Illustrated Tapes 159: Escape to Lunar Ranch

Curated by William Exley

William is an illustrator based in South London.

Hey Will. Can you tell us a little bit about your tape and your song selections?

A collection of trail songs for the lunar landscape. Ride lonesome with deep space sounds, outlaw ballads, and past and future folk music as your companion.

I work in an outdoors shop that takes its name from a Grateful Dead song so our in-store playlists start from there and include a lot of country, folk and oddities. I've been an Illustrated Tapes listener for a while and I was keeping an ear out for a theme that could work - and hearing a couple of songs that fit together the idea of a space western soundtrack came to mind.

Something between an alternative Battle Beyond The Stars soundtrack, the music in the saloon in The American Astronaut and the feeling of star gazing on the ranch. Joe Meek was obviously a big entry point for this - so I had to avoid filling the whole playlist with him - I hope it all just about holds together as a collection of lunar trail songs.

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

I decided quickly on the character in a setting composition - then it was a case of balancing the Western/country imagery with the space elements. Ageing cowboy crooner with a guitar cover from the 60s/70s informed the former and 50s pre-space race board games and toys were a big inspiration for the latter. The drawing was done in procreate - one of the few pieces I've done from sketch to final on there so it was a good opportunity to get to grips with some of the tools on there.

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

Crisp Winter Dawn of my Night Moon – Old Nick
2021, Grime Stone Records

Not related to this playlist, but I've always been drawn to metal for its strong link between art/aesthetic and music. There's too many to pick from, Old Nick – Crisp Winter Dawn of my Night Moon, Black Breath – Heavy Breathing, The Sword – Gods of The Earth, any Judas Priest or Sabbath; all incredible feats of image matching and pushing the music.

This Is Not An Erect, All-Red Neon Body – Combatwoundedveteran
2004, No Idea Records
Arwork: Steak Mtn

An all time favourite is combatwoundedveteran's This Is Not an Erect, All-Red Neon Body - garish, cartoony neon guts and a scratchy, broken layout which inspired my work in university (and beyond) and that is still very striking today.

Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs – Marty Robbins
1959, Columbia
Photography: Don Cravens

Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs - more related to the playlist, I love the costume look of the all in black gunfighter and Marty Robbins' deeply awkward pose on the cover here - visually striking and completely unthreatening but weird. The perfect cover for an album of gunfighter songs.

What did you listen to growing up?

I listened to punk/ska/hardcore and metal mostly - anything that was fast, didn't hang around and had energy and a DIY spirit was very important to me at the time!

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

I've yet to see Dash Shaw's Cryptozoo, but the soundtrack is by John Carroll Kirby and in the meantime I've been exploring his previous work. I've been enjoying his album Septet from last year a lot.

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

I've got a couple of exciting projects lined up through my agency ROAR at the moment, one of which is revisiting a project from last year that I'm eager to get back to. Most of my time to draw comes via train commutes at the moment, so a lot of sketchbooks are being filled.

Where can we find you? and @williamexley in Instagram

Thanks Megan 👋🏽