Jason,

By the time your iconic album covers for Jade Tree Records were in print, I’d already decided to become a graphic designer. As a teenager, I loved the concept of being in the art world yet was not the greatest hands-on artist. I lacked the depth of imagination present in those who make art for the sake of art, plus the practicality instilled in me as a child of working class parents didn’t allow me to entertain the notion. Put that in a jar with the inordinate amount of time I’d spent at a computer and shake—you’ve got a graphic designer.

My dream was to move to New York City, live/work in an impossibly large, bright, slightly disheveled studio space and art direct a magazine. (Weren’t we all at least a tiny bit inspired by Raygun back then?)

To make that happen, or so it seemed at the time, art school was a must. RISD was my top choice though self-doubt prevented me from even applying. (Talk about being your own worst enemy.) The Art Institute of Pittsburgh was less risky, less expensive and allowed me to return to my hometown for a couple years.

Truthfully, it didn’t matter much to me where I got started. I knew what to expect: me being relatively anti-social, listening to music, going to shows and learning design. Maybe, MAYBE, I’d make a couple friends through our mutual love of music, which is exactly how I found out about The Promise Ring. Someone told me they were fond of 30• Everywhere, and before I heard a single note, the album art reeled me in. It used color sparingly yet deliberately. It had WHITE SPACE on the cover. Clearly it was holding something back and I needed to know what it was, so I bought it.

On the first few listens, my focal points were “Everywhere in Denver” and “Red Paint.” I’d spent prior years predominantly listening to punk and uptempo indie, so the subtlety of something like “A Picture Postcard” was initially lost on me. Ever determined, I kept at it and over time the nuances of each song captured and held my attention.

Part of what kept me going back was the artwork. I was determined to make sense of something that looked so refined and beautiful. It sounds like I’m being overly dramatic, but I was at a fork in the road. Old self—high school student and stubborn malcontent—was part of this scene:

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New self—aspiring to be a graphic designer with a good eye—wanted to be in this scene:

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So I obsessively listened to 30• Everywhere followed closely by Nothing Feels Good and explored albums on different labels with similar aesthetics (and therefore, in my mind, a related sound).

It was like passing through a door I never knew existed; a turning point for which your design work and music were a critical catalyst. This was where I fit in, if not immediately than at least I finally knew where I wanted to be and with whom. I felt compelled to take my education to the next level and transferred to RISD with the help of a scholarship, where I used your style as inspiration for one of my first projects:

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Note the use of geometry, white space and sideways text blocks.

With broader knowledge of the music and design industries, this was not unlike the work of Peter Saville for Factory or Mark Robinson for Teen-Beat.

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Marc Robinson’s work above. Is there a need to show Saville’s? Most are at least somewhat familiar with it (for New Order in particular, or the ubiquitous Joy Division cover ripped off by Disney).

You too spearheaded the look and feel for a small music genre that touched fans on a very personal level. Whether they realized it or not, your aesthetics contributed greatly to the overall concept of their favorite music.

Thank you for inspiring me aurally and visually. My trajectory would have undoubtedly been different (and likely less interesting) without you.

Hugs,
Christine

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Everywhere In Denver

Between Pacific Coasts

A Picture Postcard

Flashback Fives: First Cuts

Along with our letters, we also publish “Flashback Fives”—a list of five moments when each writer fell in love with a song, album, artist, genre, et al. This list was submitted by Daniel from Columbia, PA.


The Allman Brothers Band
Brothers & Sisters
“Wasted Words”

I owe this introduction, and a mound of thanks, to my parents. Best lyrics have ambiguity that can be applied to multiple subjects. Amorphous, brilliant, priceless.

“Weekday soap-box speciality, you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout now,
By the way, this song’s for you, sincerely, me.”


The Stray Cats
Rant N’ Rave
“Rebels Rule”

This was on one of my first cassette mixes. Dialed through FM, adjusted an antenna before that to receive it. Heart-warming, familiar rumble at the beginning for me.

“You look like something that the cat dragged in,
Yeah well you look something off an assembly line”


Cap’n Jazz
Analphabetapolothology
“Little League”

Sometimes friends turn you onto some wonderful things. Word play is a fascinating thing that delightfully rings my ears. I was scribbling lyrics on walls and tables when I first heard this.

“We live in quick flips, slips, tips, and taps,
To snap us outta these statue traps”


Ryan Adams
Gold
“New York, New York”

Every once and again things have a way of playing out in a timely fashion. At their most misunderstood—bittersweet and better when reflected upon. Rolling with punches, wounds, hard places. Music.

“Had myself a lover who was finer than gold,
But I’ve broken up and busted up since”


Lord Huron
Lonesome Dreams
“Ends Of The Earth”

Standing in heat, thinking about anxiety, things big and small. An air can blow over you so comforting, you slip away. I found serenity, a place in the shade, kicked my feet up.

