Tristâme - Common Ground

Artwork for 4-song EP

It was a chilly October night in 2011, where on Fifth Avenue, Tristâme's Rami mentioned that he'd be interested in having me do some artwork for his next musical project. Over a year later, on another cold New York street, he told me about his latest project - an EP about his homeland, Syria, with proceeds going to benefit organizations helping refugees afflicted by the ongoing violence there.


Anything Can Happen If You Let It

5 lbs of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

In the past I've explained that when something captures my interest I like to learn as much about it as I can. Specifically, I'm fascinated with the creative processes of other artists, regardless of the medium. I seek resources and material offering a glimpse behind the curtain, something that can provide more insight into the seldom seen genesis happening "behind the scenes."

This time I was interested in the synthesis of Broadway's musical smash-hit Mary Poppins, which held its final performance on March 3rd after a successful six year run.

1966 illustrated Big Golden Book
Yes, I've been a fan of Disney's cinematic masterpiece ever since I was a child. Even as a grown man I still consider Mary Poppins one of my all-time favorite films. When I was a boy, my mother and I would walk to our local library where I'd usually check out their worn copy of a 1960s illustrated Big Golden Book. No matter how many times I'd read it it never got old. And yet, ironically, I never even knew there were other Poppins books - as in P. L. Travers' original stories that inspired it all!

In fact, it wasn't until 17 Cherry Tree Lane relocated to 42nd Street that I was introduced to Travers. It was 2011 when I finally got to attend a matinee of Mary Poppins at the exquisite New Amsterdam Theatre. Perusing the Playbill beforehand, I learned of P. L. Travers' literally success with her Mary Poppins stories and Walt Disney's decades long quest to obtain production rights. Anyone who could resist Disney's pursuits for nearly three decades certainly deserves my respect!

But as the show went on I quickly realized it wasn't just a rehash of the 1964 film. This was something new. This was something comforting and familiar yet vibrant and fresh! Well known characters were reinvigorated by a new generation for an audience of multiple generations. There were characters unknown to me - Neleus the forlorn statue, Mrs. Corey the ancient yet effervescent shop owner, and "The Holy Terror" herself, Miss Andrew! Where did they come from?! Well, as I was informed by my friend who worked on the show's PR, the theatrical production was an amalgamation of literary treasure and motion picture nostalgia. The highlights of Disney, integrated with the expansive material of Travers, synthesized into a Mary Poppins for a new era.

I've seen the show twice again after that. Yes, I enjoyed it that much! So, getting back to my original point, obviously, I wanted to know more about the production.

(Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It is copyright its original authors. 
No infringement intended in writing this review.)


The Oceania Tour

It's was such a busy end to 2012!

My best friend (and webmaster) was visiting for the entire month of December and between the holiday preparations and festivities, plus working my day job, I didn't have the time to update much of anything!

One event that kept us busy was an invitation to the final date of Smashing Pumpkins' Oceania tour on December 10th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. We got complimentary tickets and wristbands from bassist Nicole Fiorentino (sorry, I had to name drop!) and got to meet 3/4 of the band afterward (see my previous post.)

The Pumpkins played their latest album, Oceania, in its entirety while "the orb", a huge inflatable...orb...provided visual stimuli. The second half of the concert was a selection of older songs (some we heard last year, too) that focused mainly on material from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness - available for reissue on December 4, 2012. The highlight of this setlist was the orb showcasing an edited version of Le Voyage dans la Lune during the performance of Tonite Reprise/Tonight, Tonight. If you didn't already know, the film was the basis for their acclaimed music video.

I did my best to take some photos during the show, with mixed results. I wasn't quite properly equipped for the task. But if you'd like to see more of the show you can pick up the live concert DVD later this year!


Art = Delivered

 After Smashing Pumpkins' final show of their Oceania tour on Dec. 10, I attended the after show "party" where I gave Billy Corgan, Nicole Fiorentino and Mike Byrne one of the four collages that make up the "Teargarden" series (Jeff wasn't there so Nicole passed it on).


(Sorry, no photographic evidence of them holding the art so you'll just have to trust me on this one :P )


The Cold and Lovely

My "Thank You" goodies from the band! (Sorry for the bad lighting)

A little birdie had told me that The Cold and Lovely liked my art and was actually interested in working with me on their first album! Needless to say I was totally surprised and more than a little excited. I ended up creating the CD packaging as well as a poster design based off of the front cover.

The band consists of guitarist Meghan Toohey (The Weepies, Schuyler Fisk, Lenka), bassist Nicole Fiorentino (Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt), and drummer Patty Schemel (Hole). Having completed a successful fundraising drive through Pledge Music, the band was able to release their debut, self-titled album. And just like with Kickstarter campaigns, those who chose to donate would receive special "thank you" gifts. One of those items was a signed poster print!


The Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania

No, I had nothing to do with this album.

I must admit that I ate my fair share of crow with this one.

It wasn't that I was necessarily expecting it to be a bad album, it's just that I'd gotten a bit skeptical (and somewhat cynical) about where this 44-song Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project was heading. The first two EPs, Songs for a Sailor and The Solstice Bare, met with lukewarm, if not hostile, response from fans. I found them good but nothing to really get excited about. And some of Corgan's promising endeavors, such as the Glass and the Machines of God animated series and Zwan, were never completed or, sadly, derailed before reaching their full potential. Also, it didn't help that I'd become disenchanted with Billy's antics over the past few years - the embarrassing, abusive stage "banter" during the 20th Anniversary Tour, the digs at previous band members and just the seemingly all around mean-spiritedness coming across in interviews. So, basically I stopped listening to anything he had to say when not singing. And yet, I was even growing tired of the Pumpkins' back catalog as well.

Despite, more or less, falling out of love with one of my favorite bands - if not THE favorite - I did agree to attend their concert at NYC's Terminal 5 last year with a small group of friends. I have to say that the band was in top form, the new material sounded promising and for a moment during For Martha I felt like I was a teenager once more and Corgan was still my idol. Afterwards, we got to meet drummer Mike Byrne and bassist Nicole Fiorentino, both incredibly nice people. I do sometimes feel sorry for these two - Mike will always be unfairly compared to Jimmy Chamberlain and Nicole can get written off as the token female bassist.

Because I was initially intrigued with the newer material they performed, I had decided to give them the benefit of the doubt with this release. I suppose, deep down, I didn't really want to let go of my 16 years of Pumpkin love. So, I tried not to expect too much with Oceania, especially when music you first hear live may not translate as well into a studio version. Oceania could be surprisingly good, although, I already resigned myself to the fact that it could be a disappointment.

Turns out it's not good - it's GREAT!


A Voice In The Sky 12" vinyl

All artwork © 2012 Spiritspiders Entertainment. Used with permission.

Once again, I've had the privilege of designing The Spiritspiders' latest musical release - A Voice In The Sky - their first full length commercial album.

What makes this album unusual for The Spiritspiders is that it's only commercially available on 12" vinyl. Frank M. Reeve, the band's mastermind/frontman, wanted to do something different and decided to ignore the typical CD release. That meant a notably larger canvas to work with - it's the kind of project I'd been dying to work on for a long time!

The package includes a full color cardboard sleeve, color labels on the vinyl itself as well as a double-sided, full color insert with lyrics and liner notes.