I have been a longtime fan of artist Rob Jones. Rob has fine-tuned the art of designing and screen printing and has easily become recognized throughout the world as one of the foremost graphic designers/poster artists.
I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with Rob at a recent Mondo event. But I am not here to talk about Mondo and its recent blow up success, Rob is a big part of that, but I want to talk to Rob Jones the graphic designer because that’s what he is. And he is fucking good at it
You could read Rob Jones’ Bio on his website Animal Rummy but you will only walk away even more confused about who he is. Instead try to follow the interview. It says a lot about Rob Jones, the Art Schmuck.
Nerdlocker (NL): So thank you for spending some time hanging out answering some questions for me Rob, I’ll just jump right in man. What age did you become interested in art/ Drawing and what drove you to continue as an adult, to pursue making a living from it?
Rob Jones (RJ): I’ve always been the kid who could draw pretty well since pre-school. Luckily there was always someone about exhibiting a higher skill level in my class and prodding competition (likely unacknowledged on their part). In lower school it was Stephen Dorris who later grew up to be of all things a caricaturist. In high school it was James Sanders who didn’t give a rat’s ass about illustration despite his effortless gift. He wound up a successful lawyer and a published poet (check out his collection “Goodbye Public and Private”. There’s even one about me in there). When I entered the world of gigposters, there were suddenly a lot of kids in my class who were better than me. It still goads me to row the trireme at ramming speed while slaving over the next poster.
Probably my main drive as an adult was finding work that didn’t involve me going into an office every day and allowed me to keep my own horrible nocturnal hours.
NL: How much influence does Film and the Pop Culture craze play into your style of movie or gig posters?
RJ: I’d say a fair amount. I’m certainly surrounded by it if you glance about my so-called office. You can see evidence of that sort of influence most prominently in an ongoing series of posters I created for The Raconteurs resembling lobby cards. I envisioned them as faux advertising ephemera for a fake Japanese film starring the band as children. Each one even sported its own unique Nation Screen Service number ganked from Steve McQueen films.
I’ll take inspiration from wherever it falls or rises from, whether that’s a 60’s Corman film or the poetry of Baudelaire.
NL: So do you enjoy doing gig prints, art prints or do you enjoy doing the movie Posters more? I mean you can get easily get burnt out doing just one type or the other so how do you keep things fresh?
RJ: My favorite thing to make is Raconteurs posters, especially the lobby card series, but that’s a rare opportunity nowadays. Otherwise, you can find a challenge in whatever avenue you choose to express yourself. I’ve been fortunate so far in having a primary client that changes modes and musical moods every so often which keeps my ballerina shoes pointy.
NL: I wanted to talk a bit about your gig prints, starting from your early stuff with the Pink swords to your work with Jack White and your recent work with the Avett Brothers. How do you feel your style has progressed and what have you learned about YOUR style of gig print and what has made it so successful?
RJ: I’ve learned you can buffet your reputation and collectibility by making posters for successful bands. That about sums up the “secret”. I doubt I’d enjoy many plaudits if most of my work surrounded some unknown math rock band from Winnipeg. In regards to my personal progression, I’d say one of the bigger influences on my work is Jermaine Rogers. From his work I learned to inject my private interests into a piece no matter how esoteric and make it more personal while still applicable to the band/subject at hand.
NL: Can you take me through the evolution of your current process?
RJ: Nearly every job comes at me like a three-pipe problem. I smoke a lot of cigarettes, drink a lot of sweet tea, and just keep thinking about the assignment at hand. I’ll have a rockslide of kidney stones eventually tumbling out of my cock from all the tea I’ve guzzled while working on this stuff. I’m going to take every available free minute, Ludovico my eyes wide and keep working until the buzzer rings.
The goal is to create something I find interesting that creates a personal comment on the subject at hand or some aspect of it (maybe a song, maybe an offhand comment in an interview, maybe a comparison to another subject that appears relatable).
NL: What’s your favorite medium to work with and why?
