Saturday, March 29, 2008

Logo #220: ZZ Top

Questions to ZZ Top from Stuttering John: "Since you look Jewish, why don't you call yourselves ZZ Dreidel?", "In a pinch, would you wipe with your beard?", and "Does Sinead O'Connor give you a boner?" Designed by Tom Hunnicutt in 1983 for the cover of the "Eliminator" LP, one of the best rock albums of all time. Ever. Bar none. Hands done. Carte blanche. And so on. ZZ Top singlehandedly rule the keychain market. There's no other rock band keychain worth buying other than ZZ Top's. It has a saga behind it. It has context. Why bother with anything less? That it has not been shot into the cosmos on any extra-solar missions is a crime second only to the new Balenciaga line. Or Jennifer Connelly's breast reduction surgery. Whichever.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Logo #219: My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult

From TKK Central: "We started using that design in 1997, and it was designed together by both tattoo artist David Winland of Blue Buddha Tattoo - he used to crew for the band - and TKK singer Groovie Mann." Another easily propagated, faintly enigmatic sigil that can be quickly carved into desktops or flesh with one sharp implement or another. Their later output is rather beige and whelming but the "I See Good Spirits And I See Bad Spirits" album was always a marvel to me because they accomplished the whole thing so swiftly. Early Thrill Kill Kult, despite its discofied trappings, seemed deeply steeped in sadness and desperation and where did it all go? It is not for nothing that "My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult" implies past lives. You tend to want to put it all behind you when you're through. Or laugh about it.

Another cult of thrills can be found in the 1975 pornographic film "Breakdown." So, in the interest of a wider appreciation of culture both popular and un-, we now present this breakdown of what happens in "Breakdown": "Here is a movie from the mid-1970s, when it seemed that maybe the only way blacks would become free in the U.S.A. would be to overthrow the U.S.A. We view the revolutionaries' headquarters. Posters of Chairman Mao & V. I. Lenin are on the walls. Two white girls have been drawn into their ranks. We see them alone in the HQ. Two white police officers gain entry to the place, and they begin interrogating the girls as to the whereabouts of the two main revolutionaries. The girls really do not know where they are. Our officers are unwilling to accept this answer. But as they have nothing for which they can arrest them, the girls are taken into separate rooms and summarily raped. One girl is forced to take it down her anus {is that Wes Montgomery heard on the soundtrack?!}. The revolutionaries return. Surprise: They are black. The girls are still dazed and aghast. The black guys manage to learn the name of one of the police officers. One black guy knows how to get back at him. He goes over to the house of his white girlfriend, where he rapes her (the cinematography of the sex scenes involving the dark skinned black men and the white girls is luminous. I bet it's those uncredited Hollywood professionals again). Is that Toots and the Maytals now on the soundtrack?! A large squadron of police officers [stock footage] is marshaled outside the HQ. The two black revolutionaries manage to get through the congeries into it, but they are battered. We espy an issue of "The Workers' Advocate" headlining Zimbabwe. The girls attempt to make them feel better (both yield their anuses). How shall this end? I won't disclose. But I will say that whoever made this managed to cram a lot of stuff into only 59 minutes."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Logo #218: GG Allin

Created by GG Allin (on a theme by Stanislas de Guaita) in 1993 for the "I'm Your Enemy / War in My Head" CD. You couldn't make alternative music in the '90s without running into some entertaining story about GG Allin (born Kevin Michael Allen; August 29, 1956 – June 28, 1993). On GG's FindAGrave page: "The Virtual Flowers feature has been turned off for this memorial because it was being continually misused." Just like life! As the guy said at the end of the SPIN Magazine article, "With GG Allin you don't get what you expect, you get what you deserve." Just like reality TV! Speaking of which, here's an impossibly young Jerry Springer mining talk-show gold with GG Allin, who was often called the "last rock'n'roller," mostly because he tried to reclaim rock music from the Corporate System. GG's coprophilia did share one insight with that System, though: you don't have to eat shit to know that it tastes bad.

Logo #217: Helloween

Designers: Helloween & Uwe Karczewski in 1985. The groundbreaking (well, if one wants to go to Hell one must take the first step) power metal band from Germany has been around for almost 25 years at this point. It was not without cost: Helloween's drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg (May 18, 1965 - March 8, 1995) jumped in front of a train after depression, drugs and getting dumped from the band became too much. Does the pumpkin have a name? Unresolved. "Ingo" has a nice ring to it, though. Here's Helloween with their fairly appropriate hit, "I Want Out."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Logo #216: Luftwaffe

From Luftwaffe Central: "Our symbol is properly called the "Sigil Trephanus." It is a line-drawn form of an exploded-view schematic of a 17th-century skull trephine, with its final form being credited to the pen of our own J1 Statik. The original device was wound and spring-driven, in order to bore a fine hole in the skull. Our symbol is based upon a Z-plane view of the moving parts inside, with each being shown at all possible points of movement. One of these appeared on eBay once. We did not have the resources to purchase it at the time, sadly. Our use of the Sigil first appeared in 1998."

