Each week, since I started broadcasting The Graveyard Drift on Voodoo Radio Online, I like to make a promotional image to, well, promote it, spread it around and hopefully intrigue people enough to bother to tune in at the right time and listen (it's a lot to ask, I know). Maybe they'll even chuckle a little at the strange images I put before their weary eyes as they scroll half-heartedly and busily bored through their social media feeds, and maybe, just maybe, it'll make them remember.
It would be nice if this worked. Maybe it does, I don't really know. I don't think so because there's a profound disconnect in people's minds these days between one thing and another. So, you know, I posted one of these things one week and an old friend messaged me and - even though it says pretty clearly on every image that it's The Graveyard Drift, gives the day, time and place - she asked me, "So... is this like, your personal brand or something?"
She'd been seeing the images for several weeks, and finally wondered about them to the point of asking. But it still wasn't clear that it was a radio show. So I guess these kind of fail in that respect after all. But I like to think they fail rather beautifully.
I do have a lot of fun dreaming up some pretty ridiculous things for these weekly images. It keeps me actively honing my digital manipulation skills and I have a lot of fun making them. It's pretty relaxing. I keep them all in a folder on my computer, all massed together, and it's kind of struck me, also when I was putting together the main Graveyard Drift page, (opens in a new window, so you can listen there and continue browsing here) that it would be nice to have all these images in a dedicated gallery. So.... this is that gallery. Please enjoy it.
No. 1. Lady with Radio.
I really enjoy 1950’s “Atomic Kitchens” style advertising. There’s always a level of deliberate blind innocence that, to modern jaded eyes, has a sad and creepy quality to it. It’s great fun to play on that, and I do it in a lot of these images. Things were well made then, I’ll give them that. You can almost forgive the bullshit because of it. What makes it even more creepy to me is that these kinds of images depict the 1950s that people - “boomers” - remember with a comfortable sugar-glazed fondness. This is the mythic timeframe to which they think, through some really damaging ideologies and policies that just don’t work in the modern world, they can force us all back into. They are still blissfully unaware of how precarious their safe and fond childhoods really were. So I enjoy making fun of that. It’s become a thing.
No. 2. Man With Pipe and Atomic Explosion.
“The well-adjusted dapper man knows very well that atomic energy can’t hurt him….” I like to take the self-assurance in these images that show, say, peace of mind when buying winter tyres for the latest rocket-engine Oldsmobile, and show it in the context of the blind lunacy that we’ve inherited as both normal and well-adjusted in our own age. I think around this time, I’d already recorded and released Empire. This man has definitely bought the Snake Oil. It could even be him at the end of that song saying “I explained to Larry that a reactor can NOT explode like a bomb….”
No. 3. Ship’s Musicians and Death
Lest we forget, cocksure adherence to the social norms generally comes with an exaggerated fear of death. Unless you’re these guys. They have a duty, a purpose… In actual fact, I wanted to make an accompanying still image to the following promo GIF, but which also played into the name of the show, which reminds us that, no matter how we live our lives, or to what beliefs or ideologies we subscribe, we are all slowly drifting towards the graveyard. Some of us faster than others.
No. 5. Twilight Zone
Since these were the first GIFs I’d made, I was having a lot of fun discovering the possibilities. They’re essentially little silent films, and a lot of fun to create. I already knew that I wanted to try to re-create the Twilight Zone kind of lettering and opening style in a GIF format, and to return to my exploration of 1950s weirdness (to which The Twilight Zone itself was an incredibly creative response). At this time, the “Storm Area 51” hoax was in full swing, so it seemed an appropriate time to perpetrate this. I’m particularly proud of the GIF, but also of the little goats being abducted into the spaceship in the still image. It’s actually the same goat I used later in my Goat Pyramid logo. Never throw away a good resource.
No. 6. Looney Tunes
When I was very little, my great grandmother had a television set in her house that was like a miniature puppet theatre. It had solid carved wooden doors with what seemed to me elaborate latches and keys, and possibly also a drinks cabinet built in. It was an impressive thing, and being a child, I assumed it was some kind of Sicilian thing. She used to say to me sometimes, “Do you wanna go and watch the puppets? I’ll put the puppets for you” and she’d take me to this miracle of a television console. Of course, it was just TV, which was kind of disappointing, but still attractively fascinating. I somehow believed there would be… better, more interesting shows on this TV. She’d meant, of course, to find cartoons for me to watch (to her generation, growing up as small children in Sicily, it would have been “the puppets”. I still hope to visit the Opera dei Puppi and puppet museum in Palermo one of these days). I have a fascination still with these first magnificent televisions. This one is a much more basic model than what my great grandmother had, but it’s still an impressive thing. This is a still image from the footage I used in one of the Mecha Robot Future WOW! teaser videos, repurposed here in slightly more natural colours as a Looney Tunes style Graveyard Drift promo and matching GIF. My partner’s loony ex-step father intimated some time earlier that I “was probably a Lizard Overlord” (thus the song that opens Sirius) so I’ve used my Lizard Overlord image as the mascot.
