Finding inspiration in everything from the mysterious world of David Lynch to the chills of John Carpenter, English graphic designer, photographer, and filmmaker Caspar Newbolt has created a unique aesthetic that blends the world of science fiction with the dark emotions of everyday life. Since co-founding Version Industries in 2003 when he was just 23, Caspar has acted as lead designer for the company, producing websites, printwork, and video pieces for clients such as Daft Punk and Louis CK, to name a few. As an important part of his work, Caspar spends most of his time art directing and designing for bands such as The Protomen, 65daysofstatic, Makeup and Vanity Set, Big Black Delta and SONOIO, as well as giving independent filmmakers the support they need online and in print. When not busy creating a new album cover or film piece, Caspar writes critically on art and film for various publications. We caught up with Caspar to dive deeper into his creative process, his love for David Lynch, and working with Louis CK.
How did you begin designing? Was it something you always had a passion for?
I think the fact that I do photography and websites and music videos and posters proves that either I have a short attention span for one thing or the need to do a lot of things before getting bored. I started designing stuff with my friend Jasper Byrne when he asked me to help him with the graphics for a point ‘n’ click adventure game called Keith’s Quest when I was 14 or 15 at boarding school in England. I remember taking a school notebook, cutting out heaps of images from video games magazines and compiling them as a mood-board of sorts for reference purposes as we built out the game. Some years later I got onto the internet and started to build out basic websites. These sites had photos on them that my friends and I’d taken and combined them with outspoken little rants and essays on how I felt about films and music and the like. When I went to university, I first experienced the site for Requiem for a Dream. It set a new standard and made me realize you could create an emotional, somewhat abstract artistic gesture with a website. Not long after this the idea of starting a web design company came about and consequently Version Industries was born. We still had no money, were working on building sites and small print design bits and pieces, and doing anything to make ends meet, which included a good deal of manual labor jobs around the city. As luck would have it we got a few lucky job offers with companies that eventually (and slowly) put us on the map.
How do you go about your creative process?
I’d say for me, it’s just read / watch / listen to anything you’ve been given a hundred times over until your brain is utterly saturated with and then just lie on your back and let your brain subconsciously do the work for you, and it will. It will tie, much the way dreams do, all manner of strange elements together based on personal experiences of old and the new elements you’ve introduced to it. In this way, I love the way David Lynch’s writes his films. He’ll have one scene that’s just come to him out of nowhere that for some reason means a lot to him, and then another scene after it that’s this completely different — an unrelated thing that he also loves. He’s then compelled to put them in a film together and somehow find another scene that will perhaps connect them or explain why that was happening. It was the power of the two original scenes that lead to this new scene being made, rather than any sort of linear thinking process where you start with one scene and try and think of what might happen next. This is a hugely important way of approaching things because people don’t necessarily think ideas work like that.
What excites you the most about a project? Is it the visuals or the story you’re telling?
Since my original ambition was to make films, it’s meant that we’ve tried to get work that tells a story in a cinematic way. This has meant that the visual and the story have been fairly inseparable. However, since much of design work for clients is primarily visual, the narrative element has been neglected. As we’ve improved though and we’re given more creative control, it’s been possible to bring that narrative element back in, and happily so.
Aside from the web side of things, you do a lot of art for various bands and films. Tell me about the most recent band you’ve worked for as well as about Pavillion which will premiere at SXSW this year.
The bands I’ve worked for most heavily recently are 65daysofstatic and Polinski (two bands but with some of the same members) and The Protomen and Make Up and Vanity Set (again all friends and each with a similar modus operandi). All are very different bands but definitely with similar cinematic core ideals. The work for each band has been hugely narrative-based, as we’ve developed concepts to various level of abstraction to accompany the hugely filmic nature of their music. With 65 we just did a record cover for their re-scoring of the 1970s science fiction cult-classic Silent Running. We created an alternative universe where we redepicted a version of the film they were scoring to accompany their record, so that fans could enjoy the record in and of its own accord should they want to. With Pavilion, we took a step back from the visual directly to create accompanying posters and a website that reinterpret the film’s narrative and visual in a format best suited for those mediums, using stills and video clips to drive them forward. The film has since, indeed, made it into SXSW film festival–I’m sure based on the great merits of the film alone, but it has of course meant we have all the more reason now to keep supporting it and creating new materials for it in whatever way we can.
Tell me about the Polinski video — the creation and the acclaim it has received.
The Polinski music video was in many ways the most self-centered and backward thinking love-in for my brother (who edited and animated it), John Delucca (who redrew my cover artwork as ‘80s video game graphics), myself (who wrote the story), and Paul Wolinski (who created the music and of course helped with the story too). We’d all owned and heavily used an ‘80s European computer called the ZX Spectrum and decided very consciously to create a video that felt like you were playing a game of the album’s story on that computer. The whole thing came together remarkably quickly and we continue to be surprised at the success it’s had to this day. Consequence of Sound selected it as one in their best videos of 2011 and gave it an incredible write-up on their site on multiple occasions.
What would you say influences your work the most?
The biggest influence on anything I do in film is the work of Darren Aronofksy, David Lynch, John Carpenter, and John Cassavetes, to name a few. Their aesthetic, the music they choose, their way of thinking and their way of conveying a story in particular. The work of various artists such as photographer Gregory Crewdson, designer Neil Kellerhouse, painters like Joseph Turner, and the numerous video game artists who made those fantastic ‘80s and ‘90s games also play a big part.
How did you get connected with Louis CK? What was it like working with him?
We’d done a site for The Gregory Brothers who without our knowing recommended us to Louis CK. He then called me one sunday evening and we got to talking and then decided we would work with him to release his new video special on a very personal level to his fans. Given his similarities in a few ways to Bill Hicks, he connected with my team and I very quickly. He was very cordial, smart, open to suggestion and focussed.
Did you anticipate the reception that it would get?
The project yielded results I think none of us quite expected. We all knew it was a pretty new thing for Louis’ demographic, but we were no stranger to the concept as it was already well developed in the music world. You ultimately just never know how these things will turn out when you’re going out on a limb that much.
Photo by Matt Sundin