ARNAU PI, AN ALBUM COVER CAN BE (AND SHOULD BE) CONSIDERED ART

Arnau Pi is responsible for one of the most iconic album covers of the past few decades: John Talabot’s ƒIN. But his signature style has graced a series of works (in the world of music, of course, but also the world of fashion and that of corporate identity) in which shapes and colours are the vehicles that transport distilled emotions. We talk with him to try to get inside his head and understand his vision of art and design.

If we carried out a Top 10 of the most iconic electronic music album covers of the new century, it’s very obvious that John Talabot’s ƒIN cover art would rank very high. It’s no secret: his artistic design establishes a kind of intimate and subterraneous relationship with the music that comprises the album. The use of shapes and colours dialogues with your eyes using the same language codes that Talabot’s compositions use to dialogue with your ears.

Turns out that the cover is the work of Arnau Pi, which in turn is also the creator of many other album covers for the label Hivern Discs in general and for artists like Pional or Röyksopp specifically. In all of these works, Pi seems to apply the knowledge of all those designers and artists that address the task of creating album covers as a task of synthesis and synaesthesia. Distillation and simplification as tools to convey purely musical emotions.

And also it turns out that, other than covers, Arnau Pi hasn’t stopped working in the last few years, whether it be in the field of music and other less melodic but just as stimulating ones, such as fashion or corporate image-making for businesses with an advanced kind of sensibility. In times like this, in which the music industry is being forced to change its image against the clock, it’s necessary to reclaim figures like Pi, who are here to remind us that the covers of vinyls can be and should be considered art. And there’s no better way of reclaiming something than by personally talking to the person about their own work.

Bomber JOHN ELLIOTT, t-shirt NASASEASONS, trousers WHIZ LIMITED.

What is the current project you’re working on that moves you the most?

Right now I’m doing two things that excite me a lot. The first one, a series of EPs that Talabot and Pional are going to release. We want to do something cool that’s printed in a special way, that doesn’t last very long in time. The second one, a workshop that I’m preparing in Madrid before the summer where I’m going to show a little bit of my creative process. It’s a challenge, but I’m very excited.

If you had to summarise your career in three moments or key projects, which ones would you choose?

Talabot’s first album, because it was a turning point in my career as a designer. Röyksopp’s album, because they were the first big band that I had the pleasure of working with. And when I began giving university lectures: it’s a challenge, but it’s so satisfying when the students are motivated and they make a big effort. It makes me want to continue working in design.

Why do you think your artistic vision fits so well with the world of music in general and electronic music specifically?

I simply love music, so I think that it’s only natural. Within my own limitations, I’ve always strived for my style to have a timeless touch and  I never follow any trends. I only ever design in an anarchic way, I do whatever I feel like doing or whatever comes to me at the moment, even though sometimes it turns out wrong. I do suppose that my way of working, apart from the many obvious differences between us, is closer to the musician’s creative process. It’s trial and error. I also suppose that my style, that is very rough and full of textures, fits with the idiosyncrasy found in electronic music. I feel very fortunate to work in music and I love that my designs and ideas become a physical object that you can touch with your hands and that will last in time, in the case of the vinyl.

Trousers JOHN ELLIOTT, shoes ADIDAS.

I think that it’s somewhat similar to what happens with Peter Saville’s art: it’s an extremely distilled and concentrated approach in a direct emotion. Don’t you think so?

What an honour! I wish! I’d like to be a tenth part as good as Saville… He’s a guru to me, and I’m still sort of an amateur.

Is there any artist in the world of music you wish to work with?

Oof, I get that question from time to time and I never know what to answer… The truth is that I focus most on liking the music they make, obviously. I’m always down for working with recognisable and notorious artists, as my work will always be more visible. But if I like them or I like their pitch, it’s always easier for me to come out with something cool, graphically-speaking. And so the name of the band isn’t what’s most important to me. I’d like to design something for a legendary krautrock band like Neu!, Can, Cluster or other similar bands. But I don’t want to design it now, I’d like to go back fifty years in time to do it.

You’ve worked with a few fashion brands like DQM or Otaduy, don’t you think that fashion can bring you new and stimulating fields to explore?

Of course! With DQM it was really fun because we worked together with my friend Albin Holmqvist and some great things came out of it. And so I’d love to keep working with brands that have more of an alternative style. I suppose that the way to tackle a fashion project isn’t very different than when doing something related to music: it’s about finding something about the brand that you connect with and making something visually exciting with it.

Talking about fashion, what’s your favourite item? That which you first think of and you build your whole outfit around it every morning.

I think they’re shirts. I have them in many different colours and materials. But most of them are of plain. When I open my closet that’s the first item I get.

Trench coat NEIGHBORHOOD.
Bomber JOHN ELLIOTT, t-shirt NASASEASONS, trousers WHIZ LIMITED.
T-shirt NASASEASONS, trousers WHIZ LIMITED.
Trench coat NEIGHBORHOOD.
Trench coat NEIGHBORHOOD.
Bomber JOHN ELLIOTT, t-shirt NASASEASONS, trousers WHIZ LIMITED, shoes ADIDAS.
  • Photography: Viridiana Morandini