INTRAVANEOUS SCENE Magazine Interview
“For the very few of you who care about what is actually going on in Jermaine’s head before he does those posters, check out this interview with him in the current Spring issue of INTRAVANEOUS SCENE, a great art/music/skate mag you all should be reading. We’d like to thank Nick Myers for putting up with all the delays and stuff. We hope the wait was worth it. We’ve been given kind permission to reproduce the interview for you here in it’s entirety, sans 2 photographs of Jermaine: one, standing with some of his posters surrounding him and the other of some sketch-work. Believe us, you don’t want to see those pix anyway: the HORROR! If you do want to see them, get up and go drop 4.95 for the mag…SLACKER!” – from JermaineRogers.com circa 2001.
THE NEW STANDARD IN CONCERT POSTER ART
Meet the Concert Poster Artist who knows what you want to see…and draws the opposite.
Nick Myers Goes One-On-One With Artist Jermaine Rogers
I saw my first Jermaine Rogers concert poster about 2 years ago in a San Francisco poster shop. It was for a FLAMING LIPS show and sported a comic-booky image of John Lennon and Paul Mcartney engaged in ferocious battle. Surreal and hilarious at the same time, it was a poster that I couldn’t walk away from. Rogers’ illustrated how far the ‘grudge match’ had gone…in HIS world, at least. Since then, I’ve collected many of Jermaine’s posters, some of which are framed on the walls of my home, alongside posters by Frank Kozik, Robert Williams, and Coop.
So, you can imagine my absolute glee when I got a chance to corner Rogers for a one-on-one rap session. Rogers is very much a ‘hot thing’ in the world of concert poster art these days. Thanks to a visually arresting line-art style, bright and bold colors, and imagery often brimming over with wit, Rogers’ posters are some of the most sought after in the field. It doesn’t hurt that he insists on very low print runs: the average signed and numbered production amount is about 200 copies. And, his website (www.JermaineRogers.com) is a hit among poster browsers and buyers alike.
Jermaine is among a handful of poster artists that have recently stolen the limelight from 1990’s low-brow main-stays like Frank Kozik, Coop, and Derek Hess. Along with artists like EMEK, Marco Almera, and Alan Forbes, Jermaine has started to test the boundaries of what a concert poster ‘should’ look like. Where this poster evolution will go in the next decade is uncertain, but Jermaine says, ‘It’s exciting! People are starting to realize that you don’t need to do the same stuff over and over again to make people take notice. Really, thats the attitude that guys like Kozik and Hess had when they started. Doing their own thing. And that feeling is out there right now. You can see it in some of the artwork by these 18 and 19 year old kids who are doing little bxw flyers. There’s some really good stuff that’s so unlike ANYTHING else that’s out there.’
It wasn’t so long ago that Rogers was one of those bxw flyer artists. ‘Poster were really a side thing for me and they weren’t even ‘posters’. They were flyers. Just stuff that I did when I had the time. My day-job was working in a planetarium at a museum in Houston, believe it or not. It was enjoyable work but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. So, I had real low morale at work, and I think that many of the people at the planetarium mistook my apathy for un-intelligence. THAT wasn’t cool. THAT is when I knew I needed to do something else.’
(IS) So you just left your job at the museum and started making posters?
JR- Yeah, to make a long story short. I just had this epiphany one evening after work. I can draw. Ive always been able to draw. It’s almost like I had this gift that I was wasting. I would go online or look through poster catalogs and see stuff by other poster-artists and think, ‘Man, I can DO that!’
(IS) And you had no professional art-schooling, right?
JR- Right. I really never thought art-school was all that cool. I mean, I know there are some benefits, but I learned more from looking at and copying the techniques of artists that I liked.
(IS) Who are some of your favorite artists?
JR- Well, many different guys in different fields. I mean, as far as hardcore classic artwork goes, Gustav Dore was amazing. His drawings for Dante’s INFERNO were so complex. He conveyed a real sense of dread in some of those illustrations. Then, the very next illustration he’d do would be full of religious fervor. As far as the classic poster artists, of courseI like the Mucha stuff. That guy was unbelievable. I recently saw an original copy of his poster for Medee (the late 19th century Sarah Bernhardt play) and the eyes of the woman on the poster were so chilling. He had an amazing grasp of femininity in form. His line-work is beautiful.
