Although we finished recording Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing) in December 2016, the process of getting the album released was beset by a variety of delays which, ultimately, made the end result a lot better. One delay was getting the best possible lathe cut and pressing, rejecting a number of test presses along the way. In this respect, Paul Gold at Salt Mastering did brilliantly – the final pressing sounds excellent: no noise, wide dynamic range, great clarity – one couldn’t ask for more… Apparently Ba Da Bing! had an office full of interns listening to the test presses with notepads in their hands, eagerly listening out for any pops or hisses…

The other thing that took an inordinately long time was coming up with the cover art…

 

For the first Hawthonn album, it was pretty simple: the fox skull had become our shamanic instrument and totem for the album. It made sense to present that on the cover.

 

Sea-Spiral Spirit, a sort of stop-gap compilation of odds and ends (our equivalent of Coil’s Unnatural History), was a bit more problematic, but nothing had prepared us for getting Red Goddess together, a process that ended up taking around six months.

The working-title for the album was Flood, and originally we’d mocked up a cover based on graphical manipulations of Charles E. Burchfield’s The Sphinx and the Milky Way, which I had found on a postcard amongst Peter Redgrove’s journals in the University of Leeds special collections. Since ‘Lady of the Flood’ was inspired by Egyptian myth, reflected through the Greek Magical Papyri, the symbol of the inverted ankh had also become potent to us, suggesting the ideogram for menstrual blood.

We considered having a die-cut cover, and the record having a moon on its label, so that the cut-out section changed from moon to blood-red as the record was taken out. The costs, as well as licensing the image and issues surrounding the manipulation of the image unfortunately made this impossible… but perhaps for a future release! 🙂 The idea of having red vinyl was at least set at this stage!

Reflecting on all the themes, Layla suggested that the album should be called Red Goddess. I was also rather obsessed with Max Ernst’s surrealistic, alchemical, sex magic painting ‘Men Shall Know Nothing of This’ (1923), which seemed to suggest impenetrable feminine mysteries, and became the album’s subtitle. We did a few experiments with photographs of mugwort, geometric shapes and imitations of the peculiar initiatory sign suggested by Ernst’s original painting, but nothing really gelled.

Revisiting the inverted ankh design, we tried something minimalist: the ankh composed of mugwort:

As a cover on its own, it looked a bit plain (- and maybe a bit too much like Depeche Mode’s Violator! -) – I suggested it could be textured in burlap, like the original release of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures – apparently one of the many things that bankrupted Factory Records! This is where the burlap texture on the final LP came from…

We thought about perhaps having a booklet alongside the album, containing texts for each track. I have always written far too much about the music I make, which probably detracts from the experience: Layla has always been vehement that the power of the music should be the foremost creative expression. Nevertheless we decided to give it a try and I drafted various symbolic ’emblems’ for each track – shown below emblems for ‘In Mighty Revelation’ and ‘Lady of the Flood’:

Things still weren’t fully cohering. It was frustrating: we’d created an album of the best musical collaboration we had done thus far, but couldn’t find a way to present it to the world! It was time to call on the Fates to intervene…

I happened to be browsing Layla’s Tumblr one evening, where I saw an image by Finnish photographer Aki Pitkänen, alias Narikka Photography. Checking out his Facebook, I saw that he was visiting Leeds in a couple of weeks and looking for people to collaborate with on photos. It almost seemed too uncanny. He was keen to get up to the moors, and offered to give us a photo to use on our album in return for showing him around. Time being too short for the full Yorkshire Moors experience, we took him to the far end of Ilkley Moor – apparently they don’t have moors in Finland, so what Aki really wanted was desolation: every time we wanted to show him something we thought was cool he refused! We ended up taking quite a few shots in the drizzly weather, one of which ended up becoming the cover art.

The final image, Gateway Beyond the Firmament, captured quite a lot of synchronistic imagery. Layla was, of course, wearing red – apt for the album title. She is holding a deer (doe) skull to her face: a creative block while working on the final track of the album had been overcome by a dream-entity calling itself ‘Deer Deer’. Furthermore, her hand echoed the hand found in Ernst’s painting that provided the album’s subtitle. It’s nice when all these things come together unexpectedly…

And so, after all these iterations we ended up with the album – the other symbolism also found its way onto the sleeve: the inverted ankh is on the back, and the various emblems appear, in simplified form, on the insert/CD gatefold. We must thank Ben Goldberg at Ba Da Bing! as well as Katie von Schleicher and all the other staff there for their patience, care and attention to detail in shepherding this project into a physical release.

Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing) is released on March 23. You can pre-order in the EU here (- we will be sending continental EU orders out this week, UK at the start of next week). US and rest of the world can pre-order here.

In another ideal coincidence, the 23rd is also the date of our first gig, with Primitive Knot, Silver Dick and La Brea Pulpit (Gretchen Guttersnipe & Pete Cann), at Leeds’ Wharf Chambers! Full details here.

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