Matt Miller interview – original version
MATT MILLER INTERVIEW – ORIGINAL VERSION
In 2009, when the Burning Fight book came out, some of the most influential bands from the nineties joined for a couple of shows in Chicago and San Diego. Unbroken, Undertow, Threadbare, 108, Guilt, Swing Kids, Disembodied among the others, with a selection of new bands. An amazing photographic review of those nights appeared on thefivemilegrace.com, Matt Miller’s website. At that point I found out that Most Precious Blood bass player was living off a curious job: shooting “alternative” marriages. If you really want to (get married, I mean), a few thousand bucks pay his service, you put the tattoos, he puts his rock ‘n’ roll vintage trade mark style.
SD: OK, let’s say I’m getting married next June, and I want Matt Miller to come out to Europe and make the most amazing wedding shooting Italy has ever seen. Starting rates are mentioned on your website, what’s going to increase my bill, besides getting you on a 15 hours flight?
MM: First off, I would love to come overseas to shoot a wedding for sure. When I do travel I just ask that flights, somewhere to crash, and transport from airport/hotel/wedding be covered. And some vegan doughnuts if possible…..haha.
SD: Which kind of interaction do you have with the couples, which kind of (professional) freedom do you have in this kind of job?
MM: Well I don’t take on a wedding that doesn’t fit with my vision. So the people that hire me, know my work inside & out and know what to expect. They trust me and know that I will represent what they are about and deliver some rad images. I treat the couples as if I’m their best friend and I want to give them the something special as a representation of their wedding day.
SD: I’m not tattooed, my family wants us in a church, you’re going to face a 17 courses meal, my girlfriend will be a pain, and you gotta dance to traditional Italian 60s revival. Are you still coming?
MM: Probably not. haha, like I said, I don’t take on wedding that I know will not fit my style. I don’t want to shoot something I’m not into, and I don’t shoot just for the $. if I’m not feeling the vibe, it reflects in the photos, so in that case, everyone loses, so I just avoid that all together.
SD: We know the troubles of a touring band, but which are the troubles of a wedding photographer? Relatives, locations…? Would you share one (anonymous, for sure!) horror wedding story?
MM: Right before every wedding have a bit of a panic attack, but once the ball gets rolling, I flow into the groove and all falls into place. sometimes I get aunts & uncles who keep telling me that I should take the couple by the fountain and shoot, or something equally as cheesy, I might pull a couple frames just to get them off my back, but I usually get away from the crowd to do my more creative stuff without input from the in-laws. But no horror stories really, I think if you are confident and know your stuff, nothing can really go THAT wrong. I mean I’ve been robbed (all might lights, one of my cameras, and all of my assistants gear) and still pulled off the wedding, and I’ve lost a wedding ring during a ring shot, but was found later, so even the worst case has brightened up!
SD: Once you’ve defined a pretty recognizable style, which is the further step? I’m not looking for untold secrets, but do you feel like you still have a lot to experiment with lights, gear…? And are you in the right professional spot to do such things?
MM: I’m still looking for something new, I have a bit of a formula now, but sometimes I feel stagnant so I’ll try new things all the time. I’ll shoot what I know works first, and if I have a few extra minutes, I’ll pull something out of the air and see what happens. I try to stay constantly inspired and always feel the need to progress…
SD: As a punk rock kid, weddings are quite far from what I usually want to see, remember that here we have a quite invasive catholic culture, and even a civil wedding still looks like a bad idea. I know you’re also married, can I ask what brought you to that decision? And what’s bringing to that decision most of the guys and girls from the “alternative” culture you use to shoot?
MM: I fell into wedding photography as an assistant and I had no idea what I was walking into. All I could imagine was a dude in a tux and a girl in a fluffy white gown, formal family photos and a cheesy posed image of them cutting the cake. I shot with OUR LABOR OF LOVE and my world was turned upside down. The nervous energy, the unbounded love, all of it, it blew my mind. I was lucky enough to see the other side of it all with creative people getting married with ideas that were so far out of the box. I saw a wedding as a celebration of love. As a “punker” I identified with hardcore shows as a celebration of being out of step with the regular world. I felt like a wedding could have the same vibe. As a wedding is a traditional ceremony, you could think of a concert as the same thing, but we put our own spin on it and made it OURS. That’s the kind of wedding I want to shoot & that’s the kind of wedding I had. No religion was involved, just family and friends and love.
SD: And besides all this, which was the soundtrack at your ceremony?
MM: Our soundtrack to our wedding, our first dance was to The Cure. and our friend Michael (aka the FLASHDANCE) rocked the vinyl all night long from Billie Holiday to Gorilla Biscuits.
SD: In the last decade quite a few photographic books about punk/hardcore came out. Do you usually look for those publications, is there anything you enjoyed? Besides the value, does everything deserve to be printed? If the 80s are property of guys like Friedman or Colver, could you point a few names for the last two decades? And what about a Matthew Miller book?
MM: I would love to see a book of modern hardcore photography. There are some cuts doing some cool stuff for sure and seeing that stuff in print would be great. I would hate to see all this documentation go to waste. I think a lot of it gets overlooked since there are 1000 dudes shooting every show, but I always enjoy looking at the blogs and seeing some cool stuff. When I first started I totally bit Danielle Dombrowski’s style for sure. I dig the stuff that John Hatfield, Dan Purnell , James Hartley, Ryan Russell, Meghan McInnis have been doing. As far as my won book, I toyed with the idea of putting one out of my photos from Burning Fight, but I think I waited too long on that one, doubt people would still be into it…
SD: “We didn’t listen to anything recorded after 1995 while recording this thing” is a not-so-recent quote of MPB guitar player, do you share that? Do you still listen to new stuff or punk rock is dead and nothing good comes out, or is it just a matter of being 30something and not having free time as once?
MM: I still take the time to listen to some new jams. Recently I’ve fell in love with the record that Balance & Composure just put out. But I’m always checking out new stuff from the bands that we toured with, like Converge, Hope Conspiracy, 108, SOIA, etc. and checking out dudes who I’ve know forever and their newer bands like All Pigs Must Die, Burning Love , Foundation. All solid records and good people.
SD: Two of your bandmates also started a production company that looks interesting, will you be able to collaborate on a professional level? Movies and photos hand in hand?
MM: They started that once I moved and to be honest, I don’t know too much about it beyond the fact that they are making an Indecision documentary, which I’m guesses is going to be fucking amazing.
SD: I kept your blog in my bookmarks for a couple of years, from the Burning Fight pics. Can you tell me a little bit about those shows, how you personally went as a fan, musician & photographer? Bring back to life one of those bands and make it your local Atlanta band for the next year, who’s gonna be?
MM: I was so honored to be a part of Burning Fight and to capture what I could of the show and share it with the world. I loved those bands so much and just wanted to give them back something since they had changed my life. I wanted to try and capture the magic that was going down those nights. I hope it translated through those images and I could immortalize the feeling that we all shared. As far as having one band from burning fight become a local atlanta band? I’d have Chamberlain play once every few months in a basement… that would be amazing…
(Words by Marco Capelli x Salad Days Mag – All Rights Reserved; Pics by Matt Miller)