GOOSE vs. Storm Thorgerson
With A&Gallery's Storm Thorgerson exhibition in Ostend still underway - it runs until September 1 - I thought I'd post the interview I did with GOOSE about working with Storm on the cover for Synrise. The interview originally appeared in the third A&Gazette - still available in select locations throughout the country or here.
“It’s GOOSE, not Ducks.”
Meet the only Belgian band that has a shot at ever getting mentioned in some cool coffee table book called The Greatest Album Covers of All Time in the Universe. You know, the type of book you buy when you've run out of ideas on what to get your colleague at work for his birthday (or you stumble into Colette and everything else is too expensive but you feel you just HAVE to buy something). Anyway, never mind Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Genesis and The Winkies, here’s GOOSE!
In case you’ve been living on a different planet or still consider electronic music to be the work of the devil: in 2010 Belgian band GOOSE hired Storm Thorgerson to design the cover of its sophomore album Synrise. That same year, the boys took home the MIA (Music Industry Award) for Best Artwork. Now, to coincide with Storm’s exhibition in Ostend, they just released a special picture disc featuring the award-winning artwork (and an unreleased remix from Soulwax).
Yet you guys weren’t even born when Storm was already having record executives for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How did you decide upon working with him?
Mickael Karkousse: “I should probably say something like ‘he’s been on our list for years’ but the truth is that we were in the studio mixing the album and I just happened to walk by when Dave (Martijn) was checking out Storm’s website on his laptop – basically killing time. I had no idea who he was but I was immediately blown away by his work. Having said that, if I’d walked by five minutes later we might have sent Anton Corbijn an email. It all happened very spontaneously – there was no Big Plan.”
So that’s how you got Storm’s attention: you sent him an email?
Mickael: “Yeah. It was on his website. (laughs) Of course you don’t really expect to get an answer from a guy like that so an hour later we had kind of already forgotten about it. Imagine our surprise when he replied that same day! The funny thing was that he in turn didn’t expect to receive an email from us – the band. It was only when we spoke on the phone for ten minutes that he realized I wasn’t GOOSE’s manager or label boss. All of a sudden he sounded a lot more friendly. (laughs) I guess he’s been through record company hell a few times too many in his life and finds it more pleasant to talk to bands directly. Or maybe musicians just get intimidated quicker and say ‘yes’ to pretty much every crazy idea that pops up in his head – contrary to managers who probably start panicking about the budget from the moment he utters one word.”
So did you say ‘yes’ to the first crazy idea that popped up in Storm’s mind?
Mickael: “Well, no. But we knew we had to give him creative control and to not worry about the budget or what he would eventually come up with. Working with someone like Storm, you just go with it. We also felt it was the right time to do something – well – sizeable. We were used to making music in our own little studio but for Synrise we got to work in a really expensive one and all the while it felt like we were living in the ‘90s – that magical time in record company history when the sky wasn’t even the limit. We wanted the album cover to reflect that.”
You were looking for large-scale theatricality?
Mickael: “Well, what I like about his work is that he takes you on a journey. With every album cover you get to experience something different, something mysterious. Storm always leaves you with more questions than answers and that’s really what I have come to expect from great artwork. Plus: that’s precisely how we looked at Synrise. We knew it wasn’t the easiest album to get into and we wanted the artwork to convey that sense of mystique.”
Did you meet up with Storm to discuss all this?
Mickael: “We sent him a rough mix of the album, after which he asked us to come to London and have dinner with him. It was the weirdest dinner ever. It was more like ‘an interrogation with food’. He wanted to know everything about us: where we grew up, how we met, what inspires us, who does what in the band. At one point he even asked us if we considered an album cover to be a forest or just a tree. To this day, I have no idea what he meant by that."
I would have said tree. I think. Anyway, when did the pyramid come into play?
Mickael: “He quickly sent a couple of ideas our way. Some he already had lying around, others came out of our meeting – like the one with the pyramid. We’d told him the songs on the album were the result of long jam sessions, which got him thinking of jazz musicians and being in the groove. So basically the ‘landing strip’ – Dave told Storm how much he loves landing strips – represents the groove of a vinyl record and the pyramid up in the sky is actually a record player needle. We loved the idea right away but surprisingly enough it wasn’t Storm’s favourite. He liked the one with a duck in it. He thought it was hilarious: GOOSE doing something with a duck. It actually took quite some convincing to talk him out of it.” (laughs)
There’s this rumour that Storm lets people pay what they want for a cover design. Is that true?
Mickael: “Really? I guess we weren’t that lucky. How it worked was: the restaurant where we had the meeting has a number of his album covers hanging on the wall. He tells you how much each of them cost to make and then you – in order to give him an indication of your budget – pick one that’s within your range. À la carte!”
The album Synrise was released in 2010, the title song struck gold in 2011, why wait until now to release a picture disc with Storm’s instant legendary artwork?
Mickael: “Because it never seemed like the right time to do it. With every new album, a million ideas are put on the table but you only have time to realize a couple. Making a picture disc was one of those things put on hold – just like painting Storm’s artwork on a piano. We’re still waiting for an occasion to do the thing with the piano but the Storm exhibition in Ostend gave us the perfect excuse to do the picture disc.”
Including the much sought after Soulwax remix of Synrise.
Mickael: “Finally! For years, we’ve talked to them about doing a remix for us but there was never any – probably their worst enemy – time. Then they finally came up with this brilliant remix for Synrise, but the EP had already hit shops so we didn’t know what to do with it – until now.”
In the meantime you guys are back on the road – getting everyone excited for the new album, which will be out after the summer. Do you already have a cover for it?
Mickael: “Working on it. We’ve asked Pierre Debusschere (one of Belgium’s most talented fashion photographers) to make a live clip for every track on the new album. Chances are the cover will – in some way – reference those performances and further underline in what way playing live has become part of GOOSE’s DNA. Also the new album sounds much more like a GOOSE gig – rougher and tougher!”
The GOOSE x Storm Thorgerson x Soulwax picture disc is available at the Storm Thorgerson exhibition at Fort Napoleon in Ostend.