Paul McCartney's longtime photographer MJ Kim called me to ask if I would fill in during a string of rehearsals that he wasn't able to attend. I called my mom to tell her the news, and being a teenager during Beatlemania she was obviously thrilled. “Say hi to Paul for me!”.
When I saw Paul the first morning he thanked me for filling in with such short notice, and I felt right at home.
In contrast to the last time we worked together on tour there was no live audience. So I felt a bit more emboldened to shoot from spots on stage I would never go during a concert. Crouched at the end of Paul's grand piano, I popped up for a second to get a shot of him playing. I still felt self-conscious, so for the rest of the song I raised only my camera like a periscope.
When we broke for lunch Paul called me over and very politely asked me to try and stay more hidden while they played. It was distracting to see my camera when he would look at his drummer Abe for cues, who was right behind me.
The next morning when Paul arrived he put his arm around me and said “Last night I was thinking about you, and thought 'Maybe I was too hard on him', so I'm sorry if I was.”
I was surprised considering how super cool and courteous he was when asking me to lay low, but it was a sweet moment.
At the end of each day Paul walked around the arena to hug every person on the crew. When he got to me he said “See you tomorrow, Dust”. That stuck with me because it's the short form of my name that only my close friends use.
After the last rehearsal Paul and I sat in his dressing room reviewing the photos. For the most part we agreed on everything but every once in a while I'd have to do some convincing, and he'd usually say “If you like it, I like it. Let's keep it.”
On the way out I said “I almost forgot! My mom says hi!”. He smiled and asked me her name while reaching for a pen and paper. He wrote “Hey, Maureen. Love your boy!! ❤️ Kisses from Paul (McCartney)”.
A gift that put me straight into the Mother's Day Hall Of Fame ❤️.
MJ, thank you again for asking me to fill your shoes for a few days. Means the world to me.
Oh and I asked Paul if he originally hired me in 2011 because he saw that I worked a lot with Dave Grohl and he said that’s how he remembers it.
This Chris Rock show was my first gig in months because I'd been out of commission with a nerve impingement in my neck. It sucked. Certain movements like lifting my head would cause a chain reaction of unbearable pain shooting down my arms and back. Some days I couldn't lift my head enough to see where I was walking, so I'd just stay home. It really sucked.
Because of that, I probably shouldn't have taken this job but it's Chris Rock. Come on. I brought my pal Jon Eagan for moral support and to carry my stuff... you know, because of my neck 😇 Friends are always asking if they can carry my bags when I’m off to a big gig. This was the first and only time I ever took someone up on it.
It was my first time meeting Chris and also my first time shooting a stand-up comedian in an arena. Backstage was a lot quieter than I'm used to. No sound check or musicians warming up in the dressing room.
Chris was alone in his dressing room and it felt intrusive to go in and start taking pictures, despite knowing that I was hired to document the day. I think I was feeling self-conscious because I hadn't been around people in a while. Kind of like we all felt when emerging from Covid lockdowns for the first time and trying to act normal.
I knocked on the open door and he said come on in, Dustin. I took a few photos but he was relaxing on the couch sending messages on his phone so I didn't stay long.
The other two comics on the bill were Mario Joyner and Judah Friedlander. If you're not familiar with their stand-up you may recognize Mario from his cameo as “Maroon Golf” on Seinfeld, and Judah from his role as Frank on 30 Rock.
I really enjoyed watching Friedlander prepare for his set. Arranging and rearranging note cards with his material, laying them out on a table and making notes on bits of paper. This guy lives and breathes his craft and it shows. You can see in the last photo that even as he was being introduced he's still looking at his cards.
Both he and Mario were terrific, and Chris Rock killed. I'll never understand how one person can stand up there alone and command an arena crowd like that. Simply put, he's a rockstar.
Mario Joyner first appeared in an early episode of Seinfeld as Jerry's friend at the movies. As they were exiting the theatre after seeing Firestorm Mario says to Jerry “What about the underwater escape??”
So in my chronic pain induced rusty social skills haze I thought it would be hilarious to casually say “What about the underwater escape?” when Mario walked by. I saw him coming down the hall, and got ready. Jon said don't do it. But you know I did.
“What about the underwater escape??”... nothing... “I said, what about the underwater escape??”. Without looking back Mario said “What about it?” and kept walking towards catering.
