Poster Man

I’ve been making and pasting posters since the
early eighties. In fact I used to do it professionally in Dunedin (before Phantom BillStickers) came along and even though it was against the city’s own by-laws one of my biggest customers was the Council itself (who used my services to promote their own events.) There are certain risks inherent in putting up posters, particularly with the some of the socio/political/environmental posters I put up and I’ve been
threatened more times than I can remember. 

It’s definitely not an occupation for the faint-hearted!  On time in Wellington in 2014 I had my camera stolen by a guy who seemingly hated my posters so much it wasn’t enough to rip them down, he had to smash the whole hoarding! He saw me photographing him, came over, threatened
to punch me, grabbed my camera and ran off. Now that was a good poster.

Here’s a small selection (in no particular order) of some of the band posters I’ve designed over the last forty years which advertised gigs by bands I was either in myself or friends with.  You’ll have to look elsewhere to find the socio-political/environmental posters!

HCsCrowleyMurderA03 (Medium)

Poster for my band -‘The Hipper Critters’ and ‘A Crowley Murder’ – at Bar Medusa in Wellington in 2011. Design by myself and layout by Diane Davis. I have no memory of this gig what-so-ever, 

 

I originally had this idea of sharing these photos of old posters and telling the story of the gig or event they publicized to promote a crowd-funding campaign I put together on the ‘Boosted’ website to raise money for The Great Kiwi Poster Competition which ran between 2021-22. This was the third poster competition I instigated.

The first one was only for Wellington
residents and was part of the Vivid Street Art Festival (of which I was the
main organiser) in 2016. People could enter anything they wanted and Phantom and Hell Pizza were the major sponsors. The second one was open to all kiwis and was called ‘The Aotearoa Poster Competition’ (2020). It had an anti-racist theme and was sponsored by Phantom BillStickers and the NZ Chinese Association.

The Great Kiwi Poster competition was open to all kiwis aged 5-21 and had a focus on the environment and climate change. This one was sponsored by the kind people who donated on ‘Boosted’, Phantom (as usual), Hell Pizza (again) and NZ Biological Heritage. There were over 200 entries and the four winners each received $1000 and got their poster put up all over the country. Hopefully there will be another one soon! (One of the advertising posters for the 2021/22 competition,  designed by myself and Helene Hall, is below)

The Great KPC 2021 A1 Poster_01 (1).pdf final wiht black land animals

BAND POSTERS (1983-2022)


1) ‘Crystal Zoom!’/’Armchair Thrillers’ – Star and Garter Pub – Christchurch 1984.

Poster art by myself /Concept by Mike Weston.

Crystal Zoom (1983-85) was my first ever band. This poster was Mike Weston’s idea. We were all big Joy Division fans and we all read the NME (English Music Magazine) every week. When Mike saw this NME cover just after Ian Curtis’s suicide he came up with the idea for the speech balloons. The first time we used it was for an early 1983 gig at The Empire but this version is the one we used (with cartoon characters of the band from the very first poster added for more effect) for a gig at The Star and Garter in Christchurch in March of 1984.

 This gig stands out in my memory and others too with Gerald Dwyer even writing a story about it for ‘Rip it Up’ as one of the most memorable  gigs he ever went to.

At this point the band was about six months old and composed of myself, Mike Weston, Eric Neuman and Nick Neill.  We went up to Christchurch with another new band called ‘Armchair Thrillers’. We were still kind of punk in musical style (although only Eric looked like one) but we didn’t take it at all seriously and often took the piss out of the whole genre. Armchair Thrillers were a more conventional ‘synth-pop’ type band formed by Damien Woodhouse. I can’t remember the name of the woman who organised this three night engagement on behalf of a short-lived  ‘events management company’ but she told us it would all go like clockwork and be super –professional bla bla bla. It should have been a warning sign but we were still very wet behind the ears.