(IS) Mucha’s style very much influenced the concert poster artists of the 1960s…
JR- Exactly. You can see why. His stuff is very psychadelic in a way. Other than that, comic book art was the stuff that I really learned from. All of those EC guys like Ingels, Craig, Davis, Wood, etc. Those men were MASTERS of their craft. Their artwork told stories. It was very powerful. I think that art has to have that power to evoke strong positive or negative emotion, not just be pretty to look at. That’s why I’m not into certain poster art that is out there. It’s mindless. It’s very pretty to see and the technique and line-art is wonderful. But it’s ‘dead’ art. It says and ‘feels’ nothing.
(IS) Give me an example.
JR- Yeah, you wish! No way! I keep those things safe in my head. I dont want to be on someone’s ‘death-wish’ list. You know what I mean, though. Just mindless art. I guess it has a place. I just don’t do it. I mean, some guys do poster after poster of really grisly looking monsters. I mean, they draw great monsters, but that’s all they do. It’s like they can’t generate any other ideas, so they go with what works. That’s cool with some people. I just like to push myself more. It’s a challenge to get a really good idea.
(IS) Exactly where do the ideas for the posters you do come from?
JR- Everywhere. Things I see and hear. The music of the band. Stuff I read. I watch the news a lot. The best ideas come from the news. I’ve still got lots of ideas and pictures that have been in my head for years, since I was a kid. The 70s was such a great time to be young. There were so many weird things on children’s TV, PBS and all that stuff. A lot of it has stuck with me. The ironies. What they were telling kids about the world and how open-minded and gentle the world was going to be for us. HIPPIES turned ‘educators’. Ain’t that something?
(IS) Yes, unrealized promises from the ‘Baby Boomer’ elite.
JR- You got it. That post-60’s stuff was great, though. I mean, the 70’s were just straight-up cool.
(IS) Its very telling that poster artists of the late 80’s and early 90’s seemed very fascinated with imagery from the 60’s. For instance, the Manson/Kennedy stuff that KOZIK did, the Jayne Mansfield stuff, etc. You, though, seem to be more into the 1970’s.
JR- Well, those guys are like 5 to 10 years older than I am. They are just identifying with the stuff that shaped their childhood memories. That’s all Im doing when I refer to 1970’s culture, even early 80’s culture. It’s the stuff that built my perceptions of the world early on. Even stuff from my early teens, like certain cartoons. I just finished a poster with Lion-O from the THUNDERCATS and Gandhi on it. It was just an imaginary story I made up where both of them were great leaders during the non-violence civil rights movement in 1940’s India. Lion-O was such a gallant, heroic guy on TV, and it just made sense that, if he were real, he’d be fighting civil injustice. Its a real goofy idea, but it sorta’ makes real sense.
(IS) From the sublime to the ridiculous: explain the teddy bears!
JR- (LOL) The teddy bears. Well, I didn’t really plan on the big teddy bears being a regular thing. They just sort of show up when they feel like it. No, it’s all about childhood memories, again. I was always into the SID & MARTY KROFFT shows when I was a kid. They came on Saturday mornings, but I really saw most of them when they went into syndication during weekday afternoons. It was just weird to see all of these grown people dancing around in these big suits. Like the PUFF-N-STUFF guy: THAT was weird. And those old McDonald’s commercials. A friend of mine lent me a videotape recently with all of those old McDonalds commercials from the 70’s. That stuff was awesome, but really creepy. These weird worlds where everything was a life-size puppet. Trees, plants, everything. And these people in these big suits dancing around, singing songs. Man, the Krofft brothers HAD to be ‘on’ SOMETHING while they wrote that stuff.
(IS) I remember watching Bannana Splits with my sister and wishing I could go into that world.
JR- Same here. Yeah, so the teddy bears come from that. They’re big and funny looking, and just a bit creepy.
(IS) What’s the best poster you think you’ve done?
JR- I really can’t answer that. I mean, Ive done some stuff I liked andsome stuff I hate…but I can’t pick a favorite. I mean, there are some that Im really proud of.
(IS) OK. Which ones?
JR- I did a xerox flyer for SLEATER KINNEY a few years ago. It was an image of an old man’s face. Just a close-up shot. It was very arresting and I actually drew and re-drew that face over and over until I got just the right look. Um, as far as screenprints go, I like the AT THE DRIVE IN poster. I really like what it’s saying, actually. The thing about the kid realizing that he had been lied to about all these holidays and Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. And, in his childhood innocence, he realizes that there is NEVER any excuse for someone who claims to love you to lie to you. Only when people grow up are they taught that there are times when lying is ‘justified’. There’s a lot of other things I like. NEIL YOUNG was a good one. That CHEMICAL BROTHERS one with the weird drawing of The Beatles…that was a good one.
