Prints On Wood Interview
Every year after ComicCon, I tell myself ‘this fall/winter will be the one where I shut everything down, get some rest and get back to my writing.’ This year was the first year in maybe 15 years where I didn’t even say that to myself. It’s one thing to make believe to other people, but it’s another thing to make believe to myself. But you know, hey, I could be digging ditches so I’m happy.”
Lucky for us, Jermaine Rogers is not digging ditches. Instead, for the last two decades, Rogers’ has been a driving force behind modern rock poster art, creating some of the most treasured rock posters associated with some of the most beloved bands in current history, from the Foo Fighters, Deftones and Die Antword to Queens of the Stone Age and Radiohead. Concerned with investigating and creating art as an exploration of the soul, Rogers makes work that is inspired by and which accompanies songs that move the heart and mind, making decisions and following creatives paths based on a higher understanding. POW chatted with the tuned-in artist about origin stories, his love for story-telling and what he really wants.
“When I came out of high school, my senior year English teacher pulled me aside on the last day of school and was like, ‘I know you’re probably going to follow your art thing because thats what you like, but please don’t neglect your writing. You’re a good writer and if you work hard, you might actually be a great writer.’ It’s weird because all these years, that same basic foundation that you need to actually write and love writing, I think you need the same thing in visual arts. It’s the idea of being able to visualize an idea before it exists and to lay it out.
I love to create universes and that kind of bleeds into the art work that I’ve done where I like to create these reoccurring character that are struggling with personal issues or bigger issues . It all comes from just growing up reading all kinds of literature. I loved comic books as a kid, and just got into reading all types of other literature. It basically instilled inside of me this desire to want to create a universe with varied characters whose lives intersected and who all sort of met at the crossroads under certain circumstances.
I like the idea of motley crews. Like that scene in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away where you have Sen the little girl, and a little mouse, and a little bird and then No-Face together on the train. That’s the stuff I love about writing; putting these groups of people together that don’t necessarily fit next to each other.
Right now I’m working on a more extensive, broken down story line that explains the struggle and disputes that are happening in this little patch of woods, far away, where these bunnies and the raccoons are constantly warring with each other.
Those familiar with Jermaine’s poster art will recognize the aforementioned characters. Used commonly to depict and reflect back social, political and cultural dilemmas that simultaneously plague the modern human race, he uses the animal agents as a vehicle for a broad conversation. Jermaine touches on the origins of the characters in a bit of depth on his site, stating:
‘Well, first you have to understand that there are these raccoons…and they have a feud of sorts with these rabbits, which has become increasingly more hostile as it has dragged on. It goes back a long time: one would have to literally do ancient research to figure out just exactly where it started. But it’s primarily over a modest patch of woods that they both feel belongs to them. There have been various bunnies and ‘coons throughout the ages who’ve made quite the elegant argument for their respective sides. There is much debate over who was there first: no one really knows. The other animals of the surrounding fields…well, they just stay away. It’s a shame, really…because this patch of woods is so beautiful and old. Many believe that the first animals of the area came forth from THIS forest. But this forest has seen so much death and conflict. Some animals of the area feel that the very trees there survive on the spilled blood in the soil. In recent years, a stranger from the west began to wander the perimeter of the forest. Offering knowledge and food and skill, he became involved with the bunnies. The stranger taught them how to control themselves, how to organize and think. He taught them how to construct weapons for their crusade and supplied the raw materials for these. He began to accompany them in their swaggering excursions into the deep areas of the forest. He stood with them, quiet and glaring, as they hurled taunts and threats at the raccoons. Threats became virulent attacks, and the stranger occasionally participated in the carnage. Homes were taken, families split, raccoons slaughtered. Several raccoon elders felt it was best to meet with the bunnies in an attempt to stem the violence. Few of these meetings were actually convened, and though some of these held out slim hopes for a peaceful coexistence in the forest, radical elements on each side sabotaged any progress. And to this day, the battle for a small patch of woods rages on. Bunny and raccoon blood soaks the soil, while the reckless voices on each side urge on more and more conflict. Through all of this, the silent stranger has stood near to his bunny brethren, supplying them with what they need in their struggle for the wood. Unable to compete with the rabbit population in this aspect, the raccoons have increasingly participated in guerrilla warfare tactics to strike their blows. Animals of the surrounding fields keep a far distance, afraid to become drawn into the violence of random and ruthless attacks. Though several of the raccoon elders have begged the population for peace and calm and a return to the ‘honorable rules of war’, the radical adherents have embraced the ways of terror. And here is where our image comes into play. One incident among hundreds, when a desperate group of animals who’ve lost fathers and mothers and children and lovers feel very justified in making certain sacrifices to inflict the same damage on their enemy. This is how wild animals think.’
