BRITAIN: Illustrator Junior Tomlin – The Salvador Dalí of Rave

The illustrator and graphic designer Junior Tomlin from London did some of the most iconic and legendary cover artworks for the rave and electronic music scene back in the 80s and 90s up till today. On 5th of June his new book “Junior Tomlin: Flyer & Cover Art” will get released which documents across 160 premium paper pages his work with commentary and draft sketches about thirty years of party scene. Junior is of course still doing his fabulous artworks and visuals, but meanwhile he can look on a huge variety of projects in many different fields like movies or covers for the music branch, he colored comics for Marvel, DC or Panini, was involved in Action Man and Judge Dredd animations, designed vector arts, invented innovative logos and even started sculpturing.

The fantastic and futuristic artworks of Junior Tomlin show his big passion for the sci-fi world in general and one of his plans during the career development was to create covers for science fiction novels. But it went differently and the music scene actually got him soon. His magnificent surreal and Dalí like images fit perfectly to the arising dance and rave movement in those years and were used by many producers, event organizers, musicians and DJs. He worked with a range of promoters from 1989 onwards including Telepathy, Dreamscape, Slammin’ Vinyl, One Nation, Dream Odyssey and Ravealation, plus a wide variety of influential labels, such as Kickin’ Records, React, ZTT and Mute.

The visionary graphic designer was born in Ladbroke Grove in west London and grew up at the heart of the local subculture and expanding rave generation. Of course he is a Junglist himself and loves the music deeply as it is necessary for his creative expressions. His contributions to the scene are heaps of marvelous visualization of futuristic views into another world which went hand in hand with the changing music and dancing experience at that time. The special events needed special and unique promotion art to catch the folks immediately. In the new 25cm x 25cm book you will get an awesome overview through thirty years of rave event flyers and record covers from paper and pencil designs up till today digital computer drafts. Also it will feature a foreword by artist, flyer collector and Rave Art author Chelsea Louise Berlin plus words and commentary from members of the public, former clients and, of course, the wider rave community.

Junior Tomlin tells us in an interview about the development of his art and creativity, gives a little insight to the scene and has motivating words for other artists and newcomers. Listen to the podcast below, the conversation is also written down in the following page peppered with Junior´s artworks.

Why are you called the “Salvador Dalí of Rave”?

The Savlador Dalí of Rave Story came up when I was working for Kickin’ Records which is a dance lable back in the 90s. And I´ve done a couple of record covers for them. Like I´ve done The Bee, The Exorcist, Banana Sausage. Peter Harris was the manager and sometimes he got some fan mail. People were writing and saying that they love the music and stuff like that. And in one particular letter somebody wrote, there was somewhere at the bottom of the letter: “Tell Junior Tomlin he is the Salvador Dalí of Rave!” So I ran with that.

You are not making music, but you make the visuals for the music scene. It can be on CDs, on flyers, announcements or online footage.

Yes, all of that. In the early days I used to do my record cover work by using an airbrush. It was all done by hand. But nowadays with all the computer technology I do it on the computer. For the graphics I am using Adobe Illustrator.

How did the story of your career start? You began as a graphic designer. When did you start doing what you do?

After I left college in 1983. Because I went to Goldsmith College to do a diploma in graphic design, but I couldn´t get a job as a graphic designer so I changed my entire portfolio to illustration. And at that time I wanted to become a science fiction book artist. I wanted to do the covers for science fiction books. So after being involved in various things I ended up at this place called the London Cartoon Center. And that gave me first opportunity to do computer game packaging artwork. From producing packaging artwork while using an airbrush then it went on working for the music industry and then eventually rave flyers.

Actually sometimes it´s not that bad if you don´t get directly a job in this capitalistic industry world. Sometimes you get a bit stuck but then creativity comes out and you go some new ways because you have to. But when you look back later you think, oh damn, this was actually exactly what I had to do.

Yes, you have to take a lot of detours sometimes to get to where you want to go.

You have a long history, you have seen a lot. You started 1983, so what happened in the 80s, how did your art develop?

It developed previously in the 80s. Like I already mentioned, that was in the beginning when I finished the graphic design course at Goldsmith College, then after that I was basically looking for work as a graphic designer at first, because I was trained in that. But I couldn´t get a job as  a graphic designer and one point was that my portfolio was only filled with college work.