So we get to Christchurch early Friday afternoon – none of the posters have been put up – there’s no backline gear (which was promised) and maybe there wasn’t even a PA (Public Address System). There was nothing and the Star and Garter is a big venue. Most of the band went to drop off their own stuff at a house our erstwhile promoter had organised and when they got there this wild looking dude opened the door and said – I’m the mad extortionist’. He turned out to be Bruce Cameron – a man who was on the run from the police for threatening to put LSD (or was it PCP) in Auckland’s water supply. This threat was taken seriously as he was the first person (or one of the first) to be convicted for synthesising these drugs locally. There was a big man-hunt going on for him and the papers were calling him ‘the mad extortionist’. After meeting this other Bruce the band drove round town pulling favours to quickly put up some posters and find the equipment we needed to play that first night.

At the time Christchurch was the home of some very nasty hard core racist skin head groups who went around wearing big swastikas on their white t-shirts. They weren’t anything like the cute and cuddly little (and mostly non-racist skinheads) we were used to in Dunedin.

From memory the first night was pretty uneventful with a small crowd but some of the people who were there were in another well-known Christchurch punk band called  (I’m not even going to say what those letters stand for!). They were really friendly, said they really liked us and could they possibly play with us the next two nights because they were about to break up because one of them was going to jail or something. Letting them play with us seemed like a good strategic move as we knew they could pull a crowd whereas nobody knew who we were. The next night is where things start to get really…..’exciting’. There was a big crowd of people and a whole herd of these white power skins. Armchair Thrillers played first.

The skin-heads didn’t have a bar of this ‘cute little hair-dresser band’ and pretty much booed and threatened them off the stage. We knew that most of the people who were there had come to see the hometown heroes last gig so we played second. The skinheads hated us almost as much as the ‘Armchairs’ but we gritted out teeth and managed to make it through our set despite a lot of the crowd telling us to ‘Fuck Off’ etc. They were here to see ECF, who were in fact a pretty polished punk band, with some pretty catchy Clash-style songs that were almost pop. They even had an EP out! Early Sunday morning the cops raided the house where most of us were staying looking for the mad extortionist but he’d already taken off and was caught a few days later in Auckland.  Unfortunately what they did find was the band’s weed stash and normally back then this would’ve been quite a big problem but they were just looking for Bruce and took the pot without busting anyone.

 On the last night the pub was literally packed with the same people who’d been there the night  before but they’d also bought their psycho mates along too. We were pretty used to hostile crowds but this was like something out of movie and it was fucking scary. Armchair Thrillers took one look at the room and made a wise choice not to go on stage. They would have been murdered.

 We would’ve loved to be somewhere else too but we had to go through with it. To give you some idea of the level of hostility in that room someone in the crowd threw a full bottle of Steinlarger at me before we’d even started! It missed my head by centimetres. I’d had things thrown at me before but a full bottle! That showed real commitment!

We had a big San Pedro Cactus on stage as part of our props and these skin heads kept trying to grab it. To try and stay alive we played as fast as loud as we could while they spat and booed and abused us, all of the time fighting to try and protect our cactus with Eric using his bass like a club to fend them off.  Finally one little skin managed to avoid Eric’s defensive attacks and ran out the door with the plant before we could do anything. And then the borrowed bass amp blew up!

 Somehow we got off that stage in one piece and ECF (with another borrowed bass amp) finished the night. We never played in Christchurch again.

Crystal Zoom - Star and Garter gig

2)’Underage Rage’ –  poster advertising a three band gig (‘Crystal Zoom’/’Gamaunche’/’Alpaca Brothers’) at Otago University in 1984.

Design by myself

It was 1984 and Radio With Pictures was coming to town to shoot a ‘Dunedin Music Special’ and our band (‘Crystal Zoom!’) didn’t have a gig.

We were desperate to get on the show so Mike and I organised a gig super-quickly at the University Union(the only venue we could get at short notice) with our buddies from Gamaunche and the Alpaca Brothers(who we didn’t know so well but I loved their meaty bass sound).

The expenses alone were round about $600. Quite a bit of which was paying the Varsity bouncers. For some reason we weren’t allowed to hire our usual ones. The tickets were only $3 so we needed 200 people just to break even. I did this poster overnight.

