Monday, November 26, 2007


Rarely, but once in a while, I get to reinterpret the same theme over and over and over again. Such is the case with a few event posters that we have designed. Two events have challenged us to recreate a few times. Coffee & Chocolates- the Literacy Volunteers fundraiser has had us design a poster for the last 7 years. Another one has been the yearly Joe Strummer tribute concert. This fundraiser begun the year following the Clashman's death (2002) and has continued up until this year. It was started by Clash-fan and local rocker, Chris Malachowski (Wolf Tickets). The money goes to support Strummerville: the Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music and the event features a variety of Buffalo musicians and bands playing Clash songs.

Six years in a row I have been asked to reinvent the graphics to be used for our poster design. Each year the title is based on a clash song such as: Rebel Waltz, Death or Glory or Revolution Rock. This year it was Gangsterville. It is a fun challenge to try and make the same thing different everytime. All of the posters have been punk rock by nature and feature a photo of the man himself. The type is usually manipulated to add to the punk aesthetic and the color scheme is simple-- black and another color; often red.

This is a project I love to do! The inspiration comes from the Strummer image used and the name of the event that was chosen. I love the cut and paste graphic style and the 1st draft can be completed in a few hours as opposed some design projects that get agonized over. Since basically the same information gets carried from poster to poster, I can transfer the text without having to typeset it. Since the Strummer images are off the web and are low-res, they lend themselves to over-manipulation and 'photoshopping'; again adding to the grungy graphic style.

Some are better than others- it depends on how inspired I was that year. See for yourself: there is a jpg version of each poster here. Clicking on the images will move you though all 6 versions that I have done so far. Let me know which one you like the best?

This year's event is at the Mohawk Place on December 22- come on out!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Eric B For President

So I am planning on making a cool mix tape, actually a CD, for the holidays. I made 2 good ones in the beginning of the year- a rock and a disco one. I took them on vacation and passed them out to my Florida friends, and then did the same in Buffalo when I got back. They seemed to like them.

So far I have 2 songs titles scratched out on a yellow post-it notes. The birth of the last mix tape of 2007 is underway! The song list has begun.

There are 2 ways that the mix tape is given birth.

The first is the live mix- where you starts pulling stuff off the shelves and out of the bins and mix it live- DJ style.

The second is this one, the slow deliberate plan of a mix tape. In this modern age of computers and the webinernet, I will keep loading tracks on this here laptop, until I have enough that go good together in some sort of musical lump. Then I will take them and start arranging them, mixing up the order until there is born some sort of flow.

I will usually burn a few test versions, make a few edits to the song order and then BAM the mix is finished! Then I will spend some time coming up with some groovy artwork and a catchy title. The music and the graphics must go together. As you saw from an earlier camping post, I come from a long line of mix tape titlers: some are funny, poignant, some are inside jokes and pop culture references and all attempt to sum up the feeling of that batch of songs contained within.

So far as I have 2 songs- we'll see how it goes....

BONUS BEATS: It looks like the Sabs are a few minutes from actually winning a game!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Like a Rolling Stone

John Berg was art director at Columbia/CBS Records from 1961-1985 and he created some of the more recognizable LP covers in the industry. This was a time when LPs ruled and the 12 x 12" format give many graphic artists, illustrators and photographers a chance to do some really cool things visually.

As a kid I spent many an evening listing to my headphones and staring at the record cover and reading the accompanying liner notes. These square canvasses were defiantly an influence on my career decision. Unfortunately, as I became of age as a graphic artist, at Buff State in the mid 1980s, the CD was born and the 12 x 12" canvas was eventually replaced by the smaller 5-1/2" square. Not the same; and I never got chance to design a proper album cover.

Paul Nini is a professor in the Department of Design at the Ohio State University and he interviewed John Berg for the AIGA website. This is a great look into the art director's collaboration with artists (Milton Glaser, Richard Avedon, etc), and Berg's design philosophy while creating some very famous LP covers including the Springsteen Born to Run gatefold, Dylan's Blond on Blond, 14 Chicago covers and Big Brother's Cheap Thrills with the R. Crumb illustration (the art was delivered to his office by Janis herself).

Read it online here. A great interview with a true design legend.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Message To You Rudy

The Selector.

Like design, DJing-- and I always say this-- is not always about the technique, the maddest-skillz, or the perfect crossfade. It is about the perfect selection. And its about the happiest of accidents... sometimes when beats, and tunes, and melody and themes collide. Sometimes it is a mangled wreck as beats slam into each other or climb over each other gratingly mismatched. But other times, it makes sense- beautiful, melodic sense.

