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Gareth Halliday On The Artwork He Did For 'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' 'Who Built The Moon?' And More

Gareth Halliday is the man who created the beautiful artwork for Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds 'Who Built The Moon?' album that was released in November last year.

He has been collecting vintage printed media and ephemera for over 20 years, and is fascinated with the otherworldly qualities of images from a forgotten time or place. His collage and Photo-montage work tries to exert control over the saturation of images we are confronted with daily; playing with relationships between scale and perception and disparate pop culture associations. Often these works end up as subversive commentary on the society we live in.

Gareth has been a part of several group exhibitions across Europe and had his first solo exhibition with Lazarides at The Outsiders in 2014. He has sold work worldwide.

In 2016 Gareth collaborated with Adidas Originals on the relaunch campaign for the much loved Adidas Gazelle 1991 version.

The artwork for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds 'Who Built The Moon?' was recently featured at in an exhibition called 'Be Here Now: Today Is Just A Day Dream' which features artwork from Brian Cannon, Astrid Kirchherr, Peter Blake, Storm Thorgeson, Gered Mankowitz, Pete McKee, Horace Panter and Ian Skelly.

Q: How did you get into making you're beautiful collages?

A: They definitely have not always been beautiful that’s for sure. I went to art school in the mid-to-late nineties and I guess looking back there was a big melting pot of styles and ideas from the past colliding with the present in music, fashion and art.

For me collage felt like a relevant style to express my ideas with, where I could combine found imagery with my paintings and photos. Also most of my favourite album artwork has elements of collage art in them, from The Beatles’ Revolver through to Punk and the present day.

There are a lot of great albums which use collage in the design of the cover art, I guess because it’s quite abstract, fragmented and suggestive, more often than not like the music it represents.

It’s a very accessible medium to express with. It’s very much a DIY approach of making something from nothing. Anyone can do it.

Q: Is it true that you used to be Noel Gallagher's postman?  

A: No, but I do deliver close to one of his homes just outside of London apparently.

Q: How did you go about getting him to see your artwork?

A: Noel saw one of my collages called 'Choppy Waters' in Damon Albarn's studio when they were recording together on the Gorillaz 'Humanz' album (2017). He contacted me from there and brought a few prints, not long after Noel asked if I’d be interested in doing some artwork for an upcoming project. Obviously I said yes.

Q: 'Who Built The Moon?' is the first album cover you designed, are there any more musicians you would like to work with.

A: I loved creating the artwork for 'Who Built The Moon?'. There was a lot to work from, and a lot of creative freedom as well. For me music and artwork have always gone hand in hand.

I probably get most of my ideas and inspiration from it, whether that be conscious or not, but I listen to a lot of music most days.

I’ll be ambitious…to list a few……. Primal Scream, Nick Cave, Tame Impala, Anna Calvi,  PIL, Flying Lotus, Roger Walters, David Gilmour, Damien Jurado, Damon Albarn, Hookworms, Beck, Tricky, Bjork, Brian Eno, PJ Harvey, Underworld, Chemical Brothers, David Holmes, New Order, Orbital…..  The Rolling Stones?

Failing that if Susan Boyle has a space rock opera she needs some artwork for, I’d be happy to try and help. I’m open to working with anyone if it felt like it would work.

Q: What is you're favourite album/single artwork and why?

I don’t have a favourite as such. I’m too indecisive. I’m a bit of a music lover so there are loads of favourites. I’m going to go with Primal Scream’s 'Vanishing Point' because it’s a pivotal work which influenced me a great deal when it was released in 1997 when I was eighteen. The album artwork which is all collage and fragmented imagery, including the singles, perfectly conveys the music which was massively experimental and a fusion of different styles and genres. I discovered a whole world of music and artists from the influences on the album. I still love listening to it quite regularly. 

It turns out a great deal of the album artwork I’ve really been into (Primal Scream’s 'XTRMTR' & 'Evil Heat', The Prodigy, Stereolab, Broadcast and CAN) for the last 20 years have been designed my Julian House. He went on to design the artwork for 'Dig Out Your Soul' by Oasis too. I’ve always loved that punk infused style that you can get with collage art.

Q: Were you a fan of Oasis? 

I was fifteen when 'Definitely Maybe' came out which was a great age to get into Oasis. I brought a guitar and wanted to be in a band and all that, I was influenced by them, who wasn’t? Once I got into music and art which was around 1993 that was it! My plans for a football career got thrown out the window along with my school work.

Q: What is you're favourite Oasis album/single artwork and why? 

'Definitely Maybe' is my favourite album artwork. It’s probably the nostalgia for an era when albums felt more momentous and the joy of discovering a great record for the first time.

It’s one of my all time favourite albums and I love the back cover with Noel holding the globe in his hand, very prophetic for what was to come for the band!

Q: What is your favourite track from 'Who Built The Moon?' and why?

My favourite track is 'The Man Who Built the Moon'. I listened to the record for about six months before it was released, so my favourite changed all the time. I choose this track though because it’s just a dark sweeping cinematic epic of a tune which I believe gave me most insight into the visuals for the artwork. The cover idea is what I envisioned from listening to this song a lot…. Or ‘It’s A Beautiful World’, I couldn’t get enough of that song either. 

Q: Have you seen the band on tour yet? if so what did you think of the songs live?

I’ve see them 3 times. I thought they were great! I got a real buzz out of seeing them live. The band looked like they were enjoying themselves and it was mind blowing seeing the artwork as the backdrop too. I loved it!