This Day in Death:
Cristóbal Balenciaga Eisaguirre (January 21, 1895 - March 23, 1972)
Jacob "Killer" Miller (Inner Circle; May 4, 1952 – March 23, 1980)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Logo #215: Minor Threat

Too soon for another sheep? Ian MacKaye of discusses the plaintive sheep at the corner of the cover of the 1983 Minor Threat LP "Out of Step": "As I remember, the basic concept of the black sheep running away from the serious white sheep was largely mine, but Cynthia Connolly did the actual illustration and the black sheep's primary representation is all Cynthia. I never thought of it as a logo, but I reckon it's by far the image that most people associate with Minor Threat." Straight out of the Ed Emberley school of illustration, Connolly's sheep is the poetry of economy - a triangle, stick legs and a curly black cloud. That's all. You can draw it anywhere and with almost anything. It doesn't even have to be a big drawing - that's the brilliance of the concept. Black sheep are small but noticeable. They usually make things happen.

I personally don't "get" hardcore - I'm too apolitical and spindly to have ever made it as a punker - but, as I told MacKaye the other day: what matters is not so much the music itself as it is the resultant ripples from the Work; concentric circles that affect people positively and act as catalysts for change. So in that way, I have a really good feeling about MacKaye's Work. Every so often you get a pornographer named Eon McKai running around out there, but I guess there's no helping that (although I wish there were!). As far as straight edge goes - which I suspect I am by default because I'm real square and don't see an inherent profit motive in anything the movement abhors (and if I were dyslexic, I might think they were all about s-e-x) - Richard and Judy tell you everything you need to know! Embrace your inner cluelessness! It's how you learn about things and it makes our sitcoms far funnier because of it!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Logo #214: Sheep On Drugs

Lee Fraser of Sheep On Drugs: "Duncan X, the ex-member of Sheep On Drugs designed the logo. It first appeared in a more embryonic stage (without the hypos) in 1992 on our first single "Drug Music/ Catch 22." The hypos were introduced on second single "Motorbike/Maryjane." Duncan is now a tattoo artist."

The Song of the Moment is in fact "Motorbike." RIDE! RIDE!

Logo #213: Ill Will

Sheldon Parker from Ill Will: "In 1980, three surfers from El Segundo went to see a movie called "Rock 'n' Roll High School." After seeing the movie and watching The Ramones, we decided that we could do that just for fun. The Ramones inspired us to start jamming just because it looked like a fun thing to do. We started a band called The Haters. We called ourselves that because we hated just about everything that was popular at the time; we hated disco, condominiums, glam, and especially non-local surfers. We played Ramones songs and a few originals. The originals were mostly about surfing and girlfriends. We started playing house parties and people started thinking that maybe we were a band called "The Heaters" and also "The Gidget Haters." I knew we needed a new name, so I looked in a thesaurus I used for songwriting and under the word "hate" I found "ill will" - ding ding ding, we have a winner. We all liked the name, and I thought about the street signs that had the "do not do" red circle deal and decided the words ILL WILL should be covering the red, instead of the red covering what not to do - meaning Ill Will does not obey things that should not be done. We are currently jamming again with Derek Van Metere on drums and Lance Peterson (guitar), Brian Ramsay (bass) and myself. We will start gigging again at the end of spring."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Logo #212: Frankenstein

Bart Sinister of Los Angeles-area goth band Frankenstein reveals, "The Frankenstein fist logo was designed by Dave Grave, vocalist from Frankenstein. It was first published in 1988 in an apocalypso manifesto called "Das Kannibal"."

The green fist was one of the first rock band logos which I consciously became aware was a rock band logo. It was stuck (and possibly still is) on a water fountain on the campus of Ventura College - or, as most community colleges are known, the 13th grade. The day-glo green, the lineage of the raised fist of rebellion, the sense of humor (it's hard to make tendons required to make a fist work properly when one's hand is barely sewn to one's wrist) - all aspects conspired to catch a lazy eye in the comatose warmth of a summer's day. In this way the band logo, when experienced early enough, always holds a position of fondness for the fan - a muscle memory of emotions whose grasp, like that of a clenched fist, is not so easy to pry open.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Logo #211: Lords of the New Church

The Lords were: Brian James (of The Damned), Dave Tregunna (of Sham 69), Nicky Turner (The Barracudas), Stiv Bators (born Steven John Bator, of The Dead Boys; October 22, 1949 - June 2, 1990). Brian James: "The dagger was designed by Graham Humphreys for the cover of the first Lords of the New Church album in 1982, and became our emblem." The "supergroup" concept was popular throughout the '80s, including Power Station, and about five years after the first Lords LP, The Traveling Wilburys. James and Tregunna reformed the band about five years ago and they continue to work their old magic hither and yon. Forget what I just said about not casting your logo into a physical implement of death and near-death - this clip for "Dance With Me" (hosted by two skinheads!) features the actual dagger being twirled about occasionally. But does the knife cry when it enters the skin?

