I love Motorhead. You Know this. I love Joan Jett. You know that. I love X. You should know that. Why am I telling you this? Because another guy loves them too, only he happens to be a wicked talented Rock (Poster) God!!! (cue thunder) Bootsy Rizzak aka Josh Bernstein caught my attention a few years back when I first saw a poster he designed for SXSW featuring Lemmy in all his speed-fueled, mole-covered rock glory. I loved his dark yet cartooney take on the metal lord so much that I framed it and then did some blow off the glass. True story. Then in my drug stupor I dug deeper and found even more of his stunning work including a recent batch of posters and merch for one of my favorite LA bands: X. If you only know John Doe as the asshole bartender in Roadhouse, get your ass to a record store or iTunes and get some X on the quick. Bootsy — like some of his favorites including Brian Ewing and Tara McPherson (who we interviewed HERE) — are taking the Rock Poster far beyond the telephone pole and right into art galleries. Rizzak actually continues to showcase his work while exposing both the greats and the up and comers via Royal Flush, a magazine he co-created, publishes and of course designs their festival and event posters for. Taking things ever further in the main stream, Josh somehow balances all this work with a full-time gig running Revolver magazine, and even created their annual Golden Gods Awards & heavy metal roast. Dude is sooo lazy. A man of many talents and wearer of many hats, it’s very hard to pigeon hole him in words, so I will let this lovely gallery of his work do the rest.
So did you begin your “rock poster” illustration career in grammar school, diligently doodling band logos to exact standards? If so, what bands’ logos were your favorite to perfect?
The logo that stood out to me as a kid that I remember doodling was the Twisted Sister one. I distinctly remember drawing that one on my denim binders and a few school desks. Beyond that, I’m sure I took a crack at drawing the classic logos for the Doors, the Who and the Beatles.
How did you transition from illustrating to working with bands/artists? It seems like a very natural progression, but how exactly did yours take place?
I guess in the most obvious way. My buddies and I do an illustrated magazine called Royal Flush. When our first issue came out, a bunch of us fellow artists thought it would be cool to form a band to play our new issue’s release party. Well, that show needed a poster and a new career was forged. Our band, the Spicy Rizzaks, ended up playing about 100 shows and I made custom posters for most of those gigs. That led to designing posters for friends’ bands and friends of friends’ bands. Eventually my work got the attention of some great national bands that I admired and had budgets and bar tabs.
I really like your “X-Band” X-Men piece — nice vintage reference. You also have some Batman work as well. Were comic books a big inspiration for you? If so, what were some of your favorite artists/superheroes pairings? Also, if you can, name name me a couple covers that really rocked your world.
Huge comic fan since the day I was born. I wear it on my sleeve obviously. I grew up wanting to be a comic book penciller. I took classes, interned at Marvel and then went to SVA to study that. My favorite pairings? If anyone doesn’t say Lee & Kirby, they are lying. I also worship Lee & Ditko, Schwartz & Infantino, O’Neill & Adams and Wolfman & Perez. The covers that rocked my world were Amazing Spiderman #50, Flash #163, Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, Hulk #340, All-Star Comics #3 and anything by Alex Schomburg, Jim Steranko, Brian Bolland, and Mike Allred.
To this day, what has been the poster/illustration that has brought you the most personal satisfaction?
Probably the one you just referenced. The X “X-Band” piece. X is truly one of my all-time favorite bands. I think they just get better and better with age. 35 years on, they are one of the best live bands around. To execute that poster the way I wanted it to look, then have the actual band say they loved it meant the world to me. They’re such great folks. Didn’t hurt that it also sold X-tremely quickly…
Dig through a few of Rizzak’s posters like X and Dirtbombs in the Gallery below & click the Jump to continue reading about upcoming projects from Rizzak, and what one album from history he’d love to re-design…
“There is no more stress-free and exciting experience to create a rock poster – the only limit is your imagination.”
Has there been an artist that asked to work with you who you were a huge fan of before they asked? What was the circumstance, and how fulfilling was that experience for you?
There have been a few. X is an obvious choice. Also bands like the Melvins and High on Fire are amazing, and I was pumped to do work for them. I probably would have to say Joan Jett. She’s another artist I have loved and respected since childhood. Getting her stamp of approval was incredibly meaningful to me.
Or was it hell because of the pressure?
Nah, no pressure. There is no more stress-free and exciting experience to create a rock poster – the only limit is your imagination. I’ll admit the screenprinting can get a little nerve-wracking!
You’re on deadline, with several posters to deliver by end of week. You’ve blocked off a whole night to work. What 3 albums do you cue up on your stereo to get amped and inspired?
T.Rex / The Slider
Dead Weather / Horehound
X / Wild Gift
Do you use iTunes/MP3s, or are you still a dedicated aficionado of vinyl? In a related question, do you mourn the demise of the vinyl album, and the associated de-valuation of album artwork along with it? Or do you feel digital media has maybe opened up new avenues of music and art conflating which make up for the death of album art?
I wish I could say something cool like “hey man, vinyl is so much warmer and real to me” but the truth is I listen to mp3s. I have an extensive vinyl collection, but have most of it copied as mp3s. I’m okay with that– haha. Now the artwork size is a massive bummer. How many nights as a kid I would stare at Sgt. Peppers or the Strange Days cover as a kid as I flipped the records on the turntable. I feel bad kids can’t experience that now. But, there’s so many good album artists working out there now like the Invisible Creature guys, John Baizley, Nathan Fox and Seldon Hunt. The art is out there, you just have to dig deeper.
What album from history would you like a chance to re-design the cover?
Great question. Probably the Metallica Black Album – after the Beatles White Album and Spinal Tap, it was kind of a cop-out and a missed opportunity to do something kick-ass. Especially after the iconic nature of Ride the Lightning, Kill ‘Em All and Master of Puppets. And super-especially with how powerful that album is.
Ok last question: if you were lost in a supermarket, in what aisle would we find you?
I actually used to work in a supermarket, where I was a produce man. But now, you will find me in the frozen food aisle. I constantly think that it’s too hot everywhere I go, so I’ll be hanging by the Gino’s pizza rolls and Eggo waffles!
Hulk #340 by Todd McFarlane, one of Rizzak’s favorite comic covers of all time…