Uri Balashov On The Making Of The Cover of Civilization, Phaze III

Nice interview with the artist – thanks to Vladimir Sovetov.

Well, Frank said that it’s very special record in his life, the very last. He said that his disease is incurable. In fact I know that he is seriously ill, but really hoped that US medicine can cope with this type of cancer. But unfortunately it hadn’t worked in Frank case. So he felt it and would like to see some sort of grave mound as a basic image on the cover. I thought it over and decided that I may try to put some soothing kind variation of this theme. I mean, that may be subconsciously some therapeutic role was also assigned to me by this job. That’s why I decided to make some sort of cheer up, you know, the reminder, very obvious for anyone with some mystical experience, that even after a physical death there are a lot of adventures ahead for your soul, and the symbol of it is Egyptians.

And it continues:

Yes, it was modeled after frescoes in Egyptian pyramids with scenes of pharao family having some royal fun like, you know, Nile’s alligators hunt. Everyone here have microphones and electric wires are everywhere, and everybody listen how and where it sounds. The wires winded in loops and coils which are an essential part of the Egyptian system of symbols and should remined about eternity and infinity. Zappa himself is a pharao and like in a mirror, here and there at once, passing his endless wire from one universe to another, the wire on which everything is suspended…

Gee, it’s nice. I did not know this story. I wish I had it as a good quality, big poster.

By the way: one of these days I was just thinking about the graphic works on the albums (of You-Know-Who). In CD-size these are not very good – wouldn’t it be a great idea to make a big picture-book with all the (best) covers? (Ever seen the graphic works in the vinyl version of Joe’s Garage???? Unbelieveable!!!)

33 Responses to “Uri Balashov On The Making Of The Cover of Civilization, Phaze III”

  1. bernard says:

    The opposite of yellow snow is truly white snow.
    That’s to found in Central & Eastern Europe ( and Canada every now & then).
    Current day US is the mirror image of yellow snow : add some piss to a system, for instance : bad education system, strictly commercial, etc.. . Result ( quote from the very serious comedenian John Cleese , now living in Santa Barbara) : young americans really don’t know anything about elementary things, such as geography, philosophy, history of music.
    So, Balint, not bad to unleash your smart tribes. And make innovative combinations. We were actually waiting for that since many years. Here comes Central & eastern Europe. In music, drawnings, comments, comic strips, etc.
    What I guess / know is that we will be extremely surprised when those people from C & E Europe( for which FZ happens to be an icon of modernity) will happen to reinvent their very valuable place in arts. They’ll comment and they’ll innovate. For sure.
    Long time no see, however here’s your chance. Just do it. And it will happen to go far beyond another Central European, Schönberg, who after having created great art in Austria was just playing ( sports) ping pong and ( academic) The Professor in LA.

  2. scott says:

    A quote from scott:

    (Ever seen the graphic works in the vinyl version of Joe’s Garage???? Unbelieveable!!!)

    I remember, when JG first came out, being DAZZLED by the artwork inside and out. I spent WAY too much time looking at (and listening to) the Joe’s Garage album.

  3. carlos ZZ zerpa says:

    http://www.rasgadodeboca.blogspot.com/
    Además de todos los pingüinos, cerdos, perros, focas, ratas, camellos, búfalos, escarabajos, vacas, gatos, monos, gorilas, perros, lobos, caballos, mulas, sardinas, tiburones, serpientes y un largo etcétera… que aparecen en todas sus canciones, y que están bien reseñados en el “Arf, arf, arf del “Kill Ugly Radio”
    ANIMALES ZAPPIANOS
    Los Brothers de la liZta
    - La vaca con la que salio Frank Zappa en la película de los Monkees.
    - La vaca que tiene una mancha en forma del mapa de Italia, del disco “Lather”
    - Los perritos vestidos de niñas con gafas de sol, en tres carátulas del Zappa
    - El fish de “Thing Fish”
    - El rinoceronte Rihno de FOO-EEE, con su pinza de ropa en la nariz.
    - El gorila King Kong
    - Los músicos con caras de perros de Rubén & The Jets
    - La comadreja-afeitadora de la carátula: Weasels Ripped My Flesh
    - Evelyn, A Modified Dog…
    - El Yellow Shark de Zappa, suerte de tiburón amarillo, que en realidad es un pez espada amarillo con una mancha roja, de sangre en la boca.
    - Sus terribles Baby Snakes y sus Hot Rats… Ratas Calientes.
    - El huskie-weewee de Don’t eat the yellow snow
    - La foquita baby-seal de Don’t eat the yellow snow
    - El Pingûino en Bondage
    - El atún del Tuna Sandwich

  4. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    VS: So back to Gail. Small and cute assistant of tall Frank.

