THE CREATIVE GENIUS BEHIND OASIS
We catch up with Brian Cannon, the man who put his art and soul into some of the best-loved album covers of all time, and chat about the launch of his new Microdot gallery, the inspiration behind his artwork, hanging out with the Gallaghers and how the band’s legendary logo was born in Yorkshire 30 years ago.
Some might say he was the man responsible for the most iconic sleeve designs in the history of British music.
But what you can definitely say, with no maybe, is that he was the man who helped shape and define the artistic image of one of the world’s biggest bands.
Throughout the 90s, Brian Cannon’s studio Microdot were tasked with creating all the record artwork for Oasis and he saw them rise from an unsigned band into a global phenomenon.
From the iconic white on black Oasis logo to every album and single sleeve until 1998, Microdot’s designs were seen as a fitting visual companion to the band’s music, often referencing both the songs themselves and giving a nod to the band’s own influences.
In Oasis history, Brian is a central figure, not just for his work with Microdot creating such innovative and original sleeve designs, but also as a friend of the band.
And now 30 years after Oasis formed, his artwork is still as revered and loved as it was back in the day.
It was a world in which Cannon submerged himself in and in an exclusive chat with beyond he discusses how, for a decade, he lived and breathed Oasis and shared in the rollercoaster ride the band took.
Looking back Brian says: “It is hard to believe it was 30 years ago but I am privileged to have played such a part in the Oasis story and that the artwork we created still resonates with so many people.”
After training as a graphic designer, Brian set up Microdot in 1990 and first came to prominence working with The Verve. Sleeve designs such as those for singles All In The Mind, She’s A Superstar, Gravity Grave and the band’s debut album A Storm In Heaven are still regarded as some of the most dynamic designs of the last three decades.
He went on to work with Suede, Cast, Ash and Super Furry Animal, but it was undoubtedly his artwork for Oasis, following a chance meeting with an unknown Noel Gallagher, that would change Cannon’s life forever.
It was 1992 when Noel first came across Brian in the small Manchester office Microdot shared with the Inspiral Carpets and after bonding over a pair of trainers that Brian was wearing, Noel made a promise to him that when they made it as a band, he’d like Cannon to design their artwork.
Brian recalls: “Even back then I remember thinking it wasn’t a case of if they were going to make it but when, and after hearing them play and then getting to know them, I was never in any doubt, they were going to be very big.
“They were not only cool but a really good laugh, very likeable but perhaps more importantly incredibly talented and I couldn’t stop going on about them even before they’d been signed.”
A year later, Creation Records did just that and true to his word Noel gave Brian the green light to start bringing his vision of their band to life.
Talking about that incredible era Brian said: “The thing with Oasis is that they were a phenomenon, it was the perfect storm at the perfect time and everything just clicked beautifully.
“You had these two brothers with an incredible presence who really didn’t give a f**k, which along with their looks, their writing, music and management was an explosively exciting and powerful cocktail.
“They led the way at that time and changed the face of music and I will always be grateful and proud of the part I played in helping create the identity and artwork for such an iconic band.”
Along the way, Cannon was responsible for the band’s logo design which he unveiled to the lads prior to a gig in Sheffield in 1993; he sunk a Rolls Royce into a swimming pool for Be Here Now; featured his mum and dad on the cover of Some Might Say and even appeared himself on the sleeve of What’s The Story.
It was a life he threw himself into and a relationship that saw him spend more and more time with the band, submerging himself in their music to fully understand what the artwork needed to look like.
Noel was hugely influential in the decisions and direction and it was he and Brian who would always come together to create the look for each sleeve.
Cannon recalls: “Noel and I got together before each sleeve project and he’d give me his thoughts then I’d turn it into reality. I’d listen to the music, study the lyrics, I don’t how it happened really – I just got it, you have to realise I didn’t just do the artwork for Oasis, I was a massive fan too.
“But Noel was always at the heart of it and it was his experience in the industry having toured the world with Inspiral Carpets as a guitar tech that was invaluable. He knew how things worked, knew what he wanted and he’d always have the final say.
“You’ve got to remember as well, this was a pre-digital time and so everything we did was sketched out by hand, shot on film and then brought together back in the studio. We usually had one shot at it and looking back it was incredible to think how we did it.”
Cannon says it was after the success of the band’s second album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory in 1995 that everything changed, and he suddenly realised just how stratospheric the band had become.
He said: “Prior to that they were a big indie band and you could still go to the pub with Liam without complete anarchy breaking out.
“But by the time that record came out, everything changed. That was the tipping point, wasn’t it, particularly Wonderwall.
“To become as massive as they did you’ve got to achieve a level whereby people who normally don’t buy records, suddenly start buying your records. And that’s what happened. It was a quantum leap from being a big indie band to the biggest thing in the world.”
Despite the myths surrounding the band’s bust ups and drug-fuelled binges, Cannon says the stories the media painted were often far from the reality and his overriding memories were of a set of mates having the time of their lives.
He said: “I guess for five years between 1994 and 1999 they were probably the most prolific band of all time, bar The Beatles back in the ‘60s.
“They put out three massive selling albums, a dozen top selling singles and continually toured the world and it would be impossible to do that if you were off your head all the time.
“My enduring memory from that time was that it was just a great laugh. They were very confident, very together, unified and just these normal lads who were living the dream and the complete opposite of how the press portrayed them.
“And the thing is Oasis genuinely didn’t care. They just knew how good they were and they were not bothered one way or another if you liked them or not. That’s a really attractive trait if you can truly pull it off, I think. And they did.”
These days, Cannon can mostly be found in Kendal in the Lake District, where a new career has opened up in recent years. Finding there was a huge appetite for his work with the leading lights of the Britpop and other movements, he opened the Microdot Boutique, selling prints and artwork. It has proved so successful, he is now on the brink of opening a new boutique in the heart of Manchester.
He says, “We’re looking forward to opening in the city where it all started and I’m sure they’ll be a huge appetite from fans spanning several generations who are fascinated by the Microdot story.”
Thanks to Brian Cannon and his incredible artwork, it’s a story that will live forever.
To find out more about Microdot and their amazing boutique, please visit microdotboutique.com
Visit rockarchive.com to see Jill Furmanovsky’s full range of limited edition Oasis prints