Like the story, Stone Sour's House Of Gold & Bones album package comes in two parts. When the two pieces meet, they combine to create the House Of Gold & Bones. Part One is available October 22, and Part Two is due in 2013. Check them out in the video above.
We interviewed Sean Mosher-Smith, the designer behind the album's scarily brilliant album art, to get his thoughts on working with Corey Taylor to evoke the two albums' concept and story; the packaging, as shown in the video above; and more. Corey himself also offered some thoughts on the package.
How did the album art come together? What was your working relationship with Corey Taylor throughout the creative process?
Sean Mosher-Smith: It was an interesting way of working – actually, it was kind of nice. He gave me the story, the big story behind the music and the album; it was like a 28-page short story that he wrote. And his way of working this project was, "I don’t want to tell Sean anything. I want him to come up with the artwork. I don’t want to give him any ‘if you could do this’" – he basically set me free with the story and said, interpret it like you want to interpret it. So that was a challenge, but a good one – it allowed me to pull the strongest elements out of the story and just illustrate it. I think there was one thing he did say, in that any characters that are developed, he didn’t want to see their faces very clearly, because of this comic book situation. They’re doing the comic, they’re doing all this other stuff, and they didn’t want an identifiable face that might be different for the comic, which was being designed at the same time.
Corey Taylor: I sent him the short story, and the only instruction I really gave him was to not take it literally. I wanted to see metaphor. I wanted to see something that was artistic and hinted at what the story could be like, but at the same time I wanted to take it out of that literal sense and really try to do something that would add to the experience. I wanted something that would intrigue the mind, visually, as well as just putting together a really cool packaging scheme. And he was fantastic with it. Some of that imagery is so good – I can remember forwarding it to the rest of the guys in the band and getting such great responses that I was just like “Yeah, we’re really onto something with this.” It felt good to know that we were creating something so different that it was gonna shine through not only in the music but in the imagery itself.
The cover itself is a very complex, multilayered image: How did you put all that together, and how many different elements does it contain?
S M-S: There are probably about five main elements in that cover, and they all represent parts of the story. There’s stuff that I kind of want people to discover for themselves, but there’s a figure in the fetal position, there’s a straight portrait of the main character, there’s a profile that’s also the main character…the story revolves around a main character and his nemesis, and his helper, and everyone in this story really is him. It’s different aspects and different points in this main character’s life all become separated, and they have separate names and personas, and what I wanted to represent on the cover was how all these elements make up the main character and make up the story.
I took photographs during the summer all up and down the East Coast, as I was driving. Landscapes and broken-down houses and the insides of these old rooms that were all dilapidated – I wanted to take all that and simplify it. So I created everything in black and white, with subtle splashes of color here and there. I wanted to get away from clichés like fire. I wanted to create something beautiful within this dark world of Corey’s imagination. So there’s sketches in there that were built before I did the cover, that I wound up using within the art. There’s also a bunch of my discarded photography that I scanned in and combined in Photoshop and Illustrator.
CT: It’s got a bit of Stephen King to it. It really does. We put it out there for the fans to see and they immediately thought it was people in the band on the cover, and it wasn't. these were people that work with Sean, so I was fielding questions from people like, “Is that Roy [Mayorga] on the cover?” No, it’s not. “Is that Josh [Rand]? Does he have a beard now?” No, no one in the band is on the cover of the album. To see where their minds went with it was a lot of fun.
What did Corey say when you sent him the cover?
S M-S: I did three different covers, and knew which one I thought would be the winner, and I sent him just the three, and he approved the one that is the cover on the spot. No changes other than “add a little bit here, add a little bit there.” There was very little back and forth. I had a lot of time to live with that story, and develop ideas. And having the freedom of him saying, “Go do it – I don’t want to talk to you about it, and I don’t want to see anything, I don’t want to answer any questions. Do it and send it to me,” cause that’s the only way that he could get this thing interpreted without putting in too much information. He wanted to see what I got out of it, and incidentally, the two other images that I put together for him to look at ended up becoming the single covers. So I think I hit it pretty much right on with him, in that everything I’ve done he’s used. Everything has become part of this album package.
Talk about the two-part design, the way the two album covers fold together to form a house. How did that idea emerge?
S M-S: From the beginning, Corey had this idea of the two parts making a whole. And at the time, when we were starting to develop the artwork, we weren’t sure whether it was going to be two albums released at the same time, or whether it was going to be a staggered release, or one double CD, so it was kind of up in the air what was going to happen. But he’d always had the idea of creating two pieces that were separate that were either packaged together or staggered or whatever. And that package would always be something dimensional – how can we take these two pieces and make a whole out of it? One of the original ideas was a Pandora’s box, or like something from Hellraiser. So it stemmed from that idea of two halves making a whole, and then Gail [Marowitz, Roadrunner Creative Director] took that idea and ran with it and worked with her packaging people and came up with this beautiful house concept.
CT: That was kind of my idea from day one, was to have the two packages connect together and make something really special, but then the designers went above and beyond and took it to a level I didn’t even think we could go to. Being able to construct a house out of the two albums is gonna be so much fun to see the fans do, because honestly, I tried to do it with one of the mockups and I got so confused I had to have somebody show me how to do it! But at the same time, once it was put together, I was so stoked. I don’t think anybody’s ever done something like that with the packaging for a double-disc set before, where they can create something completely different from what you’ve got. I also like the idea that we were putting together a really special package that’s not a special edition. I think that’s something a lot of bands do these days, is go for a special edition and it’s completely different from the real edition, and this fantastic packaging is the real edition. That really gets me excited about seeing the fans’ take on everything.
House of Gold & Bones Part 1 is now available for pre-order! If you head over to the Roadrunner webstore, you can get the CD/2LP bundle, which includes the record on CD and a double vinyl picture disc, as well as an instant free download of the first two songs, "Gone Sovereign" and "Absolute Zero."
The Stone Sour webstore has multiple other deluxe options, including packages that offer T-shirts, fan club memberships, and a set of three 8 1/2 x 11" lithographs, one of which is signed by the band!