(IS) You mentioned that there are some that you hate. Examples?
JR- Aw, man. I can’t tell on myself that way. I mean, let’s see. This might surprise you, but the latest WEEZER poster I did:I hate that one. I chose the wrong colors. The line-work is too thick. It’s just not that good.
(IS) You mean the poster with the little kids and the Lightsaber?
(IS) Man, that poster rocks! You’re definitely hard on yourself.
JR- Yeah, I know. Man, I’ve always been that way. I’ve thrown away so much artwork. It’s sad. Even when I was a kid, my Mom used to get old sketches out of the trash-can and save them. I throw too many sketches away. Thats a bad habit. I feel so dumb when I check out COOP’S website and he’s got all of his sketches posted, even the ones he messes up on. I feel so amateurish when I see that. He displays his stuff and I throw mine away! (LOL)
(IS) Send them to me!
JR- (LOL) Yeah, that’s what lots of people tell me. I don’t know. I think you’ve gotta be hard on yourself that way. You can’t slack up for any reason. Your artwork has to be GOOD. Some guys seem to rise to the challenge when they’re doing a poster for a big act like RADIOHEAD, but they sort of slack off when it’s someone smaller like THE VUE or THE BLACK HALOS. You’ve got to do every poster like you’re doing it for your favorite band.
(IS) That’s a good way to look at it. By the way, who are your favorite bands?
JR- Well, my tastes really go all over. I’m a big Bowie fan. That guy put out a string of albums from 1972 through 1980 that are just untouchable. Of course, Hendrix. The Kennedy’s, The Ruts, Minor Threat, The Germs, The Subhumans: they’re all good. Make fun of me if you want, but MORRISSEY is the man! That old Smiths stuff and his solo work is awesome. I love Morrissey music.
(IS) You’ve just ruined your image. Did he ever see your poster for his show in 1999?
JR- I heard that he did. I know that lots of other folks saw it and there was NO middle ground. They either HATED it or LOVED it. That’s what I like. Even if you hated it, at least you LOOKED.
(IS) It sells for good money nowadays.
JR- Yeah. I guess that’s something to be proud of.
(IS) As far as more recent bands, who are your favorites?
JR- Oh yeah. I wasn’t finished. Um, I really like At The Drive-In. They just are so talented. The albums that they’ve done in the past were good, especially VAYA. RELATIONSHIP OF COMMAND, though, was awesome. They progressedso much between VAYA and COMMAND that it’s scary. I also really like Quasi, Modest Mouse, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mogwai, and a lot of the good Indie bands out there. Oh, and ANYTHING by Richard James (APHEX TWIN) is required buying.
(IS) Would you ever do a poster for a band you didn’t like?
JR- I have done posters for bands I didn’t particularly like. It depends. I mean, I can listen to something and get some sort of a vibe. If that vibe can be illustrated in ANY reasonable way, then I’ll do it. I do think you have to know what the vibe of a certain band is if you’re going to do a really good poster for them. Some guys just don’t seem to get that when they do a poster for a band. I once saw a poster for BUILT TO SPILL with a half-naked girl smoking a joint on it and hot-rod flames and 8-balls around her. Now, if you have ever heard anything by BUILT TO SPILL, then you know that is not even close to what they’re all about. This person was obviously more into putting out the ‘standard’ concert poster rather than doing what he was hired to do: promote this band’s show.
(IS) What do you mean by the ‘standard’ concert poster?
JR- Oh, that’s the poster that all young guys think that they have to repeatedly crank out to get ‘noticed’. Naked girls with huge breasts, some sort of drug activity going on, hot-rods, flames, skulls, pentegrams, monsters…you know. And Im not going to front: that stuff will get you a following. As long as GUYS exist, naked girls and fast cars will be eaten up ‘en masse’. I just wanna see some different things EVERY once in a while. I mean…it gets old. I even think that there are ‘standard’ bands that many poster-artists believe that they MUST do a poster, or several posters, for. For instance, how many NASHVILLE PUSSY posters do we need? Especially when you can count the number of At The Drive-In or PROPAGANDHI posters on one hand! That’s just my opinion, though. I’m just saying that we need to spread out as artists, you know? THAT’S the real challenge: adapting your style to a band whose music may not match it completely. Sometimes, THOSE are the posters that really are remembered. Actually, the MORRISSEY poster was like that.