The main image is based on a bit of graffiti near a squat I lived in for a bit in London in 83 and the hairy hand is from a xenophobic Ray Comfort publication dissing the homosexual community. We gave him hell for it when he came to town a few weeks later but that’s another poster and another story.

So  – to cut a long story short after all that effort we managed to get onto Radio with Pictures playing ‘Uptown Sheep’ – a Dadaist type freak-out  number about sheep going to the freezing works. When I was really young I used to wonder if sheep had their thick wool coats to protect them when they went into the Freezing Works. What sort of work they did there I couldn’t imagine.  Later I found out what really happened and a couple of years after the events I’m describing ‘The Skeptics’ nailed the subject a killer song and a killer  video by Stewart Page (nee Kowalski)

We put up a ton of those yellow posters to promote that gig. In the thumbnail for the doco (which you can watch here)  and 3.54 into it you can see  handsome young Malcolm Black standing in front of a big spread. But coming back to the gig itself.  For various reasons it was an underage thing so there was no license and no booze so like a lot of people I nipped out for some pre-gig lubrication just before we played.  but when I tried to get back in the University’s bouncers wouldn’t let me in. I kept telling them it was me who was going to be paying them their damn wages but they just thought I was some ‘out of it’ scarfie and told me ‘Fuck off!’ I can’t remember how I finally got back in but I must have done because there I am on TV (wearing another classic jersey).

Somewhere around 7.25in the doco you can hear the band being blessed by Saint Roy, Mike dissing the cops and a few seconds of me poncing about  making animal noises. Thirty-five years later nothing has changed. I still love jerseys, animals, posters and especially posters with animals on them.

3. Anti- Motorway Poster by Martin Thompson (Wellington 1990)

This is  only one of two posters in this article I didn’t design myself but I am including it out of historical interest. 

It was produced by  Martin Thompson in  1990 to protest the construction of the Wellington urban motorway. A few years later this road cut a gaping chasm through town and destroyed our natural habitat in Arthur Street and Tonks Avenue.

Martin spent nine hours drawing the poster by hand over a piece of graph paper (I saw him doing some of it). Many Wellingtonians and Dunedinites will remember Martin. A skinny old guy with long hair and a scruffy beard who wore the same greasy suit jacket for 30 years.

In Wellington he used to hang out in front of the fire at Steve Hannify’s workshop in Tonks Ave and later on at Modak’s coffee lounge in Dunedin when he moved there in 2007. I didn’t know Martin well. He wasn’t a sociable guy and he got less and less interested in other people as time went on.

Anyone who didn’t know him at all would probably think he was a homeless mental health consumer but in his own world Marty was famous. A gifted mathematician and a self-taught artist who had his own solo show at the Dunedin Art Gallery in 2015 and his work in collections the world over. Each finished work was created in two halves, a “positive” and a “negative” image of a mathematical formula. I don’t think I’m quite a eccentric as Marty (yet) but like me, the man knew the value of a good poster. Sadly he died in 2021 from lung cancer.

4. ‘Eskimos’ and ‘Let’s Get Naked’ –  a two band gig in Dunedin in 1986.

Design by myself

I drew this one back in ‘86 for a joint gig between my band (Let’s Get Naked) and a rare appearance by our good friends –  ‘Eskimos’ –  some of whom were also part of Let’s Get Naked. It was an incestuous little scene and things weren’t too PC back then either!

For instance we all know the word ‘Eskimo’ isn’t used anymore and these indigenous people prefer to be called the Inuit. The name ‘Eskimo’ was  reportedly foisted on them by some of the southern First Nation tribes who used to raid them in summer.

The gig itself was at the back bar at the European Hotel which used to be on the corner of George and Bond Street. It was a slightly upmarket place with a front bar and two back bars, one where they sometimes showed movies. For some reason Eskimo played first even though it was really their gig. They were an usual band, even for back then with song titles like – ‘Injection/Straightjacket’.

 It was a pretty uneventful gig for The Naked’s (as many people called us back then) until the very last song when I decided to pull a classic rock-star/front-man move and jump off the stage!

