Artist Shepard Fairey of Obey Giant and Obama poster fame tells us what’s in his headphones, why he thinks art and music are the same, and what he would have done at a museum party at the ICA thrown in his honor (if he hadn’t been getting arrested instead).
You were supposed to be going to your own party and DJ’ing at it, right? That’s right.
What type of music were you going to play? No one got to hear it. Can you tell me what you were going to spin? I wish I had my playlist on me, but I know there was some Public Enemy, The Clash, Gang of Four. Let’s see what else is in there … I think some Tone Loc, some Slits, and some Go-Go’s.
This is from your everyday playlist? Well yeah, I really think that music, when I’m DJing, is the same as making art. It has to appeal at a gut level. People have to feel good. If it’s a Clash song like “The Magnificent Seven” that has these Marxist lyrics, but it’s to a disco beat, then awesome. My favorite bands like Black Flag, Public Enemy, and The Clash have music that I really liked that gets me amped up. But they also have really provocative lyrics that I think have a great point of view.
That’s my next question — what’s more important, music or lyrics? And how can you relate this to what you create? They are equally important. With art, the idea of making a really dazzling, provocative, engaging graphic first, and cut through all the clutter of the visual noise that’s out there and get someone to even care what the next aspect of the communication is, is crucial. Then, having something to say is great. Art is different than an editorial newspaper, where there may be some latitude for interpretation, but at least for my art, I think that having a point of view is really important.
Are you pissed you missed your own party? I was super pissed. My favorite DJ and good friend DJ Z-Tip was a headliner. I was going to open for him. I have not had a chance to really cut loose, and I was doing very formal interviews and discussion with people from Harvard and things like that. It was going to be my opportunity to get drunk and rock out.
What’s in store next from you and Obey? What are we going to see next on the streets? I did a lot of work on the street while I was in Boston. I am always going to be active. But you know, the things I’m focusing on right now is the environment, and I recently did some artwork for Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong campaign. Most of the art I’m going to be doing next will be based on how things go with Obama. I’m going to play it by ear. I’m going to take it day by day. I have a bit of time between shows. I’m actually going to see what the most important issues to address in the coming months and go there.
Photo: Peter Foley