Monday, October 31, 2011

New Jayhawks pics, and a Peter Yarrow pic

Jayhawks photos, Charlotte, NC, Oct. 29, 2011
Peter Yarrow photo, Charlotte, NC, Oct. 30, 2011
All photos copyright 2011 Daniel Coston

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Some of my older friends will remember that in my youth, I was a raging baseball fan. Growing up in upstate New York, we got New York Yankees games on the NBC affiliate out of Syracuse, most often on the weekends. My mom’s parents lived in Phelps, New York, and their TV could pick up WPIX, which was the Yankees’ main affiliate at the time. Soon, I could spout the names, dates and figures of all the great Yankee teams, as well as others. 

From the start, I was as interested in baseball of the past, as I was in the present. There was something more interesting to me about that time. Some of it probably came from my grandfather’s stories of playing semi-pro ball in the 1930s. I have this fantastic pic of my grandfather’s high school baseball team, and my grandfather has three buttons undone on his jersey, his cap sideways, and a grin that looks like he loves what he’s doing.

I played sandlot ball for years, but I only played Little League baseball for two years, and that was in New York. The team that I was with, sponsored by the local Manhill Vending company, were 10-2 the first year I played with them, and were probably the best sports team I ever played with. We lost in the semi-finals of the regional tournament, to an all-star Rotary team from Geneva. I got a walk in the final inning, when our team needed a baseruner (I'm still proud of that), but we lost 6-5. And I still want a rematch. 

When my parents and I moved to North Carolina in October of 1983, I soon discovered that there was a fledgling scene for baseball card collecting in Charlotte. For the next few years, I started going to card shows, and began to meet some of the older players that were doing signings on the circuit.

I met and hung out with Bob Feller at least twice. He was a bit ornery occasionally, but generally nice to me. He reminded me of my grandparents’ friends, so I was used to it. Just about everyone I met was very nice. Gaylord Perry, Enos Slaughter, Mickey Mantle (somewhere I have a Polaroid of me with Mantle that my mom took), and many others. This was in my mostly BC (Before Camera) days, and I wish I had some photos of these people. 

Back then, you could also write to baseball players, and ask for their autograph. Somehow, I got a copy of a book with many players’ addresses, and I wrote away. Several did write back, including Bill Terry (last national leaguer to hit .400), Phil Rizzuto, Earl Averill and a few others. At the same time, I was also collecting baseball cards from 1920s to 1970s. Why did I want a Dwight Gooden card? I could get a Ty Cobb tobacco card for $20. This was all before the big boom (and bust) of card collecting, and it was a lot of fun.

I’ve been to a few ballparks. My parents took me to opening day of the Atlanta Braves season in 1985, where I met Steve Garvey, Tony Gwynn (who were playing for the San Diego Padres, at the time), and others, and got them to sign my program. I also was interviewed for local TV, and I got to see it air that night in our hotel room. I also went to Yankee Stadium in 1998, sitting way up in the bleachers. I also saw the then-World Champion Baltimore Orioles play against, and lose to the Charlotte O’s in the old Crockett Park (a minor league stadium I really miss) in 1984. Somewhere, I do have photos of that game. I also visited Wrigley Field in 2001, but did not get to go in. 

I still have my baseball card and autograph collection. I’ve toyed with selling it a few times, but it’s hard to sell something that is so close to one’s heart, and childhood. I still follow the major leagues, and still follow the Yankees. I even forgave them (sort of) for tearing down Yankee Stadium. There have not been a lot of constants in my life, but the seasons, and baseball have always been there, waiting for me to re-discover it all again.
-Daniel Coston
October 27, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tobin Sprout interview, 1997

Tobin Sprout: Carnival Boy
by Daniel Coston and Benjamin Robinson
Originally posted on Tangents Magazine website, 1997

Guided by Voices fans will note that the "new GBV record" that Tobin is talking about is Mag Earwhig, which was eventually released in 1997 after GBV singer and leader Robert Pollard scrapped most of the album done by the band's best-known lineup (which included Sprout), and re-recorded it with another band. I have another interview with GBV drummer Kevin Fennell, done on the same day as this interview, where he also talks about the album in progress. An interesting glimpse into where everything stood, at that time.

I also like the end of this interview, for reasons you will soon realize.

With the recent release of his first solo album, Carnival Boy, Guided by Voices guitarist Tobin Sprout has stepped into the spotlight role for the first time since the demise of his pre-GbV band Fig. 4 ten years ago. But any GbV fan can tell you how important his guitar work and falsetto voice, plus his occasional compositions, have been to the group’s sound.

On August 8 of 1996, Tobin granted us this phone interview while he was home caring for his fifteen month-old son, Turner. Sprout, who has a surprisingly deeper speaking voice than his singing voice, is very modest and gracious, and talked with us about his solo album and several other GbV-related topics.

Tangents: Did you do the whole solo album in your basement?

Sprout: There’s 14 songs on the album, and half of them I did everything on four-track and the other seven were done at Cro-Magnon [Studios], and [GbV drummer] Kevin Fennell played the drums on them.

Tangents: Was this something that you had been planning to do, or did Matador ask you to do a solo project?

Sprout: I kind of had been thinking about it for awhile, and Bob [Pollard’s] been doing one for a long time, and it just came to a point where we were done with the Guided by Voices album, and we had a long time before we had to work on the next one, so it seemed like a good time to put out a solo album during the break.