 I’d jumped off stages before and this wasn’t a very high one but for some unknown reason (too many lemonades?) I forgot to bend my legs and landed like an upright stone.  This incredible pain shot up through my legs and I knew I’d broken something. I don’t know about you but I get very embarrassed when I injure myself and there was no way I wanted anyone in the audience to know I was in agony. Somehow I got back on the stage and we finished the last song. Then I quickly made my apologies and walked out the door as if nothing was wrong and there was somewhere really important I needed  to be. A normal person might have asked a friend to take them to the hospital but not me. As soon as I got outside I literally crawled to the bus-stop and caught a bus back to where I was staying in Caversham. The adrenalin wore off on the bus, the pain got worse and it was agony crawling from the bus stop to the house. That night (despite imbibing quite a few shandies) I was in way too much pain to get any sleep. Early next morning I rang my father and asked him to take to me to hospital where an x-ray revealed I’d cracked both my heel bones. Having one munted leg/foot is annoying but having two smashed pins is nasty and I spent the next month or so hobbling round on tip-toe on crutches. For some years afterwards my heels hurt when it was cold and I never jumped off another stage again. I guess it was just a stage I was going through. Boom! Boom!

5)’Crystal Zoom’s last Dunedin gig in 1985 at ‘Sound’s Cafe’. 

In 1985 Mike Weston and I came back to Dunedin from our new base on Waiheke Island near Auckland to do a few Crystal Zoom gigs with our crack Dunedin rhythm section of Robin Murphy(bass) and Barry Blackler (drums) and we also had Rumi Amarasingham playing synth. We were at the height of our popularity and powers and I was told we set a new attendance record that weekend. I have a really good recording of the gig (by soundman, Mike Chirnside) and  you can listen to some of the songs(such as ‘Killing Me Softly With His Sperm’) on my Soundcloud account. I actually found this copy of the gig poster (which I have no memory of doing) for sale on the internet this morning when I was looking for something else. I might have to try and buy it! 

Crystal Zoom Live At Sounds 1985

6) Poster Advertising ‘Crystal Zoom’s third cassette release (1985)

 ‘More Base’ (Design by myself)

 After the gig above I had far too many lemonades before I ended up ‘The Governor’s’ for an interview with a local music journalist(who shall rename nameless) Back in the eighties the Otago Daily Times ran a half page about the local music scene every Wednesday and it was our mission to get our band in it every issue. The same applied to the monthly music magazine – Rip It Up. If we weren’t doing anything we’d just make up some bullshit story. I can’t remember what far fetched stories I was spinning that night but it must have tipped the journalist over the edge because from  that night on he became our implacable enemy.

The first evidence was a nasty little article in the first issue of ‘Garage’ Magazine called ‘The Crystal Zoom Existence’. It didn’t even mention the music except for “Dunedin Sound on 45’ which it warmly (and truly) described as ‘post-kindergarten’.  It even said Dunedin had ‘got rid’ of us like we’d been tarred and feathered and dropped off at the beginning of the motorway.

Naturally we thought this was just great and quickly made a poster of it to promote our third tape release – ‘More Base’. We were deep in our Dadaist phase at this point and wore masks (made by me)all the time a’la The Residents. The photo was taken by the now defunct Auckland Star.

That’s me in the background and our third drummer, Yoh,(“Laurence Landwer-Johan) in the front.

Yoh was ex-Screaming Mee Mees. He was a good drummer and our new North Island, bass player, Smokin’ Dick Libido, had great chops too but the band never really jelled in the North Island and after quite a bit of recording, a few gigs and a major personal disaster, I moved back to Dunedin to form Let’s Get Naked with Robin Murphy.  

7)’Axemen and Crystal Zoom at The Pitz Nightclub 1984 (Poster by The Axemen)

This is the only other poster which I didn’t have a hand in myself but I’m including it because the Axemen did such great art and posters and because it was a memorable gig. The Pitz was a low concrete underground venue in Bond Street which had been used as a venue for a number of years. It had terrible sound but it was easy to get permission to play there. Both Mike and I got very very drunk and in the photo below we can be seen handing out egg cartons(used for sound proofing) as pass-outs(ie. if you went out of the venue you had to present one of these egg cartons to get back in). 

