The cover that catalyzed a career

By Rosa Winther Denison

The cover that catalyzed a career

In the process of launching 360° ICÔN we have seen a lot of different album covers. Choosing the right artist and album can be hard, but there were no doubt that we had to work with the album cover for "Katbeat" by Sneakers. Luckily the artist behind the cover, Simon Bang has invited the 360° ICÔN Designer Rosa to his studio for a cup of tea, and a talk about how the cover was made, artist life in the 80s, and what he is up to now.

I met Simon at his studio, which is inside his Østerbro apartment in Copenhagen. It feels like walking into a miniature museum filled with art, sculptures and bright colors. The studio is bursting with creativity with small sketches and drawing stations everywhere. He has just made a pot of tea, and we sit down at the dining table where I start showing him pictures of one of the original Sneakers albums, the “Katbeat” cover. Simon donated a lot of his work from the 80s to the Danish Design Museum, where I’ve just collected it from the archives. He reminisces on how it all started, which brings a smile to his face.

Why art?
I’ve always had a passion for drawing. I’m the 5th generation of a free-spirited artist family. My mother always asked us whether we wanted to do the dishes or go draw, and I always ran as fast as I could out the door to grab my pencil. I defined my style at an early age, and people hired me to paint pictures of their homes and farms.

How did it all start?
A while after sending my designs in, Sneakers invited me to their studio. I remember entering their studio at Østerbro - actually, the space where Normann Copenhagen is located now. They had placed all the album cover proposals on the floor, side by side, and I remember being completely stunned. They then told me that I had won competition. Both my first and second proposal were picked as their favorites, and they eventually chose the cover you know today. I was only around 22 then and didn’t realize how big of a deal it was.

What were your thoughts behind the cover?
I wanted to create an image reflecting the title “Katbeat.” I also wanted to capture the wildness of Sanne Salomonsen’s expression, portraying her “cat woman” image. The cover also had to reflect who I was as an artist but at the same time contain a twist of something original. Back then, I was constantly researching new art trends and tried to experiment with various modern techniques.
The 360° ICÔN take on Simon Bang's famous album cover for Sneakers. Available in white or black for women, or black or blue for men. 

How did you make it?
I normally sketch all my ideas first. It’s more of an intuitive process, just getting everything on paper. What works graphically, what color palette to use, etc. I didn’t use any digital equipment - I made it purely analog. With Katbeat, I made a lot of variations. I created various color combinations, lines and detailing elements. I remember using Pantone markers, paper cutouts, fine tipped pens and crayons on the top layer. We met a few times at Sanne and Morten’s apartment, settling details over cigarettes and beer. We went back and forth on various versions, but in the end, I was a little bit cheeky. I didn’t want to make countless variations and told them, “You are beating the drums and making the music, I am making this cover,” implying that I was a little tired of all the back and forth. Of course, we had to agree on the final cover, but it was essential that the cover showed it was a piece of art made by Simon Bang.

How was your life in the 80s?
It was in many ways a wild time. Life was freer, we were pushing boundaries and living much more carefree. My environment, which consisted mainly of artists and musicians, might have deviated a little from “normal” life. We lived wildly during the nights and artistically during the day. It was not unusual to go out after work every day during the week. We drank and smoked a lot more compared to today – a bohemian lifestyle with ladies and parties at night. I recall it being a much messier life – less structured and more spontaneous. Being a popular artist meant being the talk of the town back then. There were fewer of us, and it was much more prestigious. It was also a tough life. I had to “smede mens jernet var varmt”. I was also really young, networking and figuring out my personal and visual identities at the same time.

How was the aftermath?
Seeing it in retrospective, winning the competition catalyzed my career. I must have captured the present zeitgeist. Suddenly, Kim Larsen wanted me to do a cover for him, together with Moonjam and Nanna. I then made a cover for Sebastian’s musical “Skatteøen“ and later on a poster for the Miles Davis art exhibition in Denmark. I eventually got into the film industry making storyboards. My character suddenly shifted to being the “invisible artist,” developing movies together with the director. I was actually only creating these record covers for around five years.
The album cover that Simon Bang did for Kim Larsen's debut album. It is the second-biggest selling album in Danish music history.  
Simon Bang's cover design for Moonjam from 1984. 
Poster design for the Miles Davis art exhibition in Denmark.
Album cover design for the musical Skatteøen with music by Sebastian. The album include songs performed by Lis Sørensen, Søs Fenger, Flemming "Bamse" Jørgensen and Lars H.U.G.
How to you feel about the “Katbeat” cover so many years later?
I still really like it. It brings up a lot of good memories and reminds me of my youth. It’s interesting that some of my old work is making a comeback. It confirms that I’ve created something timeless, appealing to several generations. It remains iconic and popular so long as the art is good enough, and I can only be very happy and thrilled about this.

What now?
I am currently working on a new art exhibition. I’ve always wanted to paint more. It’s been a while since I have immersed myself in painting. I feel like there is something unfinished, and there is more to discover. I am also working on a film about my grandfather called “Captain’s Heart.” He was a captain, sailing for 50 years, while his wife and children stayed at home. Once he passed away, I inherited his old sailor suitcase and started investigating his past. I discovered some surprising things about him and wanted to tell his story.
Who: Simon Bang, 58 years old
Education: Skolen for Brugskunst
Occupation: Painter, storyboard maker, documentarist
Instagram: @simonbangart

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