When I think back to what shaped my development as a photographer, director, musician, and skateboarder, I realize I owe a debt to the bizarre confluence of events happening in my hometown of Fullerton, California in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Fullerton is the home of Fender Guitars, and I suspect the abundance of cheap guitars and amplifiers for sale in the Pawn Shop around that time led to countless punk rock bands being formed. Social Distortion, TSOL, Agent Orange, and The Adolescents were just a few of the bands that played at my high school and at local bars, clubs, and roller rinks. The landscape around Fullerton was dotted with skate parks, empty swimming pools, and backyard ramps. And my cousin Moe lived next door.
Moe was 5 years older than me and in my mind, the coolest guy in the world. He had the most amazing record collection, and would give me a record every year for Christmas. (I will never forget the puzzled look on my mother’s face when I opened up the Dead Kennedy’s masterpiece, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables). Moe turned me on to Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, the Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, The Velvet Underground, and countless other bands. Moe also had the most amazing collection of Rolling Stone magazines. (He also had a pretty good stock of Penthouse and Playboy, but that’s a different story). Since Moe lived next door, I would pop over there and lose myself for hours listening to records and reading the Rolling Stone Interviews, pouring over every detail, and photograph. Moe had stacks of these going back to the early 70’s and I remember being fascinated with the photographs, the typeface, and the access that their writers had to these musical icons. I also read Thrasher Magazine regularly, and loved the first person, irreverent, and anti-establishment accounts of contests, secret skate spots, and band reviews.
So of course, when I took my first photography class my pictures were all of skateboarders and bands, and I was emulating Rolling Stone, and Thrasher, and Transworld Skateboarding Magazine. And I studied Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Andre Kertez, Robert Frank, and Annie Leibovitz. I read Hemmingway, Styron, Chandler, Harrison, Fante, Wouk, Wolfe, and Salinger. I read the Los Angeles Times every day, and became obsessed with journalism. I joined my high school newspaper staff, where I did political cartoons, and wrote occasional features and opinion pieces. (What is really in the beef casserole at the cafeteria?). I actually interviewed Oingo Boingo as a high school senior, which I’m sure was a high point in Danny Elfman’s career. Later I wrote and took pictures for my college newspaper, the Daily Titan, at Cal State Fullerton, and got to photograph and interview The Replacements, Firehose, Exene Cervenka, the Bangles, the Alarm, and others.
So, as I look over the first issue of Off Camera, I am reminded that in this new media world, where we are constantly told to be flexible, to brand ourselves and create scalable business models, produce content, embrace social media, explore sustainable business models, and interact with new technology, I am still pretty much obsessed with the same things I was when I would sit on the floor in Moe’s bedroom and thumb through his magazine collection. And as much as I have tried to create a multi-platform technologically relevant episodic blogpodzine, I am really just using new tools to do the same thing I have always done; which is follow my interests, and try to get in the room with some really interesting people.
I started Off Camera to have my own magazine, my own radio station, and my own television studio. I wanted the opportunity to have a non-agenda conversation with anyone that captivated me. I wanted the chance to photograph anyone that peaked my interest, without having an art director or a publicist looking over my shoulder.
I have a strong reaction to over-produced, over-hyped, over-stimulating pieces of short content that leave me feeling like I am learning nothing. It has taken me a lifetime to develop my attention span, and I want to use it. I like a long book. I like a long documentary. I like a 15000 word magazine profile. I created Off Camera for those of us that salivate at the prospect of a good book, a stiff drink, and an afternoon with no plans.
The first issue of Off Camera profiles my dear friend Val McCallum. I first saw him play guitar 13 years ago and had my mind blown. Val is 6’7 inches tall, and carries himself like a rodeo cowboy on stage. He was playing with his faux-country band Jackshit, and just slaying the room with his command of a 1963 Gibson Firebird. I have since that day had the great honor to spend many hours in his presence, riding motorcycles, playing guitar, and eating steaks. As I got to know him, I realized what an interesting and unique path his life has taken. Now, with the release of his first real solo album, At The End Of The Day, he tells those stories in song. I knew when I conceived of Off Camera that he would be the perfect first guest: a prodigiously talented, creative guy that grew up in a world that most of us can only imagine. I feel honored to be able to share his story with you.
I hope you’ll find this project as interesting as I have, and I hope you will roll along with me as Off Camera finds its way. I look forward to your comments, letters, suggestions, and ideas about the project.