|"I don't like hippy-trippy dirtbag jam bands like Phish, and you can quote me on that"
The Onion: How long have you been into this stuff?
Jeff Holland: When I was a young guy, it was always LPs that I'd pick up. I would spend the first couple listens totally absorbing every nuance of everything that was involved in the cover, and that would help me understand what was being communicated. When the first Led Zeppelin album came out-I already knew of The Yardbirds-I picked up the album simply because of that really cool graphic. I saw it and said, I bet this band is gonna be good, because it's got this cover that shows the Hindenburg crashing. When I was a kid, I had some Fillmore originals, like The Dead and The Jefferson Airplane, all stapled and tacked up in my room. Stanley Mouse was my favorite poster artist.
O: Who have been some of your influences!
JH: Well, besides Mouse, there's Frank Kozik, Ward Sutton, Psychic Sparkplug, Coop. I have a complete collection of the early Zap comics. Gilbert Shelton's Furry Freak Brothers was actually my favorite. I loved comics, especially Mad Magazine, as a kid; not even understanding the references, just the drawings. And stuff like Japanimation, Mexican wrestling posters, Native American symbols and petroglyphs from New Mexico. New Order's stuff on Factory Records, which were designed by Peter Saville-if you want to look for inspiration, cite him. He was lifting from art movements like Bauhaus, futurism, and constructivism.
O: Is rock-poster art considered within the world of fine art!
JH: It's right there.T-shirts on the other hand, are not really in the art zone. But paper is rigid; it doesn't stretch. And I like the idea of iconifying, if that's a word: taking an image and breaking down the components. That's what the posters have been about-trying to capture what each band is about, using an attractive graphic that communicates to the audience you're trying to communicate with, including all the legacy and iconography that's related to that band. The intent was to have coded graphics, to intentionally exclude others, and not to have mass appeal. And all the poster artists have tried to mark time with something. Frequently, the imagery or subjects have multiple levels of meaning, which, depending on your reference, subcultural awareness, or musical knowledge, you either get or you don't. One of the interesting things to ponder is how vastly different cultural periods and places have produced similar imagery over time. The human mind gravitates to favorite icons and symbols, regardless of their true meaning, and veneers content of their own time and place. Folks look back to the'60s rock posters to capture the feeling of love, peace, and experimentation. Now, it's a little harder to take that seriously. Hopefully, the stuff I'm making will reflect the'90s version of the Apocalypse-technological acceleration, fragmentation, and a damn good time at the end of the century.
O: Your own musical tastes are remarkably diverse.
JH: Who else worships the triumvirate of John Coltrane, Neil Young, and Aphex Twin! Me. Those three guys are up there at the top, and I don't really understand why, because they're not really related in any way. My buying habits are about three-quarters electronic and one-quarter alternative country.
O: You've done posters for bands that don't exactly seem up your alley.
JH: Well, I don't want to do a poster for someone I can't stand. I don't like hippy-trippy dirtbag jam bands like Phish, and you can quote me on that. But one poster that pays can subsidize four other ones. Still, I hate people trying to tell me what to do.
O: Can you get rich as a rock-poster artist!
JH: Not really.You're doing it because you love to do it. Even Kozik doesn't make a lot of money; he does it because he's into what he's doing. The intent is just to give something that's collectible and fun to the limited audience: that understands what's going on.
0: So, you'd do this for free, or for the fringe benefits!
JH: Oh, yes. I don't even know what I'm doing. I'm not even sure why I do this-I feel like I have to; it's a compulsion. Not like a sickness; it's just a need. Creativity is my god. Creativity to me is the highest level of human evolution. I gravitate toward makers instead of takers. And although I'm not a fan-boy, I like to meet the band if I can and give'em a poster. There's just a joy of giving something that I've done, because they've given me something. I know that sounds really '60s.
O: Some of your posters are already out of print-maybe they'll be worth big bucks someday.
JH: Yeah, sometimes I'll say, If you buy this now, it'll be worth something when you get old. Anything of limited release pertaining to some event will be interesting later on.
Jeff Holland's posters ore available online at www.cryptographics.com, and several are for sale at Twist & Shout and Albums On The Hill.
|the ONION AV Club 28 January - 3 February 1999