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An Interview with Daniel Peterson

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The role of album art is a challenging one: to capture, in graphic terms, the essence of the music the record contains. Not only does compelling artwork sell albums, but also the very best adds depth to a record. The latter is an aspiration of local artist Daniel Peterson. Although his photography is exhibited by Elizabeth Leach Gallery, he has also collaborated on album art for The Planet The, the Blow, Plants, and 31Knots. Most recently, he shot covers for Panther's debut Secret Lawns (Fryk Beat) and YACHT's I Believe in You. Your Magic Is Real (Marriage Records). While the YACHT cover features a relatively straightforward shot of a white-gloved Jona Bechtolt wielding a wand as smoke rises, it is a metaphor for all the studio wizardry in Bechtolt's schizoid production. The Secret Lawns cover is even better. Peterson layered ghostly images of Charlie Salas-Humara (AKA Panther) striking angular poses as pieces of hay descend around him. With the new YACHT album due out next Tuesday, I talked to Peterson by email about these recent shoots.

MERCURY: How did you get involved with Charlie and Jona for those shoots?

PETERSON: They are friends of mine who I have worked with on creative projects in the past.  

Were they your ideas or were they collaboratively conceptualized?

The YACHT record was all Jona and Jan Lankisch's ideas that I photographed. The Panther record was more of a collaboration with E*Rock. We rode bikes to Charlie's house, unannounced, on the windiest night of last year and threw hay from his neighbor's front lawn at him.

Do you enjoy working on album art?

I like working on record covers. It's a fun challenge trying to balance my aesthetic with the musicians' music and ideas. For the next one I have lined up, I am planning on doing all of the artwork myself and I think it will mostly be drawings.

Do you have any favorite album covers?

The other night I saw the record cover of Sun Bear's self-titled album and I liked it a lot. It was a huge bear standing in front of a glowing sun with hundreds of people inside of it. The drawing and collage work were incredibly detailed. But I don't think I have any favorite record covers. I don't think I have a favorite anything.

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