8)Crystal Zoom – live at Coronation Hall (1983)

Poster image swiped by Mike Weston from an old Playboy and design by myself

This was the first of two gigs our band organized at Coronation Hall in Maori Hill – a venue made famous by early Dunedin bands like The Enemy, The Chills, The Clean and The Elevators. In those days it was hard for a band to get a gig when most of its members were under the legal drinking age of 20( in 1999 the Government lowered in to 18).

Playing there meant a young audience and there would inevitably be trouble with local hooligans so as well as the hall hire, PA and lights we also had to hire some members of the local karate club as bouncers. I can’t remember who played at which gig but some of the bands that played with us at Coronation Hall were The Wake and White Noise Cult. I do remember that both gigs were pretty chaotic and quite a big learning curve for us but we did make some money(see photo below) which we spent on more gear.

Bass player, Eric with some of the profits – note poster behind his head. Not bad considering the entry fee was only $2.50!

9) Let’s Get Naked (1986-91) – our most common poster – designed by myself and based on a photo of my bottom (it doesn’t look as good as that now!)

10)’Chippendale House Rent Party’ with ‘Let’s Get Naked’ , ‘Electric Blood’ and ‘The Rothmen’ (1987)

Poster by myself although its actually a drawing of ‘Crystal Zoom!” (not ‘Let’s Get Naked’)

Chippendale House in Stafford Street in Dunedin was a local arts co-operative that ran between around 1986-88 with funding from the local council and income from exhibitions and fundraising gigs like this one. Our band got talked into doing this free gig by my girl friend, Jill, who worked as an Art’s Advisor for the council. None of us wanted to do it as the place had a ‘too cool for school reputation’ and we were anything but. Plus we had to do it for free! But Jill was persuasive. We were a really popular local band at this point and were used to playing at The Cook and Sammy’s which had good PA’s and lighting systems and I well remember turning up to play this gig and there was almost nothing. They’d been a party the night before and the place was a mess. The PA was completely munted – like something you’d give an autistic teenager to try and fix to keep them busy for a couple of weeks. I can’t remember how Robin got it going or maybe we just played through the backline. Not a happy memory.

11) Four Rational Records Posters for Fundraising Gigs (1986-87) and the album cover of the ten band compilation record – ‘Art for Chart Sake’ (1986) – all design work by myself but the photo on the album cover is by Tom Sampson.

Rational Records started in 1986 when twelve local bands played at Sammy’s to fund a compilation LP (“Art for Chart’s Sake).

By the mid-late eighties the influence of the first generation of ‘Dunedin Sound’ bands was waning. ‘The Stones’ and ‘The Clean’ were gone and ‘The Chills’ and the ‘Straight-jacket Fits’ had moved  to Auckland.

Despite this the city’s live entertainment scene was firing on all cylinders with lots of bands, heaps of venues and good crowds for local acts. Many of the bands at this time were inspired by English and US new-wave bands and Australian groups such as Hunters and Collectors and Midnight Oil’ but ska, reggae and rap influences were also creeping in. There was also an active ‘punk/oi/hardcore scene based around Seacliff and at their venue, ‘The Nerve Centre’,(formerly ‘The Pitz’) in Bond Street.

Despite the fertility of the scene many of the groups were hard to categorize and it was difficult for local acts to access recording facilities and release their own material. Flying Nun tended to focus on their established acts (and their fellow travelers) and tended to shy away from that anything that didn’t fit ‘the house’ sound. Those major labels that did release more ‘mainstream’ local music tended to focus on Auckland.

The only Dunedin bands I can think of that got released on labels other than Flying Nun in this period were ‘The Idles’ on Wellington’s ‘Jayrem’ and The Netherworld Dancing Toys on Virgin. These two bands also dominated the local entertainment scene in the mid-eighties with frequent full houses at venues like ‘The Captain Cook Hotel’ and ‘Sammy’s Cabaret.’

