With the news coming out that Simon has a book coming out about his record designs and photography for bands such as Paul Weller, Oasis and many many more Gigslutz asked some questions of the man behind the camera:
Can you tell me abit about your upbringing?
I grew up in North West London – going to school in Hammersmith. Always lived in this part of town apart from 5 years in LA in the early 90s…
What came first for your a of music or photography/design?
I always loved photography but – just snapping nothing serious – just point & shoot – big fan of a Kodak Instamatic as a kid….
Which photographers influenced you?
Without really knowing them by name – Robert Freeman first and foremost because his fabulous work with The Beatles – then Bailey – who I’ve had the good fortune to work with and spend a little time with – he’s a top chap.
Which designers influenced you?
Neville Brody first and foremost as I was his assistant in the early 80s when I was just starting out – and I learned everything from him. Other influences range from Peter Saville – in the early days Pete Barrett who did Dexys and Bananarama – in fact it was he who very kindly work with him on The Jam’s Beat Surrender when I had just started out – as he knew I was a huge Jam fan.
How did you get into photography and design specifically?
Fell into both of them – Design – it was while working at Stiff Records that I ended up in their art department after working with Vaughn Toulouse on a Dept S single sleeve – they had just been signed to the label and he was a good mate bless him. I had no formal training at all just picked it up (slowly!) as I went along. Photography came a little later – I always had a camera even back in the 80s so I’d snap from time time to time…It was only when I started working with Oasis – that Noel would always say ‘don’t forget to bring your camera’
Was your plan to always get into the music side of these professions?
I always wanted to work in music – specifically for a record company but just ended up on the art side by accident…
What was your first musical project you worked on?
Dept S at Stiff Records – the single was called ‘I Want’.
How did you get involved in working with Paul Weller?
Paul asked me to deign a book of poetry for his publishing company Riot Stories back in 1982 – and then just as the Jam were splitting up he asked me if I’d like to do the sleeves for his new group….
Did you sit down together to discuss the particular project Paul was working on, can you explain how you work together?
It was quite simple really we’d just chat things through – Paul was very clear as to what he wanted – but also very open to ideas and suggestions. We both had the same tastes and influences so it was a good relationship – it was fun.
What’s been your 5 most enjoyable pieces of work working with Paul over his career?
À Paris / Café Bleu / Our Favourite Shop / Wild Wood / Stanley Road to name but five – it was all enjoyable though…
How did you get involved in working with George Michael?
He was a pal first and then we worked together on Listen Without Prejudice – which is one of my favourite designs…
How talented was George as a musician and an artist? Did you see a different side to him that many other people might not have seen?
He was the absolute best!! – a true friend!
Do you have any other highlights or favourite pieces of work that you’ve worked on?
I enjoyed working with Oasis – they were a lot of fun to be around and always super welcoming – working with Peter Blake on three projects Stanley Road / Stop The Clocks and the latest Who record was an absolute joy. I really like the Mad Not Mad LP that I designed for Madness – Love that band so it was a huge thrill to have designed one of their LPs – it’s a great record too…Loved working on the Sinatra projects too – I’m a massive since childhood.
How did the idea for the book come to fruition?
Just seems like a good time – lockdown gave me the opportunity to go through all my archives and it felt like a good time. There was also so much positive feedback from the couple of TSC Tim’s Twitter Listening Partiesso I thought why not?
Is everything you’ve ever worked on in the book or did you have to phase a few bits out?
It’s pretty much an anthology of all the artists I’ve worked with taking in most designs – it wont be every single thing.
What can people expect when they get hold of the book?
The book will be part ‘art monograph’ with the record sleeves beautifully reproduced along with some of my rarely if ever seen photography, plus a lovely selection of sketches and had written notes. They’ll also be my anecdotes and recollections that tell the story behind the sleeves…it will also touch upon my work as film producer on both Sleuth & Supersonic…
The book itself will be beautifully printed and manufactured to the highest specifications, by bespoke printers in Italy.
Why have you left it until now to produce a book?
It just felt that it was the right time – after having gone through my archives and realised just how much there was – and now seems like a god time to share.
Are you working on any projects at present, apart from the book?
A couple of film projects that I have in development – but focusing all my attention on producing this ‘beautifully designed book’.
Lastly, what’s on you turntable at the minute?
The New Bob Dylan album which I love!! – the vinyl is not out yet – but I’ve preordered it. David Bowie’s Young Americans which I love is currently getting a spin….nice Bowie story, but you’ll have to wait for the book for that one….
There’s still time to pledge to get hold of Cover To Cover. Follow this link to purchase