By his own admission, graphics collector Andrew Krivine should be mad by now. We find out about his early love of punk, how he started collecting, and why new wave opened up a new dimension for designers
Regular readers will be well aware of Andrew Krivine and his almighty collection of punk and post-punk graphic design. His last title, ‘Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die – Punk & Post Punk Graphics 1976-1986’, earned rave reviews when it dropped in 2020, and his new volume, ‘Reversing Into The Future: New Wave Graphics 1977-1990’, deserves to be shown equal attention.
Named after media philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s famous statement, “We drive boldly into the future with our eyes fixed firmly on the rear-view mirror”, the book takes a blast through the artwork that came to define the hugely important era for music, and there are some great articles on just what made new wave tick. Chip Kidd’s love letter to The Buggles will win your heart, while Peter Groff’s piece, ‘What Does “New Wave” Mean’, will probably look like a stroll through your very own record collection. And of course, there are hundreds of rare images, from Blondie to ‘Dare’, from Frankie to ‘True Stories’, Television to Bow Wow Wow and beyond. Album sleeves, flyers, posters, gig tickets – it has got the lot, with a cover designed by Malcolm Garrett and Chip Kidd to boot. The game here is to spot anyone he might’ve missed out. Nope, us neither. The whole thing will make you wish you were more of a hoarder, though other halves take note – Krivine calls it a collection. It’s a wonderful one at that.
Your new book looks at the years between 1977 and 1990. That was quite a time for music. Where were you?
“For most of that period I was a student, finishing up my last year of high school during 1977/78, when my brain was marinating in punk. With a handful of friends who also embraced punk, we would take the train into New York City and see bands at such clubs as CB’s, Max’s and Hurrah. The Cramps and The Dead Boys were our favourite groups, and we managed to see them several times when both bands were at their absolute peak.
“Then during my undergraduate years at Northwestern University my head was buried in economics textbooks by day, but because the campus was not far from Chicago, I would routinely go into the city to see bands and buy records at Wax Trax. I was able to feed my music habit because I was fortunately near one of the three major cultural hubs in America, at least in my opinion!”
You also holed up in Blighty for a short while…
“For my junior year I studied at the University of East Anglia. It was without question one of the happiest years of my life. Scores of superb bands performed on campus, and all of the latest new wave and post-punk releases could be found in Norwich. I actually still have carrier bags from local record shops Backs, Robin’s Records and Alleycats.”
When did you start collecting graphics?
“The initial core of the poster collection was assembled between 1977 and 1983, though my collecting ceased for the bulk of the 1980s. I renewed my effort with vigour, starting about 15 years ago.”
Can you give us a rough estimate as to the size of your collection?
“The collection currently numbers over 5,000 unique pieces and around 2,000 duplicates… I will be voluntarily checking into Bedlam shortly.”
Why do you think new wave led to such imaginative design work?
“Freedom of choice! The most talented graphic designers were able to distil and translate sound into visual formats – posters, flyers, sleeve art – which listeners perceived as extensions of the music. Malcolm Garrett articulates this very well in his essay in ‘Reversing Into The Future’. Punk and new wave were genres which attracted the finest young designers on both sides of the Atlantic, who had this facility in abundance. And they weren’t restricted by commercial graphic design conventions.”
How did that break with punk?
“Punk was quite doctrinaire and structured. Bands deviating from the standard three/four person configuration – bass, guitar, drums only – risked ex-communication. But with new wave this was not the case.
“New wave celebrated the grafting of melodic pop from the 50s and 60s onto other genres. Nothing was out of bounds. Every kind of instrument was deemed acceptable, and producers and sound engineers were encouraged to experiment in the studio. This openness gave rise to a range of sonic possibilities, which is why new wave can’t be narrowly defined. In turn, the eclecticism and playfulness of the music gave the graphic designers a much more expansive soundscape canvas to work with.”
How do you think contemporary graphics compare to those in your book?
“Unfortunately, I haven’t encountered many record cover designs or posters in recent years. With some embarrassment, I must admit that I don’t listen to music on Spotify and my exposure to social media is lacking… that’s putting it diplomatically!
“However, from speaking with my nephew – a rabid Spotify fan – I know there is so much more music available than in the 70s. He has also commented that many avatar images include elements of new wave design, so it’s good to see that this legacy has been embraced by young designers.”
‘Reversing Into The Future’ is out on Pavilion Books