ART NEWS: CHU creates ground-breaking artwork for “Mohawk” CD by scholar and renegade poet and former manager of the MC5 – John Sinclair

CHU, the Black Country, tech savvy, rule-breaking, progressive wordsmith and thinker – an ardent advocate of aerosol painting and its vanguard for over 30 years with global public works and murals, 3D perspective illusions and many group shows under his Walsall leather belt has collaborated with Iron Man Records. His post-industrial artwork (collected from over 200 unique, freehand images) cradles his visual imaginations for the packaging for John Sinclair’s latest album – entitled Mohawk.

CHU’s work has included projects with Banksy and Jamie Hewlett among many others, he founded Graffiti Bastards and he has been described as the ‘Escher of UK street art’.

Release date: 24 March 2014

We caught up CHU and asked him for his inspiration behind his incredible artwork:

“I’m happy to announce the release of my second sleeve design. This is the result of many months of digital sculpting, research and free form thinking, then to realise it for output as the complete, physical package.

CHU adds, “I’m happy to announce the release of my second sleeve design. This is the result of many months of digital sculpting, research and free form thinking, then to realise it for output as the complete, physical package.

 “Mohawk’s album cover began as a replica of Thelonius Monk’s 1968 album sleeve for ‘Underground’. The art direction won a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package the following year, so it obviously ruffled a few feathers. John’s poetry is centred on the very same era and world that Monk inhabited. Inspirations came from the be-bop culture, the dress sense, the venues, the back stage stories – as much as from John’s world too, a Detroit-us. My old friend and ally Steve Fly, the new album’s producer gave me invaluable guidance and a third eye into the artwork”

The saturated, psychedelic wash and the freakishly non-linear, warped angles that CHU created references Detroit, the White Panther Party, Indian tribes, JFK, barber shops, the MC5 and clearly the sentiment of the time. The artwork also appears on the body of the actual CD and an additional 12 page booklet.

“The body print of the CD is meant to make it look like an artefact from Detroit-us, a cartoon-like, simplified, worn, used and stained disc found in Uncle Sam’s pocket perhaps. In certain areas there isn’t any ink whatsoever, revealing the bare silver. The booklet’s front and back cover are absolute replicas of Monk’s ‘Underground’ covers. Each track has its own page. The playing time versus the track length have a graphical time line at the footer of each page, assisting the real-world navigation and discovery.”

A brief history on: CHU

  • Launch event for the Graffiti Bastards show in Birmingham’s Custard Factory 1996
  • Painting his first stereoscopic 3d painting at Urban Games 1999
  • Working alongside artist known as Banksy and the burgeoning Pictures on Walls
  • Helping Jamie Hewlett ‘paint’ 18 whole cars of a Virgin train
  • Taught graffiti in Afghanistan & London College of Fashion
  • Giving his hometown a 100ft & 15ft mural declaring ‘Born in Walsall’
  • Creating the world’s largest aerosol mural singlehandedly
  • Creating an 11 foot wooden, cubic experiment that makes the corners vanish when viewed from inside
  • Sitting on a coach waiting for the sun to rise with Futura on his 40th birthday, so they could photograph their paintings at an outdoor rave
  • Painted inside the bomb-proof basement car park of the Swiss embassy with Banksy
  • Painting the ladies toilet at the Big Breakfast house in East London
  • Only graffiti artist to work on the walls of the Barbican in London
  • 200ft by 20ft mural inside the Selfridges store in Birmingham
See more of CHU’s work at

Iron Man Records

Iron Man Records, Birmingham have previously released music from The Nightingales, Howard Marks, P.A.I.N (Propaganda And Information Network), and Police Bastard.

John Sinclair

John, has been described as an Archetype of the 1960′s art, music and literary synthesis, and who today, is still kicking with both feet on his trajectory for cultural transformation. His new record features ten tracks from his book of verse: always know: a book of monk. Twenty poems planted firmly in a single-shot session, and carefully trimmed down to ten exhibits for this album. Beatnik poems, great odes and personal reflections of the Be-Bop jazz persuasion, all flowering together.

First conceived of in Detroit City, spring 1982, and developed throughout the 1980s with streaks of fresh edits leading right up to the session itself, John navigates some of these texts for the first time in over twenty years, free-styling his energized sincerity and attention to every word, transforming the text on the page into his unique unmistakable spoken word.

The music was written and arranged by Steve Fly who mirrored John’s poems in the music by initially combing the tempo of the original songs recorded by John ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and Thelonious Monk.

Steve Fly is a native of Stourbridge UK, now an Amsterdam resident who plays drums, spins vinyl, and writes novels and literary and cultural commentary. He also maintains a flock of websites and works in various other art forms without visible restraint. His other music projects have included New Flesh for Old, Garaj Mahal, Temple Dragon band. Of course, he is now full time with John Sinclair.

These songs are further utilized by John’s poetic method so that each title and the rhythm of his poetry can piggy-back upon the same song title, and rhythm, of an original composition set in history, for extra rooting. Steve put down drums, turntables, cello-bass, flute, and glockenspiel, shooting to play around the vocal lead lines and diverse expressions from John.


Read more about the release here:

CHU talks about his artwork:

Link to video showing CHU’s artworking:

Listen to the John Sinclair Freedom Rally: John Sinclair Radio Show 526


Artist: John Sinclair

Title: Mohawk

Label: Iron Man Records

Format: CD Double Gatefold Sleeve. Digital Release to follow

Release date:  24 March 2014

File under Rock

Cat No:  IMB6022


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