RJ: Collaging old engravings. It promotes creativity forcing myself to figure out how to make the vague image in my head out of essentially ill-fitting random bits. For example, a recent pair of Jack White posters feature assemblages of Gog and Magog from Guildhall in London. Even though I have plenty of engravings of armor and weaponry, I made a point of constructing the armor and whatnot for these figures exclusively from images taken from Victorian goods catalogs. In this manner I got a lot more interesting result than if I just straight swiped from engravings of knights or Roman soldiers. I admit cheating on one part as I took the ball for Gog’s morning star from a collection of scientific instruments.
Generally others who engage in this approach create phantasmagoric sprawling images, while I tend to create physical worlds, actual characters that inhabit a real environment.
I actually remember the first time I ever saw a Dore and became fascinated with engravings. It was the stoning of St. Stephen with a goofy caption in some Al Jaffee paperback I was browsing through at K-mart. I was probably 7 or 8 at the time.
NL: I think I saw my first Dore around the same age. I got freaked out at the time because it was and image of “Jesus Collapses Under the Cross” and I was with my grandma and she was deeply religious and she looked at the images and said to me, “He died for your sins also little man!” It freaked me out because I didn’t really understand death yet, but Here she is telling me this guy died for me.
I know you are a collector as well as designer, can you tell me whose work is on your walls and why?
RJ: My living room only has three posters in it all by Jay Shaw (Killer Nun, Torso, and Bone. The latter chosen mainly because it features Yaphet Kotto so prominently in the artwork). Other than that I have some lobby cards from “The Honeymoon Killers” framed up beneath a warthog head (the latter bought only because I like Dee Dee Ramone a lot).
My office is forever awash in punk clutter. Prize shit amid the chaos includes a Dwarves poster by Frank Kozik that pretty much launched my love of gigposters. Without Frank, I don’t think I ever would have given much thought about them. I have a small painting of a bat by Bert van Wijk hanging below a giant Markhor head. This was my lone splurge on a recent trip to Germany. Bert was selling paintings in a stall at the Flohmarkt am Mauerpark in Berlin. I liked it because it reminded me a little of the cover for the Damned single “Generals”, a prize find during a summer of pizza slinging and record hunting in London during my youth. Other than that it’s mostly photo posters or various pictures of folks who generally induce a certain nostalgia or admiration (Captain Sensible, Ray Milland, Divine, Liberace, Herman Melville, Oscar Wilde, etc.). The most dominating item of the bunch is a big personality poster of Lenny Bruce hanging directly over my computer. As the fraudulent biography on my website indicates, I’m rather fond of Lenny. He was a funny fucking giant that the lemon-faced pygmies finally managed to fell with their shitty little arrows.
Guest room is jammed up with Kali images and a ton of 8×10’s of the good Captain. I have two small paintings amongst all this. One is a Rich Kelly portrait of Donald Sutherland from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. Apart from the final scene, I don’t even like that remake too much. I’m not terribly crazy about Donald Sutherland either, but I like the stylization Rich Kelly employs in his artwork. I’d love to have a whole wall of just portraits done by him with a booth below mimicking some terrible Hollywood restaurant adorned with caricatures of famous patrons. The other is a small painting by Esao Andrews of Death from “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” called “Death in ’91”. Again, not really a big fan of that film (I really enjoy the first one though), but I like the Bergman inspired image of Death. I also enjoy just about any William Sadler performance (particularly as Sloan from Deep Space Nine). Collate all of that with Esao’s refined technique, and I felt obligated to make the purchase.
My bedroom used to be full of posters till the wife decided to redecorate. Now it’s mainly goat heads and Jacob’s Sheep heads, except for a recent purchase of Jason Edmiston’s stunning portrait of Elsa Lanchester from “The Bride of Frankenstein”. Jason really outdid himself and I found his purplish corpse-y portrayal in front of a mostly stark white background a refreshing take compared to the china doll approach seen in most interpretations of the character.
