate. The original Large Glass, which is in Philadelphia, couldn’t be moved, so he was tasked with the job of making a replica.

JS:
He was a pretty successful artist and teaching at a school. He was doing both at the same time?

NdV:
Yeah, he was. Well, he had been for quite a while. But by the mid-60s he was no longer teaching, so I just caught him, right at the end.

JS:
How was the experience of working for him?

NdV:
Well, he was very exact about everything. He was a nice guy, but he was very cool, and so you were left sometimes wondering, “What the hell is going on here?” There was a constant stream of people coming through at that time, through his studio. He lived in Highgate then, and there was a constant stream of people coming because his international success was just taking off. I was rubbing down fiberglass for his Guggenheim series and that was sort of at the end of it for me, coming out of art school. It felt like there was this tremendous ennui, and everything had been done, so what the hell do we do now?

JS:
You and Bryan had become friends at this point?

NdV:
Yes, but Bryan was already in London. Bryan came to London, and he was teaching ceramics in a secondary school. So, I left Newcastle in 69, and I went to teach. I got a job straight away teaching in an art school in the Midlands. I was working for another pop artist at that time called Tony Donaldson, and I was again rubbing down fiberglass, molded fiberglass sculptures. Tony Donaldson is not very well-known now, but he’d been on a Harkness scholarship to the West Coast. He knew Ed Ruscha and Joe Goode and a lot of Californian artists. So, I met Ed Ruscha. He came to London. Ed Ruscha was making some prints with a guy whose name I can’t remember. Ruscha was silk-screening with squashed vegetables. God knows what happened to those prints, but they didn’t strike me as being very durable. After two years teaching in the Midlands, I got a job teaching at Goldsmiths so I came down to London. At that point, Bryan had just gotten Roxy Music together. I can’t remember the details exactly, but he asked me to work on the first album sleeve, for which I got paid the princely sum of £50, if I remember correctly.

We were interested in glamour, inauthenticity and the idea of adopting personas, and the idea that those personas could change. You could be one thing one day, and another thing another day.

JS:
Had they already been signed by Island Records at that point?

NdV:
They’d certainly been signed by EG Records, and they were living together. Well, Bryan and Andy McKay, and I don’t know who else — they were living in a little cottage in Battersea at that time.

JS:
Was the music a big part of your social connection?

NdV:
In Newcastle there was a venue where an awful lot of 60s acts played, so I did see quite a lot of music there. There was a club called the Club A’ Go Go, which also had live acts. Bryan was in a band. He had a band in Newcastle called The Gas Board, so he was already in a band when he was a student.

JS:
Did you ever imagine yourself designing record covers?

NdV:
No, I was going to be an artist. I was teaching Fine Art. So, my first job was teaching Foundation, we were preparing students to apply to Fine Art or Graphic Design courses. We were taking these callow kids who’d come straight from school, and we were creating portfolios with them. It was like an industry. We were like a factory for turning these school kids into viable art students. We were incredibly good at it. There were several of us doing it, teaching these kids. It was a lot of fun, but when you’d done it twice you thought, “I’m not going to go on doing this the rest of my life, you know, this kind of sausage machine, sausage factory way of doing things.” I really wanted to get out of there, and I wanted to get to London.

JS:
This is in 1971?

NdV:
1971 I arrived, the autumn of 1971. I mean, I’d been coming down before a lot because I was living at Tony Donaldson’s. Tony Donaldson lived in Chelsea. He had a studio in Chelsea.

JS:
Did you and Bryan talk about his ambitions or his vision for Roxy Music? The music, their look and the imagery of the records was pretty unique at the time.

NdV:
Well, I think we must have talked about it a lot. You know, the hippies had been all about authenticity. There was this kind of thing about authenticity, and I think what we were interested in was adopting a persona. This kind of artificiality about it. It’s like one of these pre-Postmodern dilemmas. Do I really have an identity? Is my identity something I can manipulate, and can I change identities at will? I think we were all very interested in that. That was very much in the air. There were other people interested in it as well. Bowie was doing Ziggy Stardust about that time. So I think we were interested in glamor, inauthenticity and the idea of adopting personas, the idea that those personas could change. You could be one thing one day, and another thing another day. So, definitely. They’re called fluid identities nowadays, aren’t they?

