Copyright 2000-2003 Paul Gouldhawke
Bob Masse became one of the artists who expressed a new freedom
in the wildly imaginative posters of the Sixties. He continues to work
on his art and has seen a resurgence of interest in psychedelic posters
Bob's work encompases the early bands of the psychedelic era and extends
into current work for artists like Alanis Morrisette and Tori
of his pieces are quite desirable to collectors.
PICNIC interviewed Bob in early
his studio in Vancouver, Canada.
what started your interest in doing posters... when did that begin?
Well, I actually was doing work for a lot of the coffeehouses in Vancouver,
Canada back when Robson street was the big scene. This was in the
early 60's. Robson Street was the
pre- hippie beatnik place, folkies - it was called Robsonstrausse
because it had a lot of European cafés, we used to hang out
at a place called the Europe Café, it was all beatniks in
those days, back in '63 & '64. I was still going to art school
at the time - A friend and I did a lot of
the Bunkhouse, a coffeehouse in Vancouver. We did Sonny
Terry, Brownie McGee, Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia,
that type of band. I don't think we even charged them for them. We
just had a running tab at the bar and got to go to all the parties
afterwards. We were in our early twenties, that was enough, just to go
and party with these people.
There was a place on Pender Street called Nelson's Happening - that
was when happenings were happening - the beginning of discotheques. we'd
heard the word somewhere, but didn't know what the hell it meant.
I remember doing something for the Surrey A Go-Go. (laughs)
You would go downstairs - I remember it was close to Bute and
Pender, and Georgia area. You went down to this basement and all
they had was a record player going, and a disc jockey. There'd
no band there. They'd be playing this early Rolling Stones
I can always remember the early Stones peaking. Those were quite the
Then there was the
Afterthought which happened on 4th Avenue at the Russian
Community Centre. We would go over to the Community
for a concert but we were more associated with the West End of Vancouver
at that time. There was an enormous community of old houses in the
West End in the early Sixties. And then they went
through this period of tearing them all down for the high rises.
The high rises you see now in the West End - it was all houses there.
It was a huge community of hip people that were artists in that area.
I can remember this friend and I we'd go there late at night and
rummage through the houses that were all being torn down - and
get newl posts and staircases, doors and stained glass windows; all
this beautiful stuff. We used these things to help interior decorate
some of the coffehouses.
A lot of people that were living in the West End ended up getting
booted out of their places and started moving over to the Kitsilano
was the other area which had a whole lot of houses and lower
Still does. You'd get that kind of community moving over there and the
Robson Street scene sort of died out and 4th Avenue started slowly
I had gone down to the States a lot and so had missed out on a certain
of what was happening in town. I remember there were just millions of people
wandering around. It was like Sunset Strip
or Haight Asbury. Incredible crowds of people would go down to Fourth
I started doing posters for the coffeehouses and then I started doing ones
for the Afterthought. I think I made $10-$20 a poster. You didn't get
in those days. But again, we were actually going to Art school at
the time so these were things we'd do in our off hours. It was more to
get in free and party. We got to meet all the bands that were coming up.
I remember there was a place called the Peace House - about a half mile
from where I live now, in Kitsilano - which was when the early peace
and anti-war activism started to take place. They held peace rallies.
That's where the
stay when they came into town, so yeah, after each concert we'd always
go to parties over at the Peace House. I met the Grateful Dead,
partied with them and the Jefferson Airplane,
and all of them - but they were nothing, they were just some
bands from San Francisco at the time, you know - nobody knew who they were!
Did they fit in up
they had real long hair (laughs) and that's why were looking at these
and going wow! And they'd always wear these tight pants and these
pointy boots - that was the real thing - high heel pointy boots.