Tangents: Are you kind of surprised that they’re putting out both records on the same day?

Sprout: No, not really. They agreed to put ‘em out together. They wanted to do a single where it showed us boxing on the cover, like it was some big challenge, but we said, "No, I don’t think so."

Tangents: Are you gonna make a video for Carnival Boy?

Sprout: No, I kind of doubt it. It’s gonna be kind of low-profile, we’re just gonna put it out there. They’re gonna advertise a little bit, but we can’t tour for it. So it’s kind of, here they are, and we’ll move on to the next Guided by Voices album.

Tangents: Would you even want to do a video? Is that something that would interest you?

Sprout: Yeah, it kind of does. I’d like to do it myself. But videos can be so expensive to do ‘em, and then not to have ‘em played, so it seems like it is a waste of time unless you’re really gonna push to have it played. I wouldn’t mind doing one for myself. Do it myself and see how it turns out, and if Matador wants to use it for something, that’ll be fine. They haven’t said anything about it yet. I don’t even know if there’s even gonna be a single from the album.

Tangents: We heard that you guys did a John Peel session when you were in England this summer.
Sprout: Yes, we did.

Tangents: How did those turn out?

Sprout: I thought they turned out great.

Tangents: Did you get to do any of your songs?

Sprout: We did "Atom Eyes," and I co-wrote "Wondering Boy Poet," which was on Vampire On Titus, we kind of redid that with a piano version. It turned out really nice.

Tangents: What else did you do during those sessions?

Sprout: "Your Name Is Wild." I can’t really remember which songs. I think we did six songs.

Tangents: Do you know if there’s any plans to release that?

Sprout: Well, we pretty much have to license them from Peel. We’d thought about using "Wondering Boy Poet" for something, but right now we really don’t have any place to use it. It’d be easier to just re-record it than to license it from Peel.

Tangents: Do you know if they any plans to air it anytime soon?

Sprout: I don’t know what the plan is. They’ll definitely air it, but it’s pretty much you record it, and when they can arrange to have it played, they’ll put it on.

Tangents: Did you do any musical stuff when you were living in Florida for those three years, after you left Dayton? Did you play in any bands?

Sprout: No. Actually, I barely picked up a guitar the whole time while I was down there. That’s where I got started painting. I’d come home from work, and paint. So I got that career started, and when I moved back, I started playing again.

Tangents: What made you move back to Dayton?

Sprout: Just because getting art work was much easier up here. I came back for about three weeks to see what it would be like, and I was just getting tons of work. I just wanted to move back anyway because, I don’t know if you’ve ever lived down there, but I didn’t really care for it. It was too hot, and I just got back here and decided to stay.

Tangents: So you came back for the art stuff, and ended up playing music again.

Sprout: Yeah. I had stayed in touch with Bob the whole time I was gone, and when I got back, he had just finished Same Place The Fly Got Smashed and was ready to go in and do Propeller. So he asked me to come in on that, and I’ve been with it ever since.

Tangents: How many songs do you bring in to the sessions? Do you write three or four, or do you bring in more?

Sprout: It depends. The longer I’ve been with them, the more songs I’ve been bringing in. For the next record, I’ve already got two, and there’s about five or six that Bob and I co-wrote where we did all the instruments on four-track, kind of the way we did "Hot Freaks." By the time we’re finished, I may have another one on there.

Tangents: What do you think you guys would’ve done if you hadn’t been picked up after Propeller? What you have continued producing your own stuff?

Sprout: Yeah, I think we would’ve just kept putting our own albums out. Even with Propeller, we kept saying that was the last album, and then we did Vampire On Titus and we would’ve done it anyways, whether Scat put it out or not. But every time that we say that this was the last album, we just keep putting them out. In order for us to feel that the songs are finished, we have to have them on vinyl, or they’d just get lost, and we really don’t want them to be lost, so I think we would’ve kept putting out albums.

Tangents: When you guys did Bee Thousand, did Scat do a small pressing, and then Matador picked upon it, or were they in it from the beginning? Because I know a lot of it got distributed by Matador.

Sprout: I think [Scat] distributed in Europe, and they might have done some distribution a little bit over here. I think Scat tried to handle most of that, and whatever the overload was, Matador had it. They had a deal going, I’m not sure how it worked. It still belongs to Scat.

Tangents: Are you guys happy on Matador?

Sprout: I’m happy, yeah. They kind of push us to tour a little bit more, but they understand that we can’t. They’re real reasonable, and when we really want to push an album, they’ve got Capitol [Records] with them now. I think it’s an ideal situation. We’re still on an independent label, but they can push it if they need to.

Tangents: So all you guys have pretty much quit the day jobs, right?

Sprout: Yeah. I still paint.

Tangents: Yeah, I was gonna mention that. So you just paint and make music?

Sprout: Yeah. My wife works in the morning, so I get to watch my son, and then she comes home, and I can get stuff done.

Tangents: Has "power pop," as "athemic rock," as Mitch called it, always something that appealed to you?

Sprout: Yeah, I always liked the pop, the Genesis and Big Star, and the Beatles and stuff like that. But I also like the big Pink Floyd shows, the David Gilmour stuff.

Tangents: Is singing your stuff live something that you don’t do very much?

Sprout: Occasionally, we do. "Atom Eyes," we’ve been playing on the last tour, and "Awful Bliss" was one I used to do. A lot of times, it has to do with the flow of the show, ‘cause I’ll usually play that, "14 Cheerleader Coldfront" or "Atom Eyes," at least one of them. It just depends on how the show’s going, or whether we have a certain number of songs we have to get done in an allotted time, or we get encores. It just depends on the feel of the show.

