Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A real American Idol...and a Grammy for The Klezmatics!

If I could have a quarter for everyone who came to America inspired by Woody Guthrie's words & music, and another from everyone who came to Southern California inspired by Brian Wilson's music...you get the idea!
Last year, I had the incredible opportunity to create an album package (above) for an amazing group of versatile and talented musicians called The Klezmatics.
I had the pleasure to work with Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter (yup, Arlo's sister...which reminds me, let's add another quarter for everyone who went to Alice's Restaurant from hearing & seeing Arlo!) Nora found a treasure trove of lost 1940's & 50's lyrics written by her father in a storage trunk. The words where all inspired by Woody's love of his family and his unique surroundings from the time they lived in Coney Island (a famous beach town in Brooklyn, N.Y.) The title of the album, Wonder Wheel, is named after the gargantuan ferris wheel in the amusement park. Nora ran into one of the band members of the Klezmatics at a concert, and the result of that meeting is this amazing CD, which I am proud to say, just won a 2007 Grammy Award for "Best Contemporary World Music Album"
It was truly an honor to work on this one.
It shot me straight back to Kindergarten, when an old folk singer gave us a concert in our auditorium at Carthay Center School. On that amazing 1965 afternoon, "This Land Is Your Land" was spiritually implanted into my being, and I still feel a sort of warm safety whenever I hear it.
Nora gave me full access to her family's photo archives and her father's own hand-written lyric sheets. Talk about American musical history! The Klezmatics' manager Dan Efram found a perfect folk-artist named Steve Keene who did the cover painting (actually it's a mix of 4 different paintings...but that's where I come in!) and interior paintings of Coney Island. The archival photos were mind-blowing. For Woody's fans, there are many rare/unseen shots in the booklet. I actually wanted the outer cover to be a 3-D digipac with the frame around the painting and the brush strokes raised up with embossing to look like an actual hand-painted piece of art. Who knows, there may have been 2 Grammys won, but the budget wasn't there and I have no control over that aspect of the business. That said, I'm still very proud of it, and very artistically fulfilled to have "worked" with the great Woody Guthrie!

Congratulations to Nora, The Klezmatics, their manager Dan Efram, and JMG's David McClees.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The shameless freedom of promoting pals, part two...

What can be said about my pal Andrew Sandoval?
Well...let's start here and then go there! Then go straight to Amazon and grab one of his CD's...33 the best of Andrew is a perfect place to start. Andrew can also be heard on his radio show "Come To The Sunshine" on luxuriamusic.com Mondays from 4-6 (PST)
I whipped up the piece you see above as a little nod...Oh, alright...a direct rip-off, of the old "93 KHJ Boss hitlist" that we used to grab at the legendary Wallich's Music City on Sunset & Vine.

Aside from being the foremost authority on The Monkees ,
Andrew is one of, if not my favorite singer/songwriters on the local scene. Andrew and his better half Wendy are one of the nicest and most factual couples I've ever encountered (he's an archival author, she runs an L.A. Library!) Together we are bold Disneyland freaks, and regularly inhabit the park. No, we haven't yet brought scented candles & incense to the statue of Walt & the Mouse...(Phil Hendrie fans will get that) but we do have our annual passes. Whenever I'm questioned about this, I find myself saying the same thing: where else can you flee from your work, drive for 35 minutes and be on a Rocket Ship, a River Boat, A Haunted House, and a Steam Locomotive?

Luxuria Music's own co-founder Eric Bonerz is also a member of the Magic Kingdom Underground, and I myself found a wealth of inspiration for the SMiLE album just by strolling down Main St. U.S.A. or to be more truthful, obsessing over the most minute imagineered details that you'd never understand...or would you? Are you...one of us?

A moment of glory...around 7 seconds worth!

This photo (OK vid-grab) above is one of my most treasured moments: It's my good self and one of the founding fathers of Pop Art, Sir Peter Blake.

While in London (no relation) for Brian's first live performance of SMiLE, I had the honor of meeting Sir Peter backstage. It never ocurred to me at the time to ask someone to snap a shot of us, because this night truly belonged to Brian, Van Dyke & the band. Our entire meeting only lasted for around 10 minutes. Much to my surprise, when the "Beautiful Dreamer" DVD arrived, a friend called and told me to check out our drummer Jim Hines' backstage interview and I'd find a little something cool in the background...sure enough, there we are (for like 4 seconds) discussing the art for Bri's (then) upcoming album Getting In Over My Head...I can't actually recall our entire conversation, but I do remember when I introduced myself as Brian's graphic artist, he said "oh, very good!...then we shall collaborate for the new album?" to which I said something like "Well, I have to admit, I've seen what you did with Sgt. Pepper, I think you're quite capable of doing an album without me!" However, he kindly insisted I be involved (I did all but the cover) and is seen above showing me his sketches and sharing his vision for the album cover.

The biggest thrill, was seeing Sir Peter wearing my art on his backstage pass. Anyhow, like lightning, the moment was brief but groovy...so there 'tis!

FYI; most of the images here in the blog are clickable if you wanna go "super-size"

~ ML ~

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The shameless freedom of promoting pals, part one...

Even though this is my new home on the range, I believe in putting others first. I never forget the people who have helped me in my career and those I've had the honor of collaborating with on various projects.

First up is my Buddy Hal Lifson.

No, I didn't design his website, but definitely pay Hal a visit and browse around, maybe buy some custom coin holders! One of Hal's little side-gigs is representing the
Quikoin company. Remember these?
Above is a design I did around 5 years ago to get Hal going with his first order. I still have a few laying around for $5 ea. E-mail me if ya want one.

