Flannigan is joined in LuckyMe's artistic arm by Christina Kernohan, Ivor Williams and Tom Scholfield, AKA Konx-om-Pax, fellow attendees of the Glasgow School of Art. Together, as well as forging the LuckyMe aesthetic, they've generated works for the likes of Warp, Planet Mu, Nike, Becks and BBC Radio One. It all started for Flannigan, however, with a link-up with Dublin's All City imprint, and a collection of seven 7-inch covers.
When I was asked to make art for All City's 7x7 series, I was just getting to that point at school when I was doubting all my former graffiti and skate aesthetic. Christina [Kernohan] was making beautiful fine art photography at the time so I wanted to simply make full bleed photographic covers, making as every bit beautiful a record as those I was accustomed to buying.
The idea for the series was to make a compilation that brings together artists in the beat genre at a time when it wasn't a defined thing. There was no consistent thread or rules in this music at this time. It seemed very exciting. I had to find a common thread for all the music, so I used images from West Africa to try and find some affinity with the original source of all music with a kick on the one (the first beat of the bar). Besides that I used halftone printing to make different parts of the images legible at different distances from the cover, which was a metaphor for how different elements of the music would slide out of time and, I suppose, distance from each other.
Lunice is ex-graffiti as well, in fact he maybe still writes. He never acknowledges it, but when we're touring with him, we'll be walking down the street and be he'll disappear to put up a tiny tag somewhere or taking a photo of a really shitty hand style. Never good wild style—but naive kiddish tags. He collects them but never tells anyone, he must just love it. It just seemed appropriate to use that as starting point for Stacker Upper and One Hunned, his two EPs on LuckyMe. Colin Faulks is the typographer and illustrator who nailed the Lunice brief on the first attempt. A perfect match.
All I'm really trying to do is make something that's appropriate for the artists and what their music portrays. I think that's where the talent in design for music lies. It wasn't about selling records but making something that looked true for them. If you can convey what the record is then the right audience find it. We've always asked the artist what they want and worked with them on outlining a brief —they've signed off on everything, we've never made a decision as a label that this is the art they are stuck with. If we nailed it, the artists are proud to carry the design on. Jacques Greene—whose background in art direction for advertising gives him a developed opinion—continues the use of Roman and Greek sculpture and materials in his design for Vase.
Jacques wanted to be anonymous and let the music talk, so the idea was to make him another face. His influences were high fashion brands and beautiful '60s cinema, so it always had to be something that took itself seriously—the tone had to be there. We chose to shoot on analogue Hasselblad film camera [as his music is analogue produced]. We chose not to dust the negatives, so there are scratches across the sleeves if you look closely.
We've also completed work for other labels. Among them, one of the best has been Planet Mu. We pitched on the concept of making an entire world for Mary Anne Hobbs' Wild Angels that would be based on fusing loads of British mythology with British youth culture. So there was a lot more than just that main figure we ended up using on the sleeve. We actually shot loads of video of models and dresses we'd made. Handmade skeletons and wolves running about in the woods at night. It was a Pagan mix of folklore and British gang culture.
There was something about what she was doing and where she was from—her legacy as a biker and rock journalist touring with Motley Crue—and the way she continues to reiterate herself into emerging genre. She's definitely someone who has seen how culture changes and gone with it. What other way is there? We made a 45 minute visual loop for her which she used at Sonar on a 8X2M LED curtain. Really, it was about making live visuals and we shot the still for the sleeve. The original format was a gate foldout but we ended up just going for the single image. All the different characters we created emerged later on the Terror Danjah sleeve, Gremlinz, a retrospective of his early grime instrumentals.
Ango is a good friend, and has released one EP for LuckyMe so far called Another City Now. He comes from a film background and is consumed by Wong Kar-wai—the film director. The music draws a lot from Sade and I think even Genesis (although he would maybe never admit that). I hear it so clearly—this '90s R&B influence in Ango's music. I had this trailer for the original series of Miami Vice in my head with "Something in the Air Tonight" playing as they drive through the city. [For the sleeve] we used a collage cover image of a Montreal model who knows Ango well and stars in his new video.
The Machinedrum sleeve [for Room(s) on Planet Mu] came together so quickly and I'm very proud of the finished article. It was all completely intuitive. And Travis [Machinedrum] loved it. I think this was perfect, as talking to him about the music on that record, he said it was the most natural music he had made. One idea that lead the work was to just leave songs simple, short, direct—only use a few elements. I personally relate to that as a musician and as a designer. And, as I've said, I think to mimic part of the process of the making of the music with a similar approach in making the sleeve makes for good work.
We worked again with Travis, when he released SXLND ("sexland") on LuckyMe earlier this year. Despite the title I felt the record needed a feel of classicism and quality. I looked at research on early geisha as a metaphor for a time when sex was part of a cultural currency. The imagery immediately felt right and I thought it would be great to make these series of paper dolls that you could dress and interact with. So we added an inner card with the original doll and then decorated the sleeve with different outfits for her. This branding was perfect when a few weeks later Azealia Banks jumped on the song for a lil internet leak and we could simply apply one of the cover outfits to an illustration of her, tying the whole project together.
We have an eye as our logo. It doesn't say "LuckyMe," something that is very deliberate. We didn't want to run a brand that was logo/type heavy. I have a natural cynicism of branding that I'm sure keeps our audience more discerning and loyal than our contemporaries. We chose a logo we could use more neutrally—an all seeing eye. It's the b-side of all our records—and we re-imagine it for each of our artists.
I think every label has to has an identity whether they like it or not. Even the vinyl purists on white labels. The reason I've ended up running this label is because I didn't want to have a traditional job in graphic design. I didn't want to work in those sort of companies selling brands but the irony is I've made my own and I just have to accept it and work hard to give it the quality and meaning it deserves.
ECM, the Munich jazz label, remains my favourite label and influence. There's something just beautifully measured and direct in everything they do. The convey the most complex ideas with modernist simplicity. I think the driving difference in what we try achieve is that for ECM artists, ECM releases will be the best looking records that they will ever release. Anything on any other label will not carry that air. The design belongs to the label. LuckyMe is different. We do essentially run a traditional label, but our ethos in 2012 is to be a crew, a family and our role here is to make an image for our artists who can graduate up through this industry—right to the charts—with something appropriate for them, born in subculture and the legacy of our LuckyMe.