Yeah, we used to think these guys were great.
started going down to San Francisco with Jerry Kruze who started the Afterthought
on 4th Avenue. It was a major focus of the 4th Avenue scene. A fellow
called Roger Schiffer started the Retinal Circus which moved to
Burrard and Davie. The Afterthought sort of stopped and the
Retinal Circus took over. By this time the hippie scene
had been around for 2 or 3 years and was starting to grow. So when
he opened up the Retinal there was a good mob of people to go there. The
Afterthought wasn't that big a crowd, because it was a pretty in
crowd at that time. As the rock concerts start getting bigger and
bigger then the move to the bigger hall made sense.
Tom Northcott was one
Vancouver artist who
was quite popular during the
mid sixties. You've been involved in his past...
Lyrics from Sunny
"On the firefly platform
On sunny Goodge street
A violent hash smoker
Shook a chocolate machine
Involved in an eating scene..."
was big locally - he did that Donovan
song "Sunny Goodge Street" I did a poster for that. I
remember we dressed him up in sort of a pixyish - fairy kind of wizardry
kind of Donovan-y kind of getup. We had a real big hookah pipe. I
had a beautiful red MGA convertible - we were going to a photo shoot
- it was funny as we drove along and came to stop signs. He was wearing
a pink and purple suit and we had this big hookah pipe in the back. It
was funny enough. The shoot was in a residential area and the neighbors
came out wondering what the hell we were doing. So when I took the photo
I just painted over top of it basically.
I used to know Tom quite well; we used to go cruising around in my little
MGA of mine, down by the beach and play that song over and over as
sort of a promotional thing. People would think that it was on the
radio. I think he had a chance to make it big down in the States
but I think he just didn't want to leave Vancouver - it was a simple
thing like that With Tom - I don't think he wanted to move down to
Los Angeles and live there.
You did the artwork for
Canadian band the Collector's
I went down to the recording studio in L.A. with them - that was interesting
watching something being recorded and put together. That got me an introduction
to Los Angeles. I stayed in L.A. for a while working on this
I used to go to the Whiskey a Go-Go which was very big
time. I designed their newspaper ads for a while. It's funny I ended up
staying in Los Angeles rather than San Francisco - I just got down there
with the Collectors and I started meeting people from the record
What was it like back
then - did the
industry really know what they were dealing with in the case of the
San Francisco bands?
to be signing everything they could. The L.A. scene was as big as
San Francisco was, but not acknowledged in the media as being
as big, San Francisco was the place to be.
This was '66 -
was actually more like 68/69. Sunset Strip was a big happening place
but it just didn't get quite the same recognition that San Francisco
I actually did quite a lot of work in L.A. in those days. I stayed
there for quite a while.
was living in Laurel Canyon, which is a really beautiful place in
Los Angeles. I kind of liked L.A. a little better because in comparison
San Francisco had more concrete and buildings, not much green there
at all. Hollywood's an interesting place because you've got the Hollywood
hills. And its all green, all bushy. It had more of a country feel to it.
Did you catch any
the L.A. bands
like Love? The Byrds or the Doors?
made friends with a fellow who was an agent For the A.P.A., the
for the Performing Arts. He was called a babysitter. He had other
jobs but part of his job was a babysitter. What that meant was when
bands came to town, especially these hippie psychedelic bands you had to
watch them - we were assigned to keep an eye on them. The Jefferson
Airplane would be in town for the Whiskey A Go-Go show
or whatever. We'd have to follow them around and be their shadows.
They sort of knew we were there. We used to go to this place called
Barney's Beanery, which was a neat place. We'd be sitting
a couple of booths behind them and they'd get up and leave then we'd
get up and leave. You had to watch them so that they didn't get in
They were notorious for getting into trouble, especially Jim Morrison
of the Doors.
The agency and management unit had booked
this group, paid a lot of money for this band to show up, and they
didn't want these guys tripping out, getting into trouble, getting
lost or whatever (laughs). That was fun, you can imagine a little
Vancouver guy down there getting to meet all these people. I can
remember chasing Jim Morrison around or following him anyway -
he had this mauve-light purple colored Jaguar XKE. He'd be driving all
over LA and he was driving fast too the bugger!