It’s been a while since I’ve made any GIFs. I might have to rectify that soon, they’re great fun to do. It’s just finding the time to make them. This was one of the last of the “weekly GIF promos” because I was working pretty hard on Let There Be Light by this time, I think, and had lots of album art to create for it. In this GIF, however, I’d like to say that I’m particularly proud of the green electric “turning off” bit at the end. I have vivid memories of TVs doing this, I can still hear and feel the crackle of it.
No. 7. Volcano Adventure Holiday.
I live on the same side of Sicily as Mount Etna. I can watch her erupt from my roof, and it's one of the small delights in my life whenever it happens. This happens to be a nice photo of Stromboli (the volcano, not the calzone) that I'd altered as a "mood photo" some time earlier in playing around with colour manipulations. When volcanoes spew lava high into the air in impressive paroxysms, it’s called “Strombolian activity” because of how characteristic it is of this particular volcano. I also have a fondness for old picture postcards, the more absurd the better, and this, paired with the little GIF film I made to go with it amused me a lot.
No. 8. Relax With A Cuppa.
I was searching around for some more “ye olde radio” photos to bastardise when I came across the background image I used for this one. While I was attracted to the colour palette of it, the thing itself struck me as pretty absurd. I suppose the idea was meant to be one of some kind of rustic elegance. Like… roughing it in tents with only 2 coolies instead of 6, and a fresh change of sheets only every other day. There was a very 1940s/1950s but stalwartly Victorian British Empire home counties insular idea of “the rest of the world” to it that’s really only found in US home and garden magazines. I found myself thinking “How can I make this as absurd for other people as I find it to be?” How do I make that the focus? I also find old diving suits fascinating, and I like the way they’re essentially primitive space suits. A far-from-perfect, fragile insular barrier against a hostile environment. So the planet-hopping deep sea diver character was born, and reappears occasionally in the world this radio show inhabits in my mind. I also made a GIF to introduce him properly.
No. 9. Mars Colonist Diver.
Maybe it was to cement the planet-hopping diver into the mythology of these images, or maybe it was just because I like the idea of him, but I made another image with him for the week following his introduction. This time, he’s on a colony mission on Mars (probably), but he still enjoys relaxing with his favourite radio show.
No. 10. Trust Authority.
Speaking of fragile insular barriers against a hostile environment, I think a lot of people felt disturbed by this image, which is a little disappointing since I thought it was deeply funny, and also necessary. It acknowledges something that’s generally more comfortable to ignore. And that’s precisely why things only get worse. I think that the whole “worship of authority” mindset is profoundly dangerous — the confusion of the individual who holds a position of authority with the importance of the role he (or she, but most often he) is fulfilling allows for a multitude of atrocities to go on completely unchecked. Unquestioning belief in the unassailability and utterly-above-us-ness of these God-Father-King figures is one of the most powerful tools we can hand to the unscrupulous who seek to manipulate others en masse for their own ends.
No. 11. The Graveyard Drift Magazine Issue 1, Cthulu Edition.
Another relic from the 1950s I like a lot are pulp fiction magazines and newspapers. These, nowadays, have (sadly!) transformed more into the “Hello!” type celebrity-watching lifestyle magazines rather than the fantastic “I gave birth to an alien’s child” kind of thing. I feel kind of disappointed by this, since it lashes the suspension of disbelief that people once consciously decided to adopt for fun to a much more credulous obsession with the worldly affairs of the "rich and famous" (who are accepted as justly other-than-others) and decidedly yellow journalism.
No. 12. Sino-Soviet Patriotic Poster.
