Wednesday, March 4, 2009





I'm stuck in a pub in route to staying at a friend Nate Rose's place. He's a friend of a friend who I've met a few times. He recently got some kind of American stock related gig in London so he works screwy hours. Someone was supposed to meet me at his flat in Notting Hill and let me in but of course my flight, the tube, and everything else was running late. I arrived 2 hours late to a locked door so I had to drag all my crap to a pub and wait 3 hours until 10:30pm when Nate gets home. Tomorrow I have to wake up early and get to another plane and train and continue on to Sweden. There are no two ways about it, flying to Europe from LA is a nightmare. I think I barfed on the plane but it could have been a dream. I was all hopped up on Ambien which is not touted to cause barfing at all.

Days 2 and 3 were spent traveling. Photography by its essential design, is a craft which requires a crap load of gear. I have always fought this. I am a 1 pack traveler. I need very little to survive. I embrace the land and the train and the air… and am tied to 2 large bags of camera gear. I now require a large space for me and my inanimate entourage to spread out, not be crushed, and have electricity consumption all around. I have become terrified of the worlds bag screeners, and angry at digital everything. Can someone tell me that it is ok to chuck all this stuff and buy a nice, compact German Leica, 50 rolls of film, and a hand bag much like a non-descript girls purse, but mine would be a man purse full of creative possibility and grainy analog goodness.

self portrait in Swedish kitchen.


So I’ve got a lot of gear, and each piece does something useful and unique. With this gear and a sore shoulder I am forking over flight overage charges across Europe, 12 kilos at 50 bucks and 2 hours from London and I’m in Sweden. My friend Fredrik, of Flagstone Management, met me at the airport already on his way north to our final destination of Borlange where I was to shoot Swedish rock and roll outfit Mando Diao.

I now know that Sweden is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. We drove for 2 hours North and I eventually figured out I was the farthest North I had ever been, at least as far as Alaska, up by the arctic circle, cold and far away. The whole landscape was filled with the best looking birch trees I had ever seen. They grow in groups like black bamboo surrounded by pines and other vaguely familiar distant relatives to my home town trees. I am coming here to lend my talents for which I have been thanked many times, but I have found myself equally as grateful to this band at being able to experience this country from the inside, face pressed to the window, with the excitement of a child passing McDonald's.

We arrived at our destination, a middle priced hotel called Scandic that I guess is indicative of what mid grade hotels in Sweden are like...a hell of a lot better than American hotels. I would say comfortable but that hardly begins to define the timeless Scandinavian tradition of classy and elegant functional furniture that has lead to this moment where this wide eyed and tired American has figured out that Swedes are better than us at furniture, architecture and design. That night we ate reindeer in the restaurant at the hotel. All through dinner I was distracted by my chair. I have never sat in a more comfortable restaurant chair. They make coffee better than us too.

Mando Diao plays to the hometown crowd.


My first day waking up in Sweden I am the most happy I have been in a while. I am in the nicest, most effortlessly stylish room I have ever slept in. Hard wood floors, birch twin beds up off the ground without ridiculous bed skirts that are so common in America, a fluffy comforter, and a bathroom with heated floors and one of those showers with no doors. To the average American I am describing the honeymoon sweet at the swankiest hotel in LA but this is just an average room. I think I could live in this room. I am slightly annoyed that I have missed breakfast. Fortunately, better coffee than any American coffee is available everywhere at any hour, it is better than American coffee at home. Because it is so much better than American coffee, I've just had this idea that if I appeal to America's ass kicking ego by making them look bad compared to swedes, maybe they will step it up with the coffee. Unify with me here, we can live in a better world. There can be a better tomorrow. Coffee does not have to taste like it run off the wardens boot.