Tangents: When are you gonna be laying down tracks for the next Guided by Voices record?

Sprout: We have been. It’s pretty much almost finished. We’re gonna go in next week. I just finished a song yesterday, and Bob’s got a couple more that he wants to do, and then we’re gonna put it together. It will be finished, but we’ve got so long until it comes out, I’m sure it’ll be tinkered with.

Tangents: When is it coming out?

Sprout: Probably not until next spring.

Tangents: Where did you this one?

Sprout: Half of it was done in my basement, and half of it was done at Cro-Magnon.

Tangents: And who produced it?

Sprout: John Crosland from Spoon. He did some of the songs, he didn’t do all of them. We produced some of the stuff at Cro-Mag, and some of the stuff in the basement.

Tangents: How does it sound?

Sprout: I think it sounds great. It seems like another step ahead. I think it’s going to be a great album.

Tangents: Any working titles yet?

Sprout: No. I’m sure Bob has some. It seems like the working titles are usually the first one that seems to stick, and we then go through all the other ones, and we go back to the first one.

Tangents: I didn’t recognize that Under The Bushes came from the lyric of a song until I heard that the album was coming out.

Sprout: Yeah, it’s a lyric from a song, and it’s title of a song that we kind of lost. We were in Refraze the other day, and we couldn’t find it. Hopefully, it’ll turn up someplace.

Tangents: Yeah, it was a lyric from a song that was on the "I Am A Scientist" EP. That’s what I like about the songs. The music references itself so much. Because like "Buzzards And Dreadful Crows," that guitar hook from that song was on two other records. Plus, when I got the [GbV] box set, hearing all the little song fragments become real songs, it was a very neat experience. I can’t talk about Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand and make tapes out of them, because the whole album seems to be one song the way it’s put together.

Sprout: Well, we try to put the albums together that way. You go from the beginning to the end, and you need all the parts in-between.

Tangents: How many songs do you guys bring in for an entire album? Because it seems like with the album, and then all the singles, it just seems like you have an innumerable amount of songs.

Sprout: I think for the last record we had like 60 songs, and we took if not the best, or if not the best, the ones that seem to fit for that particular album. And then a lot of times, the songs that don’t make get on that album will get on another album, or an EP. It just depends on where they seem to fit better.

Tangents: Do you have plans to release any more singles from Under The Bushes?

Sprout: They were talking about "Your Name Is Wild," but I don’t know if Matador’s gonna do it. Last time I heard, they were.

Tangents: I think "It’s Like Soul, Man" would make a great single.

Sprout: Actually, I wasn’t really happy with that version. I redid it on my solo album, and I think it sounds much better.

Tangents: Does the solo album kind of jump around, musically?

Sprout: It kind of jumps around. There’s an acoustic one on there, and there’s some pretty good rock stuff on there, some anthem stuff. And then there’s some melodic pop tunes on there, too.

Tangents: So how do you want to be remembered as in Guided by Voices? George Harrison, John Oates or Art Garfunkel?

Sprout: John Entwhistle. [all laugh] I would’ve rather been referred to as Entwhistle than George Harrison in that [Magnet] article. But what could you do?

Tangents: And then calling you the "Dark Horse," too. I thought it was terrible.

Sprout: Yeah. The whole thing made me sound like I was moping around...

Tangents: I know, and I had a feeling you weren’t cranky about it, or anything like that...

Sprout: Yeah, I wasn’t. I was kind of glad that Eric wanted to do the side[bar] on me. I think he felt bad that he was just doing it on Bob. I don’t know. Maybe it was just the way I looked at it, but it just seemed like I was whining or something.

Tangents: It was also a very kind of reflective picture they had in there of you, too.

Sprout: Uh-huh. I remember when they set that up. They were like, "Put that one hand there, and look to the side, look down and keep your eyes straight." It was kind of posed.

Tangents: You can always send it in as your head shot for a guest appearance on "Melrose Place."

Sprout: Yeah, the soft focus and everything. The new teen idol.

Tangents: Is there any musical direction that GbV is going in now, with your album or albums? Robert said in one interview that the stuff he was writing now was more off-the-wall.

Sprout: I don’t think we really look that far ahead. We usually just let the writing dictates which we we’re going, and a lot of times, that’s why it ends up being a little bit of this and a little bit of that. ‘Cause we’re never in the same vein for a long time, so there’s still some of the real weird stuff, and there’s some of the straighter pop songs on it.

Tangents: How do you feel about a lot of the press you have gotten? Have you generally liked what they’ve written about you guys, or do they get it at all?

Sprout: I think it’s about half-and-half. Some of them, and some get it even better than I thought they would. Than there’s other people that just don’t get it at all, and then there’s a lot in-between. I read some of it, and it seems like if it starts off right away by going into the lo-fi thing, the "ex-schoolteacher," then I just put it away.

Tangents: That’s like what Mitch said word for word! [all laugh]

Sprout: Some of the stuff’s the same, but occasionally you do get some people that get it.

Tangents: Do you see Guided by Voices doing a reunion tour twenty, thirty years from now?

Sprout: [laughs] I don’t know. We’d all be seventy by then.

Tangents: I know. That’s why it’d be a beautiful thing.

Sprout: We’d come out in our wheelchairs.

