Ep. 110: How are album covers created – and why is some of the art so bizarre?! With Darin Leach

Album cover art

Photo by Jurian Kersten on Unsplash

The form that the “album” has taken has evolved over the decades: we’ve had vinyl records, cassette tapes, CDs, digital downloads. Through all these iterations, one constant has been the cover art. Even on our digital downloads and streams, we still get to view the cover art on our device when a song is playing. Today’s episode is going to solve one of the mysteries of the universe – Why are some of these album covers so bizarre?!

Darin Leach
Darin Leach


My guest today is graphic artist Darin Leach. Darin was formerly a composer and producer for film trailer companies. He switched his skillset to digital artwork and graphic design after seeing a need in the industry for quality album artwork. Since then, Darin has worked with world renowned film trailer companies, composers, musicians, and audio software companies.


We discuss:

  • The inspiration for this episode topic (shoutout to Ricky!).
  • Possible reasons for bizarre album covers:
    • Shock value
    • Inside joke
    • Eye-catching
  • Other reasons behind cover artwork:
    • Compatible with the intent of artist (do they want it to be licenseable? If so, cover art probably needs to indicate/be in line with the music of the album)
    • Capture the feel of the album music, represent the musical style
    • Invite curiosity in the music & meaning, introspection; inspire listener to dig deeper
  • The process of album cover art creation. Where does it start? Is there a standard process, or does it really vary depending on if an artist is an indie artist, or signed with a label?
  • Sources of inspiration for cover art.
  • Mindy’s favorite bizarre album covers.

Connect/Other Resources

In-Episode Promo

Here’s a quick break for our sponsor, Campfire Audio. Campfire Audio makes world-class earphones that reflect the company’s passionate focus on refined audio. Each model in their earphone line is designed and assembled by hand in their Portland, Oregon workshop. These earphones are beautiful to look at – I love the artistic shaping and colors of the earphones; so it didn’t surprise me to learn they have a small team of highly skilled and dedicated craftspeople, who are continually experimenting with materials and techniques to create their unique prototypes and models. Each earphone is the culmination of countless iterations, hours of listening and rigorous performance testing for the people who care about it most. Check out campfireaudio.com for their model lineup of earphones that are second to none in performance and finish. Campfireaudio.com


Darin says: As a pre-teen in Concord, NC, discovering electronic music through albums like Chemical Brothers – Dig Your Own Hole and Prodigy – Fat Of The Land, opened up a new mental landscape that I had never tapped into before and became an escape and release from reality that I craved all the time. Up until that point I was typically surrounded by Country, Rock, HipHop, etc. and when listening to these genres my minds default state would be to visualize the musicians with their instruments. There was an element of magic and mystery that was missing because I already knew how the cake was made and what the ingredients were but with electronic music I didn’t have the foggiest idea of how those other worldly sounds were created and it allowed my mind to venture into abstract and previously untapped states of exploration that felt like hopping into a rocket ship and flying somewhere I’d never been. During my years in the United States Marine corps and on deployments to Iraq I would hide my iPod in my bulletproof vest (because it was strictly prohibited) and while on patrols in our humvees I would have one earbud in while standing up in the turret manning the 50 caliber machine gun. I spent countless hours watching over the desert while having the ability to take a mental break from the monotony and chaos that only my favorite electronic artists could provide. Those times solidified my desire to make music an integral part of whatever I did with my life, so after leaving the military I went directly to a Music Production and Audio Engineering school in Hollywood, CA and from there was able to work within the Film Trailer Industry. All of those connections I still maintain today while continuing my creatively fulfilling career of artwork and design supporting music that I love.

Closing Words

Thanks so much to Darin for sharing his story and insight with us today; that was very enlightening.

I want to let you know that the episode release frequency will be changing a bit for a few months. I’ve had an interesting couple weeks, and actually ended up accepting a job offer with Schmitt Music, a music company headquartered here in the Twin Cities. I’ve been a fan of theirs for a while (if you’ve listened to the show for long, you’ve probably heard me mention Schmitt Music.) I’ll be selling pianos for them, mainly to universities and other institutions. (So if you’re looking for a piano, let me know!) Since this came up sort of suddenly, I will be continuing with my teaching until the end of the year so I can give my students some time to find another teacher. So this fall will be busy and I anticipate releasing episodes closer to once a month instead of once a week through the end of the year. Then in January, I will be back to weekly releases again. If you’ve listened to recent episodes, you know I had planned to launch an e-newsletter. I am putting those plans on hold for the fall; but you can still add your email to the list now and whenever I get that going, you’ll be included. Subscribe here.  Another way to subscribe is to sign up to receive an email every time an episode is released. This has been available and active for a long time. Just click the envelope icon in the sidebar that says “Email me when a new episode is available.” If you have a favorite bizarre album cover, I would love to hear what it is! Let me know on email (mindy@mpetersonmusic.com), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next time, may your life be enhanced with music. 

View Episode Transcript

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