You have do stuff to be able to show others what you did. And yes of course, somewhere you just have to start.

Yes, so then I basically started to learn how to use airbrush. Because I was just doing computer game covers then, so it was me actually getting better and using the airbrush to create fantastic images. At first just for that digital playing platform. Then it was later on from the computer games platform I ended up doing record covers which was also quite interesting. In that time I was working for the London Cartoon Center as an airbrush artist and also as a tutor. And then I was found by the manager of Renegade Soundwave to produce their first cover. So that was how I got into the record business.

I have here on the screen your page on Velocity. There visitors can see your artworks and buy prints from you. I am just watching this futuristic guy here and I immediately think that I want to watch this nice anime movie or comic. But it´s just the cover. Make a comic or a movie with those guys, it´s a cool science fiction style!    

Yes, because it´s a mix between science fiction, surrealism and fantasy. All those elements are smashed together to produce an image. I was a big fan of Salvador Dalí already before and I like the surrealism movements like the Dada movement. So that is where all the influence comes from.

I can see the parallels. Especially the on here “There is no Law”. Do you know Daft Punk? It reminds me a lot on how they present themselves on stage and they are a lot of times in these just similar looking futuristic outfits.

Yes, sure, I´ve heard of them!

You wrote me as well you did for Renegade Soundwave “The Phantom”. So a cover for their music. What was it about and what did you do in this project?

With that one, that was the first record cover that I have ever done! And Renegade Soundwave were three musicians who formed a band. Their music was basically groundbreaking and it is still iconic to this day. So I was just found by the manager of Renegade Soundwave who was looking and seraching for somebody to do a record cover for them. And that was how they found me. Subsequently I have done three record covers for them and “The Phantom” was the first one. Then I´ve done “Biting My Nails” and the last one was called “Women Respond To Bass”.

That´s one thing about being creative. First you have to do and to do and then a long time later it will start that you get something back. You said a band, as well you wrote me something about Rap. I think actually the music doesn´t matter or is it more in electronic music or how does it happen? Do you pick something if you like it or how do you choose?

They basically choose me and it has all to do with the area of dance music. Because when I wrote about Rap I meant actually DJ Rap. She is a drum and bass DJ.

Yeah, Junglists!

Exactly, Junglists! So I worked with her to do her EP album and she launched also a book called “Intelligent Women”. So DJ Rap asked me to do the record cover. And I loved and still love listening to Drum and Bass, Rap and Jungle!

I grew up with that stuff and I still love it very much!

Cool! So that means you are a Junglist! Aren´t you?

Yes, I am! Mickey Finn, Nicky Blackmarket or Kenny Ken, I grew up with the music of those artists. But at this time there were no CDs yet. So you did the covers for mix tapes or vinyls back then?

Yes, because in the beginning there was so much Jungle being released just in house bags. Just with a white label or cover. And some of the record companies, if they had enough budget, they would get artwork done on them. That was how they fortunately came to me. But when I was doing the Jungle covers I did that more for compilations than for individual releases.

So in some way all that was actually a comic, but not with different pages more like a series on different recordings.

Yes, you could say so and it was quite interesting to do. Because all that music is neither like sci-fy orientated or sci-fy inspired. If you listen deeply into the music there are always like notes to science fiction films or series. For example the Start Trek sound of squishing doors and some other sound bites in there. So it is all kind of visually related.

Everybody who knows a little bit about Drum and Bass or Jungle music will of course know Dreamscape. So you did artworks for them. As for the One Nation which is one of the best parties ever. We some spin offs here in Hamburg which have been also very nice. You worked for Slammin’ Vinyl, for Dream Odysee, Ravealation, Telepathy, Kickin’ Records, React, ZTT and Mute. And you went as well into the comic scene more deeply and did stuff for Marvel and DC. Very nice!

Yes, what I did for Marvel was digital coloring. They sent me black and white artwork and I basically colored it in. So I was coloring reading stripes and I was also coloring the magazine fronts. The posters as well. That was really fun! I also was doing parts for the Teenage Mutant Turtle series and colored those as well.

