ONCE SONY MUSIC’S ART DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF DESIGN AND ILLUSTRATION STUDIO DEBASER, DAVE HOMER HAS HELPED CREATE ARTWORK FOR BIRDS OF TOKYO, EMPIRE OF THE SUN AND MANY MORE - HE’S ALSO WON 4 ARIA AWARDS IN THE PROCESS.
What was the first album you ever purchased? Tell us the story behind it.
I think the first album I bought with my own money was Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps on cassette. My best friend’s older brother was a music nerd who turned us on to music past the standard Top 40 crap we’d been listening to as young kids. He’d basically put us in a headlock until we agreed to spend our pocket money on whatever record he was forcing on us. At the time I hated him but now I’m forever grateful of the sadistic bastard.
What is your favourite album of all time?
It’s impossible to answer that question as there are so many records that have had a huge influence on my life… The one album that comes up time and again though, is Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth. I just have to hear a tiny snippet of a track from that record and it takes me back to the first time I heard it - sitting in the back seat of a bus travelling from London to Bristol, drinking warm beer from a can. That trip completely blew my fucking mind… Even thinking back to that time now makes me want to play that album loud. Every second of every track on that album is perfect… from the discordant notes of Silver Rocket to the tracks that are just soundscapes and not even songs... Definitely the album that changed my views on how music should sound and what effect it can have.
Has any album inspired your creative life path or changed you into the person you are today?
So many of them….. Lou Reed’s Transformer was one of the first that stood out to me as a record that didn’t really abide by any of the rules, and that then led me to look back at the Velvets’ first record which confirmed the idea that anything was possible. Years and years later when I first heard The Strokes’ Is This it album I realised that without those early albums, a band like the Strokes could never exist. That’s the amazing thing about music and art in general - you can track the path of influences of anything that’s truly great. I realised that showing your influences is totally okay, you just need to bring your own take to it and don’t be scared to acknowledge where it came from.
What are some life changing lessons you learnt from running Debaser for 11 years?
One of the biggest and most important things I discovered as a designer was how important it is to work harder than anyone expects of you, and to deliver a little something extra than what people are anticipating… If you deliver something that exceeds expectations and follow it up with legitimate arguments and reasoning, people will always remember that extra effort.
Who are some of the most memorable musicians you’ve worked with? Why?
The first band I really worked closely with was Something for Kate, and I had been a huge fan of theirs for a full two albums before I worked with them on Echolalia. After over 15 years of working together now, I can look back and laugh at the star struck music nerd I was back then, but I’m still basically that same nervous fan I was at that first meeting. I’ve also worked on album art for artists that genuinely deserve the ‘legend’ title – people like Paul Kelly, Tim Finn and Don Walker and I’m constantly amazed at how humble these guys are – they have careers that should allow them to be rock star ego-maniacs, but they prove to be humble and gracious and totally excited to hear what my ideas are.
Tell us the story of the Walking on a Dream (Empire of the Sun) album design, which I understand won you an ARIA.
We had the idea of using a similar style to Drew Struzan’s amazing old Star Wars posters. We quickly realised that the potential for the idea was bigger than just a poster. The band was just starting to put together their costuming and styling, and we realised that the SciFi/Fantasy concept would work really well with the entire aesthetic of the project. I had Luke and Nick come into my studio and I quickly shot a bunch of photos of them in costume... I then used those photos as base reference, and illustrated over the top of them to create the characters. I pitched the idea that all promo images should be illustrations instead of photos before realising how huge the project would be, so I ended up doing over 50 separate and unique illustrations for all their publicity…. It was a big project that spanned over the course of an entire year. It’s certainly one of the most intense and satisfying projects I’ve ever worked on and I was really happy to win an ARIA for it. It also won the International Best Album Art Award from AANDAS in London that year. Five years later, we did it all again and I was lucky enough to win another ARIA for that one!
How important is an album cover to the album’s ultimate success?
I don’t know about the album’s success, but album art is tethered to the music in a way that doesn’t apply to other mediums. If you think about a classic novel like Catcher in the Rye, which over the years has had countless different covers… I don’t know why this is the case, but changing the book cover has no real impact of the novel itself. But album art is different in that does not change. When you think of Nevermind, you see the swimming baby, when you think of Joy Division, you think of the black and white mountain waves. Can you imagine those albums ever being re-released with completely new cover art? I can’t.
What is your top 10 playlist of all time?
Yikes, this is fucking hard… (in no particular order – this list will probably will probably change tomorrow! www.davehomer.com
Head to our Soundhead page to listen to Dave's playlist.