On day 1 in
Borlange, I have photographed Mando Diao for whom I have been shooting an on going series of themed portraits. Today was the most elaborate yet, although there was one where my brother and I had Gustav hanging out of the tree looking like a Croatian mercenary. That took a fair amount of effort. I really am not to be showing these in public yet, especially on the internet, but I may throw a little thumbnail on here just to prove that I am not lying. I never lie.

above, my coffee on a Swedish table, Mando Diao in traditional Swedish dress and a common Swedish toilet, the toilet is a 2 flush model for half or full flush loosely similar to the un released DUOJET 2000 which I invented about 8 years ago. the main difference being the DUOJET has a gear/tank shifter instead of a button. Aftermarket shifter tops would be sold including a dice and an 8 ball.


Another nice turn of events landed me in Gothenburg were I stayed with the "Swedish Hammer" Carl Blom. He is the lawyer and manager to Mando Diao. I call him this because every story I hear about him involves the Hives or Mando Diao getting out their record contracts, and then receiving lots of money and creative freedom. I have resolved to always stay on his good side. He has the most beautiful, text book Swedish daughters I have ever seen, and a house that is sort of a who's who of Swedish interior design. I really enjoy crashing at peoples houses wherever I go and getting a peek into their every day life. Unfortunately Gothenburg was not all sitting around doing nothing which I am starting to miss. I was brought here to photograph Division of Laura Lee, a viby art punk band who lives in Gothenburg and is working on a new record. The singer and I were both Mike Watt fans and as such got along famously and I'd reckon they got the best pictures they've ever seen.

DAY 9(ish) Today I leave Sweden after a little more than a week. I had a very nice walking tour of Stockholm with Anika and Samuel who were kind enough to play tour guide on more than one occasion. We believe Anika was named after Pipi Longstockings best friend. Having not even heard of Pipi since the late 70’s, I was amazed that in Sweden, Pipi fever is alive and well. I had hoped for a little Dolf Lundgren fever, being that I really enjoy cultural stereotypes like large short short wearing blonde haired muscle men eating Swedish pancakes and meat balls and hanging out with their androgynous woman friends who are called Greta and are experts in Swedish massage. Not surprisingly the guys in Mando Diao have never heard of Swedish massage and are not sure if there are Swedish pancakes either. There are however, boat loads of Lingon Berries, top notch coffee, and some kind of near relative to meat loaf named after some rich guy named Wallenvarger. So I leave Sweden moments from now on a train over a bridge to Copenhagen Denmark with all my heavy photo gear in tow and what will likely be thought of as the future of music photography, and the satisfaction that McDonald's and vallenvarger are making Swedes every bit as fat as Americans. Tubby kids abound. Take that Sweden. I have found a new and elegant way to photograph live music. I do not know where I have found this vision other than to say, 20 years of ignoring mainstream photography and art has begun to culminate into something striking and beautiful. I have been dreaming about photographs, not in general, but photographs I will take tomorrow, and then I take them. It sounds crazy but they are like pre cognitions or something. I intend to change the way the world looks at music photographs, I am learning to demand more of myself. We must demand more from ourselves and our heroes. A final note on the band called Mando Diao. They have just made, I think, one of the great records of today, mark my words. I created the center fold for this recording, and both are worthy of the other. You will see.

a Mando Diao commemorative design for having gone gold in Germany, and the crowd at their hometown show in Borlange, I am not permitted to release other images digitally at this time by mutual agreements and secrets best kept for grander destinies.



