Helping architect one of the most heavily traced blueprints within the alternative metal (or as the media dubbed ‘nu metal’) movement of the late nineties, Beatdust caught up with DJ Product@1969 aka Doug Boyce to talk about the 20th anniversary of (hed)PE’s stunning major label debut and his artwork that perfectly personified the music within.
In 1997, (hed)PE did something many strive to do and so few ever achieve. Despite helping evolve the genre that less talented bands would imitate with greater success, with the Self Titled debut the band created a Frankenstein monster of sound, taking the best parts of other styles and making it their own. Spring boarding the anarchic music to the masses was the rampageous cover art drawn up by the band’s turntablist – DJ Product@1969.
Spinning the wheels of steel for over 25 years, Product was always fascinated by the mixing of different genres – especially hip hop and alternative music. “There was a band called Proper Grounds that Madonna signed to her label that was interesting, they had a dj” he explains. “This was around 1992 I believe. Downset from LA I heard way before Rage Against the Machine came out. I was influenced by a group called Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, they were like a industrial hip hop that later became Spearhead. My very first inspiration was a punk band from my hometown Long Beach called the Vandals, and the singer Stevo (rip) brought out a turntable onstage on a song called “lady killer”. That was mid-80’s. I can go on and on about early influences, but these were some honorable mentions that I saw doing djin in bands before me.”
“I got in the group in the fall of 1994” notes Product. “The rest of the band had years of experience playing in bands in the local scene. I recognized right away how talented all of them were, I was trying to figure out how to adapt my turntablism into their already existing sound. The scratch solo in the middle of the song “Firsty” is probably the first thing I dropped live with them, trying to fit in where I could.”
Reflecting upon the musical climate of the time, Product explains “a lot of the songs on (self-titled) were written in the period of 1993 to 1996. When (hed)PE released the self-titled album in August of 97 I had never heard of the term “nu-metal” yet. It wasn’t until we started touring nationwide outside our So-Cal bubble that I saw other bands doing hybrid metal and mixing other forms of rap rock. This was at a pre-internet social media time when the only way to hear a band was to see them live.”
As one of the most detailed and immensely thought out cover artworks to be released during the period, it’s interesting to discover it’s creation was born out of external pressure and spontaneity. “Jive Records [(hed)PE’s label at the time] didn’t trust me doing it, I think the band let me do it because I did the previous cover for the ‘Church of Realities’ EP” explains Product. “The art for the album that came first is what you see on the back of the album. The label and band didn’t think it was a strong enough image for the front cover. It was hand painted, not digital. The [original] cover art was later used for the Japanese release.”
“When I made the [re-make] cover I had a place to execute it at. I actually had a apartment for a short time before the band went ‘broke’ again (real title for following album). I was able to sit still and have food and paint supplies to make it happen. It was a very ‘hurry up’ and rushed [piece] because of a deadline from the label [for the artwork] to be turned in.”
Going into graphic detail about the graphic’s details, Product notes “Wes [guitarist] came over to my studio one night to create some interludes and stuff for the secret ending of the album. It was very spontaneous, but it just sparked right there that I needed to go back to the drawing board and re-create the cover. Entitled ‘Ball of Chaos’, it was done with pressure of the band and label. I had maybe 24hrs to get something done, otherwise they were gonna use some stock image from the art director at Jive.”
He continues “the original piece is 24X24″ on cardboard media, [& I used] pencil, acrylic and spaypaint. It was executed very quickly, there was our manager Ray Anderson (r.i.p) who was looking over my shoulder cracking the whip on me as he was getting pressure from the label. It literally was turned in as the paint was still drying.
The Ball of Chaos artwork is dripping in spectacular stream of conscious shapes and scribbles. Impressive as a whole, it is the intricate details within the piece that really highlight Product’s technical skills as a artist. Small, elaborate building blocks are molded together with surgical precision to form a voltron of visual aesthetics. Turntables, spraypaint, spliffs and shootouts are all essential elements of not only the artwork, but also the music within the release.
Product explains “the vibe I painted and gave off was a reflection of what I was experiencing from just being with the guys in the band, not necessarily just the music. There was some edgy tensions, dramas,some of us were going through girlfriend relations. We were broke, hungry, some were tweaking, some were smoking lots of weed. We were learning about chaos, physics,and alien UFO stuff. Tupac and Biggie had gotten shot at that time. We were all very individual and different from another, but somehow we all came together as a unit and made it work.”
Looking back over the released CD package put out by Jive Records, Product understandably has mixed emotions. “It was cool with the front and back cover” he notes. “The only thing was the band did not get to preview or examine the album before packaging. We did not get any advance copies, we had to purchase them ourselves on release day. When we got them the day it came out, we noticed all kinds of typos and misspellings in the text of the cd booklet foldout.”
Like a timeless novel; the (hed)PE Self Titled is a diverse piece of art which keeps its dynamic value throughout our generation and the next. 20 years on, Product explains “it’s hard to describe that album in a capsule. The album was raw and pre-pro tools. It was recorded to analogue tape, to me the purest outta the whole (hed)PE catalogue. We are all (Wes , Jerad, Chad, Mark , BC, and my self DJ Product) still alive today. Thank you Beatdust for having the interest in this feature celebrating 20 years of (hed) p.e.’s self-titled album August 12, 2017.”
Peace to DJ Product@1969 for helping out with this piece. Follow DJ Product on Instagram @djproduct1969c