A lot of people who are finishing university think: Ok, I have the degree now, where are the jobs? But it´s not about that, it´s about what you do. And if you want to start being creative you don´t need any school or paper, just do it.

Yes, it´s sometimes a little bit of a myth. People think a piece of paper can open a door. But no. You do! Your talent opens the door. A piece of paper is when somebody ask you if you have a piece of paper as a access pass so they can let you into the building or something like that. It´s all a bit of a myth about degrees and all that. Actually it´s talent and that should stand for it every time.

It is this facade of showing your diploma and that you have this and that. In the end the people know in some way it´s not about that, it´s about what you do. But there is still this existing rule that you need to go through all this school stuff even if the people know that the really creative people, at least some of them get destroyed by the school rules. A lot of things have to change in the education area.

Yes that is true. It is all set up, be aware. You have to go through the pipeline to get to the other side. And there is no avoiding that. Even when we start going to the kindergarten. We have to go to the junior school to progress to secondary school to progress to college and university. We have to go through the pipe line. There are just a few people who basically stop the pipe line and get off and try to make it without going through that. Some of them do and are successful, but that really relies a lot on who you know out there. But if you are talented everybody definitely will see it.

A lot of my creative friends, artists, painters or musicians, they all have some similarities. They did not want to fit into that system stuff. For a while you think, okay, I am not fitting into the world, but after some time and some years you understand, I am completely in the world I just don´t want to fit into this show and charade.

Yes, because when you see, like your friends and my friends, those creative people are all geeks. Because people like us, people who are the creative thinkers, the artists, the designers, the drawers, we are the ones who basically built and designed the entire world.

And then others come again, see that, think it´s cool and start telling again some others they have to be like this.

Because they think that everything what we do can be monetized and monitorized. We do it because we have to get it out. But they will take it and make money from it.

So you kept on doing and step by step people saw what you did. And they liked it and started asking you for taking part in projects, creating covers or making posters for parties. What do you think how many graphics did you design meanwhile?

When it comes to rave flyers and record covers, altogether about a hundred in that thirty years. But I have also done other graphics like logos and pieces of standalone art. I do my own art as well and I have exhibitions where I sell that art as prints.

You have the online page where people can buy your art, but you have as well exhibition in galleries. Or let´s say on parties or events your art is hanging also on the walls.

Yes, the lovely thing is that people invite me to bring and basically hang my work in their space. Whether it is a gallery or a coffee shop. We have then a grand opening and I can sell prints from there. People can also look online, find something that they like and get in touch with me directly and say they would like to buy one of those prints. Then I´ll go to get the prints ordered, they would get to me, then I first sign it and only after that I will send it to the people. It´s rather than in the mass industry where somebody makes an order and it goes somewhere else and just gets shipped. Not for me, I like the personal touch.

Real creativity comes from passion and this is always emotional as well. Like social contact and the conversation with other people is very involved in all the processing.

That is true and as you know, you probably had days of not going out and seeing anybody but sustaining and creating. At the moment we are living in difficult times. These times are going to be a game changer. Everything will not be the same afterwards when all the lock downs are finished and people are again free to mix and to mingle. Things are not going to be the same. It will be kind of a new normal so to speak.

I am just waiting at the moment. It is in my head, I want to be on a awesome party again, listen to nice music and be able to dance around with my friends, but in some way I know it will be different. 

It started that people are now doing a lot of those Zoom Parties and Zoom Meetings. We do that online at the moment. So online is going on so much content recently which is also quite interesting. But the thing is when the social barriers will come down again and people have to basically face each other and mingle, and they have to go closer together like less than two meters, how will they feel?

I cannot even imagine who the jungle parties which are supposed to be somewhere in the dark, the sweat is dropping from the ceiling and everybody is just freaking out close to each other. I have no idea how this should work with everybody in a two meter distance. I don´t know how that should be possible.

I think it is possible. But somebody would have to design a rig and everything would be gridded. So it is like one meter apart and the dancers would always dance on a meter square to each other and where they can´t touch each other.

So that means a whole dance floor with gogo dancers?

Haha, yes, in  lines and with ropes.

Your recent release is a new book which is coming out in June.

