Q&A with Dan MacAdam

October 19, 2015

What were some of your initial inspirations in creating the artwork for the May 24, 2012 Chicago gigposter?
I was entirely new to the band when I was contacted about doing a poster, so I went directly to YouTube and found the SALVO videos. I was struck by the references to the films of Jodorowski (El Topo, Holy Mountain, etc.) and by the expansive desert landscapes. There is a hallucinatory spaciousness in the music and in the band’s visual aesthetic that I wanted to capture.

Can you talk a little about the background of the poster and the meaning behind it all?
Much of my work is kind of bleak and gray, which suits many of the bands I work with.  I like to find beauty in decay and disintegration, places that others pass by. But upon becoming familiar with ESMZ’s music it became clear to me that I needed a different approach — something more colorful and positive to fit the optimism and openness of the music. I worked with some images I had shot while backpacking in Death Valley because I felt the unspoiled landscape was a good fit to the vibe of the music. The moon phases are meant to represent the passage of time in infinite cycles; change and permanence. I had an idea of how the lettering would fit inside the image, but I also knew that the sort of lettering style I wanted was not something I do well myself. So I did something I had never done before: I called a friend. In this case, Zach Landrum, who drew the calligraphy. Zach is actually much better known than I am, but he was a fan and eager to collaborate. When he sent the lettering I adapted the image to hold it. It all came together very easily, and I loved the opportunity to work with someone as talented as Zach.

Describe your creative process for interpreting and transforming music into a poster art?
Since I was a child, I’ve connected the rhythms and textures of music with those of landscape and structure. I listen to the music and try to find an association with place, and I like to let the places tell their own stories rather than offering emotional cues or imposing narratives. Most of the time I spend on a design is in the process of preparing the print layers and color separation. For many artists, this is a mainly technical step and kind of a necessary evil that happens toward the end of the process. For me, it’s where much of the creativity happens; where I try to figure out how to make the image “sing” the music.

How much did you know about ESMZ before you were asked to create the poster art?
I had never heard of them! My musical tastes are wide-ranging, but I really rely on tips from friends more than anything else, to find new music. Or in this case, poster clients.

Have you ever seen ESMZ in concert? Describe your experience(s).
Yes, I saw the show I did the poster for. Usually, when I see a band with a ton of musicians onstage, there is just too much of everything. Everyone wants to play at once and the result is bombastic and overwrought…it rarely works IMO. So my main takeaway was how well ESMZ made it work. Everyone had something to do, but the musicians showed a lot of patience and restraint; playing when they needed to, but holding back at other times. That sort of patience and restraint is a mark of true musicianship. The number of players and variety of timbres was more than the sum of its parts…a rare and special thing.

How did you get into creating poster art for musicians?
By making posters for my own bands,and my friends’ bands. Most poster artists are musicians of some sort or another.

For more information about Dan MacAdam, visit www.crosshairchicago.com.

Click here to purchase ESMZ tour posters.


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