THE KING OF CONCERT POSTERS' NEW BOOK OFFERS AN
If you're a fan of music, or have ever been to a concert, chances are you've come across the work of WNW Member #10521 Mike King. He has designed well over five thousand concert posters since the late 70s for band and venues all over the country, getting his start making posters for the punk/noise bands he played in. Luckily, the greatest hits spanning his entire career will soon be available. Mike is currently crowdfunding Maximum Plunder: The Poster Art of Mike King, a book that brings together over one thousand of his concert posters. Below, we caught up with Mike to discuss how his style and process have evolved over the years, and how he developed the discipline and commitment to master his craft: "Discipline and commitment implies that there was some planning involved to get to where I am now. The truth is I just did them and kept on doing them and the next thing I knew I was a designer with a career."
There are only two weeks left to help fund this book that celebrates the alliance of music and design. Head here to help support this project.
Tell us about your creative background. Who is Mike King and how did he get here?
I was one of those guys in high school who drew instead of studying. I wanted to draw comics, but was crap at it. I always loved music, but didn't feel like I was allowed to play it. When I discovered punk rock a whole new world opened up to me. I played in some bands, made posters for those bands and then started making posters for other bands and it snowballed from there. I no longer play music.
You’re currently crowdfunding a book that contains over a thousand of your concert posters. You’ve designed well over five thousand since the late 70s. How did you develop that discipline and commitment to your craft?
Discipline and commitment implies that there was some planning involved to get to where I am now. The truth is I just did them and kept on doing them and the next thing I knew I was a designer with a career.
What goes into the process of creating a concert poster? Is it easier if you’re a fan of the music? Do you consider the venue in your design or is it strictly about the band?
The process varies from project to project, often dependent on input from the client. But I am lucky enough to work with some folks who just let me be me. Sometimes it’s easier if I’m not a fan of the band. If I really like something I have a tendency to overthink it.
I take everything into consideration: band, venue, date. If a concert is on October 31 it seems like that would affect the poster. If the band is The Misfits you would want the poster to look like it was on October 31 even if the show is in April.
Do you listen to the artist’s music while designing the poster for their show?
I don’t usually listen to the band while working on the poster. If I haven’t heard the band before, I don’t. As a professional I don’t want my musical taste to get in the way. If I want to know what a band is about, I usually look at their merch: the T-shirts they sell are way more insightful graphically than the music
How would you describe your creative style? Do you recognize a signature style that links all of your projects, or do you try to excuse yourself and approach each poster as its own entity?
I would describe my “style” as varied. I like to think I have more of aesthetic than a style, but maybe I am kidding myself. I like a lot of different styles and I try make my work as varied as possible. I approach each project on it’s own terms.
What are some ways that your skill-set and style have evolved over the years? Have you introduced new methods?
I started out drawing, then I moved to a xerox machine which led to photoshop. Lately it seems like I am drawing more. All of my new methods are top secret.
You’ve also designed album artwork for some pretty big names. Does your approach differ from the process of designing a concert poster?
Certainly, with album art there tends to be many more people involved and much more revision. The design skills required are the same as posters; it’s the skill involved in dealing with people that can be the challenge.
Posters for events have to be done right away. Album art (in theory) isn't designed in as much of a rush.
How do the Pacific Northwest and New York city respectively influence your work?
I feel like even when I was in the Northwest, New York always had an influence.
Who are some of your biggest creative idols and influences?
Paul Rand, Wally Wood, Jeff Kleinsmith, Ben Shahn, Saul Bass, John Heartfeld, Rodchenko, Dadaism, Constructivism, Hot Rod magazines, Victorian advertising, Punk zines…..
What five posters have made you the proudest?
It’s hard to pick posters I am proudest of, because I can find flaws in every one.
A few of the posters I dislike the least are:
Vampire Weekend - Crystal Ballroom / LCD Soundsystem - Sasquatch Music Festival / Flaming Lips - Edgefield / Bad Religion - RCKNDY / The Decemberists - Royal Festival Hall
If you weren’t a designer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
Working in a bookstore, janitor, Titan of industry
What do you do when Not Working?
When I am not working, I am thinking of working.
What are some things you would tell your high school or early twenties self?
“Smoking all that weed isn’t so good for you.”
What cultural and creative venues do you frequent in New York & the Northwest (arthouse theaters, galleries, concert venues, museums, bookstores, record stores etc)?
I go to free nights at museums most months (there are way more museums here)
Unlike the Northwest, I have to pay to see concerts, so I haven’t seen as much music as I'd like.
I like sketch night at the Illustrators Club. There are several record and book stores I like in the lower east side. Mostly I just wander around.
Do you thrive off of being part of a creative community or are you more in your element as a lone wolf?
I am a lone wolf, but not by choice. I would certainly thrive as part of a creative community... but I barely know anyone here.
Any music recommendations for your fellow WNW members?
I love the new Savages album, lately I am into oldish metal (Anthrax, Slayer, Iron Maiden), OG New York Punk and No Wave (Television, Suicide, Heartbreakers, Lydia Lunch) and the Bad Brains.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Please check out the book, and even if my WNW page says I am working, hit me up anyway… my schedule is way flexible.