music / Art Direction

Oil Spill

Mike Hughes, a good friend of Peter & Paul (in fact he works in our studio as a freelance developer by day) has recently recorded a new album entitled 'Black Gold' and asked me to design & art direct the album & single covers.

Album Shoot

'I'm thinking of something like oil, or dripping in oil!' said Mike to which I replied 'yes, let's do it! but only if you're completely submerged so it's looks sculptural, like Han Solo in carbonite'. He looked worried but agreed. Clearly immersing yourself from head to toe in crude oil is probably not recommended for long term health benefits so we had to find a convincing alternative. I rang Edict collaborator and friend Perou to see if he would shoot it and what we could use, 'Mollases' he said. 'What's that?' I said, 'It looks like oil when it's photographed'. I did some research, it's actually a bi-product of sugar cane. Now if your American chances are you have probably consumed it at Denny's or Wendy's at one stage or another but in England it's given to horses much like Lucozade as an energy supplement. The problem is you only need to give a horse a teaspoon at a time which means it's available in small bottles or those industrial size plastic cubes you see on farms. We just needed to fill a bath tube, after much searching we found one farm who was happy to supply it in gallon drums two days before we scheduled the shoot, and so we rode down to London in a white Transit, a bath and molasses in tow onward to the Bunker (Perou HQ).

Hole fixing!
Me pouring, Mike looking concerned
Mike looking more concerned

The Album cover shot was quite tricky to achieve, because of the size of the bath we had to shoot head and limbs separately and re-create the composition in post. The viscosity of Mollases is really dense too so fully submerging Mikes head under the liquid was tricky. I had to press and hold him under causing one or two panic attacks.

Hanging on!
  • Album composition
  • Additional oil slick layer
  • Final Composition

Because of the density there was no movement on the surface so it looked completely dead. Once we finished photographing Mike we got him out and added bubbles on the surface layer by attaching straws to together and blowing under the surface to create the texture. The Composition still looked quite flat so I asked our retoucher Danny Watkins to add a iridescent oil slick flowing in and around the outline of the figure to bring some life. The finished project can will be on our site soon. Black Gold is released on 18th September.