Interview with Brad Klausen

by John Reynolds on November 5, 2005

Dossier: Brad Klausen


Brad at Flatstock, 2005
(photo courtesy of Mike Assenzio)
Age: 29; Home: Seattle
POSTERS:

2004 pre-VFC Shows

  • 2004-09-26 Seattle
  • 2004-09-28 Boston
  • 2004-09-28 Boston

2004 VFC Shows:

  • 2004 VFC Tour Poster
  • 2004-10-01 Reading
  • 2004-10-02 Toledo
  • 2004-10-03 Grand Rapids
  • 2004-10-05 St. Louis
  • 2004-09-06 Asheville
  • 2004-09-08 Kissimmee

2005 Miscellaneous:

  • 2005-03-18 Seattle
  • (Northwest School)
  • 2005-04-29 Seattle
  • (Easy Street)

2005 N. American Tour:

  • 2005 N.A. Tour Poster
  • 2005-09-01 Gorge
  • 2005-09-13 Hamilton
  • 2005-09-16 Ottawa
  • 2005-09-30 Atlantic City
  • 2005-10-01 Atlantic City
  • 2005-10-03 Philadelphia
  • 2005-10-05 Chicago

OTHER:

  • “Pearl Jam Monkeywrench” sticker
  • Riot Act (Design & Layout)
  • Live At The Garden (Design & Layout)
  • Lost Dogs (Design & Layout)
  • 2005 Bootleg Series (mp3) Artwork

Get to the venue early, hound venue security, wait patiently, then bolt to the lobby or concourse. We aren’t talking about a GA concert-goer bolting for the front barricade, we’re talking about that familiar species of PJ fan: the Poster Collector. The bug has bit just about every fan at one time or another since Ames Bros. started making limited edition gig posters in 1996.

If you’ve picked up a PJ poster in the last two years, chances are it was one of Ten Club staffer and artist extraordinaire Brad Klausen’s vivid, colorful and politically-piercing designs. His often signed and numbered PJ posters for the 2004 Voters for Change tour and the recent 2005 North America tour sold out quickly, and his work (PJ, Queens of the Stone Age, Flight to Mars, and others) was showcased at the 7th annual Flatstock poster show in September 2005.

The time seemed ripe as PJ heads back out on tour with some Klausen posters in tow, to ask Brad about his career so far, what designing PJ posters entails, how he got the PJ gig, where the ideas come from, and the realities of eBay.


TwoFeetThick: Do you design the artwork for the posters electronically or with traditional mediums like pencil, ink, or paint?

Brad Klausen: I draw them in pencil on paper, then scan them into the computer – I’m on a Mac – and then clean up the drawings in [Adobe] Photoshop, lose all the smudges and erased lines you can still see, and then color them and separate the files for print. If I want clean typography, I usually hand draw the type then redraw it in [Adobe] Illustrator. Copy machines are an excellent tool for adding grit or character to things. But the computer and Photoshop are very helpful in taking the posters from a messy drawing into finished product.

Do you send the posters out to be printed or are they printed in house?

The posters are printed out of house. I’d love to be able to print my own posters, but I’ll leave that to the trained professionals who know what they are doing. D&L Screenprinting print most of my posters and they do an amazing job. The posters wouldn’t look the way they do if not for all their skill and expertise.

What determines the number of posters that are produced?

The size of the venue, as far as I am aware… but the merchandising people decide that. I just design them and they tell me how many to print.

It seems that posters are always produced in small quantities, sell out quickly, and are immediately in high-demand after the show. Does the eBay after-market bug you or the band?

It does and it doesn’t. It’s an inevitability that people are going to resell anything, especially something that they know they can immediately resell for a profit. Be it posters or any collector’s item. It’s a capitalist society, people are going to do what they are going to do to make money. It’s the nature of the beast. But personally, it’s also frustrating when you know people have no intention to buy your art other then to immediately resell it for profit. Leaving those who are truly collectors and only want one for their home, sometimes missing out and having to pay higher prices than they need to be, because some people bought eight or ten to purposefully jack the price up and resell. If you could know beforehand who was actually going to resell the posters you sell them, you wouldn’t sell them anything. You’d sell them to the people you know truly wanted them and keep them out of the hands of people trying to just make some quick cash off of something they had nothing to do with. It’s the same as people who make money selling autographs or photographs of other people, off of hawking other people’s art or talent, it’s all very parasitic. But as I said, such is our society, and it’s all a standard, acceptable practice.

