Sound artist, record company owner, photographer and graphic designer Taylor Deupree is responsible for the elegant 12k label. Despite being consumed by explorations of minimalist music and forward-thinking electronic/acoustic combinations [and then working out visual solutions for the respective releases], he very helpfully offered his views regarding physical media and the role of music artwork.
What's the approach to formats for the label? Why does having physical media matter when the music can be sent rather easily via iTunes?
As a listener, lover, and creator of music, music, to me, is more than just a generic list of text on a computer screen. while the convenience of iTunes is fantastic, and I'm a big user of iPods and the like, think we are seeing a generation of kids being brought up on the idea that music is disposable. The ramifications of this are huge. Among other things, music is about mystery and suspense... about putting that CD or record on, and reading along as you listen, or enjoying a bit of what went into creating the album, or learning something about the artist. Maybe these are becoming old-fashioned ideas, but if they aren't preserved then the music itself will suffer. Fortunately, in a lot of the creative and forward-thinking musical genres there is some wonderful packaging going on that either combines a downloadable format with a beautiful package or retains the CD and creates identity.
What legacy do you think there is for specific formats? How important is collectability? And 'a visual manifestation'?
I think someone's library defines who they are. Whether it's a library of books or a library of music. These stacks of books and records help create a person's identity and show off their passions. There are many ways to do this, of course, but a music library is one of them.
Also, have you seen the 'Totem' format for the new Matthew Dear album?
Yes, this is what I'm talking about.. a fantastic marriage of a downloadable format with an object... and where I hope music heads if the CD dies out. Unfortunately, a package like that is out of the reach of most small record labels to make. And if you start to have 1000 of such objects in your own musical collection... well, it'll end up being a lot bulkier than your CD collection ever was. But, there can be a balance and a blending of media, working together to create a creative whole.
How does your role as a designer fit in with those roles as label boss and artist? How important is it for you to find what you see is the 'right' visual solution for a release? And does it matter to the music? Does it alter the listening experience?
I'm not sure a CD cover directly alters the listening experience except in perhaps the first impression someone has on the music. I buy a lot of music based on album design and, similiarly, pass up a lot of music if it doesn't LOOK like something I'd like. So, in this sense it's a curatorial device, very often. When I'm preparing a release for the label I will always have a discussion with the artist about what they are envisioning for the album cover. Many times the artist themselves will have an image that they'd like me to use, and other times they'll want to use one of my photographs. It's important, of course, that the cover image has a relationship to the music; either an abstract visual representation of the sound, or something more literal... such as the new Seaworthy + Matt Rösner CD cover with a photograph they took in the Australian wetlands as they were recording the album.
What has been the response to the making available some of the artwork as ltd prints? And do you think it changes the meanings behind the imagery when it is removed from the packaging and the music?
In the case of 12k, I think many, not all, but many, of the cover images can stand alone as photographic art on your wall. Stripped of all text and branding. Most of the images were initially take as "photography" and then applied to a commercial package. The problem with selling prints like this is the production cost is quite high and people have trouble paying a couple or few hundred dollars for a print. But, hopefully that won't stop everyone.
Any influential music artwork that you think is worth referencing?
When I was a teenager growing up in new england I would go to the closest great record store to my house, which was about 40 minutes away (and is sadly not there anymore) and buy a lot of records based on album art alone. Many times it would be a band I'd never heard of yet I'd get home and 95% of the time I'd like the music. when i paid attention to the liner notes I started noticing a pattern... I was buying a lot of albums by the same designers... Neville Brody... Peter Saville... and in turn starting to pay attention to record labels, which I hadn't before... and the whole experience was teaching me about record labels as identities and creative wholes.. Factory Records, or 4AD come to mind as big influences of how to create a record label with a visual identity.
This all ties in to your first question.. and certainly is how I grew up and how I got into music... but the visual aesthetics are quite simply what introduced me to so much music and have always been and important part of my musical life.