Write On: Nick Mulvey

The worldly troubadour on his personalised record art…

Write On: the part of Clash where we give free rein to an artist to natter on about whatever they like. Here, Nick Mulvey explains the process behind his record sleeves…

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Nick Mulvey, ‘Cucurucu’

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“I’ve read that record sleeve artwork has become a dying breed, and that MP3s and the culture of downloading no longer necessitates for the humble record sleeve. I find that alarming and, frankly, arguable. If vinyl sales are on the rise, they are all going to need captivating sleeves to look at, and you can’t just idly thumb through MP3s in your local record store, can you?

“Everybody has a favourite record sleeve, and the notorious sleeves of old will live on forever. Why should that magic and intrigue die out because of modernity?

“How my records look and, ultimately, how my music is presented is really important to me. I love how some artists continue a theme through their artwork, and that was definitely what I had in mind when considering my EPs and singles to date: ‘Fever To The Form’, ‘Nitrous’, ‘Cucurucu’, and ‘Meet Me There’.

“When first engaging with the artwork question it occurred to me to look to the music itself for visual inspiration. In the style of guitar playing that I like to play, my fingerwork is very specific and it seemed to me that if the picking patterns sounded good to the ears then there was a chance they’d look good to the eyes. The only question was how to render them exactly. I worked alongside the designer Stuart Hardie to somehow visualise the music I was playing, and we worked upon creating a unique pattern.

“It sounds odd, but the right hand strumming pattern that I play for ‘Cucurucu’, for example, has three elements: the down stroke, the up stroke, and the ‘ghost strokes’ in between.

“On a grid where each square stands for a pulse in the music, I assigned each strumming element a horizontal layer. The top layer is the down stroke, the middle later the ghost strokes, and the third layer the up strokes.

“We then marked on each layer the points where that part was struck, filling in a square/pulse for a hit, and leaving blank any that are not played.

“We then ‘dissolved’ the grid – stick with me here – and were left with a long pattern that forms the top and right sides of the square. We repeated this pattern in a spiral going on and on because in the song my strumming repeats to the end.

“I’m really happy with what we have created. Each single’s artwork visualises the pattern of the guitar playing in that song. Over five singles, this adds up to a collection of vinyl sleeves each with a story - the imagery is the music expressed in a different medium.

“You don’t get that with your average, high bit-rate MP3.”

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Nick’s debut album ‘First Mind’ is out now and reviewed here. Find him online here

Related: more Write On articles

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