HT Interview: PhanArt Pete Mason

[Sample Page from PhanArt]

SB: How quickly did your idea turn into reality? Take us through the timeline of getting Phanart published.

PM: It took a few weeks before the idea manifested itself into a reality. I wanted to make sure I was doing something that the phans would like. I talked to everyone I knew, went to see a great deal of people over the course of Labor Day weekend in Long Island, and got a very positive response to the idea.  After that, I set up the website and email account, and started looking around online for people to send in submissions.

With no Phish, this was a much harder project than it could have been – no shows = no way to get the word out in a way that is very effective, but the word still spread over the 4.5 years after Coventry.  I had about 100 submissions by the end of 2004, about 700 by the end of 2005, over 1300 at the end of 2006 and up to 1700 by the end of 2008, which was whittled down to 1,634 for inclusion in the book.  I made sure to include nearly everything sent in. The only things I would not use are spoofs of the Phish logo, and anything that was inherently negative or connotated a message that was not that of Phish phans in general.

Getting the book published was another task that we started on as early as 2005. Agents are hard to come by with a topic pitched as ‘a coffee table book for phish fans’ – really, no one knows the buying power of the Phish community and how fervent we are in our love of the band and anything related to them.  So it was a bit of a struggle.  In the end, my lawyer Paul Rapp acted as my agent, and helped us to get Zenbu Media (publishers of Relix) as the publisher.

While that partnership ended amicably earlier this year, I am happy to say we are self-publishing the books with Allegra Printing and Imaging, right here in Albany, NY.  It’s been a long road, and I am very proud of the end result of the hard work and effort the fans put into making this dream come true.

[PhanArt Pete Mason]

SB: What are a few are your favorite pieces of artwork in the book?

PM: Well, I dont play favorites, as I find all the artists in this book to be upstanding guys and gals who unselfishly submitted their work to be part of a comprehensive examination of the Phish community and their creative efforts.  But a couple come to mind – AJ Masthay’s ‘Mainers” piece in the IT section (p 313), Grayson Page’s ‘Stoplight’ in the Coventry section (p 372), Jason Lees’ ‘Phinally’ from the end of Hiatus section (p 282), Pete Tschudy’s ‘I go, You go’ from Oswego (p 251), Eric Hanson’s ‘Viva Las Vegas’ from the Vegas section (p 200) and Scramble Campbell’s ‘Kuroda’ from Scramble’s section (p 176) – those are just a few of the great ones in the book, but like with all art, to each his own.

SB: Were any of the artists suspicious of your intentions when you first asked them for their art?

PM: What a suspicious question… who told you to ask me that?  No, but seriously, I can’t recall any artists questioning the authenticity of the book or my intentions behind it. I was very transparent with the entire project, kept everyone informed, and made sure that any artist who was on the fence hopped down on the side of PhanArt.

[By Mike Distante]

SB: How did being an active member of the PT community help get this book published?

PM: Phantasy Tour helped a great deal.  being part of a few Phish related MBs was of great benefit – PT had a great deal of people who made one or two shirts or stickers or posters of some sort, and they were more than happy to email pics of their stuff – especially license plates from PT. (PP)  provided me with like minded individuals who not only knew what artists to get in touch with to have as part of the book, but these artists were also easy to get in touch on PP. and a few other sites proved very valuable – as the artists got on board with the book, the numbers grew and fans heard about it.  That led to us hitting a peak in 2006, and the rest coming in slowly up until we cut off submissions in the spring of 2008.

SB: At what point did you decide to make Phanart a not-for-profit enterprise and why did you choose the Mockingbird Foundation as the benefactor?

