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The Darkness: the story behind the Permission To Land artwork

The Darkness - Permission To Land
(Image credit: Atlantic/Must... Destroy!!)

The first meeting between sleeve designer Bruce Brand and soon-to-be-huge Lowestoft rockers The Darkness took place over a pint in a north London boozer. 

“I think it was 2003,” remembers Brand. “They were on the Must Destroy independent label at the time, and they were looking for someone to do the cover for their debut. It was an ‘eleventh hour’ kind of thing. They already had the photos [shot by Patrick Ford], but for some reason they hadn’t found anyone to compile it all. So I met them down the pub in Camden. 

“They looked like a bunch of longhaired hippies!” Brand laughs. “No, they looked like rock stars are supposed to look.”

Brand was already a veteran sleeve designer at this point (with clients including The White Stripes and Billy Childish), but the band had their own ideas for Permission To Land

“They wanted a classic 70s-style sleeve – like ELO or something,” Brand recalls. “After I’d taken all the bits and pieces off them I was in constant email contact with Justin [Hawkins, former frontman], who was like the art director, I suppose. 

"I’d get these calls from him at three in the morning, saying: ‘We’ve decided we want the inside of the spaceship to have wood panelling – tongue and groove. That’s what the inside of spaceships look like.’ And I was like [sarcastically] ‘Er, okay, I’ll do that now, shall I?’”

The Darkness - Permission To Land

(Image credit: Atlantic Records/Must... Destroy!!)

It took several attempts before the band were satisfied. “Originally, the spaceship was bigger and ‘The Darkness’ lettering was at a weird angle, like it had been beamed down,” Brand explains. “They wanted that kept straight, and they asked me to change the scale of a few things. 

"So it went on like that. I said to them: ‘You do know the deadline was supposed to be last week?’ And Justin was like: ‘Yeah, yeah.’ And then more changes were made. But if people know what they want things to look like and it’s for the right reasons, then I’m all for it.” 

Eventually the front cover, depicting a naked blonde flagging an alien ship onto a runway, was complete. 

“They actually wanted me to do a cleaned-up version for America,” grins Brand. “They wanted me to pixelate the model’s bum. I think we ended up putting a sticker over it or something."

Motorheart, The Darkness's seventh studio album, will be released on October 15 via Cooking Vinyl, and is available to pre-order now. This feature originally appeared in Classic Rock 101. Thanks to Bruce Brand at Arthole.