    Interesting observation, don’t you think so, Balint?

  5. jane23 says:

    a coffe table book of zappa LP artwork
    including the uncle meat booklet and the one form 200 motels
    and the only in it for the money pullout
    also the 4 foot long poster from weenie sandwich
    what a great idea
    i think someone should cease and desist on that immediately

  6. La KaKawetta says:

    They’re only good at fake memoirs and true fiction, them Zappas.
    They’d crap it up like everything they do!

  7. urbangraffito says:

    The art of the album cover is lost on the current generation. Before MTV, before vcrs, before sony walkman, and before the mp3 player, the video ipod and the music phone was the vinyl record and the wonderfully artistic album cover. Before this generation was told exactly what to think, our generation had the time and the inclination to create its own mythology via these albums and album covers. They just weren’t a means to an end (read: advertising) as they are now, but a further extension of the musical artists’ ideas, thoughts, concepts (I refer to the “Freak Out” album cover for example). That some current artists are going back to vinyl, and the album cover, is a hopeful sign. But I’m too much of a terminal cynic to think that I’ll ever see those wonderful album covers like FZ’s “Joe’s Garage” or Big Brother & the Holding Company’s “Cheap Thrills” ever again.

  8. Roland says:

    The vinyl covers, size 31 x 31 cm were always a large canvas with lots of information in picture and word. I absolutely agree with you “urbangraffito”. The magic of having bought a new album, putting it on your turntable, listening to the record and holding the cover in your hand made me one with the record, the artist, the music. This magic went with the CD format. Even though there are booklets delivered, they never have the same feeling. Old folks boogie!

  9. bernard says:

    “Roland”, you’ re right. I agree.
    However in a limited series of cases art adapted to this new format, see art work on Winter & Winter CDs: http://www.winterandwinter.com/index.php?id=12

  10. punknaynowned says:

    wonderful idea!
    a book of all that great art!!!
    thanx fer the link/info on civ phaze III!!
    conceptual continuity indeed i-opening!

  11. Roland says:

    Yep “bernard”, I had a quick peek at your recommend site. There are good CD releases according to the artwork. “Civilization, Phaze III” is a good example. Or Pink Floyd´s “Is There Anybody Out There” (A special edition of a “The Wall” concert from 1981) is another. I even remember a good one from “The Pet Shop Boys”. But having the cover of vinyl “Joe´s Garage” in your hand, or “Sgt. Pepper´s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is a totally different cup of tea. Am I a model which slowly runs out. Mumbling about the good old times of scratchy vinyl and cerosine fuelled record players? The present day music listener refuses to die!

  12. bernard says:

    Yep, “Roland”. Just another FZ argument.
    About how he was one of those artists who were ahead of their time .
    Contemporary art happens to be a mirror image of a zapping audience. TV, radio, audios. People aren’t just patient enough to listen to a 34 minutes piece.
    The 78 tours records were about music with a max lenght of 4 minutes. And Pop/ Rock furhter explored that art, creating a vast amount of masterpieces ( 3,5 minutes max). We, ordinary folks, can’t deliver that: joyfully summarizing a ( musical ) idea in 3 minutes.
    Thus : contemporary art is about creating per square centimeter. That’s the idea behind “hits”, they, yes, just hit. Forerunner was art on stamps.
    Short pieces, minor things. In painting,/illustrations : CD cover art, comic strips. In music for instance Approximate, a genuine masterpiece, you can easily extend it to something much more boring: a ” symphony” ( 30 min. )

  13. Roland says:

    A good point “bernard”. Yes, to be honest I do like songs which have said everything within 2 or 3 minutes, the tune, the words. They stay better with you than a 30 minutes piece. I for myself could not whistle the whole of “Tubular Bells” but I surely can do with “All My Loving”.
    I like your technical explanation of “hit”. Yes, it´s so easy to see 78 rpm / 45 rpm / 33 rpm. The slower the record in rpm, the longer the songs became – I never thought of that. I never felt betrayed, when a “hit” was just 2 minutes on a single side, as long as the “hit” stuck with me, went into my brain, made me feel good.
    By the way: Through decades of recorded classical music, certain releases vary immensly in length, although they we´re played from the same notes. The interpretation of the conductor, the musicians, the times it was recorded – it all effects the music.
    When I listen to popular music today, it´s lengthy, it´s repeating itself over and over, no melody, no ear catch, samples, 4/4 in it´s worse execution – all because we live in the digital world. Hey let´s buy an Apple Mac and iLife to create your won dull “hit” single.
    I then must honestly say, that any release of Zappa was interesting, no matter how questionable some music of his releases are.

