There are so many awesome things about Aaron Edge. You may know him from bands like Himsa, Iamthethorn, Harkonen or through artwork he did for many many bands. Currently, he is the art director of Southern Lord Recordings which is one of the labels I truly love and Aaron's designer's touch on their releases and shirts makes them even more interesting and worth buying. I am absolutely stoked by the recent work he did for two of my favorite German bands, Planks and Alpinist and of course there are Earth, Drainland, OFF! and many more...
He is also always involved in some music projects like Swallowing Swords and Hellvetika at the moment.
Check out his whole portfolio here:
Hey, Aaron! How are you?
-All is pretty good here, in sunny California… thanx for asking. Been real busy with music and design projects this year, looks to be one of the most productive one's of my life.
What have you been up to lately?
-Mostly adjusting to Los Angeles. My family (wife + cat) and I moved down here, from Seattle, last November. It's been a real trip. Though I grew up in the center of the state of California, it's very different as an adult, and especially in a city like LA. I've been so used to the Northwest lifestyle (lived there from 1997 until the end of 2010) and acclimating to such a crazy place here is just that… a trip! However, the weather is perfect for cycling, running and general good moods most of the year here. THAT I like. The rest, well, it's a tough place to make friends and the competition (to be expected) with artists, designers, photographers and other artistic industry-related people is quite strong. For the first time in my life, I really do feel as if I am swimming against the current and with others right next to me… all fighting for the same place, same clients, same spotlight. Welcome to LA, Haha.
You are the Art Director for Southern Lord Recordings...
-Indeed, and it is a great honor! I have the perfect job, one I have always dreamed of having. Gigs like this aren't easy to get and I hope to have it for a long time. I often tell people that I "have to go to fun and not work". That's, of course, not to say that there isn't a lot to do, demands for strict deadlines, guidelines and such. It's just that those perimeters are for awesome projects, with very talented bands and a great in-house staff of fun people to share office spaces with. I honestly can not think of something I would rather do with my time and energy.
How have you started working there?
-My design history/background has been split right down the middle, between two separate and very different fields of artistic occupation: 1.) editorial design of newspapers and magazines, and 2.) graphic design of music-related projects like CDs, vinyl LP/7" vinyl, tour merch and screen printed posters. Over the last 15 or so years, I have held positions as Art Director for newspapers and magazines like The Stranger, Status, Willamette Week, and The Rocket. When not working full-time at those spots, I have been designing as a freelancer for record labels and bands since I was a teenager. Less money in that, but more passion and smiling comes from it. So, Greg Anderson (of Southern Lord) was familiar with my work and asked me to work on a few projects over the years. In an email last summer, he asked me to move down to SoCal and work for him. He needed a reliable, sober person to handle all things "arty" and I was his guy. We discussed things back and fourth for a few weeks and late fall of last year, I moved down.
So, what does your average work day there look like?
-Normally, the day starts with reading a bunch of emails (prolly' like most people): from bands that we have on the label or distribute, some from press people who often need our logos, photos and covers of our releases. Greg and I have quite a bit of back and fourth as well, we are both busy and can't have daily meetings about/on every thing that comes up. He is very interested and totally "hands on" with every project that enters and leaves Southern Lord… which is rad. He really cares, more than most owners/presidents of companies. Throughout my day I am updating, editing and proofing design files with bands and printers. I work on a few (sometimes lots) of releases at a time. This includes the design of the CDs, LPs, 7"s, posters, t-shirts, pins, stickers, postcards and web banners/print ads for the internet and printed magazines. I also handle the social media and blogs for Southern Lord… which I had no idea would take as much time each day. That is, party, because we have so many super loyal and amazing fans of the label, it's bands and my boss in general. People are stoked, and so am I. Those fans demand to have up to date news and info about our releases, tours, etc. I am here to give it to 'em. A good portion of my day is spent listening to new bands, talking shit, meeting good people and laughing with Phil. He is the head of our shipping department and gives me daily stomach aches from laughing. So, there is quite a bit of fun here too.
You were in many bands like Himsa, Iamthethorn, Grievous, Harkonen, Swearengen... did I forget any?
