California artist Zoltron wears many hats. As a the founder of Sticker Robot, he has helped countless artists sticker the world over. As a fine artist he has shown in galleries throughout the world, and on the street his stencil work has been seen in just as many places. We caught up with the infamous artist to discuss the massive undertaking that has been the Primus poster series.
Beginning in 2009 when the band reformed, the poster series has since featured over a dozen 1xRUN alumni including Doze Green, Mars1, Jeff Soto, Ron English, Johnny Crap, Gary Taxali, Tristan Eaton, Brett Amory, Bask, Eddie Colla, 123Klan and more… Read on as Zoltron discusses the beginnings of the Primus poster series and much more…
1xRUN: Let’s start by talking about how you first got introduced to Primus, safe to say you are a fan? When were you first introduced to them?
Zoltron: I used to listen to Primus in high school. I was a fan. A few years later, I got a job interning for Prawn Song Design, which was a graphic design company formed by Les Claypool, Larry Lalonde and Adam Gates. We did designs for the entire Interscope Records catalog. Geffen, A&M, Death Row, Aftermath, etc. After a year or so, I took over as creative director and handled all the design on Primus’ album covers, websites, posters, admats, laminates, etc. Been working with them on and off for 15+ years, but these days I just handle the poster series curation and management.
1x: How many times have you seen them live?
Zoltron: I haven’t seen them play in a few years, but I’ve been to a lot of their shows. They are an amazing live band.
1x: You had done some posters for Primus previously, but how did the idea come about for you to handle the curating the print series?
Zoltron: I think my first official gig poster (pictured below) for them was in ’98. I designed all of their posters over the next 10 or so years. I pitched the idea of a silkscreen poster series to management when the band reformed in 2009. The idea was to send a new poster, designed by a different artist, hand printed, signed and numbered to each and every venue on the tour, one night after another. It’s been an ambitious undertaking, but we’ll hit print #200 here pretty soon.
1x: What was your approach initially when curating these releases?
Zoltron: I wanted to work with artists that I admired, not necessarily just “poster” artists. People like Winston Smith, Ron English, The Date Farmers, Skinner, Mario Martinez, Travis Louie, Adam Jones, Broken Fingaz Crew, South Park Studios, etc. The list goes on..
I wanted to make sure that the artists were compensated, got to keep total creative control, retain the copyright and get hyped from all of the band’s social sites, etc. I wanted to make sure that the printers were paid well and credited for their work.
Basically, I wanted to try to change the gig poster paradigm a bit, by making sure that everyone involved were treated well and taken care of for their efforts. Primus has been great in that respect, they’re totally behind it and are still one of the best bands to work with, in terms of posters. I think all of the artists will agree.
1x: How if at all has your mindset changed with it as you enter the 5th year working with Primus on these releases?
Zoltron: Honestly…at this point, I’m trying to streamline the whole process, working mainly with pro silkscreen poster artists, who handle their own designs, separations and printing. It’s a lot of work handling all the separations, text treatments and designs for those goddamn fine art primadonnas that I mentioned earlier…hah.
But seriously, when you work with poster pros like Jeff Soto, Emek, Chuck Sperry, Jermaine, Spusta, Reuben Rude, Ken Taylor, Jeremy Packer, Travis Millard, Guy Burwell, Miles Tsang, Morning Breath, Dave Hunter, Welker, Slater and all those heavies who handle everything on their end, suddenly it makes my job managing the series so much easier. You get a pretty good idea of who’s got their silkscreen chops in order within the first few emails back and forth.
That said, I still tend to curate towards the creative rather than the technical. I can’t help it.
1x: Looking back you have really have assembled a massive lineup of amazing artists stretching over a ton of different genres, was that a conscious decision or did that happen organically?
Zoltron: I think it’s been a conscious decision from the start. Cool to see all the varying styles and different approaches over the years.
1x: As a fan of “rock posters” who were some of your favorites growing up?
Zoltron: I was more into underground comics like Zap, The Freak Brothers, RAW…stuff like that. I loved the Grateful Dead logo and Iron Maiden’s Eddie but couldn’t fucking stand the music. I first started collecting album covers based on the artwork, rather than the music and pilfered iconic art from bands like Bad Brains, RKL, DRI, and The Cramps to make stickers in high school. I loved Pushead and VC Johnson, Drew Friedman and Gilbert Shelton. I grew up with Victor Moscoso’s kids and always loved his poster art. He lives right up the road from me and I got a chance to work with him on a Primus poster a few years ago. It was such a cool experience, hanging in the same studio he’s been working in for like 50 years. Seeing his technique, his approach, the old models he and Rick Griffin based some of their posters on, made from corks, popsicle sticks and rubber bands…
1x: Do you remember the first “rock poster” that you purchased?
Zoltron: Not really. I do remember buying some Mad Professor X Lee Scratch Perry gig posters that Ron Donovan and Chuck Sperry printed at the old Firehouse in San Francisco, about 10 years before I ever met them.
1x: Personally why do you think these posters remain so important to people today in our increasingly digital culture?
Zoltron: That’s exactly it. I think now more than ever, there’s a huge resurgence and appreciation among artists and collectors for a tangible, textural, hand made print. Being able to hold it in your hands and have a tactile experience just makes an impact, however subtle. Someone who may not even really understand what it takes to make a screen print, might hold the poster, run their fingers over the surface, smell the ink, kind of sense the weight of the paper and analyze the color separations, without ever realizing it.
It’s like a fine wine or a custom cobbled pair of dancing shoes, once you’ve experienced silkscreen, it’s hard to go back to drinking ripple from a box and wearing crocs to the ballroom.
1x: You are currently curating the summer and fall tour posters with Primus and Dinosaur Jr. will we see some familiar faces coming back?
Zoltron: Yeah, we got some of the guys we’ve been working with and some new artists as well. Bringing in some fresh faces to Primus, like Doze Green, Jeff LaChance, Maxx242, Dave Correia, Shawn Pacheco, Mike Stilkey and Mario Wagner. Should be another cool series.
Zoltron was interviewed by 1xRUN Editor-In-Chief Pietro Truba. Follow him @pietro1xrun.
Concert photos from Primus’ Chocolate Factory Tour by 1xRUN Contributing Photographer Mike Popso. Follow him @mrpopso84