Now that I think of it, on Seinfeld that line was the end of the scene... so I don't really know what I was hoping he’d say.
As I mentioned, for three months at the end of 2017 I was dealing with an extremely painful back and neck injury. It felt like I was always either on the couch or at a physio appointment. As time dragged on I slipped into a depression from the isolation and not being able to work. It was also the longest I stretch I'd gone without shooting a show. It felt like a hundred years.
When December 15 rolled around I still wasn't feeling 100% but there was no way I was going to miss this Alexisonfire show. They're my favourite live band and I needed to soak up that energy.
I love the intensity in the first shot. Wade is hyper focussed while the band gears up to kick into the first song. From that moment on it was pure chaos and joy. I was so happy that I could have floated away. But then I would have missed the rest of the show, so I stayed put. Anyways, I can't describe how freeing it felt to let loose after being sidelined for so long.
In the final moments of the show Wade tapes his guitar to the front of his amp and lets it feedback as the others play out the rest of Happiness By the Kilowatt. Steele lies on his back exhausted while George stands over him pouring water onto his face. Then he picks him up onto his shoulders and Steele bids the crowd a Royal goodnight.
I love you, Alexisonfire.
This was awesome. Mix Master Mike opened for Metallica on their WorldWired stadium tour in 2017, and he brought me on stage with him at the Skydome in Toronto. Mike and I have been friends for a long time and he's taken me on many adventures. Sometimes with Beastie Boys, sometimes on his own but this was a different crowd and it was BIG.
If anyone there didn't know Mix Master Mike when he walked onto that stage, they got to know him in a hurry. He lit up that crowd and left his mark. Metallica might be the only band who could follow that kind of performance.
He claims to be human but when Mike's on stage and gets in the zone, he channels some otherworldly super powers that can't be explained by science. No one has ever or will ever match his skill level on the turntables. Every time I watch him at work I rub my eyes, shake my head and think “What the??”
Thanks for another fun one, Mike! Can't wait to see what's next.
Back in 2000 while I was doing a photo shoot with The (International) Noise Conspiracy right before their show, there were two guys from another band in the dressing room. I'll admit I didn't know who they were at the time but it was Cedric and Omar from At The Drive-In.
After The INC played we went across the street for some food and I remember Dennis telling me I should go back to watch At The Drive-In. I was stoked to be sitting at a table with him and thought nah, I'll catch them next time.
The next day I bought the new ATDI record and after one song I was like “Fuuuuck!” I should have listened to Dennis. And of course they broke up before I had a chance to see them live. One of my only true regrets.
When I was in Los Angeles in 2001 I went to see Mix Master Mike play at midnight at Tower Records to celebrate the release of his new record. I found a spot in the underground parking lot and a big old beater of a car pulled up next to me. It backfired and smoke poured from the tailpipe as it came to a jerky stop. To be honest I might have made that last part up in my head. It was a long time ago.
A bunch of guys who suited that car got out and I was like “oh shit is Cedric and Omar from At The Drive-In”.
We got in the elevator to Tower Records and I figured they were there to see Mix Master Mike too but it turns out they were just doing some late night record shopping. I asked what they'd been up to since the band broke up and they said they were about to start rehearsing with their new band De Facto, which evolved into The Mars Volta.
Over the years I ended up shooting The Mars Volta, Bosnian Rainbows and Antemasque shows, all bands that Omar and Cedric started. But it wasn't until 2017 that I finally got to see At The Drive-In after they reunited and released in•ter a•li•a.
I caught them twice on that tour in Toronto and at Montelbello Rock Fest.
The moral of the story is when punk rock legend Dennis Lyxzén tells you to check out a band, go check out that band.
FYI, that's Cedric upside down in the crowd in the last photo.
Backstage at Montebello Rockfest, singer Josh Homme is walking towards me and from a distance he says “Hey, handsome.” *butterflies* I check behind me to see who's there but a big hug confirms it was me he was talking to. Josh and I have been pals for years and a lot of my friends, female and male, have expressed envy because he's so damn handsome.
Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, Queens Of The Stone Age at Montebello Rockfest... Also on the bill that night were Alexisonfire, At The Drive-In, and Iggy Pop back-to-back!! Every year this festival seems to put together the gnarliest bill of the summer. It was founded in 2005 by a 17 year-old local kid named Alex Martel who was tired of having to travel to big cities to see good shows.