JS:
Were there album covers that were a big influence on you when you saw them? The Beatles, or David Bowie?

NdV:
No.

JS:
The first Roxy Music album cover obviously evokes a 50s glamour pin-up.

NdV:
It was much more to do with Vargas and Vogue. I mean, you know, Karl Stoecker, the photographer who we chose, he was photographing for Vogue. So, that was a deliberate choice. Anthony Price was an ex-fashion student. So, we had all the tools, really. We had a Vogue photographer, we had Anthony Price who was a fashion designer.

JS:
It was a very collaborative process going on, making the record and the visuals that went along with it?

NdV:
Yes, it was very collaborative.

JS:
Who had the initial idea for what this would look like?

NdV:
Well, Bryan, he was definitely the client. In the end, it was going to fit his vision. There was never any doubt about that.

JS:
As the art director, what was your role? Did you find the photographer?

NdV:
No, I didn’t find the photographer. I don’t know how we found the photographer. I can’t remember that.

JS:
The model?

NdV:
Kari Ann? Bryan knew her. My role was assembling the ideas, and getting rid of all the bad ones. What I was interested in was simplicity. So, when I look back at all the album covers that were being done and had been done in the late 60s, they all seemed very complicated to me, and I wanted to go back to something very simple, and kind of Hollywood in an old 1930s way: you know, these deckle-edged photographs on the inside of the gatefold.  I seem to remember that Andy McKay found this quilted background that was sold in Woolworths, one of those Fablon things. I don’t know if you know what Fablon was. It’s kind of sticky-backed, and you put it onto a kitchen surface if you want to clean it up. So, it was a bit like that. There were bits and pieces coming from all around, and they had to be assembled. But it was really, “Keep it simple, keep it clean, keep it minimal. Don’t mess it up.” My mission really was to have an album cover with no lettering on it at all.

JS:
I was going to ask you about that. It did have some.

NdV:
Yeah, well I did try. I did one with King Crimson, which was just a hand holding up a metal plate.

JS:
Record companies don’t like that.

NdV:
No, they hate it. They’re literalists. I think it was the power of the image. We were interested in the power of the image, of course, because we were art students.

I think, for me, the second album cover was really a tour de force. It was very adventurous.

JS:
Was the record done already? How influential was the music in relation to what you put on the cover?

NdV:
In the first album, I certainly know an enormous amount of the references. But Bryan had a very particular way of working, because he produced that album and then the label said, “Okay, what’s the single?” So, he said, “Oh, well …” Because in those days, you took a track off the album, what you thought was the most suitable track for a single. I mean, we’re talking about before downloads. So, the idea was, you made an album and, if possible, you issued two or three singles off the album so you boosted the sales, and that could go on over a period of months. Bryan said, “No, I’m going to write a single. I’m going to write a classic pop single, rock/pop single.” So, that’s when he wrote “Virginia Plain.” So, he wrote it as, “Okay, this is going to be the single.” It wasn’t a process of the record company bosses deciding which track off the album was going to be the single. When you’re thinking about personas, and adopting, “So, I’m going to be a rock star, and my power is such that I can just write a hit single to order.”

JS:
But he’s pretty much calling the shots about how this record’s going to be released, and how this band is going to be perceived.

NdV:
It seemed very deliberate, a project.

JS:
Bowie was doing it, even The Beatles. They were very careful about their image and how they were seen on their records, their evolution. So “Virginia Plain” came out prior to the LP’s release?

NdV:
I don’t remember, but I remember driving through London with Bryan and suddenly this song, “Virginia Plain” was on the car radio, and I thought, “Hey, this is going to be a hit.”

JS:
Did you guys feel that this was going to be a big hit?

NdV:
Well, I mean, it’s a great single, isn’t it?

