Often when it comes to records we love we’re just as familiar with what dons its sleeves as we are the music on the disc, sometimes even more so if you’re aware of Thy Art Is Murder or The Dead Letter Circus or of course Joy Division. 

Shaping our perceptions of a music before we’ve even had a chance to listen to it, the term ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ doesn’t really apply to records.

Think about some of the most iconic albums of all time, the imagery of its artwork immediately floats into focus huh? We know the music behind the cover, but what about the people behind the artwork?

We caught up with Aussie artist Pat Fox, who is the man behind such iconic local record covers like Northlane’s Singularity, The Amity Affliction’s Let The Ocean Take Me and Vance Joy’s Dream Your Life Away, as well as Soundwave, Harvest and Warped Festivals among a billion other things to find out a little more about what it takes to be a in-demand visual artist in the Australian music industry.

The Beginning

My Grandpa was an incredible painter, so growing up there’d be watercolours of his up on the walls at home along with a few Norman Rockwell prints.

Then my Dad introduced me to The Brothers Hildebrandt with the calendar they did for The Hobbit. So I used to sit around and try to draw pictures of things that I loved – dragons like Smaug or the DeLorean from Back To The Future (because I secretly hated my parents for calling me Patrick J Fox, not Michael).

As I got older and got into skateboarding and music and would always be drawn to the art, then try to make it myself. I’d draw (badly) on tshirts, hoodies, skateboards, books, desks, anything that wasn’t bolted down. It’s something that’s always been present for as long as I can remember.

How The Art & Music Came Together

I played in bands for years, did the fliers and drove a delivery truck to support that. I didn’t want to do that forever and was trying to think of what else I could do for a crust.

One day my bass player showed up to work with a handful of CDs, handed me a copy of Norma Jean’s O’ God The Aftermath – which has insane artwork and said “THIS! You should do this”.

After that everything kind of clicked and I decided that I wanted to make album art for a living, so I applied for TAFE and a few years later started working under the name Apollo Collective. Fast forward seven years and here we are!

Favourite Artists Working in Music

That’s a long list! One’s that stand out would be folks like Steak Mtn, Invisible Creature, We Buy Your Kids, Morning Breath, and of course Storm Thorgerson.

All do fantastic album art especially. Then you’ve got dudes like Sam Octigan, Callum Preston, Pat Galvin, and Sam Kaufman who consistently knock out amazing work too.

Favourite Artists in General

They’re mostly illustrators and painters! Pretty much all of them have a Sci-Fi skew as well. Specifically Chris Foss, Moebius, Michael Whelan, Roger Dean, Wojtek Suidmak, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt who were all rooted in the Sci Fi/Fantasy around the 70s.

Then there’s more contemporary folks Martin Ansin, Adam Hughes, Killian Eng, Matt Taylor and Cameron Stewart.

Project Highlights

I’d have to go with some of the albums like Hellions: Indian Summer, Northlane: Singularity and The Amity Affliction: Let The Ocean Take Me.

For Hellions we hid little references to music, films, cartoons, or just about anything we loved throughout the art. The whole thing was like an Easter Egg hunt, I can’t even remember how many there were in the end because I lost the list I’d written out, but I believe it was around about 50.

Then projects like Northlane and Amity are great fun because I’ll jump at any chance to go nuts with photography concepts. Mostly because I get really hands on with those, building props or set pieces, scouting locations and sorting casts or costumes for the shoot day. Then in the end hiding in my cave and pulling it all together for a few weeks! It’s great because it’s almost like two big projects in one.

Preferred Projects to Work on

I usually like to balance it between albums and illustration work. I love doing one just as much as the other, so it’s great to mix it up as much as I can that way I can keep it fresh and interesting.

Lately I’ve been delving into digital painting so I can try to bring the two together more so, which is a good vibe!

Toughest Aspects Of the Job

The eternal struggle of good ol work/life balance! I’ve got a really bad habit of overbooking myself so I’ll completely disappear for a few months at a time, then eventually I’ll show up at a pub or a show all bleary eyed with a giant beard and a monitor tan, talking to a volleyball and complaining about the weather.

The Best Aspects Of the Job

Pretty much being able to do 90% of the things I do! I can’t really think of any other gigs where I can kick about drawing, building and shooting all the crazy ass ideas that pop into my head and get encouraged to do it. Plus is get to do it for music that I love so that’s a huge bonus!

Tips for Visual Artists Wanting to Make A Career In the Music Industry

Just get out there, work your ass off and go for it. Don’t be afraid to put your work infront of people, push yourself harder and further with each thing you do and most of all have some fun doing it!

For more info on Pat’s work pop by www.patfox.com.au.