Chris Bigg on designing Pixies’ new album cowl
While Chris Bigg’s name might not sound familiar, his style, and the names he’s worked with almost definitely will be: over the years he’s credited with designs for the likes of Pixies, The Breeders, David Lynch, and David Sylvain, as well as countless other bands that grace record label 4AD.
4AD is best known for a couple of things, depending on who you’re talking to: one is the aforementioned Pixies, the other is the distinctive aesthetic of graphic designer Vaughan Oliver, who died at the end of 2019. Bigg had worked with Oliver at v23, coming in as a design partner after Nigel Grierson left what was formerly 23 Envelope in 1988. Throughout the late 80s and 90s, Oliver and Bigg became synonymous with 4AD, ultimately defining the label’s aesthetic as dark, strange, collage-heavy, and resolutely analogue.
The pair worked together on record sleeves for artists including Lush, Throwing Muses, Cocteau Twins, and of course, Pixies — the reason we’re chatting now. Despite having ostensibly split up 1993, Pixies have released three albums since 2014. These newer records were all designed by Oliver, without Bigg’s involvement — nor, it’s worth pointing out, the involvement of bassist Kim Deal (more on her later).
This September sees the release of Pixies’ new album, Doggerel. Since Oliver is sadly no longer here, Pixies’ management and frontman Charles Thompson IV (better known as Black Francis or Frank Black) — who knew Bigg from their 90s work together — got in touch to see if he’d be up for taking on the design. Clearly, this would be an emotional project, but it was one that felt right. “They got in touch and said, ‘it’s a bit of a sensitive one, but would you like to share some ideas and see what you think?’,” says Bigg. “I felt passionate about doing it, with respect for [Oliver] I suppose.”