Jean-Luke Epstein (1952-2017)

We were saddened to hear the news of the sudden passing of Jean-Luke at the end of last week. ‘JL’ was a long-term fan and ally of the band and was best known in Stranglers’ circles for his eye-catching and inspired designs for their record sleeves during their Epic years.

We asked his friend and Graphyk colleague Grant Louden to provide a few words about him:

Goodbye Toulouse

Remembering Jean-Luke Epstein; Stranglers sleeve designer, fan and friend.

Passed away suddenly May 5th 2017.

I first met Jean-Luke in 1986, on the infamous Challenge bathtub race in the south of France. And though it was our shared passions for Stranglers and graphic design that first got us chatting, it was JL’s trademark wit, wisdom and warmth that made him a lifelong friend. Several months later I was working with him at Graphyk for the band we both loved, and did so for a further 12 amazingly enjoyable years.

Collage of some of JL's Stranglers work

Jean-Luke graduated from the Byam Shaw School of Art in 1972, and by the time I met him in 1986 he’d paid his dues in studios at major labels such as Arista and Chrysalis. His archive of work boasts a host of legends, from The Kinks, Santana and Eric Clapton, to Iggy Pop, Pattie Smith and The Tubes. He began working with the Stranglers on ‘Aural Sculpture’, and across the next decade ‘Dreamtime’, ‘Greatest Hits’, ‘All Live and All of the Night’, ’10’ and all the associated singles. There were the added pleasures of the Godfathers, Jimmy Page, Hendrix, Thin Lizzy, Squeeze and countless others, but what lit the fire in his eyes were calls from Epic with news of a new Stranglers release!

The award-winning sleeve for Dreamtime

As a designer JL’s heart was as big as his talent. Although invariably the concepts were down to his keen creative mind he would insist the sleeve engineer credits read ‘JL & GL’, happy to spread the joy that was our job. So many brilliant memories; from the ‘bordello’ take on Led Zeppelin’s ‘Physical Graffiti’ sleeve for ‘All Day and All of the Night’, to wading knee deep through Graham Knapp’s memorabilia for the ‘Greatest Hits’ shoot. Or watching the transformations of the band for their appearances as world leaders on the cover of ’10’. Every day at the office a joy, every paycheque a bonus. (Don’t tell the record company but he’d have done it all for free!).

Jean-Luke had an infectious passion for music, film, literature and art, and any time in his company would leave you having learned something new, laughed several times, and looked at the world in a slightly different way. ‘Goodbye Touoluse’ was one of his all time favourite tracks, and I can see him up there, tapping a foot to that bassline, eyes closed, contented smile, in heaven.

Rest in bliss JL.

Fond adieu but never say goodbye… RIP JL

A selection of JL's designs for single sleeves