We had to make sure he didn't get in any trouble. Every now and then we'd
be up all night shadowing these bands. That was kind of a fun little thing.
We shadowed a lot of bands, really, I remember- I met Janis Joplin,
we shadowed Hendrix once. He was a short little guy - really surprising.
The giant of the
I know it's funny isn't it - he walked right by me and my shoulder was
brushed by Jimi Hendrix. (Laughs) It was great- we got in backstage
to all the shows. It was a great time period for me, I loved it - I had
a great time doing that. That's why I stayed in L.A.
were a lot of outstanding S.F. bands that would come down to L.A. to
was just as much happening in L.A. too. I lived in Laurel Canyon - that's
where the "Ladies of the Canyon" come from by Joni Mitchell.
The Mama and Pappas were up in the Canyon, Joni Mitchell
was there, Crosby Stills & Nash were there, Frank
Zappa was there, Logins and Messina and others. They were all
living up in this hilly canyon area. You'd hear them all practicing at
night. It was an incredible atmosphere - you just lay there and you'd hear
all this music being played. Musicians lived all thorough the Canyon.
It was great - it was a magical kind of place at that time.
Did your posters catch
did quite a lot down there. I don't really acknowledge them as much
as I should; most of the stuff on my web page is on the Vancouver scene.
I don't really acknowledge myself as kind of a Los Angeles poster
artist of the time, when really I was. I was one of the major people working
How much were you
that you'd see in San Francisco?
A lot of things
that happened in Vancouver were caused by someone going to California
- they were always a couple of years ahead of us - coming back
and turning us on to what was happening there. It was amazing in
those early days going to Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. Everybody
was really wild down there - huge big long hair, big beards,
it was an outrageous place to go to, especially if your some little
guy from Burnaby.
Did you make it
to any of the
major events like the Monterey Pop Festival?
I attended many festivals while in L.A. such as the Newport and
Palm Springs Rock Festivals. I didn't make it to Monterey
but we went to the Fillmore and the Avalon many a time.
We stayed at the Grateful Dead house once. Most of the time
we stayed at people's places. I remember once driving down to San Francisco
with Jerry Kruse of the Afterthought in his Mustang. There's
a famous black & White photograph of the Grateful Dead
and his Ford Mustang is in the background. I remember one time we were
there and Paul Butterfield came into town and he just dropped
in to the house - he really looked different - he looked like a mobster
in his slicked black hair. It must have been wild for the people back in
Chicago, New York, Michigan and those areas. They were not yet hippies.
They were all sort of dressed in gangster mode. Butterfield
had a show at the Fillmore and I helped them load stuff into the hall.
It was a great show.
Can you share some
memories of the
Avalon and Fillmore?
Both The Fillmore and the Avalon had light shows and there'd
be a little corner where there'd be a black light. People would be
tripping around there putting fluorescent paint on. I don't seem to remember
paying that much attention to the people on stage that much when
I first went there. It was such a gas what was going on inside -
the people and the strobe lights and all that - it was wild.
You've worked in black
and white as
well as colour?
Not that much black and white.
I am starting to put a lot of my early
on my web page. We've added a lot - the early stuff was all black and
because there was no money - we just went to an instant printer and
printed up a bunch of 8 1/2 X 11 sheets. But very quickly I
started getting into 2 and 3 color pieces. Most of my stuff
was pretty well 3 color pieces and hand separated. Which meant you'd have
to do these overlays as acetate overlays: you'd have a black and then you'd
have to put an overlay and you'd cut out where it'd be red and where it'd
be blue, and you'd do it that way.
Most of my pieces were done that
way, like the Grateful Dead.
That was all hand-done. What I do nowadays is I'll do a painting
and the camera separates it. But in the old days everything was
separated. It was all to save money. I started learning lots of tricks
on how to squeeze more colors out.
