See evil, hear evil, speak evil.

BANTER WITH: SEAN TIDY OF TIDY INK DESIGNS

Sean Tidy – Sean Tidy – Read all about it!
‘Who is this Sean Tidy you’re banging on about like a 1930s newspaper report?’ Well, turns out you might know more of Sean’s dazzling work than you expect, especially if you’ve been rockin’ some recent band merch. Mr. Tidy himself has been working in the design industry for over 10 years, and currently runs a design company Tidy Ink, as well as a t-shirt company Tidy Shirts, all from his own UK-based studio. More importantly, he’s been designing merch for bands such as Metallica, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Ghost, Green Day, Motorhead and of course, Ugly Kid Joe!

Ghostie!

I Am The Wolf spotted his design work on Ugly Kid Joe’s latest release Stairway To Hell, and realised this chap was a full-blooded Englishman like ourselves. A banter on the cards mayhap? A banter indeed. One stormy November evening we skyped the shit, chatted about tea, bowler hats and red buses, and I forgot to record half of it like a true pro…

Sean’s work as you will see is utterly omnipotent, and how else can it be said – fucking marvellous. Settle down and involve yourself in a behind the scenes banter with this top notch British designer:

You’re doing really well with your band merch designs. How long have you been working on the music side of things?
“Since about 2006, starting with work for Gallows. I went to school with most of the guys in Gallows, and they knew I was doing graphic design. They weren’t even called Gallows then, they were called Last Fight For The Living Dead, and they said ‘We have an idea for a t-shirt, do you fancy giving it a go?’

"What'd you say about Watford mate?" Sean in one of his Meowica t-shirts.

“What’d you say about Watford mate?” Sean in one of his Meowica t-shirts.

But yeah that was it, I did one for them and then it rolled on from there. Someone else saw it, then another… and then sort of over 2 years of doing evenings and weekends, I cut down my hours at my day job to 3 days a week and then eventually went freelance.
The first year was tough, and I basically halved my pay. I literally had no money for about a year.
But that was good as that enabled me to then work for a few days per week for a merch company called Backstreet.

From them I met this company Atmo, and then I just pretty much bombarded them for about 6 months.
I just kept emailing them saying ‘Let me come and do a day and see how good I am’, and I’d just send them stuff from other bands I was working on. They were also using the other merch company I was working at for design anyway. Just some small stuff, but they could see what I was doing. So through being relentless, they were like ‘Okay, yeah just come in.’”

So it pays off!
“Yeah it does, but I’ve tried it with a few places and some of them just don’t like it. They’ll just totally ignore you and not reply to emails. But that’s how I got into it really!”

Dimebag

With your designs, once you’ve given it to the bands, do they own it?
“Good question! Basically they licence it, so really I do own the work, but it’s theirs to do what they want with it.”

No pirating your own t-shirts and selling them on ebay then?
“No, not yet. Not for a few years yet anyway! Although some big merch companies have a clause where you can do like 50 poster prints or artist prints, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do with that exhibition in Camden.

That’s finished now, but it’s going back up at The Underworld in Camden. They’ve paid for it all, and they’re gonna put it up as a permanent exhibition. Really excited about that. Every band goes there at some point, so it’s a good way to get work.”

Do you think the exhibition in Camden will help with exposure then?
“I really didn’t expect it to, I just thought I’d break even and just do it for a bit of fun and see if I can get any more work from it. I haven’t yet, but from this Underworld thing perhaps I might do!”

RARRRRHHH!

RARRRRHHH!

How did you start working with Ugly Kid Joe?
“I was working for Atmo, and they do merch for Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, Wildhearts, and they just pick up other stuff as they go along. So if a band is touring over here, a lot of them will use Atmo. Probably because they like what they do – they get the stuff there on time, and it goes worldwide. UKJ started touring, and Chris – who I work with at Atmo – is a big fan, and he was just like ‘Look, we can do your merch when you come over here’, and since that it’s just rolled on from there.”

Were you a fan of UKJ in the old days before you worked with them?
“Oh yeah definitely, although I was more into the Alice In Chains side of things back then. But everyone knows Cats In The Cradle and Everything About You. But actually I went to see them last week, and I didn’t realise quite how many songs I DID know, so I was like ‘I know this song… and this one as well!’ The old stuff sounded great, and the new album’s really good too.”

WARKID!

Who’s been your favourite artist you’ve designed for?
“Definitely Metallica. And Pantera too, without a doubt for me. Guns N’ Roses and Metallica were my favourite bands since I was like 10 or 11, so yeah getting to that stage, was just wicked.

I really wanted to work with Pantera, so I just worked on a design and sent it to their merch company. They were like ‘Yeah we love it!’ So that was easy!
It’s not loads of money, but it’s the prestige of being able to work with bands that you love. It makes all the difference.”

