Seven Stories…Adam Murray
Photographer: Adam Murray
Based in: Los Angeles
I am going to do my best to refrain from plugging my friends’ bands and name-dropping all the righteous Metal Godz that I have met or befriended over the past few years. Let me instantly negate that statement by giving a special thanks to Martin Depedro and Scott Florance for all the help o’er the years with countless photo passes, exposure and transportation.
I have selected these pictures mainly for story-telling purposes. I do not think of these as being wholly representative of my body of work.
This was taken at one of the very first metal shows I ever shot, I think in early 2008. Harassor played the Mountain Bar with Annihilation Time and I don’t remember who else. I’ve been a photographer since age 16, and into metal since I first heard …And Justice For All when I was ten or eleven, but the two worlds had never collided until about 4 years ago. After getting home and seeing what I had shot that evening, a dark little hole opened up in my brain, and I knew from that point forward that it would only ever be filled by taking photographs of heavy metal. L.A. band Harassor has always held a special place in my heart for that reason, not to mention the fact that they kick bloody ass.
Crazy night. This may have been the last show I attended at the Knitting Factory before it closed. Eyehategod headlined the Murderfest, May 2009 I think. Supposedly, this was their first L.A. appearance in like 7 or 13 years. I had been an EHG fan for years, but never considered the possibility of seeing them live, not to mention getting pictures of them. I sustained significant eardrum damage this evening. My photo pass got me backstage and on stage. Backstage comprised of having beers and whiskys with Southern metal doods. On stage comprised of me taking pictures squatting directly in front of Bowers’ pants-shittingly loud guitar amp like it was some sort of cozy wintertime fireplace. And of course I forgot earplugs. They played forever that night, felt like about a 3 hour set. When I got home, I was deaf like, for real. My girlfriend actually got mad at me because she thought I was ignoring her. We were in the same room, mere feet from each other, and she said my name like 5 times to no response. My brain was slushing around in my skull, I couldn’t hear a thing… Eyehategod, boys and girls, pure magic.
This was actually a pretty shitty night for a few different reasons. I was carless in L.A. during a rainy season. I had a photo pass for 1349 and Triptykon at the El Rey on the other side of town. I had been enjoying the Triptykon album for several weeks and was not only psyched to see them live, but also to get some snaps of Mr. Warrior in the painted flesh. Couldn’t drive, cab would’ve run me about 35 or 40 bucks, so I decided to take the bus. Bad Idea Jeans. Sitting at the bus stop in the rain with my camera under my jacket. L.A. citybuses have a magical ability of NEVER coming when you REALLY need them to. Waited for 20-30 minutes. watched all the buslines I wasn’t waiting for go by constantly. Finally got on, rode about halfway to the gig and then it was time to transfer. Got off and waited ANOTHER 20 minutes in the rain until the next one came. The next bus was an express line, awesome right? It’s gonna skip a bunch of stops and get me to my destination faster. WRONG. It overshot the El Rey by about 4 city blocks. So what next? I RUN THOSE 4 BLOCKS IN THE RAIN back to the theatre. I even tried to hail a cab but alas, there were none. Finally get to the venue – sweaty, rainsoaked, out of breath, my lens so steamy that it just keeps self-steaming after I wipe it. 1349 is still playing, good. I’ll nail some shots of them and then get my Triptykon on. But wait, what’s this? Curtain down, house lights up? Oh gee, I should’ve known, they started the show early AND switched headliners JUST for the L.A show. Triptykon played at like 9:30. FFFUUUCCCKKK. Cool shot though, I guess. What do you think, is he sinking into darkness and being pushed by the light? Or is he emerging from the darkness, pulled by the light? Are italics effective in this instance?
