Archive for May, 2008

Bands that should have made it big…The Sea Hags

Posted in music with tags , , , , , on May 30, 2008 by Kevin Estrada

The Sea Hags
The Palace ; Hollywood
August 25, 1989

Part four of a four-part series I’m doing this week, featuring bands that should have made it big, but for one reason or another it just didn’t happen.

The Sea Hags were set to be the next big thing, rumors were that they were on their way to be the next Guns N’ Roses. Even though they were from San Francisco, they had a strong following in Southern California. Producer Mike Clink – coming off of GNR’s Appetite For Destruction – produced their one and only self-titled album, and it was amazing. Things looked great for the band, at least from the outside. But the band was plagued with internal problems – they were self-destructing at warp speed. Even their manager at one point said “you can only go so far with three junkies and an alcoholic”…but man, did these guys rock. In February of 1991, their bass player Chris Schlosshardt, died of a heroine overdose. Sadly this marked the end of The Sea Hags. Substance abuse and drug addictions continued for the remaining three, some of which are still battling today.

Photographed with my trusty Canon AE-1 Program and a cheap, no name 70mm-210mm lens. Shot on Kodak Ektachrome film.

Bands that should have made it big…Rocket From The Crypt

Posted in music with tags , , , , , on May 29, 2008 by Kevin Estrada

Rocket From The Crypt
Club Lingerie : Hollywood
June 11, 1996

Part three of a four-part series I’m doing this week, featuring bands that should have made it big, but for one reason or another it just didn’t happen. Each day I will add a new band and a new photo.

Rocket were always incredible. Hailing from San Diego, this band combined rock, rockabilly and punk to form a completely new sound. On stage you had guitarists, horn players, an explosive vocalist – and it all worked perfectly. They sounded like no other band around. Another thing that stood out was their genuine love for their fans. They always took the time to hang out and get to know us on a personal basis – which led to the Rocket Fan Club – of which I was a card-carrying member. And if you had a tattoo of the rocket logo, you were set – all you had to do was flash your tattoo at the door and you were in at no charge – any show, any city – for life. Plus, tattooed fans would also receive exclusive 7” singles throughout the year.

Fans would customize the tattoo logo and make it their own – some had flowers and hearts, some had pistols, etc. One night backstage at Club Lingerie, I asked the band if they had tattooed the rocket logo on themselves… and voila!… the proof is in the photo – every guy has one. There was a real feeling of family and camaraderie amongst their fans. I think Rocket never made it big because people couldn’t really classify their music or even describe they sounded like. I guess that’s a real problem when your music is completely original and breaking new ground. For what it’s worth, Circa Now and Scream Dracula Scream still get heavy airplay on my iPod. And they still sound fresh and original to this day.

Photographed with my Canon EOS-1 and a Canon 15mm fish-eye lens. Shot on Fujichrome film.

Bands that should have made it big…The Nymphs

Posted in music with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2008 by Kevin Estrada

The Nymphs
The Palace : Hollywood
January 28, 1991

Part two of a four-part series I’m doing this week, featuring bands that should have made it big, but for one reason or another it just didn’t happen. Each day I will add a new band and a new photo.

The Nymphs had it all – great songs, a great CD, an authentically wild lead singer, a kick ass live show and, most importantly – controversy. After the band’s A&R Rep at Geffen insisted they not play any more live shows in L.A. until they finished their long awaited CD, the band’s singer, Inger Lorre burst into his office in a drunken rage, and pissed all over his desk.
That relationship was bound to get ugly. The Nymphs had always wanted to sign with a small indie label, but couldn’t pass up Geffen Record’s offer of an advance just under one million dollars. Somehow, after the peeing incident, the CD was quickly released, but unfortunately the first single didn’t take off and the label seemed to de-prioritize the band. Then, in February of 1991, Inger’s boyfriend – Chris Schlosshardt of The Sea Hags – died of a heroine overdose. This was the final nail in the coffin for the Nymphs. Inger never recovered from her loss and the band fell apart.