JS:
I mean, it didn’t sound like anything else that anyone heard before. When the single came out, I had it, and it didn’t have a picture sleeve as far as the copy I had, so I didn’t really know what they looked like right away. And also it wasn’t included on the album when it came out.

NdV:
No, it wasn’t on the album. I don’t know whether “Pyjamarama” was on an album either, the next single. It happened so quickly. While this was all going on, I was teaching three days a week, Fine Art at Goldsmiths, so my plate was full, pretty much. I was really pretty busy and the second album, For Your Pleasure was probably released the same year. So, it was very quick.

JS:
Once they had achieved this success with the first record, doing the second one, For Your Pleasure, was there more pressure? Did you feel like you had to outdo what you did, or was it just natural?

NdV:
Well, it was this idea that Amanda Lear was going to be this woman with a black panther, and Bryan was going to be the chauffeur, and there was going to be a Cadillac de Ville, and it was going to be in Las Vegas. So, I mean, all these elements. I said, “Well, if you want to do that, we can’t do it all in one photograph. So, what we’re going to do is, we’re going to photograph all the elements separately, and then we’re going to collage them together, montage.” So, that’s what we did. I remember, it was all done in a garage, the photographs were taken in a car showroom — we had to get this Cadillac DeVille in the showroom, and it got stuck halfway in because there was a step. I can’t remember what happened, but at one stage it got stuck halfway in and halfway out. But we got it in, and we covered this showroom with black plastic, so it was all black. We photographed that, and then we photographed Amanda Lear holding an empty lead. Then, I had a black and white photograph of the Las Vegas skyline at night, which was taken from Time Magazine. After we shot the photos, somebody Bryan knew tried to make a version of this, and it was absolutely terrible. We couldn’t possibly use it. So, I said, “Look, I think maybe you should let me do it,” because although I came up with the collage element, Bryan thought we’d need somebody with a lot of technical airbrush skills to make it all join together. I said, “Come on, you know, let’s do it the primitive way that we always do.”

So, there was a guy called Bob Bowkett at CCS, a graphic design place. He was doing final artwork for us. I said, “Bob, come on, let’s just do this.” So, we somehow pulled it together. He painted the little panther’s face. Then I thought, “This is going to be an absolute disaster.” I really thought it wasn’t going to work. But then, when it was printed, for whatever reason, it came out really well. If you ever try and do collage or montage using photographs, sometimes, when they’re re-photographed, they can come together in a way which is quite magical.

Sometimes, it absolutely fails. We didn’t know when we were doing this, exactly how it would work out. I didn’t know a great deal about the technical aspects of industrial printing and plate making. So, I didn’t know quite how to control that last stage, from our artwork to the thing that we were going to have in the shops. I remember it was an immense relief when we saw what we got. We were very pleased with that. I think, for me, the second album cover was really a tour de force. It was very adventurous.

JS:
Did you ever get any comments from the label regarding the artwork or any interference from them?

NdV:
None, no. The management was EG, which was David Enthoven and Mark Fenwick, and they were incredibly successful, really. They had King Crimson. They’d had Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and then, after Brian Eno left Roxy Music, they had Brian Eno. So, they had class. Island treated them as a class act, so they were pretty autonomous. So, my relationship was firstly with EG. Well, firstly with Bryan, then with EG, and then through EG with the people at Island Records.

JS:
And for the first two albums, was Brian Eno involved in any of the artwork decisions?

NdV:
No, I don’t think so. I don’t remember him being involved.  I think it wouldn’t have worked. I think it would have been too many cooks spoiling the broth. I don’t know whether that was any point of conflict between them. I have no idea.

JS:
The other band members basically weren’t too involved in the album cover process. So, now Roxy Music are a huge band. Tell me about the third album, Stranded.

NdV:
Stranded, yeah. That was during the three-day working week strikes in the UK. The cover girl was Marilyn Cole. She was a Playboy centerfold.

JS:
A very provocative cover at the time. The first three albums all had gatefold covers.

NdV:
Yeah, until the two oil crises in the 1970s, when OPEC began to wield its muscle, and after the oil crisis new economies had to be made. I think that’s when the gatefold stopped.