(IS) Has there been a poster where you feel you didn’t quite peg the vibe of the band?
JR- Oh yeah. Of course. But, there again, you’ve taken me into areas which are MINE alone. I’m friends with some of those bands! I’ll give you one: The RADIOHEAD poster from early 1998. I wish so badly that I had that one back. I was rushed and stressed out…yeah, these are excuses. I just didn’t do my best on that one, and it’s a shame. I’m glad it’s hard to find.
(IS) More professional regrets, huh?
JR- (LOL) Man, you just don’t know.
(IS) Well, is there any advice that youd give to a younger artist? Maybe something that you did that you’d hate to see someone else do? Something that slowed down your pace?
JR- Yeah. Several things. First of all, don’t sell your artwork or the rights to your artwork to anyone, without knowing exactly what it will be used for. I sold off a bunch of artwork a few years ago. I was so glad to be getting paid REAL money for my artwork. When someone hands you decent money for some stuff you’ve drawn, you sometimes lose all common sense. It’s like, ‘Ive been doing this all of my life for FREE! You’re paying me for drawings!?’ Well, the promoter that bought those sketches has used them for EVERY ridiculous event under the sun, including many bands that I hate and don’t respect at all. He’s thrown text on the posters that completely change the meaning of the artwork. I’ve had friends that approach me and say that they saw some of my artwork on a poster for such-and-such and that it shocked them because they didn’t know I would draw something like that or express this feeling or that feeling. And I have to explain to them that it’s my artwork, but not really MY artwork. It’s a real jacked-up situation. Bottom line is – never sell the rights to your artwork unless you know where it’s going. I know some artists don’t care or will say that it ain’t impotant. I think it is.
(IS) You should pursue that matter.
JR- Man, I’ve tried. And you know, sometimes you just realize you did something dumb and never do it again.
(IS) It’s interesting: you mentioned on your website that 1996 was a bad time for you. You only did one poster that year.
JR- Yeah. I was still working at the museum and I did that one poster in my spare time. It was for the 96X-Fest. Yeah, those were real screwed-up times.
(IS) Care to elaborate?
JR- Well…I’ll just say that you really have to make sure that you surround yourself with people that are healthy for you. They don’t have to be ‘bad’ people. Sometimes, certain people just aren’t good to mess around with, depending on where you wanna go in life. I had to change my whole scene and get my head straight. Physically, spiritually and mentally I had to do an ‘about-face’. Many times, that involves realizing that your surroundings are killing you.
(IS) Right on. Well now that little mystery on your website has been explained. Speaking of which, your website is pretty amazing.
JR- It is, ain’t it? Yeah, it’s all about Jeff Wood. I basically designed the entire site and then Jeff made it all happen. That guy can do anything with a computer.
(IS) He’s a poster artist, too…right?
JR- Yeah. He heads up the art-collective called DROWNING CREEK. He and a couple of really cool artists crank out some great stuff.
(IS) Yeah. I bought their 311 print from an EBAY auction last year.
JR- The one with the alien on it? That’s a good one. He worked with the band pretty closely. He’s a great web guy, though. The website is all due to him.
(IS) Speaking of EBAY, what are your thoughts on it? Is it a good thing for the poster field?
JR- If used responsibly, I think EBAY is a great thing. It certainly gives exposure to your artwork. Some guys have literally made their careers on EBAY. I think it gets to be a bad thing, though, when certain poster dealers become very irresponsible in the way they post different items.
(IS) Like the guys who start auctions off at 5.00 for a poster that you’re asking 25.00 for?
JR- I know that bothers some artists, but not me. I’ve got faith in the posters that I do. They ain’t gonna go for 5.00 if they’re in demand. No, Im talking about people who will post, repeatedy, the same poster over and over and over and milk it until it’s dry. Dry for EVERYONE. It’s like, I do a poster. It get’s ‘hot’. So someone buys 10 copies from me at a wholesale price. And then for the next 2 months they list one every week. It shatters any illusion that the poster is rare. Over-exposure is never a good thing, I think. You know, I just don’t dig it. I’m not saying that the guys that do it are bad, but it’s just my opinion. They drag the value of a poster down for themselves, and EVERY other dealer who bought the poster.
(IS) Yes, the beloved ‘Poster Dealer’.