Do you receive any input from the band prior to a design? Is any approval of the design required?

For posters, there is usually no input from the band. You just do them and hope the band digs them, and try and anticipate themes or styles or imagery that you know they are into or that are somehow congruent with the music and the band. If there is enough time before a one-off show or a small tour, you can get band approval, but for the most part there is no time. Hopefully the band trusts you and has faith that you will deliver something that fits not necessarily all of their tastes but most of them.

Are you designing any posters for South America?

Yes, I will be designing a poster or two.

ARCHITECTS OF THE IRAQ WAR SPOTLIGHTED ON VFC NEOCON POSTER SET

TFT: Was the “N-E-O-C-O-N” theme for the 2004 Voters For Choice tour concept yours? That kicked ass =)

BRAD: Thanks, I liked that series as well.

Designed by Brad Klausen, the 9″ x 24″ white posters are virtually identical in design, each featuring a different “man in black” with a single letter behind their heads and American flags beside them. Blood on their hands drips down to spell out “Pearl Jam” below. The single letters spell out the term “Neocon”, short for “Neoconservative”, a system of political beliefs that envision the U.S. as an unrivaled global superpower, achieved through an aggressive foreign policy and pre-emptive military action. The suited men are Neocons from the Bush administration commonly thought to be the architects of the war on Iraq.

N – (Reading, PA) Richard Perle, former chairman of Bush’s Defense Policy Advisory Board

E – (Toledo, OH) John Ashcroft, U.S. Attorney General

O – (Grand Rapids, MI) George W. Bush, President

C – (St. Louis, MO) Dick Cheney, Vice President

O – (Asheville), NC Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense

N – (Kissimmee, FL) Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense

By Kathy Davis

In addition to posters, you’ve designed the layout for Riot Act, Live at the Garden, and Lost Dogs. Which is more fun: album layout or poster production?

It’s tough … lately it’s poster production, because, as I said above, you get more freedom. The band just lets you do them without any input or final say. It’s up to you. They are much more involved with the album layout, that is much more special and important to them. It’s a part of the music, it’s where it lives and how it’s delivered to people. Plus it’s another way to communicate whatever it is they are trying to communicate with the music. So in that sense, album production is also interesting and fun, but there’s more pressure, these things are going to be a part of the band’s history, much more so then the posters. So that can be kind of nerve-racking at times and challenging … a lot more people are going to see the albums and hold them and inspect them, but it’s still fun and I enjoy it. I like them both, but poster production wins.

Do you have a favorite rock poster artist or other artists that inspire you?

The Ames Bros are a big influence. They are the whole reason there is an entire community of people who collect Pearl Jam posters. And the reason for that is because of the quality and diversity of their work. Granted, for any successful band people are going to collect anything and everything associated with that band, but a lot of Pearl Jam fans collect those posters because they are Ames posters. They set, and continue to set, a tremendous standard to follow and live up to. For the first five years I worked for Pearl Jam, before I ever did a poster, the Ames Bros posters were all around the office, so it was hard not to be influenced by them. You see the posters all the time. If you are around something enough and paying attention, you pick up on things. It’s that way in Seattle though, there are so many great poster artists here, there is such a huge pool of talent and style to be influenced by and it breeds better and better work, and creates a certain overall aesthetic style or quality. And when it’s all around you, it’s like going to school, you are learning from your peers every day. Jeff Kleinsmith’s work is truly inspirational, so much so that it makes me want to just give up and not design ever again. Todd Slater does some pretty inspirational work as well. There are a lot of really talented poster artists out there right now, it’s really pretty interesting to watch it all happen and see what everyone is going to do next.

Where did you get your art education?

I went to school at the University of Denver. They had a small art program. If I had to do it all over again, I think I would have gone to an art and design school. I knew I wanted to do something involving art, but had no idea there were specific schools just for art. Which is an example of why I needed to go to college for further schooling, I was unaware of things many people know to be common and obvious.

How did your working relationship with Pearl Jam begin?

Luck and timing…

What’s your favorite Pearl Jam Song?

“Present Tense.” Or “Do the Evolution.” They should play the video for that song in schools, make it mandatory for all to watch. The most accurate history of life and mankind you’ll ever see, all in about three minutes. It’s fuckin’ brilliant.

John Reynolds ( Twitter: @jjjrrr )
A New Jersey based programmer, John handles TFT’s programming and technical aspects. He also conceives and writes his share of TFT’s articles and sections. John’s first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 12, 1992.

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