Age Of Chance

Title: Don't Get Mad Get Even! (The New York Remixes)
Label: Virgin
Released: 1987
Designers: Designers Republic

Age of Chance's slogan 'Leeds-Detroit-Berlin-New York' was a singular spin on the traditional 'London-New York-Paris-Munich' axis. In terms of pop culture- with the exception of goth- Yorkshire hasn't troubled pop music much. Arguably, Age of Chance should have changed all that. The music was a hammering mix of rock and hip hop- they were produced by Public Enemy's Bomb Squad on the single 'Take It'- and had sublime visuals.

Too intricate to rightfully exist in the pre-desktop publishing age, the sleeves were edgy, loaded, with menacing visual manifestos adorned with slogans like 'Radio Is The Medium For Frenzy' and 'You Can Live Forever With Age Of Chance', alongside bar codes, cruise missiles and astronaut Yuri Gagarin's face. They never broke through, but in terms of creativity and impact, success was theirs.

The design collaborators were Ian Anderson and his then-partner Nick Phillips of Designers Republic, which, the story goes, was declared on 14 July 1986. Operating out of a small office in Sheffield that used to house ABC's label Neutron, they were soon contacted by Age of Chance after they saw a sleeve they'd done for the group Swansyard. They first collaborated on a sleeve for a brutal cover of Prince's 'Kiss'.

"It was 50/50 at first", says Age of Chance bassist Geoff Taylor. "Initially we'd physically give them all our ideas, slogans, images, chevrons, to Designers Republic and say 'Lay these out however you want'. We were so big on ideas, infact, that Edwin Collins called us 'Ideas Rock'".

Taylor remembers that design meetings involved he and guitarist Neil Howson getting drunk with Anderson and Phillips, who'd then retire to their studio and work.
"Age of Chance were one of the first things we did", says Anderson. "The thing about them was that it dovetailed nicely with what I was thinking at the time; the grand statement. We saw things in a similar way. In fact, with their blessing, what Designers Republic created became the face of Age of Chance".

By the time of 'Don't Get Mad Get Even!' in mid-1987, Taylor, by now based in London, remembers they were less involved. "At that point it was annoying that we didn't get to see the sleeves until they were done", he remembers. "Some of them tended to look a bit too American- a little too happy and on the playful side, which we weren't that mad on. I think that sleeve ended up in a design exhibition in Rotterdam".

Anderson has more positive recollections. "The way they were presented was very much as a philosophy; it was a punk attitude crossed with disco styling, that asked questions to get a reaction. Once the vocabulary was set, the sleeves almost designed themselves. We may have done the designs, but the language was created by the band." Anderson recalls that he and then-partner Nick Phillips routinely did 72-hour shifts at this point: everything was hand-done using photocopiers, craft knives and spraymount. They only ever saw the artwork in colour when the printers returned the proofs. Indeed, as Anderson remembers, the record label loved the artwork but balked at the repro costs- while £700 covered most albums, the bill for Age of Chance's 1987 debut, '1000 Years of Trouble', came to £9,000.

Eventually, with fame elusive, Age of Chance were reduced to having their photographs on the cover. They finally split in 1991. Anderson, meanwhile, looks back on an unusually good collaborative relationship. "There weren't any egos involved", he says. That's what made it so good- it's rare to show a band your artwork and they say, 'That's exactly what we had in mind'".