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05 June 2003
Taken From: Burrn Magazine (Jan 2001) #48

In America, we have a stereotypical image of the Japanese as people who travel in groups to expensive, exotic locations, with an English phrase book in one hand, a map in the other, and cameras hanging around all of their necks. Having quite a bit of experience with Japan and its people, I have seen much, much more about the Japanese than just that one image that most Americans see. Despite how silly that stereotypical image seems, like most stereotypes, there is definitely some truth to it. Particularly when it comes to photography. I find that Japanese people on the whole are much more fascinated by photos than Americans are. Magazines of all kinds in Japan have the reputation of being stuffed with stunningly sharp and beautiful photos that stand high above the books and magazines of the rest of the entire world. The ongoing popularity of Print Club related stuff in Japan also points to Japan?s obsession with photos. Print Club barely exists in America. It seems that Japanese want photo documentation of just about every imaginable event, from friends going out and playing video games to funerals. This love of photos may explain the fact that everywhere you go in Japan, you find innovative, cutting edge photography of the highest quality.

Let me tell you about the disastrous first photo session with my new band. This was something to be very nervous about because I had no idea if we were going to have any chemistry together visually or not. We all look good; nobody looks like ?The Elephant Man?, or anything like that, but are we going to have a ?vibe?? When you?re in a band for a good amount of time, you become really natural around photographers and being photographed. You know exactly when to joke around, when to be serious, artistic, and moody and when to come up with ideas if the photographer isn?t very creative.

Sometimes photographers can be so stupid! Some guys get you all together in a room and say, ?OK, do something!? and then they expect you to suddenly do something that?s going to look amazing. Unless you are doing a porno shoot, the photographer is going to have to use some creativity. Actually, sometimes even a porno shoot requires quite a bit of creativity, but I?ll save that topic for another column! On the other hand, like in the case of Richard Avedon (possibly America?s most famous and respected photographer), the photographer has a definite idea of exactly what he wants the photo to look like and he knows exactly how to create that image. That guy will pose you down to the smallest detail. Avedon physically moved my legs, arms, head and even my fingers into an exact position to precisely get the perfect pose that he was envisioning. I thought that maybe he was touching me so much because he was gay or bisexual, but I had such incredible respect for him as a photographer that I just let him move my body any way he wanted.

Ever since I?ve been playing music, I?ve been accustomed to being photographed just about every day in some form and it was a very confident feeling knowing that my previous band mates were equally comfortable in front of the camera. We all knew each other?s strengths and weaknesses, skin types, hair types, best profiles and every piece of clothing in each other?s wardrobe. We also knew which photographers made us look the best. It takes quite a while to gradually gather all this information, and all these things together are a big part of the overall ?vibe? of the band. So with my new band, I don?t have any history to help me predict how we will look together. I don?t know if my new partners will suddenly become total idiots in front of the camera, or become nervous and stiff as a board. I know that we have a great chemistry when it comes to making music, because it?s really like magic. In our music, our combination works just great. But at this early stage, whether our magical combination works on film or not remains to be seen.

So we did the photo session and it was a lot of fun. Having a girl in the band (lead singer) creates a cool, sexy atmosphere doing photos that just isn?t there with an all-male band. Girls just seem to pose naturally, and it?s ok for them to do that. With guys, it?s not very manly or cool to ?strike a pose.? Therefore guys have to pose without it looking like we are ?posing.? Tricky!

The photographer thought that he was as talented as Richard Avedon, posing us down to every small detail, which at the time, I thought was great. But the fact is, it doesn?t matter how intricately the photographer sets up the picture, if his idea or ?vision? wasn?t cool in the first place. Each shot took about 5 minutes to get everything exactly the way he wanted it, then we had to hold that exact position. He had us get into all these weird positions and he assured us that in the photos we would come out looking cool. We didn?t. We came out looking like complete idiots just hanging around, standing in weird, unnatural positions. It was just horrible. The photos were all useless and all of us were so disappointed that I immediately rescheduled another photo session with a different photographer (Gene Kirkland, one of my favorites, -- I mentioned him in last month?s column). This is not the first time I?ve been unhappy with a photo session, but it really made me respect the photographers who can actually envision the final product before they take the picture. Creativity is surely important, but just doing wild stuff and hoping that it?s going to come out good is not the sign of a great photographer. Or a musician, for that matter.

So I hope you all had a great New Year. I wanted to have a casual New Year so I didn?t plan much other than to jam with a friend?s punk/rockabilly band at a small club in Phoenix. At least I thought it would be casual. This club is usually very quiet and mellow and the people usually just come and drink and listen to music. Most of the people who go there have no idea who I am so I can sit in with the blues bands or whoever is playing there and just play music. But on New Years, I got there, went up on stage, picked up my friend?s guitar and suddenly the place got packed full of punk and heavy metal freaks going absolutely crazy! There was a full-on moshpit in this neighborhood bar! It was surreal.

Everybody was drinking champagne and pogoing to the music, beer bottles were flying all across the club, girls were taking off their tops and dancing on the bar and it was a great New Year?s party. It made me think of what a crazy year 2000 was for me. The weirdest thing about 2000 for me was that since I have been in the studio recording with ?red dye #2? most of the year, except for two weeks of seminars in Europe, I haven?t played live almost at all in 2000. This New Year?s show was one only of 9 gigs I did ALL YEAR. After averaging about 200 shows per year every year, suddenly cutting it down to 9 seems a little bit drastic! I just love playing live, so in 2001, I will be definitely playing live a lot. I know because I can see the future?

Taken From: Burrn Magazine (Jan 2001) #48