JS:
On the Roxy covers you always gave everyone credit, which was a bit unusual at the time, because nobody really was doing that: fashion, hair, clothes, like movie credits.

NdV:
Yes you’re right. And it got more and more like that. When we did Siren, which is the last one before they temporarily broke up, that was really a big production.

JS:
You were really the creative director for the band at that point.

NdV:
Yeah, we were doing everything from t-shirts, lapel badges, ads. It was a lot of stuff.

JS:
Around the same time as Roxy’s Stranded, you probably got asked to do the album cover for Sparks’ Kimono My House, again on Island, which was their big breakthrough LP.

NdV:
Yes, I wanted to do a gatefold again, but the Mael brothers didn’t want it and Island vetoed it for expense reasons. So we did this back cover that I was never happy with. There were three black and white photos of the other members of the band and a color photo of them. So, it wasn’t very satisfactory as far as I was concerned.

JS:
But the front cover is quite iconic. Did you come up with the idea for the two geishas?

NdV:
Yeah, I wanted the two geisha girls to be really doing the kind of things that geisha girls don’t do, and it was incredibly hard work to get them to do that: to do animated facial expressions. It was really, really difficult. They wanted to be absolutely perfect and stone-faced. They were in London with some Japanese touring troupe, I seem to remember. 

JS:
Were Bryan and Roxy Music okay with you working with other bands, or did they want to keep you to themselves?

NdV:
I don’t think they knew. I don’t think Bryan was very interested. I don’t think he cared what I was doing otherwise. By that time I was working for other people at EG as well.

JS:
You had stopped teaching?

NdV:
No, I was still teaching.  I still wanted to be an artist while I was doing this stuff. At the same time, I was getting more involved with being a teacher, teaching Fine Art at Goldsmiths. I think the last thing I did with Bryan at that point was his solo LP In Your Mind, and after that he went abroad for a while, and he sold his house because he bought this house down in Sussex. So he wasn’t in London. At that time, I was working for a punk band The Adverts as well. I thought, this is ridiculous, you know? I’m 35 or something…

JS:
You’d done Kimono My House for Sparks, you did Roxy Music’s Stranded which pushed the envelope a little, half-naked woman laying in the jungle, and then the next Roxy Music was the Country Life album. The name came from the title of a British magazine that’s kind of very —  

NdV:
Establishment. 

JS:
Yet the cover featured two women in their underwear on it. What was the concept behind the cover? There are stories that they were just random tourists?

NdV:
Yeah. It just happened. I wasn’t there when that photograph was taken. Bryan came back with those photographs. He’d been on holiday.

JS:
Who shot that?

NdV:
Eric Boman.

JS:
They went with the intention of shooting an album cover?

NdV:
By that time, Bryan wasn’t so interested in doing album covers, and he didn’t want band photographs. So, it was a really minimalist approach to doing an album cover. But he had all these photographs, and one of them got selected. Country Life magazine had a typeface, a distinctive typeface, so we used that for the Roxy Music lettering and then we just used a detail of the photograph on the back. It was ridiculously simple. But this was all a double entendre or whatever the correct phrase is, or the word is.

“You had the band, you had the management, you had the record company, and each of those three constituencies had completely different ideas about what they wanted.”

JS:
These days, they would probably call it an appropriation of some sort.

NdV:
It’s the kind of thing there’s a lot of in Shakespeare. That’s all I can tell you.

JS:
That came out, and it kind of caused a bit of an uproar, especially when it came out in America.

NdV:
Yeah, it didn’t cause an uproar here.

JS:
The English are much more comfortable with nudity.

NdV:
Yeah, it was just seen as typical Roxy Music by then. But in America, it was, “Oh, dear, dear, dear!” I have a green one there, they issued it in a green bag with a green plastic sleeve. So, you have to peel off the green plastic sleeve.  It was just, “Well, come on. I mean, it’s the land of Playboy.” Around that time, I worked with Robert Palmer as well. I made a film with him for Island. A very nice guy and quite a visionary.

