This sleeve for musician and producer Howie B caught my eye recently. It is for a track called Switch, issued on 12″ in 1997. The artist’s name and the track title have been sprayed through a stencil several times. This stencil art has then been scanned and repeated in a repetitive pattern, which gives the intended hand made look, despite being litho printed. The photograph of a two way switched socket and plug has been added which at once changes the design, making you imagine it as wallpaper.
It’s an elaborate package for a 12″, complete with a diecut printed inner sleeve (above) and the art repeated on the back. The cover came with a dirty great sticker on the front which ruined it for me, so I spent half an hour carefully removing it from my copy. The dilemma of whether to leave a sticker or not is one which troubles some collectors. Personally I feel if the designer or musician didn’t want the information from the sticker printed on the sleeve, then it shouldn’t be there, especially if as is the case here it spoils the design. My only worry is can it be removed safely, or will it – especially when it has been on the card for a couple of decades – leave a mark. Others may argue that it is much part of the purchase as the label or the inner bag.
The credits for the art direction here are given to designer and film animator Run Wrake, with final design and packaging credited to an agency called Mission. I can’t pin down the agency with any certainty, while Run Wrake – known for his extensive illustration work at the NME and his animations – died in 2012.
The musicians name rang a bell so I looked around the ST33 collection and found two more sleeves for Howie B which I picked up some time ago. One is a special promo edition of Switch, with a different wall socket photo over which the title has been sprayed on through a stencil by hand. This gives it a nice bespoke feel. Howie B must have liked this idea as the other sleeve here is also hand done using stencils, just the letter H on a plain white sleeve. A printed sticker gives the necessary track details and information.
Sleeve wise Howie B’s output varies a lot, but his last album garnered a lot of praise for the cover portrait, done using vintage ascii keyboard print. I’ll keep my eye out for that as well.