Friday, August 14, 2009

Passing of a Legend

Most of my photographs are portraits of people these days, but this one is much more than that. Its a portrait of history.

Music industry legend Les Paul passed on August 12th.

I spent August 12-14 at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, with my friends Halo Stereo. They were recording some great new tracks for an upcoming album release and invited me to come down and be a part of the experience.

Strange how things work out.

Besides being one of the most iconic recording studios in history, Muscle Shoals has something else going on. There lives a collection of recording treasures that would make any audiophile drop to his knees and worship in humble reverence at the marvels of the recording industry adorning the studio. One of such knee-dropping relics found there is Les Paul's original 8-track recorder.

Let me repeat that for those of you who didn't catch it the first time: the Ampex 8-track recorder that Les Fucking Paul created and recorded with, lives in the hallways of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

To sum up the importance of this, in a nutshell, this machine was one of the foundations of multi-track recording. Before ProTools, there was the trusty ol' 8-tracker. And this machine, probably 50 years old, still lives tucked away in a small studio in the Deep South.

Noel Webster runs (and engineers at) Muscle Shoals. He had a great idea while we were taking a break late night on the 12th.

"Why don't you take a picture of the 8-track?," Noel asked me. "Its only 11:30 p.m. right now. If you hurry you can still say you shot in on the day of his death."

Noel is a genius.

I had 30 minutes to get a photograph of the 8-track. It was a bit difficult to move because it stands taller than a standard doorway, and on top of that, its very fragile. I wasn't able to move it to the exact location in the studio that I hoped for. This orange isolation booth for tracking guitars seemed like a perfect place for it, but we couldn't wheel it in there.

So, I decided to get a bit creative.

I chose an uncluttered wall for a background and used a dynamic lighting effect that I have started heavily relying on for portraits as of late. Its really gritty and sinister, but I've fallen in love with it. The result ended up a moody portrait of one of Les Paul's creative masterpieces.

Now, Les is gone, but what he has done still lives on in many ways. Thank you Les, for you gave us the ability to Rock.

Muscle Shoals With Halo Stereo

It's very late. I'm actually getting tired now.

We just got back in from shooting Halo Stereo in Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. It is an amazing place, a true step back to where Rock n' Roll really came from. It's not Emo. It's not Britney. It's real. Skynyrd, Stones, Allmans... you name it, Muscle Shoals probably had it.

A great big thank you goes out to Noel Webster, studio engineer extraordinaire and owner of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Go check out this website here.

Anyway, this is a shot of Halo Stereo drummer Brian Meeks. We rounded up the band and took them outside to shoot during a session break. I think I like this wall. And I also think the lighting turned out pretty interesting.

I've got plenty more photos and stories to post as time permits, but we are preparing for a move this weekend, so don't know how the photo retouching will play out. I've got some fun stuff to share though...promise!