Web Wednesday – Bill Mooney, Redd Kross, Dirty Laundry and Kung Fu

We featured Bill Mooney’s websites two weeks ago. Here are a few good photos from him and some good history in his own words. I started screenprinting with a Speedball kit as well, so this story is dear to me.

Bill in is own words: “Yes, Tannis Root is our tour merchandising and screenprinting company and Kung Fu was our mail order catalog business – now an eCommerce company that sells direct to customers as well as wholesale to Urban Outfitters, Hot Topic, ASOS.com, and lots of mom & pop record shops.

The Speedball screenprinting kit was the genesis of the company.  Barbara, who is now my wife and business partner, was with me when I went to the local art supply store in 1984 and bought the kit, while I was a junior in high school.  I made a hand stenciled screen of Edie Sedgwick, and then photo emulsion screens of Iggy Pop and a nude photo of Madonna, in 1985.  The band Redd Kross was on tour Summer 1985 and stranded in Raleigh for an extra day and we had a screenprinting party where they basically printed nude Madonnas on their dirty laundry.  2-years later they visited North Carolina again and we went to the Jim and Tammy Faye Baker water park and it was there that they asked us to make tour T-shirts for their upcoming tour.  That was the start of the company.
We started with waterbased inks and light-colored shirts exclusively and we printed jumbo prints that were hand placed and couldn’t be replicated by Winterland and Brockum and it became apparent that there were the big merchandising companies and nothing else and that made plenty of room for us.  Our company grew as our clients grew in popularity.  By 1995, we had Hole, Sonic Youth, Beck, Pavement at the top of the Lollapalooza bill.  We’ve been doing this long enough now to see the trends cycle – jumbo prints, jumbo shirts, small prints, more fitted shirts, waterbased jumbo prints again, larger shirts again.
We’re one of the few merchandisers that still has in-house screenprinting but it allows us to run smaller re-orders for bands and to resupply bands more quickly.  It also gives us more quality control and makes us a better client for contract printers.  We are largely in the service business with screenprinting being just one component of that but I still self-identify as a screenprinter.  We use MHM presses and Rutland inks and the technology has improved vastly since the time we started.  It used to be more like witchcraft with so many “tricks of the trade” but you’d often be horrified when you’d hear of some of the practices in shops.  “Oh, you use kerosene to clean your screens and undiluted laundry bleach to reclaim them?”  Now it’s much easier to communicate with the manufacturers and learn what’s new and they learn what’s needed by their customers and in general there is a great deal of sharing about the best way to print.  I love reading The Ink Kitchen for those reasons.”
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Nude Madonna tee - Hot market printing.  Worn by Mike Watt, Firehose.  1987?   Photo by me (Bill Mooney)

Nude Madonna tee – Hot market printing. Worn by Mike Watt, Firehose. 1987? Photo by me (Bill Mooney)

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