Dark Slivers: What’s the Cover all About?

This is a quotation from a Melody Maker article released on July 25, 1992:

“…Kurt had more pressing problems on his mind on returning from Nirvana’s recent European dates. He found his Los Angeles apartment flooded.

Unfortunately, for reasons best known to himself, Kurt had stored his tapes of all the songs he’d written in the last year in a dry shower stall. The flood filled the shower and bathroom with debris and waste and the tapes were destroyed along with many of Kurt’s favourite guitars.”

Apparently he also left a certain quantity of his diaries and scrapbooks there too — there are complains in his Journals about how often they were being stolen from him and how violated that made him feel. So, here’s the cover photo and the original of the same photo:

I can understand the next question is probably “eh? Wha…?” I’ll try to answer it here.

Starting point; I didn’t want to use a photo of Nirvana or Kurt Cobain. Frankly I’ve seen so many photos of the band that I’m kinda bored, the photos don’t speak to me anymore. Likewise, though this is puritanical, I didn’t want to take commercial advantage of something I love. That’s how using a Nirvana photo would have felt — it was too obvious a step, too staid, too dull. It seems one can’t find a book about punk, grunge, the Nineties without Kurt’s photogenic face emblazoned across it somewhere. That’s fine, but not what I wanted.

In a moment of inspiration I took the concept of the bathtub full of guitars, journals, tapes and discs and went with it. Credit where its due; I borrowed the acoustic from Monika Weyer, the orchids from Jeniya Starkova, the camera itself from Noel Young — thank you friends! The two albums on display at bottom right are Swans The Burning World on vinyl and Psychic TV Dreams Less Sweet — I chose to position each of them in shot in order to draw on the flower imagery Kurt used around Nirvana. Quite obviously, at bottom left are the cassette and CD of Incesticide. I wanted to position them there so they were both visible and simultaneously not at the center of the shot, to give that sense of them as neglected, ignored elements (a key argument of the very first chapter in the book.) I also wanted to have two copies of the same album visible to suggest the idea of a double image, that within the album we’ve seen for twenty years lurks another album, with new things to discover, all within the same cover.

Shooting the photo took perhaps an hour, playing with positioning, trying to emphasize different elements, fetching lamps and additional lighting to brighten the shadows… It was pretty much trial and error. Following the shoot and dismantling I went through the shot and eliminated those that were too dark, or where the blank side of the practice amplifier was too prominent, or where too much of the bathroom tiles was visible. I came down to ten pictures that I liked:

I consulted my designer, Maureen, who made a variety of versions with a range of effects — I hadn’t even considered using effects on them. The version that now forms the cover was her first attempt and no matter what we tried we always came back to it; the colors, the starkness, the work she’d done to ensure the album words were picked out specially…It was perfect.

So. There we have it. An obscure Nirvana reference, that only the fanatics might work out. An attempt to avoid the clichéd band shot and to avoid taking advantage of the band. The kindness of friends lending me materials to support the endeavor. Trial and error on the photo front. Then the work of an excellent creative making all the difference. I’m pleased with it, hope you like.


One thought on “Dark Slivers: What’s the Cover all About?”

  1. Id forgot about bathroom incident. Reckon that was true or a Cobain yarn?
    Altho think Courtney said something about it as well.
    In regards to Flowers Of Romance – great strange short album. It always struck me as interesting that Cobain picked that as one his favorite albums rather than PiL’s Metal Box or PiL’s debut.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s