Cover Story Interview – Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, with design/artwork by Don Clark

Subject: Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, by the Foo Fighters – a 2007 release on RCA records, with cover artwork and design produced by Don Clark.

2008 was another terrific year for the Foo Fighters. At the beginning of their year+-long world tour organized on the heels of their successful previous release – the half-acoustic/half-electric 2-disc package titled In Your Honor, they released their sixth studio record, titled Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace in September 2007. This album spawned another trio of chart-topping hits – “The Pretender”, “Long Road to Ruin” and “Let It Die”.

All images featured in this Cover Story are Copyright 2007, Don Clark/Invisible Creature – All rights reserved. Except as noted, all other text Copyright 2009 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery (www.rockpopgallery.com) – All rights reserved.

Fans and critics responded quite positively, with the album quickly going gold in the U.S. and many international markets, their tour drawing huge crowds – including 85,000 screaming fans in the U.K.’s Wembley Stadium (which included guest appearances by Led Zep’s Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones) – and then winning the 2008 Grammy™ for Best Rock Album. The single “The Pretender” won for Best Hard Rock Performance (adding these awards to their long list of honors, including Best Rock Album Grammys for There Is Nothing Left to Lose and One by One). All six of their studio albums have been nominated for Grammy awards. The album also won a 2008 BRIT Award in the U.K. for Best International Album.

2008 also marked the 10th anniversary of the band’s current line-up of Dave Grohl (lead vocals, guitar & drums), Nate Mendel (bass), Chris Shiflett (guitar) and the hard-working Taylor Hawkins on drums. After nearly a year on the road, bandleader Dave G. announced that the band would be taking a long break from recording and touring, with no new material (other than a “greatest hits” package) due to hit the shelves in the foreseeable future. And so, although there might not be much new news about the Foos, I thought that it might be nice to learn a bit more about the impressive portfolio of images created to help package and promote this recording. To do that, I reached out to Don Clark, partner is Seattle’s Invisible Creature, who was responsible for the designs the band selected. I met Don and his brother and partner-in-design, Ryan, at a Recording Academy tech summit in Seattle this past November and asked for the interview at that point, and they were very kind to say “yes” and provide me with the details you’ll soon read in today’s Cover Story.

Finding themselves in a creative situation quite different than many of the ones detailed in previous Cover Story interviews, our intrepid designers found themselves working with both the band’s support and the freedom to come up with “iconic but simple” designs that would, ultimately, become as well-known as the record was popular. The details of how it all came about now follow….

In the words of the artist, Don Clark (interviewed November 2008) –

We’d never worked with the Foo Fighters or their management before, but they apparently liked our work and contacted us via email in June 2007. I quickly called back and the rest is history, so they say. For the most part, prior to this project we had worked mostly with independent labels and artists, with a few major label releases under our belt (Editor’s note – they’d done cover, complete CD packaging and other promo graphics for such bands as Funeral for a Friend, Spiritualized and Atreyu). We hadn’t really touched a release of this magnitude before, so it was a new experience for us, and one that we were determined to knock out of the park.

The band hired us to come up with concepts for their upcoming album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Three days after they awarded us the project, they actually flew us down to LA to hear the album and talk about ideas. It was a great meeting and we promised to pitch ideas shortly after. The Foo’s are in a unique position to where they own the rights to all of their music, art, etc., so they have the final say in everything they produce. The label people (RCA) weren’t actually brought into the process until everything was finished, which was definitely not something we were used to but, apparently, RCA was! The art director there was very kind and we had nothing but a great working relationship with them, management and band.

At the meeting, the one big thing that the band brought up was that they wanted the album cover to be classic, iconic and simple, which was music to our ears. We are always pushing bands in that direction, so it was great to actually hear it FROM a band this time. They felt that the cover their last album (In Your Honor) was a bit too busy, so they wanted to strip it down a bit. It was more of a “Hey, do your thing and we’ll choose something”. I have to tell you that the Foo Fighters were exactly how you’d picture them – completely cool, down to earth and the nicest dudes. To be honest, they are just punk rock guys that happen to be in a huge band. They didn’t disappoint at all. At one point during our meeting, Dave got up and actually made us popcorn. We wondered if that usually happened – it made us feel great, that’s for sure!