Tangents: Hey, the Rolling Stones do that every year!

Sprout: Yeah, that’s true. They’re still out there. Maybe...

Midlake interview, 2010

Midlake: Moving Small Mountains
by Daniel Coston
Originally published in the Big Takeover Magazine, Winter 2010 issue

While some bands prefer to spend their life in the studio, the Texas quintet Midlake welcomed its recent return to the road with open arms. “For us, having taken such a long break, it was quite refreshing to just change gears, and do something other than record in the studio, or rehearse in the studio,” says guitarist Eric Pulido. “To get out and play again, it was a great joy, and felt like a band again.

The reason for the band’s return is their new album The Courage Of Others, which took much longer to create than the band had planned. “It was quite frustrating. We didn’t know what the next record was going to be. We just had some songs that [singer] Tim [Smith]  had written while touring with [2006 album The Trials Of Van Occupanther],” says Pulido. “It took a year of trial and errors, and frustrations, of sorting out what we were going to do next. I really mean it when I say it was frustrating,because we got nothing. We learned what not to do, a lot, we learned to play together, more so.”

Along the way, the band found a new sound steeped in the influences of late 1960s and early ‘70s British folk, rock and jazz, such as Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention. “We were digesting these influences, and many more, and trying to not do it in a pastiche way,” says Pulido. “It was us really trying to interpret these influences in our own voice. We would always talk about this emotion that was in this music, and have that be a big part of the sound, and the vibe.”

For many Midlake fans, the sound of the new album has come as a huge departure from Van Occupanther, which had taken its cues from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, America and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Yet the band’s sound has changed with every record in their ten-year history. “It has been different,” adds Pulido. “Not for the sake of being different. I think we would be totally happy, and we wouldn’t have as many gray hairs if we said, ‘Okay, this is the sound, this is what we were doing.’ But it wouldn’t be honest, it would be forced. 

“Each album is a snapshot of where you’re at that time, and Van Occupanther will always be there. We’ll play those songs live, and we still enjoy that. This [new record] was something else. I think we felt confident that if we’re going to continue being a band, you’ve got to go with what’s moving you at that time.”

With touring planned for much of the remaining year, Pulido and Midlake are looking forward to wherever they go next. “Now that there’s three albums under our belt, you feel like you’re finding your place a little more. And know where you’ve been, the mistakes you’ve made, and know where you want to go next.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mark Olson and Gary Louris interview, 2009

Mark Olson and Gary Louris: Return Of The Flood
story by Daniel Coston
Originally published in the Big Takeover Magazine, Summer 2009 issue

Mark Olson and Gary Louris are on their cellphones, calling in while driving through the South Carolina countryside. “We travel well together,” says Olson of himself and Gary Louris, his longtime singing and writing partner. The two met in Minneapolis in the mid 1980s, and formed the core of the Jayhawks, whose eclectic mix of rock, country and folk were anchored by the duo’s distinctive harmony vocals. After Olson left the band in 1997, the two lost touch for a few years, eventually re-connecting and playing occasionally while working on their own respective records. Now the two are back on tour together, with a new record in tow. “We realized that we didn’t want to be a golden oldies band,” says Louris. ”We have new songs, and we want people to hear them.”

Their new album, Ready For The Flood, is the first time that the two have collaborated on an entire album since Tomorrow The Green Grass, the heralded 1996 Jayhawks CD. The album’s sparse acoustics and emphasis on the duo’s harmony vocals brings that aspect of the Jayhawks’ sound into clearer focus. “This is the Jayhawks I knew,” says Louris of the new album. “It was always like this, its maybe just a little more embroyonic in this stage. A little more distilled, more purified to how Mark and I always worked, and how it sounded before we pumped up the volume.”

“We were not over-rehearsed,” says Louris of the album’s recording, which was co-produced by the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson. “If anything, we were under-rehearsed. We could have toured for months, and gotten the songs down to a science, but there is a trade-off there. We can get in there, with the excitement of discovery, and it fuels the energy [of recording.] I think we erred on the side of under-rehearsed, and it made for a more emotional record.”It is a record that Olson and Louris are very proud of. “This is one of the records that I’ve been involved with that their isn’t a dud on it,” says Louris. 

While the new album is credited to Mark Olson and Gary Louris, don’t think that their old band is over and done. The Jayhawks will soon enjoy their highest profile in years, with the release of a best-of CD, DVD, album reissues, and a few reunion shows, including one in Spain. “Spain always seems to find creative ways of financing a Jayhawks show,“ adds Olson with a laugh. The lineup for those reunion shows will be the Green Grass-era lineup of Olson, Louris, bassist Marc Perlman, drummer Tim O’Reagan, and keyboardist Karen Grotberg.

But that will come later. For now, Olson and Louris are enjoying taking their new songs on the road, and collaborating together again. “As we get older,” says Louis, “we realize how lucky we were to find each other, and to have the partnership that we’ve had.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Avett Brothers photos, Greensboro, Oct. 8, 2011 (all copyright 2011 Daniel Coston)

While this is a site for my interviews and articles (go to for the rest of my photography work), I've had so many requests about my photos of the Avett Brothers concert last week, that I've posted several photos here. All of these are lo-res versions for you to peruse and discuss. If you're interested in purchasing prints, or want to see more, email me at Love and best wishes to Bob Crawford, and his family. Cheers to you all,
all photos copyright 2011 Daniel Coston

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Travels With My Camera: Arthur Lee and Love

Travels With My Camera:
Arthur Lee & Love
by Daniel Coston

Sometimes, you find the music you love. And sometimes, the music finds you. I knew about the legend of Arthur Lee and Love before I ever heard a note of their music. In the late 1990s, Lee was serving a twelve-year term for firing a gun on his front porch, thanks to California’s “three strikes you’re out” law. During his time in prison, support for his plight grew, and I began to hear about Love’s third and best-known record, 1968’s Forever Changes.

