DEF LEPPARD - Interview With Songs From The Sparkle Lounge Artwork Designer
August 15, 2009, 10 years ago
As with any other DEF LEPPARD album cover, the one for Songs From The Sparkle Lounge proved to be another interesting piece of art. Responsible for the design, artwork and production of all packaging for the album, is old Richard Proctor from South Wales. Let's see how he transformed an early idea into an album cover.
Defleppard.com: How did you get into graphic design? What is your background?
Proctor: "I studied for a BA (Hons) Degree in Graphic Design and after graduating, I worked in the design industry for 14 years before starting my own company in 2003."
Defleppard.com: When and how did your relation with the band start?
Proctor: "I first met [the band's current tour manager] Malvin on the Hysteria tour in the summer of 1988, while I was working in America during college summer vacation. We've been friends ever since and it's really down to him that I've been able to get involved in the various Def Leppard projects!"
Defleppard.com: What have you done with/for Def Leppard before you worked on the cover for Songs From The Sparkle Lounge?
Proctor: "Initially, I started doing pieces of artwork and designs for various Fan Club publications between 1992 and 1996 and worked on the artwork for the Adrenalize Mahogany Box Set. A few years later, Malvin asked me to come up with some ideas for backstage passes and itinerary covers for the 2005 summer tour. When the Yeah! album recordings were finished, Joe asked me to visualize the idea he had for the cover so he could show people at the record label. He had a very definite idea for what was needed for the cover -- the word "YEAH!" in lights with the band posing in front of each letter. The final cover artwork however, was produced by the record label and t42design. I did get to do all the designs for the tour passes, signage and itineraries. There were some fun 'alternative' crew and band only passes for this tour too."
Defleppard.com: How did you land the job to design the Songs From The Sparkle Lounge cover? Were there any specific details they gave you?
Proctor: "In the summer of 2007 Joe called to say that the new album was almost done and they had a 99% finished title. They already had the idea of how they wanted the cover to look: Sgt. Pepper meets Monty Python, using iconic historical figures to make up the audience along with pictures of themselves from childhood through to present day. The first few drafts worked really well, until we considered the copyright issue and image rights. This caused us to re-address this initial idea and a few alternative covers were produced. One of them became the cover for the Nine Lives single and also ended up being used on the inside of the Sparkle Lounge booklet. Then at the last minute, we came a full 360 and went back to the first idea of the audience but we used pics of family, friends and crew members....arguably "iconic" in their own right!"
Defleppard.com: How did you approach this initially?
Proctor: "I started the design process by collating as much theater (especially American 50's) style images as possible from interiors and exteriors, to posters and programmes, the style of images and the use of the typography. Once the style of the theater was established, I looked at making up the audience. The first idea of using the historical figures was fairly straightforward. These were to include historical and iconic figures from film, music, sport and cartoons. Basically anything that was an influence to the band in one way or another, was used. From Monroe to Elvis, James Dean, Albert Einstein to Salvador Dali, FREDDIE MERCURY to MARC BOLAN, JOHN LENNON to DAVID BOWIE and Tony Currie to Dennis the Menace. Even Simon Cowell made and appearance, but was eventually voted off. When we had to back track on this idea, I had a long conversation with Joe as to what we could use as alternatives. We had about an hour long brainstorming session and came up with a long list of "characters" to use, most of which ended up in the final artwork."
Defleppard.com: Before the whole Sgt. Pepper-style idea came up, did you present the band with any other concepts?
Proctor: "The guys always had this Sgt. Pepper idea from the start, so this was always the foundation of the design. The only alternatives came after we realized there may be some problems with copyright. I used some images of stadium audiences, a classic symphony audience and placed those in the theater auditorium as alternatives to the original idea, but the eclectic Sgt. Pepper-style audience was always the preference. As for the alternatives; the exterior theater picture in 50s style neon was deemed good enough to use as the cover for the Nine Lives single and for the inside of the CD booklet. An animated sequence of this theater image was also used in the video sequence for 'C'mon C'mon' [seen on the video screens when the band plays the song on tour, and the promo video]."
Defleppard.com: How did you put the first designs for that concept together?
Proctor: "Once I'd done all the image research I just combined the best of the sourced images to make up the theater. The red curtains, stage, theater interior and lights are all separate images. The audience characters were then cut out 'school project style' and added to the auditorium. The crowd was built up row by row until the theater was 'full'."
Defleppard.com: Who chose which faces would be in the audience? Which faces didn't make it and why not?
Proctor: "By this time there was no hard and fast rule about who was in or out. We just wanted the audience to look as diverse as possible. Every character has some sort of Def Leppard or theater reference. We also wanted to create the feeling of that when every time you looked at the sleeve artwork you saw a new character. I can only think of one character that didn't make it on to the sleeve...but I won't go into details!"
Defleppard.com: What were your directions for the inside of the booklet? Was it all based on the word "lounge"?
Proctor: "There was no real 'direction' for the inside of the booklet. I just put the proposed layout together using references to the research which I had already done. I then submitted the layouts and they were approved first time. The guys just drafted out the text they wanted and the layouts were finished off. The center spread of the booklet is also two pics combined together."
Defleppard.com: What are your future plans (Def Leppard and non-Def Leppard related)?
Proctor: "I would love the opportunity to be involved in any future design projects especially for merchandise, or working with [tour video director] Jon Beswick, on any video / screen animation related projects, and obviously cover ideas for the next album. Aside from Def Leppard: my plan is to grow our company, Alias Designs and to expand our portfolio of clients preferably in the music/entertainment industry. Staying creative, and hopefully always being able to offer our clients a little bit more than they ask for or expect."
Defleppard.com: If your life depended on it, could you name every single face in the cover???
Proctor: "I'd say I could name about 95% of them. I feel like I know them all anyway...I stared at them all for long enough on my computer screen!"
Richard Proctor lives and works in Cardiff, South Wales with his wife and two kids. The web site for his company, Alias Designs, can be found at www.aliasdesigns.co.uk.