Our good friend and prolific music industry designer Cameron JL West is about to host, “A Breathtaking Night of Art & Live Music” at The Sebright Arms in London. His first solo exhibition also brings together some of Cameron’s music pals to soundtrack the event. We wanted to catch up ahead of the big night and give him a proper introduction but he’s done a very good job of that himself. Take it away Mr JL West…
The year is 1997. The month is May. The day is the 11th (a Sunday, apparently). It’s 43 minutes past the hour, which hour, I cannot say. I was born in Maidstone, Kent.
Around the age of 3 I decided it wasn’t really for me, so I upped and left. Headed north west, stopped around the Luton area, heaven knows why, probably just ran out of steam.
Grew up in a tiny village called Slip End right under the London (not london) Luton Airport flight path. Subsequently I’m now immune to the sound of aeroplanes, I couldn’t hear one even if I stood directly in front of the engine.
Attended school – Excelled. Particularly in the artistic sectors: painting, woodwork, potato prints etc. Naturally gifted at the long jump.
My teachers would often quip that it was, in-fact, more often that I was the one teaching them.
Attended 1 ballet lesson, wasn’t for me, couldn’t get my head around the ‘good toes/bad toes’ aspect.
Achieved a black belt in Karate.
4 A-Levels earned in Double Applied Art, Product Design and Music Technology.
Attended Arts University Bournemouth to study BA Illustration. Loved it; fantastic university. Great place, great people. Handshakes all round. (slight disappointing lack of music scene though)
Cut my teeth designing things for friends bands; Fur, Weird Milk and Youth Sector. Also was a frequent poster designer for Brighton venue Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar (Rest In Peace Frog).
I also created a few animated music videos whilst studying for the likes of Skaters and Trash.
Headed to the big smoke, honours in hand. Worked freelance, job to job.
Some fun stuff – designed my first 12” vinyl sleeve; Gaffa Tape Sandy’s Family Mammal.
Some less fun stuff – designed the pamphlet cover for ‘THE 2020 APAC BASE OILS AND LUBRICANTS SUMMIT’.
Got involved with the acclaimed So Young Magazine, helping at gigs, exhibitions, festivals. Designed my first piece for the mag – ‘Black Country, New Road’. Have since illustrated the likes of Do Nothing, Jockstrap, Ethan P Flynn, Parquet Courts, The Big Moon and many more. They are very good to me. Illustrating The Lounge Society led to continuing work with them.
Started working closely with Chess Club Records at the start of 2020. Have continued to work closely with them to this day where I still work with them. Closely. Have produced a wide range of works for most of their artists; from Alfie Templeman & Phoebe Green to Pixey, Coach Party and L’Objectif.
I have also worked a lot with Team Mgmt, namely on projects with Vistas, Spector and Dirty Hit artists Oscar Lang and Wallice.
I work also with The *LEGENDARY* 100 Club which is a trip.
A lot more people and projects to name but whilst the world’s agog, my heads a fog.
How do you structure your work day?
Wake up around 8:43 to Lauren Laverne telling me what music is good. If I’m honest with you I usually start working there and then, wrapped in a duvet, answering emails, fielding strange design requests, going through my trusty spreadsheet. Breakfast is usually eggs (in some capacity; poached/scrambled/roasted). A bowl of Cheerios if the feeling takes me.
I try to make sure I’m working by 10am latest or the self loathing kicks in.
I’ll either work from home on the sofa or head into Shoreditch to work/have meetings.
Packed lunch when I’m organised or a Tesco meal deal if not. When participating in the latter I usually go for a Prawn Mayo (lovely!) or a Cheese Triple (consistently disappointing but you do get 3). Snack – Nik Naks, either flavour, both good. Drink – Blue Machine Naked smoothie as its one of the most expensive drinks included in said meal deal and it makes me feel thrifty AND like I’m making a healthy decision.
I work as hard and fast as I can usually on about 5 projects at a time, bouncing between them. Keeps my mind supple and fresh. Usually finish around 6 or 7pm… though I have been known to work through the night until my eyes fall out of my face, bouncing on those little red strings.
After that I usually go to 2 or 3 gigs a week, this last week I’ve seen The Lounge Society, Charlie Vaughan and Jockstrap. All fantastic.
Then I sleep, thrashing around violently whilst inspiration strikes me in dream form.
What is your favourite medium to work with?
Most of the time nowadays I just work on my iPad using Procreate to draw things, then finish up on Photoshop, colouring and adding texture/collage etc. I like experimenting, trying new mediums. I think the nature of my job requires me to be able to work in a vast range of styles so that I can offer different things to different clients without their respective projects looking similar.
I’ve definitely got more into multimedia/collage this year, combining painting with photos and text and whatever else.