MATT & MATT VS. PORTUGAL PIGLIANO AND THE COWARDS OF BELMONT SHORE We left Dublin after 24 hours of literal traveling insanity. I met the Cold War Kids at their London hotel at 10 at night when this all started. Maust, Beeman and I went to a pub and had crappy food that we kept saying was surprisingly good, mostly on account of the price. We had to wake up at 4 am to fly to Edinburgh Scotland for T in the Park music festival. This was a special kind of drag as I had just come from 9 days of not getting enough sleep with Mando Diao in Sweden. We drove in BMW's with suit wearing drivers to Gatwick airport which seems as far as France especially at 4:30am. We got to the gig after a flight on Easyjet which we now refer to as cheesy jet, idiot jet and any other number of names that seemed more clever at the moment, if you've flown them you'd understand. Scotland was rainy, and the band lost their room to someone called Razorlight who had a larger entourage than us ( I being the only one in the CWK entourage). I've learned that these UK festivals largely consist of mud, and people living in it. The bands for the most part live in their buses only exiting onto a metal ramp where they are whisked onto stage. The Cold War Kids are not big enough for a bus as they are still a pretty ma and pa organization, they have something like a bus, and while not living in squalor, they sure don't live like the people called Razorlight. So we spent the day in Scotland looking for places to lay down and get free food both of which were graciously available in the main hospitality tent. There was little contact with mud, and the gig went famously, right after Sinead O'conner in fact, who we all agreed is looking very hobbit like these days. That evening, having already been at Gatwick and Edinburgh airports, we headed back to Edinburgh in our jalopy, which I have failed to yet mention, and boarded our 2nd jet for the day to Dublin where we would basically repeat the aforementioned scenario. Our jalopy, driven by our rough and tumble British driver was acquired through the company Blah Blah Blah. They are the cheapest way to travel as a band in the UK. The wheels are vintage Mercedes plumbing truck or some such work vehicle, and the trailer was a horse or donkey trailer with a tarp tied over the open top, that had a very suggestive female printed around 6 feet high on the back of it. The driver was cool and I spent most of the time in the jalopy sitting next to him in the front seat as I tend to get car sick any where else. I asked a lot of questions about the UK, as I had never been. The boys sat in the back on the wrap around leopard skin couch which was either based on, or the inspiration for, a leopard print tattoo on the drivers forearm. I loved the whole thing as I like people with character and this whole scene was just dripping with it.

Outside of eating late at some variety restaurant in Dublin where an Asian lady that ran the place eyed us with hate and scorn as we danced to gangsta rap music being played unnecessarily loud, we had a largely uneventful time, I acquired some unnamed quota of good photos of the band and it was off to London in morning where we would begin to move our different ways. Matt Maust and I would stay in London with our friend, financial tycoon Nate Rose, and the rest of the band would head to Portugal to visit Matt Aveiro's relatives on an island where they eat coconuts and have no or very few cars. This is where things began to get exciting.

Getting onto Cheesy Jet is problematic if you have more than a fanny bag. We all had a lot of crap, especially me with all my photo gear, at check in we had to combine, rearrange and condense to save money and not have to check in said photo gear. The color photo of "dangerous materials" are the items that for whatever reason did not make it into the collective check in bags of Maust and myself. A lighter, a knife, and various containers containing a who's who of dangerous substances hidden within hair re-growth shampoo and conditioner bottles that are way to big to fit in the plastic bags. I speak for Matt and myself when I say sneaking this through Dublin's bag screening was a thrill the likes we rarely see. We figured out over the course of many flights, that by buttoning or zipping up a jacket, it becomes a shirt in the eyes of the screeners. It can't be a heavy jacket, you'll get popped every time for that, but a wind breaker, a blazer, buttoned, no problem, walk on through, unbuttoned, you have to strip down, red flags galore. We had an apple which was to be our diversion, and pockets riddled with our precious booty. I held the apple aloft and loudly asked, can I bring this through the beeping arches? Everyone is now focused on the apple, me and Maust walked quickly through, David Blaine and Chris Angel would have been proud, in relative terms we just made the statue of liberty disapear. Sadly our brand of magical diversion was so flawlessly executed that only we could revel in its brightly burning glory. Every instinct I had was to turn around and say ha! We have just infiltrated your shoddy system, we know the secret, that it is all a show, all wound up in political correctness and self importance and continuing under estimations of our clever foes. The crowd at the screening area would have been in awe, we would have been the object of envy and secret flatteries. I looked down, swallowed my pride and clutched my precious survival lighter and knife. Matt had his herbal hair re growth shampoo, and we knew we were more than just men lost among the oceans of human beings traveling the world. Anarchy in the UK indeed!

