Rock History

Cover Story – IOMMI – “FUSED” cover art by Hugh Gilmour

By Michael Goldstein

Subject – Fused – a 2005 recording by “Iommi” (Tony Iommi & Glenn Hughes), released on Sanctuary Records and featuring a cover image by artist Hugh Gilmour.

Main personnel – Tony Iommi – Guitars; Glenn Hughes – Vocals, Bass; Kenny Aronoff – Drums; Bob Marlette – Keyboards, Bass

Having first worked together on the 1986 Black Sabbath album Seventh Star, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes reunited in 1996 to work on new songs but, as Tony was “side-tracked” by constant touring with Sabbath for the next 8 years, they weren’t able to get together again to work on this music until 2004 (note – you can listen to their 1996 efforts as they were compiled on an album released in 2004 titled DEP Sessions: 1996). After the release of the DEP Sessions record, the pair formed a power trio with crack session/John Mellencamp drummer Kenny Aronoff and with producer Bob Marlette also adding his keyboard talents, the group released Fused in 2005.

Looking to return to their harder, riff-centric pasts (Iommi’s riffs set the stage for all metal bands to come, and Hughes’ vocal and bass work with Deep Purple filled in the gaping holes left by Ian Gillian and Roger Glover in 1973), the band left no doubt of their blues/rock/metal pedigrees and musical prowess with riff-filled tunes such as “Face Your Fear”, “Dopamine”, and the epic “Insane”.

It only made sense then when the band approached Sanctuary Record’s former Head of Design (a well-known “metal head” and now independent graphic designer) Hugh Gilmour to create the packaging for this new release. According to Hugh, it was Black Sabbath’s fault that he got a job in the music industry in the first place. Let him explain in today’s Cover Story…

In the words of the artist, Hugh Gilmour (interviewed in July 2007) –

“I was at University in Kingston in UK, and saw that Castle Communications had a vacancy for a Mac Operator. I’d switched an Apple Macintosh on and off at University, so I figured I was qualified. Castle Communications had the rights to the Sabbath catalogue in the U.K., and I knew that one day they would have to reissue and remaster them, and I wanted to be the one to do it, so I applied for the job and got it.

After I’d been there a couple of years they began a campaign of reissuing the Black Sabbath catalogue (everything from 1970-1987), and I was the obvious person to do it, as I was the resident metal freak. Back then (in 1995) you didn’t automatically get sleeve notes, additional pics, memorabilia or additional material, in CD reissues. At the time, only Ryko was making the effort to give value for money with the packaging etc. but this was something I really pushed for. When I was told there was no budget to have sleeve notes written I went ahead and wrote ’em myself, all of which was approved by the Sabbath camp. I still have the faxes (this was before email!) from Sharon Osbourne praising my liner notes.

I worked on something like twenty Sabbath releases, mainly reissues and compilations. I did one Sabbath compilation called Between Heaven And Hell that I wanted to look like a Joy Division album cover, something akin to 1980’s Closer LP, and all of a sudden old Sabbath stuff is being compared favourably to Joy Division. Coincidence? Maybe. I also made sure we included tracks like ‘Wicked World’ (which was unavailable on CD in Europe) included as well. I genuinely created those from the perspective of being a fan first and foremost. They sold so well, and at a time when interest in Sabbath wasn’t that great, that it set the standard for all of the catalogue releases. I was told that certain record chains had complained that the booklets had been stolen, not the CDs! So I knew I’d done something right. And if you disagree with my opinions in the notes? Too bad. It was a long time ago, anyway. I also designed Geezer’s first solo record Plastic Planet for Gloria Butler, and like Sharon, I found Gloria and Geezer very easy to work with, and I’m still very proud of that album. These were all labours of love for me, but I also got to put my opinions and ideas in print.

To provide inspiration for the image and the theme of the packaging overall, I was given a brief by Tony’s management. They said that although it was an IOMMI album and that it was produced very much as a collaboration with Glenn Hughes. I wasn’t given a lot of specific imagery or instructions about the design, other than they wanted a sense that it was a collaborative effort, of ‘something fused together’, and to hopefully give an impression of brotherhood.

