I was first introduced to Whitestone via my involvement with Italian electronic musician and producer Indian Wells’ sophomore release, Pause, for whom I did the album art for. Whitestone had contacted his label, Bad Panda Records, expressing interest about collaborating in creating an “interactive experience” for the release as part of a new platform they were developing. Naturally, as a designer (and musician myself) I was intrigued, specially after watching the video above, so I asked Roey Tsemah, founder and creative director of Whitestone, if I could pick his brain for a bit:
ISO50: What is Whitestone exactly, and who is behind it?
Roey: Good question, Whitestone is a platform for interactive music. It is a place for artists and fans who want more than just pressing play.
I am a musician, and as most musicians I’m also one of those die-hard music fans who still buy vinyl. About 4 years ago I set myself a goal to take album artwork to the next level, help artists make use of the browser as means of expression and create music for the internet.
I’m always comparing it to MTV. MTV created a place for artists to release music for TV and by doing that they inspired a different kind of creation. Conceptual artists like Peter Gabriel used the medium creatively and made history with videoclips like Sledge Hammer. We would like to do the same with interactive music.
At the moment we are a team of 4 people and we want to keep the platform independent so artists like us can gain the most off of it. We are raising funds on Kickstarter to help us build the platform and community. We hope that artists and fans who read this will help us bring Whitestone to life.
When MTV actually played music videos
Roey Tsemah’s Sketchbook
ISO50: What inspired you start a platform like this?
Roey: Artists like Bjork, Radiohead and Arcade Fire, who have made interactive apps and videos before. I just want to see more artists make stuff like this. Also, I think interactive experiences are a great way to add value to music online. Fans want to support artists but at the moment the only reward artists give them are MP3 downloads… Personally I don’t have anything to do with MP3s, they just take up space on my drive. I think there are better ways to reward supporting fans.
ISO50: How will people collect this new form of “interactive album art”?
Roey: Members accounts (both fans and artists) are built out of two main components – The Timeline and the Library. The Timeline (pictured above) is similar to other social networks, while the Library (pictured below) works similarly to Pinterest. Both fans and artist can add albums, mixtape, interactive experiences etc to their library, regardless of where they are online. Other fans can then follow them based on their curation. The whole idea is inspired by the way we used to discover music before streaming – we used to check our friends music collections, go through their CDs, bootlegs and mixtapes – our music collection says a lot about us and I believe it’s the best way to discover music.
Whitestone doesn’t distinct artists from fans in that sense, all artists I know are first of all music fans. At the moment there is no place we can explore, for instance, The Gaslamp Killer’s music collection, imagine how cool that would be…
Music fans (me included) spend hours, days and nights learning everything about albums we love, many of us contribute our knowledge on music forums and Facebook groups. Whitestone has a ranking system to reward such fans, encouraging them to participate and share their knowledge. The higher fans are ranked among the community they become influential and the platform rewards them with badges and coins to buy content on the platform. Also,they get the attention of their favourite artists who can then reward them with merch, gig tickets etc.
ISO50: What artists, both musicians and visual, would you like to see adopt your platform?
Roey: The general rule is everyone who gets inspired by the medium, the internet, the screen, code and data. Artists who see the possibilities in creative code, generative art etc. I love what Random Studio are doing and also Resn. They create rad interactive experiences. Musicians like Flying Lotus of course, Cold Cut and any Ninja Tune artists. Warp also, but that’s just because I’m into this kind of music at the moment. I also think it may benefit many ambient and minimal techno artists like Claudio PRC, for example
ISO50: So you’re a designer as well, what would you say is your favorite album cover and why?
Roey: Ow… there are so many… I love Ghostpoet’sSome Say I So I Say Light, the newFKA Twigs and Currents by Tame Impala (which I think would make for a sick interactive experience). Everything Bjork makes. Same with Radiohead (I love the process they go through with their longtime collaborator Stanley Donwood) Flying Lotus, Moderat, there are many, many more. I guess I can’t really name a favorite because I love different kinds of stuff. I think what attracts me most is the process and how the result reflects on the music.
Tame Impala – Currents (Design by Robert Beatty)
ISO50: Where do you see Whitestone in the future?
Roey: Basically I want Whitestone to be a hub for true music fans and artists online. A place where they can connect and support each other. A place not owned by a huge corporation but a small independent group of artists. I truly believe that together we can pull this off, I hope the readers will join us and help make it happen. We made a special website to honor all our backers, it’s an interactive credits page where every backer becomes part of a “Stone” -The bigger the stone is, the stronger we become as a community, the closer we get to our goal.