JS:
Well, around that time also we did the Milk ‘N’ Cookies cover for Island.

NdV:
Yeah.

JS:
Do you remember how that was presented to you? Was it John and Joseph, who were managing Milk ‘N’ Cookies, as well as Sparks, that asked you to be involved?

NdV:
I think Joseph might have. I got on really well with Joseph.

JS:
Do you have any recollection of the ideas for that record cover?

NdV:
It was just the period of the Fonz and the Happy Days television show. I think it was a kind of teen movie thing. We were interested in doing something around that. 

JS:
The cheerleader?

NdV:
That cheerleader costume was from a film. This guy that made lots of films about that time, Ken Russell. Anyway, I think that cheerleader costume came from one of his films, maybe Tommy.

JS:
I never knew that. Because the cheerleader wasn’t really something that was a British thing, and we shot the cover in London. I sort of remember having a hard time finding a proper cheerleading costume for the photo shoot. 

NdV:
Probably, yes.

JS:
I guess the idea was that there’s these innocent boys, kind of, but there’s this subtle teenage sexuality. That was an amazing experience, to work on that with you. That was a lot of fun. And you directed two promo movies that had sadly been lost. I hope one day they turn up.

NdV:
I haven’t got them; if I had them I’d given them to you.

JS:
And then not long after you went on to do the Siren LP for Roxy Music.

NdV:
Siren yes. That was an amazing experience, because doing that photograph for the cover was a really big production, and it was done on the island of Anglesey. The idea was it was going to be a Northern sea sprite, and so we were looking for a wild ocean background. At that time — I don’t know whether there still is — there used to be trains that went from London to Anglesey to catch the ferry over to Ireland, so it was the closest point for the ferries. I can’t remember what the port is called on Anglesey, but Anglesey is an island off Wales, off the coast of Wales. So, Anthony Price and I went on the train up there to location hunt. We found a location, and when we were there, the sea was wild, and the waves were crashing onto these rocks, and it was down by a lighthouse. It was gray, and it was stormy, and we thought, “Great, we’re going to get this siren who’s going to be soaked, and there’s going to be this wild sea behind her. It’s going to be gray and threatening, it’s going to be very dramatic, like something out of Wagner.” So, we thought, “Yeah, we’ve found this place. It was very easy. All we do is, we all go up on the train.”

JS:
And Bryan Ferry was dating Jerry Hall who was going to be the model on the cover at this time?

NdV:
Yes. It was Jerry Hall and Bryan, and Graham Hughes, the photographer. There were quite a few other people, makeup people, and a hair stylist. And at that time, I was also doing an album cover with Ronnie Lane who was in The Small Faces. So I was in Wales, because Ronnie Lane was doing this kind of gypsy thing where he drove around Britain in a cavalcade of caravans and lorries and things, putting on these performances wherever he went. He had a farm. His base was on a farm in the depths of Wales, so I was up there to see him. When we went back to do the actual shoot, I drove from somewhere in Wales, from Ronnie Lane’s farm, because Ronnie Lane was with EG management at this point, back to this location.

Of course, we got there to do the shoot, and the sea was as flat as a pancake, there were no waves at all and the sun was shining. I remember there was this little ruin on the cliff top behind, which looked like a Greek ruin, a Greek temple. So, we photographed this thing, and Graham Hughes put some kind of filter on the camera, and Jerry Hall was covered in blue body paint. It was all smeary, you know? There was this blue filter, and I thought, “None of this is ever going to work.” And of course, it did work. It was not what we intended. But it just came out as something else.

JS:
At the time, did you know that that was going to be Roxy Music’s last record for a while?

NdV:
Not really, I didn’t. I knew Bryan was feeling pretty tired, and we did another solo record In Your Mind after that.  He also did a couple of extended 45s, I think. He did “Let’s Stick Together.” I thought In Your Mind was a great album. In Your Mind is one of my favorite Bryan tracks. I think it’s just really a driving song. I don’t know how well it’s known as an album. I keep telling Bryan that it’s my favorite Bryan Ferry song, but he never seems very moved by the idea of playing it. I’d like to see it played now. I saw him last night, actually. He’s doing a load of tours this year.

