The Art of Rebellion was an art show in NYC featuring 10 iconic rock poster artists including Art Chantry, Brian Ewing, Derek Hess, Dirty Donny, Frank Kozik, Harpoon, John Van Hamersveld, Lindsey Kuhn, Tara McPherson and The Pizz. The artists featured some of their music-related work, and they each debuted painted Iron 883 Harley-Davidson Dark Custom gas tanks as well.
The installment was first featured in Santa Monica earlier this year, and was only on display for a few days in NYC. M.I.S.S. was invited to check out the event, and I got a chance to speak with renowned artist, Frank Kozik. We talked about the artistic process, the state of the music industry, and his Kid Robot toys. Check it out!
Randi Hernandez: Did you single-handedly revive the lost art of the concert poster? Or were there other people doing it?
Frank Kozik: (laughs) Kind-of. The thing is, there were a lot of people working locally, naturally part of their local music scene like I was. I was kinda lucky. I used to work at clubs, and I did posters for them. A lot of bands that went on to be really famous later, came through on their little first tours, and I did their posters, and they liked them. So I was kinda like the first guy maybe to break out of my little local scene and sorta be doing stuff around the country. And then I set up a print shop and started doing really big format stuff. So in a way, I guess. I mean, I dunno. That’s what Rolling Stone said! But who knows!
R: But I wanted to know if YOU thought you were the first to bring it back!
F: Uh….I dunno, maybe. Not really, I mean people were doing it everywhere, they were just doing it locally. When I first started, there was a guy in Seattle called Cyclops that was doing stuff and there was a guy in Houston, but probably I was the first one to sort-of methodically do it on a larger scale for the first couple of years, and then a lot of people saw it and started doing it. But you know, posters have always been around.
R: Once Rolling Stone coins it, it has to be true, right?
F: I guess. (laughs) They have a big circulation. But that was a long time ago.
R: Describe a time when you had “Illustrator’s Block” or “Artist’s Block”?
R: How do you get out of those blocks?
F: Fear and Greed.
R: So that’s what motivates you? How does it get you to that first image that you draw, that first sketch?
F: I’m one of those kinda people – like I have too many ideas, right? – but I’m like really lazy – so, my laziness has forced me to get really efficient, so that when I DO work, I can do a lot of it.
R: So you do, like, sessions? Chunks of time where all you do is artwork?
F: Yeah, and it used to be like I would do it (artwork) every once in a while, and then every week, and now it’s like every day. So I actually do something every day now. You know, I’ve gotten pretty good about it.
R: What time does your day start?
F: Usually 10. 10-8. I never work, but I always work, if that makes any sense?
R: Yeah, you’re always thinking. So it’s like you’re always working.
F: Yeah, and I’m always doing something, or talking to somebody about something. So I kinda don’t really take days off anymore. ‘Cause I don’t really do that much commercial work anymore, I pretty much just do my own stuff all the time. But yeah, you know, there’s been whole years when personal life gets to you or something. 2001 was a bad year. But I’m usually pretty productive.
R: What was your favorite poster to do, what group and what specific poster?
F: Some of the bands I did stuff for I was really into heavily, so I always really liked the Butthole Surfers. I certainly liked their band and I knew the guys in the band, they were friends of mine. So when it came time to do a Butthole Surfers poster, I used to really get into those. I don’t really have a FAVORITE poster, per se, there are a lot of them. It was a little different – when I was really doing a lot of posters, it wasn’t really like an art thing. It’s like just what I DID.
R: So what came first: the art for the poster, and then the band chose it as their poster, or…..
F: …..Bands or clubs or record companies would contact me, and would say things like “Please don’t use Hitler” or something, but usually I could just do whatever I wanted.
R: Now that we have all this digital music, what do you think about the future of album cover art? Do you think it’s a negative thing that everything is going digital?