I kept seeing these Old Navy mannikin heads in the “buy stuff” adverts in Facebook. Apparently people like them a lot and turn them into planters and stuff, I assume as a kind of joke, but I really don’t know. I do know that the vacuous looks on their faces astounded me, and reminded me immediately of the “patriotic ecstacies” you find in the joyous proletariat of old Soviet-era and Chinese revolutionary posters. So much so that I had to opt for this kind of saviour Lenin style because the ordinary “people smiling up at the red book” or “people joyously harvesting turnips” style were not sufficiently changed to get the idea-impression across. Either people haven’t really seen these posters all that much and didn’t get it, or the fear of Reds under the bed is still too alive in people, but for whatever reason, this one went over about as well as the Trust Authority poster. Ah, well.
No. 13. Dead Sea Holiday Apocalypse.
The background image of this one shows a holiday resort (later, I think, used as military barracks, then abandoned) built on the shores of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is pretty rapidly shrinking though, and very soon these no longer qualified as seaside holiday accommodation. Things just literally dried up. Stark, measurable changes… be they geological, environmental, social or economic… do not touch the consciousness of the wilfully “positive”, however, and that’s what I wanted to put across in this picture. The fiery meteor is a nice touch, I think. I recently came across it again in my computer files when I was reorganising my “art resource” folders. It’s called ”Useful Meteor”.
No. 14. Teletubbies 2019.
This one seemed to come quite naturally as a follow-on to the Dead Sea Holiday Apocalypse image. Again, we see the profound effects of geological changes and desertification, which is, of course, a huge problem in our times. I think there were a lot of stories in the news about it around this time, the ones with those “startling pictures” showing the encroachment of deserts in various places, receding glacial and polar ice, and deforestation in the Amazon. The “before” pictures are generally some 20 years or so before the current ones. It’s both a long time and no time at all. It dawned on me that the safe, green pleasant lands that the Teletubbies inhabited come from around this time. And they’re forgotten, no longer a thing. An unobserved backwater-turned-wasteland like so many places. I’ve always found the Teletubbies kind of sinister in the same way as those Old Navy mannikin heads. They seem designed to indoctrinate the young with an “alternative pleasant reality” that didn’t really exist, even then. And well… Teletubbies 2019 is the direct result of their success.
No. 15. Halloween Tarot.
I’d wanted to make a Graveyard Drift tarot card promo for a while, and the Halloween special seemed to be the perfect opportunity. Attributions design influences are actually from the trump card “The Fool”, just because it’s a favourite of mine, and kind of… resonates with what I’m trying to do with these images and with the show (And well, pretty much everything else in my “creative life”).
No. 17. The Future™ Is Bright.
I lost internet for just over a month right after sending this show in. There was an (unspoken, unacknowledged) war between Vodafone, who happened to be my Fibre Optic Internet provider at the time, and TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile), who owns the infrastructure upon which that service runs, I think to do with obtaining as much consumer market share in the sector to ensure favourable placement/allotment when 5G hits. This internet outage coincided with a huge (Category 3 RED) storm in my area and a huge lightning strike very nearby that burned my electric metre and fried a lot of electrical goods in my house. So at first I thought it was the modem (which was one of the many things fried, along with the UPS/surge protector it was plugged into), but after 2 weeks of trying to get the new modem delivered, I was finally able to report that it was, in fact, something to do with the line. That’s when the fun really began. We were also without electricity and running water for 5 days… running water for a week, since the water pump was also fried. In that time, I learned that every other Vodafone customer in my area had also mysteriously “lost” service. The nuisance calls from TIM and Fastweb came with infuriating frequency…and in fact, continue to this day (6 months later). The Future™ is Bright, indeed.
The person depicted in this image has no mouth to speak.
No. 18. The Graveyard Drift Magazine Ad “Crab Lamp”.
One of the great things about those old pulp fiction magazines was the adverts selling a variety of strange and dubious miracle products and consumer goods that no one on earth needs, and no one would even consider buying except out of curiosity or desperation. Without any internet connection (I could get spotty reception with my phone on the roof, enough to send my shows in, at least, and to try to liaise, via Vodafone, with the TIM technicians who were supposedly coming to fix my line, but all this roof time in winter rain gave me a spectacular cold soon enough). I had a lot of time on my hands and only my folders full of odd “art resources” images to work with. I still love the Crab Lamp. If I ever come across a realistic-looking plastic fake crab, I will construct one.
No. 19. “Listen Anywhere”.
