Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guest post - Andrez Bergen

Andrez Bergen is an expatriate Australian journalist, musician, photographer, DJ, artist, filmmaker, graphic designer and writer, born in Melbourne and who currently lives in Tokyo, Japan. Andrez has written for the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper in Japan, The Age newspaper, and VICE Magazine in Australia, American mags Anime Insider and Geek Monthly (ex-Cinefantastique), Impact and Mixmag in the UK, and various other publications, on movies, music, anime, culture, travel, food, etc. In 2011 Andrez Bergen published his debut novel, “Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat”, an excellent post-apocalyptic noir story for which I’ll have a review soon, through Another Sky Press. Today, his second novel, “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude”, is released by Perfect Edge Books and on this occasion it is my pleasure to have Andrez Bergen as my guest for a post.

Composing the cover for “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude”
by Andrez Bergen

Let's cut to the chase here - cover art and packaging is extremely important to me. It not only dictates which books I manhandle in a shop, but which CDs.

I know this may come across as shallow on my part, but visual aesthetics are vital since I've been working as a musician and running a record label (IF?) over the past 17 years - and the packaging (and how it related to the music within that) was something we pottered over and fine-tuned over this period.

We felt that people who spent money on our music deserved to have something that looked as good as it sounded, images that were playful and pushed the boundaries as much as the sounds did.

Don't get me wrong - the product itself still needs to be top quality, and there's nothing worse than a bad book, CD or vinyl LP with an alluring cover. But fun, thought-provoking window-dressing never goes astray.

When I wrote my latest novel One Hundred Years of Vicissitude I had a specific cover concept in mind, and in fact this started brewing early on.

Back in 2007, as I did the preliminary work on this story, I chanced across a photo of two geisha, taken by another expat living in Japan - Julian Hebbrecht - and straight away contacted him, licensed the image and got permissions from all involved. This is the original image.

I was lucky in that the two geisha look similar, complimenting the tale's identical twins Kohana and Tomeko.

In September last year I started writing the book in earnest, and at the same time, as the story developed, I nutted over what kind of additional imagery should shape the cover artwork.

I've always had a soft spot for dirigibles (one of the reasons I first dug steampunk and Hayao Miyazaki), and since in the novel there is the first visit to Tokyo by the Graf Zeppelin in 1929, and it reappears in a kind of dream sequence, I decided there should be some kind of homage here.

The kimono in the background of the cover art was an incredible piece of silk I discovered in Kyoto last year. I'd been treated to a trip there by my wonderful students in my English Through Movies class, and the hotel lobby hung this kimono. I fell in love, and I'm usually not one to have a penchant for inanimate garments.

This is one of the photographs of that kimono.

To bring these ideas together, earlier this year I contacted an old mate, Damian Stephens, back in Melbourne. Damian did a lot of design work with my label IF? and he's a great graphic designer in general. The way he composed and combined some disparate, admittedly vague ideas was an exercise in art.

Finishing off the artwork was the official designer at publishers John Hunt, who simplified it a little and changed the colour tone from an autumnal red to brown. See the finished print-ready product below.

We additionally had a B-29 bomber included in the back cover art, but somehow that fell by the wayside, I think in order to place the publisher tag.

Over all?

I love it - and I think the two covers very much capture the story sandwiched between.

Let's hope it's not just another case of judging a book by it's cover and realizing it should sit in a frame on a wall... instead of being read!


Unknown said...

Thanks, Mihai!

Mihai A. said...

Thank you, Andrez, for your post! :)