Robert Beatty is an extremely talented artist and musician from Lexington, Kentucky. Beatty is the vision behind the highly celebrated artwork for Currents by Tame Impala and VEGA INTL. Night School by Neon Indian. He also created the cover art for the Boston Creative Jazz Scene. Robert took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.
When did you decide you wanted to be an artist? What inspired you?
I’ve made art as long as I can remember and I’ve always known that that’s what I wanted to do. I grew up in a small Kentucky town before the internet, so as a kid I was into the weirdest stuff that was easily accessible- Mad Magazine, Monty Python, whatever weird stuff I could find in the encyclopedia or on cable TV. I have always been very investigative and I’m always looking for new inspiration so I pretty quickly gravitated towards more out there stuff.
How did you get into creating album covers? What was your first project like?
I started doing record covers for bands I played in; starting out with Hair Police and Burning Star Core and my solo project Three Legged Race. From there friends I had met through touring started asking me to do art for their records. All of my early covers were for people I already knew, which made the transition very natural.
What is your process for creating album covers?
Usually I’ll talk with the artist to see what they have in mind and then start sketching things out to get a basic idea and then go from there. Sometimes I’ll pull ideas from my sketchbooks or sometimes things just start to come together on their own from listening to the music. The process varies widely from project to project though.
What has been your favorite album to create?
The Neon Indian artwork that I worked on this year was very fun to work on. It’s not necessarily something I would have done on my own, but I got to create a ridiculous and strange language of images that we then arranged into the different single covers and album artwork. As far as my favorite covers I’ve done I still really love the Brad Laner “Nearest Suns” art and the cover I did for AIDS WOLF’s final LP.
With the huge success of the Tame Impala album cover has the phone being ringing off the hook so to speak?
The response to the Tame Impala artwork has been overwhelming at times. The reception from fans has been really amazing, I try to respond to every email, but it’s tough to keep up. I’m definitely staying busy and have no shortage of potential album projects, but I’ve actually been trying to take some time to focus on some of my own projects- an art book of all new material, some video work, some music, and some artwork for some upcoming gallery exhibitions.
You are also a musician. Tell us about some of the bands you are playing with or have played with in the past. Does this correlate at all with the artwork you do?
I have a solo project called Three Legged Race (https://threeleggedrace.bandcamp.com). Lately I’ve been calling it “volatile mixed fidelity electronic music.” The music I perform and record varies widely, but it’s mostly rooted in live electronics and improvisation which is then collaged together; musique concrete collage style.
I also play in the band Hair Police and a few other projects that aren’t as active as Three Legged Race.
What do you have planned for the future?
I’m currently working on finishing up an art book that will be coming out later this year, making some music for a couple upcoming records, getting ready to play a few shows in Europe in the spring, and making art for a few art shows coming up. I also just started a small label called AHEM Editions (http://ahemeditions.com/) so I’ve been enjoying getting a few releases planned out for this year.
What are your top 5 favorite albums?
Not neccesarily top 5 of all time as that’s basically impossible for me, but here are 5 that I come back to often and have been listening to a lot lately.
Herbie Hancock “Sextant”
White Noise “An Electric Storm”
The Incredible String Band “Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter”
Maher Shalal Hash Baz “Blues Du Jour”
Nuno Canavarro “Plux Quba”