Photographed with an old Canon F-1, a cheap, no name 28mm-70mm lens and a Sunpak 100 flash. Shot on Fujichrome film.

Bands that should have made it big…D Generation

Posted in music with tags , , , , , , on May 27, 2008 by Kevin Estrada

D Generation
The Opium Den : Hollywood
July 10, 1996
(click photo to enlarge)

This is the first of a four-part series I’m doing this week, featuring bands that should have made it big, but for one reason or another it just didn’t happen. Each day I will add a new band and a new photo.

This is a band that I thought was going to be huge. They had a front man, Jesse Malin that was completely charismatic… you couldn’t take your eyes off him. They had incredible energy – at one point during this show, Malin actually vomited, then just keep going like nothing happened. By the time I was done shooting, I felt like I’d just gotten beat up in a fight. According to their Wikipedia page, it looks like they lost their label support at a key time, and once they got the support they needed, they were never quite able to kick it up to the next level. Still, this was a great band, and one you should check out if you never heard them.

Photographed right up in the band’s face with my Canon EOS-1, a Canon 15mm fish eye lens and a Canon 430EZ Flash. Shot on Fujichrome film.

March Of The Saint

Posted in music with tags , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2008 by Kevin Estrada

Armored Saint
March 16, 1984
Perkin’s Palace: Pasadena, CA

This was a big show. Not only because the bill was loaded with four of L.A.’s hottest local bands (Malice, Odin, Sin, and of course Armored Saint), but also because it was Armored Saint’s first gig as a major label band with an LP in the can. The band had been in the studio making their debut full-length LP for Chrysalis Records, so it was many months since Armored Saint had been on stage. They were buzzing – big time. The word was that they were about to be the next big thing out of L.A., and they should have been. This was a huge homecoming for the band and their fans. Armored Saint really wanted to make this an event and have this show stand out.

They put together a very elaborate opening. As the band ripped into March Of The Saint, John Bush came cruising out wearing an entire suit of armor. It looked spectacular. I was so captivated by this stunt that I nearly shot off all of my film right away. Bush could hardly walk in that suit, but he tried his best. Not even one full song into the set, he had to climb out. I was never sure if it was because he was having difficulty walking or if it was the heat inside. Regardless, their once of a lifetime intro sure paid off, at least for my friends and me. This photo holds a very special spot in my heart, as a fan of Armored Saint and as a fan of hard music. It was one of the best shows I ever attended as a teen.

I smuggled my camera in that night – taped to my back, and I am pretty sure my friend Erik smuggled my lens in for me in his massive metal hair-do. I had my system down for shooting at Perkin’s Palace. We would get there early and my buddy Andy would rush in and grab a few seat in the first 5 or 6 rows.   Once the show started, I would stand on the arms of the chairs (they had those old movie theatre style seats) so I could be a bit above the heads in front of me. My best-friend Rob (who was also recording the shows) would keep an eye out for security and subtly lean against me to keep me balanced. I would pop up and down, snapping away when the guards weren’t looking. I could never use a flash, that would be a dead give-away that I was snapping photos from the seat, so I could only shoot when the light was just right on the stage. This is how I really learned to read light and to master working a camera manually.

Photographed with my trusty, smuggled in Canon AE1 Program and a cheap, no name 70mm-210mm f5.6 lens. Shot on Kodak Negative Film.

Seeking Some Salvation

Posted in music with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2008 by Kevin Estrada

Arise Video Shoot
Mojave Desert
October 27, 1991

I hooked up with Sepultura in 1989, just as Beneath The Remains was working to establish them as the hottest name in extreme metal. I got along great with the guys and figured out how to converse with them despite their broken English. One thing that really attracted me to the band was that they always had a clear vision for raising the stakes album after album.