Logo #210: Inner City Unit

Judge Trev Thoms of Inner City Unit: "I designed the original logo, which was intended to be easily painted/sprayed onto walls, etc. It was the I, C, and U, hand-drawn in the same manner as the logo on our site. It also resembled a trident - a weapon, which was relevant to our political stance at the time. The actual logo you have seen is a new variation, designed by our architect bass player Nazer Ali Khan. Unfortunately, the present logo is not easily readable as ICU and cannot be daubed on walls, so it has lost much of its functionality, but is rather "clever" and "artistic." My original design appeared in 1980; the present variation appeared in 2006."

The concept of the logo-as-weapon is an implicit, possible result of knowledge-as-power. Likely there aren't many bands (apart from Crash Worship ADRV, perhaps) that would fashion their icons into physical tools by which they might crush their enemies, see them driven before them, and to hear the lamentation of the women - but it's the thought that counts, really. Multimedia? Interactivity? Yes. Yes, it is.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Interstitial #5: Clint Boon

Clint Boon of Inspiral Carpets checks in: "I designed the cow logo. It started as a series of photographs which I took of cows in the mid-1980s. I used to project the photos behind the band at gigs. People started mooing at gigs. I made the first cow logo t-shirt around 1986/1987. It was a really poor-lookin' thing but I've still got a photo of it and it's quite historical really (in Inspiral terms). I'm guessing that I designed the definitive cow logo around the same time. Later on I adapted the logo into the famous "cool as fuck" cow logo with the cow sporting shades and a spliff." Naturally, the thought of the crowd lowing at the musicians is almost endlessly beautiful in its absurdity. More mooing!

Suitably, the Song of the Moment is "This Is How it Feels."

Logo #209: The KLF

Designer: KLF Communications, 1987. Three eternal truths: twenty-somethings always have delusions of grandeur, for every drop-dead gorgeous woman there's a guy somewhere who's tired of putting up with her crap, and KLF is gonna rock you.

Logo #208: The Desperate Bicycles

Designed by Ingram Pinn for the 1977 "The Medium Was Tedium" 7". Their rallying cry "It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it" is the coda by which countless punk singles are pressed and careers are launched. That the Desperate Bicycles back catalog remains out-of-print is rather mystifying. Here's an essay explaining why they're as influential as the Sex Pistols. This is what was on the back of the record's sleeve: "The Desperate Bicycles were formed in March 1977 specifically for the purpose of recording and releasing a single on their own label. They booked a studio in Dalston for three hours and with a lot of courage and a little rehearsal they recorded "Smokescreen" and "Handlebars." It subsequently leapt at the throat. Three months later and The Desperate Bicycles were back in a studio to record their second single and this is the result. "No more time for spectating" they sing and who knows? They may be right. They'd really like to know why you haven't made your single yet. "It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it" (the complete cost of "Smokescreen" was £153). The medium may very well have been tedium but it's changing fast. So if you can understand, go and join a band. Now it's your turn..." Clumsy yet endearing, the Desperate Bicycles broke up in 1981 and have kept utterly silent since. Here is their recorded history as it stands now. It's still your turn. What are you doing sitting around reading this dopey blahg?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Logo #207: Running Wild

German metal band Running Wild had their mascot Captain Adrian designed by band founder and singer Rolf "Rock'N'Rolf" Kasparek in 1983. They've cornered the "pirate heavy metal" market and there was a point in time at which a battle between Running Wild and Adam And The Ants to amass the most plunder was not entirely beyond belief. Conversely, we now know that the human appendix actually has a purpose. They celebrate almost a quarter-century as a band this year. Don't act so shocked.

Logo #206: Angels and Airwaves

Designed by Blink-182 singer and guitarist Tom DeLonge in 2005. Coincidentally(?), the triple-A of this logo spells the name of DeLonge's daughter Ava. Aesthetically, the logo presents the waves of air in the ups-and-downs of its structure. Sometimes inadvertent brilliance is your greatest entertainment value. DeLonge (the singer who's not as screechy) and Blink-182 are currently at odds and while the odds are against him, we get Angels and Airwaves. For all their distasteful tattoos and overall bourgeois malaise, the Blink-182 camp - in this case, DeLonge - really are quite gifted pop musicians and songwriters. Seeing their lives unfold incessantly and insufferably in every media outlet available is particularly graceless, though. Most distressing.

