My name is Mike Lopez, I'm from San Diego, CA and currently based out Los Angeles. I work as a freelance graphic designer.Q. What else have you designed? Any highlights especially anything relating to electronic music? What are you most proud of?
I initially got involved as a designer in high school. My brother and I played in bands, but there was a constant need for flyers to promote local shows. eventually, some of those bands needed merchandise and album covers.
I was (and still am) particularly inspired by some of my older classmates ran an amazing design firm out of high school called Halo Industries (later renamed Bye-Bye design). They produced amazing work, still blows me away. Discovering their work led me to discovering their influences like Jacob Bannon, any of the art coming from labels like ThreeOneG and Gravity Records.
I also started paying attention to who designed my records after that. Some of my favorites are Jay Shaw, Invisible Creature, OhioGirl, Stealworks and Morning Breath Inc.I started designing for publications with my Rachel Dukes small publishing company. We produced comics, t-shirts and produced merchandise for almost a decade. After that, I joined Boom Studios as a production designer for a year before I received a freelance offer I couldn't pass up.
Some of the work I've done for Cleopatra Records has been really fun. I really appreciate all the opportunities Matt Green had given me the past year.Q. How did the Ministry Trax! Box project come about?
He recommended me to Tommy Victor of Prong for a packaging job "Songs from the Black Hole" a cover album with an intense gritty New York theme. Did a gatefold vinyl package for that, in addition to the CD. I love how that turned out. That's probably my favorite at the moment.
I haven't done too much stuff for electronic music, but I am deeply inspired by a lot of the design work out of the genre. I see the visual connection in a lot of 90's indie rock like The Promise Ring, Texas is the Reason, and American Football. A lot of those cover designs look like they could be electronic album covers.
However, our merchandise company made buttons for Dieselboy's Human Imprint label, and also for nM5D for a few years. I loved the aesthetic those labels have.We also did buttons for VampireFreaks and Saddle Creek Records, who have some great electronic influenced artists like the Faint and Icky Blossoms.
Cleopatra Records had posted about a design position on craigslist around July of last year. I sent in my portfolio, and continued on doing freelance design. I heard from Matt in August, and he informed about the details of a project for Ministry and asked if I was interested. First thing I worked on with Cleopatra, out of the gate, was the Trax Box. I jumped at the chance. I was initially only hired to complete the 64 page book layout within two weeks. They dug the result so much, they asked me to finish up the rest of the packaging.Q. Were you involved with/speak to Al Jourgensen at all? (If so) do you know what he thinks of the box?
Not at all, and I didn't talk to him during the Lethal Amounts photo exhibition either. He seems intimidating, haha. And he was wearing his "Will sign With Sympathy for $1000", which confirms my assumption that he despises anything from that era. But I'm sure he's ambivalent about it.Q. Are you a fan of Ministry/Al's work? And if so, what are your particular favourites?
I'm definitely a fan, but wouldn't consider myself the hugest fan. I grew up on a lot of pop punk and hardcore, which has a strong all-ages community in San Diego. I discovered Ministry while working at record stores there, and appreciated a lot of the late 80's-90's output. I actually hadn't heard any of the output before Land Of Rape And Honey, so that all blew my mind when I started hearing it. The original singles disc of the box is probably my favorite right now, just because it's new to me. And so different from what I'd previously heard from them. "Every Day is Halloween" (WAX 007) is my absolute favorite. So damn catchy, that should have been a national hit.Q. Was there input from any other people e.g. Al, Cleopatra, Wax Trax people or were you given total control?
I was given a lot of control over the design. Especially with the timeline they were shooting for, they trusted me with a lot. They sent me a lot of photo scans, the essay, a page count and let me go to work.Q. Did the idea for the patent-leather box with foil-stamping come from you or was that Cleopatra/someone else?
But I had done some re-issues before showcased in my portfolio, and as a vinyl collector for the past 15 years, I have a good intuition about what fans can appreciate in a collection like that. I try to design something I'd like to own.
So I ran with it, and pursued whatever whim I had. I was influenced a ton by Brian Shanley's artwork and photos. I did my best to reference the art in a chronological order when I could.It was a really perfect project for me to dive into. I locked myself in my apartment for a few weeks, and built it out on my MacBook.
Cleopatra had that idea before I came in, but I thought that was a great idea. The fact they wanted to invest so much into packaging gave me an idea of the level the interior book needed to be, haha.Q. Was the overall cost of the packaging ever an issue/did a budget for the packaging ever cause issues?
I know they had difficulty finding the correct manufacturer for it, but I was never involved with figuring out the production budget. I was a hired gun, simply put.Q. Are you pleased with the end result?
Definitely, It's great to see it all together and I hope people enjoy it! It's a great feeling working on something in a digital program like InDesign, then seeing physical proofs and the final tangible product. I think the only thing I'd change is not adding the catalog numbers with each tracklisting. Cleopatra requested it, and I absolutely see a reason for it. But it would've been easier to layout, haha.Q. Any other anecdotes or anything else you'd like to say about the Ministry Trax! Box project?
After designing the box, Matt has hired me for some freelance layout projects for Cleopatra. I think there were 3 record layouts that were released prior to the Trax Box coming out, despite being the first thing I did for them. They needed a lot of lead time for all of the different production elements, and the whole team at Cleopatra put a ton of work into that release.Q. Tell us a little bit about Overdue Collection, the Non-Profit Record label specialising in special edition vinyl releases you founded? Any electronic music related releases already out/coming out?
Thanks for asking! With each record we release, the artist chooses a charity and 100% of the profits go to said charity. We've only had 3 releases so far, all from Gatsbys American Dream, a post-hardcore band from Seattle. Their first two albums had been out of print for years, and I'd seen them a lot in high school. I loved their music and I wanted it out on vinyl myself. So I figured out a way to make that happen, haha. We donated $5600 to Water.org last year, whom all of Gatsbys releases have benefitted. The band and the label were listed in the donors section of their 2014 Annual Report. (pg 15) I'm working on new 7" hopefully to release in the fall, with some more post-hardcore artists. But everything moves pretty slowly, since it's a part-time / expensive endeavor. I work on it a little bit everyday between freelance projects.Q. Any other new, interesting projects on the horizon that you can tell us about?
Not just yet, but usually post about projects on instagram, tumblr or twitter (links below). I usually post new projects there when I can. I update my portfolio every year or so, I should do it more often.Q. What's your favourite packaging design by someone else?
Oh man, there's so much to choose from. I'd probably say Give Up The Ghost's "We're Down Til We're Underground". That was designed by Jacob Bannon, and I remember thinking how strong of a cover that was. If you could work with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be? I'd probably want to work with Storm Thorgerson. Even just as his assistant. His work was so damn iconic but experimental. Looking over his work and how it evolved over the decades, it's really inspiring.Q. Is there a project that doesn't currently exist that you would love to work on (even if it's not music related)?
I'd probably like to work in the art department of a TV show or movie someday. That'd be pretty killer. Or further work with reissue layouts. I'd love to do something crazy with an expansive outlook. I love the stuff Light in the Attic, and Death Waltz are doing right now.