[sic] Magazine

Interview – Anthony Frost

One of the more enjoyable days I’ve spent in the last year was a family expedition to the studio of artist Anthony Frost in Penzance. As long time fans we managed to wangle it through a gallery to see if we could add to our small collection. But although we were there as “punters” the viewing went beyond any sort of sales exercise and we stayed for a couple of hours. Despite our genuine long term admiration for Anthony’s work there is another set of reasons for my personal interest. He is a renowned music fan, often naming his pieces after bands or songs. We have, for example, pieces called “The Senseless Things” and, marvellously, “Zoot Horn Rollo”. His new catalogue has “Neon Neon” (the Super Furry’s spin off) and “Boards Of Canada”. And on occasion his work graces the sleeves of, among others, The Fall. In fact it is notable that Mark E. Smith (not a man famous for long standing relationships) used Anthony for last years Imperial Wax Solvent, years after his work on Extricate.

Extricate

His often bright, always vibrant Abstract work has the sort of instant (but not necessarily logical) impact of R&R. Much like The Fall it has strong similarities from one group of works to another while still strongly bound to a distinct aesthetic that is instantly recognisable as his work alone. A non fan will hear each Fall album as sounding the same, see each Frost painting as very similar – – you either “get” them or you don’t, there’s rarely an in-between.

He has a magnificent collection of Heath Robinson recording equipment set up to record many “new music” shows in his absence. By the end of the visit he had turned me on to (current Ecstatic Peace! Signings) MV & EE (whom, incidentally, he had named a painting – Green Blues Getting’ Gone – after).

Indie Dad: You’ve done covers for The Fall, any other work with bands?

Anthony Frost: Only one, called “Big Circus” – I did a cd single for them. Mind you I have been in a pop video dressed as a woman – a blonde! The track was called Harold by Blindfold Garden, a band from Falmouth. I was a transvestite – I loved it!

Imperial Wax Solvent

Indie Dad: You have worked with The Fall twice I think – on the cover for album Extricate (and the singles Telephone Thing and Popcorn Double Feature) and most recently on last years Imperial Wax Solvent (which now I think of it sounds like something you might find in a painters studio). How did that association first come about?

Anthony Frost: By me writing telling Mark how much I loved The Fall’s music and eventually I was asked – many years later – to do Extricate and the singles. I still have the Popcorn and Telephone paintings.

Indie Dad: The cover of Imperial Wax Solvent is slightly different from the original vision, I don’t think they went from your painting proper did they?

Clearspot

Anthony Frost: No, the original was “portrait” but for the album/cd “landscape” suited better. It was turned on it’s side which I like actually – it gives it another life. Also there is a black line in the image as used which has come from the card of the card of the painting. The original piece called “Blue Rush” was turned into an invite card for an exhibition I had in St. Ives at the Porthminster Beach Café – next show March 27th! – anyway, sorry, yeah the card got folded in Mark’s pocket and he passed it on to the printers like that so it was reproduced on CD, t-shirt and badge with a black line from the fold!

Indie Dad: You don’t get a mention in the Smith autobiography Renegade but judging by the stick he gives many people that might be a good thing!

Anthony Frost: Yeah – loads of us cover artists did not get a mention and that’s sort of “a Fall thing”, which I like.

Indie Dad: Outside of your work with musicians, music is clearly a big part of your life. I thought I was a musical obsessive but your collection of recording equipment set ups to catch all the “new music” radio shows (as well as Radio 4) made me look lazy! Do you listen while painting and if so does it have a direct influence on what goes on the canvas?

Anthony Frost: You’re right about recording music – I do it in the old fashioned way using tape recorders and timers. I mean I could “listen again” but I don’t go near a computer and I love tapes and tapes recorders. Yeah I listen to music when there is something I’m not interested in on Radio 4 – which is not often I might add! – but yes, if it’s a dark day and lashing down I often put on music. Plus all the music I’ve taped needs listening which does work for me whilst painting. It’s not that I interpret it but it just works on me and urges me on to keep painting and to almost go with the sound paint-wise. I love it! My latest show was called “The Sound Of Colour” because I liken my painting – which is abstract – to music. I want the visual equivalent of an aural sensation – if that’s legal!

Beat down the colour

Indie Dad: For someone whose main outlet is visual you seem to take a delight in “sound” – not just the music you listen to but the resonance in bands names or song titles. Captain Beefheart is especially good for this – not just the titles of songs (though who could not love stuff like “Big-Eyed Beans From Venus”) but members “names”.

Anthony Frost: Yes, I’ve used band members names in my latest show “Feelers Rebo” (Denny Walley), “Mantis Lucas” (Gary Lucas), The Mascara Snake. I’ve used Big Eyed Beans From Venus, Ltd Supply, Grow Fins and many more. Oh yeah, and years ago I had a show of mono prints and I named each print after band members like Rockette Morten, Winged Eel Fingerling and The Mascara Snake. Someone wrote in the gallery book “What about Antennae Jimmy Semens?!”. I used the name on the next print I did.

Indie Dad: I know you use music when you give lectures. How does that work and what music do you use – I seem to remember The Ramones being mentioned!

Anthony Frost: I sometimes play J Mascis – from Dinosaur Jr – reading from the book of the Ramones. I tend to use music more when doing workshops. I do a colour collage workshop and play Trance stuff while everyone is collaging onto their canvases. And Daft Punk when they start painting as it’s calmer. I also play Beirut, Dinosaur Jr., P J Harvey, Crystal Castles – but not The Fall or Captain Beefheart, that’s just for me on my own in the studio.

Jazz 1

Indie Dad: Off at a tangent but I noticed you studied at Cardiff in the early 70s, did you ever see some of the classic Welsh bands of the time (Man, Neutrons, Groundhogs and (and this isn’t a joke on my part) Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets? I think those bands are terribly under-rated.

Anthony Frost: Didn’t see many bands in Cardiff, although I do like The Groundhogs and they did play The Winter Gardens Penzance but I was away at the time! I did go to a Classic Blues gig in Cardiff organised by Charley Records. It had wonderful Blues players such as Boogie Woogie Red (Elmore James’ cousin), Lightening Slim and others who were all fantastic – all for 50 pence!

Indie Dad: You must have been the right age to see a lot of great 70s Punk – any classic gigs you could share?

Anthony Frost: I did see Sham 69 and Wayne County and The Electric Chairs – when he was a man AND when he was a woman!

Indie Dad: Finally the obvious question – what’s your favourite album cover of all time!

Anthony Frost: I think my favourite album cover of all time is “Trout Mask Replica”. Not only is it just amazing music but an amazing trout on Beefheart’s face. On the back you have the Captain with a table lamp in his hand, in his stove pipe hat, green fur edged coat and shades, pointing the lamp as if it’s a ray gun. Plus the band members looking very freaky and at the bottom of the photo the head of the Mascara Snake with great shades on – I think he is related to the Captain – a Cousin?

Trout Mask Replica

The Indie Dad and [sic] Magazine wish to thank Anthony for his excellent insights. Images are subject to copyright.

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