Max Schindler - Mansunite.com 2002 (Interview)
MAX SCHINDLER INTERVIEW
By Suzi Meredith
The following is an interview with Max Schindler, the artist who created the brilliant and much debated artwork for 'Six'. To see more of his work visit www.maxschindler.com. Thanks to Max for the insight into one of the most intriguing album covers ever made.
Suzi: How did the offer of creating the artwork for 'Six' come about?
Max: Through my agent, Artist Partners. They got the brief from a design company in Bayswater who do quite a lot of work for labels. They wanted someone who could work in the style of Baron Frederic Leighton, a very successful Victorian English painter known for his classical works. They'd already had a meeting with the band to get a feel for what they wanted. But over the following weeks of changes it became clear that we weren't going to end up with a Leighton pastiche, the subjects were just not right for that; a painting with a Tardis in it is never going to look like 'Flaming June' but it set the tone for the look of the paint.
Suzi: Were you aware of Mansun before you were approached to do the artwork?
Max: Never heard of them. Though once I started mentioning it to friends, Mansun fans came out of the wood work and started saying things like "'Grey Lantern' is one of my favourite albums ever".
Suzi: Did you hear the album before painting the artwork or did the band tell you what influences and references could be found on the album?
Max: Neither really. The album was being recorded as I was doing the artwork. There was a lot of work in the 'Six' artwork and it took two or three weeks to complete. The fact that the brief kept changing didn't speed things up either. I was dealing direct with the design company, who would ring and say things like "Paul would like Tom Baker and Winnie-The-Pooh in it", or "Paul wants 'The Prisoner' to be playing chess, but keep him reading the book as well" or "Paul thinks it would be a good idea to have this painting he really likes in it, he thinks it's called 'The Vinegar Drinkers', he doesn't know who it's by but he's sent a scribble of what it looks like." I didn't know who it was by either and didn't find out until after and have now forgotten, so 'The Vinegar Drinkers' on the cover - the painting under the stairs - is done from Paul's scribble. At the time I imagined their breaks during the recording sessions - sitting around, having a few puffs of wacky-backy, scribbling a few lyrics gazing up at the ceiling and then saying "What about... a nun right, looking in a mirror, but like, the mirror's got like a load of grey faces in it right... that'd look great on the cover wouldn't it? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Who's turn is it to ring 'em?" One of the few things of mine that survived this process is the 'hanged man' on the left.
Suzi: How well do you think the artwork compliments the music and lyrics? Would you say it's a good summation of the album as a whole?
Max: I wouldn't know as I've never received a copy of the album. After much nagging I got gallery proofs of the CD cover and one proof of the LP cover but that was it. No copy of the record at all. Not one. Not that I'm bitter.
Suzi: The artwork had mixed opinions from fans and reviewers. Some said it look liked Sixth Form art and weren't very complimentary. How did you feel about this?
Max: How do I feel? Well, quite pleased that it's getting considered in its own right at all really. Most of the stuff I do doesn't excite comment. Well I even saw it on some website of the ten worst album covers ever. It was number nine and describe as pretentious and 'all done in the style of Kit Williams'. Kit Williams did the 'Masquerade' book and that treasure hunt thingy. You have only have a look at anything by Kit Williams to realise the bottomless ignorance of the 'ten worst' reviewer. What he or she mistakes for similarity of style is similarity of content, i.e. a load of disassociated objects placed in a common environment with some lettering. The STYLE is quite different. Them that can do, them that can't teach, them that can't even do that, review. As you can probably tell I don't have a very high opinion of reviewers. What amazes me is that such a job exists. I mean what sort of a job is that? Without exception they have no practical expertise of what they review, which in the case of album reviewers is music, which in my opinion makes their opinion doubly worthless. So much for reviewers, as for fans who thought it looked like '6th form art', they are entitled to their opinion. As they are of the album itself, which if I remember rightly, was universally slated by reviewers at the time and spent about 15 minutes at number three before dropping to oblivion, with Paul saying he'd do something 'less experimental' next time. My own view of the artwork, if you want it, is that it is a competent piece of professional illustration and my credentials in support of this opinion can be found at www.maxschindler.com.
Suzi: Is the cover a pastiche of Antonello da Messina's 'St. Jerome in his study'?
Max: No. It might have been in somebody's mind but I wasn't informed.
Suzi: Does the 'Six' artwork have a 'proper' title (other than being known as 'the Six artwork')? Is it on display anywhere?
Max: No. I usually refer to it as 'the Mansun cover' since I've done only one for them and given the reaction that's unlikely to change. The original can be currently be viewed amongst a pile of artworks and dirty clothes beside my washing machine.
Suzi: Can you tell me what some of the references mean i.e the nun looking into the mirror with a reflection of many faces, the multicoloured dial, the Zebra, the book without a title.
Max: Nun/mirror has nothing to do with me guv, see explanation above or ask Paul. Multicoloured dial - ah, it's not a multicoloured dial, it is a stained glass window with a design of one of the penny farthing bicycles from 'The Prisoner' TV series. Book without title - easy, ran out of time. There were two lists of books supplied by Paul the first short one which appears in the original artwork and a later supplementary one which had to be added to the image by computer. I suppose there is a blank one because there still wasn't enough titles to fill all the books. You have to remember that the whole thing was in a continual state of flux and up against a deadline. Some of the things that are in are there because I put my foot down and said, no at this late date I'm not replacing the shelves with conifers, or whatever. Some things were changeable others weren't, and in the case of the book without a title I'm afraid the cock-up theory wins out over the conspiracy theory.
Suzi: Finally, who is the man reading in the painting and why does he have a mask over his face?
Max: Because it is Charles Ellis who works in the Orcs Nest fantasy games shop in Covent Garden and I wished to protect the innocent. Actually, this is another one for Paul, I suspect it's him, it's also one of the few things that survived the changes.
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