Every shop is a gallery
Kate Moross, whirlwind force behind vinyl-only label Isomorph, explains her mission to ‘make music look good’
‘My mission statement, borrowed from Jay-Z, is: “I’m not a businessman – I’m a business, man.” I think the US music industry has really exploited the business potential of music – syndication, endorsements, fashion collections – all on a massive scale.
‘I started as an illustrator pre-college and cut my teeth doing posters and flyers, and this introduced me to the music industry. I bribed people to let me draw for them by building them websites. That was quite useful: if you can offer your clients a skill, throw in some creativity on top.
‘Over two years, I designed lots and lots and lots of flyers, and worked for more serious clients such as the Whitechapel Gallery, etc. Lots of logos, too – everyone wanted to be a brand, and if you’re a brand you need a logo. I also did murals in places with music: radio stations, record stores, that sort of thing. Then I managed to do some record sleeves, my most favourite kind of work to do.
‘Unfortunately there’s a lack of jobs in that industry, and that’s why I started Isomorph. It began in 2007 when I did a CD cover for a friend’s band. I said: “I’ve just got some money from doing a Cadbury’s job – will you let me release the LP?” We did a run of 200 records. The most important thing was to pay attention to the aesthetic format of the record, to embrace print as a medium, to create something that’s worth more than its manufacturing costs, and that has longevity. Each release is like a series of artist’s prints that you listen to. I hope that most people who buy these listen to them (but I’m sure some don’t). I call Isomorph the world’s first art-driven record label.
‘The records cost a lot of money. I sell this seven-inch for £15. It’s a lot of money for two songs. But inside it has a poster. I wanted to add value by making limited editions, and challenging the traditional ways of putting out music. However one problem working with unsigned bands is that they break up, but at least people have the records now.
‘During my final year at Camberwell I spent a lot of time touring the States with the band HeartsRevolution – making lots of visual content for their tours. Luckily my third year tutor told me I had worked while I was away, so I wrote a dissertation about my experiences. Ultimately I was being creative while I was there – I don’t drink or take drugs so I had to do something while everyone was partying!
‘Every record shop has become my own personal gallery – t-shirts on sale, records, murals on the wall, posters for sale, all on display. It’s a 360-degree way of working.’
From Kate Moross’s talk at the St Bride Library ‘Design 4 Music’ event on 29 January. Moross is the principal of London studio iso and Isomorph Records, her vinyl-only label.
First published in Eye no. 76 vol. 19.