Logan Walters – Wu-Note Style
So, I’m up late clicking link after link and stumble across his jazz (Blue Note) inspired Wu-Tang covers which immediately struck a nerve. Not because of me being a huge fan of Wu-Tang, which I am, and not because of me being a huge jazz fan, which I am – as I was pretty much raised on the music, but because of the combination of the two and how intelligently the designs were done.
Since then, I’ve kept Logan in the back of my mind as one of those cats I wanetd to work with at some point and when it came time to do my JAZZ album cover art exhibition for The Classics – Logan’s name popped up as someone that I wanted to interview. Now, of course I understand that these aren’t jazz albums but that they’re inspired by Reid Miles’ Blue Note album covers is the relevance to my project and with JAZZ being my final exhibition I wanted to do some different things with this one. Take this as a sign of what’s to come. Enjoy the read below:
What’s your name and where are you from?
Who or what got you into graphic design?
This is a tough one — there wasn’t one main event. I’d always had an interest in drawing, and in high school I spent a lot of time making flyers and album covers at Kinko’s. In college I learned that that was called Graphic Design and immediately switched majors (I was a history major at the time).
Where did you get the inspiration from for Wu-Note?
Well that’s a little misleading because originally there was no Wu-Note. When I made the first set of 7, it was just because I had those albums in one iTunes playlist and thought the cover art should look like part of a set; no disrespect to the original designers, but as I always thought of the Wu-Tang Clan as one coherent idea, and the real cover art was disjointed for my tastes.
So I remade them all to look like one set — at this point, Blue Note wasn’t even considered, it was just how I thought they should look. Now, I was very familiar with Blue Note and Reid Miles (it was the focus of my senior thesis), but it wasn’t a conscious decision yet. I put them online and people saw Blue Note right away, one of the early linkers called it Blue-Tang which to me sounded like a bad drink so I renamed it Wu-Note. The rest of the covers, 8-21, were made with the Blue Note aesthetic in mind.
Why Blue Note Records?
It was unintentional, but I’d always been drawn to Reid Miles’s work for Blue Note. The typography, color palette, and treatment of photos went a long way in defining my student work especially. Since then I’ve branched out some but that style was always there. As it happened, people really saw it in the Wu-Tang covers even though it wasn’t explicitly done until cover #8.
Why Wu-Tang Clan? Did you see parallels between the group and or their music and jazz?
I wish it was that elaborate, but honestly it just came from my love of sets — I love the Penguin Great Ideas series of books, for example, and I just felt like the Wu-Tang discography should have something similar.
Are you a jazz fan? If so, who are some of your favorite artist/groups and or albums?
Yeah, very much so. I played piano and guitar in my high school jazz band, and still listen to all the greats. Mostly 50s and onward, nothing too obscure — Miles, Mingus, Monk, etc. Madlib is doing some really incredible jazz stuff right now too that I’m really fascinated by.
Beyond this project has the Blue Note catalog influenced your other work?
How did you decide which Wu albums to recreate?
I tried to focus on the big ones — the albums up until 2000 that I thought made up the foundation of their work. The Gravediggas album was I guess the most obscure, but I wanted to present a thorough chronology that told the majority of the story.
It varied quite a bit. Sometimes, like with the Killa Bees compilation, the idea was there immediately and it wasn’t hard to actualize. Other times, covers went through three or four or five (or more) iterations before I landed on something that I thought worked. After the first set, I usually browsed the Blue Note Records covers book a bit before sketching, just to get in the right mindset.
Were there specific Blue Note album covers that you referenced?
I tried to avoid crossing the line into parody if it all possible — I was really aiming for new covers that could sit alongside the originals.
I think I put the first seven out first, just on Flickr and on my old portfolio site. I wasn’t expecting anything, and was completely blown away by all the comments and links that started happening right away. A few key blogs linked to it and then it really blew up. All the positive feedback was really great. There were of course some people that hated it, and that’s fine, and then there were people that read really deep into it — like it was some sort of commentary on black culture. That was weird to read. But yeah it was mostly great to see it keep popping up all over the place, and it lead to a lot of nice freelance work.
Have members from the Wu seen these? If so, what kind of response did they give you?
Yeah I heard RZA liked it. I was never contacted by any of them directly, but other people in their camp wrote me and we talked about doing some projects but nothing has really happened yet.
When you were creating these were you listening to Wu-tang or jazz or both?
Haha good question — for almost every cover I listened to the album I was making. Now generally that would end before I was done and I’d switch to a different Wu-Tang album, but sometimes it would be something else entirely. Jazz or any number of things — my top artists on Last.fm are Pavement and Saturday Looks Good to Me, so that should give you some idea.
Are you a fan of jazz infused rap tracks? If so, who or what are some of your favorite rap artists/groups or tracks that use this fusion?
Well I mentioned Madlib already, but his jazz stuff — the recent Medicine Show releases, plus stuff like Young Jazz Rebels and Yesterday’s New Quintet — is really blowing my mind right now. It’s just all great across the board. Pretty much anything on Stones Throw Records is a must-buy for me right now.
You’ve obviously seen/heard the Beatles x Wu mixtape. Now you’ve got to get behind a jazz x Wu mixtape. What’s up?
I’d love to, do they exist? Give them my email and I’ll make them a cover.
Are you planning on continuing the series?
I think it’s pretty much done at this point. The last one was #21, The W, which seems like a good place to stop. Now that all goes out the window if RZA emails me and needs something official done, but barring that, I think we can put this one to bed.
What are some of the projects that we can look forward to from Logan Walters?
You mentioned Beatles x Wu, the same guy who made that is making more stuff that I’m helping with. I just made the complete packaging for a jazz band in San Francisco called Con Brio, which is a really solid record. I just launched my new site, loganmillswalters.com , so everybody check that out and drop me a line if you need any work done. Other than that…I’ve got some ideas, but nothing I’m really ready to reveal yet.
To check out more of Logan Walters’ work visit www.loganwalters.com.