Q: You collaborated with Adidas Originals on the relaunch campaign for the Adidas Gazelle 1991 version. How did that come about? And are there any plans to work with them again in the future?

Basically I got contacted by a media agency in London with a brief based around the ideas of Adidas wanting artists who work with collage to design imagery for the backdrop of the Gazelle Silhouette, based on the city they live in. I had two weeks to come up with the work, so I did what I could and Adidas were happy with the work, I think. I would love to work with them again.

Q: Do you have any projects coming up you can talk about?

The artwork for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds 'Who Built The Moon?' was recently featured at in an exhibition called 'Be Here Now: Today Is Just A Daydream' which features artwork from Brian Cannon, Astrid Kirchherr, Peter Blake, Storm Thorgeson, Gered Mankowitz, Pete McKee, Horace Panter, Ian Skelly. It was incredible to see the work next to Brian Cannon’s, that put a smile on my face for weeks.

Other than that I’m in the early stages of creating new artwork as the last 14 months I’ve been enjoying coming home to my daughter and wife who’s been on maternity leave. She’s back to work now and my girl has started nursery, so I’m getting back into the swing of designing on top of the day job as a postie.

Could you please give a brief description on the concept and the thinking behind the artwork for the albums and a few tracks.

Who Built The Moon? (Album Cover)

I think we were getting close to the deadline or over it and my wife was 8 months pregnant. Although I had produced quite a large body of work, nothing was standing out as the album cover. So I had a final meeting at Ignition where I presented more artwork and it wasn’t until I was packing up that I found a mock up of the cover design in my folder. I left it with the office not thinking much of it and a few days later got a message saying “this is the one!”

We had to re-shoot the woman on the front and fortunately Noel’s wife Sara agreed to model for it. I had a call from the photographer David asking for direction on the shoot. At this point my wife had been in labour for 2 days and we hadn’t slept for over 48 hours. I was sitting next to my wife on the phone saying something along the lines of “imagine a woman from Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon A Time in America’ walking into the distance of an alien planet where all is not what it seems”, that’s the vibe we’re after.” I was grabbing the gas and air from my wife at this point.

I’ve described a large part of the concept for the cover in a question above, but I think it worked out well. I like the fact that it’s got Noel’s wife in the artwork, as well as a contribution from my wife in the form of the flying birds, it’s her photography work. Also the sky is originally from a photograph I took out of a car window as we were approaching Belfast Airport. (My wife is from Northern Ireland) Anyway I like the fact it’s a Northern Irish sky as a lot of the album was created in Belfast with David Holmes.

Fort Knox

This track was quite late to the album I think. In many ways it tied a few loose ends in the artwork and pulled it all together in the process.

'Fort Knox' has always been primarily a U.S gold vault designed to withstand any kind of attack.

With this in mind and the alarm kicking off, to me this was a break in-out, setting up a powerful atmosphere and statement of intent to the album.

The figure walking towards the distance, with what looks like a bag in his right hand is suggesting he might’ve done a ‘job’ on Fort Knox and he’s about to meet the second figure which could be his partner in crime or lover or both.

It’s a reference to a Bonnie and Clyde vibe. It’s suggestive, open to interpretation, but trying to capture the beginning of a journey I guess.

I took the photograph of a sunrise in Mauritius the previous year. I couldn’t sleep so went for a walk on the beach. It was about 6 am, no one in sight and there was this really beautiful, enigmatic sunrise. Easily the best I’ve ever seen.

Holy Mountain

From what I can remember I created this one quite early on. It was the first artwork which felt like it was delving into another world. As research I remember watching Alejandro Jodorowsky’'s 1976 film 'Holy Mountain' which blew my head off.

The song is really up tempo and that’s quite hard to translate into one image. I would like to think that the woman in the middle ground that’s approaching the car will end up teleported into another dimension across to the party at 'Holy Mountain' in this old banger of a Tardis. Or imply that at least.

The imagery in the film and the lyrics to Noel’s Holy Mountain definitely had an impact on the more psychedelic artwork that would become the gatefold and picture disc.

It's A Beautiful World

I never knew what Charlotte was saying in this song until it was released, but I always felt that the song was about a beautiful apocalypse, which I think she was getting at in her chorus.

It’s a celebration of life and love on the dawn of… well the end of earth basically!

A narrative of when we’re faced with the inevitable and of our own doing, all we can do is be blasé about it because that’s how we’ve become over time, desensitised, even to our own demise haha.

She Taught Me How To Fly

I wasn’t very keen on this image to begin with and kept trying to make changes to it until I got told off.

I can see now that it’s the simplistic, vintage feel to it which makes it work and Noel was right ha!

There’s a Japanese design feel to it and I guess the message is quite simple…

While my wife was pregnant we would listen to it a lot as it was her favourite. Also she put up with me being a constant pain in the arse and I guess she taught me how to fly! Pass the sick bucket!

If Love Is The Law

Really I guess the artwork was built from the lyrics, just trying to paint a story of the song. Here are some key lyrics which did this…..

”I’m standing on the edge of night in a lonesome town, where love has been and gone, I’m waiting for the storm to come back and take me down”

“Memories, Forever set in stone, when all is said and done, they’re just like the falling leaves, that you gather in your head, when the sun’s about to set”

All the artwork for the whole album relate to the lyrics, well they should do after the amount of times I listened to then. It was a really enjoyable experience and hopefully I helped the man to build the moon.

Special thanks to Gareth for taking the time to do the Q&A with the site, check out more of his fabulous work here.

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