“Out there’s a land that time don’t command,
Wanna be the first to arrive”

Life has a way of marking people and having its way with them. These opening tracks, music, lyrics, experiences, make me love everything more. Cheers to all involved.

Hello William,

Not sure if you remember me… I met you 20 years ago before a Foo Fighters show at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio… You were walking through the line of grungy kids before the show when my older brother, Jim, and I spotted you and yelled “Goldsmith!”, “You’re William Goldsmith!”, “You’re the best drummer in the world!” I hadn’t been that star struck since I met Sugar Ray Leonard at a Hills Department Store opening in the late 1980s.

You looked like a greaser with black dyed hair, a white t-shirt, and a black leather jacket as you shyly approached me and my brother… You smiled, we grabbed you, and you said “Holy shit! I didn’t think anyone knew me”. We continued to praise and grope you and you remained humble and were totally cool about the whole situation…. Thank you…

William 1

To this day, you are still one of my favorite drummers and you have had such a lasting impact on me musically. When I am behind a drum set your influence on me is very obvious to other fans… Even when I am programming a drum machine it somehow sounds like I am copying your style.

Sonically, I have never heard a drummer who hits has hard as you while being so expressive and intricate with your rhythmic accents… I am a huge Brian Wilson fan and find you’re drumming layered and nuanced like a Beach Boys harmony. It tells a story on its own when you focus and isolate it within the mix…
While emotionally, I never experienced a drummer like you; For me, your drumming is raw and on the edge; you put everything into each down beat like a boxer trying to knock out it’s opponent with each punch.

William 2

I have seen you in concert twice with the Foo Fighters. Once at the Agora Ballroom (above) and once at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio also in 1995. Me, my brother Jim, and our buddy Jon, made the trip from Pittsburgh. The first Foo Fighters’ album just came out and Shudder to Think was the opening band on that summer tour. We met Craig Wedren before the show because we arrived at the club four hours before the show… When the doors opened we rushed up to the balcony and stood our ground for about four hours because we knew that was the best spot in the venue to see you drum. No food, no water, no bathroom breaks for hours, no problem…

The highlight of the show was a new song that you started with four rapid bass drum beats to each snare hit… It was My Hero, which was not released and we had never heard it before that show. You left it all out on the stage that night… Thank you…

William 3

Jim, Jon and I were dehydrated and disoriented as we wandered a supermarket in a strange town for food and hydration after the show. I grabbed the Taco flavored Doritos, Jim grabbed the Hostess frosted Donettes, and Jon grabbed a 1 gallon jug of generic blue drink. It was simpler and more carefree times; the days were golden and the nights sparkled with uncertainty, high hopes, and lofty Rock N’ Roll dreams of tour vans and small town takeovers.

Our Rock N’ Roll dreams never came to fruition. We grew up and apart and our musical relevance and coolness waned along with the rest of the Generation Xers… Everything we did and were that was not cool then became cool 10 years too late, which of course makes it totally uncool now…

William 4

However, “classic” Rock N’ Roll music holds up and can bend the space-time continuum… Whenever I want to escape to a world where Rock N’ Roll Dreams still exist, I put on Rodeo Jones. The beginning of the song is somewhat benign… It is like a warm up, which is helpful as you stretch the tired and dormant muscles that hide and hold the stress and tension of your true self; your sixteen-year-old self… You begin to tune out reality around and inside you as the groove continues….

The race starts at the 1:11 mark… Your body temperature rises, your muscles stretch, and your stress leaves your body as you are floating above the colosseum of your life as the mighty Sunny Day Real Estate is taking a victory lap at the 1:35 and 2:50 marks…

I don’t want to get too negative (edit, edit, edit), but what Dave did to you was not cool and the Foo Fighters have not been the same band (edit, edit), since you have not been a part of it. I am sorry that this happened to you… You deserved more respect.
It’s a shame, since I feel that you bring out the best in other musicians you play with. I love Jeremy’s music, but it is different without you… It’s missing something… In SDRE, Nate was like Mike Mills was to REM; he had a pivotal role in the band; his bass lines were interwoven into the melodies and rhythms and became the melodies at times. However, in the Foo Fighters, Nate is more like Michael Anthony is to Van Halen; his bass is buried in the mix, he is simply a body on the stage and bassist for the band’s promo pictures, since Rock N’ Roll bands have bass players…

When you were the drummer for the Foo Fighters, you were the artist that brought out the artist in Dave like Kurt had before… There is more to Rock N’ Roll besides loud guitars, banging drums, and screaming men. There is sincerity, vulnerability, and strength. All attributes can be found in you and your drumming and for that you are my (Rock N’ Roll) Hero.
Matt

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Sunny Day Real Estate: Seven

Sunny Day Real Estate: Rodeo Jones

Foo Fighters: My Hero (Early Live Version)