-There are too many to list, or, I should say that there are more to list than anyone would care to read. I have made music a priority in my life since first taking up a drum kit in 1987. I fell in love with music before ever falling in love with a girl, a color, a bike, a kind of race car or anything else that could have been loved as a kid. My posters were of bands, not bikini girls. My music collection was filled with thrash, punk, hardcore and other genres that few of my peers could relate to… and the ones that could relate, we started bands together. My first band that played shows was called BFN. It stood for so many different things, Big Fat Nun and a few other names that I am too embarrassed to say/type. Haha. We were Crass, Bauhaus, Exploited, Subhumans and Bad Religion fueled. I remember us being quite terrible. My second bands ever were Set of Standards (a Straight Edge band) and Alternate Society (very political punk group). Both really forced me to get some drum chops and learn to really work with other musicians and their personalities. Wish I had recordings of those cassettes still… But that was then, and since, I have been part of so many wondrous musical projects, like the ones you mentioned. Some of my other favorites would be Brothers of the Sonic Cloth (with the legendary Tad), Genuine, Roareth, The Horde, Day of Lions, Requin, and my current band, Swallowing Swords. Something to add, some of my most favorite band experiences have been with female band members… something I think a lot of men in the scene have never thought of, were to macho, dismissed the idea or even avoided. So sad, 'cause I have learned soooo much from creating art with women… their perspective, drive, true and pure emotion. Aside from rehearsed, active bands, I am also always doing musical projects with talented folks too. Some are mellow, some heavy, some fast and aggressive. All hold interest and a place in my heart. Working with other people is truly how I discover new ways to achieve sonic bliss.
Tell me something more about your solo project Hellvetika.
-Ahhh. That's some odd stuff right there. How to start… um, in 2006, I gave my first shot at the whole singer/songwriter thing. A friend recorded me singing (something I rarely had done in my past, I've always been a screamer) and tracked several songs with me on a classical guitar. I really liked the way it turned out, so I kept with Hellvetika, recording everything on my own, have never once made any money on it. Each and every one of the 80+ songs are available for free download here: www.odeum.org/Hellvetika (case sensitive). Most are originals, several covers too. It's the more mellow side of me, a side that most people would never know existed. I think it is a very accurate representation of me as a person, not just as a performer of heavy, loud music.
What's going on with it?
-The last collection of tunes I uploaded was for a release called "The Last Fall", covers of José González songs. I have nothing else planned for Hellvetika right now, too busy with a new band and six other recording projects with awesome people. I am busy. Busy is good.
As I saw, you are pretty busy with doing artwork for Southern Lord. How do you keep up with your art work, music projects and family?
-It wouldn't be easy for most people to juggle and it wouldn't be tolerated by many lovers. I am just an "all or nuthing" type person, likely my wife understands me and gives me so much space and time to do what I do. She is just as busy with music and work herself. And my cat, well, she likes when I sing… not when I scream. I balance my life thusly: cardio, music, design, family, travel, vegan food, laughter, sleep. All very important, each one missing would cause trouble in my schedule.
For what bands did you work outside Southern Lord Recordings?
-That list is very long too, for a full version, check out the right hand side of my blog (www.aaronedgedesign.blogspot.com). I have worked with some of the best and worst musicians out there, some that pay, some that don't, some that I help for free or a reduced rate, some that have labels with way too much budget that are happy to pay my rent for a few months. I work with very extreme acts and the quietist too… one of THE greatest parts of my job as a designer is that I never know what's coming next. When Heart asked me to do a shirt for them, I was floored. Yob keeps asking me to design their records, I am so honored.
Are there any works which are your favorite?
-Yob. Always and forever. Mike, Travis and Aaron (and Isamu when he was in the band) are the best dudes and they have put such faith into my part of their records/CDs. They are, without a doubt, my most favorite client and band to work with.
What is the hardest part of being a designer?
-Sadly, that is answered easily: when a band member or band's manager contacts me for a quote on their next project and they expect some kind of "bro deal" because they were referred to me from a mutual friend/business partner. This is my job. I work hard for bands, like any other person with training and experience in what they do, I want to be treated with respect.
What would be your usual soundtrack when you are working?