The band and I struck up a strong friendship quickly – perhaps it was the Brazilian in them mixing with the Latino in me…who knows, we just clicked. Max Cavalera asked me if I wanted to head out to the California desert and shoot some photos as they filmed the music video for the song Arise. We were in the middle of nowhere – the same desolate area that Charles Manson would often seclude himself in. Although the photos look like it was a warm sunny day, it was actually dangerously cold – the temperatures dropped below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. This caused huge problems, especially for the extras that hung from the huge wooden crosses, wearing nothing more than a loincloth and a gas mask. Some of them collapsed right in front of me, suffering from hypothermia and exhaustion. It was eerie, very biblical.

Dino Cazares (Fear Factory) and Billy Gould (Faith No More) had tagged along with the band as well that day, all of us not knowing what we were getting ourselves into. I remember all three of us huddling together like a couple of school kids, trying to stay as warm as possible between takes. It was so damn cold that my camera’s internal metering system started freaking out from the low temperatures. Once again, it was all guessing and know-how to get through a shoot. Desolation, hypothermia, Sepultura and Mother Nature are an incredible combination.

Photographed with an old vintage Canon F1 camera body and a cheap, no name 28-80mm lens. Shot on Fujichrome film.

Wngwie Who?

Posted in music with tags , , , , , , , on May 21, 2008 by Kevin Estrada

Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force
January 10, 1985
Country Club
Reseda, CA

This was Yngwie’s debut solo show in Southern California, and it was big news in the metal community. My buddy Rob and I were huge fans of Yngwie from his days with local heroes Steeler, and we were pretty bummed when he left the band. The domestic release of his first solo album was still a few weeks away, so Rob bought the LP as an import. We always had to have the record and know the songs before the show. The import cost more, but it was worth having the music early.

I managed to smuggle my camera into yet another big show at The Country Club and I was psyched to take photos. This time I could afford to buy two rolls of film for the show, but that meant I could not afford to buy a T-shirt that night. It was a hard decision, and one that I agonized over, but I decided that photos were more important than a T-shirt.

We got to the venue early so we could grab a spot up front. I wanted to make sure that I got great shots of our new guitar hero. This show sold out immediately and was packed – you can see some hands in the shot. Sometimes having a few hands in the shot is not a bad thing – it adds a sense of energy and excitement to the image.

The show was amazing and furious. The set consisted of 90% instrumentals showcasing Yngwie’s six-string magic. The rest of the show was made up of a handful of originals featuring vocalist Jeff Scott Soto. His kinky hair-do was so big that I could have smuggled in a whole camera store in his head. Sadly, Yngwie did not rip into any of his old Steeler tunes – that would have been a nice surprise for the L.A. fans.

I still get a kick out of the ticket stub – check out how they spelled Yngwie’s name…classic. And at $7.50…a bargain!

Photographed with my trusty, smuggled in Canon AE1 Program and a cheap, no name 70-200mm lens. Shot on Kodak Negative Film.

Born To Be Wylde

Posted in music with tags , , , , , on May 20, 2008 by Kevin Estrada

Ozzy Osbourne
August 3, 1989
Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre
Irvine, CA

(click photo to enlarge)

There was a lot of hype about Ozzy’s new guitarist, Zakk Wylde. It had been some time since we had a true guitar God in the mix with Ozzy. The connection that I saw between them that night made me realize that we, as rock fans, were finally accepting the death of Randy Rhoads. It was time to move on. Poor Jake E. Lee seemed to get the short end of the stick. Maybe he had just come onto the scene too close to Randy’s death to ever get a fair shot – much like Jason Newsted entering Metallica after Cliff’s horrible death.

For some reason there was no photo pit that night and I was forced to shoot from the crowd, smashed up against the stage. We were all so crammed together that I could barely load a roll of film at one point. To make things worse, I was fighting with my camera equipment that night – it was falling apart – literally. All the years of taping the camera body to my neck in order to smuggle it into shows was finally taking its toll – the base plate was falling off and some of the cameras “guts” were being exposed. I had to hold the bottom together with one hand while I focused, zoomed, metered and shot with the other hand. I didn’t even have fast lenses back then, they were all f5.6 lenses. How I made it through some of these shows still amazes me today.

