I got a call about a top secret gig that was so secret, not only was the show not announced but the band didn't even exist. Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones had recorded an album and weren't going to reveal the band's existence until the day of their first show!
When the topic of documentation came up and Dave and Josh suggested me. John Paul Jones hadn't heard of me or seen my work but he trusted his bandmates' judgement.
The day before the show I flew to Chicago to photograph the rehearsals. It was crazy to think that they had an album ready to release and a tour planned but no one even knew that they were a band. It was also wild to shoot Dave on drums for the first time since we met almost 15 years earlier.
Dave and Josh introduced me to JPJ and Alain Johannes and I got to work. The first time they went through the set, every song was brand new to me and so good. I pinched myself every time I looked around the room and realized what was happening.
After rehearsals I grabbed them for a few quick portraits in a weird little concrete and brick courtyard outside the studio.
That weekend was one of the best times of my life and led to many more fun times with these guys. Here are photos from the rehearsals and during/after their very first show at The Metro in Chicago.
This has nothing to do with anything really... but we went out for a huge steak dinner after midnight and when I got back to the hotel I realized that I was in a smoking room. Around 3am I woke up with serious meat sweats (who knew that was a real thing?) and threw up from the pungent, stale cigarette stank. I called the front desk and begged them for a different room.
As soon as I entered the dressing room Dave pulled me aside and asked “Want to shoot us for the cover of Rolling Stone?” Not what I was expecting him to say, but yes! The cover of Rolling Stone is the holy grail for a rock photographer.
“Like right now. It's due Monday.”
I told him we'd need a studio or at least a clean background so they can place the cover text, yada yada yada...
“Ok come to Boston with us after the show and we'll get a studio tomorrow.”
My gut sank as I uttered the words “I can't tomorrow”.
Allow me to explain. My friends Kelly and Dave are the sweetest people you could ever meet and they were getting married the next day, creating the sweetest couple ever, and I promised to shoot it. I've been honoured to get asked to document a handful of weddings for close friends, and I take that responsibility very much to heart.
Coincidentally it's Kelly who introduced me to the band’s lighting director Dan, who happened to be standing next to me when Dave said come to Boston tomorrow. The look on Dan's face confirmed what my gut said, which is that Kelly and Dave are the best and there's no way I'm bailing on them. If the cover is meant to be, it will sort itself out.
The wedding was absolutely beautiful and I had a great time. On the cab ride home I got a call saying the shoot might still be on, so stand by.
I slept with my phone on my pillow, and it rang 3am. We were both half asleep but eventually figured we could shoot in Philadelphia the next day. I crawled out of bed and sleep-walked to my computer to find a studio in Philly. Everything was closed for the long weekend. I heard back from one place (Studio 5 South) who agreed to open for us on the holiday!
Because of traffic we only had 15 minutes to shoot before the band had to leave for sound check. It went by so fast and I was convinced I didn't get anything worthy of the cover. I felt sick to my stomach. I only loved one frame and it’s the one where Josh was covering half his face with his lapel. I rushed to the venue hoping the guys would approve it.
I waited in their dressing room for them to finish sound check. They came in and we huddled around my laptop. I pointed out the one shot and was freaking out inside because if they didn’t like it I was screwed. They loved it! We hugged and I raced back to the hotel, got the files ready and sent them off to Rolling Stone with just minutes to spare.
At the end of the shoot I thanked them for this huge opportunity and told them it was my birthday the next day. Then their tour manager Kevin took this photo of us.
Every shoot I'd done with Billy Talent to this point was on location, and for Billy Talent III we thought it would be a nice change of pace to shoot in a studio.
I suggested a simple white backdrop with just one light, so instead of getting a photography studio we set one up in their rehearsal space. This allowed us the flexibility to shoot both in front of a backdrop and in their natural environment. Sometimes even combining the two as you can see in one of the portraits. We were all open to trying different things and keeping it fun, and this was probably my favourite session with the band.
My friend/camera assistant Jaime brought his fisheye lens and we set up an overhead rig with a remote to get the circular photo of them jamming from above. If you look closely you can see Jaime and me because the lens was so wide there was no where for us to hide.
In stark contrast to this clean look I included the photo of Ben during a very muddy EdgeFest a couple of months later.