Artist Pete Fowler on transforming Happy Mondays into 2D

As Happy Mondays gear up to release a remastered collection of early EPs, Pete Fowler talks us through creating the psychedelic animation for the first single, The Egg

After a relatively quiet few years, Happy Mondays are returning with a newly remastered set of the band’s first four EPs, which originally came out between 1985-87. Dubbed The Early EPs, the collection will be available through London Records as a vinyl box set and, for the first time, on digital platforms.

To kick off the release, Happy Mondays have put out The Egg, the first single from the collection, which has been revived with an animated video by artist and DJ Pete Fowler. Known for his work with the Super Furry Animals, Fowler was tasked with transforming Happy Mondays into 2D – a world away from the band’s previous videos. While Fowler was behind the direction and illustration, the visuals were brought to life by animators at Grupa Smacznego, who he had previously worked with on a project for Joe Goddard of Hot Chip.

“It was quite intense from the start as we only had four and a bit weeks to make it,” Fowler tells us about creating The Egg. “As soon as the treatment was approved I made a rough draft storyboard, then a final version which I then made an animatic out of for the animators at Grupa Smacznego in Poland.” The video was commissioned by John Hassay at production company Selecta, who says that he thought of Fowler as soon as he heard the track.

When it came to creating the visuals, Fowler pulled from an assortment of cues relating to the band. “I had an initial reference of Scooby Doo for some reason. I think Shaggy reminded me of Shaun Ryder, as the band portraits were the first visual I created after writing the treatment for the video,” he explains. “I drew from the many stories of the band’s exploits, as well as some of the history of the music and club scene at the time with Factory Records and the Haçienda and other Manchester night spots.”

Fowler delves into past videos created for hits like Step On and Wrote for Luck, and plants a few Easter eggs throughout, which he hopes fans will pick up on. Among them is the expensive Factory Records boardroom table that Happy Mondays infamously broke, and scenes of Bez – the band’s chief dancer and maraca-shaker – behind the wheel of a Jeep, a nod to his crash in Barbados in 1992 (after which he reportedly went water-skiing).

“My love of psychedelia and music fed into these stories, and depicting the band and associated characters as cartoon characters made pretty much anything possible, so it seemed fit to turn up the weirdness,” Fowler adds. “Also Shaun [Ryder]’s interest in UFOs meant I had to throw that in as well.”

Fowler used a vehicle to lead viewers on a journey through time that covers a back catalogue of Happy Mondays history. The video also evokes a drug-induced trip, thanks to the kaleidoscopic colour palette and, more explicitly, pills floating through the air and hanging from the rear-view mirror in the place of the usual tree air freshener. Of course, these references are probably to be expected from one of the defining bands of the Madchester movement, and whose releases include Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches, and Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out).

“It was such an honour to make this video for the band as I have been a fan of their music since the 80s, and they were gracious enough to let me run wild through their past and turn them into a cartoon!” Fowler says. “They have loyal fans so it was as much for them as it was for the band.”

The Early EPs is out on London Records on October 25

GRAPHIC DESIGNER

London, EC3R

SENIOR DESIGNER

Guildford, Surrey