How do you keep yourself inspired?
I have a massive wall of art books that I’ve collected over the years. I like looking through those or Pinterest to try and flood my brain with imagery and ideas, hope something sticks. Creative block is a bitch and happens all too often. I have a lot of art up on my walls too (not holding my breath on getting my renters deposit back). I also like going to the V&A.
What is the most important item in your studio/workspace?
I guess my hands. Couldn’t do any of this without my hands. I guess my iPad after that, thank you Steve Jobs.
What was the first piece of art/image you remember making an impact on you?
My dad had a Sgt. Pepper record that I was obsessed with from a young age, even before properly listening to The Beatles. He’d made the same regrettable mistake of selling all his vinyl to buy up CDs in the 80s but he did keep just that one. I remember just sitting and staring at it for ages, I think I found some of the faces quite scary… How did all these people in all these different styles co-exist? The insert that came with it too! The cut out moustache and badges. The brightly coloured gatefold. To this day I think it is the single most inspiring piece of art in my life.
+ As far as I know I’m one of the first people to recognise it’s artistic significance. You should all check it out.
Who are the designers and illustrators you admire most?
Following on from that, Peter Blake is a big hero of mine. Also Tadanoori Yokoo, Milton Glaser, Martin Sharp.. Lots of 60s/70s heroes, which I think reflects in my work. Aubrey Beardsley I love but he’s more from the olden days before colour was invented. More modern inspirations include Andrew Savage, Sophy Hollington, Edie Lawrence, Jason Galea, ‘Becky & Joe’ to name a few.
I’m also lucky to be friends with some incredible artists who I admire hugely… Millie Amber, Gabriel Hollington, Harry Wyld and dare I say it even Josh Whettingsteel of So Young Magazine (but don’t tell him as he’s insufferably smug enough as it is).
What are some of your favourite projects you’ve worked on within the music industry?
I’m very proud of the album design I did for Vistas ‘What Were You Hoping To Find”. It was fully illustrated and the band gave me so much freedom. We even did a pop-up gatefold with Blood Records.
I’m also very proud of any of the work I do with bands who I loved when I was growing up (and still love now) like my work for Spector and more recently Swim Deep.
Just any physical vinyl though really… I dreamt of being able to design a LP sleeve when I was a little kid so to have now worked on so many is sickeningly exciting.
Which band, old or new, would you love to work with in a creative capacity?
Well old band… like obviously The Beatles (the whole crowd sighs). No wait please, seriously I just think that the variance between each of their covers is really interesting and they are arguably my favourite band and I want some little kid to be sat staring at a LP cover that I designed, transfixed albeit mildly afraid. So yeah I’d like to go back to the late 60s and design a cover for them. Or work on the film Yellow Submarine in some way.
Newer band… I love Father John Misty and all his covers are amazing.. That would be an honour. Or Florence (not forgetting her machine).. Again just so much beautiful imagery and art direction surrounding her already, she’d be a dream to work with.
How have you found putting together your new exhibition?
Nerve wracking but exciting. The music side of things was fun, so lovely that the artists were keen to get involved with something I was doing rather than the other way round. I am so proud of the line up, its gonna be such a sick night. Only a fool would not come. A fool!
The art side of things has been interesting… It’s a real mix of old and new work. I wanted the exhibition to show my progression and history. There’s even a framed poster of every single artwork and album cover ive done since 2015! Theres a big A3 folder of a bunch of rough old pencil drawings too, then big framed posters that they informed. A load of my So Young illustrations will be on exhibition/sale too. In fact. I’ve designed a whole range of new merch and bits to be on sale… T-shirts, Slipmats, Beermats, badges… It’s exciting. A night all about my work! Crazy! I’ll try and not let it go to my head but I might go a bit “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” after a few beers.
Who’s your favourite new band/musician?
Do Jockstrap count as new? Probably not to your loyal readers. But I mean, if they count then definitely them. If not, I’m really into Island of Love and Been Stellar, they’ve definitely soundtracked this last year the most for me. More immediately recently though I’ve been digging Heartworms plus I saw Butch Kassidy the other day for the first time and they blew me away.
Finally, what projects do you have coming up?
Well it’s hardly any of your business but there’s lots of things looooosely floating in the CJLW pipeline. I’m in talks with some very exciting and pretty big acts but obviously I am sworn to secrecy for the time being. There’s always fun stuff in the works with Chess Club and I get to work on lots of cool shit for Blood Records. Just finishing up on some pretty big jobs for Billy Lockett and Black Honey, plus I’ve just worked on a series of illustrated posters for the 100 Club.
Thank you for your time and lending your ears, eyes, and hearts.
This is Cameron JL West wishing you all the JL best.