I was born in Blackpool in the ‘70s. Blackpool for those not familiar with the place, which I’m sure is many, is a small seaside town in Northern England. Imagine Vegas by the sea. Now a little run down, when I was a kid it was a colorful vibrant place that seemed to embrace the ever-changing trends of the 80s.
As a child, and even as a teenager, I drew everything, and my favorite thing to draw were the record sleeves from the ever playing stream of Cat Stevens, 10cc, ELO and Queen ( I still know every lyric to every queen song, the early stuff at least, the good stuff ). This marriage of music and art grabbed me at an early age, and didn’t let go. When school was done, and it was time for collage I studied Graphic Design and went through 4 years of tedious projects, until when in my final year we were allowed to arrange ourselves an internship.
I was huge fan of Pop Will Eat Itself, well, I say a fan, the music was fine, but what I really liked was the record covers, collages of imagery, mixed with illustration, Japanese inspired logos and type, like nothing I’d seen. The agency behind the art was The Designers Republic, The ‘Republic’ was a Sheffield based design studio known for their Fuck you attitude, and their elitist hiring ethic. I was sold. I designed four fake record sleeves, put them in the mail with a gushing note and hoped for the best. I heard nothing for 2 weeks and eventually cold called and spoke to a confused lady that nearly hung up on me, but I explained that I was that kid who sent in fake album cover designs out of the blue, turns out they quite liked what I did, and agreed to let me come and work there for free for a month.
This is where it officially started, living off of canned pasta at the YMCA in Sheffied, I’d comp up designs by day, and go to gigs at night, it's a bit of a blur, but after I graduated they invited me back. I worked there for as long as I could before I ran out of money, designing covers for electronic label React, and Time Recording and helping out with covers for Pop Will Eat Itself and Nine Inch Nails.
After a brief stint on the dole I managed to leverage my work from the Republic and get a position as a designer in Manchester, that position turned into Art Director and then myself and a colleague decided to take our two best clients and set up shop by ourselves and ‘A2’ was born.
One of those clients was Factory Records. Factory was at the end of its run, the New Orders and Happy Mondays had all jumped ship and Tony Wilson eventually put all of his energy into the music festival ‘In The City’.
We oversaw the creative for the festival and added new clients like Eastern Bloc Records, London Records and Manchester based dance label Planet 4.
In 1999 I met my now wife, she was studying in Manchester, and after moving home to LA in december of that year we embarked on an impossible long distance relationship that would eventually see me handing my side of A2 to my business partner and heading to LA in 2000.
I was in my 20's and basically starting again. After countless meetings and touting my portfolio around town, I caught the attention of FFRR, a blueprint of Warner Bros Records out of NYC that needed an Art Director. Keeping Fedex in business I was able to oversee all creative output from LA, designing for artist like GrandMaster Flash and Orbital.
When Michael Winterbottom’s film 24 hour Party People ( based on Factory Records and Tony Wilson ) was released in 2002, I was asked to creative direct and design the movie poster and soundtrack. United Artist said my involvement gave the project credibility because I had worked for Factory and was friends with Tony, but it was a personal milestone for me because the UK album cover had been designed by Peter Saville, one of my heroes, and I got to do the one for the US.
Over the next 10 years I would creative direct, art direct, design and occasionally illustrate for some of the biggest names in music. Some projects that stand out in my mind are (in no particular order). Working with a then unknown Lady GaGa when she first Signed to Interscope, sat in Ozzy Osbourne’s kitchen waiting to talk album concepts with Kelly in the mist of MTV ‘Osbournes’ Madness, creating the visuals for how Disney’s Demi lovato would be introduced to the world as a singer, and continuing to develop, direct and design her first 3 albums, and last but certainly not least working for a month in 2014 with Legend (and my dads favorite singer) Annie Lennox. We sat in a small office in Capitol Records and designed her album 'Nostalgia' together, while she sang (amazing!)
In 2012 I was asked by Capitol If I could work on ideas for a ‘Big Artist’ secret project over the weekend, and that it would be worth my while. Well the ideas went down well, and that project was Katy Perry ‘Teenage Dream The complete Confection’. I’ve since worked on various amazing projects with Katy including 8 record covers to-date.
Recent years would also see me Creative Directing and Designing projects for hip hop artist R.City and Sammy Adams, EDM Pioneers BT and Tiesto, and pop artists like J-Lo, G.R.L, Sky Ferreira and Carly Rae Jepsen to name a few.
In 2015 I had the pleasure of working as creative director and designer for Hilary Duff on her number 1 album 'Breathe In. Breathe Out', Britney Spears's 'Pretty Girls' campaign and Seals album '7'. I also started working as Creative Director for RCA artist Betty Who.
In 2016 / 2017 I've continued to oversee all creative for Betty including her music videos. Another standout moment from 2016 was working with 'the princess of pop' herself Britney Spears on her album 'Glory'. Current projects include: Mary J Blige, Frankie, TLC and Noah Cyrus.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Mary J Blige