Bout to Blow
Bout to Blow
8 × 10 in
Ohio State University
The British Library
One of my external hard drives crashed in late 2018, taking a good 6-7 years of work along with it. The recovery software did manage to see some stuff but not most stuff. This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened to me, and I’d sorta learned to throw my hands in the air and be okay with it.
Fast forward several months later when I stumbled upon an old flash drive I hardly remember ever using. I plug it in to see what’s on it, and guess what I fine? All 862 posters I used in the video U2 commissioned me to make for Volcano, one of the songs in their 2014 album, Songs of Innocence. Apparently, it was the very same flash drive I took to the print shop to get the posters made in the first place!
I took it as a sign to make the effort to preserve the work. Aside from copying it onto a new hard drive as well as uploading it to “the cloud,” I figured the best way to preserve the work is to put it all in an actual physical book, because books have a weird way of standing the test of time that all virtual stuff doesn’t. Ask me, I’ve lost way more digital data in my years than I have anything on paper (*eyes the 1893 edition of The Three Musketeers sitting on shelf*).
Of course, I didn’t just dump all 862 posters into the book, because that would’ve been no fun for anyone. Because the video was a stop-motion piece, it entailed making incremental changes to each poster design. To feature those incremental changes in a book would be a little exhaustive and pointless. But I do think it’s important to feature some degree of these incremental changes to really reveal to aspiring artists and designers how the video was made, and how the transition from one key poster design to the next was made possible. I really love it when artists reveal their process, so I hope by doing the same I’m paying it forward in a sense.
I should say working on this project was exhausting, but it was also exciting. Because I only had three weeks to pull the whole thing together, that meant designing and printing (and shooting) all 862 posters during that very limited time, which y’know doesn’t really lend itself to sitting back and contemplating the work you’re doing. It’s a situation where you’re rapidly hammering one design after the other with such speed and intensity that you’re barely aware of what you’re doing at all. So there’s a lot of spontaneous stuff that just makes its way onto these posters, yet they also just can’t be any damn nonsense because there’s a very particular song with a very particular rhythm and length and lyrics that you want what you’re doing to correspond to. It was kind of insane but also kind of awesome.
I’m sure a part of me at the time wished I’d come up with a completely different idea instead, but I was too attached to it by then. I love that the band was drawing from 70’s era punk as an inspiration for the album, a time and period that resonates with me in a special way. An old fascination of mine has always been the gig posters of the era (or graphic design ephemera of the time really), because it was the gig poster (and of course the album cover) that was the face of rock n’ roll. Music videos weren’t yet much of a thing, and the only visual association anyone made to the music was through these still images. So I figured why not bring the poster back into the video era. That’s really how the whole idea came about.
In any case, the book is yours now for you to get what you want out of it. If nothing else, I’m sure there’s something to it being an artifact of not just design history, but music history as well.
February 25, 2019