  14. bernard says:

    “Roland”, This blog happens to be truly fantastic.
    All great art starts with a laugh. Then you start building on it.
    Compare it with another great piece of art : the Muppet Show.
    The KUR Great Band:
    - Barry, that’s Kermit.
    - We , you and I , risk becoming the Statler en Waldorf of our beloved KUR. Shame on us.
    - Dr. Sharlena, smart girl, refuses to be both Miss Piggy and Beaker.
    - As we denied Gail, we denied Sam the American Eagle
    - What’s missing is the Swedish Chef- in case jane 23 would make some more efforts..
    Let’s proceed:
    - Urban, well I have to invent something , is Gonzo.
    - Balint is much too smart to be a Fozzie. He refers to Animal.
    - Hopefully there will be no Dr. Bunsen Honeydew showing up.
    - Robin & Camill still has to make their intrance.
    - And where the hell are the spanish: Pepe.
    - Kur might be Mahna Mahna as well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YevYBsShxNs
    Etc.
    Did I offend somebody?

  15. Roland says:

    Not me “bernard” – I just sat in front of my monitor and laughed out loud. What a great idea …

  16. Roland says:

    Here´s something to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon …
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2nJn6rZdtI

  17. Dr Sharleena says:

    A quote from bernard:

    - Dr. Sharlena, smart girl, refuses to be both Miss Piggy and Beaker.
    Did I offend somebody?

    Not at all, I identify with both, “bernard”! :)
    Don’t miss Pigs In Space with John Cleese

  18. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from bernard:

    - Urban, well I have to invent something , is Gonzo.
    Did I offend somebody?

    I’ll have you know that while in high school, hanging around the “freak doors” (named by me, of course) my nickname was animal…must’ve been all that long shaggy hair so well known for in the mid to late 70s…

  19. urbangraffito says:

    Doesn’t *animal* look like a cross between Lowell George and Don Prestion? Think about it: *animal* could’ve been a Mother of Invention had he been created a dozen or so years earlier. Alert! Alert! Mahna Mahna will soon be copyrighted and trademarked by the TRUST! Mahna Mahna…do do de do do…Mahna Mahna….do do de do do…cease and desist!

  20. jane23 says:

    i know not of the swedish chef but i did find this on youtube,shhh don’t tell anybody or else it will cease and desist.
    Zappa in France 1971, never saw this before at least five parts that i have been able to locate. includes: didn’t try to call me; the air; brain police and so on.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLV0lI-5EBg&feature=related

  21. jim says:

    Thanks for the link. A very cool interview – the image of FZ in a ‘Sovietskaia’ hotel is enough for a serious chuckle in its own right. As to seeing the hidden “Viva Zappa” the artist put on CPIII – on my CD, it’s not gonna take a magnifying glass, it’ll take a bloody electron microscope!
    Yes, I too miss LP covers, & think the idea of a ZappaCover art-book is totally bitchen. Look for it in a Chapters bookstore near you – just in time for Halloween 2056!

  22. Balint says:

    “the hidden “Viva Zappa” the artist put on CPIII” – if you find it, please let me know where it is!!! :-)

  23. urbangraffito says:

    Balint, check out the lower left side of the letter ‘H’ of the word ‘Phase’ in the following link:
    http://www.science.uva.nl/~robbert/zappa/files/jpg/Civilization,_Phaze_III.jpg
    Am I right, or am I just seeing things?

  24. mcnastie says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    The art of the album cover is lost on the current generation….I’m too much of a terminal cynic to think that I’ll ever see those wonderful album covers like FZ’s “Joe’s Garage” or Big Brother & the Holding Company’s “Cheap Thrills” ever again.

    oh, gimme a break urbangraffito. get over it. you’re too sentimental.
    the time you spend lamenting the future is the time you don’t spend enjoying NOW.