Once I manage to buy the Biltmore estate, I’ll finally have the room to place my whole “Cruising” collection on display. I’m in the process of framing up the Hope Diamond of the collection though. I bought some original concept artwork by Topazio for an unmade “Cruising” poster. I had to look him up. The only thing I recognized was his poster for “The 4th Man”. It made losing out on an original De Palma “Cruising” script easier to bear.
NL: Damn, That’s a lot of stuff on the walls
Last year you won a Grammy for the packaging of Under Great White Northern Lights. You were up against some heavy hitters, How did you react when you realized you just won a fucking Grammy?
RJ: It’s like that ride at Six Flags where they zip you up the tower, wait a spell, and then pull the lever that plummets you down screaming. If I’d lost, then it would elicit the same sensation except instead of pulling the lever, the carriage just lowers you down gradually, you calmly exit and head for the funnel cake stand to wait in line behind Todd Slater. My sole regret is babbling unplanned shit when I accepted the award. In retrospect it’s better potentially to take the jinx and prepare a short speech. That way you at least remember to thank the photographer who took all the beautiful shots you used to make the damn thing. Oh, also always remember to thank your wife or suffer on the plane ride home
NL: And the awesome pink leather suit on the Red carpet was beyond classic. I completely lost it when I saw the photos for the first time. I mean the press ate that shit up.
RJ: Well that’s not really a question. If I ever get nominated again, I’ll get a baby blue leather Feyd Rautha outfit made and slur Dune quotes into the ears of the security folks escorting me outside.
NL: If you had the opportunity to work with a particular musician today that you have not worked with In the past and they Said, Hey Rob can you design a CD or album cover for me?, who would it be?
RJ: Captain Sensible, Danzig, or Amanda Palmer. I’ve managed to maintain my fascination with the good Captain since high school when I first heard The Damned on the Young Ones episode “Nasty”. I even ate up a day on one of my trips to London visiting Croydon (Sensible’s home borough). I took pictures inside and out of the Fairfield Halls where he used to clean toilets before the Damned took off. If I ever make enough money to quell any Depression-era anxiety about the future, I’d love to put out a multi-volume collection of his demos. I dunno, something about his music puts me in a good mood, calms me.
Danzig’s music (in all of its various incarnations) completely overwhelms me. That shit hits my ears and my hands become fists. Free from high school dress codes, I mephisto-waltzed into my first year of college sporting sharpened thumb nails with the inverted cross from Lucifuge over my dorm room bed. I tried to grow out the sideburns, but at 18 I only could muster translucent whisps. They held a pencil, but it looked like it was floating next to my face ensnared by invisible tendrils.
Dead Weather posters were about my only outlet for something along the lines of what a Danzig album design might resemble, but I held back a lot. For the Dead Weather the imagery focus is more about coldness and being emotionally removed. For Danzig, I’d let the black gates swing open. I’d attempt to craft something darkly beautiful, something Pinhead could cry bloody tears over.
Amanda Palmer is my relatively newest obsession mainly because she’s a queen bee stinger in your eyeball. She always puts on a hell of a show with a Prince-sized arsenal of incredible songs.
NL: And in that same Question, you have the opportunity to meet some pretty big names in music and movies, Many people consider you part of that group of biggies. Is that something you even thing about?
RJ: I doubt anyone thinks of me as a “biggie” (like the way I looked at Kozik when I was too terrified to introduce myself at a Flatstock BBQ). Only the smallest handful (like the hand on the cover of “Plastic Surgery Disasters”) of White Stripes/Jack White fans know who I am. There are fewer still who might recognize me at a show only because I have a distinctive homeless Benjamin Franklin look. When you pursue this career path, you have to accept a destiny of shadows. Raymond Pettibon, Jamie Reid, Derek Riggs and Peter Saville are all golden calves with altars throughout my house, but they could take turns stabbing me in the face and my police report would read “Unknown assailants”.
NL: I read somewhere you got your Masters in Communications and Advertising and you used to produce work for advertising firms, How was that and what did you take away from having that opportunity?