I have always loved this series of images. I had hoped that this sequence of shots could have been laid out like this in a tour program or in a magazine spread, but only a couple of them were ever used – always individually, never together. So this one is for me – call me greedy. I think this series of images brings out the energy and bond between Ozzy and Zakk. They just clicked right away, like Ozzy and Randy did. The magic immediately returned when Zakk entered Oz.  His much needed energy, angry style and no frills attitude were exactly what Ozzy needed to move on to the next level.

Photographed on the floor, right in there with the other Ozzy fans with my dying Canon AE1 Program and a cheap, no name 70-200mm f5.6 lens. Shot with Kodak Ektachrome film.

South Of Kevin

Posted in music with tags , , , , , on May 19, 2008 by Kevin Estrada

May 25, 1991
Clash Of The Titans Tour
Pacific Amphitheatre : Costa Mesa

In the spring of ‘91, Slayer was the biggest “underground” metal band in the world, and they were recording shows for their double live CD, Decade of Aggression. They were at the top of their game in every way, tearing through Southern California on The Clash of the Titans tour, which consisted of Megadeth, Anthrax and newcomers Alice In Chains. This shot is from The Pacific Amphitheatre, an 8500 capacity outdoor venue that was lit up like a war zone that night. Four or five fires were burning violently around the lawn, each surrounded by twisting, silhouetted bodies that danced maniacally in the night. There was something primitive, tribal and even sacrificial going on as Slayer and this incredible collection of metal megabands brought their evil into town

I had just started to get in tight with the Slayer camp and this was the first time I was allowed to shoot their entire set. (Photographers usually only get to shoot the first couple of songs and are then booted out of the photo pit.) This was an important point in my career in terms of credibility, and I remember being so nervous and excited that my hands were sweating as the lights went down and the intro to Hell Awaits rang out. But the raw fury of the music instantly burned off any nerves I had, and I started snapping. Slayer had really stepped it up with their light show on this tour, lots of reds, and lots of silhouettes. It looked really cool, but it was a pain to shoot.

I really wanted to capture the dark, sinister feel that the lights created during certain songs. Again, keep in mind that only film cameras existed then, there was no way for me to take a look and see if my aperture and shutter speed readings were accurate…you either know what you are doing or you don’t…it was all manual back then. I really feel that I did a great job of capturing the essence of Slayer that night – lots of reds, lots of blues, lots of silhouettes, many powerful shots were captured that evening. It was all knowing when to open and close the aperture and occasionally ramping the shutter up or down as needed.

Going into this show, the band and management knew my work by now and they thought I would be the perfect guy to get the shots that were needed for the booklet that was to be included in this double CD package…about 30 or so of my photos ended up in the book. Still, I was disappointed to learn that another photographer was getting the cover shot. Later on, when the CD was released, I was stunned to see that the cover of the CD looked very much like a shot that I would have taken – I can recognize my photos in a heartbeat. But the photo credits in the CD’s liner notes gave the CD cover credit shot to another photographer, and listed my contribution as “other photos.” This really threw me off.

I went tearing through my files and dug the original slide out of the hundreds that I shot that night. When I realized that they had used my shot on the cover but didn’t credit me, I was so shocked and pissed off I swear I almost made myself pass out. This was a major screw-up on the record label’s part, major! But when I remembered that just a few years earlier I was sneaking my camera into Slayer shows, that seemed to calm me. Now, here I was in my early 20’s, doing the cover shot for one of their most important CDs. I felt like I was really making something of myself.

Different color passes were used that night, some colors more important than others. I can’t remember what each color meant. But what I liked was that Slayer added a code on all of my passes which was the secret code that alerted security that I was shooting the entire set. The code that Slayer gave me that night was 666. Take a look.