Into this apparent vacuum stepped a young (21) year old student called Cam Olsen. Cam had recently started playing saxophone, (as part of a duo called ‘The Nordic Horns’ with his younger brother, Nils) in an established (but reconstructed) local group called ‘The Idles’ (formerly ‘Pretty Idles’). Cam was excited about some of the new songs the band was writing and thought it would be good to try and do some recording and perhaps release a record. How hard could it be?

After a big night up late talking with some of his musical buddies he went out and got a $5000 overdraft to start a local record label – ‘Rational Records’. The other main person that really deserves credit for the founding of Rational was Mike Pearce who had just set up ‘Strawberry Sound’ with Roger Wilson. Strawberry was a new audio-visual company which also had a small eight track recording studio in their premises in Bath Street near the Octagon. Mike agreed to let the fledgling record company use the studio on easy terms and help Cam get the ball rolling.

I stepped in pretty early to produce the record covers (usually with photos by Tom Sampson) and organized posters and promotional gigs to keep money and bands coming in. Most of the posters featured our mascot – Rational Rat. I can’t remember how many of these multi-band gigs I organized but probably around a dozen and many Dunedin bands played at them between 1986-88. Sadly Rational folded after putting out four LP’s. The whole thing was way too idealistic and Cam and I were too young and loose but it was a serious attempt to set up a record label like a non-profit communist collective – perhaps something slightly akin to Rough Trade records – but in the end not so successful. 

12) This poster promoted ‘Live at the Ego Club’ – Crystal Zoom’s second tape release which was recorded at The Empire Tavern in 1984 with Crystal Zoom on one side and Gamaunche on the other. The poster was printed by ‘The Axemen’ in Christchurch.

Design and stencil cutting by myself. The poster is based on one advertising ‘The Truth’ newspaper – a salacious broadsheet that ran between 1906-88.

13) Poster Promoting ‘Crystal Zoom’ when we moved to Auckland in 1985. Design by myself. 

When Mike Weston and myself moved the band to Auckland in 1985 we were pretty much unknown so we decided an aggressive publicity campaign was necessary. I remember us going out over a couple of nights and pasting up 1000 of these enigmatic ‘teaser’ posters in central Auckland – the biggest poster run I’ve ever done. 

band-photos-two14) Crystal Zoom’s last gig in Auckland (1985) – Poster by myself but I stole the photo from a library book

This was Crystal Zoom’s final gig. We had been playing in Auckland/Waiheke Island for about nine months with our new rhythm section but things weren’t jelling and we knew it. I don’t remember much about these three nights except for ‘Rip It Up’ music reviewer, Russell Brown,  telling me after one of them that I should give up on trying to be a singer/front man and concentrate on cartooning instead. A few weeks after this gig my partner died suddenly and I moved back to Dunedin. 

15) Poster promoting Crystal Zoom’s first tape release – ‘Hooked on Crystal Zoom'(1984)

These were a very small series of one-off posters I did using images cut from Cleo magazines of naked me with orange ‘fun fur’ covering their genitals. The cassette tapes themselves came in a furry purse made from the same material.

16) ‘Pretty Trippy’ and ‘George Street Normal’ – live at the Crown Hotel – May 19. 2022. Poster by myself with layout by Diane Davis

‘Pretty Trippy‘ is my latest band/ This gig was a special one because we were playing with two former members of ‘Let’s Get Naked’ (Rob Murphy and Ross McKenzie). Robin and I have been in three bands together (“Crystal Zoom!’, ‘Good in Bed’ and ‘Let’s Get Naked’). You can see some video of Rob playing bass on one of our songs –‘Joe’s a Fiend’ – while our usual bass player, James Dickson boogies away stage left.

 

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About artordeath

Bruce Mahalski is a Dunedin artist, known for his illustration, street murals, and sculpture incorporating animal bones. He is founder and director of the Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery, a private museum of natural history and ethnographic objects and curios.
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