Chances are you've seen the work of Nat Damm. The city is the gallery: His rock-show poster designs often take center stage on light poles and electrical boxes all over town, helping to spread the word for local and touring musicians. He knows the benefits of his business from all sides, as a drummer, booker, and one-time distro dude. And he's got the Ramen to prove it.
What drew you to poster design?
Ever since I discovered punk rock, I've been intrigued by poster art. I love the nitty-gritty of it. Also, playing in bands kind of made it a necessity. I started playing music when I was 14, so it all sort of came together.
How did you learn?
Ha. Trial and error, I guess.
How do you go about creating a poster?
It depends on who is asking. Generally, I just do what feels good. Sometimes I have more creative freedom. If that's the case, I make something that I feel represents the band the best and is utilitarian. If there are specs for the poster, then I try to cater to the themes and ideas of the band or promoter. Taking a photo of a band and slapping text on it isn't very fun or interesting. But if it pays the bills, I'll do it.
What other artists in the field do you think are radical and why?
I really like Delicious out of Chicago. I'm a big fan of Kozik, Brad Klausen, Art Chantry, Print Mafia, Jeff Kleinsmith. I like anyone who makes me want to try harder.
What makes posters such a popular way of promoting shows in Seattle?
I have no idea. I just hope it keeps up. It helped a lot when the poster ban ended. Perhaps it's our roots from the late '80s and early '90s? Seattle has been a music town for a long time.
How do you feel about Poster Giant and Poster Midget, regarding their methods of distributing your art?
Hmmm. It's super competitive out there. I did poster distribution for several years. It's a hard job. You do it rain or shine, and paper is heavy. I try to stay out of the politics between the two companies. I don't have anything to do with who a club or production company wants to have distro their posters.
As a touring musician, you're often in other cities. Do you find that posters are less prevalent in other cities?
Absolutely. Many cities either just don't have a market for it or have laws that prohibit posters on poles. There are a lot of cities that do, though, and it's great to see what's going on in other areas of the country.
What's the poster you're most proud of and why?
I am really proud of the Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 poster that I did for their last U.S. tour. I also really love the Dwarves poster that I did a few years ago for their show at Graceland.
It seems that poster design is now receiving more recognition as an art form. What do you think has helped that to happen?
I see that, too. I think that more people are appreciating the beauty of silk-screens and the work that goes into making them. Also, more bands are either being approached by notable designers or are commissioning posters for their shows. The amount of amazing work that is coming out now is flooding the market with posters for bands from the Melvins to Modest Mouse. These are bands with fans who want posters, either as a souvenir of a show they saw or simply because they appreciate and value posters as art.
How do you feel poster art has progressed over the last couple of decades?
I love the psych posters of the '60s and '70s. Old Fillmore stuff. I see a lot of what's been done in the past in the design of today, mine included. Folks taking what they like and making it their own, putting their own spin on things. There is definitely progress; the technology is essentially the same, but people keep pushing the limits and growing.
What do you hope to do with your art in the next few years?
I'd like to design more silk-screens. It's a rare thing for me. Out of the hundreds of posters I design every year, I maybe make 10 silk-screens.
What kind of advice would you give an aspiring artist who'd like to design show posters?
Learn to love Ramen and PBR.
A weekly peek behind the curtain of the Emerald City music world, Behind the Scene sheds light on folks you won't see onstage, but who make it all happen.