In 2002, California let Lee go after a six-year sentence, and Arthur Lee began his comeback. By the summer of 2003, Lee had taken his current lineup of Love all over the world, playing Forever Changes in its entirety. A chance look on Pollstar’s website showed that Arthur & Love were booked to play the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA on September 21st, 2003. I lined up a photo pass, and made plans to go.

The Birchmere is a fabled theater near Washington, DC, and brings in top acts to play in intimate settings. It’s a tough place to shoot, as there are no areas around the stage to shoot. You wedge yourself against people’s tables, or on the side of the stage, and hope that the patrons don’t yell at you. But Arthur was there, and that’s all that mattered.

It had been a busy summer for me. I had photographed Johnny Cash’s final public appearances, and spent two days photographing Les Paul in Nashville. However, even with all of that, the best show I saw all of that year was Arthur Lee and Love performing Forever Changes. Lee was a powerful, enigmatic frontman. He drew you in a with a tough grace that was both thrilling and slightly fearsome. Throw in a well-rehearsed band, with strings and horns, and that record hit me in a way it had never done before. By the time he encored with “Little Red Book” and “7 and 7 Is,” I was in awe. Lee finished the show, waved goodbye, and left through the back.

Several months later, Arthur and Love went out on a package tour with the current version of the Zombies. I had just seen the Zombies in Charlotte, and loved the show, so a double-bill? No brainer on that one, as I drove to another suburb of Washington, to the State Theater in Falls Church, VA. After spending way too long to find parking, I finally made it in to see most of Love’s set.

For much of the tour, Arthur and the band “opened” for the Zombies by playing first, which didn’t sit well with Arthur. He was always going to let you know that this was a LOVE show, no matter who or what was on the bill. On top of playing a fantastic set, I noticed that there was an guitarist on this tour, an older man that was nailing all of original guitarist Johnny Echols’ intricate guitar parts. But he hasn’t played live in forty years. It couldn’t be him, but when Arthur introduced to the crowd his “original guitar player,” I realized it was Johnny Echols, adding extra excitement to the audience.

Arthur was also notorious for shying away from fans, and not really having a public persona. Ten minutes before the Zombies went on stage, I noticed a rush of fans clamoring to the merch area. Unbelievably, it was Arthur and Johnny, signing autographs. Fans went nuts, and the Zombies’ merch guy looked on in astonishment.

I got some separate candids of Arthur and Johnny, and at some point, a girl asked to have her photo taken with both Arthur and Johnny. I realized what was going to happen, and moved into an open space. As soon as the girl walked away, I said in a loud voice, “Hey guys, let me get a photo of you two,” and got two quick photos. I was so excited, I didn’t notice that I was slightly out of focus, which I spent some time later fixing it in Photoshop. But I got it. Soon after, Arthur said to no one in particular, “Okay, that’s enough,” and you could feel the colors of the room change. His will, his aura, if you will, told you that he was leaving, and to back off, and most of us did. I said thank you and safe travels, Arthur turned and said “Thank you” to me, and he was gone.

Soon after, I sent one of the photos to Mojo Magazine on a whim, and they proudly ran it in their next issue, later telling me it was the first published photo of them together in 37 years. Arthur stopped performing within the next year, as the band claimed that he was having emotional issues. However, it was later learned that Arthur was badly ill, and eventually died in Memphis in the summer of 2006.

Somewhere around that time, I sent some of my photos to a Love fansite in Denmark. They already had heard of me because of the Mojo pic, and I was happy to have the photos posted on his site. Soon after, Johnny Echols sent an email. He had been trying to find me since the Mojo publication, and found me through the fansite. Could I send him photos? I sent copies as soon as I could.

Soon after, I got another email. “Hello,” it began, “I’m Diane Lee, and you photographed my husband Arthur.” I hadn’t even known that Arthur had married his longtime love Diane in the last year of his life. “I love your photos, and Arthur really liked the photo of him and Johnny that ran in Mojo. Is there any way that I could get copies? I’d like to use them for some future projects.” I started crying as I read that email, which I still have.

A few of my photos of Arthur and Love have since been used in various places. I’m very proud that the photos I took, taken first and foremost for my own enjoyment, have become something else. Do I wish I’d taken more? Sure, a photographer always wishes he had more pics. But sometimes, it’s what we do get that stays with us, and allows others to find us, too.

A momentary credo after a good shoot

I have done everything I could have done, and did the best that I could.

I have done the best job that was possible, and I stand behind it. What comes from here on, I accept with open arms. If it is accepted by others, than that is good. If not, it is their loss, not mine.

No regrets, no matter the outcome.

No fear, no mean-ness, no bitterness.

I open my hands, and lift up my head.

Move forward, and walk on.

-Daniel Coston
October 10, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Double Door Inn book

In going through my notes to find old and new interviews to put on this site, I found my original notes for my own quotes for the Double Door Inn book. Some of these made the book, some didn't. Enjoy, and check out the book (Home Of The Blues: 35 Years of the Double Door Inn) on Amazon, or email me for a copy.

