Last week I got a new computer, my first upgrade in over five years. (Long overdue – my old machine had become incompatible with virtually everything. It didn’t even know what an i-phone was.)
While transferring my files I found an old drawing of Jarvis Cocker – original missing, presumed chucked out - from 2006. It’s from a live session he did in a central London film studio, in front of an invited audience of… well, basically me and about four other people.
It’s quite a bizarre tale to tell. In my early days after graduating from college I sent little hand assembled packages of samples to anyone and everyone I could think of in the publishing world. At least one new mailer went in the postbox each morning. This indiscriminate carpet-bombing of publicity put my work in some very unlikely hands. One set found their way to a video producer who was just starting work on the pilot for an online-only live music series, ‘From The Basement’. The show’s concept was to have no cheesy in-studio presenters or Top of the Pops-style rented audiences. Just musicians having a band practice in a room, filmed beautifully.
The programme makers had been debating whether to have onscreen song captions, but no typeface seemed to fit – until my samples mailer turned up. At that time my contact details and other image captions were always rendered in my deadpan, caps lock ‘visual diary’ handwriting. I was bemused to receive a phone call from the producer one afternoon. ‘This IS the typeface!’ she raved. No-one had ever called my handwriting a typeface before. I was flattered.
The story didn’t go much further than that for me. I did some handwritten captions for the pilot show (featuring the White Stripes and Thom Yorke). It was released online, had some success and was commissioned to a full series by Sky Arts. However, somewhere between filming the second and third episodes, the decision was made to lose the captions altogether. I wasn’t hugely surprised myself, as they didn’t seem, in the final analysis, to be a great match.
Jarvis put on a pretty good show, doing tracks off his first solo album - prancing around whilst angrily singing that ‘cunts are still running the world’. He was a few metres in front of me, but bobbing round far too fast to capture with any accuracy. I spent most of my time drawing the production staff. Disappointed that I hadn’t been able to sketch Jarvis, my recently discovered portrait was another consolation prize of sorts – captured after the fact from a photograph by ‘From the Basement’ designer Joby. It was nice to rediscover it again and be reminded of a strange but rather wonderful day…