overdue credit where overdue credit is due….
Art Chantry (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Back when sub pop records was still forming, they put together their first full length 12″ record (ep, anyway) and it was for their band, Soundgarden. it was called ‘screaming life’ and it was part of the original plan that inspired Kim Thayil to bring together his pals, Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, together. Basically Soundgarden wanted a record put out and these they decided two guys they decided were going to do it for them. It worked and this was the start of the professional sub pop era.
Seattle was such a tight knit little community at that point everybody knew everybody else. Jonathan was a KCMU dj and played in bands and even promoted Tuesday night “alternative” music at the Rainbow Tavern in the u-district. Bruce actually knew Kim Thayil back when they both lived in Chicago. Bruce was also a KCMU dj, worked at Bombshelter records, and wrote for the Rocket as a regular columnist. Another member of the initial effort was Jack Endino, who was a long standing respected musician in the Seattle punk scene, playing in bands like Skin Yard, Earthworm, and the Cryptkicker 5. More importantly, he worked at a small recording studio and could actually professionally record his friends. All the pieces were in place for magic to happen. It was a pot of long-cooking stew about to spill over.
When it came to putting out the actually vinyl (back then) 12″ record, Bruce relied upon his friends yet again. The photographer was Charles Peterson, who lived with guys in Mudhoney and was a regular audience member and obsessive photographer everybody knew. He was everybody’s friend. He also happened to be some sort of genius.
The graphic designer on this piece was Linda Owens, assistant art director at the rocket (i was the art director who hired her). Linda came from the university of Washington, where she was kicked out of her program by the snobby design professors for being “not good enough”. (they actually have a cut!!) most of the design students who got kicked out of that program went on to stellar important careers. Most of them also came to work at the rocket. In fact, that’s what may have been what got them kicked out of school. The instructors used to actually hold up my work in front of the class as an example of “how NOT to do design”. no lie!
Linda was cranking out covers and designs for her buddies Bruce and Jonathan at sub pop and this advert is one of her early efforts. She sort of became the defacto house designer for Soundgarden. She helped launch sub pop’s style as much as anybody. Lisa Orth and I tend to get cited the most often, but Linda Owens work is as defining and important to the development of that sub pop look (later dubbed ‘grunge’) as the Rocket was.
Bruce racked up a debt with Linda until she wanted pay. Then he jumped to me until I wanted pay. Then to Lisa until I wanted pay. Then he started to work with Dana Higgins until she wanted pay, Then he’d come back to Linda, or me, or Lisa or find somebody new. It was survival in a world with zero money and hundreds of hungry artists. It was community.
Linda went through a series of personal disasters and then decided to split for a new beginning. She moved to Indonesia and is rarely heard from to this day. I hope she’s happy.
All I know is that she really deserves some long overdue credit for her efforts. This little advert (printed in various ‘zines) was all done before computers. How exactly did she do this on the stat camera at the rocket? I think she found a typesetter in Seattle who had that new fangeled “flex” technology and figured out how to bend the type (using several pieces individually ‘flexed’) into that ellipse. But, man, this design is a crazy wonder back when it was created. It stuck out like asore thumb in the crappy little ‘zines it was run in. It hit you like a howitzer.
Linda was grossly under-rated. I miss her voice. She was quite brilliant.