Section TOOL


Since the 80's, the artist Mackie Osborne has contributed to many music albums on design and illustrations. Being the wife of the Melvins' Buzz Osborne, she thus created the artwork for most of the band's releases as you can find works she did for Mike Patton's Ipecac label. Moreover, she collaborated many times with Adam Jones for Tool.

Salival: What was your background?
Mackie Osborne: I went to college for graphic design. I majored in Applied Art and Design at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It's a technical college.

When did you start making design for albums?
I started making art for punk bands in the early 80's. I designed the Social Distortion skeleton and did some other art for them, plus covers for some other bands like DxIx, The Offspring, Rancid...

I've followed and liked what you did for the Melvins and Ipecac in general; can you tell what's your process each time?
It's so different every time. It really depends so much on the band and the project. Sometimes I listen to the music, sometimes I don't have it. Sometimes I have an image in mind, sometimes I have a type of layout in mind... or a color I want to work with, or a drawing I want to use, or a theme I want to follow. I guess it pretty much always starts with sitting in front of this #%$! box staring at the screen.

Are there any artists (in any domain) that influenced your works?
My favorite designers of all time are Alex Steinweiss, Lester Beal, Alan Lustig, Paul Rand... My favorite living designers right now are Chipp Kid and James Victore. I don't think you would have to look hard to find any of these influences in my work. Some of my favorite living artists right now are Neckface, Marcel Dzama, Gary Baseman, Georgeanne Deen.


Buzz and Adam Jones have been close friends since many, many years; I guess that's how you started working with Tool?

I guess, although I've known the guys in Tool since before they played their first show. I was friends with Maynard and Danny from the Green Jello days.

What I love about Buzz and Adam is they didn't get the big head and they're still dedicated to their music. How would you describe them while remaining objective?
Adam is a really genuinely nice person. I'm not just saying that. He's thoughtful and honest and very sensitive. He's talented, creative and open-minded and great to work for. Buzz is one of the smartest people you'll ever meet. There's so much going on in his head at all times I'm sure someday it's going to explode. One of the most remarkable things about Buzz is that when he puts his mind to something, he does it absolutely 110%. He started playing golf a few years ago, and he'd literally play every day, sometimes twice a day. He reads golf books and watches golf videos on YouTube. He plays friends of his that have played their whole lives and kicks their asses. He doesn't mess around. He's also incredibly practical and a super sharp business person, along with being an incredibly talented musician. There's more, but...

If I'm right, you began working for Tool with the design of Salival? How was this first collaboration?
It was fun. I've known the band and been a fan since the beginning, so I'm in tune with their aesthetic. It was fun to work with Adam to make his vision a reality on paper. It has gotten better and easier each time, although we often spend some very late nights in the process.

I'm sure he knows exactly what he wants to obtain, but were you free to suggest different things sometimes?
It varies depending on the project. On some of the packages, Adam had specific ideas in mind and people he wanted to work with as far as illustration like Alex Grey and Chet Zar. On the most recent limited edition release we did [for Opiate], he wanted to work with Adi Granov. I was able to have some input into what the final illustration looked like and how it was rendered. From there, I took the illustration and created the package using the drawing that Adi provided.

Can you tell what was the initial idea for each one: Salival, Lateralus and 10,000 Days (for which you also did the band logo)?
Yes, I did logos for Lateralus, 10,000 Days, and a couple of other Tool things but sorry, it's too hard to answer. I'll just say there's always something going on that's striving to achieve a sense of a third, and maybe even a fourth dimension in the two dimensional realm.


So the last thing you did for Tool was the reissue of Opiate.

That's the most recent project that we worked on indeed. We've been doing these for the Melvins and have had great response from them, so Buzz suggested the idea to Adam. We printed 1,000 each of five variations of the package. Each variation had several different bonus items, kind of like a Cracker Jack box. It sold out almost instantly. Each one was signed by all four members of the band and hand-assembled at the Tool warehouse by me, Buzz, Joe, Carol, Casey Margaret, Nancy… accompanied by Itchy ban, Buster and a visiting weiner dog as well. It was very time-consuming.

Will you be part the next album's artwork? Are there already ideas or did it always come after the songs are done?
That you'll have to ask Adam. We've been talking about what's going to make the packaging unique, and some really interesting ideas have come up.

You also designed the book of Chet Zar, Black Magick. Is he the kind of artist you met because of Tool and you collaborate with now, like Kevin Willis?
We met Chet through Adam years ago. Buzz and I were actually one of the first people to commission him to do a painting. I had designed several books before the one for Chet: one for the Melvins, one for Tool that was included in a DVD package, one on ancient pre-Incan art and artifacts called Ancestors of the Incas, a couple for the Princeton University Natural History department, a few for one of my favorite artists, Georgeanne Deen... I love designing books. It's one of my favorite things to work on. Anyway, Chet and I talked about designing a book for him for years, and we even did some work on it, then when Jon Beinart offered to publish a book of Chet's art, we got together and made it happen. I'm super happy with the way it came out. Chet is an amazing artist and really great to work with, and Jon Beinart has a great vision and really is trying to make special books.

In rock and metal music, there's still often lots of creativity for the artwork that goes with an album. Don't you think that's what could save the physical format?
I don't think the album package as we know it will survive. Especially since music is free on the internet, no one buys records, the new Mac Book Pro doesn't even come with a CD-Rom drive... Of course, I could be wrong. I think the special limited edition packaging like we did for the Opiate re-release may be a new frontier, but the music business and making money at it is going to look very different from here on out.

Do you know and even like album artworks from people like Aaron Turner, John Baizley, Seldon Hunt...? Maybe you have other names to quote?
The musician Ani Di Franco consistently does the most beautiful packaging out there. I'm always blown away by her choices. I always like what Björk does… as far as specific album cover artists, I don't really pay that much attention to music packaging as a genre. I look for design that inspires me, and the designers I like right now are James Victore and Chip Kidd, plus the OG designers I mentioned in the earlier answer.

From what you've done so far, is there some things you're particularly proud of, and some you'd like to destroy?
Some of my favorite things I've done: the Melvins book Neither here nor there, the Melvins toy, the Salival DVD package, the Social Distortion skeleton, the Melvins letterpress boxset, the Bad Religion cover I designed [The Process of Belief, 2002], the cover I designed for Tricky [Vulnerable, 2003], a cover I designed for a band called Victory and Associates... Things I wish I could destroy, I think I already did.

And who do you dream to work with or to have been able to work with?
Living: Madonna, Barry Adamson, Nick Cave, PIL or whatever John Lydon is doing, David Lynch.
Too late now: Pink Floyd, Wipers, Soundgarden, Meat Puppets, The Who, The Sex Pistols...