  25. mcnastie says:

    …and ask robert crumb about the ‘good ‘ol days’ when he was painting things like ‘cheap thrills’ and he’ll tell you to fuck off.
    i think he got paid, like, $500 or something for that cover. some things never change (you know – talented, creative people get ripped off everyday just because they’re not certified public accountants).

  26. Jeroen says:

    Of course you miss some of the glory of LP-covers when they get miniaturised for cd-purposes. They weren’t ment for that format.
    But there are great cd-covers, made for the smaller size. Civilisation Phase III is, of course, a wonderful example.
    King Crimson’s Construction of Light is another gem.
    Mike Keneally’s The Universe Will Provide
    Bryan Beller’s View
    Half Zaftig’s Life Like Luster
    (only to name some albums Zappa-lovers should own).

  27. jane23 says:

    if r crumb got 500 for cheap thrills that was a good deal cause in 1967 his rent was probably 50 per month so that meant he could live for a year, of course he had to buy food too so he probably had to sell another piece to cover that expense.

  28. mcnastie says:

    nah. big brother probably sold at least 250,000 copies on the cover alone. columbia records (clive davis), jim beam, and janis’ heroin dealer got that money. r. crumb paid a coupla month’s rent and bought a few porno mags with that cash.
    he got stiffed, but he lives to have the last laugh.

  29. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from mcnastie:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    The art of the album cover is lost on the current generation….I’m too much of a terminal cynic to think that I’ll ever see those wonderful album covers like FZ’s “Joe’s Garage” or Big Brother & the Holding Company’s “Cheap Thrills” ever again.

    oh, gimme a break urbangraffito. get over it. you’re too sentimental.
    the time you spend lamenting the future is the time you don’t spend enjoying NOW.

    Get over what exactly, mcnastie? Fine works of album art that are miniaturized in the name of selling ever more product? Get over the fact that more and more people don’t give a shit about the quality of what they hold in their hands so they can have *their* music on demand whenever and wherever they want it? What’s wrong with album covers? I still prefer them to what passes for information in those CD booklet liner notes. I mean, if all you are ever given with your music purchase is a square little pull out with a few photos along with nearly unreadable lyrics, you don’t know any better. You think you’re receiving quality when you’re actually being sold crap. I admit it, mcnastie, I am nostalgic for the days when album covers were the norm: but those day are long gone. But what’s wrong with trying to wake up some of the younger folks to the fact that they’ve been accepting shit in the name of commerce for far too long, and that they should demand more than just the ordinary grind?
    BTW, mcnastie, one laments the past, not the future…

  30. mcnastie says:

    there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with being sentimental and nostalgic, urbangraffito. i just think it’s silly and pointless.
    younger folks wake up on their own volition, not because you want them to. and i don’t think the youth believe they’re receiving a ‘quality product’ – they just want convenience and efficiency. that’s not their fault, that’s just what ‘modernity’ has always been about. they’ll figure it out eventually, or maybe not. either way, all the good intentions in the world won’t stop what is inevitable.
    you’re lamenting the future, urbangraffito. you’re making generalizations and jumping to conclusions about ‘what will be’. get over it. vinyl’s not dead, artistry isn’t dead – the idea of music as some kind of mass-market phenomenon is dead. and what’s so bad about that? the majority of human beings have shown time and time again that they don’t give a flying fuck about music as a life force. you say boo hoo, urbangraffito, whilst i say good riddance.
    there you go.

  31. urbangraffito says:

    mcnastie, i plead guilty on all counts except one: lamenting the future. i don’t grieve or feel sorrowful for the future; rather, i believe there are things that can be rescued from the past and brought along into the future — not just discarded for the sake of convenience and efficiency: much like the right of “fair use.” haven’t current historical trends shown us that people will give their rights to just about everything, including quality, as long as they are sufficiently satiated?

  32. mcnastie says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    i believe there are things that can be rescued from the past and brought along into the future — not just discarded for the sake of convenience and efficiency

    yeah, i just think that’s a natural process. that’s what we do as humans. you’re not ‘rescuing’ anything. nothing is eternal. it’s all going to wind up dust someday.
    i hope you don’t feel like i was trying to make you out to be some kind of dumbass, urbangraffito. i was just expressing my disinterest re: nostalgic sentiment.

  33. urbangraffito says:

    you know me, mcnastie, pissing into the wind (wind up getting all wet).