Emerson Inlays the Drama

You’ll be familiar with the wallpaper of this site, which is taken from Hunt Emerson‘s classic illustration from the ‘Earth vs‘ inlay of course. I recently caught up with Hunt to share his memories of it – although in his own words the album is “not really my style of music, I’m afraid… I like Bob Dylan and country“, he really enjoyed doing the drawing, adding “Ginger and the lads were a noisy, jolly bunch“. He was kind enough to spare me 10 minutes of his time to answer some other questions…

Earth vs The Wildhearts inlay by Hunt Emerson

Earth vs The Wildhearts inlay by Hunt Emerson

Like three quarters of the band (at the time) you’re originally from the Newcastle area, was there a direct local link or was this coincidental?

Coincidental, I’ve lived in Birmingham since 1971, and I was delighted to find that Ginger and the others were Geordies. We are always keen to make fellowship with each other.

How did the commission come about?

…er… I think the band’s manager phoned me. I think they knew my work and just decided they wanted to hire me.

Do you have any favourite album covers?

I love Martin Sharp‘s Cream covers – ‘Disraeli Gears’ and ‘Wheels of Fire’. I also like the full gatefold cover of ‘Uncle Meat’ – the Mothers of Invention. These are all in the original 12 inch format, of course. I hate CDs and digital music for the way they’ve killed album cover art.

One of the hallmarks of your drawings is using every inch of the page and having something going on everywhere and your ‘Earth vs’ piece is typical of this, were you given a free rein? Or were you working to a design brief?

I was given a free rein really. We discussed the concept, they wanted lots going on, and then left me to figure out the execution of the thing. I remember there was a lot of fuss about getting photos onto the picture, and hand colouring them. No computer art then, it was all paint and Cow Gum. All that ‘using every inch’ is a rod for my own back! Years of that detail have wrecked my eyes, wrists, hair and teeth. And my back and knees. Grumble, grumble…

I designed the lettering for The Wildhearts’ logo too… that was pretty good! I was pleased with that, and it still gets used. I’ve seen it on t-shirts and so on.

Ginger is/was very interested in design and even designed the ‘Caffeine Bomb’ single cover himself, how involved was he/the rest of the band?

At the time – 1992 – vinyl albums were just about disappearing, but bands still wanted their records to come out on 12 inch vinyl. The Wildhearts really wanted their album to have an old fashioned gatefold sleeve, possibly even with a third flap, and they wanted me to do artwork to that format. There was no way their record company would sanction a gatefold – I don’t think they were even on vinyl, just CD – so my massive drawing got restricted to the foldout paper slip. My drawing wouldn’t have worked as a CD cover anyway – I didn’t understand CD design then, and I still don’t really. But never mind – I think maybe the whole thing was just a ruse so that Ginger could get a big coloured original drawing by me, which he did as part of the deal! I wonder if he’s still got it.

Were any proposed designs turned down? Any amends made to first drafts?

I don’t remember doing any roughs or first drafts – I just went back to Birmingham and tore into it, I think.

Where did the inspiration for your anarchic landscape come from? Had you listened to the album?

I’m sure I did listen to the album, probably a couple of times, but not until after it came out. I wasn’t given any demos or cassettes or anything. I think the ‘inspiration’ would have come from the overall concept of everything in it, attacking The Wildhearts.

Did you meet The Wildhearts in person, what were your first impressions of them?

Yes, I was invited to meet them at their rehearsal studio somewhere in London. I was taken in, given a cup of coffee and a chair, and subjected to the band playing full on at deafening volume for about half an hour. Somewhat stunned, we chatted for another half hour. They were all wired from playing, and were full of private jokes and giggles. Did we go for a drink or something? I don’t think so… I’m afraid I don’t remember too much about it now I come to think. It is, after all, 22 years ago.

Finally, do you have anything you’d like to plug?

You could mention that my latest book, a superb and hilarious comic book reworking of Dante’s Inferno, is available from my web shop – www.largecow.com – along with lots more of my work. And that I’m currently working on a long-term project of a History of Handsworth – my home district – as a comic book. Also I’m going to be republishing my 1987 comic Calculus Cat, as a Kickstarter project. I’m pretty sure that Ginger knew Calculus Cat – it was a wild set of comic stories and was very popular at the time!

Hunt as Dante (right) and collaborator Kevin Jackson as Virgil (left), from the launch party for Dante's Inferno

Hunt as Dante (right) and collaborator Kevin Jackson as Virgil (left), from the launch party for Dante’s Inferno

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