Music fans love them, hunt them down, collect them, and adorn their walls with them: tour posters. Hard at work during all the spring and winter tours and all the two and three and four-night runs of many of your favorite bands and musicians are incredibly talented visual artists, who create masterpieces turned memorable keepsakes for fans on the regular.
One such artist, Danny Steinman, has created posters for a number of the jam scene’s most popular acts, including Ween, moe., Twiddle, and more. In addition to his busy life creating astounding works of art for these groups, Steinman spends his time as a grade school teacher, husband, and a father.
Check out this interview with Steinman below, conducted by photographer and music journalist Tim W. Merrill.
The Poke Around: Where are you from?
Danny Steinman: I was born in Brooklyn New York and was raised on Long Island. I now reside in Harriman, NY, a sleepy little hamlet nestled in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, about an hour north of NYC.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Growing up, like my father, I wanted to be a lawyer, though I spelled it as “loyer,” which makes infinitely more sense. Eventually, I developed dreams/delusions of grandeur that have yet to abate.
When did art become a serious hobby?
Thankfully, it is a lot more than a hobby. Though I have been drawing my whole life, this became a serious second full-time career about 3 years ago.
To date you have created official art for some of my favorite bands. Twiddle, moe. and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, just to name a few. Can you give me the whole rundown of bands you have created official art for?
I have created official artwork for Twiddle, Mihali, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Moe., Stick Figure, Pepper, Slightly Stoopid and Ween.
What bands would you like to work with in the future?
My Holy Trinity of favorite bands are The Grateful Dead, Phish and Ween. I already work for Ween, so I would like to complete this trinity and create some badassery for Phish and the Dead.
You collaborated with Owen Murphy (One Drop Studio Designs) on a dope Frankenfoote print that dropped at this year’s Tumble Down. Are there any other artists on the scene you’d like to work with in the future?
I would be honored to work with Caleb Williamson, Brian Bojo and Joshua Morton. I love their respective styles and they are class acts. The rock art scene can be highly competitive, even cutthroat at times. These gentlemen, along with the velvet-voiced Owen Murphy, have been supportive of my efforts, even though we are all technically “the competition”. Their generous actions have shown them to be gracious and positive people, and that’s energy I want to be a part of.
What was the first concert poster you created?
The first concert poster I created was for Mihali’s Winter Sessions.
What was the first concert you ever attended?
My first concert was a Billy Joel concert in the early 1980’s. I was blown away. The energy level was intense and everybody was on their feet dancing. I never knew live music could be so powerful.
What was the last concert you attended?
The last concert I attended was Twiddle at the Capitol Theater over Thanksgiving week. This two-nite concert event, also known as Frendsgiving, was beyond good. Twiddle, a band I work for designing art, is one of my absolute favorite bands. In my expert Leo opinion, they are one of the next great jambands.
What concert are you attending next?
My next concert will be Ween, also at the Capitol Theater. Ween has been a favorite band of mine since 1992. I recently started doing for artwork for them as well and I could not be more excited, mang.
How do you “relax and dream”?
Nothing relaxes me more than drawing. When I draw, I am “in the flow”. I have a mind that never stops…the wheels are always turning, and I am often either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. When I draw, everything drops away, and then it is just me and the color.
What inspires you?
Energy inspires me. Energy, the ability to cause change, is what drives me. I want to leave my mark. I want to make people react… smile, or laugh, or just feel a little better. Art lets me do that. Teaching does too. Fatherhood really lets me do that.
Who is your favorite artist?
My favorite artist is Pablo Picasso.
Who was your first favorite band?
My first favorite band was the Beatles. To this day, their music evokes emotion in me that takes me back to the most sacred places in my heart.
Hit me with three of your favorite songs and/or albums of all time.
Phish “A Picture of Nectar”
Grateful Dead “American Beauty”
Ween “Chocolate and Cheese”
*Honorable Mention: Twiddle “Plump ONE”
Who are some of the up-and-coming visual artists on your radar?
My son Dylan is an ace portrait artist. He is only 7 years old, but he can crank out a Picasso-esque Trey Anastasio portrait that will go viral quicker than you can say ‘Big Red’.
How long have you been a school teacher?
I have been teaching for 22 years. I have always worked in New York’s inner cities. Though my job is extremely challenging, I consider it my life’s work. I believe in the power of literacy and that it is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.
What do you teach?
For the last 10 years I have taught 6th grade science in middle school. Energy, baby!
What are the most rewarding and most difficult aspects of being a teacher?
The most rewarding aspect of teaching is knowing that I am doing something truly meaningful. It makes the struggle worth it. The most difficult aspect is the children, those darn pesky kids. Can’t seem to get rid of them.
On top of being a school teacher you have a couple kids yourself. Where do you find the time to bring all of your art to life?
My home is brimming with creativity; we are real bohemians. We really don’t watch much TV and there’s no video games, etc. in the home, so we are all basically making a mess together all day. Cardboard sculptures, forts, sketches everywhere. It’s not always easy to balance it all, but I find the time by working near my family. I don’t have the luxury of tucking myself away in a studio to work. My family surrounds me at all times, and their love flows through me into my work. Oh yeah, and I also have the greatest wife on Earth (remind me to tell her).
What’s your zodiac sign? Do you believe in that kind of stuff?
I am a Leo. Some say that Leos think the world revolves around them, but I think that is ridiculous. I mean, it’s silly, and since I know everything, I must be right.
They say never miss a Sunday show. What do you think it is that makes those Sunday shows so special?
I don’t know about that. I have a job. My Sunday show is CNN in bed at 8:30.
In a few sentences how would you describe the lot / Shakedown Street of the jam band scene.
Shakedown Street is a menagerie of freaks, beautiful souls and trip-devils. It is capitalism at its finest…and it’s sketchiest. You can buy anything there, from veggie burritos to bunk acid to top-end psychedelic pop-art.
What’s your favorite color?
What am I, five years old? But seriously, I love me some orange, brown and “kitchen” blue…figure that one out.
We are in the final stages of 2018. What have been some of the highlights of your year?
Tumble Down, Twiddle’s annual festival on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT was definitely a highlight. I created the first ever Frankenfoote screen print and a series of Frankie pins that sold out fast. The festival falls on my birthday, and I was surrounded by my family and friends. It was an amazing love-filled weekend. Oh yeah, and Twiddle.
Another highlight was designing a custom guitar for the legendary Martin Guitar Company and the White Light Foundation, Twiddle’s philanthropic arm. The guitars have been auctioned for charity and the project was like no other. When we presented the first guitar for auction at Twiddle’s concert at the Fairfield Theater Company, I got to introduce the band. I prepared a little poem. It was epic, or so I’ve been told.
What’s in store for “Danny Steinman’s Big Picture” In 2019?
I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.