PM: It came up almost immediately, because in talking to my friends, they said ‘you could stand to make some money off of this’, and I couldn’t see how I should be profiting off the Phish community.  It isn’t my art, rather a collection of other artists’ works.  I decided before we had the website up that all the net profits would go to charity, and that i would not take any money for my efforts. In short time, that charity became Mockingbird, which was common sense – give the money to a Phish fan-based, Phish fan-created charity that benefits music education around the country. As a teacher and Phish fan, it was the only charity we looked into giving money to, and Mockingbird will be the beneficiary of the net profits of PhanArt for perpetuity.

SB: Is the book currently in stores? Where can you buy Phanart?

PM: The only place to buy PhanArt is online at – we are not selling the book in stores, as this maximizes the profit for Mockingbird.  Were we to sell the book to stores, it would be at a discount, which eats into any money we would donate, so selling it on the site decreased overhead and allows for Mockingbird to reap greater benefits in the long term.

SB: Have you heard from any of the band members of the organization about your efforts?

PM: I have not, although Paul (my lawyer) and I met with Kevin Shapiro, Beth Montouri-Rowles and Julia Mordaunt to discuss the scope of the book, and ultimately ensure that no official artwork was in the finished product.  I did recently send up books to each of them (last week) and hope for some feedback from them. I hope they like it.

SB: I think one of the big misconceptions about the book is that it is just a display of fan-submitted art when there’s so much more to this book including interviews and essays about the community. When and how did you decide how to lay out the book?

PM: i got started on layout about march of 2005, just getting my ideas to paper, literally cutting and pasting printed images out onto large sheets of paper.  I made sure to intertwine the pages with text, because just pictures wouldn’t have the right feel to it. There are hardly any pages without some image on them, and relevant interviews, articles and other written submissions can be found throughout the book as you flip through the 420 pages.

SB: What was the first lot t-shirt you ever bought?

PM: Oswego ‘top 10 list’, but really, it had nine on it.  We were on the runway, during the day Saturday, sweating bullets, and some kids came by selling shirts with a top 10 list, and said they were selling them for $15.  My buddy noted that there was no number 8, and upon noticing it, they dropped the price to $10.  I still have the shirt today (it’s on p 251 in the oswego section).

SB: Now that the book has been published what are you up to these days?

PM: Focusing on teaching, catching up with the rest of my life, walking my dog, looking forward to this summer’s shows, and enjoying life to the fullest!

SB: This book is extremely comprehensive. Were there any pieces of art you knew existed but couldn’t use because either you couldn’t find them or the creator said no?

PM: There were some pieces that were out there and i couldn’t find.  I only had two artists say no, both because they wanted to be compensated for their participation in the book. I declined, as did they. I am happy to say I got pretty much everything I knew that was out there for this book. Anything we sought out for the book eventually made its way to us.

SB: How much phanart do you own personally?

PM: I actually own a pretty solid amount. Stickers – I have tons mixed around photo albums, and a couple dozen more on my car and around the apartment. Shirts – of those that are still in decent shape to wear, 20-30.  Posters – bordering on 100 at this point, and that includes the art of moerons, spreadheads and work that was commissioned by moe, panic, sci, UM, bisco, etc…  there is so much out there, it’s easy to get into it and find the influence of the music and community manifesting itself in the art of the fans.  Phish fans are definitely the most creative fans out there of any band.  This book is a prime example of that – no fans out there could make this stuff and have a book made of it.  It is a testament to the legacy we will continue to create, now that the boys are back!

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5 Responses

  1. pete’s the man. he had a sick idea and did what many people have not done: he acted on it! thanx scotty b. for recognizing what Pete is doing with PhanArt.

    As a non-profit, it really does give back to the community of Phish phans. I even donated pics of a few shirts, stickers and my license plate. Cheers.

  2. The book is truly a labor of love. It came out great.

    Now wait until you see the next couple of tricks Pete’s got up his sleeve.

  3. Great article! This project was truly a labor of love for Pete. I’m just so glad it’s done and there are so many phans out there enjoying it! Well done!

  4. What a way to waste your life dedicating it to a band who is making money off you. Not even a good band to boot.

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