LOCAL Houston | The City Guide May 2016 - Page 42

BILLY PERKINS Interview by Lance Scott Walker Just about every rock ’n’ roll poster artist in existence has been influenced by the psychedelic poster art of the late 1960s. That was the case for Austin, Texas artist Billy Perkins, but he is also a musician himself who grew up a fan of the illustrations he saw in comic books. In his works for icons like Willie Nelson, David Bowie, and Fleetwood Mac, punk legends like MC5 and X and Bayou City artists like ZZ Top, Blue October and Hayes Carll, he has kept that spirit of those art forms alive in a style that is distinctly Texan. If it’s an artist you’ve been listening to for years, do you find you already had an idea in mind as to what a poster for them would look like? Oh yeah, at least as far as an idea for a general vibe. I mean, a Judas Priest print just screams for some chrome and leather. Or maybe a big-ass vampire bat creature and some razor blades. I also saw lots of black and red and silver for them. For a jammy band like Widespread Panic, their imagery is more free-spirited, lighter in nature and even a bit psychedelic. So I think in brighter and more vibrant colors, hand-drawn text and a more involved illustration. They are fun to work for. The inspiration for the artwork has to come from the music, or the art is not going to fit the band. For my Fleetwood Mac print, I was always a big fan of their moodier, creepy songs like “Rhiannon” and “So Afraid,” so with them I tried to visually capture that side of the band, both with the imagery and the color choices. I decided on the tree image initially because I remembered their stage backdrop for the “Rumours” tour in ’77, which was a dead tree silhouetted against a full moon. I always thought that was a perfect image for them because to me, that’s how they sounded. So the concept started there, and I built a deeper concept from that. A lot of the bands you do work for have been around for 20, 30, 40 years. How do you decide what era of their history to bring out in the artwork? Ha, I’ve also been around 20, 30, 40 years! That’s a great question. Unless they request something pertaining to a specific era, then this is where I can utilize some of my own personal preferences. I already know their music, so being familiar with their catalogue helps a lot. Most likely there is a certain era of that band where their career was peaking. I think that’s what the majority of their fans are connected with, including myself. So it seems like a logical place to start with ideas. The posters are designed to not only get people to buy tickets, but are sometimes also sold as merch. In both cases, I think it’s a good idea to tap into the perception of the band according to their fan base – of which I am one. Let’s take Cheap Trick, for instance. I became a huge fan of theirs as a teen back when Heaven Tonight came out in ’77. My high school friends and I saw them for the first time on the Dream Police tour. Before Vans introduced their famous checkered shoes in the ’80s, my friends and I would regularly buy the plain white Converse Chuck Taylor high tops, and draw checkers all over them as a tribute to Cheap Trick. That’s a great memory for me of a really fun time. So when I did a poster for them in 2015, I went back to that memory and depicted a pair of sneakers, drawn all over with a marker the way we used to do it. I think it fits the band great, especially because it really happened. For the classic bands, I almost always like to try and capture some of the majesty of their heyday. That seems to me to be the best way to represent them. continued on page 73 42 L O C A L | may 16