I have been making mix tapes for friends and soon-to-be-friends and acquaintances for almost 30 years now. Ever since I got a hand-me down, Radio Shack Realistic all-in-one (featuring AM/FM/FM stereo radio-record player-8-track) I have been transferring source to tape. It starts with a full LP borrowed from a friend. But taping to 8-track or cassette, you always had that extra bunch of minutes at the end. My dad used to begin the record over and repeat as many of the first fews songs he could squeeze on that fourth track (of the 8-track). Usually he got a song or two and another 1/2 song on the end. But then I started to add other songs, songs from different LP, LPs that I only liked a few of the songs or had a few favorites. Then I started to put in songs from many different records as filler at the end of a tape. Well then you think, "Hey I can make a whole tape from a whole bunch of different records!" Now we got something here!!- the mix tape was born. And I am sure the actual birth of the actual first mix tape was born of a similar light bulb experience as mine. I didn't even know you could do this?! Some people would record a LP and add nothing else, just leave unrecorded tape. Yes, unrecorded tape!!

So as you start to pick songs for the tapes- you pick songs that go good together. You start to select songs that maybe follow a common theme (we'll discuss the theme tape at a later date- ed.). Then the tapes get passed around, they get played at parties, they get given as gifts.

Well anyway, as I get older and being a bit of a social misfit, I would start digging through someone's music at a party. It begins as a conversation piece but it ends up as, "Hey you don't mind of I play a few songs do you?" next thing you know, I would be DJing the party by playing many songs in a row. Picking records and playing songs.

Then I met my friend Matthew (dj MKO and later just KO) who had a set of turntables permanently set up in his living room. "Hey you don't mind of I play a few songs do you?" So you can see where this leads to... hooking up some hand me down turntables to a cheap-ass mixer and what-do-you-know, an amateur-professional DJ is born.

Well that became a nice side job- playing music (records and CDs) in a bar. Actually a lot of bars: Old Pink, New Pink, Atomic, Concrete, 3rd Room, Crash Club (my 1st paying gig), Goodbar, Mohawk Place, Kingsnake, 658, O, Blu, Icon, Tralf, Pearl Street- and those are only the ones I can remember. Parties, art gallery openings, opening gigs for bands...

Well I have never been a beat-mixer, as the kids call it. Lord knows I have tried to match beats, seamlessly transforming songs from one to another. Sometimes it happens, and it is so sweet- but mostly I am what is known as a selector. I can pick songs, great songs (at least I think they are all great) that go together. And when you stream a lot of songs in a row that go together- you have something- the mix.

Now I have seen kids that were great precision DJs. They were like surgeons-- they could blend 10 songs together and it sounded like one long song. But that was usually 10 songs in about 10 minutes! Ten songs they picked (and practiced) to follow one another in succession. The mix was scientifically correct- a soulless flop. It lacked everything that music is suppose to be about, and it turn, what the mix is suppose to be about- heart and the soul. Like James Brown said, "Bobby, what ever it is, it gots to be funky."

Now I am not baggin' on the other DJs, the real DJs as some like to call them... some of them are my friends. I have settled into being alright with the fact that I was never, and probably will never be, a perfect mixer. I would rather be the perfect selector any day. You never know when those 2 songs, that you never planned to go together, suddenly find themselves going together. As long as you could fade one song over the next- and they are about the same tonal quality-- it works. I would often leave for a deja blu gig, not even knowing what was in my record bag. Now I would have a general idea- I wasn't carting around a lot of punk rock, Sabbath, Sugar or Doors to play at the Kingsnake- but a lot of DJs bring an exact set, a pre-planned set of music to play in a preset succession. I prefer to kind of wing it. To bring a lot things I like ( or haven't played in a while) and make it up on the spot. Things that aren't suppose to be played together can go together- it just works that way. And that is what keeps me doing it- the happy mistakes, the gut feeling, the unplanned plan- the beautiful magic of the selector when things go just right.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tiny Voices

Taste bitter defeat when facing Brocco-Lee!!

Who is the superest hero of them all?

Two illustrator's continue a running online battle by plying their graphics skills with a good dose of humour (they're English) as they go back and forth drawing new superheros whose powers must trump the previous heroes to be declared the winner.

After over a year and 28 illustrations later- the battle rages on between Kevin Cornell and Matthew Sutter which started with
The Un-Oppose-inator
(who will win every batter provided there's no opposition)

One of my favorites has to have been when
Detoxitron beat out Alco-Hal (pictured above).

Check it out here at The Superest!