I can’t remember exactly when I first saw the cover of Motorhead’s debut album, with its striking artwork by Joe Petago. I know it was sometime in 1978 when I was 15 years old and used to hang out in the art room at school. Most other kids would spend their lunchtimes playing football, but I was crap at that, so would go to the art room with the other misfits & play records, talk music & make some art. I was already into album art and loved the work of Roger Dean & Rodney Matthews with their psychedelic alien dreamscapes and spaceships. The imagery of Motorhead was something completely different though, and even before I heard the music, I knew this was certainly not going to be anything like Yes or Asia.
Punk had happened in the UK a couple of years previously and music and everything which went along with it had been stripped down and re-invented. A disenfrachised Lemmy had also kicked off the trappings of psychedelic rock after leaving Hawkwind , gone back to playing loud speed fuelled rock n roll, and needed a name and an image to go with it. Motorhead, with its black & white snarling, aggressive skull-creature was just the ticket. The total opposite of prog imagery. It was bleak, it LOOKED loud, it looked angry, and it looked dangerous. I loved it, and it would be one of the earliest influences on me as an artist.
I worked mainly in 3D, in ceramics, and here at last was something which was an object rather than a scene, lending itself to interpretations in 3D. By the end of the year my work was beginning to show obvious influences of Motorhead. Between this, and the work of HR Giger my work started to take a certain direction. I made the piece in the pictures sometime around 1978.
It wasn’t meant to be a copy of Motorhead, but you can definitely see the influence. It even got nick-named “Motorhead” by everyone who saw it.
Roll on a few decades and I find myself making things for a living as I have done all my working life. I’ve worked in potteries, made models and moulds of every conceivable thing that could be produced in ceramic, from figurines to toilets. I’ve created whole ranges of products for my company Design Clinic from clocks to skulls, boxes & bookends. As an artist I have shown my work in galleries all over the UK and beyond. My work has won awards and has even been shown in the Tower of London.
Latterly it has been Beerbuddies, character bottle openers for the wall, and it is in this guise that Snaggletooth has come back into my life. When I was first approached by Global marketing to produce a Snaggletooth beerbuddy for Motorhead I could not have been more pleased. I had always thought that this would be the ultimate bottle opener, and with the introduction of Road crew American Pale ale, it was like all of the pieces were falling into place.
The initial sculpt was done in clay, as most of my work starts. I wanted the finished piece to look as faithful to that debut album cover as I could make it. There are a lot of Snaggletooth products around and I think most of them are pretty poor representations of the image, to put it politely. I did not want to produce anything less than the best I could make. This was going to be a quality piece for a discerning fan. I knew that it would have to be approved by Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee and I wanted them to really love it. The most important bit for me though, was that I was getting the chance of making official Motorhead merchandise, and I imagined what I would have thought as a teenager back in ’78 had somebody told that one day I’d be doing this. In a way I went back to being 15 again but with all of the years of working experience I’ve had since then. I rolled up my proverbial sleeves and got my modelling tools out.
The size of the mouth dictated the size of the piece as it had accommodate the metal bottle opener insert and I wanted to retain the same proportions as the original. The tusks had to look right, but at the same time not be just sticking out into mid-air. Face on I wanted it to look just like the album cover.
The chain was a bit of a task. I toyed with the idea of using a real chain in the sculpt, but the chances of finding one with exactly the right size links was pretty remote. It would’ve looked terrible if the chain did not share the same proportions and had the same number of links as the original artwork. In the end I sculpted the chain from clay like the rest of the piece. That was fiddly!
Regrettably I also had to lose the skull and the Iron cross from the chain as these would have been vulnerable to breakage as the final product would be made in poly resin. I agonised over this for ages as I really wanted them on there, but in the end it was a compromise I had to make.
By this stage it was starting to come together and I could see light at the end of the tunnel. The clay sculpt part of the process was drawing to a close. For some pieces, a clay finish is fine, but the snaggletooth has a hard, smooth, shiny metallic look to it and this was not going to be easy to achieve in clay.
The time had come to make a mould and cast a master in resin which I could file and polish up to a really sharp finish. This would be the basis of the production master and the samples which the band would get to see for their approval. But more of that next time….