ACDSleeve: Passion for the Music

North-West based music packaging company ACDSleeve ‘strongly believe that nothing beats receiving a physical copy of an album’. As Record Store Day draws near, we couldn’t agree more…

Tom Leggett, the genius behind ACDSleeve, has been helping artists create unusual packaging for music since 2010. After struggling to find work after university, and having a passion for both music and design, the product/industrial design graduate worked closely with friend and music enthusiast Kev Douche of record label Big Scary Monsters. The aim was to make physical releases more “intriguing”, most importantly focusing on a sharp design aesthetic within reach on a small budget.

Arguably Tom’s most ambitious, breakthrough design is the double pop-out CD case, launching in September 2012 with the Big Scary Monsters 100th release; an insane accomplishment considering he assembled it himself, and one which he admits was “a steep learning curve”.

We cornered Tom to get the lowdown on lovingly-thought out designs, hating cassettes and working with music heroes …

Looking at your work on Doctrines – ZE really made us geek out about getting our hands on a new release, peeling the shrink wrap off, then trying to stick the sticker back on the cover. What is it about physical releases that are so covetable?

I think for me it goes back to before the days of buying music on the internet, be it physical or digital, before albums were streamed online before release, when there were numerous record shops on the high street and the first time you got to listen to a new album was when you went and bought it from a shop.

“The first time you got to listen to a new album was when you went and bought it from a shop”

Your first interaction with that album was the packaging/artwork, I always used to look through it all when first listening to a new album. Even though I buy physical music, I really don’t soak it all in anymore, as chances are I’ll have already downloaded a pre-order link and know the album before it arrives on my doorstep. I should say, I live in a small town with no local record stores and the closest thing to a record store is the CD section in the local Morrisons, so internet shopping is all I have without travelling some distance. So I’ll have a quick look through, but it’s just not the same.

Digital music and my impatience has kind’ve ruined that first interaction with an album. Saying that, getting a release where it’s obvious that the band/label have put in so much effort to making it look as good as it sounds brings that back; looking through the artwork, peering into vinyl sleeves looking for liner notes and finding them. I think more bands are making the effort; it’s not necessary, but it gives their fans something back, a thank you almost.

You say you hate cassettes and pretty much just buy vinyl. Is their a difference, as in creative ideas, between working on a CD, vinyl or a cassette case? Does the history of the format help or hinder your thinking when faced with a design brief?

To be honest I don’t really get design briefs anymore due to most jobs being reasonably standard now, being one of the six products I offer. Cassettes are really restrictive to artists designing the artwork for a release with the area to work with, and fiddly for me to make given their size.

I think the CD products I offer give a band/artist a decent area to use, so their release isn’t cluttered if they want lots of information/artwork on there, or overly empty depending on their design. And I offer a variety of different designs, most of which you can’t get anywhere else (at least for a short run of cases) which means they can be a lot more creative in their ideas. I’d love to do more with vinyl but large format printing and using thicker card isn’t really suitable for short run print, and I’m so busy with CD packaging, to take on vinyl as well would be crazy at the moment.

“I offer a variety of different designs, most of which you can’t get anywhere else”

Do you think the tracks you selected for our playlist (published tomorrow for Record Store Day) are tied into the memory of your working relationship with the artists and the design process you had to go through? How much are you actually influenced by an artist’s work when you put together their product? 

There isn’t really a mental tie from music to the job itself nowadays. As far as influenced by an artist’s work, I usually don’t have time to check every band out given the amount of jobs I have these days, I really should as there’s been a lot of times where I’ve checked out a band/artist after completing work on a release and loved it.

In the early days I always tried to make sure I’d check a band out I’m working with, but given the volume of releases I’m working on now when people send me links, I either don’t have time to get through them all, or I’m usually listening to something else at the time, and I quite like to discover music myself as stupid as that sounds. Saying that though, there are some people who I work with a lot, and know if a band will be my kind of thing, then I’ll usually go on their word.

I could quite happily listen to all of the bands in the playlist, and chances are I’ll be listening to one of them whilst working, or have recently listened to one of them; in fact I’m writing this listening to The Physics House Band – Horizons/Rapture it’s released this week which I did the CD packaging for it, it’s probably the best release I’ve heard this year.

What musician would you love to design for, dead or alive?

I’ve already done work for a lot of bands I love (see every band in the playlist), which I’m pretty pleased about, and as time goes on I’m able to get bigger and more established bands in my sights, with improved production methods on certain products being able to offer larger runs of interesting designs. Like the new Pop-Up CD Case, which will be able to be made in runs of 500 to x amount of thousands without me having to pick up a scalpel or glue gun.

I should probably pick a band that I have no chance of doing work for, so, Radiohead, if that ever happens then I reckon I’ll be doing alright. When I started this, if someone had told me I’d be working on the packaging for a Minus The Bear release, I wouldn’t have believed them.

I think if other people ran a company like this they’d be dreaming of working with the major labels, but for me I’d much rather be working with hardworking bands, labels and individuals with a passion for the music they release. Luckily I’ve gotten to work with people like that from day one: Big Scary Monsters, Blood and Biscuits, Holy Roar, Alcopop and Tangled Talk, amongst many others. I’d be so pleased if I ever got to work with Sargent House, Deathwish or Xtra Mile, who have all released some of my all time favourite records.

Check out the most recent ACDSleeve creations here 

Listen to Tom’s special Record Store Day playlist

Posted on 19/04/2013 by thedoublenegative