Finances weren’t an issue at all and there wasn’t a ton of direction – which was fine. We began the project with new logos for the band and ended up doing around 10 logos total. They selected the last design I presented, which was one that I’d based off a typeface that I found in a vintage type book. We actually had enough time to create everything needed, but there was a point in the beginning where we needed a cover quick so, in a 48 hour span, I quickly generated comps for 5-6 new covers. During this effort, I was fiddling through our arsenal of images (which are made up of stock and objects we’ve had shot) and I started with an image of this torpedo. I was looking for something to ironically complete the image – but tell a different, non-violent story – when I happened upon a shot of an old vintage amplifier tube. I grabbed it, placed it under the torpedo, and it just clicked. Ryan was actually walking by my desk at the moment and quietly said “Dude, that’s the one”.

Like I mentioned before, they just wanted it to be classic and simple. They really let us run wild with our own ideas. The project was pretty stress-free in terms of creating a specific thing they saw in their head. We had shown them a few ideas that they just weren’t feeling. I was also a bit worried they might not get it – or maybe just be uninterested in general, but after putting together this image, I had one of those feelings where my gut was saying “They have to choose this one! (I later decided that I wanted the theme of the package to be the juxtaposition of simple objects that reflected the album’s tone of life and mortality)”

All images featured in this Cover Story are Copyright 2007, Don Clark/Invisible Creature – All rights reserved. Except as noted, all other text Copyright 2009 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery (www.rockpopgallery.com) – All rights reserved.

To my delight and amazement, management ended up loving both the image and the logo, so they passed the package on to Dave and the band.

They loved it as well, and here we are.

About the artist, Don Clark –

A partner in the four-time Grammy™-nominated design duo of Don and Ryan Clark (who, as co-founders of Asterik Studio, have been responsible for hundreds of CD packages and limited silk-screened posters), the brothers have poured all of the creative passion and heart that two heavily tattooed, God-fearing mama’s boys can muster into this new venture — a lumbering giant set to pounce upon the art world.

With a hunger for everything from Miles Davis to the Misfits, Storm Thorgerson to Jim Flora, polished photo illustration to cartoon monsters, the Clarks’ unique point of view and self-taught skill set has invigorated projects for a diverse client list, from Nickelodeon and Nordstrom to Anthrax and Pedro the Lion. All of it remains inspired by their late grandfather, Al Paulsen, an illustrator for NASA.

Avid collectors of toys, art and music and accomplished musicians in the band Demon Hunter (whose latest album debuted at #1 on the Billboard “Heatseekers” chart and who have been named one of ten “Artists to Watch” by AOL Music), the Clarks’ wide range of experience allows them to relate directly to what their clients want to accomplish, from elaborate special packaging to jaw-dropping surrealistic imagery and other outside-the-box ideas and concepts. Invisible Creature is the next step in a succession of artistic accomplishments that have inspired a cult-following the world over and accolades from a number of respected and renowned design publications, to say nothing of the obvious impact the duo’s aesthetic has had on a sub-culture celebrated by countless merchandise companies, retail mall stores and music magazines. As much as they have inspired others, Don and Ryan continue to inspire each other, as well.

Ryan’s work as art-director for the Tooth & Nail family of labels and Don’s contributions to countless independent and major label packages benefit from the feedback they give one another, bouncing ideas left and right and putting forth work that displays each of their instincts and gifted intuition. Invisible Creature began in 2006 planting a proud flag on the design landscape, built upon the 5-year strong reputation of the prior studio and the well-known talents of its respected founders.

As their web site bio states – “Lurking in the depths of imagination. Rising from concept to physical realization. Invisible Creature emerges, precise and delicate as it is ferocious and tenacious, as the design studio for the millennium.” Certainly, a design team worth keeping close watch on…

To see more of Don’s work with Invisible Creature in Seattle, please visit his web site at

http://www.invisiblecreature.com

To learn more about this (and other) Foo Fighters releases, please visit their official website at http://www.foofighters.com/

To see the complete selection of album cover art available for sale at RockPoP Gallery, visit our site at http://www.rockpopgallery.com

About Cover Stories – Our ongoing series of interviews will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.

In each Cover Story, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.

We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.

All images featured in this Cover Story are Copyright 2007, Don Clark/Invisible Creature – All rights reserved. Except as noted, all other text Copyright 2009 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery (www.rockpopgallery.com) – All rights reserved.