In Jermaine’s latest release with POW titled “The Exchange“, the world of the dueling bunnies and raccoons is at the forefront.
“It’s very anthropomorphic. I think that people who are intellectually turned on and see what’s going on in the world can see some of the correlations that I might be alluding to in some of the activities that go on in this patch of woods. Both the bunnies and the raccoons kind of feel like they have the ancestral rights to it, and so this causes a lot of disagreements between them. The disputes they have are not always necessarily based in sort of common sense politics. A lot of it is ancestral and based on what they’ve been told and tradition. So it can get pretty violent.
Over the years, I’ve shown different confrontations that the bunnies and the raccoons have had. The other animals in the forest, they just sort of look on; every now and then they get involved. Sometimes they’re pawns used by ones side or the other. A lot of the times, they just sort of observe and stay away.
But the squirrels!” he exclaims, “You know, I’ve always been meaning to introduce the squirrels. The artwork for “The Exchange,” which I simultaneously used for a Foo Fighters tour print, that print is the first time the squirrels actually appear. The squirrels, they’re up in the trees, they’re above everything, they’ve very observant, they look down. They’re very opportunistic. They sort of move and operate based on what’s in it for them. They’re very self-oriented. So they will do things and make arrangements and even make partnerships with different entities in the forest if it benefits them and their individual community. So they’re kind of these mysterious things.
Some of the ancient bunny community there –in their ancient lore and their ancient writing — they believed that the squirrels were like phantoms of the trees; they believed they were like tree ghosts because they’d see these quick things moving around and never quite got a good look at them.
What’s happening in “The Exchange” is that the bunnies have caught one of them and they’re holding him hostage for their own personal reasons, which will come out eventually.”
Simultaneously, Rogers is edging away at another work in progress.
On the other hand, there’s a story that is night-and-day different which involves real human beings to some extent. It has some real personal humanity tied into it, but also has personal politics laced in. And when I say politics, I don’t necessarily mean governmental politics, more so, the politics of human beings interracting with one another and the structures that go along with that. I sounds really vague right now, but hopefully by this time next year, at least one of these will be written down and exposed to the public.”
Jermaine Rogers has been creating illustrations for music gigs professionally since 1995. Arguably, he’s made his prominent impression on the community, and quite frankly, doesn’t have anything left to prove. At this pinnacle point in his career — in what is seemingly Jermaine Rogers’ fashion — he simply sees windows of new opportunities and excitedly shared future aspirations regarding how to spend his time in the coming months.
That’s what I really want time for. I love drawing and I love the arts, but slowly — more and more — I want to carve out more time for writing because it really really makes me happy right now. Not that visual arts don’t, but this year, I got a lot of writing done. Those mornings when I can come down, have something to eat, sit down at a table with my computer and just write for hours; I’m so happy. Like I haven’t felt that level of happiness in a long time. I’m really looking forward to more of it if I can carve out more time for it.”
All of Jermaine Roger’s prints have this habit of selling out immediately; his first print collaboration with POW titled “Rock And Roll Saved My Life” — which was used by Queens of the Stone Age for for a Houston, TX headlining tour concert poster — was no exception.
“It’s sort of an autobiographical work. The flying eyeball, visually to a lot of people — especially those in the rock and roll poster art community — kind of represents rock and roll as a whole. The flying eyeball has been a modern, underground and iconic image for many years. Von Dutch really popularized it in the middle part of the last century. Within all of these years through culture, you go back and see this representation of an all-knowing eye or a mystical eye with a sight that went beyond physicality and went into the spiritual world or whatever you want to call it– the metphysical.
Basically, the way I depicted it is the way it was popularized by an artist named Rick Griffin. He worked in the 1960s when rock and roll poster art was really, really evolving into this sort of free form aesthetic. There was a big jump from the boxing posters of the ’50s and early ’60s to what you got with Rick Griffin and Wes Wilson and Stanley Mouse in the late ’60s out of San Francisco.
