A few heavy thoughts hit me this week, yet the one that sticks out highest for some reason or another is a tiny (yet overwheming) factoid about the production of gold rings. For each ring, not even an inch wide around one’s finger, the production of the gold required creates 20 tonnes of waste. 20 tonnes. It’s an insane process. Currently, fields in the Nevada outback are covered in cyanide. It’s how one separates the gold dust from the rock. With liquid cyanide. It looks green from space. I can’t even begin to imagine who thought that was a good idea.
I find comfort in artistic process. Lizzy Stewart and Jez Burrows make beautiful work, and I’m proud to have some of that work on the covers of Woodpigeon’s latest releases in the UK and Europe. I particularly love how they’ve let me in to look at parts of the process as these covers have come together. It’s a rare thing, finding another artist who gets what you’re doing and reflects it perfectly.
Here’s the beautiful cover for the UK re-release of our first album Songbook:
When they were describing the idea to me, Jez and Lizzy sent through the following cut-outs (the buildings of which were actually taken from buildings in cities where I wrote the songs on the album, from Calgary to Berlin):
For the bonus EP Treasury Library 1: Dewey Does It, they went with a factory motif, which feels fitting for how quickly they work:
See more at their joint site Sing Statistics (which also includes links to their individual solo work), and swoon.
I’ve been listening a lot to Adem’s Takes album this week. Not only does it cover some of my personal favourite ’90s songs, but completely transforms them into something new and current. I know he didn’t write the lines for ‘To Cure a Weakling Chile / Boy Girl Song’, but he sings them as though his life depends on it and nothing has ever meant any more than those 9 single syllables.
My feet, my arms, and my ears / You’ll be.
As far as my own process goes, I never know quite how to describe it. It just happens. Something sets my imagination going and my fingers do the rest. The last song I wrote was a couple of days ago. It’s called ‘As Read in the Pine Bluff Commercial, Sunday, June 12, 1966’. I have the cover of that very same newspaper hanging in a frame up in my room, a full-page, full-colour Dick Tracy comic strip. The villains are Mr. Bribery and Ugly Christine. They’re plotting to steal the Space Coupe. It’s from the period of Dick Tracy where things went a bit haywire. Junior married Moon Maid, the daughter of the President of the Moon. I’m not making any of this up.
But I did make up another story, and set it to music:
Sometimes you just go with the flow and see things through to the end. I wonder if Chester Gould, the artist behind Dick Tracy from the 1930s through to his retirement in the late-1970s, ever sat back in his chair and thought, “God. What have I done?”
The comic strip on my wall was sent to me by Chester Gould’s daughter in the early 90s. Included in the package was a full-size scan of the last Dick Tracy strip he drew, which included framed within it the very first strip from 1931. At some point early on, he’d put Tracy in a deep hole with a heavy rock descending overhead. As he wrote the strip each day from his desk, Gould realized he was pretty stuck. In his worst lapse of judgment as a storyteller and artist, Gould drew his own hand in, holding an eraser, and pulled Tracy out.
Sometimes, I guess, process just gets you stuck in a corner.