Hal was managing Nancy Sinatra when I first met him at Rodney Bingenheimer's table at Cantor's in the year 2000. We started talking. Hal told me he dug the "Brian on the Sunset Strip" poster that I'd done for the Roxy gig that year.

He asked if I would I like to do one for Nancy's upcoming gig with Eric Burdon (below)

It turned out Hal & I had a lot in common; he was raised in Encino, and I went to Jr. High & High School there at Cal Prep...actually across the street from Hal's childhood home.
We soon became close friends. The '66 book was actually born one Sunday evening while walking through the Disneyland parking lot (Hal, myself and his beautiful wife Brigitte) Hal just blurted out "Ya know buddy, I was looking through my stuff at home this week and everything I worship has "copyright 1966" written on it!" About a week after that, Hal ran into his childhood friend Jeff Stern. It just so happened that Jeff had recently acquired a book publishing company called Bonus Books. Hal told him about our idea, and voila...project 1966 began to take shape. I designed the cover of the book (with my own special nod to Wham-O in the design of Hal's name) and I scanned many of the images in there (the clean ones of course!) If you're a 60's art fanatic, especially if you happen to have born in Southern California like I was, Hal's book is a must own. When was the last time you saw that amazing diamond shaped KCOP logo?!

I had a blast finding and scanning the images for this project. One memory that stood out, was I won a '66 LIFE magazine on good ol' E-Bay. The seller was out in Ohio...and to my Twilight Zone surprise, when I finally got the mag in the mail, I read the address label and I couldn't believe it...the address was exactly across the street from where I was working on the book...in Toluca Lake, California. So I took it over the neighbor's home and knocked on the door...no, it wasn't from their family's old subscription, but from the Doctor that they had bought the home from in 1967. He passed away shortly after they bought it, and said they'd just been talking about him the day before I came over!

Supernatural? Perhaps.
Baloney? Perhaps not!

Speaking of The Monkees...stay tuned for shameless promotion of pals part two: Andrew Sandoval.

London Calling...

Working mainly as a "print" artist (posters, books, albums, DVD's etc...) this is really a new avenue for me. I've been digging other folks' stuff here for a while now and decided it may be time for to plunge into the "Bold World of Blog" myself. I really don't know where to begin here!

In this blog, I hope to show you to the many faces and places I've worked with/for visually throughout the years, and I'll be getting to that ASAP.

Many of you may know me by my graphic work for the man who invented California as we know it... no, not Schwarzenegger, I'm talking about the great Brian Wilson.

I've been doing Brian's tour posters, programs...or programmes for my UK pals, album art & more since 1999. Now I know what Prince meant about that 1999 party...and mine began in the Wiltern Theatre parking lot on October 23rd, when I did my first poster for Brian (below)

It's hard not to be confined to the label "poster artist" and although I'm proud of my work in that field, I wanted to take my art to another level. I had the perfect opportunity to do that for last year for Brian's Pet Sounds 40th Anniversary gigs he did with Al Jardine. I was able to do a 12" 1966 Brian figure, and it came out awsome. My pal Eric Thomas from Robert Kaufman fabrics was huge help in finding me the scaled-down black watch plaid we needed for Brian's '66 pants.

When we got the first prototype figure, Bri's wife Melinda brought one up to show Brian in his music room and said "Who's this Bri?" Brian said "Hey, that's me! I was around 24 years old here!"

The signed limited edition of 300 sold out quickly (I only got one myself!) I think there's still a few of the un-signed edition still available on Brian's site.

ABOVE: I had Bri sign the boxes in a few sessions. He was a real trouper. Here we are after sound check in his dressing room the day before the Nov 1st UCLA gig.

So, back to why I created this page...I've never really had my own showcase or anything resembling a portfolio on the web before, mainly because I've been fortunate enough to be working steadily since I decided to try and make a living at the very thing that pissed off so many of my teachers....drawing on my homework. Not much has changed there, accept now I draw on other people's homework...like Rhino records, 20th Century Fox & anyone else who might see fit to have me color their world. I guess the closest thing I've ever had to showing my stuff, would be my old pal Stuart's Poster Planet website. Stuart has been with me since 1999, the very beginning of my poster career...a career kick-started by way of strong suggestion from my own personal Jedi-type art mentor (below)
Dennis Loren.

Dennis and I met in 1997, and began working together in 1998 and in '99 he engouraged me to design my first concert poster. Also via Dennis, I was also able to meet and hang out with many of my graphic artist idols like Stanley Mouse, Lee Conklin, David Singer and an amazing cat who I'm proud to have spent many hours with, brother Gary Grimshaw (I'll do a special feature about Gary in a future post) Gary and his wife Laura are a couple of great souls.

ABOVE: "Rock Art Heaven (on Earth)"
L to R: Gary Houston, Dennis Loren, Gary Grimshaw, Myself, Lee Conklin, Stanley Mouse, Jim Phillips, David Singer, and the late Allen Cohen (publisher of the original San Francisco Oracle)
2002 TRPS (The Rock Poster Society) event in San Francisco.

I also want to give a shout out to Joe Weiss who published my first bunch of posters while I was working at his record store, and the great Marco Almera who told me how to approach concert promoters about even doing a gig poster...it didn't work that first time though...nobody at the Wiltern Theatre would give me any info about Brian's people, but thank God that didn't stop me from doin' it anyway!

That said, I'm gonna try and make some visual sense in this page. Bear with me here, I'm not exactly "web-guy" so this should be an interesting undertaking. Until the next post, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite authors, the legendary Hunter S. Thompson;

"Call on God, but row
away from the rocks!"