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Interviews

Flatstock, Or The Music Poster As An Art Form

An interview with Geoff Peveto, director of the “Woodstock of Posters”, before the arrival of the travelling festival within the San Miguel Primavera Sound programme

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What’s your relationship with Frank Kozik, your partner in the API? How did you meet?

His Butthole Surfers Flaming Lips poster was one of the first ones I ever bought, but I didn't personally know Frank until we started working on the first Flatstock together. I made a trip out to San Francisco a little before the first Flatstock and met him and talked about what was needed to get this first show going.

Why the name “Flatstock”?

“Flatstock” is an industry term for paper. It also sounded like Woodstock, which is arguably the most famous music festival ever. It seemed to fit.

Can you preview some names and examples of the posters we’ll see at the San Miguel Primavera Sound exhibit?

There will be 30 booths with really diverse artistic styles. You will see posters for major acts like Arcade Fire, The Black Keys or Wilco, and truly underground bands that are friends of the poster makers. The split of attending artists is about 50/50 of European and US, so you are going to see plenty of regional bands along side the famous ones. One of the coolest things I've witnessed at Flatstocks, especially in Europe, is people buying the posters even if they didn't know the band.  They liked the art that much.

What are the upcoming Flatstock shows in Europe? Will they be considerably different from the one at San Miguel Primavera Sound?

Flatstock will be back in Hamburg, Germany for the Reeperbahn Festival in September. Flatstock in Hamburg is very similar since it is also outside, but the Reepebahn Fest is more like South By Southwest in regards to the bands playing in venues vs. outside.

What posters did you have in your bedroom as a teenager?

My room was covered with posters of every metal band that was in Circus, Kerrang and Hit Parader. Everything from Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin to Slayer, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden. Really every inch had pictures pinned to the wall.

What makes the perfect poster? In other words, what should a good poster have to capture the real essence of a band, the spirit of a city, or even the zeitgeist of an era?

I like to see the artist actually put some thought into a concept that relates to the band and their fans. If the band or their fans don't understand why you chose the imagery to represent them, you probably missed the mark. I don't have a strong need for the band name to be huge or the information to be 100% immediately clear. I like when you have to dig a little bit to get to the message of the poster, but I think it needs to be relevant to the band, their aesthetic and their music.

What style is most appropriate for a poster? Pop art, comic, expressionism, surrealism…?

It depends on the band and your audience. I wouldn't use anything comic for a High On Fire poster. They have a very distinct vibe. It's heavy and dark. Funny doesn't really fit them.  On the other hand you can do that for the Melvins, who are just as heavy, but the band has a really great sense of humour.

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Can you identify a poster that you designed for a band and that you feel especially proud of? Where the result was ideal for a client that you particularly admire.

I did a poster for Willie Nelson that came out pretty well. It was printed on metal and aged to look like an old “no trespassing” sign. Willie said, "This is really nice."

I've done a lot of posters for Modest Mouse and The Hold Steady that we are pretty happy with too.

There is a certain trend towards releasing special, limited-edition posters, which end up becoming very big collectors’ items. Are posters the new paintings of the 21st Century?

Silkscreened art has always been a limited edition, and posters aren't treated any differently. There are such things as an "open edition" meaning the poster can be reprinted indefinitely. I think there is a certain integrity to maintain that's been engrained in the practice of making limited-edition prints, so I've never produced a print that way. We are making unique art even if it's a rock poster. People respond to that and appreciate that they have something special that only a few folks share with them.

Are you a collector or accumulator? What is your collection like? Do you do it as a hobby, or is it an obsession?

I do collect posters. I have a handful of pretty valuable things, I suppose, like all the Flaming Lips posters that Wayne Coyne made back in the 90s. It's a casual hobby vs. an obsession, at this point. I've been fortunate enough to become friends with all the poster makers I really admire, so we've swapped a lot of stuff over the years.

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What poster would you kill for (or at least fight or pay a lot of money for)?

There is an old Husker Du flyer that I think is awesome. It's just a Xerox, but it's funny as hell and I doubt I'll ever see it in person. I have managed to pick up most of the things I ever looked for over the last ten years.

Have you ever been in Barcelona for Primavera Sound?

I haven't and I am stoked to be there. The fucking Refused are playing! It's going to be a badass mission.

Let’s forget posters for a minute and talk about groups. Who will you be sure not to miss at Primavera?

Refused!  Man the line-up is amazing, so many good bands, but I am especially excited to see Afghan Whigs and Archers Of Loaf again. Finally get to see Chavez. Plus Sleep, Mayhem, Mudhoney, Neutral Milk Hotel, Wavves, Girls, The xx, Thee Oh Sees, Yo La Tengo, Beach House, Napalm Death, Melvins.  Jeez, Primavera has an awesome line-up this year.

Finish this sentence: “A concert is better with …” (OK, you can clearly say bacon, monkeys, and beer; what are three things that you can’t live without).

Friends.  Definitely friends. And bacon, monkeys and beer.

Your life and work are intimately related to music. Do you play any instruments?

I played piano in grade school and drums in high school. Had a crappy band in college for a minute that I sang in. But once I got into design, I focused on that and photography and let my friends who could actually play instruments make music.

Tags: Posters, Flatstock
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