Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Photo Session

My covers band hasn't got much press in these parts even though I've been with them for over a year now. There's a couple of reasons for that. The biggest is that the other members of the band are all quite well known in their industry, high flying sorts who have articles written about them and are "known" in all the right places. But, in the time I've been with them I've already learnt a lot and am enjoying things like a maldive fish chunk swimming in the best parippu in town.

The other day the band decided that we wanted to be photographed, for websites, flyers and the usual applications that covers bands have. Normal covers bands in this situation have someone's girlfriend or boyfriend turn up with the kind of camera that Dom Sansoni wouldn't use to wipe his bum with. Not that he wipes his bum with a camera of course, that would probably hurt and make it hard to use afterwards. In fact it would make the bum and the camera hard to use afterwards I guess. Not that I know how he wipes his bum of course.

This band isn't "normal" as I mentioned earlier. So the singer, who I shall refer to as C, called in a favour and arranged for a photographer friend to come to a band practice and do the honours. The photographer friend wasn't a casual acquaintance who happened to have a camera slightly better than the one on my phone, she was a photographer who works for all the high end magazines, taking pictures of bands, people and other living things, except animals of course.

There we were, in the rehearsal studio at the band practice on the night, when she arrived. I trotted off to answer the door when she rang our bell, well just a bit after she rang it. As a drummer these are the sort of responsibilities I'm now lucky enough to get. There was some training involved as I used to open the door before the bell rang and sometimes didn't open it when there was a ring. It took some months but I've now got the hang of it.

I opened the door to see this Amazonian looking woman, about six feet taller than the average airport control tower. She was dragging a medium sized suitcase on wheels. A proper suitcase, not one of those Balryn Paris ones that you see on the conveyor belt when the Sri Lankan flight has just landed, usually wrapped in cling film and leaking with something that smells of onion and chilli powder. There was a glamorous and scary look to her. We did the introduction thing and I led her into our rehearsal room.

Within a few minutes it was very apparent that this photographer was the real deal. She got out her equipment and we chatted. She'd seen us play a couple of times and was a fan, or the fan. So we had a bit of a good start there.

The photo sessions, if they can be called that, I've been involved in with other bands have consisted of a get together and then someone's had the brilliant idea to get the band to "stand over there and face the camera".

This woman was in a different league, this photo session was going to be a bit different.

First she set up and watched us play as we set up too. She sort of checked us out, without saying so. As we soundchecked and messed around she tried out a variety of sexy looking lenses and different angles. We (the band) pretended that we were used to this kind of thing. She (the lenswoman) probably knew that we weren't used to this kind of thing but she pretended that she didn't know.

After she'd set up and we'd been as macho as we could she told us her plan. She was going to first get us to pose a bit, line up and look like we had attitude. She'd take some pictures and then we would rehearse as normal as she floated around and took "action" shots.

We lined up.

"You stand over there A, you face that way B, why don't you turn your head to the left a little bit R?" She said, and it was obvious that this was a professional who was very much in control. We did as told. I was genuinely interested in the way she made conversation, getting us all to laugh and smile and then "bang" she'd fire off a stream of exposures when we didn't expect it. It was slick and smooth, like a snake sliding over a big spillage of oil.

It was also interesting to see the sheer number of shots she took. It must have been hundreds. An amateur would have taken ten or twenty, she took one or two hundred, getting us in position then really going for it.

Once the "line up" shots were done we took our instruments and played, as normally as possible. We were all glad to finish the line up. Never have five middle aged men tried so hard and failed so abysmally to hold their stomachs in for such a long time. Their was a collective sigh of both relief and stomachs relaxing when we were told that we were finished.

We kicked out a few songs and she did her thing. As I was playing I suddenly became aware of something I hadn't really thought much about before; that playing the drums is actually a very visual thing. Not to most audiences because they usually can't see the drummer, but to a photographer who is peering around cymbals and using a fast telephoto lens, a drummer must display exciting movement coupled with some seriously dodgy expressions.

That's why we always see pictures of drummers looking a bit mental, arms flailing, hair everywhere and sweat pouring off them and then we see pictures of bassists looking like a geography lecturer who's picked up a guitar that one of the students has left behind.

We played and she blended into the background, like any good photographer should. Every now and again I'd look up and see her, lying on the floor, standing on the old settee in the studio or doing whatever she thought necessary to get the angle she wanted. For very different reasons I've wanted to meet a girl like that for years.

As we played I noticed that could smell something in the studio. It seemed to permeate everything and it wafted around as if it was a fart trapped inside a jam jar. I realised what it was. It was testosterone and it was everywhere, oozing out of every pore and every hole. It came from the five middle aged blokes in the band. It wasn't pleasant but it was most definitely there.

Each time I hit something, which happens a lot for the average drummer, my face contorted into rock star caricature looks, or maybe that should be caricatured rock star looks. Each time the bassist had that feeling of "which bit comes next?" which happens a lot, he managed to make his face show gritty moodiness and rebellious attitude instead of the usual look of confusion and frowning, mixed with severe constipation. When the singer forgot his words, his key or when to come in he made it look as if he hardly ever does that, as if it was a rarity. Only the photographer was fooled, though she had seen us play live a couple of times so maybe she wasn't.

B, the lead guitarist has a strange look that he makes on his stage face. It's a mouth open, squinty eyed grinning look, one that's similar to how a fellow would look as if he's going through intense pleasure and intense pain while suddenly realising what the answer to 17 + 23 across in yesterday's Times crossword was. Under normal conditions ie with no photographer present but in a band practice, he makes the face a few times every other song. Under normal conditions in a gig he makes the face about once every song, usually during the guitar solo or middle eight. Under these new conditions the look had been plastered and set across his face, like on one of Batman's enemies, probably the Riddler, as he'd be the best one at crosswords.

We continued to play, about five or six songs, staying in our respective characters until she told us that she was done. When she had finished we did some small talk, the thing where she tells us how good we are and each band member in turn makes a series of self deprecating comments about us not really being that good and how we normally don't get a single person to gigs etc. It's what you do when you're in a band; pretend that you think you and the band is crap but all along you think you're all great, invariably that you are quite a lot greater than the rest of the band.

And then she left. We relaxed and carried on with our band practice significantly more sedately. Volumes went back down, hair got put back in place and shirts got tucked in. I put away the extra loud drum sticks and got out my extra quiet ones.

A week later we got the results.

Fuck me is all I can say.

Maybe I'm photogenic after all.

But do I put the best one up here in a post, risking the laughter?

That is the Q.


Anonymous said...

Yes Please and I promise not to analyze (technically). I also wish we could hear you play, perhaps some MP3s after the photos!
Your write up made me feel as if I was there.
One more Q, how DO you get a fart into a jam jar?

N said...

Machan put them up!! At least on Flickr!