“I hope you enjoy these Behind the Scenes stories from a few memorable moments of my career." MM
Somehow, the band’s name had literally ensconced them...
The five members of My Darkest Days had spent days in a darkened tour bus traveling throughout the United States, though they wouldn’t have known it, the bus was without any windows.
Monster Energy Drink commissioned me to meet up with the band while on tour in the middle of Texas for a few promotional shots. Knowing the situation, I arrived a day early and scouted the state from Odessa to San Antonio.
I wanted to find a spot that was cool, interesting and above all, inspiring. From my musician friends, I know how important it is to keep the energy up while on tour, so my plan for the shoot was to give the guys a much deserved and energizing break during their windowless marathon.
I discovered the Monahans Sandhills, the perfect place to escape the tin can walls of the bus and spend some time under the sun in the wide open desert. It also happened to be where ZZ Top shot the iconic album cover for El Loco. Knowing that the guys from My Darkest Days are ZZ Top fans, I thought they might find this interesting.
When I met up with the band they were tired. They crawled out of the bus like zombies, squinting from the sunlight.
We spent the day shooting and relaxing, sitting in the Sandhills with their instruments, while they took a few moments to breathe the fresh air, have a few drinks and decompress between setups. When the sun finally set, they were ready to embark on the rest of their tour, letting me know they felt energized, refreshed and excited to get back at it.
Probably my favorite part of my job is when I hear that our photo shoot has inspired the artist or band to create more music, come together and/or take off in a new direction with a fresh, excited energy. I love hearing this, it makes me feel like our time together created more than just new photos, it created new artistic energy for the band to take forward and flourish.
I feel truly fortunate to be able to be a part of this memorable experience. Most definitely one of... my brightest days.
When Gibson contacted me to photograph Chad for the upcoming release of his custom “Blackwater” Les Paul, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
And then I started to do my research. Turns out Chad has an IQ of 130. He grew up in the small town of Hanna, Alberta on food stamps. He worked incredibly hard to get where he’s at. He apparently studied the number one charting songs over a period of time and then set out to compose songs that fit the mold. I remember meeting him years before at a music festival with David Usher, the lead singer of Canadian rock band Moist. Unknown at the time, Chad came up to David and asked him as many questions about the industry as he could fit in within a span of ten minutes.
While doing my research, I came across some of the meanest criticisms I’ve ever read about a band or musician. They were more than just slights about the music, they seemed like personal attacks against Chad. I couldn’t imagine having so many cruel things said about me living on in print and on the web. I wondered how he dealt with it. And I wondered how the shoot day would go.
When I arrived at the compound in Abbotsford British Columbia, the Gibson rep met me, wearing a hockey jersey. She was excited because she had heard that Chad had a full size hockey rink built beneath his house.
The house was a sprawling modern day castle, with definitely enough square footage to house at least two rinks.
My crew and I loaded in, and soon enough Chad came to meet us. He was pumped for the shoot, surprisingly down to earth, amiable, intelligent, and just a regular guy. What was most surprising was the element of class and self awareness and welcoming he exuded.
As the day went on and in our conversations, I got the sense that Chad knew the role he was playing. He mentioned how in todays’ PC culture, the days of true rock stars were gone, and somebody had to fill the position.
We journeyed throughout his massive estate that included a grand hall, basically a huge empty room suited for a royal party. Through a corridor that had two swords mounted on the wall that he and the singer from Alice in Chains would spar with. A tanning bed Mutt Lang left behind after staying with Chad while going through his divorce. Then onto his garage which held a few classic cars and also two ATVs, one for him and one for his best friend, because, who wants to go ATVing alone?
I knew and worked with a few of his team members, and across the board they shared a great admiration and appreciation for Chad. He had made sure that everyone who supported him was set up in some way, he started companies for them, or placed them in lucrative positions. One staff member recalled how Chad flew them all out to Las Vegas and put them all up first class to celebrate a good year.
His strange mix of magnanimity and unpretentiousness was present throughout the shoot. When I asked him to change Tshirts for the next set up, he said “You know, I won’t be back for 20 minutes, my closet’s on the other side of the house.”
