Backstage Hero Interview: MARTIN DAVID PORTER

Photographer Martin David Porter gives us an insider view form the other side of the photographer’s lens. You can view his work on his website and the Mart’s Arts Photography Facebook page.

How did you become interested in photography?

I’ve always since I was tiny been artistic and drew to a high level from an early age, animals were my thing. When I was eight I was given the ‘Life On Earth’ book and the back sleeve was a photo of David Attenborough kneeling over a Sealion, it is an image the burned into my brain the moment I saw it!

Moving on to teenage years, I got into rock music in a big way and tried play in a band but was awful but I really wanted to be in the music industry, what I could do was draw. Album sleeves and Kerrang, Metal Hammer Magazine all exposed me to the fantastic art Derek Riggs, Storm Thorgerson and many others.

I always love the photos of Ross Halfin and Robert M Knight and later Marty Moffatt. I got myself a Fuji Finepix camera just to take holiday snaps etc and my Mrs. Ruth spotted that I was pretty good and decided to buy me a decent entry level professional camera and within hours I was in the fields taking photos. The music photography was in my head from that moment but took three years longer to get my first shoot!

What was the first musician you photographed?

I set my goals quite high, I should have started by shooting a local band in a pub or such. I approached every one I could but the answer was always the same “who have you photographed before?” I managed to get hold of Toby Jepson (Little Angels/Wayward Sons) email and he was currently singing for the recently back on the scene Scottish band GUN who I had always loved. The answer was “Yes, but these are the rules!” Once I had one bands experience other gigs came a lot easier!

Who have been your favourite musicians to ‘shoot’ and why?

Tough one this and not for the reasons you would expect! The band I’d say in a heartbeat have recently fractured and are funny enough playing tonight for the first time and I am shooting under a one night only band name before they announce a new name in a few weeks so I cannot honestly tell you their name.

Seven out of eight members of the band are in the new band so in my eyes they still count as my favourite musicians to shoot! Why? I have worked with them for ten years and I am treated as a member of the crew, I get complete freedom their stage is my stage, my opinions on lighting and even performances are asked.

Their show is designed being a funk and disco good time party band is to get everyone dancing, singing, drinking and shaking it loose. They do it every time and photographing can be carnage with drunken women pinching my bum and hanging off me! (awful job I have!) The lighting’s great, they have designed costumes that make my photos look awesome.

The musicianship is another level, Susan Pinky is one of the best female vocalists I’ve worked with and I’ve worked with Beth Hart, Toyah, Lulu and many others. Flash Jackson their guitarist is a photographer’s dream, he keeps an eye out for me and will embarrass me as part of his act which produces excellent shots that are out of most gig photographers reach!

Ed’s note – they are now called Miss Disco –

What for you makes a good photo of a musician performing live? How do you go about capturing the live event to allow someone looking at your photo to feel like they could have been there?

There are many factors, intense movement, something an artist does that makes them different. I really don’t know how to explain it, I just know the second I see something that it’s what I need. Time freezes sometime everything needs to line up the lighting, position there is an alchemy, a magic some people have it, others don’t, there is always luck as well.

When a musician breaks that fourth wall and heads towards the photographer and showboats or throws a shape just for you really is a helpful moment, Glenn Hughes gave me a lovely one the other month.  Mouthed “you alright mate? Going well?” leant forward stuck his tongue out in a playful manner …cracking shot.Captain Sensible’s arse less pleasant though hahaha!

There’s one trade secret of mine that I will let you in on; the one thing I do that I don’t know if others do, I never shoot a band or musician without listening to their music prior to the show, I watch a video if possible. I like to feel the music I shoot!

You went on tour recently with Leader Of Down as their tour tog. What was that like and what were the highlights?

Knackering! I’d done a string of dates prior to Christmas with mates in the funk band (mentioned earlier) and stayed at a stately home as a Christmas treat with the Mrs and my daughter but was hanging with a dirty cold the whole time!

