Uh dang. Did we just Sell Out?
Full disclosure: I was late to the Foo Fighters party. I was of course a huge Nirvana fan back in the day and loved the 1995 debut, but your tastes shift as you get older and you follow where they go. For that reason I kinda just lost track of them. They were around and I was aware of the hits but I didn’t really know too much of what they were up to. My friend “Wolo” was (and is) an almost evangelical Foo superfan, flying all over the place to Foo shows, following leads on secret shows, etc. When he lent me the BluRay of their documentary Back and Forth I did that thing you do where you put it in a stack and never get around to it. I caught it later in a hotel room on vacation while I was waiting for my girlfriend (now wife) to get ready and really that’s where my fandom began. Later that year I’d see them blaze through a breakneck evening set at San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival and that’s where my fandom was cemented. In short: I came into my appreciation for these guys primarily as a live act. Live, nobody can touch these guys. They roll across the world as rock n roll true believers and they leave everything up on stage, every night, every city. The reason I bored you typing all that is because I wanted to give you a sense of where I was coming from with this one. I wanted that energy, that explosive anthemic power to come across in the art. They push themselves every night so I owed it to the poster to give at least whatever my version of that is.
Conceptually, this one is rooted in a fantastic book my wife got me two Christmases back: Tim Lapetino’s beautiful Art of Atari (seriously, if you have any interest in that era of gaming or even just pop culture this book is essential). It covers Atari from its humble beginnings making amusements for Silicon Valley bars all the way through its late 70s/early 80s heyday where they pretty much invented the home video game industry. What’s most striking about it is the art. It’s a straight up gorgeous book featuring tons of archival artwork from trade fliers to the iconic 2600 cartridge box designs, to touch sketches of game sprites. What really got me were the cabinet designs: working with such limited low resolution bitmap graphics meant you’d better house it in a cabinet design that couched it all in a bigger sense of adventure. Sure the aliens on screen were made of a half-dozen boxes arranged in a vaguely alien shape but the side of the machine established that they were really just avatars for towering monstrous space vikings hurling great arcs of lightning. Its a simple trick, but it worked: you’d really imagine that your tiny box onscreen was a space knight or starship or whatever the flavor art packaging it suggested. I wanted/needed to make something in that mode, and for 2 years the idea stayed in my brain even though I hadn’t really any good place to put it. That’s where Foo Fighters came in.
In fall 2017, Wolo and I attended their inaugural CalJam down in San Bernardino. Looking at the merch on sale I was like, “hey! I do this stuff! Why am I not doing this stuff?” The next June I sent a cold email to CalJam asking for a merch contact so I could see about throwing my name into the pile. You send these emails out from time to time and often (and usually) nothing comes of it. So I go on with my life and forget I even sent it. Mid-August I get an email response saying theres a single date open if I want it: Milwaukee. Of course I jumped at the chance and took the gig.
I was going to get to do a Foo poster and what’s more I finally had a place to flex that classic Atari cabinet style: the thick lines, the sporty striping, the epic perspectives and explosive action, all of it. Plus, Dave and the band have the perfect sense of humor for me to try something like this. They would be defending Milwaukee (or at least a version of Milwaukee) from alien attack and they would do it with the power of Rock. Its a bit of a mashup of Space Invaders and Breakout, with subversions where they seemed to fit: for instance devil heads instead of generic aliens, shooting flaming pixelated skulls, etc. The band would play rising up from a smoldering crater, riding hovering platforms, or in Taylor and Pat’s case respectively riding a rocket-powered drums riser or flying around in a jetpack. There are all kinds of fun details throughout, from the reimagined Atari-age FF logo to the Han Solo pants and boots to Dave’s Han Solo belt, to their futuristic armbands bearing the icons to Milwaukee’s City Hall getting blasted (I have long been a proponent of the idea that if you love your city you always secretly want to see it get blown up), etc. I took great pains to make sure to capture each member’s look, body language and general performance vibe. I also include some details that probably only I find amusing, like everyone in boots but Pat’s in sneaks because Pat can do whatever Pat wants. I made sure to even include Rami giving the devil horns skyward from behind a retro-futuristic bank of keyboards.
The colors are derived from an unused design for Atari’s 10th anniversary logo and the style of coloring leans heavily on the inside gatefold of Wing’s Wings Over America live album, where stage lights seem to blow out and posterize the faces of the band. I wanted the same feel from the Foos being lit up by all the chaos going on around them.
All in all I am thrilled with how this one turned out and equally thrilled that people really seem to like it. It was a labor of love that I long ago lost track of how many hours I spent working on it. But like I said, I felt I owed the band a poster that tries at least half as hard as they do.