The inaugural event had 3 bands, including his own, and a crowd of 500. In its biggest year they had over 150 bands and a combined attendance of 200,000!
The rest of the year Montebello, Quebec is known for the stunning Fairmont Le Château Montebello hotel which is also the World's largest log cabin. It's quite a spectacle to see in person.
The first five photos in this series are from Rockfest, and the next five from the Budweiser Stage in Toronto. My favourite is probably the last one of the guys waiting in the dark, moments before hitting the stage. QOTSA are one of the all time great live bands and it was rad to see them a bunch of times on that tour.
Foo Fighters threw a party with all their friends and it was a blast. A full day of music plus the Vans vert ramp with legendary skaters like Steve Caballero and Christian Hosoi. Then there was the Foo Fighters Rock N' Roll Museum that included artifacts like their original red tour van, the ray gun from the cover of their first record, all their Grammy Awards and of course Dave's throne from the Broken Leg Tour.
At the centre of the museum there was a photo gallery with images spanning the band's entire career, which I was honoured to have a bunch of prints in.
On the main stage Queens Of The Stone Age played a supercharged set as always. I’d barely come down from their show when I remembered there was a two and a half hour Foo Fighters set about to start!
Foo Fighters featured their newly-designed stage show including the massive floating diamond-shaped video screen / lighting rig. I think they'd used it a few times before but it was my first time seeing it, and man it was awesome. Dan Hadley outdid himself with this one.
There were a ton of guest appearances including Joe Perry and Liam Gallagher for a cover of The Beatles Come Together. When he was done his part Gallagher did some crowd surfing.
The highlight of the night for me was when Dave jumped off the stage and ran around the entire venue to get to the sound / lighting board where he played an extended monster jam of Rope before running back to the stage to finish the song with the band. When I saw Dave leave the stage I ran as fast as I could to catch up to him and got there just in time to get this series of photos (2,3,4).
Thanks to Salar Rajabnik for taking a photo of me in front of one of my prints in the museum!
When I made plans to go the festival I didn't even know there would be skateboarding. When I spotted the big vert ramp in the middle of a field I made a run for it.
I've had some great opportunities in the past to shoot vert comps and there's really nothing like being that close to the action.
I climbed to the top of the ramp and there were two heroes from my youth: Steve Caballero and Christian Hosoi! I was so stoked!! I honestly had no idea they'd be there until they were standing right in front of me.
Caballero was part of Bones Brigade who were like a punk band of teenaged skaters who took the sport to another level. They were the first team to make their own movies. The most legendary was The Search For Animal Chin (1987). My friends and I were obsessed. Because of them we skated every day. There weren’t any ramps or even a park where I grew up so I never got to try vert (not that I would have had the balls anyway) but I still love being around it.
Read more about Bones Brigade.
Who knew I'd one day I'd take a picture of my feet next to a custom Cab deck that Caballero himself was just riding?? I felt like a kid again.
We did this photo shoot in an absolutely massive empty factory in Hamilton, ON that used to be the Cannon Knitting Mills, built in 1854. Visually everywhere you turned was another perfect backdrop. And it wasn't just a standard abandoned warehouse.
I mean yeah it had tons of exposed brick, big old wooden beams, dirty windows and some missing floorboards, but one corner of the main space was painted turquoise for some reason and there was a lone pink room upstairs.
The first photo which was the cover of Terra's album New Mistakes was shot in front of a giant pile of industrial cardboard tubes stacked in front of windows. The next photo is a slightly different version that was double-exposed on film.
There were lots of areas to explore and some were harder to get to than others. Photo 3 was a little nook in the attic that would be almost completely dark if not for the single window. Instead of lighting it I shot Terra in silhouette and I'm not kidding, that little bird landed on the outside window ledge just long enough to be in this photo.
We loved the place so much that we came back two days later to shoot Terra's music video for Paradise. It was nice to have continuity with the video, press material and album art.
For the second to last scene we moved to a narrow little courtyard way at the other end of the factory and needed hundreds of feet of cable to get power. The shot called for rain but it was a beautiful sunny day so we made a really simple rain machine and stretched every last inch of garden hose we had just to reach the courtyard from the one working faucet on the top floor.
When we finished there I had to run Terra back to the main room where we shot the band performances earlier so she would still be soaking wet for the final shot. Being the trooper that she is Terra nailed it, and we wrapped a really great day.
The last 3 photos were taken during the video shoot.