RJ: I half-learned how to use photoshop and hung around some interesting folks. In my head I secretly competed with one guy in my class, Sean Thompson, who is still probably the smartest designer I’ve ever met (like he’d give Christian Helms a good run for his doughnuts). I had a lot of interest in my weird-ass book and I’d fly out to various agencies, but I couldn’t close the deal. In person I’m an acquired taste, and as a result I perform miserably at job interviews.
NL: Do you find that your gig prints are in line with your movie prints as far as creative freedom? I know some music and movie Studios sometimes like to preview and make sure artwork for a particular band or movie is represented to their liking before green lighting a print to be made, do you run into issues of creative clashing with your current set of musical artists or movie studios?
RJ: Well, I barely do movie posters. Apart from my Star Wars piece and Tarantino Fest posters, any Mondo work I’ve done post Cinemania was largely because someone else flaked out or turned in a crappy design. When that happens and there isn’t enough time to hire someone else out, I drink the tea and come up with something on the fly. I might try to fit a few in this year depending on what my work load ends up being.
For music stuff, I know my way around the track enough that I don’t really experience much tsuris over submitted designs. Last big kerfuffle I had was over a Rod & Gab poster, but I managed to make them happy with some gharial-headed birds at the eleventh hour.
NL: As an artist do you prefer a steady dose of direction from a client or do you just like to put pencil to paper and do what you feel and hope the client is happy with you have come up with in the long run?
RJ: I prefer working with someone like Jack whose not afraid of risks. At the same time I already know a lot about his preferences, so a lot of ideas come out preformed. It’s like the play-dough fun factory. I have that “JW” shaped template installed in my brain at this point. Lyrics, interviews, images or emotions elicited by the music all pour into my skull and come out “JW” shaped when I need to think of a poster idea.
NL: I know you have done interviews before but what is one question you wish somebody would ask you but never has yet?
RJ: I dunno. You ever see that Doctor Who where they bring Vincent Van Gogh back to the present day so he can hear how future generations regard his work? Vincent cries and hugs Bill Nighy, but ultimately still winds up on the road to the wheat field. If I could have an opportunity like that, It would feel good to make the same sort of trip with Oscar Wilde, like a day before his final health decline started. Show how many books are written about him, how all the joints that attempted a damnatio memoriae now proudly tout their association with him, hell I’d even show him his grave as I think he’d get a kick out of seeing it covered in lipstick kisses. Chances are though it would be for naught as the first thing I imagine he’d want to know would be the fate of his children. Losing contact with them was the most devastating wound he endured in life. Once I explained WWI and the death of his eldest son Cyril, it probably would wind up being a bummer trip for him. I’d hope to communicate how important his life was and give him a little respite at a time when there was little to be had. Shit, the Van Gough thing worked somewhat because he had no kids. Maybe I ought to change my answer to Lenny since I’d have good news about his kid Kitty.
NL: I Imagine you are a Star Wars fan since you did design The Kings Lead Hat but to keep it on a nerdee level, Star Wars or Star Trek?
RJ: If all iterations of both franchises were twined up and trundling along a conveyor belt towards the incinerator, I guess I’d save the Star Trek box. Just the nature of episodic television allows for a richer collection of stories and deeper character development. The best examples of this are found in Jeffrey Combs’ Weyoun or Andrew Robinson’s portrayal of Garak (the highlight of my favorite episode ever, Deep Space Nine’s “In the Pale Moonlight”).
Even with the all the awesome creatures featured in the Cantina and Jabba’s Palace, my favorite alien design ever is the 60’s style Andorian, in particular Thelev from “Journey to Babel” (yes, I know he’s not actually an Andorian but rather a surgically altered agent of the Orion Syndicate). I admit, though, that Rodians are a close second.
NL: Damn Rob I had you pegged for a Star Wars guy. Anyway man, I had a great time talking with you, and I wanted to thank you for spending sometime letting us into your life as an artist and just a cool ass muthafucka.
For more about Rob check out his web site www.animalrummy.com
If you would like to see more of Robs Art work check out www.gigposters.com
If you would like to see more amazing photos of Rob in his tight pink leather suit go here BAD ASS ROB JONES IN PINK LEATHER
Look for more Artist interviews in the future!
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