At the airport that day we all hugged and said our good byes. I have surfed for most of my life though I try to keep it a secret, being an artist and having an alter ego called Matt Death in tow, it looks pretty bad to my public to be hanging out in flowered shorts getting a tan and engaging in happy sunny beach activities (ironically I have little to no public to worry about and any public I have is purely delusional). For this and other reasons I was and am insanely jealous of Matt A (Portugal Pigliano), Nathan, Johnny and Beeman. Portugal is fabled to have some of the best surfing in Europe and they were to be on some island with the same name as a crumby town in the central valley of California. I knew they were going to Portugal but they kept saying they were going to Madera I think, and I kept wondering why they were so excited to go to that crap hole not realising it was the islands name. Having that all cleared up, Maust and I decided to stay in London as he needed a break from travelling and I was on my way to Africa to photograph the installation of charitably funded water wells in remote villages. After 2 weeks of European work and travel, sitting around financial tycoon Nate Rose's Notting Hill flat was sounding pretty grand. RIGHT-ON BRIGHTON JULY 10 Maust had this picture of him and Nate in front of the burned down peir in Brighton, and based on this feature I suggested we go out there and do some proper photography. Maust is great at bumming around whatever city he is in and usually is wandering aimlessly looking at stuff and doing whatever he does. We decided that Brighton would be a great day trip and we would feel like we were on vacation, and would live large, and would have a far better time than our brothers eating coconuts on the island in Portugal. On the train, we repeatedly discussed how Nick Cave lives in Brighton and in our little worlds this may as well have been the queens palace we were going to see. It is funny the people and things that strike us as royalty. Nick Caves part of town, and a burned out pier fouling up everyones view. I was in heaven. Me and Maust took beautiful photos, and mentioned a handful of times how we should have had the hole band there to photograph. It really is such an amazing area. I resolved to take the best portrait of Maust that I had ever taken in my life just to stick it to the our brothers eating coconuts on the Island in Portugal. We came across a big dumb happy dog and a ferris wheel and it was all very sad in a happy and nostalgic kind of way. That kind of sums up Brighton in my thinking.

We met a guy with a handle bar mustache from the Rumble Strips, he was touted as one of the nicest people Maust had met in Europe and after he bought us a round of Guinness and poorly executed Irish Coffee I was in agreement. Over a pint he told us the story of two Welsh men, who with a GPS tracking system and months of gear, boarded a pink peddle boat and peddled their way to America. When they arrived some months later, with no clothing in tact and full beards, they were arrested and deported. He said this kind of behavior is to be expected from the Welsh. I think I like the Welsh.

We got back to London and did more sitting around in financial tycoon Nate Rose's flat. We occupied ourselves for hours with his stupid internet connection and the 40 some odd wireless connection signals that were every last one password protected. Not very sharing the Brits. I was supposed to photograph this band the Ettes who I very much like. They have a fabulous girl drummer with big hair and dark eyes, a cute and friendly girl singer, and a strapping, ascot wearing bass playing young man who may or may not be involved with the singer. I photographed them once before and it was great and we hung out and talked about Strangers With Candy, a very funny show which is obscure enough to create an immediate bond between people in the know. We were to meet at the millennium bridge, which I find overstated, and the big communist looking museum. I was tired from 3 weeks of photos, me and Matt wanted to see a movie, and they were 45 minutes late so we split. I couldn't get a phone to work right anywhere in Europe so we couldn't call, and I was feeling more self important than usual in regard to the respect of my time. With a lot of travel behind me and what would become a African travel cliche of self realization and epiphany to come, it was a welcome break to my sometimes crazy life behind the camera. I left my cameras at financial tycoon Nate Rose's and Maust and I went to see Elvis Perkins and his goons. They put on a fine show and it was nice to see some faces from our side of the pond. The next day Maust carried my bag for me to the train station, listened to me bitch about petty problems and complaints about my failed music career, and saw me off to Heathrow Airport where my 2 weeks in Africa would begin. I never found out what happened to Portugal Pigliano and the Cowards of Belmont shore.


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