I said no problem, and sure enough, he came back about 20 minutes later, winded and with Tshirt in hand.
He showed me how he had the shirts custom made, the sleeve was cut at a 45 degree angle, the best angle to show off the arms while playing guitar. Again I got the sense that every move he made was calculated, to fulfill the role he chose, to give the fans what they wanted. Like every good businessman, he understood his audience.
At one point, the Gibson rep asked him about the altercation he had with an anti fan that had made the national news. His face saddened somberly, replacing the usually present good natured grin. He said, “Everyone hears about the one time I lose it on someone. No one ever hears about the million other times I don’t let it get to me.” After reading just a handful of remarks made about him online, I wondered how thick his skin must be.
We spent the majority of the shoot in his garage, shooting against one of his favorite cars. I then hung a black backdrop for some full length shots of Chad walking with his custom Les Paul.
I told him how to ‘fake walk’ for photos, to stand as if you’re walking and just rock back and forth on each of your legs. Chad took in the instructions thoughtfully and said “Hmmm, I never rocked before.” To which I said, “Oh, you’ve rocked before.” And the Cheshire grin returned to his face.
It was nearing Halloween when we shot, and bowls of candy were placed throughout his estate. He was always making sure me and my crew grabbed a treat. After the shoot he treated us all to a huge sushi dinner, sat on his couch and ate with us, and made sure we all had had enough to eat.
I wish the world knew what a class act Chad Kroeger is. With hard work and pure determination, he became one of the modern era’s last remaining rock stars, while remaining a true gentleman.
I’ll never forget the day I got the email. It was December 12th 2012 (12/12/12) and I literally pushed my chair back and jumped up, before doublechecking the email to make sure I read it right.
Gibson Guitars had contacted me to photograph Chris Cornell for his signature ES-335 guitar.
A huge fan of Soundgarden, Audioslave and Chris’s solo work, I immediately set out on doing my research, and my admiration for Chris only amplified.
He had a four octave vocal range (rare for a male singer), pretty much invented Screamo, was heavily involved in charity work and played for the president. let alone the countless iconic songs he created that encapsulated the 90s and early 2000s music scene. I’d say “grunge,” though one of the treats to doing the shoot was that I was copied on the email correspondence between Gibson and the band’s management. The term “grunge” was at first going to be used in the ad copy headlines to describe the guitar made for Chris, the creator of “grunge,” only to find out that the band Soundgarden hates the term “grunge.” True irony.
The shoot date was set and the night before I would steel my nerves and get ready to meet an idol. I’d go through this at least four times, as the shoot was pushed numerous times due to scheduling.
Finally, it looked like the shoot day was set. I showed up early at the Gibson Showroom in Beverly Hills. I was told that I had 45 minutes with Chris to get two different setups while he did an interview. I chose my two spots and set up the lights while Chris’s manager frantically searched for a Diet Coke, (Chris’s drink of choice).
Chris showed up early and from moment one he was a force walking through the door. He was larger than life, tall, and all around just a big human being. Intense almost doesn’t seem like a strong of enough word to describe him.
After his death Bono described him as “a lion,” while Perry Ferrell called him “a complex soul.” These two descriptions really captured Chris, and there was a disquiet, sad energy about him, like his mind was constantly grinding on a whole other level. Behind those clear blue eyes there was a storm brewing, and caught between conversations and photos, he’d be lost in an anxious, somewhat vulnerable world of his own that he would snap out of when asked the next question. The one time the clouds disappeared was when he mentioned his daughter was auditioning for Annie, his face and eyes lit up with a proud smile.
We shared another proud moment when he happily discussed how pleased he was with the flat green color of his custom guitar, (he called it “Army Green”) and also when he talked about his love for cars with flat black paint jobs. He modestly claimed to have started the trend, taking a few spray cans of flat black paint to the first car he ever owned, a rusted old lemon for which he paid less than the couple hundred dollars he could scrape together.
When I heard the news about the tragedy, I felt sick with sadness. It was like the bottom dropped out of the world, and a black hole covered the sun. Another true artist was lost to creative desperation. I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity I had to be in the presence of greatness.
July 20, 1964 - May 18, 2017
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