Yes, that new book actually features all the artwork that I have created for record covers and rave flyers. It also has got comments by people I used to work for. People like Danny from Renegade Soundwave and others with who I worked in my long expanding history of thirty years. It also has some of the never released drawn artworks and digital pieces I was just working on. The book is basically from 1989 to the present day. So you can actually see the artwork changing. There is a very thin line between artwork created by my hand and artwork created on a computer. Because they look almost similar.

There are different levels which people can get with this book. On the one hand you can see the development of your artworks and how you started to grow with your style. The second part is that you can get an insight into the rave scene and how this movement developed over the years. And another part is technology and how that changed. So first with paper and pencil and later with mouse and computer.

I still work with paper and pencil because that´s the fastest way to draw an idea down. Believe me! But on the computer there is so much more that you can do with. You can make things look very clinical. And that is why some of the artworks are really nice and bright and shiny. But I like to dirty it down to make it a bit more grimy and gritty. To make it look that it would have been done by hand. That´s what I do often and I like to make people think it´s done this way when in fact it has been done another way.

And Drum and Bass is dirty!

Yes! Lovely Drum and Bass and lovely Jungle!

I´m very interested in the new book. Altogether it will have 160 pages.

Yes, the book is going to take people back to the days when they were raving. So the people in my age. Or people who are now forty or thirty or even for the teenagers at the moment who just started to go to parties and heard that their parents used to rave. This book is also for them. It´s as well a book for anybody who likes design and illustration, or who wants to be an artist, a designer, a director or wants to make films. It´s for all the creatives out there. Not only for me. It´s giving something back to them.

I will just read out those two quotes here for the listeners. For example the one from Danny Briottet from Renegade Soundwave: “His record sleeves are classic examples of a hugely important artform now sadly deceased in the digital age.”  And the next one here, that´s very nice as well from DJ Rap: “When I think of music and the concept of what I wish to express, I always want the visual representation to be in total synergy with that I am creating. Artwork is so important! This is why I did not hesitate when it came to choosing an artist and legend like Junior for specific work projects I had in mind.” Very nice!

Yes, and there are more comments like these throughout the book. One person I really enjoyed working for is Grant Nelson. He was the creator of “Banana Sausage” and he was used to be called the “Wishdokta”. And then the “Scientist”. I´ve done the cover for “Banana Sausage” and it was a really good time in my life doing artworks, being creative and mixing with people like that. He is a very nice bloke and big in the garage scene.

If people want to have stuff from you right now and don´t want to wait till the new book is on sale, there are already some nice products online which they can buy.

Yes, they can get slipmats. I used to produce slipmats of my images and there is also a company named Qravers. They do t-shirts with my images and I have a limited range of designed hoodies with my artwork on the back. The company which produces that clothing is called Qravers.

When you mention cloth and I am looking here on your images. Yes, some of them I really would love to have on a t-shirt or a pullover. Is it possible if somebody likes one of your covers that they contact you and get it printed on a t-shirt or something else?

Yes, that is possible. They just have to get in touch with me and then I can sort something out.

What about stickers?

That´s also possible. That´s all possible. What I planned to do for the release if I have still enough time. But I want to make a bunch of postcards and some of the postcards are in some of the books. Depending on how much I get. And on some of them are even some specials. I will pick around ten people, like five to ten people, if they get a particular postcard then it is also a pass for one of my posters. I want to give something back to the people.

You do the graphics but a lot of possibilities are open. The people just have to contact you if they want to have it printed somewhere. Maybe somebody wants to have it on their car, would be possible, they just have to write you to figure it out. It´s about the graphics.

Yes, sure. But we have to talk. I also worked in the film industry. I worked on a horror film called “Night Breed” by Clive Barker. There I was a creature technician in the project and was creating creatures for that horror film. I also worked in Soho in a visual effects company. They are doing texture maping. That´s about putting texture on 3D objects. So I have a lot of other things I was used to do. Also I teach about using the Adobe Illustrator and to draw. I did this quite for some time.

Something every artist and every creative person has to learn, even if they don´t like it, because people who are creative would mostly prefer to do their art actually all the time, but eventually you have to learn how to promote yourself as well.

Yes, that´s just a little bit of a rethink where you can take what you do and you gather an audience. People who like your art and then you try in some way to monetize this so that you can live from that.

