After having a few days to absorb everything, my ambivalence faded, and I decided my attempt at sequencing the album worked after all. Then came the fun stuff — album art.
Now that I go to the trouble of giving my albums a proper physical presentation, I tend to find myself in one of two positions. Either I end up scrambling at the last minute for cover art with no idea what I’m going to do, or I have an image in mind early on and it sticks.
This time it was a little different. I thought it was about time to give the old “artist appearing on their album cover” thing a try again. Maybe I could erase the bad taste left in my mouth when previous forays into that sticky territory didn’t quite turn out as I planned. Most of the time I like to see something more interesting than the artist’s face on an album cover (unless the artist in question is PJ Harvey, Emmylou Harris, Kate Bush, Chan Marshall, or…well, you get the idea), but sometimes it just makes sense. I also thought it might be fun to try capturing some “in studio” images, since my recorded work hasn’t received a whole lot of visual documentation over the years.
Bree Gaudette came over on Saturday and took one hundred and forty-three pictures of me. That number was shaved down to fifty-nine keeper images. And then I was left with a problem I’ve never had before — having a whole slew of potential cover images to choose from.
I bounced back and forth between different ideas. I liked that there were a lot of shots of my hands doing things without my face in the frame. I liked the pictures of my reflection caught in the piano’s shine, but they seemed like they would work better for an album that was more piano-centric. For a while I was set on a shot of a microphone in sharp focus, juxtaposed against my out-of-focus face.
In the end, the picture I least expected to take home the prize felt like the most appropriate one to put on the cover. I’m there, but my face isn’t clearly seen. It’s obscured by shadows. Sounds about right.
Then I selected a handful of shots for the booklet, to break up some of the words and make it more interesting. It was kind of a shot in the dark, really. I have way too many favourites to fit in one CD booklet. You could make a hardcover coffee table book out of them. But it’s nice to have some super high quality pictures of me in my element, doing a bit of what I do. There haven’t been any of those since 2003. Not all of the chaos that’s in the studio was captured, but that would have been an insane undertaking anyway, with everything there is to see and all the different angles it could have been captured from.
Maybe some of the shots I didn’t use will show up in different places down the road. For now, here are some of my favourites that didn’t end up making it onto the cover or into the booklet. Huge thanks to Bree for taking all these pictures and making me look not as much like the least photogenic person in the world I am most of the time.
This is a Pearlman TM-LE, which is maybe my new favourite microphone. It’s got some of the sweetest “air” I’ve ever heard without getting the least bit harsh. Just yummy extended goodness. Leave it to Dave to make yet another mic that makes an amazing Swiss army knife.
Here I am in the midst of a little bit of the chaos, wondering how I’m ever going to record everything I need to while I’m still virile and able.
Yes, Alesis Micron. You is my friend.
In focus, out of focus, hocus pocus. This is the shot I almost put on the cover.
This guitar — a Washburn D82WE, which is probably one of the only really high end, non-cheapo models Washburn has made in recent years, so of course it’s discontinued now — tried to commit suicide once. We brought it back and convinced it life was worth living. It’s still got the scars to remind it of wilder times. It’s been in a pretty weird-ass tuning for a number of years, and it’s the guitar “Don’t Be Tense”, “Creepy Crawly Things”, “Organ Smears”, and a lot of other songs I still need to record were written and played on.
The Kay Thin Twin. A lot of the electric guitar on the new album is this guy. Funny how two of my favourite guitars these days are Kays. The K-22 I picked up late last year has pretty much become my go-to acoustic guitar and is all over AN ABSENCE OF SWAY and IF I HAD A QUARTER, while the Thin Twin is fast becoming one of my favourite electric guitars. These are two of the only instruments I’ve ever played that will tolerate a particular D tuning I’m fond of without the intonation getting dodgy, so that’s nice too.
They’re kind of sleepers on the vintage guitar market. They don’t command anywhere near the prices of vintage Martins or Gibsons, though I’d put them right up there in terms of tone, playability, and overall coolness factor. Someday people will catch on and a vintage K-22 like the one I got for a song will probably be going for five grand or so.
Or maybe I’m wrong. Time will tell.
There are about half a dozen “piano hands” shots. I like them all. Picking one to put in the booklet came down to which one struck me as having the most appropriate mood to it. But any of them could have made the cut. Those are some pretty long fingers…
And there are many more I like a whole lot. These are just a few of my favourites. Bree takes some snazzy pictures. She also makes you forget the camera is there, which gets rid of all the self-conscious hooey that tends to kill good candid shots. I never enjoyed family picture time at Olan Mills when I was younger. It was fake smiles all around.
Emotionally stunted hypocrites really do pull off that smarmy fake smile thing with aplomb, though, don’t they? Gotta give ’em credit for that.
Now that I know you’re busy drooling over my rugged good looks (or plucking out your eyes to make the hurting stop), I should pause to tell you I’m playing a show at Taloola on Saturday, August 8th, backing Adam up. Music starts at 8:00 pm and ends by 9:00. An early show! In a place with no PA system! No hearing loss! Praise Señor Jesus, and the girl who sold me lemonade last summer.
The Field Assembly lineup for this show will be just Adam, Stephen Hargreaves, and myself. I get to play a Wurlitzer electric piano in a live setting and drink tea that smells pretty. Should be fun.