“I’ll never post something that I don’t laugh at first,” says Glenn Robinson, founder of Obscurest Vinyl. Like many vinyl enthusiasts you’ll come across on Instagram, he flaunts a collection of old, forgotten records that are so rare, you’ve probably never heard them. Actually, we know you haven’t. Because he made them up.
CHECKPOINT: Before you scroll further, please note that this article features potty language, bathroom humor, and crude—albeit hilarious—references to human anatomy and sexual situations. Reader discretion advised.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about Glenn. He’s a musician, a graphic designer, and the Shakespeare of dick and fart jokes. With Obscurest Vinyl, he can be all three at the same time. Doctoring old photos and advertisements from who knows when, he reimagines the past with vintage-looking album art for the most ill-conceived musical acts that never existed. His absurd creations have attracted more than a hundred thousand social-media followers and are featured throughout his Threadless Artist Shop.
We recently caught up with Glenn to discuss how his Obscurest Vinyl designs come together, the funniest reactions to his art, and ’80s pop sensation Rank Dong, known for the earworm hit “Old Dong, New Tricks.” (It’s a bop. Trust us.)
How did you come up with the concept for Obscurest Vinyl? What inspired you to create album art for the greatest records we’ve never heard?
Glenn Robinson: As a musician and a designer, I have a huge appreciation for album art. I have so much fun designing them, I wish I could do it full time! I also have a pretty juvenile sense of humor, so this all happened rather organically.
When I started this in 2017, I believe my only idea was to amuse myself and a few of my friends. I wanted to start an account that parodied a typical vinyl enthusiast showing off their rare collection of records, and I chose the word “obscurest” because it’s an awkward word that almost sounds…wrong…for lack of a better word. I thought it’d be funny for someone to be scrolling through Instagram and stumble upon a record called “Shit Your Dicks Off with Ezequiel Holzer.” You know, pretty harmless and stupid.
After a handful of posts were made, a surprising number of people reached out and asked where I got these albums and if they could purchase them. Some people were saying stuff like, “I searched eBay, Discogs, and Spotify! I cannot find this anywhere!” My usual response to that is, “Well, how obscure could it be if anyone could just find it?” Although at first glance most people can tell that it’s all a joke, it was those instances of somebody believing that these records could be real that motivated me to keep going.
Can you talk about your creative process when designing a new piece for Obscurest Vinyl? How do your projects begin?
GR: The process usually starts with an interesting photo. I have dozens saved in a folder that are waiting to be desecrated. I’m constantly scrolling and saving old advertisements, fonts, textures, any kind of inspiration, new or old. It’s a lot of fun. I have tons of resources that keep the ideas flowing. An average album usually doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to make. I also post them seconds after I finish the design. Part of me wishes I could be less impulsive and maybe wait for a more clever title or tighten up the design, but that kind of thinking holds me back.
For the title and all that fun stuff, I look at the photo and imagine the last sentence this person might say. Usually I resort to dick and shit jokes because it is the least sophisticated way of speaking and honestly the funniest when it’s self-aware. I get a kick out of the idea that there was this artist that spent so much time and energy to make a sincere album called, “Just Fuckin’ Whisper Into My Butthole.” It’s so dumb.
Several designs in your shop reference breaking wind, including “Super Long High-Pitched Farts” and “The Fart That Came to Life…And Then Farted.” What makes farts so damn funny?
GR: Haha! I’m sure there are more than several. I find the word funnier than the act! It makes me laugh because it’s borderline insulting to use it in any kind of “art.” (Trust me, I can see how close that “f” is to “art”.) It sets a tone that will make some people roll their eyes or laugh. It’s not groundbreaking (there’s gotta be a joke in there) by any means, but it’s timeless.
What’s the most challenging part of creating art that’s both comedic and thought-provoking?
GR: The comedic challenge is coming up with different ways of saying the same thing. How far can this humor really go? Sometimes I’ll think of an idea and it’ll be too close to someone else’s joke. Another challenge is unknowingly using a photo of someone who I assume isn’t famous but is actually well-known to most people. I hate when that happens!
I don’t know if thought-provoking really applies here. Haha. I feel like if I design the record with enough authenticity and the concept works well with the image, then I’m happy. I’ll never post something that I don’t laugh at first.
We’re going to show you a few designs from your shop. For each of them, we have the same question—WHY? First up, “What Tangled Pubes We Weave.”
