Andrew Stern is the patron saint of all things screen-printed. Stern's Portland based company, Diesel Fuel Prints, has screened stickers (about five million a year) and shirts for almost every single indie band over the past 15 years, with no sign of slowing down. Recent developments include opening a retail store/gallery at 726 SE 10th. Stern took a few minutes away from the ink and screens to answer our questions.
Can you give a brief history of Diesel Fuel and why you relocated here from California?
Diesel Fuel Prints started in 1991 when I couldn't find a job for over six months. Basically I made a sticker printing press and bought a gallon of black ink and went around town (Cotati/Santa Rosa, CA) and tried to scam as much printing business as I could. Soon after that I started doing the "Mean People Suck" sticker—yes, we were the first ones to do that. In 1999 my rent in California was about to double, electricity costs were out of hand, and I had no woman in my life, so I figured it was time to get the hell out of that shithole. I was running a large rush job that needed to be shipped to Portland overnight, so I decided to drive it to the gig myself and check out Portland. Well, it only took a few hours wandering around town to know I would love it here, and six months later I was living and running the shop in town.
With the extent that indie/punk culture and music have expanded over the past 15 years that Diesel Fuel has been around, is it easier being in business now than when you first started?
It's a bit easier now, mainly because of the internet. Although competition has increased quite a bit, since when we started there was just The Sticker Guy and me. But, honestly, the last four years have been our best, so there must be enough work to go around.
Has there been more pressure for you to provide sweatshop-free options in recent years?
95% of the bands don't give a fuck about anything other than getting the lowest price and the fastest turnaround. Morals, what morals? I thought they got rid of that word in the USA.
As someone who prints a lot of custom screened posters, do you think that show posters have taken on less importance due to many cities having no-posting laws and the internet existing as a cheaper means of advertising?
I started doing the posters because I was sick of dealing with all the stickers stuff and wanted to bring some fun/life back into Diesel Fuel. I do think that flyers/gig posters have taken a backseat recently, mainly because of the no posting laws. But with more and more music going digital and there being no packaging for fans to delight over, they are starving for something to look at and hold. This is what is fueling the resurgence in gig posters right now—whether it be a poster hung on a telephone pole or a poster done solely to sell at the show as a commemorative piece.
Also, can you give some details on the retail store?
The retail store/gallery just opened last week. We are carrying over 300 different screenprinted posters from artists all over the world that Diesel Fuel has published and printed, plus we also have lots of cool toys, shirts, and stickers.
Check out Diesel Fuel Prints at dieselfuelprints.com