Athenar’s magnificent tramp stamp seems to already be garnering some of it’s own buzzblog-worthy blog buzz, so I’m just using this shot to try to get in on some of that sweet Google action. Just kidding(?). While this picture may be not be indicative of my usual fruity, colorful lens-flare-y art fag style, I think it is awesome and hilarious. Where else are you going to see heart shapes, bullet belts, Venom and Star Wars all in the same picture? After this was taken, Athenar turned around and gave the thumb-flicky, I-need-a-lighter sign with his hand. I happened to be curled up in my usual position in the front corner of the stage and offered mine. He had some drippy, gassy rag hanging from the head of the bass, which he lowered to me. I lit it and fwoosh! instant basshead fireball! Midnight finished the set with Unholy and Rotten, one of my faves, and a big blazing flameball for everyone to gawk and throw horns at! The kind folks at Portland’s Plan B were nice enough to let them finish the song before going up and extinguishing the guitar. The fans at the front of the stage had just been flame-raped, and I had a story to tell my grandkids. I took pictures of it all. Hopefully you can see them somewhere sometime soon.
Took this one of Coady Willis when the Melvins played their month-long residence at the dwindling Spaceland (now Satellite). I was pretty impressed with myself, not being able to recall ever seeing a through-the-tom picture/portrait of a drummer before. It wasn’t until several months later, watching The Song Remains The Same, when I saw many through-the-tom shots of Mr. Bonham. Not only that, they were better than mine, and upon further viewing of that film (I hadnt seen it in a few years), I realized that most of my photographic style is largely just ripping off, ahem, paying homage to the style of photography employed in that film. Where’s the story? I dunno. Basically what I’m trying to say is we’re all just ripping each other off, whether we realize we’re doing so or not.
I feel like at the time I took this one, I was beginning to find a shooting style I could get comfortable with. I try to avoid using flash unless I deem it absolutely necessary. Of course, off-camera flash can be fun every now and then, and sometimes one has no choice but to get all fisheye flash-guy for those rowdy Blvd crowds, but for the most part I like to just go with my trusty dusty Nikkor 50mm and let the light enter my camera on it’s own accord. Any fellow metal photogs out there know that you won’t often find the most accommodating lighting scenarios at a local underground metal party. That, however, is exactly the challenge that keeps me shooting. If it was easy, I would not be doing it. The best way to capture the feeling of a certain evening is to let the natural light of the environs soak lovingly into your camera’s sensor. In this case, for Black Math Horseman and Lesbian at the Mountain Bar, it was one shitty light bulb in the corner of a large room.
I will leave you all with one of my favorite pictures. In direct contradiction to the whole purpose of the previous paragraph, this one is straight-on, full frontal, camera-mounted flash. Taken while I was still in Photo School (circa 2004), the assignment was learning to use a flash manually, no auto-anything, old school. Flash – Vivitar 285HV Thyristor. Camera – (my first) Pentax Spotmatic SPII.
Teacher said shoot something in motion. My first thought: beer. I find myself taking pictures of beer quite a bit. Whether it is flying through the air, showering down upon the heads of the hessian youth, sponsoring a show/festival, or just being voraciously consumed with reckless abandon, beer is an integral part of who we all have come to be.
OK, back to the shoot – we (assistant credit: Luke Paradise) prepped for this shot by throwing a fine can of Coors Banquet Beer back and forth over a space of maybe 30 feet. After many tosses, the can was rock-hard with potential explosive pressure. We had one chance at this – the beer was only going to be opened once. As I was still shooting on film in those days, there was to be no digital SLR mamsy-pamsy “shoot-n-look” type of proofing after the shot was taken. One chance. Countdown… 3, 2, 1…
Sheh-clacky! Snap! Looking through the view-finder, mine own naked eye saw the shot that the flash gave me, burned safely into the slide film within my camera. I think what I like best about this pic besides the obvious is the fact that Ross appears to be attempting to drink the beer out of thin air.
Thank you to anyone and everyone who read all the way through this and, most of all, thank you Sean for giving me the opportunity to contribute to your wonderful website!