Neal Ashby & Matthew Curry: Visual Versions
For more than two years, Washington, D.C., graphic designer Neal Ashby kept a revolver on his desk for creative inspiration. But in this case, happiness wasnt a warm gun. This Revolver was the classic 1966 Beatles LP.
Ashby was creatively drawn to the black-and-white Revolver album cover, particularly to its organic hand-drawn line art and psychedelic-era collages of faces and found objects. Ultimately, its elements helped influence Ashbys CD package design for Thievery Corporations latest album, Versions, which has earned Ashby and illustrator Matthew Curry a 2007 Grammy-nomination for Best Recording Package.
A Visual Remix
Since 1998, Ashby has designed CD graphics for Thievery Corporation, a down-tempo electronica duo whose signature sound is the world music they weave throughout their sophisticated remixes. In 2006, band members Eric Hilton and Rob Garza approached Ashby to design the packaging for their upcoming album, to be called Versions. Hilton told Asbhy that the new album would offer Thieverys remixed interpretations of music by 18 artists past and present, including Herb Alpert, Sarah McLachlan, Anoushka Shankar, The Doors, Astrud Gilberto, and Fear of Pop.
In Jamaica, the term versions refers to when someone takes another persons song and spins it in their own way, does their own thing with it, explains Ashby. People will say, Its my version, and thats where the title came from. Essentially, Thievery Corporation had taken these songs apart and reassembled them like pieces of a collage.
A Kindred Artistic Spirit Across the Potomac
To bring his concept to life, Ashby wanted to collaborate with an illustrator who truly understood the style he hoped to achieve. He had seen the work of artist Matthew Curry and was impressed by his body of work. Coincidentally, Curry lived close by, in Virginia and he happened to be a fan of Thievery Corporations music and to know of Ashbys earlier work for the band, including his first Grammy-nominated packaging design in 2006 for Thievery Corporations The Cosmic Game.
Curry enthusiastically agreed to team up with Ashby on the Versions project, their working relationship eerily mirroring how Hilton and Garza worked together to create their remixes. It was really cool we didnt have any conflicts, says Curry. We were both really excited about the direction everything was going. We both loved the Revolver album and so in a way it was kind of like the packaging is our remix album of Klaus Voormanns great album cover. It reflected what was going on with Thievery and what they were doing.
Ashby and Curry settled on a theme of metamorphosis, depicting a caterpillar evolving into a human female nymph. The theme was carried out on the CD cover as well as in a 32-page booklet inside. Optional merchandise for sale includes a 24-inch by 36-inch poster and a choice of three skateboard decks.