Double Door stories

-I first went to the Double Door in 1994, to one of the Sunday night open mic shows. I seem to recall that I was there as part of a local video group’s night out. I hadn’t been to too many bars at that point, so the whole experience was quite something. To this day, I think it’s the only time that I sat down and watched a show, apart from when I was sitting on the floor taking pictures of the musicians.

I finally started going to the bar on a regular basis in 1996, as I started writing and taking photos for the now-defunct Tangents Magazine. The more I went, the more I got to know the doormen, the bar people, and all of the various regulars. Sooner or later, whether you recognize it or not, you become a regular there. Just another piece of the funky fabric that makes up the place on any given night. 

-I was only threatened to be thrown out once, but I’ll leave that for another book. 

-It’s really when you start traveling elsewhere that you realize how rare a place like the Double Door is. Long-standing just don’t exist in every town anymore, let alone provide music under the same ownership for 35 years. More often than that, these places are spots that people reminise about, telling tired stories of the place that used to be, before the lot was bought up and turned into a shopping mall. The Double Door is the real thing, and it’s still here.

-Gregg McGraw’s Americana series was just fantastic. I saw so many people that I still listen to through that Tuesday night showcase, many of whom I would not have seen otherwise. Alejandro Escovedo’s performance in April of 1998 is still one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life. Two guitars, a cello and a violin sounding like an orchestra, playing the soundtrack to my life at the time. As a photographer, you know that you’re on to something when you only intend to shoot one roll of film, and proceed to shoot all the film in your bag. Al’s show was definitely one of those shows.

Six String Drag, Freakwater, Steve Wynn with the Continental Drifters, Drive-By Truckers, Deke Dickerson (a photo of which later became the cover of his best-of CD), Mercury Dime, Dave Alvin, Rank Outsiders, David Childers, band after great band, week after week. Their photos still fill up a box or three in my office today. 

-One of the best times I ever had at the Double was when Hubert Sumlin came to play in 2006. Hubert was the guitarist for Howlin’ Wolf for 24 years, and re-defined what a guitar player could do with both blues and rock music.  Hubert is also one of the oldest children I have ever met in my life, in that he lives life with this child-like wonder. I wish more people in this world had that sense of excitement.

Hubert’s band for the evening included Bob Margolin, and Willie Smith. Both had played with Muddy Waters at different times, as had Sumlin. As the show began, former Muddy Waters harmonica player Carey Bell walked in and sat down next to the stage. Carey was living at that time with local musician extraordinare Mookie Brill, who accompanied Carey to the gig.

From the start, everyone wanted to get Carey up on stage to join the band. Everyone except Carey, who sat there and shook his head anytime somebody asked. Mookie got up on stage and played, and Carey didn’t move. Hubert even introduced Carey onstage at one point, and Carey just waved Hubert off.

This went on to two sets, albeit two killer sets of music. Somewhere around 1:30am, as the band got ready to play their final numbers, Bob Margolin looks down at Carey and says,”Are you playing, man?” Carey shook his head no. Bob said, “Okay,” and starts to turn away, at which point Carey held up his index finger, indicating that he would do one song. Carey had ben waiting all night to kep people guessing, and waiting to become the focus of attention. As Bob Margolin began to introduce Carey, Hubert stood onstage and began yelling, “Yeah! Yeah!” like an excited Little Leaguer. Carey proceeded to play three Muddy Waters songs with the band, four Muddy vets onstage together tearing it up. I still cherish those photos.  

-Levon Helm and the Barn Burners played in early 2000. At the time, Levon was battling throat cancer, and could not sing. (His daughter Amy did much of the singing that night.) I came late to the show from another gig, and feeling stunned to think that I was sitting alongside the stage, next to the drummer and vocalist of the Band. He turned and smiled at me when I took my first picture of him. I just froze in place. 

-Pinetop Perkins is another legend that I put up there with Hubert Sumlin. I remember arriving early for his show in 2004, only to find him sitting up against the wall, chatting occasionally with fans. Pinetop is so used to fans coming up and wanting to have their photos taken with him, that he couldn’t figure out why I was just taking photos of him, and not of Pinetop with other folks around the bar.  

The Pinetop show was also the first time that I saw the legendary Nappy Brown. He came onstage during the middle of the show, and proceeded to roll all over the stage, begin to undress while sitting on a woman’s lap, and generally took over the building for his 20-minute slot. 

-Leon Russell, I can’t say too much about. His stage set-up drawfed both the stage, and himself.  I was given the industry standard first three songs to photograph him, and quickly realized that this was nearly impossible, due to the huge amount of hair that he used to hide himself from the audience. 

-Link Wray was such a cool guy, and really nice to his fans. Link came to the Double Door twice over five months in 1998. When he came back the second time, I made my way upstairs and gave him my photos from his first Double Door show. Link profusely thanked me for the photos, and told me how great a photographer I was. It really shook my system to have him be so complimentary. 

-Buddy Miles was a very nice man, and I consider myself very lucky to have met him. Peter Tork really doesn’t like to talk about the Monkees, but he knows the histories of blues musicians up and down, which impressed me. Brian Auger put on a great show in 2005. His son was as good a drummer and his dad was a keyboard player, and that is high praise. Brian was very nice, and told me the whole story about playing on the Yardbirds classic “For Your Love.” Ronnie Dawson played a killer show at the Double Door in 1998, and I came ever so close to getting one of those pics in his next album. I still get bummed out when thinking about that near miss.

