Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Mohawk: Front Cover by CHU

Mohawk Album Artwork

UK Graffiti boss and aerosol virtuoso, CHU, has been busy in 2013 working, among a myriad of other works, on the artwork for the album Mohawk.

As a very close friend of CHU, i finally got the the chance to work with him on a musical project that
will see a proper release, a very special one based around the poet and cultural revolutionary, and
good friend of mine, John Sinclair.

CHU and i have spent hundreds of hours over the last 4 years developing a unique new platform for
interacting with multimedia based upon using 360 degree panoramas.

This work was initiated with the help of Matt Black of Coldcut and the estate of Dr Robert Anton Wilson. was the result, and CHU is only scratching the surface of this new medium and what can be achieved making the most of new powerful hand held devices and his skill at hand crafting worlds and spaces to make the mouth water.

From the beginning of the Mohawk album project, CHU and i had the 360 panorama in mind, i reminded CHU that the construction of a John Sinclair themed 360 degree pano' would simultaneously produce some
unique and stunning artwork for the CD, with the added bonus of having an almost infinite variety of variations, due to the power of the software and the equal depth and detail of the artwork. A rare match IMHO. And further testament to the multi disciplinary nature of CHU output.

Working backwards from the 360 panorama proved to be a great idea, and the final product is out of
this world, it sets the bar for CD album artwork and visually captures John Sinclair and the feel of the
poetry on the record, objectified

As with many of CHUs works there is often a universe of goings on backstage, sketches and notes, experiments, renders, alternative versions, in the tradition of the scientific method, CHU does a special deep research on his subject matter, and in the case of Mohawk, i was able to steer him in a few directions that i thought would light up his creative candles.

One of these useful hints came pretty early on in the project when i mentioned the legendary artwork
for the album by Thelonious Monk called Underground, which features Monk at the piano in a scene
from an underground resistance bunker from WW2.

CHU quickly sourced the back cover from the original L.P and hit upon the idea of making an extension to underground, or a retrofitted tribute to that classic album cover, but substituting Monk for John Sinclair, and flipping the scene to depict John in Detroit at the typewriter working inside an artist collective headquarters, maybe the Detroit Artists Workshop, during WW3.

And so the work began, CHU rigged up a room, mathematically figured out to mimic the dimensions of the room from underground, and began mapping, remapping and building his set.

CHU invented a location in Detroit, close to the site of the Grande ballroom, and basically built an entire city block where the Mohawk resistance barbershop would be located. As the project developed, CHU began to deconstruct the scene and apply damage and destruction to reflect the very real damage and destruction in Detroit itself, where hundreds of square miles of once swarming city lie in ruins.

His method of working on Mohawk is with the digital stylus, drawing on a tablet, which then relays the images to one computer program or other, that allows him to manipulate the images into virtual 3 dimensional objects. For example, he will hand draw a turntable in 2 dimensions then add the third, and continue to further illustrate the object on all sides so as to become a turntable with a top, bottom, sides, raised platter, tone arm, etc.

As far as i know, CHU is the pioneer of these hand crafted 360 panoramas, and to paraphrase CHU "it
presents, for the first time, the perfect picture, the perfect way to create and view a painting, in every

Mohawk - Album Poster by CHU


The challenge of creating the artwork for the CD Mohawk was reverse engineering the 360 into a
cover back and front, an inner sleeve, and a booklet. Plus the addition of the texts and usual album
details, without detracting too much from the graphical action.

I think you will agree that the results are stunning and serve as evidence to the success of the idea and the hard graft involved in making it real.

The juicy psychedelic color scheme developed by CHU is itself a tribute to the original screen printing
dons and innovators, using the full spectrum and in such a way that it catches the eyes instantly invoking rainbow fruits, reaching from ultra violet to infra-red. Even the spine displays a special effect and builds a future friendly identity when viewed from the edge, typical of the attention to detail and perfection evident on Mohawk.

The objects within the scene each have a specific meaning and story in themselves, or connect. One
principle for decoding the scene is different forms of media. Reel to reel tape, phonograph, film, photo, type, print, sound waves, all pre-digital, somewhat mechanical chemical processes. old school, authentic and meaningful.

The words by John Sinclair on Mohawk are ten poems taken from his epic work Always know: a book of monk, which features poems to accompany every tune every recorded by Thelonious Monk. A work of extreme mental patience, as john might say.

Mohawk Booklet Scene by CHU

Monk and John Sinclair in Underground scenes

The scene combines elements from Monk and the original underground cover with elements from the life and works of John Sinclair. For example.

1. The Buffalo related to white buffalo prayer by John Sinclair.

2. The smoking lady at the back of the room is made to represent pannonica, Monks friend and patron, and the subject of one of John's poems, previously recorded with steve fly, pannonica.

3. The rolling tin next to John's typewriter is an exact copy of John's celestial seasons, smoking tin.

4. The Free John Sinclair poster is a copy of the real poster alerting people to the fact that John Lennon, Stevie Wonder and Allen Ginsberg were performing at a benefit to free john Sinclair from jail.

5. The wrecking ball swinging from the lamp towards the map of Detroit on the wall, draws further attention to the destruction of Detroit and reflects what is happening outside the barber shop.

6. John Sinclair sat at the typewriter replaces Thelonious Monk at the piano. A fair juxtaposition.

7. The original Monk L.P sleeve hangs, as a developing photo, on a drying line.

8. The colors are from the original screen printing color palette used in the 1960s.

9. A Book of Monk, by John Sinclair, sits on the table next to the tape-to-tape recorder.

10. The words 'kick out the jams' are scrawled across the back wall, iconic graffiti from John's time
managing the MC5

11. The large gashes in the barber chair signify some kind of Panther is close by.

I have made many textual interpretations of the Mohawk scene. One of which i will share with you
now as a bit of fun.

Underground Barbershop Fiction Scene 1

Somewhere in deep Detroit, between the abandoned factory units and tenement blocks is the underground barber shop known as Mohawk, run by Mo,of course.

The joint is under siege by a rogue collective of artists who are set on transforming the barbershop into a temporary headquarters only moments before the state wrecking ball is due to come crashing through to demolish it. An all too familiar tale for Detroit.

John Sinclair sits at his typewriter transcribing a final statement from uncle Sam, who originally sold the land ownership rights to the building over to the state, behind the backs of the local community. Uncle Sam has been taken hostage and held as a human shield, as a final resort, in an effort to halt the destruction of the underground barbershop, and the headquarters of the local artist resistance.

If we track back over the last 24 hours from this snapshot, a new picture emerges that involves the process of creating a movie, an underground ransom video showing uncle Sam and John Sinclair in heated debate. John is playing and recording his poetry, developing photographs and editing video documentary footage of everything, as it happens.

The flurry of creativity comes to a climax sequence when uncle Sam stands before the handgun, swearing allegiance to the flag, tripping on Hoffman acid. What we see in the pictures are all taken only minutes after Sam is tied up after facing the gun. John begins to write the closing statement of the Mohawk barbershop from his underground headquarters, somewhere in Detroit, as the wrecking ball closes in.

--Steve fly

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