Full Q&A with Todd Slater

Gigposter and Merch Design
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Full Q&A with Todd Slater

Post by kevron6 » Wed Nov 25, 2009 7:48 pm

Once again Whiteswirl would like to thank Todd Slater for taking the time out to answer the abundance of questions we sent him. He is a really nice guy and extremely talented artist so we are really flattered that he took the time to answer questions for a bunch of poster and vinyl geeks. Thanks again Todd so without further ado I present to you Todd Slater uncensored

1. What event, poster, or point in time do you recall as the most influential in getting you interested in poster design and creation?

The point in time was after graduating from college and working in a tshirt shop in Nacogdoches, Texas. I worked there for several years and began to wonder if I would be doing this my whole life. The job became very depressing and I ended up losing it after a disagreement with my boss. I was one week away from getting married, had very little money and was living in East Texas with no contacts. I had made my first few silkscreen concert posters prior to leaving the job but they really weren't profitable...in fact, I actually lost money on some of those early prints. Seeing a negative number on your account balance is an eye opening experience for anyone. Despite losing money on the first few silkscreens I still wanted to pursue it. Music and art are my passions and I felt I could make it work. I got on the phone and called a number of venues around the country and things started happening. I used what little profit I made on one print to pay the printing for the next. At some point, people started catching on and the rest is history.

2. What artist has influenced you the most and how so? Is there one poster that stands out in your mind as having changed your perspective on gigposters?

Among poster artists it would be the Ames Bros. visually and Rob Jones in a number of ways. Ames has a massive variety of styles, moods and textures in their prints and yet they all somehow end up looking like Ames prints. The ability to change styles is important in what I do and seeing someone like Ames do it successfully was a reminder that it was possible.

Rob took me under his wing early and taught me the ends and outs of the poster world. He remains my closest friend in the poster community.

If I had to pick one poster that stands out to me in the poster world it would be Aesthetic Apparatus's Meat Puppets poster from a few years ago. It may seem like a curious choice but everything just looks right in that print to me...it just hums.

3. If you were to select one gig poster or art print to represent the Todd Slater aesthetic, which would it be?

It would have to be my Neil Young. Everything I had been doing in my collage style that year kinda of built up to that print.

4. A lot of your work uses repeated patterns or collages. Any reason for this? What challenges does this style present during your design process?

I think it says something about patience. The collage prints take a great deal of time to complete and I enjoy tedious work. People have responded well to it and my main challenge at this point is finding something new to do style wise in each collage I do. It's important to me that I not fall into patterns and formulas in my prints and making sure each collage looks different from the last is key.

5. Is there any particular work that you put more of yourself into or felt more connected to than the others?

There are several: Death Cab for Cutie 04, Franz Ferdinand 04, Arcade Fire 05, Jimmy Eat World 05, Flaming Lips 07 and a Gene Ween print from 09. I try to capture the vibe of every band in each print I do but sometimes it's as much about me as it is them. Whatever is going thru my head at the time I'm making the print usually ends up in the image in one way or another.

6. If you could design any film poster(s) past or present, what would you choose and why?

I'm gonna say Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Alot of times I run inspiring films in the background of my studio while I work. I think the idea is that some of that greatness will somehow rub off on me...heh. I don't know what kind of image I'd make for the poster but the fact that there's a number in the title leads to interesting solutions. Doing a poster for the original Star Wars would also be a dream. George, if you're reading this call me up ok?

7. What is a perfect day for Todd Slater?

Well, a few of the key ingredients would be: dynamite, pole vaulting, laughing gas, choppers - can you see how incredible this is going to be? Maybe some hang gliding thrown in.

I also like waking up to read pleasant emails, a filling lunch (usually a burrito of some kind), a productive workday, playing with daughter and spending time with Kristie.

8. Why do so many amazing artists live in Texas?

Probably the music, the live music capital of the world attracts many creative types, I think. Also, all the great BBQ joints.

9. Do you think designing many posters for one band (as you have for Ween) allows you to reach another level in your representation of the music, or does it get old? How does that compare with designing one or several posters for many different bands?

Well, Ween is my favorite band so that part never gets old. There's some pressure in doing 10+ posters for one band as you're really creating a new identity for them but I like that. Overall, working with a variety of bands is more rewarding than working exclusively with one. It keeps you on your toes and keeps things fresh.

10. What is your favorite poster that you have designed? What poster are you most proud of?

It's the Neil Young print. Also, maybe my first Ween print in 2005.

11. Over the decades, gigposters have moved from a means to advertise the gig to more of a commemorative piece of art that sometimes isn’t even available at the gig. What do you believe the role of a gigposter is and how does that impact your designs?

The role of a gigposter now is about 50% advertising and 50% merch. Whether it's being sold or hung won't effect the image I design for the print. A poster has to have some sort of bold immediacy that's instantly recognized within the first few seconds you see it.

12. Why do you use silkscreening to print your art?
The colors, the texture, the process, the smell...all of these things.

13. What is your favorite poster that was designed by another artist and why?

Well, I mentioned the AA print above but other than that one I'd have to say Aaron Horkey's Mogwai poster from a few years ago. The level of craftsmanship in his work is unparalleled and Wes Winship's printing is impeccable.

14. Which poster do you wish you could do over?

Maybe a Starting Line poster I did a few years ago. Rob told me it looked like a perfume ad and it's always stuck with me. The imagery isn't that strong and I wish it wasn't ALL green in retrospect.

15. How do you decide the size of each of your posters?

It's dictated by the design itself. I never fit a design into an 18x24 inch box, wherever the image naturally ends up I go with it. As a result, it makes my prints difficult to frame but the overall design is better.