Do you get feedback from the bands themselves?
“Not really. Some do, but the bigger bands go through merch companies and through management, so it gets fed back slowly. With Metallica, it’s nothing direct with them, it comes from their manager, and then his answers come through the merch company, which are usually just a yes or no.

Since Whitfield Crane is also the manager of Ugly Kid Joe, do you find they have a more personal approach?
“Yeah definitely! Every now and then I’ll get a phone call from an American number and it’ll be: ‘Hey Sean! It’s Whit Crane!’ Which is the dead opposite of other managers.
He’s the nicest, and best client you’re ever likely to have. He’s just super excited to be playing this music again, and really keen to let Chris and me get on with what we do, rather than completely controlling it. But he’s really happy with what everyone’s doing. He’s the dude, he really is!”

Does Whit come up with the ideas, or do you just throw stuff out there together?
“Bit of both actually. Some bits, like the ‘Warkid’ t-shirt, that was his idea. He’s a massive, massive Motorhead fan, and he actually got permission from Lemmy to do it! He must’ve called him up to ask. I can’t imagine Lemmy has email.
So yeah Whit might have an idea, and I’ll take it, and try and come back with it a bit better.”

Whose idea was the Stairway To Hell artwork?
“With the album art, I did more of the layout. Just taking the different elements and making them work, redoing colours and stuff.
The Devil kid was already their own, so I just redrew some of it. I think they had someone redo it from the Goddamn Devil art, but then they just weren’t happy with what he was doing, so they basically came to me and asked if I wanted a go.
So I went in, redrew it all, and cleaned it up. It’s a wicked design, but whoever the original bloke was had just rushed it.”

Re-released artwork. Inspired by Klaus Eichstadt.

Re-released artwork. Inspired by Klaus Eichstadt.

“The digipak CD re-release art they wanted to make a bit different from the original release, and that was actually Klaus’ idea. I sent him and Whit loads of different options, you know maybe it was gonna be gold or silver, and Klaus got on photoshop and said ‘How about doing something similar to this?’
So I went back, did that, and he was like ‘Yeah, perfect.’

They’re really nice guys to work with because they love the art as well. They see the value in CDs and Vinyl, which a lot of people don’t these days. Everyone’s just about the digital downloads, but they’re all about making awesome artwork.”

What music do you listen to when you work?
“Hmm… today was Taking Back Sunday. Also a New York hardcore band called Most Precious Blood.
Yesterday according to my iTunes, I was listening to Twin Atlantic, Unleashed, and a folk band called The Staves. Totally bizarre. No reason for that, other than that they’re in that order on my iTunes.

But if I’m working on a band, then I will listen to the band, especially if I’m doing something new for them. I don’t think you can get your head around it otherwise.
I do some work for a streetwear brand, so then I put on some hip-hop because it always gets me in the right frame of mind. So unless the band are really terrible, I’ll listen to them while I work on their stuff.

You couldn’t work on Ugly Kid Joe while listening to Lady Gaga… it would just be awful. Not that you should listen to Lady Gaga anyway.
In fact I’d probably listen to Ugly Kid Joe while working on Lady Gaga, that’d be wicked.”

AA

What band would you really like to work with?
“Slayer. Yep, Slayer and Hope Conspiracy. Slayer would be great because their art is usually just so gory and really detailed, so I’d love to do something really detailed with them. The guy who did the artwork for the Hope Conspiracy album Death Knows Your Name is fucking amazing. It blows everything out of the water, if I could get to that level of illustration I’d be happy. It’s got really insane detail.”

Before we finish up the banter, what’s coming up for Tidy Ink Designs next?
“Well the new premises are just around the corner from where I live in Berkhamsted, so that should be good. I’m moving with a friend who’s a website designer, so I’ll be doing a medley of t-shirts and some more graphic stuff and he’ll be doing web, and we’ll just share the premises together.
Hopefully in the future we can use it at weekends as an actual shop, but it’ll be figuring out how to move everything out of the way and make it look like a decent shop.

I’ve also got my new t-shirts that I’ve just finished up on the site, and I’ve also re-released last years Christmas cards. Working on some new art for Lacuna Coil, and also some stuff coming up for Ginger Wildheart!”

Lastly, your designs master a lot of different styles, from manipulation to illustration. If you could do a self portrait, what medium would you do it in?
“I would love to paint more actually if I could get the time. Whenever I do paint, I’ll always think about how I can use it in a brief. You know, like a skull or something, instead of just painting for the sake of it.

So if I could do a self portrait in any style? Probably I’d get a massive canvas and do a painting.”

HTB

Be sure to support Tidy Ink and check out his presence on the web. Order some prints, buy some t-shirts, write a poem to him, and in general support great rock n’ roll artwork from an independent artist!

He can be found here:

Tidy Ink Design
Tidy Shirts