Here we see the return — in an exciting new setting — of the planet-hopping diver. The hydra in the background is repurposed from the Lownel Hydra Beauty advert I’d made a little time before this (just for fun, and because I kept seeing the actual advert it’s making fun of everywhere, to the point of active, creative annoyance). Some folks thought that the radio tower in the back of his Ape (3-wheel truck) was a giant clarinet or flute, but it really is a radio tower. I like the way the diver seems to maintain such aplomb and cheerful wonderment in every situation in which he is placed. I call the diver a him, but he could just as easily be female. He could be you… or me! We just don’t know. Consider the gendering a convention.
No. 21. Cooking With Lightning.
They say that comedy is tragedy plus time. I really enjoyed turning my lightning strike experience into this. It’s still probably one of my favourites. Especially the example dishes and the super-easy clean up, which are always supposed to entice you into buying these kinds of kitchen gadgets. I also enjoy the way that the wilful positivism projected into these 1950s style adverts now takes on a cornered-rat kind of psychosis. Because it does. It always (eventually) does. But in the meantime, it’s a powerful invitation to the herden-instinkt social animal in each of us to tend strongly towards liking and wanting to possess (no matter how much it goes against our individual conscious rational minds) anything in which we can see others finding excitement, happiness and value.
No. 22. Breakfast Meal.
Again we look at the capacity of humans to completely rationalise and carefully conform to whatever it is that’s being artfully packaged and sold to them as being “normal” — and you can insert any number of pigeonholed “target group” buzzwords here instead of “normal” to achieve brand/product/party loyalty for pretty much anything. Even bugs in a box.
No. 23. Royal Water Ski Postcard.
This wasn’t originally going to be the Queen and Prince Phillip at all, but the lady in the original waterskiing photo bore a remarkable resemblance to Elizabeth, so it just kind of fell into place like that. Brexit was still in the news a lot, which to an observer from outside just looks like an amazing cloud of delusions on the part of British government and negotiators (and their believing supporters) about the future just falling naturally and easily into place without any hard work, plus it was around Christmas, when the Queen gives her speech, so it was also kind of fitting in that respect.
No. 24. Stunning 2020 Vision.
A lot of people were fed up with 2019 and looking forward to 2020 being a brilliant year everyone would just drift through with great things finally happening for them. Given the enormous global problems and the general trajectory of human civilisation, this struck me as the same kind of weird delusional positivism that I like to depict in my 1950s advert images. So for this one, I wanted to show the “other side” of the advert — the kind of person who’s bought into it all, and lives his whole life within those narrow boundaries, and the kind of person who can look directly at, say, the terrain in the Teletubbies 2019 image and still, with a blind stubbornness bordering on complete neuroticism, see it as the same thing it was 20 years ago. Of course, this kind of “middle class boomer dude with leisure” is far, far, far from the only type who’s been taken in by it all, but he does make a convincing poster dude for the mindset that was flying around wildly (one might say desperately) as 2020 began.
No. 25. Quenchiest.
I thought it was about time to make an obnoxiously bright energy drink inspired ad, complete with cool wild predatory animal. A lot of people responded positively to this one, but I'm still not sure if it's because they thought it was actually an energy drink, or because they like energy drinks or because they recognised the absurdism and laughed. The phrase “It’s the quenchiest” is a little homage to Avatar: the Last Airbender. At one point, when they are in danger of perishing in the desert, the comedic brother character Sokka drinks cactus juice and hallucinates throughout the rest of the episode. He vociferously sings the praises of the juice that makes him a nuisance and a liability to the rest of his party. Unlike in real life, it’s very charming.
No. 26. “Gamesing Console”.
This is another one of my favourites. It’s decidedly 1970s, maybe early 1980s, but given the way things are now, it could well be some totally modern “retro styling” bad idea that appeals broadly to the widest variety of target group audiences a-thirst for both “the latest technology” AND comforting nostalgia. I love the idea that “Snackspace™” is a (trademarked!!) thing, and how the console-exclusive games are so absurd. I enjoyed naming them. A lot. I also really like the absurd controller.
No. 28. Varmint Band.
In searching for the right spaceman rat face, I couldn’t help but notice that, when rightly juxtaposed, a lot of animals (not just rodents) do look a lot like a band. They also interact with the camera in the same way as do a lot of band members getting their promo photos done. The gel lighting effects took a surprisingly long time to achieve for this one, but I really like how each varmint really is the “type” to play his instrument. This was a lot of fun to make.
No. 29. Sun Crabs.
Not The Graveyard Drift Magazine, but this is inspired by my memories of subscribing to science magazines as a kid, and…. reading science magazines now, many of which have caught the modern journalistic disease of making sensationalist headlines to get people to click into them. I really like this picture.
