March 22nd, 2006


Ocky Milk's baby teeth

A few tweaks, morphs, flips and twitters (mostly by that extraordinary Dadaist of sound, John Talaga) aside, my 2006 album Ocky Milk is finished. On the audio side, anyway. Something now assumes a looming importance: the sleeve. Luckily one of Britain's best graphic designers, James Goggin, has once again agreed to the commission.

James made the Otto Spooky sleeve, and documents it here. He's also responsible for many of the posters and catalogues for Tate Modern shows. Amazingly, Otto Spooky was the RCA graduate's first published record sleeve. Its cables-and-tape theme inspired designer Daniel Eatock to make a series of short film loops of his studio, a trail of colours, shapes and letters prompted by the sleeve and texts and lectures by Ryan Gander, and unveiled at a workshop at the Werkplaats Typografie in Holland earlier this year.

Here (left) is the preliminary sketch James has come up with for Ocky Milk. Just to illustrate how it looks colorised, I've added some colours based on a photograph of a shelf of beautiful books I took in the Venice apartment of Nikolas Montaldi, one of the organisers of my recent concerts there. The sketch uses Milton Glaser's 1968 font Baby Teeth, of which the only available digitized commercial version is a copy called Bebit.

I feel some sort of family tie to Milton Glaser because the veteran designer shares a building with Mirko Ilic, who's very generously hosting all my books and records in a corner of his studio (they'll be shipped to Berlin in summer). In 2003 Mirko introduced me to Glaser, one of the giants of the design world, a political radical perhaps most famous for his "I (heart) New York" logo, but author of a great deal besides (for instance, the quirky illustrations in an Ogden Nash book I just bought at the Used Book Project).

My original idea for the Ocky Milk sleeve was of some visual identity that would tie it in to Oskar Tennis Champion and Otto Spooky (this is the third installment, after all, in my "Berlin trilogy", my "Stories of O" series, records with black-based sleeves, names beginning with the letter "O", and sonic "reproduction" by John Talaga). I wanted the letters in Baby Teeth to "cut holes" in the black ground and drop away to either pure blocks of colour or pictures of various things. James immediately suggested die-cutting the letters, which would have been great, because it would have referred to Bruno Munari and Enzo Mari's children's books and games. But I don't think we have anything like the budget for punching holes in the card, alas.

Since picking it out as the font for the Ocky sleeve, I've (of course) noticed other people using Baby Teeth. For instance, Supermundane, currently exhibiting their work in the gallery at Edinburgh design space Analogue, chose a (version of?) the face for their logo for Paper + Glue Records. Well, there are only so many typefaces in the world. It's what you do with them that matters. And James Goggin will do something wonderful with Ocky's baby teeth.