-Don Dixon puts on a great show, whether you saw him thirty years ago, or last week.

-In 2002, David Childers asked a band he had just met, the Avett Brothers to open for him at the Double Door. It was the first time that many people in Charlotte had seen or heard of them. Even then, their shows had a lot of energy, and you could just tell that they had something different. A lot of people came to see David that night, but they left talking about the Avetts. 

-I know that some of the older regulars don’t always like it when the younger, non-blues based bands come to play, but I think that there’s room for all in the Double Door. 
It has contstantly been the new kids that push the Double Door into the next generation, where they find hopefully find their Spongetones, their Belmont Playboys and Lou Ford. The Double Door has meant so much to so many people, over such a long period of time. It means something different to every group, but eventually it leads them all back through those front door.

-Lou Ford was, for me, Rock Band 101 for my photography. They were equal parts Gram Parsons and Big Star, and were the buzz band in Charlotte in the mid to late ‘90s. They were also one of the first bands that hired me to take photos. Their shows were always packed, and generally inspired a lot of drinking, both onstage and off. Their drummer, Shawn Lynch, told me a great story about having to run home in-between soundcheck and showtime, and having to park numerous blocks away from the Double Door, because parking space for the show was virtually non-existent.

-A Belmont Playboys show was a full-on event for a lot of people. Their crowd was predominently filled with rockabilly fans, who would drink at the front of the stage, and dance behind the soundboard. To this day, some of the best photos I have ever taken of dancers were at Belmont Playboys shows. 

-The Spongetones were, and, to a lot of people, still are massively huge. They were one of the first local bands that made their Double Door shows an event. And 28 years and 11 albums on, their shows are still something to see. They, along with Hope Nicholls, Antiseen and others, really changed the landscape for local music in the early 1980s, and redefined what Charlotte musicians could do on a national (or international) scale.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mitchell Kearney Interview

Mitchell Kearney: This Time Is The Right Time
Introduction and interview by Daniel Coston

For many years, Mitchell Kearney has been one of the most successful photographers in Charlotte, with clients ranging from many non-profits, to the NASCAR Hall Of Fame. However, many people were not aware that Kearney had spent years documenting the New York music scene, catching the Punk and New Wave scenes at their greatest scenes. Kearney’s work also found its way into Trouser Press and New York Rocker, two of the most respected music magazines in the nation.

This fall, Kearney is finally throwing open the doors to his archives, and showing off his early work in “The Night Time Is The Right Time,” a fantastic show at the Middleton McMillian Gallery in Charlotte. This show is the first chance for many to see Kearney’s documents of the New York scene, in all their original glory.

Conversing via email, Kearney and I talked about his work from those days in New York, and some of his favorite people to work with.

Coston: How did you get started in photography?

Kearney: I watched my Dad take pictures for years during my childhood. He loaned me his camera. And I found two stacks of Popular Photography magazines, which I paged thru for a month realizing who much more fulfilling this would be than becoming an architect...

Coston: What were the first things you photographed?

Kearney: I was obsessed with super close-ups, macro photography of ice crystals on wood planks in the winter.

Coston: What brought you to New York City?

Kearney: I was born in Greenwich Village, in NYC. My parents moved me to suburban Northern New Jersey, when I was one month old. I remember riding back and forth into Manhattan for Sunday dinners with my extended family of: cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents...

Coston: How much had you heard about the punk rock scene, or the other scenes, before you came to New York?

Kearney: I was accepted into the School of Visual Arts as a Photo Major, and it was in one of my classes that a new friend of mine suggested checking out the new music being played at a club called CBGB.

Coston: Early on, did you shoot, and make yourself known from there? Or did you line up work with a magazine, or another outlet early on?

Kearney: I was already photographing assignments for an alternative weekly, much like the Creative Loafing, called the Aquarian Weekly. So all I did was tell the editor about this exciting new music scene in lower Manhattan, and if I would cover it he would pay for everything I could bring him back.

Coston: What were your favorite bands to shoot, and why?

Kearney: The Ramones were the first band I saw live at CBGB. They were fully formed by '76 and only got smarter and better with each live show I covered. Patti Smith was the best live show for me since she and Lenny pushed way out of their comfort zone, every time they got on a stage. Mink DeVille taught everybody - something new - about music of all kinds. And the Dead Boys were, are and will always be Young, Loud + Snotty.

Coston: How soon did you move from live photography, into posed work with the musicians?

Kearney: When I started working for Ira Robbins at Trouser Press Magazine it was because by this point in time I had just graduated from SVA with a BFA and began working for Len Prince Photography on 5th Ave @ 21st Street in the heart of the Photo District. I was learning how to light scenes with lots of studio strobes, and applying my day job to my passion for portraits of musicians.

Coston: How did your work with Trouser Press, and NY Rocker come about?

Kearney: So my opening came at Trouser Press because Ira wanted to upgrade the photo content to better reflect his now - very edgy editorial story content. New York Rocker simply wanted the best photos nobody else had already run, period.

Coston: What were some of your favorite shoots from that period in your life?