If you wish to support Whitestone, visit their Kickstarter campaign and pledge to get one of these amazing art/research books designed by Roey himself, among other rewards:
I recently had the opportunity to design some album art for Artisan Loyalist on the upcoming full-length album, Lonely Ghost, and the recently released teaser, The Ace EP. Initially, the artwork for The Ace EP was derived from pieces of the Lonely Ghost design: the gem-like cluster started in Illustrator as basic flat shapes that I had worked into 3D, and then overtop, layered a large number of photos I had taken to get the various textures.
This is the premiere streaming release of the the track Light Trail. Lonely Ghost is set to release on Tuesday, February 24th 2015 on Sky Council Recordings, and you can pre-order now on iTunes and Amazon.
As you may have noticed I haven’t been very active on the blog over the past year. This is because I had decided to focus solely on my music project, Tycho for a while. I spent the last 9 months or so working with the band on a new record which is now complete. Of course, Tycho is very much an audio / visual project so I’m still working consistently on design whether it be album covers, show posters, or online assets. I was working on the cover art and developing the packaging in parallel with the recording process this time around. We recently shared the final artwork for this LP, entitled Awake (listen to the title track here). I’ll go more into the reasoning behind and making of the artwork later, but for now here is a quote from this Reddit discussion of the cover art that I commented on:
This design was mean to be a flag; more of a symbol than what I would think of as traditional album art. I felt that, with physical mediums disappearing, album art didn’t necessarily have to fit a given format and I wanted something that could be readily transported.
If you look at earlier artwork you’ll see that I was pursuing a more maximalist / photographic direction for Tycho (e.g. http://imgur.com/a/kk93f ). But this album has a more stripped down, visceral thing going on and I wanted that reflected in the artwork. Really this is meant to be an inconized form of the sun / circle motif present in a lot of the Tycho cover art to date. Kind of like a unifying symbol for all the output that preceded this release. I see this, for various reasons, as the first true Tycho album and so wanted to focus everything into a simple form that encapsulated that idea. On a side note, there are eight color bands in the circle, each one representing a track.
The beauty of creating the artwork for the music over all these years is that I am free to develop a cohesive lineage with the imagery. From what I have seen of my peers over these past 13 or so years as a designer, we generally tend towards simplification as we go along and I think that is an important part of design: efficiency of communication. Whether this particular design is effective in that respect obviously isn’t something I have the objectivity to comment on, but that was the goal at least.
The album will be released on March 18th, 2014. Here is the track listing:
Tycho – Awake (2014)
And those who were following along on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter know that we released the artwork first via a 9×9 grid. I printed the artwork, cut it up, and photographed it using various pieces of musical equipment as backdrops. Here’s the grid in one image:
Makeshift lighting setup. All my camera gear was stolen recently so limping along with a point and shoot setup for now.
Uwe Schmidt aka Atom TM designed most if not all of the inserts for his legendary techno imprint Rather Interesting under the credits “design sampling by linger decoree”. The CD booklet for Midisport – 14 Footballers in Milk Chocolate is a favorite example of the deadpan humor, fearless oddity and demonstrative detail found throughout the Rather Interesting catalog both visually and musically.
A beautifully shocking portrait that we love. I still always look twice when shuffling through house crates. From 1997, the ‘Monsieur Guy a Paris’ mix of Acacia’s Maddening Shroud from this 12″ remix ep is a perfectly cunning piece of french house.
We love Ariel Pinks drawings of detailed sexual dysmorphia. The original drawing used for the My Molly 7″ is in Austin’s personal art collection. Here Ariel musically clones a song by an asexual man with “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” (Smiths cover).
Donald Byrd (Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II, Detroiter 1932-2013) leans suavely aloof behind his spaceage sportscar on the cover of A New Perspective. This is a favorite cover by graphic designer Reid Miles who created all of the Blue Note album covers in its first 10 years of existence thereby inventing the classic look of the legendary jazz label. Ironically Reid Miles did not particularly like jazz.
The art for Plexure by Plunderphonics (John Oswald) which blends the defiant stances of Bobby Brown, Bruce Springsteen and Garth Brooks is an icon of the “audio piracy as compositional prerogative” movement. This is Urge (Marianne Faith No Morrissey).
I saw Italian trio Soviet Soviet last week in Brooklyn, I was super attracted to the quickness of getting in and out of the hooky driving songs. They obviously have their similarities to old bands but they deliver it with youth and catchy basslines. I highly suggest checking out “No Lesson” first and then streaming the album
Do you have a friend that doesn’t buy physical music? does it make you want to pull out your hair? well send him or her this. Its literally physical music porn weekly in your inbox. I just get the email and instantly become jealous and fall in love with vinyl. Cheers to the guys at Boomkat for making these photos always unique.