GR: When I saw that photo, I just thought, “Pubes…tons of pubes…definitely connected to each other somehow…” What a strange group of dudes. This photo is a good example of not knowing if these guys are actually well-known. I did about two minutes of research and found nothing, so I think I’m good.
Next, “Shit My Thong.” WHY?
GR: My friend sent me this photo out of an old magazine. I thought it was really funny. The concerned look on his face naturally meant that he shit himself. More specifically in his fucking crazy thong. I’ve also never heard anyone say that they’ve shit their thong before—lightning in a bottle that one…
And finally, “Quit Jizzin’ in the Hot Tub.” WHY?
GR: This one might be my all-time favorite. I think that photo was from an old magazine called “Casos Reales!” I mean…what a great photo. I didn’t even have to do anything to that one. The lady holding the gun looks absolutely unhinged while the couple in the hot tub seem so relaxed. Obviously, there’s some infidelity going on there, but I thought it’d be funnier for her to pull a gun because of all the jizzin’.
What music do you currently have in regular rotation, and where does Rank Dong rank on your list?
GR: I’m always listening to the punk bands I grew up with in the ’90s like, Green Day, Mr. T Experience, Dead Milkmen, OPIVY, Ramones, The Muffs…all the classic Lookout Records/Epitaph bands. I listen to a lot of Elvis Costello, The Cardigans, Beach Boys. I could go on…
That being said, Rank Dong always ranks first. I think about Rank sometimes, not the character, but the actual guy who probably modeled one time in 1982. Like, imagine how confused he would be if he found out that people might know him as a singer by the name of Rank Dong. I would have so many questions. I have fun with him because there are only two photos of him that I can find, so anytime you see a Rank post, it’s the same photos over and over—I really get a kick out of stuff like that.
What’s the most memorable reaction you’ve ever received from someone seeing your art for the first time?
GR: Big Daddy Kane saying, “Wayment…What???” was pretty awesome. Another time I posted a Ringo Starr record called “Why Don’t They Ever Ask Me To Masturbate With Them?” I made it look autographed and on display at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Some guy kept calling me out saying, “Bullshit! That’s not his real signature!” Dude wrote paragraphs about why it couldn’t be real. I just thought it was funny that the autograph was the thing that tipped him off.
Can you name a record that you thought was great but had a terrible cover, and how would you improve it?
GR: I can name too many! My friends and I send each other bad album covers all the time. I’m not the decider on what’s good or not, but there are things I think you can do to make a decent cover. It can be as easy as matching the quality of a cover that inspires you. That’s all I do with Obscurest Vinyl! If you can’t, then hire someone who is willing to work within your budget to design it.
Don’t stretch your images out of proportion like that fucking Everclear album with the photos of them as kids. If you have a shitty low-res photo, make it look like it’s supposed to be shitty. Use equal amounts of purposeful shittiness throughout the design. Make it look like a photocopy, or add some noise to it. Lack of cohesiveness can really make or break your art. Lastly, just use appropriate fonts, colors, and textures. Just keep it simple and cohesive. That’s my two cents.
Have you ever had to scrap a design because it was just too weird, even for you?
GR: All the time. I mean, I can think of a lot of weird stuff, but it rarely translates the way I see it in my head. The weirder ideas usually get too wordy and oddly specific. I don’t expect people to look at my posts for more than a second, so I try to make them eye-catching and straight to the point.
If your art were a cocktail, what would be in it and how would it taste?
GR: If I served that cocktail, I’d be arrested immediately. The taste would ruin your life.
If bands and musicians are interested in commissioning you to design album art, where can they reach you?
GR: They can reach me on Fiverr, DM me, or email email@example.com. I really enjoy working on real albums haha. I’m always stoked when people can see beyond the stupidity and appreciate the design.
Do you have any current or upcoming projects you’d like to promote?
GR: I have a new album in the works that I’m trying to release this summer! I record music under the name Pavid Vermin. It’s a lot of fun. People can check out my past releases on all the streaming sites.
Thanks for having me! Threadless has been a huge part in keeping me motivated with Obscurest Vinyl. You guys are the best.
Follow Obscurest Vinyl on Instagram, visit the Threadless Artist Shop, and look out for new music from Glenn Robinson’s real-life pop-punk band, Pavid Vermin. Thanks, Glenn!