What was your
all the San Francisco boys - I'd go down there and see all this stuff
up in the streets, all the Mouse, Moscoso,
Kelly and Wes Wilson pieces, it was just amazing. Sometimes
you would get the Fillmore operating one weekend and the Avalon
would be putting on another Family Dog event and you'd get
two sets of posters on a weekend. That was my major influence. I basically
created San Francisco style posters. With a lot of the flowing
lettering and all that sort of stuff. A lot of posters now are
generated. I don't personally like the looks of them. I like the
more hand done kind of style of the old posters. These new ones don't do
it to me much.
You've been working on
contemporary artists like Alanis Morrissette...
years back I was doing a lot for the venues in Vancouver. I knew some people
who were working for Perryscope at the time. Perryscope
merged and formed a bigger concert promotion group I think it's called
International now. All the people that I knew left. I started getting
people from other cities. I have a guy in New York that gets me a lot of
concert poster work.
who collect and buy or sell posters sometimes know a promoter in their
home town and they'll see if they can line up a concert and I'll
give them some free posters as part of the deal.
A couple of people
I know were putting together the 25th anniversary
in Vancouver. This was in 1992. I did a poster for them - they spread
these things all over town. You could tell people really like this kind
of stuff. I remember I had a table at the Be-in selling posters
and I had a huge lineup of people. I also did the 30th Anniversary
San Francisco Summer of Love poster for the promoters.
Any music you are
latest album is very good, I picked it up in June. It's just a dynamite
album. I've got a Santana poster on the way that I've been
working on for a while.
You've done posters for
groups : Eric Burdon & The Animals, Canned Heat,
Brother & The Holding Company, Vanilla Fudge, The
Yardbirds, The Byrds, Steve Miller, The Electric
Flag, The Doors...
many people seem to remember Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield.
Buddy Miles was the drummer.
It's interesting - I've been listening
to a lot of early Dylan and I think that's Bloomfield
on Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Along with
Al Kooper on organ, that was a unique sound with that organ thrown
in there. I like the early Dylan stuff. I feel sorry for kids
these days - the junk they have to listen to. I just have no use for current
music at all. When you've lived through Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix,
the Beatles and the Rolling Stones - what a time period
that was! A lot of young kids I know are listening to this stuff now,
early Dylan, the Doors, Cream, great
I think that's why at these concerts you get these huge crowds
worked on a Dusty Springfield memorial this spring and I was looking
for references to her - and was doing some research and saw some great
videos - Ready Steady Go shows - they are good ones to have. Gene
Pitney, Roy Orbison, the early Beatles, etc. The groups
would be in the studio with all these kids all around them - they couldn't
move, they were trying to sing and they'd be mobbed.
You're expanding your
web site and
adding more material...
to get a lot of the early 60's stuff up - I wanted people to realize
that I've actually been around this long and done posters for all these
particular bands because a lot of people know me for what I've done
in The 90's - with my current stuff here. I wanted people to realize
that I was actually doing stuff way back in 65 and '66. I still have
tons of stuff that's not up on the website. Pieces no one's
yet. It's gonna take a while. I'm going to have a huge site by the end
of this! An historical thing - my folio piece, my gallery, look
at what I've done over the years.
What's your philosophy
don't really do my posters in a modern way; I still do it in the old fashioned
way. Except for hand overlays. I'm doing full color pieces, paintings
that are color separated. There's a lot of computer cheating that I could
use, borders could be computer generated, lettering can be generated by
computers but I don't do that. I still hand do everything. So consequently
I can't do that many a year, I can maybe crank out 6 to 8. It almost
takes me 2 months to do a piece. They take a long time. They're very
time consuming. That's the way I like to do it, I don't feel right
if I'm cutting corners - I feel like I'm cheating people in a way. They're
all very complex pieces. That's what people like.
During the late seventies until about
the middle of the 90's the poster scene dried up, so I concentrated on
commercial art and graphic design. It's great to be working on posters
[ Bob Masse
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