Friday, September 4, 2009

Tower Records

From 1986 to 1990 I was the display artist at Tower Records in the University District of Seattle. Back in the day, life at night was a blur of concerts, clubs and band practices, but days were filled with the spray paint, foamcore and X-Acto blades of my small studio in the store basement.
Good times.

One of my early windows was for R.E.M.'s Document album. The panels and graphics here are all painted 1" Foamular cut with a hot wire and hung with fishing line. I liked using "real" props like tree branches when I could. I don't know what they had to do with the album but they seemed to work.

Most of the construction for freestanding displays were made from laminated sheets of foamcore. Except for the photos or posters, everything was usually hand cut and painted. Sometimes after spraying paint all day I'd blow my nose and different colors would come out.

Displays for Green River and Mother Love Bone led to the job of creating the lettering sculpture on the cover of the first Pearl Jam record. Jeff Ament remembered my work when they were concepting the cover and gave me a call. Looking at the Green River board I was wondering why I didn't use thick foam instead of flat foamcore for the lettering, then I remembered. People walking upstairs would always bump into stuff in the stairwell and knock the letters off.

I was a big Pixies fan and I worshipped the work of Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson at 4AD. I coated this board with black paint and then drizzled and rubbed solvents over the top to give it a marbled texture. The dissoved areas created sepia tones similar to the ones on the Surfer Rosa cover.
One of the few I actually took home.

Because the window space at the store was huge, I rarely devoted the entire thing to one album. But there was a big push by Capitol for Heart's Bad Animals and I figured out a way to fill the whole thing with crumpled butcher paper. Sometimes the simplest solution was the best. My pal Astrid was the Capitol rep at the time and she probably gave me a stack of promo CDs to do this. Windows often went to the highest bidder... haha.

This Queensryche display was on the wall for like a year and a half. I tended to leave local artists up as long as I could. The images on the board were done using a projector to sketch, then hand paint.