No. 30. Valentine.
I was doing a lot of work, long hours, creating the lyrics sheets for Nekrololikon, which was about to be released, so I didn’t have much time to spend on this one. I repurposed one of the backgrounds from an (unreleased) Android App I’d been vaguely working on the previous year. It’s not the best of these images, but at least I did manage to make something. Looking back, if it weren’t for being so busy (and tired), this seems like a missed opportunity to make a really weird 1950s style Valentine card. Ah, well…. next time….
No. 31. The Graveyard Drift Magazine: Mars Colony 31.
Pulp fiction romance series!! Well, I thought it was funny. The hydra seems to be a recurring character, too…. The new realities of life in 2020 had not yet quite grown to pandemic proportions, and I was still pondering things like “When Mars is colonised, it will be like the Old West” just as the race for market share in 5G technologies, monetising services on the moon and other “novel growth markets” are, except with even less of a pretence of regulatory oversight.
No. 32. Deep Sea Surprise.
I was profoundly exhausted after spending all my time creating lyrics sheets and posting them around before the release of Nekrololikon. I managed to go out and do a big food shop to replenish supplies (first trip out of the year), and, now that all that was done, I was looking forward to relaxing, doing stuff outside, going to see friends (since I’d cloistered myself away to finish the album and its accompanying artwork, 34 pictures in all) and generally getting some “life stuff” done. And then instead, it was an expansion of the “red zones” in the north to a unilateral nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19. This picture is not particularly inspired, but it’s definitely the product of the period in which it was made.
No. 34. Sanitation Samurai Yukio-e.
I’m a great long-time fan of Yukio-e (Japanese prints), and I’d wanted to do an image based on that style for a long time. Several weeks into lockdown here in Sicily, there were lots of photos and little videos of our heroic sanitation engineers here, sterilising public roads in all the town, while still continuing their normal duties uninterrupted, which for us here means door-to-door garbage and recycling collection 6 days a week. I kind of wanted to honour our hard working, good natured garbage man (who puts up with wild, excited and hideously vicious-seeming barking every day from my dogs). It was an opportunity also to play L’Opetalatole Ecologico by Nanowar of Steel on the show, and show some Italian solidarity in appreciating the brave samurai of sanitation in these very strange times.
No. 36. Giant Spiders.
As part of the “good news” aspects of wall-to-wall Covid-19 reporting in the news, there were lots of stories about how locking humans away had had positive effects on the levels of certain pollutants in the air, and a resurgence of animals returning to what would normally, but for human activity in those places, be their natural habitats. I’d already created another of those “mood pictures” for the background (a charming photo of a street in Erice) at the same time I created the Stromboli one. It's the same guy as the Stromboli picture, too. He has some interesting holidays... I’d kept the background in reserve for a future time when I might not have the energy or well, time, to create a promotional image for the week from scratch. By this time, I was also looking after Voodoo Radio’s broadcast system, which wasn’t working and needed all the shows to be fired off by hand at the exact minute they were programmed to go out, otherwise it just...didn't work at all. I did it like that for 7 weeks before an update remedied the problem, so I was pretty tired. I decided that giant spiders colonising quaint towns was a good, simple way to go. Who doesn't love a nature success story, after all? I also like the colour palette in this one.
No. 37. Lizard Overlords in Space.
Pretty straightforward. Lizards in a snowglobe lamp looking kind of UFO spacecraft, joyriding. Also... I'm not sure, but they might be a band. They kinda look like a band to me... This might be dumb, but I'm pretty proud of the glass dome part of their spacecraft. There was no source photo for it, I made it by hand.
No. 38. Cows LP Record Album (In Stereo).
I’ve wanted to make a fake LP sleeve style image for a while. When I was a kid, we had loads of amazing records, and I used to enjoy handling them (carefully, by the edges) and enjoying the album artwork and just the feel, even the smell, of holding the sleeve in my hands while I listened to the record. That’s a simple pleasure that you miss out on with streaming services and digital products. I chose 1960s style Motown records for my inspiration. It was really important to me to re-create the rubbed-off circle you get on album sleeves after a long time. I like the idea that this might be some obscure record you come across in a junk shop or a flea market somewhere. As it happens, I was playing a lot of vinyl releases (more than usual) on the show that week, so it was a good fit, I think, even if very few people “got” what it was. Maybe only record geeks like me. I dunno.
No. 39. ??.
No. 40. ??.