The Silent Players
By Evan Solochek
With roots in rock & rolls infancy, poster art has long been one of the most defining avenues through which underground music scenes have endured. While in most cases the artists who create it never pick up a guitar or sing a note, they serve just as integral a role as the musicians themselves. We hooked up with three of Milwaukee’s foremost poster artists to find out what moves them.
Vital Source: How did you get started making posters for bands?
Damian Strigens: Whatever band I was in I just decided to do it. I was the default guy. Mainly it’s just having fun. It’s rock ‘n roll. It’s music.
James Kloiber: Back in ‘98 I was going to shows at Globe East like every weekend and I was also going to art school and I wanted to do something to get my art out there. Poster art seemed like a very natural thing. It was something to help out the music scene and keep myself drawing.
VS: What was the first band you made a poster for?
DS: The Sacred Order – 1984
JK: Avail w/Straightforward and Codebreaker – May 23, 1998 at the Globe East
EM: Gus Hosseini’s Birthday Bash – 1993
VS: What inspires your poster art?
DS: Vaughan Oliver really inspired me. He used a lot of inverted images and metallic inks. There is this one story of when the Breeders asked him to do a poster for them and he came back with something totally different from what they asked for and they were like “this is totally different than what we asked for. It’s perfect.”
JK: When I got started, Frank Kozik and Coop and Derek Hess.
EM: I only do posters for bands I like. So if I like the band, then the band is going to inspire me to do the art. I can’t just pull stuff out of the ether.
VS: To what extent do the particulars of the band influence your poster?
JK: Sometimes they don’t at all. A lot of times I’ll get the assignment having never heard them, which may or may not be a good way to work. Sometimes I’ll look at their website and see what sort of stuff the band likes for their art work, what the covers of their CDs look like, or look at their song titles for ideas. It’s usually just one little thing that I take to get an idea from.
DS: It does and it doesn’t. Sometimes the most obvious thing, like a skull on a poster for a heavy metal show, leaves nothing to the imagination. I like something with a little more mystery to it, a little more abstraction. I like to push things away from the assumed and expected.
VS: Who would be your dream band to design a poster for?
DS: If I was transported back into 1969 and asked to do a poster for a show at the Fillmore West that would feature The Who, Small Faces and the Yardbirds.
JK: A lot of the music I have is faceless techno from all over Europe, but I’d like to something for Henry Rollins or Black Flag.
EM: The Clash, and it will never happen. Velvet Underground would have been good too. And Aretha Franklin. But really I love making posters for the bands that I do. VS