Synchronicity: Habitats, Harijan and the Streets of Manchester

Greg Meade is the man responsible for the stunning artwork which adorns the cover of legendary ska outfit Harajan’s debut album. The album has been warmly received by critics and fans alike. His Habitats project perfectly captures the tones, lyrical content and textures of the record. At TNSrecords we believe that the artwork is a huge part of a records overall aesthetic. We decided to catch up with Greg Meade to find out a little more about his work.

TNS: Hey, awesome artwork on that Harijan record. Do you mind telling me a little about it?

Greg Meade: Cheers! My Habitats project essentially started as a means of representing the places we call home, and nothing represents northern life like those rows and rows of terraces. I wanted to capture that feeling of repetitiveness and the same old routine of get-up/go to work/come home/sleep/repeat which felt right for the music.

TNS: Have you always worked with music or is this just one aspect of your visual work?

Greg Meade: Music is a big part of my life so quite often my art reflects themes from tunes I’ve been listening to. Quite a few of my titles use lyrics from songs I’ve been obsessed with too, which is quite a nice way for me to express what the piece is influenced by if that makes sense! Over the years I’ve done a few album art projects working with bands but this has been the first directly in my ‘own style’ as such.

TNS: Would you say that you have a preferred method of working or would you say you approach project’s differently at different times?

Greg Meade: Most of the time a project begins with a sketch based-process, but that’s not to say it’s particularly detailed or any good! It’s more about getting ideas committed to paper. I think approaching projects this way keeps it organic rather than heading straight down a digital route, which can be counterproductive for me personally.

TNS: What/who inspires you?

Greg Meade: The built environment has always been my main influence and inspiration, I’ve always soaked up the architecture from travelling in Europe and my photography work has always been a big part of my creative process. I tend to avoid being influenced by other artists too much as I can quite easily get a bit negative about what my own style is achieving in comparison, which I guess is quite a common thing in the creative world.

TNS: How important do you feel the relationship between music and visual arts to be?

Greg Meade: I think the two are completely intertwined, or at least they are for me. For me music puts into words things that I’m just not able to, feelings I can’t verbally express. I always imagine if someone listened to what I was listening to, they’d have a better idea of how I’m feeling. And I think that relationship is certainly there with Harijans album, somehow the art and lyrics do just go hand in hand. Likewise I think that visual arts can also give context to music, so hopefully that comes across in the artworks featured on this album.

TNS: Which artists/musicians would you most like to collaborate with?

Greg Meade: I guess it would be hard to pin down musicians I’d like to work with as there’s so many both past and present. But I guess Elliott Smith would have been my dream collaboration as such, I often wonder what he’d have achieved musically if things hadn’t worked out how they did and I’d say he’s probably influenced my work as much as anyone. Maybe Cleaners From Venus with the DIY cassette-release attitude would be a logical fit (a few years too late again). They liked mentioning the odd terraced house! In reality though, I think it’s really important for me as an artist to find a real connection with the music to fully make it work, I have pretty varied tastes though and will always be open to new stuff.

TNS: Do you believe the pandemic has had an impact on your work as an artist?

Greg Meade: If anything I’ve probably been able to focus more on my creative work as there’s been less distractions with pubs being shut for so long! It’s meant my spare time has been more committed to my Riso printing studio, which has developed quite well despite the financial struggles of a pandemic. I guess though revenue streams that I would normally have from print fairs etc… have dried up a fair bit.

TNS: What other external factors impact your work?

Greg Meade: I think one thing that directly impacts my art would be the work/life balance. Working a full-time job alongside trying to go more full-time with my artwork is a major challenge and quite often I work myself to the point of exhaustion and my creativity can flat-line for a period. So somehow going forward managing that would be helpful! But in terms of politics and current events impacting, I try to look at my projects on quite a literal level, houses, homes and roofs over the head are things everyone should have access to and homelessness existing in a city like Manchester is something that simply shouldn’t happen. So supporting ground level charities is something I’ve worked on more recently and something my style fits hand in hand with. So expanding what I can do there is certainly an aim for next year.

TNS: How important do you feel that collaboration between different art mediums is?

Greg Meade: Collaboration between different art mediums is something I’ve slowly learnt to appreciate more and more. I can wrap myself up in my own creative bubble a lot and in doing this I can miss out on opportunities, so learning to collaborate with other artists and musicians is certainly something that can only help develop my own work. I’m socially pretty awkward so it’s also my biggest challenge to push those boundaries.

TNS: What do you have lined up next?

Greg Meade: I’m looking at taking a short break from my printing business in the new year and taking some time to focus more on some personal work, in particular some Risographed self-published books based on my photography work. I’m also hoping to pick up the Lino-cutting tools a bit more regularly as aside from a couple of projects, this included, I’ve not done as much as I probably should of!