Sunday, 25 November 2012

Photo shoots

I've taken delivery of some fantastic solo promo shots by Tom Wojtulewicz ( and, as good as they are, this got me wondering about the conventions of musician photos and press kits, and more broadly the need for a musician to cultivate an image.

I would really be happiest using live shots for a press kit, given that they obviously portray what I actually look like whilst playing music, however the advice is usually not to so I found myself standing around Stafford town centre in the October cold with Tom and feeling remarkably self-conscious as the Friday afternoon shoppers leered at me whilst walking past.  The clich├ęs are abundant in band photography, which gives you such a long list of things to avoid it's ridiculous: brick walls, train tracks, scrapyards & bars have all been done to death, which makes it tricky to do something fresh, but Tom had some great ideas about how to light shots that made what would otherwise have been pretty ordinary poses look amazing, and I convinced him to get a fisheye lens out, after remarking how much I liked the cover of Captain Beefheart's Safe As Milk.

I'm hardly a natural when it comes to modelling, - yet another example of the many jobs you need to get your head around as a musician. You expect sex and drugs and you get tax returns and standing around in the cold being told off for smiling.  But for all that I love the photos - I'm pretty sure I can only spot the beer gut because I know it's there, and despite my protestations that the cold was making my nipples show through my shirt, that seems to have been fixed in the editing ;)

I think I'm finally coming to terms with the need for an image as a musician.  I've always been broadly opposed to anything I considered too artificial in the past, being desperate to avoid the pork-pie-hat-and-sunglasses school of blues music, but I now find I'm asking myself again and again what I can do to be more memorable.  I think I'm finally at peace with the fact that doing things to make yourself more marketable isn't 'selling out' unless your music itself is lacking substance, and consequently I've smartened myself up on stage when playing solo.  Moving away from the jeans and converse I've always worn with .44 pistol also gives my solo career a bit of an identity of its' own which helps me in my efforts to keep them both going in parallel.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


I suppose I knew my policy of saying yes to any solo stuff that came my way was bound to lead to some weirdness eventually.  Sure enough, on Friday night, I was down in Birmingham about to play when the soundman informed me that a stripper would be arriving for one of the regulars' birthday surprise during my set.  So I got the signal, finished my song, and a lady came in and took her clothes off.

Now, whilst I'm pretty confident of holding my own in a line up of musicians these days, competing for the interest of a crowd of burly brummie blokes with the promise of soon-to-appear naked flesh is a new one on me.  I didn't think I performed too badly under the circumstances, but I definitely felt it was a room who tolerated me while they waited for the good stuff rather than one I was ever going to win over.

I realised I'm not entirely comfortable with such things either and found the tidying up of leads to be much more fascinating than usual in that at least it gave me somewhere to look.  My wife, meanwhile, speculated on the process of waxing certain body parts and complained that the number of people videoing on their mobile phones made it seedy. Personally, I'm not convinced it wouldn't have been seedy, even without the mobile phones...