Interview with Greg Link aka Bad Otis Link continued from part 2.
What are your roots as an artist and screen printer?
I was always interested in art, even as a kid. Always a little twisted, my first recognizable piece was an illustration of President Kennedy gettin’ shot, Crayola. My Dad always asked “why don’t you draw something nice?” I have no formal art schooling, pretty much self taught. In fact I was a high school dropout. School bored me to tears. I hit the ground running at 16, started hustling and working on ideas and projects and haven’t stopped since.
I grew up on underground comics, “Last Gasp”, “Zap”, etc. One of my fave artists from that period was Rick Griffin. I later was able to work on some projects with him. I would not say that my art is like any of my influences though. I like my art to look better after it is drug behind a truck. I design my mistakes into the art rather than vise versa. Seems more natural to me. Like nature and people, we all learn to live with and around imperfections.
I started printing in the mid 70s. I got a job at a sign and display shop. We printed signs, wood skateboards (for “Hang Ten”, “OP”), stickers, and all kinds of flat stuff, even real estate signs. I didn’t learn to print shirts there though. While I was working at the sign shop this hippie type guy was walking though the alley and saw me working the shop. He asked me if I wanted to print shirts in the evenings for rock bands. His name was Terry Faden. His brother was Jimmy Faden, harmonica player for the “Nitty Gritty Dirt Band”. Terry taught me the basics and cut me loose in his shop. We were doing designs and merchandise for the “Nitty Gritty Dirt Band”, “Kenny Loggins” (his first solo tour), “Canned Heat”, “Earth Wind and Fire”, “Fleetwood Mac”, and others. This is where I learned the basics on merchandising bands. At the same time, learned about the giant companies that were always there to steal away your stuff. I didn’t find it very exciting or cool. I was never a “fan” and these corporate rock people hanging around were all about hero band worship and sucking up. I didn’t give a shit if some rock star was hanging around the shop.
Around this same time I was just starting to meet local punk bands, the polar opposite of that scene, much more appealing to me and none of them were doing shirts or merch. It was a frustrating business. Terry and I could see it wouldn’t last for long. You had to kiss major ass, have shit-loads of cocaine and money back then in the rock world to get in the door. We would bust ass developing art and getting the tours started, Bill Graham and the mass merch companies would step in and steal them away as soon as we got it going. Same shit as today. I couldn’t stand the record company hipsters that attached themselves to the artists back then. Disgusting, shit eating people. The punk rock scene was much more my taste, so I moved on in that direction. Like the bands, a guy like me could grow with the punk scene. It was all new territory and a pretty exciting time for music.
- Check out part 4 of the Bad Otis Link saga.