16. Can you relate with all the poster geeks who collect posters?

Sure, because I buy prints too. I collect, Burlesque, Print Mafia, Tara McPherson, AA, Methane, Dirk Fowler and Rob Jones. I also collect older basketball and football cards and Star Wars miniatures.

17. Do you collect posters yourself? If so, who and/or what draws you to a poster/artist?

See above^

18. What music do you listen to while you create?

Alot of Yo La Tengo lately. I saw Built to Spill recently and have been listening to them as well. Hendrix and Cash too. Listening to the Ipod shuffle works too.

I tell you what, in order to give you an idea of what I listen to I'll set my Ipod to shuffle and list the first 5 artists that come up, along with the song and album. No omissions even if it's something embarrassing. Here we go:

1. Sonic Youth - Becuz - Washing Machine
2. They Might Be Giants - Please Pass the Milk - Apollo 18
3. Modest Mouse - Invisible - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
4. Sonic Youth - Mote - Goo
5. Meat Puppets - Vampires - No Joke

19. Who are your all-time and current favorite musical artists?

All time: Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Doors, Rolling Stones and maybe Zappa too.
Current: Ween, Mogwai, Beck, Fiery Furnaces, White Stripes, Pixies...too many to count.

20. What was the best live show that you have ever attended?

That would be Ween's two night stand in Austin in 2000 at Stubb's BBQ. They played over three hours both nights and they could have played a whole lot more if they wanted too. There's a double live disc to commemorate the performance. Honorable mention has to be the first time I saw Slayer in Dallas in 2005. That was a bloody show...they literally covered themselves in buckets of it. Also, an Of Montreal at Numbers in Houston. I've never seen a band play such small venues with so many props and costume changes, it was awesome. It was like seeing a young Prince.

21. How was your first experience with Jack White?

If you mean meeting him, I haven't and probably never will. I've never met any of the bands I work with unless I was absolutely forced into a meeting. I'm comfortable with doing the work from a distance and enjoying their live shows with the rest of the crowd. The sound actually sounds terrible backstage anyway. I think being low maintenance has made me easier to work with as well.

22. What do you think about Third Man Records and what they are trying to accomplish in the music industry today?

Third Man represents independence. It's represents an un-compromised artistic vision. It's what I wish every label could be.

23. Who do you admire that you'd like to do some art work for?

I'd like to do a Beck poster. There's so much imagery associated with him that I know I could make a really interesting poster for him. I'd like to try another Marilyn Manson poster at some point too.

24. Do you need to respect an artist’s music to create a great gig poster for them?

No, I just need a pen to fill in the blank check. Kidding, kidding...it'd be nice if that happened though.

When I'm not into the band I try to focus on things that I've experienced personally that are interesting to me. In a way, some of the posters I've made for bands I don't listen to are actually more personal than some of the prints for band's I like.

25. Have there ever been any bands that you flat out refused to design for, and why?

I can't answer this one. It's just not the time to publicly burn bridges yet. Just wait for the scorched earth tell all bio book sometime in 2020.

26. Rapid Fire:

What is spinning our your turntable/CD Player/Ipod right now? Already did this one on the Ipod but I'll do it again on random: Of Montreal, TV on the Radio, Eisley, Mates of State and Daniel Johnston.

Favorite book, movie and album? Trouble in Bugland, Bottle Rocket, Ween - Pure Guava

Best barbeque joint in Texas? Good one. There are many but I will say that it's a 3 way tie between: Louie Meuller's in Taylor, Snow's in Lexington and Bob's in Henderson.

Do you like your steak burnt to a crisp or bloody as hell? I always get it medium with pig's blood for dipping sauce.

What do you think is the ideal shape for a birthday cake? Donut shaped is always best.

Would you ever consider doing a "V for Vendetta" related poster? Considering my daughter's middle name is Amidala, hell yeah! I own that dvd by the way.

Do you like those holiday cards with pictures of the person's family on them? Only if Michael Scott photoshopped his face into it with the caption, "Skiseason's Greetings".

Football, Soccer, Hockey or Basketball? Basketball. I wanted to be a pro when I was young. A 3 inch vertical leap said otherwise though ;)

27. Did you really teach Rob Jones everything he knows about silkscreening?

More like he taught me. Rob's a brain, he doesn't need my help with much. Hopefully we've taught each other something. I learned to silkscreen in Nacogdoches though. I have to credit my tshirt job for that.

28. If you could meet have dinner with anyone past, present, or future, who would it be and why? What would you ask them about?

My Grandfather, Raymond Gluff. He died while I was in college and I didn't get enough time to get to know him. He was a prominent sign painter in West Virginia and was dedicated to his craft. Hand painted signage is a dying art much like silkscreening was up until it's resurgence a few years ago. My mother still owns all of his brushes so some of him will live on.

29. What would you be doing if you were not a gig poster artist?

Join the rat race and be an Assistant to the Regional Manager at Best Buy or something...I dunno what I would do.

30. What's the lead time on a commission?

It varies from months to hours. It's usually around a week or so...wish it was longer.

31.Let’s be honest, did someone pay you to do this Q&A, or was it blackmail?

Considering I'm on question 31 maybe I should have been paid...lol. I appreciate anyone taking interest in what I do and wouldn't ever take it for granted.
I always said, if I had to fuck a guy... I mean had to, if my life depended on it... I'd fuck Elvis.

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Re: Full Q&A with Todd Slater

Post by 7th_son » Sat Nov 28, 2009 4:57 pm

Big thanks to Mr. Slater for taking the time out of his busy schedule to provide such a great read and of course to Kevin for organizing this one!