F: I really can’t say. The thing is, I had a really long career doing art for the music scene, I did it for almost 20 years, and I quit about 9 years ago. I had a label for a long time. The thing is, I got to do every single aspect of it, from working the door at a punk club in 1980, to doing free flyers, to having a record label, to doing major label stuff. I got to sort-of really do every aspect – although I was never really in a band, per se, because I have no musical talent. The thing is, I remember towards the very end, when the free download thing started going on, I was like “this is actually in the long run going to be really bad”, because what it will do basically is no one’s going to be making any money. Like sure, a million people might download your song, but you’re not going to get paid, and I always had a real thing about the band getting paid. And at the time, everybody thought I was a asshole, like “Oh dude, that’s Fascist, it should all be free”, but the band should get paid. So I still feel like that, honestly. I quit the music business in 2001, and I have no fucking idea what’s cool, or what’s going on, or any of that stuff; I don’t follow it.
R: Well, I used to read liner notes, and look at album cover art. Now when you download stuff, yes, you may be able to download the liner notes, but you don’t normally print it out, sit down, and read it.
F: I know, it’s a different world. I’m old. When I was a kid, it was like this whole epic thing. You’d hear about a band, and you would have to go to the weird dude that ran the record store, and like order a fucking single from England, and wait 6 weeks. Then this thing would come, and you’d take it home, and be all like jerkin’ off, like “Aw, I got this fucking, damn, single and it has a stamp!” So it was just a different level of experience. Now it’s all…..I mean, I like it, I’m like, “Oh I want to hear this song”, so I’ll just go punch it up somewhere, and there it is, free. So I do use it. My personal relationship with music was: I was either really into a fantasy element – like I still like old Heavy Metal, because when I was a little kid, I would get like a Black Sabbath record, and it was like this weird thing that would take you into this fantasy world inside. And then when punk came, it was awesome, it was a social scene. So for me, I went to see like literally 10,000 punk shows, but I can’t remember any of the bands or the music. It was about “I’m part of the future” And about the people there and the girls. So all of my relationships to music were super-personal. I think what’s happened now is that while it’s very easy to access the entire existing catalog of musical recordings for free on the internet – which is awesome if you’re like a researcher or something – but I feel like that mystical, personal relationship that I can go into a weird land that doesn’t exist for other people – is gone. And for me, that experience was actually more important than the music and stuff. So I think that the instant availability of whatever you want at your fingertips really removes some magical thing that I don’t even know how to explain. That’s one reason I quit the music business, because I got to fulfill all my fantasies, and once they were fulfilled, there was nothing left. I got really bummed out and stopped going (to shows).
R: Well, you had to wait for ‘that album from England’, and now you don’t have to wait for anything.
F: Right, and it’s just like buying a bag of potato chips now or something, there’s no magical “I found out about this thing” – all those things that empower you are gone. It’s just the way it is. It helped accelerate my leaving the music scene. You know, I’m no audiophile, but listening to something on an mp3 player is not nearly as cool as hearing it at 120 decibels in some shithole club, with giant speakers, high, getting your mind blown. For me, it’s different. Maybe for young people, they’re having some kind of experience at live shows or whatever, that’s cool. But what it did (the accessibility) was make it (music) commonplace and boring, and then I wasn’t that interested anymore. Whatever bizarre things that made me feel empowered by knowing about it, or having that object in my hand, is gone.
R: ….you can’t have it in front of you, dig it up out of your closet, and re-visit it.
F: It doesn’t take you to a fantasy world.
R: One last question: Why is your line of smoking rabbits for Kid Robot called Smorkin’ Labbit, rather than Smokin’ Rabbit? Why did you change the spelling?
F: Basically, like ten years ago when the first one came out in Japan, the Japanese company was like, “What is the name of character?” and I’m like, “Smokin’ Rabbit”, and of course, they Japped it out and it became “Smorkin’ Labbit”, which is so perfect. So they fucked up, and I thought “their fuck-up was way cooler than my name, so I’m just gonna steal it.”
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