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Photo by: Dexterity Press, 2013 | Rodan Release Party poster

Images courtesy of Dexterity Press

Rodan was only active a few years, but the Louisville, KY-based band made quite an impression on the underground scene of the early '90s with powerful but precise compositions which played with extreme dynamics and time signatures. The band's music lurched like a goliath insect—and appropriately its album art for debut Rusty featured a butterfly in flight.

While guitarist/vocalist Jeff Mueller continued in bands such as June of 44 and Shipping News, he eventually focused on art and design, setting up his own printing press studio in Chicago—before moving to New Haven, CT—with his wife Kerri. Rodan's Jason Noble passed away in 2012, so tragically he won't see the release rarities album Fifteen Quiet Years, due out tomorrow, June 11, on Touch and Go/Quarterstick Records. Its cover features a cicada, which seems particularly apt for a band's work unearthed after so many years.

Nothing Major caught up with Mueller to find out more about his bug obsession, printing biz, and Fifteen Quiet Years.

I remember you were really into insects during the Rodan years—I mean visually. I think perhaps you had some bug art in your pace in the Rocket House, my memory can't be trusted.
That's true —there were also crayfish, bird and/or rat skeletons, cicadas, a small frog, one rhinoceros beetle, monarch butterflies, and an egyptian luna moth. All found in the "no longer alive" category, even the skeletons. After their capture, I would preserve them in glass collages using water-born polyurethane to hold the subject in between layers of cut glass. There would often be other small objects like a mono-ear piece or small rubber pig or paper mai-tai umbrella also included in the composition —these items, I think, would be included to give the deceased a source of entertainment, hopefully garnering a post-humous chortle.

What kind of things usually find their way into your printing over the years?
Lots of stuff: appropriated historic anatomical engravings, primates eating delicious iced cream cones, greyhound skeleton, lanterns, ornithological imagery (found, as well as Jeff-generated illustrations), wood, upside-down/foot-up pied metal type, old and new song lyrics, various patterns built using Adobe Illustrator, etc.

What's Dexterity Press and how long have you been doing it? Is is your main gig?
What kind of printing equipment are you using? Where is your studio?
Dexterity Press is a letterpress printing studio my wife Kerri and I opened 13 years ago. It's my main, 9-5 work these days - though that's only been the case since we moved east three years ago. Our first ten years in Chicago were always supplemented by other jobs—painting Chicago north-side houses with Dan Grzeca was key to keeping us alive while things were VERY slow in the early days at our shop. We are now located in New Haven, CT—in the old A.C. Gilbert building complex, where Erector Set toys used to be manufactured. We print on a Vandercook Universal 1 and a Chandler and Price 10 x 15 platen press.  

You recently printed the Thrill Jockey 20th Anniversary posters. What else have you been working lately that's music related?
We printed an Allen Ginsberg/Arthur Russell 10" a year or so ago now for Presspop Gallery, Tokyo. We printed a compilation 12" called "Eight Trails, One Path" for Three Lobed Recordings last year—that was fun because Casey Burns did the art, and many great musicians were involved. We printed an insane looking Mick Barr 12" for the energetic New Haven label Safety Meeting Records. We printed matchbook-style CD jackets for Christian Frederickson. We've been reprinting and retro-fitting Rachel's and June of 44 CD/LP jackets for Touch and Go/Quarterstick records, trying to figure out special-packaging manufacturing methods that can be done entirely in-house for less cost. We printed LP/CD jackets for a great Louisville band called Coliseum. Most recently, the Rodan record took over our studio for a couple weeks.

What was your involvement in the design of the new Rodan rarities album Fifteen Quiet Years?
Jason and I talked about grabbing graphic bits and pieces from our previous releases and collaging them into the new record design; the nuts and bolts of the art was already done, it just needed to be messed with and changed-up some. I did the new layout and created the cicada on the cover. The Quarterstick staff (Corey Rusk, April Sims, Adam Reach, and David Babbitt) helped proof-read and assisted immensely with pre-press. (Rodan members) Tara (Jane O' Neil) and Kevin (Coultas) kicked in with motivational speak and congenial/positive attitudes, sweet love.

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