Band Heaven 17 enlists designers for anniversary tour

Three-dimensional soundscape designer Martyn Ware, who co-founded bands Heaven 17 and The Human League, has invited a raft of designers, including Jason Bruges and Malcolm Garrett, to visually interpret Heaven 17 songs for the band’s 30-year anniversary tour.

The low-resolution moving visuals will backdrop the band on a pair of 4m2 and 2m2 screens to create ’a hyperbright video wall’, says Ware.

Heaven 17’s debut album Penthouse and Pavement will be played in its entirety with the visual art, before a further ten songs are played – some from Ware’s other bands – matched by moving imagery.

Ware (pictured) says most of the people invited to the project have worked with him on projects initiated by his consultancy Illustrious, and are grounded in a range of design disciplines. He says, ’They are extraordinary people from the visual design world and their challenge is to take an existing piece of music and interpret it in a contemporary way. We’re not prescribing what they do.’

Other contributors include photographer Brian Duffy, who will produce a piece for the song Play To Win, and The Designers Republic founder Ian Anderson who, Ware says, ’wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing’. Garrett, creative director of Applied Information Group, is a graphic designer by training.

’I don’t get to do that much animation,’ he says. He will visualise the track Let’s All Make a Bomb, picking up on its ’passive-aggressive sentiment’ to create a typographic solution ’with bold graphic shapes’. Bruges has been given instrumental track Decline of the West and is researching the etymology of ’West’ and the act of reading scripture left to right, or right to left, ’depending on East or West bias’, to createa ’textual-based pattern solution,’ he says.

James Bates, who operates his own consultancy Atom Design, will contribute a piece to accompany the track Penthouse and Pavement.

’It uses stock motion and abstract images of crowds as a background, overlaid by graphics,’ says Bates. ’I’m trying to visualise the song, rather than tell a story,’ adds Bates, who says the visuals will appear as ’a matrix of light’ on the screens, which are low resolution.

Artist David Bickerstaff, whose piece will interpret the song Music To Kill Your Parents By, says he met Ware through previous Illustrious projects, but has been a Heaven 17 fan since his youth. Bickerstaff says, ’I jumped at the opportunity to produce some visuals for the band’s new tour, particularly as we were given the opportunity to produce what we wanted.’

Chris Cheeseman, digital design director at Salter Baxter, has worked on the track Song With No Name. ’The song is quite troubled and dark,’ says Cheeseman, ’so we’ve gone for an eerie look and feel.’ Stopmotion graphics and UV paint will be used to animate a skull (pictured), which will glow in time with strobe lighting triggered by the beat.

Lighting designer Pip Rhodes – who has interpreted three songs himself – is curating and directing the show, which will open on 6 March in Sheffield’s Magna Science Park for the first leg of Heaven 17’s tour.


  • Although Heaven 17 play a warm-up show in Leamington Spa on 2 March, the audio-visual show kicks off in Sheffield at Magna Science Park on 6 March
  • Subsequent European shows include Paradiso in Amsterdam (20 March), Capitol in Hannover (21 March), Amager Bio Kobenhavn in Copenhagen (25 March) and Postbahnhof am Ostbahnof in Berlin (26 March)

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