Illustrated Tapes 050: Bad News From Outer Space

Curated by Will Powers
22.01.20

spoti.fi/37gRfsJ



Sequenced playlist, made to be played in order.

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Will is an illustrator, animator and writer based in London, UK.

What’s up Will! Can you tell us a little bit about your tape and your song selections?

Hello! Thanks for having me, my tape is a cross between an alternative pop playlist and an imaginary soundtrack to a dream sci-fi movie. “Bad news from outer space” is a line from the film You Only Live Twice (written by Roald Dahl!) which made me laugh a lot when I first heard it. I used it as a mixtape title back in 2009 and then made two ‘sequels’ as I enjoyed the theme and what the name seemed to inspire. This is a best-of those old mixtapes with a few new songs I’ve been loving since then. To me all the music has a slightly otherworldly feeling, whether that be in the lyrics or production.

I think the most exciting thing about making playlists is creating surprising juxtapositions. Putting an ABBA or Erasure track alongside The Residents or The Comet is Coming makes a lot of sense to me and hopefully casts both in a slightly different light. I guess one of the things I like about classic sci-fi movies is the cheesy, the surreal, and the philosophical all sitting alongside each other, so hopefully this playlist has a similar feeling

What direction did you take with your cover art, and what was your process?

I knew I wanted to do something bold and colourful in the vein of a classic sci-fi poster, but the inspiration actually started with a William Blake postcard I had stuck up on my studio wall. I love the intensity of his art, the dramatic compositions and faces amongst such beautiful details, so I wanted to aim for that mood, and I thought I’d push outside my comfort zone a little by doing a painting.

Projects like this are a chance to experiment! So, I did a black and white acrylic painting and then coloured it all in photoshop and added the surrounding details all digitally. I love to mix up the digital and the analogue as much as I can as it’s nice to try and create an effect that you couldn’t entirely achieve with either alone. Still, committing to the painting was a little scary, when you’re doing a full-on human face with dramatic lighting it always feels on the edge of being ridiculous, but ultimately very rewarding.

What are your fave album covers, records with a great music and artwork combo, or musical projects with a visual component?

When I was younger I was obsessed with a lot of classic music videos by people like Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze and I still love dreaming about how I would make videos for the songs I love. I think the marriage of music with moving images is still what excites me the most, maybe because none of my favourite albums have cover art that I really like.

Sometimes I’ll listen to an album based on the strength of the art alone (I think the last time that happened it was Mystery Flavour by Stevie Dinner) but generally it doesn’t seem to have a strong link to my music taste. I love the Cocteau Twins and I think they have a pretty unique series of covers which really reflect the feeling of the music. Also, I’m a big fan of anything with a lo-fi hand drawn look, like the Daniel Johnston albums, or The Beets.


Stevie Dinner - Mystery Flavor
2013, Muckman



Cocteau Twins - Victorialand
1986, 4AD
Design: 23 Envelope
 


The Beets - Spit in the Face of People Who Don’t Want to be Cool
2008, Independently released


What did you listen to growing up?

When I was growing up I was obsessed by The Beatles. I had a cassette of Sgt. Pepper and a little walkman (which were already incredibly outdated at that point) and I would spend all day listening to it over and over and over again. It was only in my late teens that I started trying to broaden my tastes, but no one I knew was that interested in music so it felt like I was just reaching around in the dark.

I’d go to my local library and look through CDs and just take home any that looked vaguely familiar (my thinking was that if I recognised the art it must be famous and therefore worth listening to). The main thing I got out of that was a complete and unironic love of Meat Loaf. Soon afterwards I went to art school and suddenly everyone I knew had excellent taste and I discovered all the bands that I now love.

And what’s on heavy rotation for you at the moment?

My favourite band for the last decade has been The Magnetic Fields and they are still on pretty non-stop rotation, along with all of Stephin Merritt’s side projects (most of which feature on my playlist). But alongside that I’ve been very into the new album by Bamboo Daughters of the Sky, Titanic Rising by Weyes Blood, and Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery by The Comet is Coming. I also try to fill in the gaps of my music knowledge when I can and I only just discovered In the Dark by Toots & The Maytals which is such a listening pleasure I just can’t stop humming it.

What’s happening in your creative world at the moment?

January seems like a time for reaching out for fresh projects, so if anyone reading this is interested in commissioning something please get in touch! I’ve got a few fun posters and graphics I’m working on, and I’ll be stalling at the DIY Art Market on the 1st Feb with a few fresh things so if you’re in London come and say hi.

Where can we find you?

︎ @willisokong
︎ etsy.com/shop/willisokong

Thanks Will!

Mark