Kearney: My interview with Lou Reed was a sea change. I expected one thing, and it turned out that Lou walked, talked and told jokes just like my cousin Louis. Well, to be fair, Louis did grow up two doors down Christopher Street from the Stonewall Inn. My interview with Frank Zappa was, like the Lou Reed portrait slated for a cover of TP. Frank corralled a dozen rock writers into a room for a 45 minute round robin Q&A session. After which, I was the only photographer in the room. I had a plan and he was great with the impromptu creative process, I served up. However the most memorable portrait session of all my Trouser Press assignments, was to photograph William S. Burroughs during an interview set up by Scott Isler, with Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale, the masterminds behind DEVO. What an amazing afternoon, on the Bowery, just blocks from CBGB.

Coston: How much did the music scene change during your time in New York?

Kearney: Well as soon as the first and second waves of Punk Rock band got signed, it was off to the studio they ran, and then out of town for months of first album touring and promotions. So the NY scene was decimated for a time by the exodus of prime talent. The wind never truly blew as hard again for the punk bands as it did from early 1977 thru the end of 1978.

11. What brought you to Charlotte? An opportunity to partner with the best - Ron Chapple & Associates and settle into a new phase of my personal live and my professional photography career, in this wonderful city, state and region.

Coston: Describe the changes in Charlotte since you first moved here.

Kearney: Well, the side walks did sort of roll up in downtown Charlotte in May of 1983, around 5pm. And yet, there was a strong pulse running thru a group of creative entrepreneurs in Charlotte in those days, which helped create the city we now enjoy.

Coston: How has the business of photography changed in Charlotte?

Kearney: It has always been in a constant state of evolving needs and moods. I have created photography for practically every type of business, in business here in Charlotte, and the region, over the years. And then there is the transition from film processing to digital capture and optimizing. It is wonderful to be able to perfect an image to match my aesthetics.

Coston: Too many people, and even some of your own business clients, don't know the history that you had in New York, and what you were able to document. What do you hope that people will get out of your upcoming Light Factory show?

Kearney: I have created insightful portraits for many years and now I have edited a visionary poem dedicated to the human spirit running thru us all, with this group of 32 images, titled "The Night Time is the Right Time", based on the lyrics of one of my most musical of mentors, the Great - Ray Charles. [Editor’s note: Charles’ version of “Night Time” came from Charlottean Nappy Brown, who had released his own version of the song several months before Charles.]

Coston: Tell me about the John Waters photos that you made in 1977 and 2007, and the emotional ties with those photos.

Kearney: As a student at SVA, I attended a lecture by this guy from Baltimore. He was a filmmaker who knew a film professor at SVA, who opened the doors to everyone interested in attending. John Waters was funny, and he was a bit nervous. I thought he was great, because he kept "it" simple. So, I made his portrait at the end of the three-hour tour of his first four films, and he wished me the best. Thirty years to the month, John Waters made me laugh again when after a two hour lecture about all the films he has made to date, including plenty of details about those first four films, he greeted his fans here in Charlotte in the lobby of the McGloghon Theater in Spirit Square and marveled at how much hair he had in that 1977 portrait. So, I asked again if he would allow me to make his portrait. He replied, "With pleasure."

Coston: Lastly, I'm going to throw some band names, and folks you worked with. Tell me whatever you would like about those people, and your photos of them.

Kearney: Ramones - The hardest working Rock and Roll Band Ever.
Blondie w. Debbie Harry sang and danced her way into my heart.
Dead Boys - Sonic Reducer Live at CBGB is still one of my top five: Greatest Musical Moments.
Lou Reed is one of Rock Music's greatest composers, and the God Father of Punk Rock.
Peter Gabriel helped me to become the visionary I strived for, simply by observing his effortless genius in action.
Andy Warhol had the most fun of anyone on the planet, in his day.
William S. Burroughs came the closest to Individual Genius, of any one I have met, so far.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Show intro for Raleigh show

From The Song, To The Show: Photographs by Daniel Coston

A song comes from many places. An passing idea, a simple phrase, or a strong emotion. Or just the need to talk about what is moving you, at that moment. From there, a song goes through many stages. The idea can seem very concrete at the time of writing, but its presentation can change drastically when the song is being recorded. Other musicians, producers and engineers can put something of themselves in someone else's song, altering the course of that initial creation. Finally, the song reaches the performance stage, where one voice shares the song with any number of ears. And then, the journey begins again.

In fifteen years of photographing musicians, I have seen a song begin, change and emerge in all three of those stages. There is a purity to the process of creation that still excites me, and still makes me want to document it. Along the way to the stage, there is also that time before the show when the artist is waiting to go on. Some musicians talk to fans, others look for quiet time backstage. While this stage of the process is a waiting game for some, it is nonetheless another stage in the cycle of music, creation and presentation. And as a photographer, it is another moment to document a musician at work, and preparing for the work ahead.

This show is dedicated to all of these stages, and to tie all of these collected moments, ideas and places back together. I have been lucky to work with a large variety of musicians, and watch how they would take their songs from scribbled notes in homes and backstage areas, to singing those songs for thousands of people. I have seen the Avett Brothers at some of their earliest shows, and witnessed the final shows of Johnny Cash, and Guided by Voices. I have photographed Jonathan Richman backstage, when he didn't even care why I was there, to having Pinetop Perkins stare me down when he didn't know who I was. Through all of this, I witnessed the creative stages of many of artist, and their experiences became part of my own. Because the songs, and the subjects, had an impact on my life, just like those songs have reached many other listeners. 

Here's to all stages. Enjoy.
-Daniel Coston
October 2, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

And now, a moment to promote a new show of photos

Here's a link to my new show of photos, opening this week in Raleigh. Intro for the show coming soon.