A lot changed in that area as well. Meanwhile we have internet, we have a lot of free tools and all the social media channels. It´s very nice and easy to use. But twenty or thirty years ago, there was nothing like that. So you had to go to the places and to the clubs to get your art out there.

Yes, years ago there was a lot of foot walking. But as you know with the internet it´s basically that you can stay in a little room for days on a computer. The sun comes up, the sun goes down, the sun is going up again and you can hear little birds singing and you are still on the computer doing stuff. And the whole world is still working but you are there. As long as I can look out of the window and I can still see the odd person going down the street I know that I am not alone.

So the next project will be the book release in June. Is there something else coming up? At the moment all events are cancelled or on hold, but is there anything else which you are planning?

Not at the moment. Because we are planning a launch for the book in June, but because of social distancing and the lock down that is not easily possible. So it can be pushed further into the year. That is what I feel. It also could be as we are doing right now to have a big Zoom launch about the book. You never know and we will see.

Something else which just popped up in my mind while I was watching your images. I am sure you know Stanley Kubrick and the movie Odysee 2001. Your covers could fit very nicely to that as well.

Yes, I love that movie. I read the book even before I saw the film! I like the whole thematic. I like cyborgs, cybernetics, robots and things of that realm and the entire science fiction world. Also Star Trek or Star Wars. Anything like that. Like I said before, in the beginning I wanted to do scify book artwork.

But you love as well drum and bass music, so you combined two of the best things in the whole world!

Yes, the music is for me inspirational to drive the art. Because when I am doing art I am listening to drum and bass. Also I listen to dub step.

And how can you draw while you are dancing?

Haha, I draw in my mind!

Something you want to tell the listeners, your fans or somebody who doesn´t know you yet, and especially to the creatives. How should they keep on doing?

To the creatives: Keep creating! Give yourself always another challenge. Do something creative every day. It´s your own art whether it´s baking a cake, whether it´s one sketch, whether it´s sketching from the view out of the window, it doesn´t matter, but be creative every day! For those people who started on the road of creativity: Do not give up! Keep pushing the boundaries of your art! Keep being inspired. Inspire people and go and create every single day. Get better with what you do, there is a lot of beauty out there, so catch it. Whether you are a photographer, whether you are an artist who paints with liquid medium, or whatever. Go and create! It´s good for the mind and it´s good for the soul.

Very nice said! And one thing is for sure. If you are creative and you have the creative ideas, if you don´t do it and let it out you will start feeling unhappy.

Yes, I will put it that way: There are some artists who sit on their hands. And how can you draw a picture if you are sitting on your hands? So people have basically to release their hands and start doing things. I have heard that there is a writers’ block and there is also an artists’ block. Really? If you have got an artists’ block what does that mean? That you run out of pencil? Or you run out of paper? Find something to scribble on. Even doodeling is a form of art for me and it releases what´s inside your head. Fill those quite moments with doing something creative. You just have to take it how it comes.

One more question about the computer gaming, did you do already some work for the actual games?

Not really. I have only done the covers and the packaging and cover artwork. I have been involved in a computer gaming company where some of the designs should go into the game, but nothing ever happened of that. Once I redesigned graphics for an online game on the phone called Tyron´s Smash. It was a quite interesting game. But I would like to team up with coders and come up with an idea with them. I do the graphics and they do the coding. That would be quite interesting.

I just have an idea for a game and there the covers would fit perfectly. The game would be kind of an ego shooter but you are not shooting, you are a Junglist dancer and you have to dance through the game. You fight with doing some combo dance moves.

Very nice! And you have to solve every puzzle by dancing. Haha, and your dancing ability is your power up. That would be cool!




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>>> Sprayer CURLY <<<

>>> Logan´s Close – Edinburgh <<<

>>> Illustrator Junior Tomlin <<<

>>> Painter Philip Cross <<<

>>> Streetart Camden – London <<<

>>> Comic Illustrator Johnny Trip <<<

>>> Designer Beth Williams <<<

>>> Streetart Manchester <<<

>>> London Sights & Urban Life <<<

>>> Camden Architecture & People <<<

>>> Big Ben & Westminster <<<

>>> Science Museum London <<<

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