Originally, I had been meaning to write a review of Children of the Whale for today, but I thought that would be best suited for Saturday (especially since I want to resurrect Sci-Fi Saturdays). Instead, I think I’m going to wax a tad nostalgic and talk about something both near and dear to my heart and well as something that drives me creatively.
For a friend of mine who is a comedian on Youtube, he uses a graphic based on Led Zeppelin imagery to convey his works. Another fellow I know uses old 70s country rock to help inform his reviews of guns and whatnot. A third still takes inspiration from rap in order to fuel her articles on the video game scene. Music inspires us, even for those who aren’t musically inclined (while I played the guitar and flute as a youth, it’s been ages and even though I’ve made a couple of songs since, I really don’t count myself as musically-inclined, per se.)
But to be more specific today, I think I’d like to talk about how one artist’s musical works can wholesale influence another work. Namely, that of Scritti Politti’s seminal work from my youth, Cupid & Psyche 85.
First, allow me to squee a bit. Ask me what my favorite musical acts are, and inevitably, these six will always end up in the list somewhere: Cocteau Twins, Led Zeppelin, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Michael Jackson, Thievery Corporation and, last but not least, Scritti Politti. To most people here in the US, Green Gartside and company are, to quote Jody Beth Rosen:
In America, they’re more of a trivia question, although “Perfect Way” does show up in some of the better karaoke systems.
Nevertheless, the album is one of the best out there and I’m not the only one that thinks so: According to Wikipedia, Elton John considers this album to be one of the best ever made and constantly buys a copy whenever possible in order to share it with others. I certainly recommend it, and have a copy of it whenever I go places as well.
Okay, now that we’ve established that I’m old and like 80s twee pop, what the hell does that have to do with influence? Well as I said before, music influences, and it influences in strange ways. Back in 2009, when I started making fonts, I wanted to do something other than my previous releases. I wanted something script-based and something that looked a little different than Vocaloid, Reaver or Voynich. So for my fourth one, I decided I was going to venture into the world of script fonts. Only I honestly had no idea of what to do.
I actually recall straining for hours, trying to figure out what I wanted my first script font to look like. I suppose you could say, to quote the words of “The Word Girl”, the first track on Cupid:
Anyway, it was through listening to the album that I looked at the album cover, and the light of inspiration kicked in (you could say I was hypnotized.) Now, I should admit, the album cover already had an impact on me: I have always hated the standard “&” ampersand; still do. But Cupid was the first time I had seen the traditional “et” ampersand, and I switched to using that. To this day I use “et” as my ampersand.
Flash-forward to nearly a quarter-century (!) later. I saw the album in a different light. I saw my muse, and I was certain that I wanted to do something based on Cupid’s cover. But I knew I could never do anything as perfect (way) as had been done already, so I decided to go in the opposite direction. I would make a font based on the cover text, but would intentionally make it as shitty as possible.
And so Gauche Display was born.
For Gauche Display’s tenth anniversary, I recently decided I was going to give the font a much-needed overhaul (kerning, expanding the Latin set, ligatures, etc.) and in doing so, wanted to acknowledge its origins. So I went back to the drawing board and redid the type specimen art entirely based on the Cupid cover, as well as interior artwork and artwork from the album’s singles.
Now, I suppose you could say that I was more inspired by whoever did the artwork for it (not a clue), or the font (to this day I still don’t know what it is; I’ve tried searching for it a few times, but nothing has ever come up) or anything of the sort. Maybe, but none of that would have been there it if it wasn’t for the creation of Cupid. And even still, it wouldn’t have mattered if it didn’t call out back in 1985 to a 14-year-old Hispanic kid living in SoCal who would be forever changed by both the music and the unique ampersand on its cover.
So don’t think that music doesn’t have the ability to impact anything other than music. At least as far as I’m concerned, that’s massively wrong.