Tom Huck On His Roots Phrenology Cover and Motorhead
Are there any specific artists whose music has inspired your work?
Motorhead. Frank Zappa. AC/DC. A lot of it has to do with attitude, perseverance, because a lot of metal bands... that music has to come from a place of being really hungry. If you're trying to make a living as a printmaker, making prints of pirates humping dogs and women in outhouses, you're going to be hungry for a long time. [Laughs]
There's a good example of persevering with a lot of those metal bands. Like Motorhead. They just keep going. They've never sold a lot of records.
My favorite thing in my record collection is my Motorhead collection. They're my favorite band of all-time. No one comes even close in my book. I have first pressings of Motorhead in Japanese, as well as the British and the American versions. I have all the 45 singles. First pressings, not reissues. I'm a freak about Motorhead.
What's your favorite Motorhead record of all time?
I'm forbidden by Motorhead code to say Ace of Spades. Ace of Spades is one of the greatest rock records of all time, but my favorite Motorhead record is Another Perfect Day. Everybody hated that record when it came out because they had a new guitar player. Everybody thought Motorhead was selling out. I thought [that] was bullshit. I loved Another Perfect Day. Now all the Motorhead fans... they love it now. "Oh, we always loved it." No you didn't. Now you love it because it was always good but you were on some kick to not admit it was good when it came out. [They] wanted Motorhead to sound like one Motorhead their whole fucking career. The joke now is, "Well, they do sound exactly like they do when they came out." Well, they don't! They were a lot more raw when they first came on the scene. They were a punk band. Then the punks hadn't seen 'em. They sounded like a punk band. Then they saw them. They had long hair. "They can't be punk; they have long hair."
That's my favorite. Another Perfect Day. It had great art, too. It had great art by Joe Petagno. He's the artist who came up with Snaggletooth [Motorhead's iconic cover character].
Iron Maiden had the best art as a whole. I think they had the best album covers in rock. Period. I was thirteen years old. That was art. The one with Eddie on it. I saw that record and was like, "Aahhh!" I've got to have that. I saw that record and was like, "I don't know what these dudes sound like, but I'm going to buy that." It didn't disappoint.
It's funny when you're growing up how iconic these things become in your mind. I really identify when I hear a song by Guns N' Roses on KSHE. I think about that album cover. That's the first thing, because I saw the album cover before I saw the band. It's not like now where you can just go on fuckin' YouTube and have a visual of the band. It didn't work like that.
If musicians were to stop putting out records do you think the music would lose some of its allure?
It's still going to be great, but there can be an added little joy. It can be made even better with great packaging. These days the packaging of records, CDs, posters, stickers, just sucks. It's farmed out to groups of people from the record company who don't know shit. If it were up to me I would hire Art Chantry to do every fuckin' album cover ever.
With the transition to digital music do you think there is anything missing from music today?
What I think is missing from music today is sincerity. Fuck American Idol.
That's why I love Motorhead so much. It's three guys. Plugged in. No effects. No loops. It's not a joke. They're making, writing and singing about how they live. "We're going to come to town. We're going to fuck all the women. We're going to gamble away the money we made. We're going to do a ton of blow, and we're going to do it all again tomorrow!" It's been like that for 35 years. That's what Rock N' Roll is to me. It's supposed to be about having fun and being dangerous.
When you see something like the American Idol-ization of music it just makes me feel shallow and sad. If you trotted Aretha Franklin out there today she wouldn't win. Or Tina Turner, she wouldn't win. But for what they had in looks they made up in soul. You can't gauge soul in a vote. I want to be able to relate to the music I listen to. That's what's lacking. It's a sad state of affairs but that's where we are culturally.
I can't watch that shit on TV. It pisses me off that they just throw millions of dollars at these fuckin' hacks, and still no one knows who Townes Van Zandt is. It's fucked up but that's America. God forbid there's a curse word or god forbid there is something challenging that makes you think.
If you could work with one band to design an album cover who would it be?
It would be Motorhead. I've come really close. I've done a couple of posters for them. I would do it for free in a heartbeat.
Having worked on a major label album cover, what advice would you give to young artists working in the album cover medium?
You've got to make your art first. I got [the Root's job] because of my other work. I'm sure Derek Riggs does other work. I got that because I focused on the studio non-stop. I got asked to do it because my work was out there. It got out there because of a work ethic.
You also have to have a really think skin. You've got to be able to bend your vision for the band, for the graphic designers. You have to be flexible for the big ones.
My advice is to keep at it, and start small. Approach some local bands and say, "I want do your album cover for you for a ticket to the gig and some beer." That's enough. Don't be greedy. Just be a part of the music, a part of the scene.
Huck will be guest DJing on Bob's Scratchy Records today at 2 p.m.