Logo #205: Fear

Created by Fear singer Lee Ving in 1978. Someone pointed out recently that it's well on its way to becoming a swastika. I just thought it was two letter F's! Fear is Fear. Punk rock. Brendan Mullen of the Masque Club gives a great and illuminating interview with Lee and summary of Fear here in Swindle Magazine. Here's Fear live in 1980 at the Fleetwood in Los Angeles, making friends - and here's John Joseph from Cro-Mags talking about what happened when Fear played on "Saturday Night Live". In terms of directness and implicit threat in L.A. punk rock logos, possibly only Black Flag's icon is in the same cosmos. Punk rock logos are all about simplicity, namely: how many places can I stick this on and how often can I do it without getting caught?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Logo #204: SFA

Brendan Rafferty of SFA (not Super Furry Animals!) tells all: "It was originally (in 1987) black-and- white and was only changed to red to stand out behind the band name in white lettering. The symbol itself was my own variation on a traditional chaos symbol (Nb. designed by Jim Cawthorn in 1962): eight arrows pointing out in all directions. The inner circle, half filled in, was meant to be dark on one side, light on the other. It was a personal design I had tattooed on myself over 20 years ago. It was not meant to be the band's logo. For a while, our band had two singers, including myself. Some shows he sang, some I sang, and other times we both sang. The other singer also had his own personalized abstract tattoo. So, as an inside joke for our friends, whenever we printed flyers to promote our shows, we would draw in his tattoo next to the name of the band if he was singing, my tattoo if I was singing, and both our tattoos if we were both singing. After a while, I was singing most of the shows and my tattoo was always next to our band name. By the time the other singer left the band, we were gaining local popularity and local punks who didn't know us personally (who were writing our name on their jackets) were also drawing my tattoo. The symbol was next to the band name on so many flyers people assumed it was the band's logo. Other people making flyers for our shows also put the symbol next to our band name assuming it was our logo. We never intended to use it as our logo. In fact, we never intended to have a logo at all, but we figured "Why not?" and kept it."

The Song of the Moment is "Only the Lonely" by The Motels, who never had a logo as far as I could find.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Logo #203: Surgical Steel

Everything you ever wanted to know about Phoenix heavy metal band Surgical Steel is here. Designer A.D. Cook: "Wow, a blast from the past. I’m going from memory, but I would saw I designed the Surgical Steel logo in 1981." Earlier: "My time with Surgical Steel was a blast! We had some great times. I met them early in their career as a band, and after creating their logo, we became friends. They proved to be a great bunch of guys. I still have fond memories of those days. I remember one night I was on a date at a pizza place with my new girlfriend and I told her I did the Surgical Steel logo (sure, I was trying to impress her). She didn’t sound like she was totally convinced. Ironically, as we were leaving the restaurant the band was walking in. We all talked for a bit and they confirmed my story. It was hilarious, partly because our paths crossing must have seemed planned to her at the time, even though it was synchronicity. Anyway, I guess she must have been somewhat impressed – we’ve been married now for over 20 years! I have fond memories too of the band coming by my place to have their drums painted and to talk about album covers. They all had wild hair and wore lots of leather. In fact, I remember Jim having purple streaks in his hair for a while. All of my other clients were advertising agencies and corporate guys – straight haircuts and business suits. What a contrast when they would run into each other. It was priceless. Those were some wild days." - A.D. Cook, March 2004

Logo #202: The Pist

Al Ouimet, singer and writer for The Pist: "I designed the logos for the band, as well as all of the layouts and artwork (except for the "Ideas Are Bulletproof" cover). The flag logo was designed at the inception of the band in December of 1992. The tattered flag represented the political/social state of America and the "X" through the stars was a call for unity among all of the divided punk scenes throughout the nation.The molotov guy was designed in 1995 and just looked cool - kind of an evolution of the Neighborhood Watch signs and the logo that the D.O.A. use to use."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Logo #201: Naked Aggression

Singer Kirsten Patches of Naked Aggression: "Cyrus Highsmith, the drummer from our first two 7" records, designed our band logo when he was 17 at West High School in Madison WI in 1992. We needed a band logo for our new punk band, and he came to band practice one day and showed it to us. We thought it was fucking brilliant; it's so simple yet powerfully striking. Most corporations would kill to have a logo that eye-catching. After a lot of discussion, we decided that it symbolized anger building up in a confined space until it explodes - a metaphor that can carry over to many aspects of our personal lives in politics. It also captures the punk spirit by alluding to familiar logos that punk culture embraces, such as the chaos symbol. I have the logo tattooed on my shoulder - it's so eye-catching that to this day, people in the check-out line at the supermarket ask me what it means. When we go play shows on tour, fans come up to me to show me their Naked Aggression tattoos. It's so cool!"

RIP Naked Aggresion guitarist Phillip "Phil" Suchomel (April 19, 1969 - April 25, 1998).

The Song of the Moment is "Clipper" by Autechre.