End of the Decade Blues
The Making of a Post Modern Masterpiece
Written by Paul Snell
Pop Will Eat Itself
This is the Day…This is the Hour…This is This!
There are music fans and there are music fans. If you are reading this then you are probably into your records more than the average Joe. You collect vinyl maybe, buy music magazines and know your Discogs from your Bandcamp. Some people though take fandom to a completely new level and go that extra mile to not only satisfy their own music obsession, but also to provide a service to us less motivated mortals. This piece is a tribute to Paul Snell, who that I hear you say? Paul has produced a book of such monumental depth and quality that I had to feature it. The book is his own homage to one album, the mighty ‘This is the Day…This is the Hour…This is This!’ by the indie/dance/hip-hop gods that are Pop Will East Itself (PWEI).
First things first, if you get to the end of this article and like the sound of the book, sorry, but the recent limited run of 100 copies sold out in an hour. I was lucky enough to get one, I even had to set a reminder to log into Facebook and be on Paul’s Pweination page the moment they went on sale.
Being a music fan and blogger I was eager to find out a lit bit more about the book, so I caught up with Paul to understand why he produced the book and some of the practical reasons for keeping the run small.
First I asked Paul the obvious question, why the limited run?
“With no disrespect to Pop Will Eat Itself, if any major publisher thought a book of this nature (full colour, large format, image heavy and very niche subject-wise) was a viable business proposition then a similar book would be out there already. And this is the very reason I decided to undertake the project: no-one else seemed likely to do it as it’s not a money spinner, and to redress the balance as PWEI are very overlooked critically in the UK.”
Where there issues around copyright and getting access to images?
“Very early in the process I began to contact the 80s UK Music Weekly photographers to seek permission/enquire about licence arrangements for some key images from 1989. It became apparent that most of the back catalogue is owned by companies such as Getty and that their license fees only become affordable when absorbed into duplications in the thousands. Again, with no disrespect, funding a project of that scale would be folly and I had to therefore seek other avenues of securing some visual content of the band.”
It sounds like affordability, budget and final purchase price was uppermost in your mind?
“I had to settle on a print run that would be affordable for me to fund, and for fans to purchase. The result was that, by stating the run would be limited to 100 copies with no digital formats and non-profit, other parties were happy to come to agreements. These ranged from a simple exchange of copies of the book to very reasonable licence fees to cover scanning negs etc. My gut feeling is that if 200-300 had been published it would not sell out for a while yet and I would have crossed the border from ‘goodwill’ into licensing fees that would push up the unit price.”
When I first saw the book, one of the things that sprang to mind was whether you had any contact from the band about the project, if so what did they think?
“Early in the process I contacted a key PWEI member, as well as tDR, to ensure no-one had issues with what I was planning. All members of the ‘89 line up as well as Fuzz have received finished copies and been very supportive of it. They all seem to like it and I’m sure they would tell me if it was crap.”
The Designers Republic™
One of the reasons Pop Will Eat Itself (PWEI) stood out from the crowd was the vivid artwork of their records and merchandise. This would have been a much harder book to construct without the imagery that accompanied the band. Within the pages Paul has collected together a gallery covering singles, the album of course, music paper adverts and t-shirts.
It is difficult to separate PWEI from design company, The Designers Republic™ (tDR™). The partnership was a perfect example of where music and image went hand in hand. Whether it was Russian Constructivism, futuristic space logos or Lichtenstein influenced imagery, the artwork certainly helped sell the merchandise and promote the PWEI brand. You couldn’t go to a gig around that time without someone sporting a PWEI shirt.
Paul has included an essay on tDR™ and goes into some depth on their history and how they came to work together. Both band and designers had a similar philosophy, summed up by this quote from tDR™. “We steal whenever necessary or desirable… mutating the original until we can honestly call it our own”. Paul links the two together nicely, “Just as PWEI lifted riffs from other records to add to their sonic collages. tDR™ lifted logos and symbols, sometimes wholesale, for the accompanying designs.”
80s sample culture
The book is a beautiful thing and Paul has assembled so much information connected with the album. Reviews, live gig reports and with PWEI so much part of the late 80s sample culture, we even have a list of where the samples are from and also explanations of some of the pop culture references. He has left no stone unturned.
One of my bugbears is that some of the bands I love have not documented their history ‘properly’, in the form of books or DVDs. I know artists like to look forward and concentrate on their latest material, but let’s acknowledge past achievements. Using PWEI as an example, how about a career spanning DVD with interviews, all their promo videos, something to properly document their career? Also let’s have a re-print of some of their classic t-shirts. Paul has gone someway to satisfy this itch, maybe fans producing material is the way to go, because they know what other fans want?
Let’s leave it at that and I will leave the last words to Paul. Whenever I do interviews I will ask about favourite songs or albums.
I asked Paul about his favourite track from This is the Day…This is the Hour…This is This! And not surprisingly it was a proper fans answer!
“That’s almost impossible to answer really. When listening to various tracks I think ‘this I the best one’ to many of them. The reason for this is; they constantly evolved over time and strived to avoid stagnation. There are tracks from all their albums I consider to be up there with their best work, be it something from Box Frenzy or Anti-nasty League. However, my default favourite Clint song is ‘Wise Up! Sucker’ for its brutal simplicity – a classic punk-pop track. For Crabbi compositions it’s probably ‘Get The Girl! Kill The Baddies’ due to its hidden musical depths. There are so many parts intertwined that make up the whole – illustrated in the fact it was deconstructed to create the 14 min ‘Half Man, Half Machine’ remix by Crabbi himself.”
I hope you found this review entertaining, apologies again for promoting something that you cannot buy. Maybe in the future another run will happen. Please do share this piece on social media, even just to highlight the work that Paul has put into the book and also to help document what a great band the incredible PWEI were / are!