Another reference point I was given was a Rammstein album which consisted of an orange background and a single white strip. Whether you feel that’s a good or challenging design, or not I had to agree that something that was that simple and graphic does jump off of a CD rack. It was important to depict the IOMMI logo clearly, but to also find a way to balance Tony Iommi and Glenn Hughes’s names too. Tony wanted some colour in the artwork too, as most of the albums he has been associated with have tended to be a bit dark, tonally. Some of the early ideas for Fused had a sense of heat, of something fusing through being melted then forged together. The finished design is quite cold in comparison. I quickly developed a number of ideas, and variations on those. I designed about 100 different ideas before the one used was settled upon. Tony and Tony’s management were involved very closely from the outset, which is a far cry from the early days of Sabbath when the band would see the artwork for the first time when it was in the record stores.

I trained as a traditional artist and technical illustrator (examples are on, but this sleeve was made up from a number of different images and photos put together in Photoshop. I still paint and draw as and when required, but Photoshop is now my primary tool for design. I couldn’t say exactly, but the time it took to develop the image, from the initial brief to the finished sleeve, was probably a month or so, which is quite generous as record labels do tend to work to very tight deadlines.

The images inside the Fused booklet are meant to be partly abstract, but at the same time, hopefully illustrate the lyrics in some way. There’s even a self portrait (of me) in there, somewhere…”

About the Illustrator/Designer, Hugh Gilmour –

hughgilmour_photos.jpgAlthough little is known about what led Mr. Gilmour down the path he took to graphic design stardom, here’s what I can tell you. He was born on 20 June, 1969 and began his career in design doing freelance work in the early 1990s. From 1993-97, he was a Senior Designer at Castle Communications in Surrey, moving in 1997 to the position of Art Director at Diablo Design Ltd, Fox Studios, in London where he was responsible for the Design and Art Direction for a variety of clients including Castle Music, EMI Records, Sanctuary Music anagement, Snapper Music, Inferno Records, Eagle Rock Records, Iron Maiden Holdings Ltd., Music For Nations, Cleopatra Records (US), JVC (Japan) and Pony Canyon (Japan).

In 1998, he took on the job of Head of Design at the Sanctuary Records Group, UK, managing a team of 5 designers and a number of freelancers on a wide range of products and services for a busy music and multi-media company, reporting to the company COO. He provided the Design and Art Direction for CDs, DVDs, cassettes, videos, T-shirts, posters, advertisements, salesheets, POS and other associated promotional material. Clients have included Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Phil Collins, Alice Cooper, The Who, Bruce Dickinson, Motörhead, Marillion, Status Quo, David Bowie, the Kinks, ELP, Fleetwood Mac, Bobby Womack, Barbara Dickson, Elkie Brooks, Small Faces, Humble Pie and the Sex Pistols. Additionally, he was responsible for packaging design for the Isle Of Wight Festival OST, Get Carter OST, Dune DVD, Conan The Destroyer DVD and Blue Velvet DVD.

With that experience under his belt, in September 2001 he launched his own Graphic Design & Art Direction firm – Gilmour Design, in London, UK. His clients include Capitol, EMI, Sanctuary Records, Sony/Columbia, JVC, Eagle Rock, Demon Vision, 2Entertain Ltd. and the BBC.

In addition to the packaging and print work he’s done for the music industry, he has written many sleeve notes for the same clients, and has published a number of articles on design and packaging in the popular music press. He has also lectured on packaging and graphic design for Moscow University, and he received his Master of Arts (with Commendation) in 2005 from the Communication Design School at London’s Kingston University.

Recently, he’s worked with Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson on a logo for his new airline – Bruce Air – and he’s also been working closely with David Coverdale (who he calls “a true gent”) and Whitesnake, as well as on an Anthology project for Glenn Hughes (beginning with his work on Trapeze’s Medusa record, through his time with Deep Purple and up to his current solo material).

When he’s not incredibly busy working on designs for his clients, he also does the designs and artwork for his own metal band Pig Iron ( or

You can see more of Mr. Gilmour’s work as Hugh Gilmour Design at and on mySpace at

About “Cover Stories” – Our weekly series 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.

Every Friday, 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.

Copyright 2007 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery – All rights reserved.