Celebrated artist AJ Masthay has designed posters for many beloved bands, including Bob Weir & RatDog, Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic, and Phil Lesh & Friends. Now, AJ has also created special artwork for HeadCount’s #GoVote campaign, which will make its debut at the Lollapalooza festival this weekend, on a “Pledge to Vote” postcard. Here, he talks to HeadCount about his dedication to ink and to jam bands as well as his excitement about motivating voters.
HeadCount: Please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
AJ Masthay: Hi, my name is AJ and I have a serious ink addiction… Believe it or not, I’m going into my 20th year of hand-printing images, initially in the fine art world but better known for my work within the music industry. I specialize in reductive linoleum block prints, aka “suicide prints”, carving each plate by hand and running each color individually on an old proofing press. I have a nice explanation of my unique process on my website and I invite folks to visit my website if they are interested in learning more.
You have a lot of fans among poster collectors. How did that develop? Are there any particular works that put you on the map, so to speak?
My ink addiction is rivaled only by my addiction to live music, catching my first Grateful Dead shows back in high school and eventually joining the Phish crowd in my college days. It didn’t take long for me to combine my two passions. I began selling my work in the lots to fund my touring. As word got out, people began collecting my work; the next thing I knew I was getting requests for official works from bands and it’s all grown from there.
What music most inspires you?
It’s no secret, I’m a huge Phish head and listen to them A LOT, but there’s a ton of bands that I’m into and have on heavy rotation in the studio. Everything from the rock classics like Pink Floyd and Zappa to newer up-and-comers in the jam band scene. I’ve been really digging Twiddle lately and have been having fun working with them on some recent prints for them.
What artists have been the biggest thrill to design posters for?
Umphrey’s McGee and Widespread Panic were two of the first major bands to commission me for prints; getting those calls were true high points in my career. But when the kind folks at HeadCount got in touch to create a piece for an event called “The Bridge Session” featuring Bob Weir, I was ecstatic, to create that first Steal Your Face was a dream come true. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to create multiple works for Furthur, Phil Lesh & Friends and Bob Weir & RatDog.
There’s a framed Bridge Session poster up in our office. Can you tell us a little about your #GoVote artwork?
What few people actually know about me is that I have a strong interest in World War II and specifically the propaganda posters of that era. So when I was asked to create a piece for the #GoVote initiative it seemed natural to me to go for good ol’ Uncle Sam, granted a little more tripped out version.
Why did you get behind HeadCount and this initiative?
It’s incredibly important for each and every one of us to get off our butts and vote; I mean, don’t you want your voice heard? HeadCount’s been doing a fantastic job of mobilizing the live music scene to become more involved in the voting process. I’m happy to help their mission however I can.