Tim Atkinson of Leader Of Down got me picked up from outside the stately home in the tour bus it was one of my most Rock ‘N’ Roll moments standing there with my kit when that rolled up there! It was a lot of hours just travelling, waiting around, the un glamourous stuff but when the band hit the stage and my camera came out everything else melts away.

The highlight I’d say the Berlin show the Nitrogods were lovely guys and fuck could they drink! Some of the highlights were simply the banter we had between us…oh and Dan did an awesome drum solo (and I don’t do drum solos generally!)

How do you go about organising an event like Heavy Metal Mayhem? For example, with the bands do you have a wish list or do bands approach you having worked with you previously?

First, I best explain the reason I organise a yearly concert, both myself and sister Zoe have survived versions of life-threatening cancer and kicked it’s arse and I give back cancer charities as much as I can for the help they have funded over the years. I pick a theme as I love many forms of music and work with many musicians. One year I did a mixed bag, the next I wanted a laid back acoustic wine and relax situation. Last year it was the Metal Mayhem gig which without kidding had festival level amplification in Saffron Walden Town Hall, it was loud!

Bands normally pick themselves. Last year Leader Of Down was a no brainer really as I work closely with Tim on a number of projects. He also does so much for my town that pulling in favours from everything like the hall to the amps all come in with a little managing from him. Simple fact is he did more than me last year. It was great because despite being out on tour with Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons and various other things there was never an opportunity for a full on balls to the wall home gig for him!

I had a number of high profile rock/metals band who you see on many rock festival line ups this year but the simple fact is so many local bands asked to come onboard we did not have space for everyone. We went on the basis local bands will bring in friends and people from the area making selling it out easier (it did) I did however insist on getting 4th Labyrinth in on the bill as they are one of the most entertaining bands on the live circuit!

Is Gene Simmons right when he said rock music is dead?

Ah Gene! Bless him! I am a massive Kiss fan but he has talked a lot of shit for a long time!

He certainly makes a lot of money from something that is dead, don’t he? Right time to be serious now, every week I shot the musicians at John Shearer’s (Steve Hackett/Iron Butterfly etc) All Star Jam. While there is your normal ration of old guys playing blues music, there are many very talented youngster some fourteen years old, all of which are doing their own thing but also learning from the older musicians it looks pretty alive to me.

John also teaches my daughter, Rosie, who is five drums. You watch her get on stage with her uke with James White and sing a bit of Leadbelly or show John a drum fill she has created. You look at her eyes when she sees Gene’s band on the TV and tell her Rock ‘n’ Roll is dead it simply is not. I love you still Gene now where is my f**king photo pass for the last ever shows?

How do you see the live scene developing in the next 5-10 years when many of the big rock and metal bands will have retired for good?

It’s certainly a worry, it is not as if the talent isn’t there. The media are so ignorant, biased nowadays and so focused on the mediocre. Grey is the colour at the moment hopefully we get a full circle where colour, show, stagecraft and having a product of quality with come back in again.

It’s deeper though as the arts are being seen as a folly by government, businesses and schools and being removed from many a place of education. It is us that need to not accept this. It is us that needs to stop telling everyone what bands we hate on Facebook and get off our arses and watch the ones we do like!

I believe that there is a future generation in music but it’s up to the departing generation to give them the leg up and fair play to Dee Snider I saw him doing it just today!

The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 26 September. This marked the start of a new monthly series. Josh’s next session is Sunday 31 October.

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 26 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 28 September 2021.

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Featured Albums w/c 18 October 2021 (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 TAO Prophecy (Tarot Label Media)
12:00-13:00 LEVERAGE Above The Beyond (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 JOE TILSTON Tightrope (Our Records)

Power Plays w/c 18 October 2021 (Mon-Fri)

ABOVE SNAKES Nothing To Lose (indie)
FRANKIE AND THE WITCH FINGERS Cookin’ (Greenway Records)
LEADFINGER The Fall Of Rome (Golden Robot)
FEMEGADES Stealing Numbers (Regent Street Records)
TIGERSIDE Any Contact (indie)
INDYA Love Like Champagne (indie)
EDGE OF DESTINY Forsaken (indie)

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