JR- No, it’s not that way. I mean, all the guys I deal with, I like. If I didn’t like them, they’d never hear from me. Seriously. Dealers can be really helpful. They’ve turned me on to bands, gigs, and customers that I never could’ve reached. But, I have to say that the EBAY thing…when people do that repeated posting for so long…I hate that kind of mentality. It’s greedy and irresponsible. I won’t sell to them.
(IS) That’s just protecting the value of your product. I like that in you: you seem to care about the value of the poster even AFTER you’ve sold it and already made your money.
JR- I do. I like for the people that get my posters to really feel that it’s worth something. If there was a way I could deal directly with every kid out there who buys my stuff, I would. That’s what the website is for. But, there again, the dealers can be valuable. They turn people on to your stuff…people you never could’ve reached.
(IS) What are you working on right now?
JR- Im getting ready to do some stuff with Interplay Games and XATRIX, again. It’s artwork for a BIG videogame coming out later this year and that’s all I can say. I did a poster for a game called KINGPIN that they did in 1999. Im also working on little tabloid posters for OUR LADY PEACE and 34 DRUM, this little ’emo’band that really rocks. In about a month, Ill begin a big Built To Spill poster and maybe some T-shirt designs for them. We’ll see. I wanna do some comic book stuff, too. You know anybody at Marvel or DC?
(IS) Sorry, I don’t. You’d be perfect for that, though.
JR- Yeah, I’d hope so. I did some real independent stuff years ago. I wanna get on a book like FANTASTIC 4 and completely revamp it. Then, move onto other dead titles and revamp them. I’ll be like Todd McFarlane…making toys and everything!
(IS) THAT guy is wild!
JR- Man, he is EXACTLY where he always wanted to be, I bet. I hope he reads this article. Hey, Todd! Lemme’ draw an issue of SPAWN!
(IS) He could put you in charge of coming up with designs for his line of action figures.
JR- Wouldn’t that be cool? I mean, that guy just sits around and thinks about what figure he wants to do next, you know? It must be a great job. When that guy left Marvel Comics and started doing SPAWN, you just knew he was going to make noise.
(IS) You should seriously pursue getting into comic book illustration. The poster and comics fields would crossover well…
JR- Yes. They are very similar. Think of how an issue of X-MEN would look drawn by COOP…or how an issue of BATMAN would look by Derek Hess. It would be wild. Who’s the hot artist in comics right now?
(IS) I don’t know. I haven’t read comics in a while.
JR- Same here. I haven’t read any new comics in years.
(IS) You spoke of Hess and COOP. What do you think about the current offerings from the heavy-hitters of the 90s?
JR- Well, they’re all really talented guys. I don’t think COOP and KOZIK are doing much right now, are they? I haven’t seen any new Hess stuff. Im out of touch, though. I don’t see much of those guys’ stuff anymore. I mean, I see COOP devil girl stickers all over the place. Yeah, as a matter of fact, the only place I see KOZIK, HESS or COOP stuff is on those stickers. Man, somebody’s making a bunch of cash on that deal.
(IS) Are there any of the newer poster artists you like?
JR- Yes, a few. I like this guy Brian Ewing. Somebody sent an email to me a while back and asked me what I thought about this guy. I’d never heard of him, so they gave me his website URL. Man, that guy can draw. He’s like COOP a little, but I like his stuff better because it’s very clever. We need more poster artists who put real content into their posters. I also like the stuff that DROWNING CREEK is doing. There are so many styles coming out of there, and Jeff is coordinating the whole thing. There’s also this small group of guys in Houston who run a thing called HANDS UP HOUSTON. They literally organize and bring great small shows to town. They do their own flyers. These guys really are doing some cool stuff from time to time. I think they have a website. But, they are really playing with a lot of scanned stuff, photos and that type of stuff. They remind me of THE PRINT MAFIA. I like their stuff, too. I really trip out on that GIANT stuff. It’s kinda creepy. I also like the VOODOO CATBOX stuff. And the SHAG stuff is really cool. It’s grown on me. I really like the stuff that guy is doing. Some of that DEADBOY stuff is pretty weird, too.
(IS) Well, I hope you realize that there are a lot of us out there who really appreciate the work you’re doing.
JR- Thanks. Its weird to think that scenery that has been confined to my head for years is hanging up framed on people’s walls.
(IS) One last hypothetical question: it’s one year from now. Where do you want to be?
JR- Alive and on planet earth. And I hope in a new car. My truck is falling apart…
Reprinted Courtesy of INTRAVANEOUS SCENE
(COPYRIGHT April 2001)