JS:
And you of course worked with him on the covers of a few of his solo albums, his first was These Foolish Things.

NdV:
That cover was based on an Elvis Presley album cover, which I think I have somewhere. It was a 10-inch Elvis Presley album called Loving You and, if you look at the original album cover, is very similar. We thought it was an archetypal album cover. I mean, it could be anywhere.

JS:
The next one was Another Time, Another Place which seemed like a more elaborate undertaking.

NdV:
Yes it was photographed in Hollywood. This was, again, an Eric Boman cover.

JS:
He was shooting a lot for British Vogue.

NdV:
He was. I don’t know what happened to him either. People come and go. They don’t stay.

JS:
Well, some of them stick around. Did you also work on Roxy’s Manifesto cover?

NdV:
No. There was about a 10-year gap before I saw Bryan again. I didn’t work on any of those last three. There was some point at the end of the 70s when I became full-time at Goldsmiths, and I was teaching the MFA. I was leading the Masters in Fine Art. Then, by 87, I was head of department. So I’d become full-time involved in the academic life of the department. I was trying to make a great Fine Art Department and be an artist.

JS:
Did you miss being involved in the music side of things?

NdV:
Yeah I did, but also I found it really difficult because you had so many clients: you had the band, you had the management, you had the record company, and each of those three constituencies had completely different ideas about what they wanted. So, that made it very, very complicated.

JS:
You were wanting to get back into it, or you felt that you had enough at that point?

NdV:
No, well when punk came along I thought, “Oh, come on.”

JS:
But you did do some covers for a great punk band The Adverts. How did that come about?

NdV:
Well, I knew this guy called Michael Dempsey who had a publishing business, and he published “The Bryan Ferry Story.” I don’t know how he appeared. He suddenly appeared, but he lived in Chelsea, and somebody had given him £20,000 to start a publishing company, his own imprint. Anyway, he must have approached EG about doing a book about Bryan Ferry, and so we did this book, The Bryan Ferry Story, which Simon Puxley wrote under the name Rex Balfour. It’s a great name, Rex Balfour. So, he wrote it, and I did all the design for it, and we did it in a weekend or something. It was absolutely ridiculous.

Then I did another book with him, which was called Lenare: The Art Of Society Photography, which is something that he wanted to do. I wasn’t very keen on the idea, but he wanted to do it. Then, he was getting drunk all the time, so I was having a lot of trouble with him, and by that time, he’d run through all this £20,000 — which in those days was a lot of money. He’d run through all the money, and then he went into managing this band, The Adverts. I drive to Southend with him, and I think they were on with The Damned, which was another punk band. I mean, it was madness. The whole thing was completely mad. All these kids gobbing at the stage. I was thinking, “It was really revolting. Really revolting.”

JS:
Yeah, but I really l liked The Adverts.

NdV:
Yeah, I actually did too. But by the time I’d done Gary Gilmore’s Eyes I felt like I’d really done enough. 

JS:
So, was The Adverts the last thing that you did before you stopped?

LK:
A bit later in the 80s, I did a few things with Phil Manzanera, because Phil had this great place in St. Anne’s Hill which was near Chertsey. He had this absolutely incredible Art Deco house, which looked like an ocean liner, and he had a recording studio there and he started Expression Records. I worked with him for a while on Expression Records, but my heart wasn’t really in it, I have to say. So, I did a few in the 80s, but by the time I was head of department, I wasn’t really in the mood to do anything else.

JS:
Things started changing, when the CD came along with the smaller size and now, of course with digital music, what was once almost as important as the music, — at least to me — was less important to record companies. You did a book Album, which was sort of a history of the record cover.

NdV:
Well, when I was asked to do Album, I realized it was actually a very good time to do it. I thought, in the end, it pretty much summed up the whole development, because when you get to the end of this — really, you’re talking about CDs and from techno to Napster and beyond. In a way, it became, to me, the closing of the whole period of large-scale album sleeve design.