Artists Honor 2016's Best Albums With Reimagined Cover Art
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
No one can deny the joy of year-end lists, with their ability to help you both comb through the past 12 months of your life and catch up on all the goods you overlooked. WNW Members and music fanatics Eric R. Mortensen and Richard Perez are here to feed your fix with a unique spin. They're the minds behind 10x, which sees visual artists celebrating their personal top ten albums of the past year with reimagined cover art. This year, Eric & Richard intentionally decided to enlist a total of 19 visual artists. As Eric tell us, "So naturally we bumped it up to 19 artists this year, which was a totally intentional number and had nothing to do with anyone dropping out last minute. Totally meant for it to be 19."
It's amazing how well the project turned out, considering Eric and Richard are constantly trying to one-up and undermine each other in the interview below. They credit the brief they sent out to the artists. By setting certain parameters, the overall collection has an added touch of visual cohesion since the music selections are very eclectic. "We try to keep it simple, but coordinated. Fixed color palette, inclusion of a small logo, some basic rules as far as acceptable selections (no reissues, only releases from the current year, etc.) Some participants bend these rules, but that is half the fun."
Take a look at the past editions of 10x in case your "favorite albums of 2015" Spotify playlist is looking a little underwhelming. And remember that the next edition of 10x is only 12 months away. Eric & Richard are just as excited as you because their friendship depends on it. Because as Eric puts it, "As soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, Richard is back in my crosshairs." That's a natural result of two freelance creatives with similar aesthetics going head-to-head for the same gigs. Richard, firing back with an "I’m shaking in my winter boots," explains: "I think there were at least two times this year where it came down to Eric or us at Skinny Ships. We settled it in the streets."
Tell us a little bit about your creative backgrounds. Who are Eric Mortensen and Richard Perez, and how did they get here?
Eric: I got into graphic design through music. My brother was in a band. All my friends were in bands. Even our mailman was in a band. I don’t know, someone told me The Postal Service was a music group. Anyways, I couldn’t play anything but I knew how to draw cool ska guys in photoshop. Now I get paid to draw cool ska guys for clients like NASA, Google, and Facebook.
Richard: I was introduced to the wonderful world of design in high school when I was the layout editor of the school paper.
Eric: Richard told me he took the layout editor position to impress girls.
Richard: Yeah that didn’t work out. Anyway. I went to SF to study design, snagged a studio gig at Office, before going out on my own. Somewhere along the line, I started focusing more on graphic illustration. Now I work with my partner, Jen DeRosa, under the Skinny Ships moniker. Where we get to do cool stuff for Google, Facebook and not NASA. NawSA.
What is the 10x project, and how did it get started?
Richard: The 10x is an annual illustrated list of visual artists’ favorite albums of the year. The first was 10x10 in 2010 and originally posted to flickr (remember flickr?). Sharing just a list of my favorite albums seemed a little plain, so I jazzed things up with some illustrations.
In 2014 Eric joined the project and it’s all been downhill from there.
Eric: He means downhill like downhill skiing. You know, jumping off hills in neon colored outfits, crossing skis together in midair while an electric guitar wails kinda stuff. It’s just Richards’ weird way of saying I made the project cool.
Richard: In 2015 we upped the ante and asked a few fellow illustrators and designers to join in, bringing the number up to 10. It was a blast seeing what other creatives were listening to that year.
Eric: So naturally we bumped it up to 19 artists this year, which was a totally intentional number and had nothing to do with anyone dropping out last minute. Totally meant for it to be 19.
Richard: Yes. 19 is a nice round number.
What are the kinds of guidelines that you pass off to the artists?
Eric: We try to keep it simple, but coordinated. Fixed color palette, inclusion of a small logo, some basic rules as far as acceptable selections (no reissues, only releases from the current year, etc.) Some participants bend these rules, but that is half the fun.
What are some of the lessons you learned in previous years that helped the project evolve this year?
Richard: Just general time management. When it was only Eric and I working on this I remember we would both be working the night before to have artwork ready for the next day's post. Eric somehow managed to corral 19 artists this time around.
Eric: We also invested a lot more time into making the website more engaging... 10x16 is a huge leap forward from 10x15. We were lucky to work with Joey Maese to develop something special this year.
Are you both musicians, or do you just love the ways that music can intersect with the visual arts?
Eric: I don’t play anything but I know Richard has a little OP-1 keyboard. I like to imagine he composes exclusively for the audience of his two cats, and that his shit is really good. Like super progressive shit for cats.
Richard: This is true.
What are your 3 favorite album covers of all-time?
Haha Sound by Broadcast (Artwork by Julian House)
Out of the Blue by Electric Light Orchestra (Artwork by Shusei Nagaoka)
Power, Corruption and Lies by New Order (Artwork by Peter Saville)
Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson (Artwork by Barry Godber)
Power, Corruption and Lies by New Order (Artwork by Peter Saville)
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized (Artwork by Farrow)
What are your 3 favorite albums of all-time?
Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys
Graceland by Paul Simon
Blue Album by Weezer
Richard: This is tough, but at this precise moment:
Odelay by Beck
The Beatles by The Beatles
Low by David Bowie
Are you always listening to music while you work, or do you prefer zero distractions when you listen to music?
Eric: I consider the ability to listen to my own music while doing my job to be one of the greatest luxuries one can be afforded.
Richard: Lately it seems to be 80% music, 20% podcasts coming through the office speakers. But some aural distractions are always needed.
Do you guys collaborate on other projects, or do you just join forces each year for 10x?
Eric: Because of our similar aesthetic approaches we tend to bid against each other on projects throughout the year. 10x is a time when we set down our swords and come together in collaboration to defeat our common enemy: seasonal affect disorder. But let me be clear… as soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st Richard is back in my crosshairs.
Richard: I’m shaking in my winter boots. But yeah, we’re usually competing for the same gigs, I think there were at least two times this year where it came down to Eric or us at Skinny Ships. We settled it in the streets.
Who are some other WNW members whose work you admire, and why?
Both: I think we would love the opportunity to highlight some of the amazing 10x participants who are also WNW members:
Mark Weaver, Chris Muccioli, Damien Correll, Jessica Hische, Simone Noronha, Grace Danico, David J. McMillan, Shawna X
Anything else you’d like to add?
Eric: Buy some new records in 2017!