Z1 — Zapp
Artist, musician and all-year-round red-nose wearer Ronald Edwards (aka ‘Stozo the Clown’), tells BLJB the story behind his design for Zapp’s original logo. Interview by Norman Hathaway, our man in New York.
I was 17 years old when I first showed my artwork to George Clinton in 1972. It blew his mind and he said: “We gotta do something with you”. He promised me when something came up he would use me, and sure enough he called my parents and they told me: “you got a call from someone named George Clinton and he wants you to do some artwork”.
That was for Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns with Maceo Parker. I ended up doing a Funkadelic cover, one for Parlet, and another for Bootsy [Collins].
Zapp had become one of the artists on the new label George Clinton started called Uncle Jam Records. George selected me to do some spec drawings and acted as creative director. He wanted an interpretation of a mental ‘zap’. We didn’t want any conflict with Zap Comix or anyone else, so that’s why we spelt it with two P’s.
Another artist, Overton Loyd and myself were asked to come to Detroit for the recording of the track ‘More Bounce To The Ounce’. Overton and I did a bunch of drawing in the studio. I tried to avoid just doing an interpretation of something electrical. I wanted it to be a bit twisted so I flopped one of the P’s, and added a little sizzle in the negative space between the A and P. Roger [Troutman, the multi-instrumentalist and founder of Zapp] then reviewed all the drawings we did and chose my first drawing.
At Howard University, I had studied colours used in different cultures, Africa in particular. A lot of the elements I used are African influenced. I’ve had a lot of graffiti artists come up to me and say the Zapp cover influenced them. Hiphop was still pretty young then but we wanted to include a bit of its aesthetic as well. So it ended up as a kind of stew made from underground comix meets underground New York wild stylee. I mean that record sounded new, and we wanted people to realise it was different than your usual R&B stuff.
I took my little five-inch drawing to a stat house in Detroit and had them enlarge it to twelve inches and coloured it using markers. I then thought it’d be nice to include some of the thumbnail drawings Overton had done, at small sizes in the background.
Later on, for the next records, Simon Levy borrowed some elements from my sleeve, but I think they were concerned about copying my thing too closely, so they unflipped the P.
We had tried to funkify Roger a little more and make him a bit more hippie, but those guys were more conservative — three-piece-suit-wearing-guys. They weren’t so much into the cartoon world. I guess it’s like you had some people that really dug underground comix, and others that still preferred Batman and Superman.
I think that first record’s design had more funkiness than the later ones, because George allowed me to do that. Zapp came back to me recently and I did a new version of the logo that incorporates my original design with the later version.
Ronald ‘Stozo The Clown’ Edwards is part of the P-Funk collective. He has designed sleeve art for funk legends including George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic, members of Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown and many more. He is also a music producer and entertainer.