Date: 08/07 (Issue 1)
Bonafide aims to be a creative resource; to make it as informative as possible, we worked with people characterised by a drive to achieve and who eschewed conservative, safety first PR attitudes. A strong example of this is the interview with design collective Ehquestionmark. Ehquestionmark openly discussed work for Lex, an affiliate of Warp. The Lex imprint has an agenda to release experimental hip-hop and the Lex x Ehquestionmark relationship has blossomed to deliver some of the best music packaging ever seen.
To back this claim, Bonafide presents a synopsis of music artwork identifying four epochs of design. We then move to the main event where we break Ehquestionmark’s cover and get stark answers on their motivation, the design scene and their work for former Organized Konfusion head Prince Po on ‘The Slickness’ LP. [Full article in print version]
Bonafide: Career wise, what path have you taken to get to where you are at now?
Ehquestionmark?: Ehquestionmark is a UK based graphic artists crew comprising of many members, each having their own time-served disciplines, projects and fields of expertise. We’re from various trade backgrounds including a postman, refuse collector and a docker, with varying institutional qualifications, ranging from Grade A plus GCSE Art to a Distinction in MA Graphic Fine Art. Formal qualifications don’t mean shit to us though, it’s the people who have helped form us along the way – we owe a lot to ‘em. Our common binding field of study would be that of typography. Typography is our foundation and something we express a great deal of passion for but a requisite we often don’t fulfill with commercial work – “the title has to be legible”. We’ve our own, self-gratifying, creatively free, non-commercial projects on the go which keeps us happy, working as our individual alter ego’s or within other crews. The work usually takes whatever form suits the conceptual flow, or whatever format the client or we can afford – exhibitions, installations, painting or print. We’ve worked with various bits of time/screen based mediums but print/paint based mediums are our specialty – publications, promotions, wall art, merchandising, packaging and clothing. We’re often referred to as graphic designers or graffiti writers – titles with stereotypes that don’t really appeal to us. We are artists – plain and simple – we aim for change and strive for complete unrestrained creative individualism – and food on the table.
Bonafide: Pete Fowler stated that the CD, in replacing vinyl, sounded the death knell for artwork (for music packaging). Although that statement depends on what perspective you take, the only consistent examples of strong relationships between music and artwork packaging we can come up with are; Peter Saville/Factory Records, and MoWax. In this context, the approach you and Lex take in investing thought into the packaging is unique. Is the idea to push something that makes a strong statement about the label and visually differentiate Lex from the crowd?
Ehquestionmark?: Yeah. Never judge a book by it’s cover though, but it is the first point of call when it sits on a shelf surrounded by other books… and can be downloaded or copied for a fraction of the cost. Put some of that profit back into the packaging and you’ll benefit. We’re constantly battling against the accountants who put so many constraints on us, we haven’t achieved half the things we’ve wanted to do. We don’t really like our own work, to be honest. It’s all relative. Stick a Skoda with a full body-kit in a scrapyard and it’ll look ace.
Bonafide: There is a tangible handcrafted element to each cover. The organic rubbery feel to the Boom Bip sleeve, the embossed Tes cover which looks like a math student has covered it in graph paper and scrawled/rubbed all over it, the cracks and cut out on the Lexoleum cover etc. There is a strong accent on the detail, innovation and quality. Is producing a holistic package and challenging expectations something you enjoy doing?
Ehquestionmark?: Yeah. Stereotypes suck wind so we just aim for a fresh path but there is only so far you can go at being avant-garde before it’s too damn extreme and ‘what the fuck?’… so we do have to hold back with commercial work to make it palatable and tangible. We just love ploughing as much time into our work as possible, obsess over it and it’ll get somewhere eventually. There’s so many cowboys around banging out trash on an hourly rate, it’s hard to justify what we do on an ecological level, sodomising the mother earth and her children in the name of enterfuckingtainment – so we at least put some passion and soul into it. It’s also hard to keep our integrity and stay away from sucking the devils corporate cock. Creating record sleeves is commercial work, we are a part of the capitalist structure, it’s just a means to pay our way, our true goal lies in anti-commodity design, art for art’s sake.