Photographed behind the crooked cross with an old Canon F1 camera and a cheap, no name 28-80mm lens and a cheap, no name 70-200mm lens. Shot on Kodak Ektachrome film.

On Stage With…Nirvana

Posted in music with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2008 by Kevin Estrada

Nirvana – The Roxy : August 15, 1991


Part five of a five-part series I’m doing this week, featuring shots that I took while being on the stage with bands.


Nirvana was in town finishing up the mix on Nevermind and prepping for the Smells Like Teen Spirit video. Since they were in L.A., they decided to play a gig at The Roxy. Knowing that Nirvana was buzzing big time, and that The Roxy has no barricades, I decided it was a good idea for me to get there early. It was key to get there in time to grab a good spot right up against the stage, where I could shoot without obstructions. After soundcheck, I ran into Kurt and Krist as they stepped out of the club to get some air. It was great to see them again, it had been awhile. They introduced me to Dave – I’d pretty much shot them with Chad prior to that – and then I had to rush next door to the Rainbow Bar and Grill for a quick bite with their Geffen radio promotion’s rep, John Rosenfelder.

By this point, I hadn’t eaten all day, and I was starving. I was also a nervous wreck (I’ve struggled with ulcer’s since I was nine!) because if this “quick bite” went too long I could miss shooting the show. I thought about skipping out on dinner, but I didn’t want to offend John, he is a super cool dude – and again, as a starving artist and student, there was no way I could resist free food. So, I get there, order mozzarella sticks and a pizza and watch in horror as people keep saying hello to John. He knew everyone. This was not gonna be a quick bite. Through the window I can see the huge line of kids that has formed at The Roxy next door… and now they’re letting them into the club.

The food’s taking forever to come, and I know there’s no way I’ll have time for pizza, but I still have a shot at my mozzarella sticks. Finally, I see the waiter bringing them. Just then this loud, cocky long-haired dude comes over, and just plops down in our booth with us. He’s Kory Clarke, the lead singer of a band called Warrior Soul, that’s supposed to be the next big thing on Geffen Records. He starts shooting his mouth off, can’t shut the guy up. The waiter places my mozzarella sticks on the table and this dude snags them like they’re his. He starts chowing down – double, and even triple dipping into my marinara sauce. All I could do was sit and watch. I felt like one of The Little Rascals staring through a shop window at a cream pie.

That did it. I thanked John and rushed back to the Roxy – but by now the club was jam-packed! I tried my best to cram and squeeze through the crowd, but couldn’t move an inch. I end up running into Krist and I tell him that I can’t get a good spot to shoot from. He pulls me backstage, and tells Kurt I might not be able shoot the show – Kurt freaked out. Kurt grabbed me and led me out onto the stage, and asked the kids closest to the stage if I could squeeze in with them so I could take some photos for the band. They smiled, said sure and made room for one more.

As soon as the show started, it was mass chaos. It felt like 150 degrees in there and sopping wet, sweaty bodies were flying everywhere. It was incredible! As a fan, I love that kind of energy, but as a photographer, it was a nightmare. I was getting elbowed, kicked, kneed and slammed by flying bodies launching at me from every angle. Amazingly, Kurt not only saw this, but he reached down, grabbed me and helped me swing onto the stage next to him. Parked safely between Kurt and Dave, I was able to get to work. There is no doubt in my mind that this was THE greatest show I have ever been to – no other club show can compare, except maybe the Nirvana show at Raji’s.

I really love this photo. Not only does it show Kurt, on the ground, giving it his all but it shows the crowd exploding right around him. The whole scene was extremely dangerous, but because we were all fans, we looked out for each other and no one got seriously hurt. There was definitely a shared connection that night. And if you ask me, that’s what it’s all about.

Photographed on stage with an old Canon F1 camera and a cheap, no name 28-80mm lens. Photographed on Kodak Ektachrome film.