Jason Malmberg (US)

Jason Malmberg (US)

For some reasons I won't let you know, I know that Jason is a generous guy, and you will be able to judge it by the size of some of his answers which is really great for those of us who are wondering who may be behind those electro-linked posters. So is Jason a rock poster artist ? Yes, but not only. Cut Copy ? Crystal Method ? The Roots or Inspectah Deck, all of them are not what you call Rock, but their name between Jason's hands definitly give good (rock) poster !!!

Hello, of course as every Crewk interview, first question: what are we listening to when we come to visit you?

I am listening to College’s Northern Council. I just finished the new M83 record.

Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?

My name is Jason. I grew up in the Midwest in Omaha, Nebraska. For the last 12 years, I’ve been living in Sacramento, California, where I day-job as art director of a regional magazine.

When did you start drawing?

As early as I can remember. My parents both worked, so I would spend my days with my grandparents when I was very young. My grandfather was a police sergeant and would bring home boxes and boxes of scrap paper from his office that had computer printouts on one side but were blank on the other.

My grandmother tells me that I would sit for hours and just run through reams and reams of paper. I drew a lot of comic book heroes, even though I never really read many comics. That, and Star Wars stuff. I drew pages and pages of Star Wars-related things.

Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins of your schoolbooks?

I took all the usual public school art courses, but my real breakthrough came when I hit grade 10. I was lucky enough to have an art teacher who took a very “light touch” approach in that he would let us run free in a giant room filled with supplies, guiding us when we needed or wanted it but generally leaving us alone. He required a certain number of projects per semester, but other than that would let us find out what we were into. This was perfect for me, since I had and have very little interest in the usual art curriculum.

Growing up in a hyper-media-saturated time really formed a lot of what I was interested in visually. I’d grab half-remembered bits of music videos, record sleeves, pieces of new and old design ephemera — and they would all kind of stew together and come out again in my work. Maybe just a color or shape would survive the process of trying to recall a thing, but that ended up serving my style well. I’d go to a record store, look at the sleeves of CDs I couldn’t afford to buy, and by the time I got back home and tried to recreate what I had seen, it would always have transformed into some totally different thing from mixing with other influences. “Remembering things wrong” as it were, was a huge driver in my artistic development.

I also remember that I would (like I assume most teenagers do) spend a lot of time drawing logos, and mixed-tape sleeves. This was right before everyone had computers in their houses, and LetraSet was expensive and hard to find, so if I wanted a certain typeface, I had to learn to draw the entire thing by hand. It was a pain at the time, but you learn a LOT about typography and how it works from having to draw it all out yourself.

Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?

I make my living as a designer, yes, but poster-making is really a hobby that I make very little money, if any, from. I do it more to keep myself creatively sane. Plus, it’s a way to feel like I am contributing and engaging with the music I love.

Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?

Sadly, no, even though I do work at a magazine that I design.

Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?

The funny thing about influences is how they can shape what you do in a way that might seem imperceptible to someone looking at your work from the outside. For instance, my big three that I feel have had the most influence on me are ’80s painter Robert Longo; of course Peter Saville (if I can ever in my life make at least one thing that looks as fresh as his sleeve for Suede’s Coming Up did to me when I saw it in 1997, then I will be able to be happy); and most of all, 4AD designer Vaughan Oliver. When I look at my own work, I can see where those influences guided things, even if it’s not really apparent in the work itself.

Another example is David Carson: My entire approach to how I create owes a lot to his work, even if our styles are very, very different.

What are the principal steps in your work ?

First and foremost is research. If you don’t listen to the music you are creating for, then you probably shouldn’t be doing the job. I’m not saying you necessarily have to LIKE the music, but it’s important that you have some working knowledge of it. If you can’t engage with what a band IS, then how can you expect your work to have anything to say about them?

Every now and again I see a poster that might be visually terrific, but I have to wonder if the designer knew anything about the band he made it for or if it’s just a nice piece of art with the purpose as an afterthought. I don’t always get it right, of course, but I always try very hard to find a way in to the work of the artist I’m trying to represent.

After that, an initial concept pops into my head. Sometimes it’s something vague like lions, and other times I can see the entire piece and it’s just a matter of plotting it out from there. But I am very much an “in-process” designer. My best ideas come from the process of creating the piece. So, where I start and where I’m going and where I end up are almost always totally different.

Do you do everything by hand or on computer?

I work almost entirely in-computer. Even when I draw things in, it is often inside the computer that I work. However, I try very hard to keep my poster aesthetic tightly locked to keep things from looking too computer-designed.

I’d like to think that most of my work has a tactile quality that looks like it could have been created with the tools of the 1950s or ’60s or ’70s.

How long does it take you to do a poster?

I’ve had posters where everything just snaps into place and they’ve come flowing out in a single night, say five to six hours, and I’ve had others where I’ve nearly reached completion, torn it all down and started over with maybe just a single surviving element. A lot of art is editing. We don’t always knock it out of the park every time, and we can’t control that. But what we CAN control is what we let out into the world. So I’ve spent a week before coming back to a single piece and reworking it just because it wasn’t “there” yet. Sometimes, even longer than a week.

You have a very distinctive style, are you doing only what you feel like or if tomorrow somebody asks you an oil painting with horses running out of water with a sunset backdrop, is it a problem or are you up for it ?

Well, first off, thank you very much. That’s a great compliment. I would probably say that they would need to find someone else, just for their own sake. I couldn’t guarantee them that I wouldn’t spin the piece in some other direction at some point while working on it.

For which band have you already worked for?

I have done posters for dozens of bands, from BAND to BAND.

For which band would you love to work?

I would love to do a poster for Soulwax. Getting to do one last fall for Cut Copy, Foals, Naked & Famous, Holy Ghost! was like a dream bill for me.

I'd also love to do a poster for Foals, but they have their own guy doing very consistent and brilliant stuff for them, so they don’t need me messing that up.

Do you choose the artists yourself?

Usually. When I first started out in 2004, I would do a poster for anybody. And that was a great way to cut my teeth on it all and a VERY good way to keep some versatility. I have a wide variety of stuff I like, so its a bit easier for me, but I tend these days to only put in for bands I really like.

What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ?

The idea. I try to design from a place where I want my piece to stand on its own but also add to a band’s vocabulary a bit. Meaning I want it to complement things they have already done — their covers, their videos, their imaging — while still finding a new facet to represent.

Do you think you are part of a “Graphic Scene”, if so who else ?

I don’t really know. That is a good question. I just do what I love.

A bit of self-promotion, take advantage of it, it’s free, where can we see your work, on the web or in real life?

I have a site full of my posters, record sleeves, etc., at Decabet.com

The best praise you received lately?

Paterson Hood once called the poster I did for a Drive-By Truckers show “fine art.” Handsome Furs said that my poster for their show last month was the best poster they’d ever had done for one of their shows.

Those are the best compliments. When the band really feels what you’ve done for them.

What can we wish you for the future?

Fried chicken, guns, a speedboat, a Boston terrier with an eye-patch, and an apartment with hot- and cold-running bourbon faucets.

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