Print, Flash, and Rock 'n' Roll

Musicians and screen printers are often one and the same.

I have a question for you, screen printers: Why is it every time you flip a squeegee over, you find a musician under it?

This may be my imagination, so possibly SGIA needs to include it in the next industry survey to identify the trend and get some solid numbers. I would bet if you put our people up against any other identifiable industrial sector workforce – I’m talking doctors, electricians, plumbers, or politicians – you will find more guitar, drum, bass, keyboard, horn players, and even singers, plus an equivalent number of music hounds.

It’s a little unfair to take the sample from the gig poster artists and printers that I hang with at Flatstock events. These guys and gals are huge music fans as well as an essential part of the marketing and merchandising for most touring bands today. But walk down the aisle at a Flatstock show and you can start ticking off the musicians. From Chicago, Dan MacAdam of Crosshair plays guitar in Arriver, but he also played in Magnolia Electric Company. He says, “My being a rocker led me to my life as a printer and visual artist, and the two remain inextricably linked.”

In the Northeast, Jeff LaChance is a drummer in a bunch of bands, or has a bunch of drums (both, I think). Daniel Niejadlik, better known as Daniel Danger and one of the hottest artists designing and making prints, plays guitar in hardcore band The Saddest Landscape, which takes up most of his time these days.

Up in Detroit and all over America on a recent tour with his band Child Bite is Shawn Knight. The UK contingent of musician-printers features the likes of Luke Drozd of the duo Reet Maff’l, and Tommy Davidson, a popular drummer in Pulled Apart by Horses. His company is named Prints of Thieves.

I could go on for pages, but one thing you can be sure of is that the bands with a graphic designer or screen printer are going to have great posters and T-shirts whenever they play a gig. A good poster for a music event is often the difference between playing to a full house or entertaining the bar staff and four drunks calling for “Freebird.” Ryan Moor of the online supply giant Ryonet in Washington freely shares the fact that it was the need to make good shirts for his band that got him into screen printing.

I got a consulting gig to help a large-format fabric and banner printer in Vancouver a few years ago, which involved a couple of days of interviews with staff. The production manager had some band posters in his office, but I didn’t think much of it. Later, I find out he’s Ron Reyes, singer with seminal punk/hardcore band Black Flag, who provided the soundtrack to California skater culture in the late ’70s and ’80s and influenced the whole grunge sound out of Seattle and hundreds of American punk bands.

There’s an infamous video of Wayne Coyne, front man for the Flaming Lips, screen printing a poster with his own blood. If you see it, you might laugh at his technique, but one has to admire his demonstration of screen printing’s versatility when it comes to different inks. Try that with a digital printer, and forgive me readers, but I can’t resist: I think the edge of his print is bleeding a bit.

As a certified hoser from Canada, I was both shocked and honored to be inducted into the Academy of Screen and Digital Printing Technology. At my first luncheon with the group, I was like some 10-year-old kid in a room full of adults, meeting legends, heads of name-brand companies, inventors, and writers who I had read religiously for years while learning how to print out in the hinterlands. The guy seated next to me was Professor Sam Ingram, department chair of the fabled Graphic Communication program at Clemson University. Imagine my surprise when instead of talking Rz, EOM, or durometer/nanometers, he started telling me about his young grandson grabbing his prized Martin acoustic down in the basement, dragging it upstairs to show Grandpa, and scaring the hell out of him.

Turns out a few of the other Academy guys are players as well. James Ortolani gigs regularly in a band. Judging by his Facebook feed, his kids are quite the musicians, too – and I’ll bet they know which end of the squeegee is up. Same with Dan Gilsdorf from Sefar – he’s got a basement studio, some sweet guitars, and a couple of kids that play.

When I was younger, I thought maybe it was the exotic solvents and the high from the inks that attracted musicians to the trade. Many came via necessity: Their band needed posters or shirts. Whatever the reason, music and screen printing are entwined. Plug in that squeegee and crank it to 11.

Read more "Shop Talk" or check out the rest of our June/July 2016 issue.

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