For me, visually, that eye ball sort of sums up rock and roll– the entire religion of rock and roll. And the woman in front, she’s naked and bare to it and in a way, almost bowing her head to it. Depending on how you look at it, in a way she is wounded also, and rock and roll is there for her with the tongue of fire in his hands to sort of enlighten her and raise her up. For me, that’s what rock and roll did.
There’s a lyric in a Smiths song called “Rubber Ring” where Morrissey says ‘don’t forget the songs that saved your life.’ He says ‘even now when you’re older, remember that those songs were the only ones that ever stood by you.’
For people like me, rock and roll and all of its beautiful, trashy, ugliness is haunting like Joni Mitchell, in your face like the Subhumans; rock and roll is Hendrix, it’s Public Enemy, it’s all of that.
One of my greatest personal joys recently was taking time to expand what was supposed to have been a brief 15 minute conversation discussing “The Exchange,” and turning it into upwards of an hour spent bathing in Jermaine Roger’s frame of mind.
Creative, enlightened, humble and honest, he attacks life with a demeanor that welcomes inclusion and begs others to just c h i l l l l out a bit. We talked religion, growing up black and alternative, and basically everything in between, around, above and below the topics. We ended the conversation analyzing perception.
“Day to day. That’s all you have to do. Just take it day to day. It’s not about belonging to groups and pressing ‘my thoughts,’ ‘my political party’ or ‘my god.’ I stepped away from that way of thinking a long time ago. I have trouble even calling myself an atheist because that purports the idea that I know there isn’t a god to believe in.
This whole scene whether it’s graffiti art, rock and roll poster art, designer vinyl toys, whatever, I think they are all spokes on the same wheel. If we as a human race ever get it together, if we ever actually get it together — it’s going to be because of art. Period.
There’s scientific proof that certain tones and certain auras effect us on a biochemical level. I know that as I’m saying this, there are some people that could hear it and just think it’s hippie bullshit and that’s okay too. And it really is. Some people can’t grasp these things and can’t really just chill out because of circumstances we’ve created. For the dude in Syria trying to get his family out and just cross border lines, that dude can’t just relax. Or the single mother who is over here busting her ass to take care of these kids and she knows she’s not spending enough time with them and she knows she’s raising them in a neighborhood where you see all types of shit on the street and she’s terrified and looking for any dude because she needs help financially and in the home, she can’t just relax. And what is the answer? There is no answer. It’s okay. It’s just okay.
It’s okay that we’re going to live here for a little while on this frequency. People always want to find themselves. If you look in the mirror, that is not you; that’s a flesh machine that you drive. You inhabit that thing. You are really like a bunch of electrical impulses and signals that are jumping around the frontal cortex of your brain. So you are driving this ‘thing.’ And when this ‘thing’ breaks down at some point from 80 to 100 years if you’re lucky– you know it breaks down from time to time, but has this amazing ability through nature and evolution to heal itself and unfortunately we’ve totally forgotten that a huge ability we have to fix ourselves, is us. If we just sync up with it, we can do a lot of self-healing. But, at some point our machine breaks down beyond repair. We know that it stops existing on some level as far as interacting with the thing we’ve been driving, but what happens after that is okay to say ‘we don’t know.’ It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or stupid. It’s just about acceptance on a broad level.
If you go from the surface of your skin outward, you are infinitesimally tiny. You got trees, mountains, continents then you have planets. And this planet is just a tiny little thing in comparison to Jupiter which is nothing next to the Sun. But the Sun is just a yellow dwarf; it’s one of the small and mediocre stars. So we, as these infinitesimally tiny things literally on this mediocre planet, on the outskirts of this mediocre galaxy,relatively speaking, think we know the reason for everything? It’s just silly.
At some point you just have to say look, am I nothing, and that’s okay. But at the same time, if you go from the inside surface of your skin inward, you have a body that is made up of a tremendous amount of atoms. The number of atoms in your body is a 1 with 21 zeros after it. There’s an infinite amount of space in every atom of your body. When you start looking at it, you can say ‘my body is a multi-verse’ and that’s the beautiful duality of it all.”