Illustrated Tapes 004: FEAR.
Curated by Tom J Newell
Tom is an illustrator based in Sheffield, UK.
Hey Tom, can you tell us a little bit about your tape and your song selections?
Hey Illustrated Tapes! It’s a compilation of thirteen songs, themed around fear and various phenomena that people might be afraid of.
Easing in with ‘I Hear a New World’ by Joe Meek, this seems to hint at a fear of the unknown to me. This amalgamation of outer space and the after life is calling to Meek and haunting him.
Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’ signalled the rumbling of teenage delinquency. A menacing instrumental track, which was initially banned from the airwaves, showing us the fear it instilled.
The title and hook of Sean Price’s ‘Lord Have Mercy’ refers to a fear of God. It’s a posthumous release for Sean P, whose lyrics were always delivered with authenticity and honesty. It was his wrath that was feared by lesser lyricists who he called out as fakes.
The ‘Black Cat’ by Broadcast crosses your path for the fourth track amongst this unlucky thirteen. Trish Keenan’s vocals evoke the curious creature’s awkwardness with a fear of superstitious beliefs.
I love the terror that builds up in ‘What’s He Building?’ by Tom Waits. The neighbourhood recluse has been vilified through the wild speculation of the local community. A sinister switch in the closing lines reveals that it is perhaps them that the mysterious builder should be afraid of. “What is he building in there?… We have a right to know.”
‘UFO’ by ESG hovers above us next. The fear of alien invasion, propelled with the otherworldly droning sounds of an unidentified flying object.
ESG’s influence is recognisable in the sound of ‘End of The World’ by Anika and her backing band, Beak. The apocalypse has always been a cause for concern. Skeeter Davis’s original is tough to beat, but I wanted to include something from this Anika record, which is great.
The creepy, kooky and brilliant Gary Wilson turns the tables on who we initially thought we had cause to be afraid of here. In ‘Gary’s In The Park’, he’s unsure about walking home in the dark, but then assures the listener that once he’s ventured into the park, he’ll be there, “waiting for you.”
‘London Dungeon’ sees Glenn Danzig and the Misfits proclaiming their fear of being locked up in your British Hell. A track I first became obsessed with, hearing it on Mike Maldnado’s section of the 1996 Toy Machine skate video, ‘Welcome To Hell’.
WITCH stands for ‘We Intend To Cause Havoc’ and it is my favourite band name acronym. With ‘Havoc’ they rev the engine back up where Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’ left off and create a fearsome racket.
‘Frightened’ is the first song on The Fall’s first album. I don’t think Mark E Smith ever really seemed too scared of anything.
In Jonwayne’s ‘Afraid of Us’, the rapper and producer reflects on the fear of himself and what he has become. This perfect rimshot snare beat can also be heard in Biggie’s ‘I Got a Story to Tell’ and Solange’s ‘Cranes in the Sky’.
Wrapping things up with ‘A Word of Advice’ by Fog, featuring MF DOOM narrating the words of William Saroyan’s ‘The Time of Your Life’, this perhaps signals a new hope and presents us with the notion that there could be less to be afraid of than we thought, “… so that in that wondrous time, you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”
How did you go about the artwork for the tape?
I drew a terrified pink skeleton on an old cassette cover with Posca pens.
What are your fave album covers, records with a great music and artwork combo, or musical projects with a visual component?
Ramases - Space Hymns
Artwork: Roger Dean
Molly Hatchet - Flirtin’ With Disaster
Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters
Artwork: Victor Moscoso
What did you listen to growing up?
My parents listened to Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa when I was growing up, so I heard a lot of that. Much love to them!
What’s happening in your creative world at the moment?
I’m drawing up a design for a skateboard graphic right now, which is a lot of fun.
Where to find Tom: