“ Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. ~Berthold Auerbach”
“ Without music life would be a mistake. ~Friedrich Nietzsche”
“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. ~ Frank Zappa”
I think my love of music began around 1976 at home listening to my fathers 8-track tapes of Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Steely Dan, Pink Floyd and Lynard Skynard as well as my aunts and mothers Beatles, Carpenters and other classic ’60’s and ’70’s albums. 99.1 the WAAL seemed to always be playing on the old 1960’s Magnavox stereo system with the nice warm tones from its vintage speakers covered in classic grill cloth. I remember my father taking banjo lessons when I was about 8 years old and would always steal the chance to twang on it while trying not to get caught with it in my measly little hands. I remember riding around town with my dad in the late seventies listening to his 8-tracks and the radio with the speakers mounted directly behind our heads in his 1977 Corvette. It was also around this time when I began my career as a musician starting out playing trumpet in junior high. My maternal grandmother was such a huge supporter of my interest in music and would tell me stories of her youth and her being involved in an accordian band. I quickly grew to love playing the trumpet and had a blast in marching and concert bands up until around ninth grade when I decided it was no longer cool to be in the band but rather to attempt to play football like most of my buddies. This decision would prove to be one of my greatest regrets in life. I wonder where my career in music would have taken me if I continued playing the trumpet as I mastered reading music very well and was one of the youngest to be selected to county and regional bands. In hindsight, I wish I still played because I absolutely love the brass sections in a few of my favorite bands like Less Than Jake and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
Fast forward to around 1984. I had sat the bench on the football sidelines more than I actually played and really didn’t care anymore, I knew I was no athlete. I was 17 and sneaking into the Cork ‘n Bottle with my buddies to watch Ice Water Mansion every chance I could get. I was a big hair band fanatic and loved bands like Dokken, Ratt, Maiden, Krokus, Scorpions, Helix, LA Guns, the Crue, Def Leppard and seeing IWM perform these covers live with their huge sound and light show just blew my mind. I had to get a guitar!! My cousin Duke had an American Strat and was learning The Who and Hedrix licks and wasn’t much into the hair band scene. He sold me my first guitar; a knockoff strat with a scraped up body that had seen better days. I didn’t mind at all. I went to the local music shop ran by good old George V and bought a cheap amp and signed up for lessons. I think it was five bucks for a half an hour. I remember bringing in my cassette tapes to have George teach me the coolest songs from my favorite bands, including IWM.
After taking two years off after graduating high school in 1986, working odd jobs and getting nowhere, I decided to give college a try. In college I began collecting vintage effects pedals and what I considered “better” guitars. My first decent guitar was a BC Rich with a Strat body and Floyd Rose tremolo system. I also had a decent solid state crate amp that was boosted by my sick green Ibanez tube Screamer. I also had fun experimenting with my Crybaby Wah as well. My roomates did not have as much fun as me ironically. I would come home from college most weekends and still hit up the old Cork n Bottle to see the live acts. IWM had changed line-ups and would eventually become Water’s Edge. The big draw when I was in my twenties was now a revamped turbo charged AKA with an old friend, Tony Esposito, on drums and an amazing speed/sweep guitarist, and new friend Tommy “Cookie Monster” Cook as well as Mark Thurston on killer keys and vocals who I loved to watch perform in the “Sweet River Band” when I was younger and Kevin McCarthy on bass. AKA was pounding out classic rock hits, new hits, my favorite ’80’s hair band tunes and a killer mix of original material. Plus their four-part harmonies were dead on and amazing when covering bands like Boston.
While going out with friends listening to cool live music in the early ’90’s, I continued to practice and play guitar and eventually bought my first killer guitar from the Music Workshop in Endicott, MY. My 1977 Cream Gibson Les Paul Custom with gold hardware was like a dream. I think I remember paying like $800 bucks for it on a payment plan thanks to Terry, the owner of the Workshop. Me and my pals took a trip at least once a week for years to visit Terry, Steve and the rest of the crew at the Music Workshop. It was here that I started to really network with other musicians and learn about gear, set-ups, venues, rules and maintaining gear properly. In 1994 I was playing with my first gigging band “Strange Daze” which included my brother on lead vocals, RC Nobles on bass, Kevin Bracken on guitar, myself on guitar and my 17-year-old phenom drummer, Nate Lewis, who’s still at it today with his band Uncle Stoshes Hardcore Pears.
After playing with my brother and the guys for about two years, for some reason it was decided to call it quits and pack it in. My brother and RC left to play in many other bands over the years including 605 and a cool project the two of them are current working on. Actually most of the cool cats I used to play with are still at it in some form or another. Major kudos to all of them!!
Around 1995 I was approached by world-famous frontman/guitarist/circus performer Eric Bleiler who had a project in the works with the equally famous dynamic duo thumpin back-beat rhythm section of Brian “Brownie” Brown on bass and Rich “Diquelo” Haberken on skins. Eric and Brownie had recently split from another cool band “Crossfire” and were looking to start a new project and decided on adding a second guitarist rather than going with their original plan of being a three-piece band. So, I got the call. I spent the next 3-4 months hanging out, practicing, drinking, playing trivial pursuit, watching Yankees games with the guys while the wives hung out and did their thing. It was pretty obvious we gelled well and had a kick ass fun time doing things together and rehearsing originals and cool covers from artists at the time like NIN, STP, Ezra, Alice in Chains as well as cool stuff that was new to me like Rocket From the Crypt, Less Than Jake, Goldfinger and Mest. I had also acquired new gear and new attitude about playing live with these guys. We were actually serious about putting together a kick ass show and sound as well as having fun like brothers all the time. When Agony Hill kicked off our first sold out show in January 1997 at the Barge, my rig consisted of two Marshall stacks, Two JCM 900 50w heads, Three Paul Reed Smith CE22 bolt ons, my beautiful Les Paul Custom and a 1974 American Strat…Yeah, I was in debt a little, but having a blast being in debt, partying like rock-stars and meeting tons of cool people in the industry. The highlight of my Hill days would have to be having the opportunity to open for LA Guns and Slaughter in front of a packed house at Fred’s Woodshed and recording at the amazing Pyramid Studios in Ithaca, NY. I played steadily with Agony Hill for 8 years. We hired the best sound and light show we could, usually Bruce Peron of Hard Hit Productions or Jeff Moral of JGM Productions. We traveled all over PA and NY, ate at a lot of greasy Denny’s at 5 am, and just had a blast having fun and meeting cool people. I recorded one and a half albums with the boys including “ABMR” and tracks on “Just Add Alcohol” when in 2003 tensions became harsh, kids came, goals changed and I had decided I was done. That was it. I was married with two kids and one on the way. My wife’s mother was terminally ill and tensions at home were rough as well. I needed to examine my priorities and decided to step aside. Agony Hill continued as a three-piece for a while eventually adding another guitarist. As time would have it, other members left. Brian first then Dickie. Eric kept Agony Hill alive with various different musicians until just recently. Brian is no longer with us as he died of cancer a few years ago. Brian was a true champion, friend, musician, husband, father and brother. He is greatly missed. Years after I had left the Hill when Brian was ill, all of his friends and former musician cohorts organized a benefit at Tags’s that included the bands Borderline, 605, Live Animals, Everlive, Agony Hill and a special reunion of Frenzy. I had the great opportunity and pleasure to hop up on stage one more time with the old fellas and play a few numbers. I was definitely anxious having not played live in over 8 years, but it came right back and felt right. It was the right thing to do. The benefit raised over $21,000 and Brian was able to get up on stage and play a few numbers before his passing only a few short weeks later.
My days playing in the Hill were some of the best times of my life. I truly miss Brian and hanging out with the guys through thick and thin. Eric, Rich and lets not forget Mr. Tim Montanye who was always there for us, You guys will be always be brothers in a wonderful chapter in this silly artist’s life. I am glad we are still friends after all these years.
After leaving Agony Hill, much of my time was devoted to my kids and their activities including my step-son Rob’s sporting events. My wife had purchased a camera after our first daughter was born but I naturally took control of it and was constantly taking pictures of everything, including most of Rob’s sporting events. Around 2005, two years after leaving the band, I answered an ad in the Towanda Daily Review looking for a sports photographer for high school football games. I figured I’d give it a shot since I was at most games with my wifes little Kodak camera anyway. I got the gig and began taking very crappy and blurry photos of night football. I would occasionally get lucky and have maybe three keepers that I could submit to the paper for press. I eventually upgraded to a better camera and a nice piece of glass (40D and 85mm f/1.8) that would hold me over for a couple more years. I shot and shot and shot and shot. Football turned into basketball which turned into wrestling then track then volleyball then some news features, etc. Some weeks it seemed I shot four or five nights in a row. Sometimes it was to shoot girls basketball in no-mans land on a snowy Tuesday night. I paid a lot of dues, but working for the press had cool fringe benefits. Huge thanks to Brian Fees and the staff at the Review!! By the time I shot my first real concert, I had upgraded cameras to a nice used Canon 1D Mark IIn and better glass.
I remember hearing that Chevelle, Adelita’s Way and Three Days Grace were going to be performing at the First Arena in Elmira, NY where I had previously shot a ton of Elmira Jackals hockey games for the newspaper. I decided one night while shooting the Jackals to talk with the events guy about how to get a pass for shooting the concert and he was able to steer me in the right direction. I was granted access to shoot the Three Days Grace and Adelita’s Way performances. I researched concert photography for about a week before the gig and quickly learned basic starting points for lenses and camera settings as well as pit etiquette and the no flash and three song rule. My first concert was definitely a cool experience although I would have liked more keepers, I came away with a few I liked and submitted to news as well as coming away with a taste for remaining in the music without actually playing.
I don’t claim and never will claim to be bg time or pro “concert Photog” as I shoot so many different subjects and look at it as fun. However, I am grateful to have the opportunity to remain involved with music in an artistic manner. I continue to learn and try to grow as an artist and have had the blessing to continue to shoot live acts when I have the opportunity and am able. I have begun to establish a decent network in the industry with some cool connections and contacts and was able to use some of those connections to shoot Night Ranger, 2014 Soundtrack of Summer Tour featuring Foreigner, Styx and Don Felder and most recently the Zac Brown Band. I have upgraded to a newer full frame DSLR with killer high ISO performance which helps tremendously. I am still dreaming of one day owning either a 300mm or 400mm 2.8 piece of glass. Until then it’s shoot tight, crop, use my 50mm, my wide and my 70-200mm. I have been fairly happy with some of my recent shots although I continue to critique my own work harshly and compare with the pros as a way to continually try to improve. I am thankful to the countless photogs who inspire and freely share advice and tips. I have recently posted several of my newer shots on my site aswell as facebook, google +, Flickr and Twitter and have started to notice an upward trend in hits and interest. I was recently contacted by Foreigner’s management about potential use of my photographs. So, I am keeping my fingers crossed and continue to press on and keep my head up and focused. I am always willing to share what little I may know to those that are interested in improving their skills, answering questions or giving advice. Here are a few of my favorite concert shots from the last year or so.
I am happy to share my photos with you. However, due to band licensing agreements and copyright laws, the concert photos are not for sale. If you would like to view more of my live concert photos please check out the link. Also, if you are interested in contacting me for live concert, band promo shots or album cover work, please do not hesitate to contact me.